Uniquely Samsung: Two new Galaxy phablets avoid many of the company’s past pitfalls. Photo: SamsungSamsung’s latest high-end smartphones, the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+, are two sides of the same coin. On paper, their specs look identical, but each phone provides a very different experience.
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The Note 5 continues the tradition of the Note line-up: a smartphone large enough and powerful enough to replace a phone, tablet or even a computer. The S6 Edge+ pushes the “edge” branding into the luxury phone market.

Internally, the Note 5 and Edge+ share the same powerful processors and an abundance of RAM. Externally, they have the same 5.7-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display.

Both have a curved body: the Note 5 curves around the back for better grip while the Edge+ curves on the front to dazzle.

If the Note 5 is the workhorse, the Edge+ is the show pony.

These massive phones come with massive batteries, easily making it through a full day of high use with power to spare. The Edge+ and Note 5 support fast charging, too, topping up a dead battery in 90 minutes. Combined, these features should alleviate battery anxiety for even the most power-hungry users.

The Note 5’s signature feature is the S Pen, a fine-point stylus that allows for digital note taking. It’s a seamless experience, with the note-taking app launching as soon as you remove the S Pen from the inbuilt holder.

The S Pen works even when the screen is locked, allowing for quick notes on the go or for less intrusive note taking: for example, in a lecture theatre or jotting down some thoughts while your partner sleeps beside you.

It works well, but I quickly realised after years of using keyboards and touchscreens that my handwriting has become unintelligible. And it turns out I’m a lot faster with a predictive text keyboard, so the Note 5 is probably not for me.

Still, I understand the appeal. Taking notes on a smartphone with a standard on-screen keyboard is still seen by many as distracting, and doing so in a meeting can give the impression you’re not paying attention. After all, no one knows if you’re taking notes or just browsing Facebook. However, when you take out a stylus, everyone assumes you’re taking notes. A pen, even when digital, lends some credibility.

The S Pen doesn’t just work with the built-in notes app either. It can be used to mark up documents, draw on photos and sign PDFs. The Note 5 comes preloaded with Acrobat and Microsoft’s Office suite, so most users will feel familiar with the apps on offer.

Powering these apps are an octa core 64-bit processor and 4GB of RAM. It’s overkill, but it makes for phones that fly through mobile tasks. Both phones support the latest 4G “Cat 9” technology, promising mobile internet of up to 450mbps; that’s probably 20 times faster than a home ADSL connection.

The thumbprint reader in the Samsung line-up is as good as those in iPhones and it’s a shame flagship phones from LG, Motorola and Sony don’t feature a similar reader. Combined with a password manager like LastPass, a thumbprint reader is a killer security feature.

The Galaxy S6 Edge+ is simply a bigger S6 Edge. The curved-screen Edge is still the most beautiful piece of mobile technology I’ve seen this year.

The Note 5 and S6 Edge+ have the same fantastic camera we found in the Samsung S6 this year. The camera features a fast f1.9 aperture lens, optical image stabilisation and an impressive HDR. That adds up to a camera that produces fantastic results with little effort.

It’s great to see Android phones taking on the iPhone for camera supremacy and the curved-screen Edge shows off your snaps better than anything else.

Interface design used to be Samsung’s Achilles heel, but to the company’s credit, it’s toned down much of the excess of TouchWiz. TouchWiz for Android Lollipop is a clean, light experience, made cleaner still by the use of a “stock Lollipop theme” available through the Galaxy Theme Store.

I used to spend the first few minutes with any Samsung phone replacing the default apps, launcher and keyboard; trying to hide TouchWiz as much as possible. This is no longer necessary. The built-in apps, notifications and settings are tastefully designed, but being an Android phone, you’re more than welcome to swap these things out.

For a company so often dismissed for borrowing the ideas of others, the Note 5 and S6 Edge+ are uniquely Samsung. If taking notes with a stylus is your thing, no other handset will serve you as well as the Note 5, and there is no other handset quite as gorgeous as the curved screen S6 Edge and S6 Edge+.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5 (32GB) – $1099

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ (32GB) – $1199

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ (64GB) – $1299

Peter Wells is a technology commentator who works in IT at UNSW Australia.

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“I think we can build a very profitable and successful company in a world that commits itself more strongly to limit the temperature rise to 2 degrees.” : BHP chief Andrew Mackenzie. Photo: Stefan PostlesBHP Billiton chief executive Andrew Mackenzie says he expects some level of consensus to emerge when world leaders gather in Paris in November for the United Nations climate change conference.
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Speaking from London on Tuesday, Mr Mackenzie said BHP expected to play its part in region by region climate targets, should consensus for such targets emerge from the Paris conference.

“We think there will be a degree of consensus around a range of region by region, or country by country, targets, and we will be very much part of that,” he said.

“I think we can build a very profitable and successful company in a world that commits itself more strongly to limit the temperature rise to 2 degrees.”

Despite being one of the world’s biggest coal miners and a major producer of oil and gas, BHP has long accepted science that suggests humans are influencing the climate by releasing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

But the company has walked a policy tightrope in recent years, and campaigned for Australia’s carbon tax to be repealed on the grounds that it harmed the international competitiveness of Australian exporters.

It has also argued that fossil fuels will continue to be the energy source of choice for many in the developing world, despite the challenges of climate change.

BHP has been investing heavily in carbon capture and storage and hopes it can be proved viable and can allow long term use of coal.

“We have a portfolio that I think can respond to whatever is the most effective way to decarbonise the energy sector and it is not just simply down to the sources of the energy but the technology that abates things and the regulation that actually encourages things,” said Mr Mackenzie on Tuesday.

“We are in everything, whether it is nuclear power (uranium), or copper which does best with windmills and solar, or of course all forms of fossil fuels and we do invest in things like carbon capture and storage so I think we are able to respond.”

Fossil fuel producers have been split in the lead-up to the Paris conference, with big energy companies like Woodside Petroleum and Norwegian company Statoil urging the world to abandon coal in favour of gas as a way to reduce emissions.

Mr Mackenzie has been one of several coal producers to criticise the comments, labelling it a “marketing strategy” and a “rich country solution”.

“I think there is a marketing ploy, which is ‘give up coal and burn more gas’,” Mr Mackenzie told the FT.

“The last time I looked there was plenty of carbon in methane and there is huge amounts of carbon in oil, and the carbon emissions from transport are just as much a problem as the carbon emissions from coal-fired power stations.”

Australia has vowed to reduce carbon emissions by between 26 and 28 per cent from 2005 levels, and do so by 2030.

Let there be no more doubt about it. China is currently the dominant, driving force behind global markets.
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And for irrefutable proof of that, look to the images the financial press is using to illustrate the latest global meltdown.

There was a time when the stock image used by news outlets for a global market crash was a floor trader on Wall Street (almost always a man) perhaps with his head in his hands, or with a kind of despair on his face that suggests he has lost a lot of money. Like this AP photo:

No more.

Consider the way the latest global market seizure is being portrayed by some of the world’s pre-eminent financial news services.

There’s a common theme in the pictures currently adorning those websites this morning: Random Chinese people looking very worried.

Take The Financial Times today:

Or The Economist, which uses this AFP shot to continue the ancient tradition of anonymous-back-of-person’s-head-looking-at-screen-with-red-on-it, only in China.

Even the website of The Wall Street Journal, that bastion of American business, is not (currently) leading with an image of the NYSE, despite the fact that the US market fell sharply overnight.

Images like this one from Getty Images are everywhere this week:

Or this one from AP:

To be clear, the old images of Wall Street traders are still being used in some places. And perhaps it shouldn’t be that surprising that the world’s finance press is using a lot of Chinese images to illustrate an unfolding crisis that is clearly Chinese in origin.

But it does feel strangely significant, like the passing of the torch in the way financial markets are covered, if not how they actually operate.

Over the past decade, citizens of China have embraced the stockmarket with fervour, which is at odds with the fact that the country remains, at least officially, communist. It’s the first time really Chinese investors feel the sharemarket rollercoaster in its full force.

And in previous eras, images of Chinese citizens reactions to crises (economic or otherwise)  were relatively hard to come by.

To put it more simply, in 2015, random Chinese person looking worried is the new Wall Street guy looking worried

And that’s arguably a good thing. The images being used almost always feature ordinary Chinese folk, which is a more honest portrayal of who is affected the most than what has been used in the past.

By contrast, the use of New York Stock Exchange Floor traders to illustrate previous market crashes was always a bit misleading.

Not much actual trading takes place on America’s most historic stock exchange, which is located, literally, on Wall Street. It is mostly done by computers. This reality prompted the US website Marketwatch to declare last year it would no longer use images of floor traders in its reporting on market crashes.

It seems that is what is slowly beginning to happen the world over.

Christine Crickitt, alleged murdered by her husband Dr Brian Crickitt between 31 December 2009 and 1 January 2010. Photo: SuppliedA Sydney GP charged with the murder of his then-wife is fighting for the right to continue treating patients while he is on bail.
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Dr Brian Crickitt was charged in December with the murder of his wife, Christine, 61, at their home in Woodbine, in south-west Sydney, five years earlier.

Police alleged Dr Crickitt, who was also his wife’s treating doctor, caused her death by injecting fast-acting insulin between 8pm on December 31, 2009 and 8.15am on January 1, 2010.

In a fact sheet tendered to the court, police said Dr Crickitt had a number of motives for wanting his wife dead, such as large financial gain including a $500,000 life insurance policy, “loathing of his wife” and his affair with another woman.

He had allegedly researched insulin overdose on his computer and illegally prescribed and collected fast-acting insulin in the name of one of his patients on New Year’s Eve 2009 before “deactivating” the script on his computer to hide its creation.

He was charged on December 3, 2014 and granted conditional bail in Campbelltown Local Court the same day.

In an urgent meeting convened two weeks later the Medical Council of NSW suspended his registration as a medical practitioner with immediate effect to protect both the public and the reputation of the medical profession. At the time Dr Crickitt was working as a GP at the Campbelltown Medical and Dental Centre and had been practicing medicine for almost 35 years.

Dr Crickitt appealed the decision to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, arguing he is innocent until proven guilty and needs to earn an income. He says he intends to vigorously defend the murder charge.

In written reasons for their decision to suspend Dr Crickitt, published in January, the three-person panel appointed by the council said they had “no immediate concerns” that he posed a clinical risk to the health and safety of any person.

However, they were concerned about the impact of the allegations made against the appellant “on the standing and reputation of the medical profession and public confidence in the profession and its regulation”.

The delegates focused attention on the need for the public to be able to trust the medical profession and have confidence “that it is properly and adequately regulated”.

A coronial inquest into the death was held at the Glebe Coroners Court in May and December 2011 with an open finding. Then State Coroner Mary Jerram found on the evidence that the cause or the manner of Mrs Crickitt’s death could not be determined.

The inquest heard the Crickitts had been married for 15 years but the relationship had become “dysfunctional” and on New Year’s Eve 2009 they fought for several hours before Dr Crickitt packed a bag and left.

Dr Crickitt originally told police he was driving around Campbelltown for hours but later admitted he’d been at the home of his mistress, Linda Livermore.

He said he returned home at 8.15am on January 1, 2010 to find his wife’s body. He then went to Glebe morgue with Ms Livermore to view the body, a move that Mrs Crickitt’s son Stuart Riley told the inquest was “disrespectable [sic] and dishonourable”.

Records made available by Medicare indicate that during the period from 1988 to 2009 Dr Crickitt treated and prescribed medication for his wife, who had a range of illnesses including arthritis, Graves’ disease, depression and bipolar disorder.

During hearings before the NCAT in March, June and earlier this month, the Medical Council opposed Dr Crickitt’s appeal against suspension, saying even if Dr Crickitt is ultimately acquitted of his wife’s murder, patients might feel distress and anxiety and even fail to seek medical advice due to their lack of confidence in the medical profession. But Dr Crickitt said the suspension was depriving him of his livelihood.

The NCAT dismissed Dr Crickitt’s appeal to overturn the suspension for now. It also decided to allow the council to reopen its case and adduce fresh evidence about an alleged relationship of some kind between Dr Crickitt and a former patient, the adequacy of his clinical records and the fact that he had seemingly socialised with his patients.

Dr Crickitt’s appeal hearing will resume on September 25.

He will face a committal hearing on the murder charge in Campbelltown Local Court on October 9.

Sara Limbu initially thought a vehicle had backfired, before learning a gunman had opened fire. Photo: Peter Rae The bullet hole in the window of Billu’s Indian Eatery in Wigram Street, Harris Park. Photo: Peter Rae
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A bullet that was fired through the front window of a crowded Indian restaurant in Sydney’s west missed hitting diners by just centimetres, in what police have described as a remarkable stroke of luck.

Sara Limbu was at Billu’s Indian Eatery in Harris Park with her husband and three children on Tuesday night celebrating her husband’s birthday when a gunman fired a shot through the front window just before 9pm.

Mrs Limbu said she and her husband were standing at the front of the shop on Wigram Street ordering a traditional Indian dessert when they heard what at first they mistook for a vehicle backfiring on the street.

It was not until a short time later that they realised the noise was in fact a bullet, which had pierced the front window just centimetres from where they had been standing.

The bullet struck a shelf inside the restaurant, remarkably missing any of the estimated 40 diners and staff who were in the restaurant.

“We saw there was a hole in the window, somebody put a bullet through the window. It was cracked,” Mrs Limbu told Fairfax Media.

“We realised it was really close, it was close to us.

“It was a bit scary, I was shocked. I was with my family and three children.”

Mrs Limbu said she and her husband had been ordering the Indian dessert paan at the time the shot was fired. A sign on the front fence of Billu’s Indian Eatery says: “Keep calm and eat paan.”

Police said the gunman, dressed in a blue tracksuit, was seen running from the restaurant and is believed to have nearly knocked over a woman at a pedestrian crossing on Wigram Street.

Police want to speak to her in the hope she can help them identify the offender, who has not been caught.

Detectives are understood to be investigating if the shooting was a targeted attack, and are interviewing staff and customers who were in the restaurant.

NSW Police Inspector Adam Phillips told the ABC that it was extremely lucky no one inside the restaurant was injured.

“The frightening thing with this is that the shot that was fired … was in a particular part of the restaurant which was extremely busy,” Inspector Phillips said.

It is the second time this year a gunman on foot has fired shots in the vicinity of the restaurant.

In April, police closed Wigram Street when a man fired up to nine shots into the air on a Saturday afternoon, before fleeing.

Niti Sheh, who lives on Wigram Street, said on Wednesday morning that the latest shooting was “really scary”.

“In four months, it’s happening twice. A couple of days ago there was also a fire in the shop nearby. I don’t know what’s going on, you know?” she said.

“It’s really scary. I’m scared that I come out and I’m walking here and anything can happen.”

Ms Sheh said she was a former employee at Billu’s Indian Eatery, and was working on the day in April when the shots were fired outside the restaurant.

Ms Sheh said she saw the gunman in April stand outside the restaurant for up to 40 minutes before firing into the air.

“Me and my colleague were standing outside for half an hour and the fellow shot after some time,” she said.

She said he had fired into the air, and did not appear to be trying to hit anyone.

Ejaz Khan, the vice-president of the Harris Park Chamber of Commerce, said he believed the shootings were gang related.

Mr Khan said he ate at Billu’s on Tuesday night, but left about 30 minutes before the shooting.

“I can’t believe this. This is the third incident in the last couple of months in Harris Park, and I believe strongly that there are criminal gangs working in this area,” he said.

Police are appealing for anyone who saw the offender to come forward, in particular the woman who was nearly knocked to the ground at the pedestrian crossing.

Police described her as being Indian or subcontinental in appearance, aged between 25 and 30, and she was wearing a pink top.

Anyone with information has been urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit the Crime Stoppers online reporting page. */]]>

A still from the film Gayby Baby Photo: Gayby Baby Students at Burwood Girls High School are among those who participate in the Proud Schools program. Photo: Janie Barrett
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Comment: Burwood Girls High School students find hypocrisy in debate

The NSW Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, has banned every public school in the state from screening a documentary about children with gay parents during school hours.

On Wednesday afternoon Mr Piccoli issued a memo to the state’s principals ordering them not to show the film Gayby Baby so as “to not impact on the delivery of planned lessons”.

Up to 50 schools across Australia, including 20 in NSW had organised a simultaneous broadcast of the film as part of a nationwide Wear it Purple day campaign of sexual inclusion in schools.

A spokeswoman for the minister said he did not object to the content of the largely crowd-funded film.

She said the decision was taken to avoid students missing out on class and that screening the film may be considered if it is an integral part of the planned curriculum for an age appropriate year group.

The state-wide ban comes after the Minister personally intervened to prevent Burwood Girls High in Sydney’s inner-west screening the film to 1200 students on Friday morning, in the wake of a front page Daily Telegraph story about the controversy on Wednesday.

Fairfax Media understands four emails from parents were sent to the school expressing concern about the screening.

The film’s director, former Burwood Girls High student Maya Newell, said that minister’s decision had sent the wrong message to children who may be feeling ostracised.

“This is a film about kids who are growing up, they just happen to have gay parents,” she said. “The minister could have told all these families that they are equal and respected. He chose not to do that.”

Mr Piccoli has previously been a vocal supporter of programs that target homophobia, transphobia and heterosexism.

Wear it Purple day founder Katherine Hudson said she could understand the film being banned if it showed “grotesque sex scenes or violence”.

“But this is a film about families. Even for conservatives, this stuff would be easy to swallow,” she said.

On Tuesday the film screened inside NSW Parliament as part of the opening for the LGBTI ( lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) friendship group at the state legislature, after sell-out sessions at the Sydney Film Festival, and in Canada and New Zealand.

The ban follows complaints from some parents and religious groups including the Presbyterian church, which criticised the school for planning to screen a film which “promotes a gay lifestyle”.

Sydney MP Alex Greenwich said the minister’s decision to prevent the film from being shown during school hours was “absurd and deeply disappointing”.

“From a personal perspective, if I had seen a film that showed that gay and lesbian people can have loving and stable families and are just as normal as everyone else, that would have a positive and profound impact on my confidence and self identity.

“It is not a controversial film. It just shows that rainbow families are just as normal as any other,” he said.

The NSW Department of Education guidelines on film screenings do not prohibit showing films with homosexual themes and advise that films with an M+ rating can be shown at the discretion of the principal. Gayby Baby has been rated PG.

The department’s policy on controversial issues maintains schools should avoid creating “arenas for opposing political views or ideology”.

On Wednesday the NSW Premier Mike Baird said he did not believe the film belonged in the classroom.

“I think tolerance is a good thing. But I think there should be some parameters around it,” he said. “This is something that can be provided but done outside class time.”

Picture: Peter BraigThe birthplace of Queensland coalmining has declared it won’t support new mine operations and expansions.
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Ipswich City Council has adopted a mining policy that calls on the state government to block new mines and expansions as well as coal seam gas operations.

Councillors say there’s no long-term future for mining in the area because of urban growth and environmental concerns.

Ipswich was built on mining and Queensland’s first mine began operations there in 1843.

The Redbank mine was also home to the state’s first strike, with disgruntled miners stopping work over a pay rise in 1861.

Now Ipswich, about 40km west of Brisbane, is a thriving urban centre with an estimated 190,000 residents.Councillor Paul Tully says the city’s growing population, which is expected to double in 20 years, is a major reason why the council can no longer support mining.

‘‘We just think that coalmining and coal seam gas mining are inconsistent with urban areas and adjacent to urban areas,’’ Mr Tully told AAP.

‘‘The only area with a lot of land (for residential development) is west of Brisbane and that’s through Ipswich, and out towards Gatton and Toowoomba.’’

The mining industry thrived in Ipswich for about 100 years before tapering off in the 1980s.

It was around this time that housing estates in Ipswich became attractive as real estate prices in Brisbane soared.

The Jeebropilly Mine, near Rosewood, is the only one currently operating in the city.Mr Tully said council had made its stance on coalmining clear, but it was the state that assessed mining applications.

‘‘At the end of the day we have very little control,’’ he said.

The council said it would work in partnership with the Queensland government and mining companies to ‘‘extinguish’’ coalmining tenures where possible.

It has also promised to facilitate the transition of those involved in mining and will support the rehabilitation of mined land.

‘‘In relation to any future for coal seam gas, the policy identifies the largely untested nature of coal seam gas extraction and impacts on the environment,’’ Mr Tully said.


Treasurer Joe Hockey at his opening address at the National Reform Summit in Sydney. Photo: Louie Douvis Mr Hockey, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and RBA Governor Glenn Stevens, and others, at the summit. Photo: Louie Douvis
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Bill Shorten has called on Australia’s top business and community leaders to recognise the role of climate change in Australia’s economic outlook, imploring them to drop entrenched political differences to jointly design an emissions trading scheme.

His call, which reinforced the opposition’s intention to take an ETS to the the next federal election, came as Treasurer Joe Hockey also observed that the nation’s economic debate needed updating to reflect the multiple disruptions now being felt across commerce through the digital revolution.

Both men were among the first speakers at the National Reform Summit being held in Sydney’s CBD on Wednesday – a joint Fairfax Media/News Corp/KPMG event.

Taking a shot at the Greens and the Nationals, the Labor leader said sensible policy was best achieved by politicians in the middle of the spectrum. And while the stated spirit of the summit is one of finding common ground, if not outright consensus, Mr Shorten did not hesitate to make comments likely to be seen as political.

“I believe in reform, but reform with purpose,” Mr Shorten said.

Calling for “straight talk”, he said the reality most Australians feel from the nation’s economic performance was that is “wallowing in mediocrity”.

“We cannot simply continue as usual without long-term consequences, and even the current consequences are acute – the deficit’s doubled, wages growth is at record lows, economic growth is nearly a full percentage point below trend, annual growth’s been below trend for 11 consecutive quarters, and all but three of the previous 27 quarters,” he said.

Mr Shorten said unemployment had “a six in front of it” as 800,000 Australians remained jobless, and “there’s another 1 million Australians who are under-employed”.

He said climate change was the big lever for economic transformation with opposition to renewable energy often bordered on “hysteria”.

“Cutting pollution and driving investment in renewable energy lifts productivity,” he said.

“As leaders of our business community and think-tank world, you can play a critical role in elevating this conversation.

“Forty percent of the world’s economy, more than one billion people, have already embraced the opportunity of an emissions trading scheme – Australia needs to settle on and lock in an appropriate design for ours.

“If we do not get serious about tackling climate change, if we don’t get serious about investing in renewables, then we cannot say we are serious about economic reform.”

Mr Hockey used his contribution to recommend new thinking, telling the influential audience, that consumers must be at the centre of this new approach to policy, or it would inevitably fail.

“The big mistake from today would be to shape future reform based on a wistful glance in the rear-view mirror,” he told them.

“In some areas – like technology, financial services and communications – reform will be rapid and we will struggle to get ahead of fast moving consumers.

“In workplace relations, industry policy, innovation and the environment, external drivers will be the great disruptors. For example, having a debate about deregulating shopping hours is almost redundant given the emergence of 24/7 internet shopping.

“The Abbott government’s reform agendas in competition policy, financial services, trade policy and taxation need to carefully weigh the expectations of the sovereign consumer.

“Our productivity agenda must carefully consider the dynamics of an ageing population, private investment in public infrastructure and the need for our education system to be better and more responsive to global trends.”

While all speakers stressed the need to lift productivity, early contributions to the summit tended to emphasise the standard arguments with unions and social welfare advocates raising inequality as a major concern while business and economists argued for deregulation and policies aimed at wealth creation.

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government has passed less legislation than any other in the past 50 years. But does that matter? Prime Minister Tony Abbott arrives for Question Time. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
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Government Senate leader Eric Abetz gave two reasons for the output of the Abbott government Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Even defenders of Julia Gillard’s government say that passed bills is an incomplete measure of a parliament. Photo: Andrew Meares

More political opinion

This week, Fairfax Media provided observers of Australian politics with some interesting data. It was the number of acts of parliament passed by the Abbott government in its first 700 days compared with the same measure for the last ten Australian prime ministers (not including Bill McMahon, John McEwen and Harold Holt who didn’t serve that long) going right back to Ben Chifley. Yes, the Abbott government is now more than 700 days old.

The data showed that you have to go back to John Gorton in 1968 to find a government that passed fewer bills through the parliament: Abbott 262 compared to Gorton 259. Interestingly, Robert Menzies and Ben Chifley passed even fewer bills: 105 and 178 bills respectively. Times were obviously different.

At first glance all five Labor governments have passed large numbers of bills in their first 700 days, including the record holder, Kevin Rudd, with 397 bills. However, before you jump to conclusions from this observation about Labor governments, in Malcolm Fraser’s first 700 days his government passed the second-largest number of bills, 375.

So what does it all mean? The gathering of the data was stimulated by a report that cabinet had met last week without any formal submissions to consider and by an observation that “MPs despaired at time-filling debates in parliament” these days.

Abbott introduced fewer bills too. The accompanying comment speculated that that this may mean that the Abbott government suffers from “policy paralysis” if these figures are really a measure of “success”.

But this description actually comes from a comment by Senator Nick Xenophon that “there seems to be a policy paralysis”.

But reading more closely you see that Xenophon was actually hedged his bets by also commenting that the previous Gillard government used to “pride itself” on passing many bills that were “pretty average”. So Xenophon is really having it both ways and damning both sides of politics. He also raises the useful question of the quality of bills as well as the quantity.

During the Gillard government, when it was under attack, its defenders used these same statistics to argue that minority government was actually working much better than its detractors were willing to admit.

Rather than being bogged down by leadership conflict and consultation with minor parties and independents it was actually getting things done. It passed 329 bills in its first 700 days. However even Gillard defenders admitted that this was an incomplete measure of a parliament. And that is the point. This raw data must be interpreted carefully.

We often grasp at figures like these because they offer the possibility of an objective measure of the work of a parliament and of the government that depends upon it. But really the objectivity is illusory. If we can’t be objective, however, then must observers of parliament always be subjective?

Statistics like these are worth gathering, and raise interesting questions but they do not lead to easy answers. We need a way to break down these figures into something useful. You can judge an academic researcher by the number of academic papers they produce in their first 700 days. But this should only be the beginning of trying to judge the quality of their work.

For the academic researcher you need a way of judging the quality of these papers. And universities do try to do this by ranking the journals in which these papers are published. Even that is just a rough measure but it is at least a start.

These parliamentary statistics do tell us something, but we don’t know exactly what. Xenophon gives us a clue. How do you weigh the merits of a lot of pretty average legislation against a smaller lot of more noteworthy bills? You can only do this if you were able to grade each piece of legislation. We don’t yet do this.

Parliament has sometimes been compared to a sausage factory with legislation being the sausages. But parliamentary sausages come in different shapes, sizes and quality; and this must be recognised. Just counting the number of sausages without regard to their qualities is an exercise of limited usefulness.

In the particular case of the apparently low productivity of the Abbott government the reactions to the information were all self-interested. The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, agreed that the government was paralysed and suggested that the cause was infighting.

Government Senate leader Eric Abetz offered two explanations. The first was that for its first 300 days, until July 2014, the Abbott government had been blocked by a hostile Labor-Green Senate. But, of course, other governments, including the Rudd government, also had to face a hostile Senate in their early days. That cannot be the full answer.

The second was that since then the legislation passed had included “significant reform legislation”. If we had a legislative grading system like the system for grading academic papers then Abetz may have argued that the A-grade quality of the legislation (abolition of the carbon and mining taxes, etc.) made up for the relatively small number of bills. That is a proposition that cannot be dismissed, and deserves testing. But we have no objective methodology by which to do this at the moment.

These statistics are not irrelevant but they are raw data which needs sophisticated processing. Governments and parliaments should be judged on the whole of their work and the quality of that work. A good research project is waiting. In the meantime parliament itself should attempt to grade its own legislative output so that the public can better come to grips with statistics like these.

John Warhurst is an emeritus professor of political science at the Australian National University.

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Confident: England’s 2003 World Cup winning head coach Clive Woodward. Photo: Kevin StentClick here for full coverage of the 2015 Rugby World CupThe lowdown: Rugby World Cup 2015
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With England coach Stuart Lancaster poised to name the host nation’s 31-man World Cup squad at 1:45pm GMT on Thursday (10:45pm AEST), the big question on everyone’s lips is whether or not Sam Burgess will be successful in his World Cup bid, or whether his dreams will be left in tatters on the cutting room floor.

With many tipping the choice is a coin toss between Burgess and his centre pairing from England’s first warm-up against France, Henry Slade, it looks as though it will go right down to the wire.

Plenty of former players, and even a World Cup winning coach have had their say, with an almost unanimous verdict going against the man the South Sydney Rabbitohs mourn every weekend.

Let’s take a look at what those in the know are saying ahead of the announcement.

Sunday Times columnist and former England five-eighth Stuart Barnes, who ahead of Burgess’ debut against France labelled the big man “one of the most undeserving players to make a debut in the red rose”, gave Burgess credit for his barnstorming performance earlier this month.

The outspoken pundit revised his opinion to state that the convert deserved a second chance at making the cut, even if “he didn’t bestride Twickenham like a colossus”. Ultimately however, he didn’t name Big Sam in his picks for the World Cup squad.

Ireland rugby great Brian O’Driscoll joined the pessimistic chorus, saying Burgess’s attacking game is below the standard required at international level and was more impressed by Henry Slade during England’s victory over France last week.

“Burgess has proper defensive X Factor, of that there’s no doubt,” O’Driscoll said on www.brianodriscoll上海夜网m.

“His tackle technique and strength in the hit were never in question and for me, he has just the right amount of thug in him.

“When his team has the ball though, I just don’t think he’s quite up to speed at international level just yet.”

Other prominent naysayers include Matt Dawson – the scrum-half who flicked the ball to Jonny Wilkinson to break Australian hearts in 2003 – as well as former teammates Will Greenwood and Mike Tindall.

Dawson told the BBC after the France game: “You can’t take him to the World Cup for me. He played 80 mins and credit for that. But the way the game went in the second half there was nothing for him to do.

“The great thing about Burgess is he doesn’t make mistakes with ball in hand. But unfortunately, if you’re going to be really picky, positionally he wasn’t great … There are things that instinctively he doesn’t know what to do.”

On a surprising note however, England’s 2003 World Cup winning coach Sir Clive Woodward and inside centre Greenwood told Sky Sports they could see a happier ending for Burgess.

While Greenwood eliminated Burgess from his picks, he did add a postscript: “So – can you go with Burgess as the fourth-choice centre, someone who brings this personality, this winning mentality, this self-belief… and this massive smash!? If Burgess goes into the squad in front of Burrell, I can understand why.”

The last word however surely goes to Woodward, who turns out to be a huge Sam fan, stating that he thinks he will make the final 31: “I think Burgess is going to be a big star for England. I just think it’s 12 months early”, he declared.

“There’s no doubt he’s an amazing player … I think they will [pick him]. I think Burgess will go.”