News: Margaret Whitlam dies, aged 92

Margaret Whitlam, centre

Margaret Whitlam has passed away

Margaret Whitlam, charity advocate, women’s rights campaigner and wife of former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, has passed away in hospital at the age of 92. She was admitted after earlier falling in her Sydney home. A statement released by the family said:

“She was committed to public service, and her lifetime devotion to many causes was recognised when she was appointed as an Officer in the Order of Australia in 1983.

“Her marriage to Gough in 1942 marked the beginning of a true political and personal partnership/

“He admired her intellect, wit and commitment to improving the lives of others; she described him as ‘delicious’ and ensured his feet remained well-grounded.”

In 1997 she was named as one of Australia’s National Living Treasures:

Scientists up-end what many think is a normal night’s sleep

That old maxim that we should all sleep for a healthy eight hours each night might be wrong. There is now ‘mounting’ evidence to suggest humans are much more accustomed to having two (smaller) sleeps a day, rather than one block of longer sleep. That’s been the norm since the dawn of human civilisation according to Roger Ekirch, a professor in the Department of History at Virginia Tech and author of At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past.

“By segmented sleep, I am referring to a pattern whereby individuals typically slept in two phases of perhaps three to three-and-a-half hours each in length bridged by an intervening period of wakefulness. The transformation to our much younger, modern mode of slumber took place gradually and erratically over the course of the 19th century in Western societies.”

“People who awaken in the middle of the night for no explicable reason should not torment themselves about the source of their wakefulness or think themselves abnormal,” said Ekirch. “Both physicians and patients have told me that this knowledge alleviates anxiety, which in itself contributes to wakefulness upon stirring in the middle of the night. Judged by thousands of years of human history, these so-called insomniacs are arguably more normal than the rest of us.”

AFL player David Wirrpanda

Racism claims as AFL recruiters admit preferring white parents

A recruiter for a major AFL club has privately admitted a belief that Aboriginal players would be better in the team if ‘at least one parent was white’.

As Fairfax reported:

The recruiter is one of several recently approached by the AFL in response to rumours of unease at some clubs about recruiting indigenous players, and a drop in their numbers on club lists.

There are 80 Aborigines on AFL lists this year, down from 85 in each of the past two years.

Some clubs have told the AFL they are more reluctant than before about recruiting Aboriginal players because they are thought to provide a difficult management issue. Other clubs, however, remain firmly committed to recruiting Aborigines.

The issue was brought into focus by the arrest in the Northern Territory last week of Melbourne player Liam Jurrah for an alleged assault with a machete.


Jason Mifsud, the AFL’s community engagement manager, admitted these attitudes existed in some clubs but thankfully were not prevailing mindsets. He said the very idea of separating talent out into issues of ‘missed race’ was insulting and offensive.


Retail sector says the pain is yet to come

The National Retail Association says more than 100,000 jobs will be shed in the coming years in a crisis which would outstrip that currently facing manufacturing.

A new study, commissioned by the National Retail Association and conducted by accountancy firm Ernst and Young over the past six months, estimates the national retail sector, which employs 1.3 million Australians, will lose 118,000 jobs over the next three years in the face of severe competition from online shopping.

Of those, 33,000 jobs will go because of a $1000 GST-free threshold for goods bought online and imported.

Association executive director Gary Black told ABC: “The jobs crisis unfolding in retail dwarfs the predicament and dilemmas that are confronted by the demise of the Australian manufacturing sector.”

So, what do you think?

– Also on MM: ‘Is this the end of the department store’?

In the Week in Pics, ice cream in favour of same sex marriage, a Taylor Swift inception and heaps more:

The Pope will get his own fragrance. But not for you.

Pope Benedict XVI already has custom-made robes, shoes and mobile phone but now he’s getting his own fragrance too. Just for him. “The cologne is meant to reflect the German Pontiff’s love of the forests and animals from his native Bavaria, as well as peace and tranquility infused with lemon tree blossom and the aroma of spring grass; a pure and clean essence recalling the notion of peace,” says perfumist to the stars Silvana Casolito, whose past clients include Madonna and Sting.

PayPal launches major device to bring ‘cashless economy’.

Global payment corporation PayPal has launched a new device, PayPal Here, which clicks into smartphones via the headphone jack and allows business owners to process credit card and PayPal payments in one swipe wherever they are. The thumb-sized encrypted card reader combines with a specialised app for the business owner which brings all payments and money tracking to the one place. Customers, too, can take advantage by ‘checking in’ on the regular PayPal application and having all their details available on the businessowner’s app. Morning coffee quicker? Yes please. In that instance, where the customer already has a PayPal account, they never need to reach for their wallet. Is it really the first step in the cashless economy?

Brad Paterson, Head of New Ventures, PayPal Asia Pacific, said: “For more than 13 years, PayPal has helped millions of small businesses around the world to grow by handling the complex and crucial task of getting paid safely and conveniently. PayPal Here brings a truly new and innovative solution to the Australian payments industry which will have a huge impact on reducing the stress of taking and chasing payments for small businesses and service providers across Australia.”


by Lauren Dubois

The Government versus the Billionaires

There’s a war going on between the Government and the Billionaires.

And, the Government reckons Tony Abbott’s been recruited to the Billionaire Liberation Army.

A fed up Wayne Swan launched the first missile a couple of weeks ago, when he attacked our richest people as the “poison infecting our politics”.

This is a little taste of what he had to spray. I mean, say:

“The combination of industry deep pockets, conservative political support, biased editorial policy and shock-jock ranting has been mobilised in an attempt to protect vested interest. It’s reflected in how the Coalition under Tony Abbott has recently radicalised itself into an Australian version of the Tea Party.

I fear Australia’s extraordinary success has never been in more jeopardy than right now because of the rising power of vested interests. This poison has infected our politics and is seeping into our economy. Though these vested interests have not yet prevailed, every day their demands get louder.”

The Treasurer has cast Gina Rinehart, as the almighty danger to democracy, who’s using her money for evil. And her winged monkeys are apparently members of the Coalition.

When Gina’s dirty family laundry was aired for the whole country to see, some letters from Senator Barnaby Joyce were uncovered.

Gina Rinehart’s quite matey with some of the Coalition, you see. She flies them around in her jet, taking them to fancy foreign weddings and what not.

Barnaby Joyce is so chummy, he sent a note to the Rinehart children, urging them to think twice about taking Mother Dearest to court.

But on this battle field, that just looks like the Coalition is too close to the Rinehart family, and therefore, doing its bidding.

Senator Joyce defended himself in the papers saying he genuinely thought he could help the family by telling them to keep their affairs private.

“What I do find annoying, though, is where it is thought that because you get along with someone, then you take your riding instructions from them; you don’t,” he wrote.

But the Coalition’s struggling to prove it isn’t influenced, by the Mining maven. Especially when Tony Abbott’s opposition to the Mining Tax extends to blocking small business tax cuts.

How it works: The big miners pay more tax. That tax goes to all of us who aren’t big miners. In particular, some of that money goes to businesses in the form of a tax cut.

Except, it’s just not like the Liberal Party to oppose tax cuts (they are particularly fond of a tax cut). Especially when it means teaming up with the Greens (rather fond of the tax hike) to make sure it doesn’t pass through parliament.

“It’s Mr Abbott’s decision that I’m surprised by, truly surprised by,” the Prime Minister said of the decision.

“I never thought I’d see the day that the Liberal party would join the Greens to vote against a tax cut for business.”

The PM also thought she’d never see the day the Government would be back at the High Court (ooh, what a segue.)

Clive Palmer

Because, on another battle field, that other big miner, Clive Palmer, is unleashing his affluent fury on Mr Abbott’s other bugbear, the Carbon tax.

Clive says he wants to take it all the way to the High Court. Just like Darryl Kerrigan from the Castle. Except super super rich.

“You can’t really tax carbon,” he said.

“It’s a joke because the air moves right around the world.”

You can bet, as the PM heard that news, some cross words were exchanged. The last jaunt to the High Court did not end well for the Government. The Malaysia Solution is still sitting around like a dirty nappy that no one wants to change.

However, the PM came out with a smile, saying she has no idea what Clive Palmer is on about. The Carbon Tax is A-OK (legally speaking).

“Clive Palmer says something one day and Tony Abbott parrots it the next. Clive Palmer tells Tony Abbott what to do,” she said.

“If Clive Palmer is going to take a court case and Tony Abbott is going to back him in, well so be it. It will be part of their hysterical campaign against putting a price on carbon.”

Clive Palmer tweeted back to the PM: “Shame on Gillard and Swan for criticising me for exercising a constitutional right to challenge their ill-conceived carbon tax.”

Julia Gillard simply says, “The billionaires don’t tell us what to do.”

The battle rages on…

So, over to you. What do you think?