On the Australia day long weekend, I did something more traditionally Aussie than snags on the barbie or sunburn on the beach – I tanned a kangaroo hide.
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It was only in retrospect that I realised the poetry of it. And it was only after I had mentioned it casually to a friend on Facebook and received a reply message of ‘Ba ha ha – what a message!’ that I realised what a foreign concept it is for most people.

A few years since my last hide tanning efforts, it was feeling a bit foreign to me also as I unfurled the dripping skin from the lime bath it hadbeen soaking in for a few days and flung it on the fleshing beam.

The hair half falling out, it was hard to connect it to the memory of the soft animal afriend and I collected from the side of the road in far north Queensland last winter. We had gone out early to the highway in search of fresh roadkill for the purpose of demonstrating the skinning process to students of a ‘wild living’ course and found a small roo, not long skittled by a car. The hide has been dried, salted and storedsince then.

My shoulder muscles soon rememberedthe arduous process of turning a stinky hide into a piece of soft leather. All afternoon I leant against the beam vigorously scraping off epidermis (‘grain’) with a dull metal tool, to expose the silky inner layers.

Prising off a long string of grain, I caught a glimpse of the fibres underneath – a matrix of small protein strands twisted together like DNA. Every strand woven randomly but connected to every other strand, each patch as unique as a fingerprint. This is what skin really looks like, so flexible and yet so strong.

My friend Michelle was tanning a deer hide from a nearby venison farm. A step ahead in the process, she emerged from the kitchen with a bucket of what appeared to be strawberry milkshake. Submerging her hands and hide within, Michelle looked up at me. “Did you know that every animal has enough brains to tan its own hide?”

Brains are the traditional ‘alchemist’ in tanning, the fats and chemicals making the skin soft and supple. We chose to use sheep’s brains from a butcher.

“I’m fine with the ick factor now, but the first time I did this I almost upchucked,” Michelle said.Now a seasoned tanner, Michelle does a fashion parade in her buckskin bikini, skirt, cloak, and fish skin armband.“I just love the craft of it, the re-learning of what used to be such a part of Indigenous life.”

“I also love the fact that I’m making use of something that would be otherwise thrown out, and turning it into beautiful, durable clothing that I can also throw in the washing machine.”

My hide emerged from the brain bath feeling like a cross between chamois, plasticine and a rubber mat. Rain dampens our plans to soften and smoke the hides, so I return mine to the freezer until a later date.

Perhaps I’ll make it an Australia Day ritual, an honouring of a lost art that also honours the lives of our native wildlife.

Claireis the author of My Year Without Matches. [email protected]南京夜网419论坛


DEFIANT: Former Newcastle City councillor Bob Cook has told critics of his OAM to “write to the Governor General”. Picture: Simone De PeakFORMER Newcastle councillor Bob Cook has dismissed criticism ofhis Australia Day honour fromsupporters oftheLaman Street figs, defending “every single thing” he did during the controversy.
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Mr Cook became a nemesistothe Save Our Figs movementwith his persistentprosecution of the case to remove the street’s 14 fig treesthat were eventuallycut down amid a near-riotin2012.

Veterans ofSave Our Figsreacted with disbelief this weekto Mr Cook being awarded theOrder of Australia“for service to heritage preservation and the community”.

“It’s ironic that hegets this award when he was so proactive in making sure the figs were destroyed,” figs advocate Debbi Long said.

“His heritage work with the former BHP site may have been commendable, but his heritage record has been badly tarnished by his role in the desecration of Laman Street.”

Save Our Figs’sRoz Ramplin said she would never forgive Mr Cook for walking“through the demonstrators as they cried during the chainsawing, with his hands behind his back, telling anti-fig people what a wonderful day it was”.

Mr Cook, who worked at theBHPfor 36 years and was awarded theOAM for his workaspresident of the Newcastle Industrial Heritage Association, said he was neither surprised nor bothered by the criticism.

“I stand by every single thing I ever did in relation to the figs, and it has proved to be the right thing to do,” Mr Cook said.

“They have their view, and that is the nature of democracy. My opinion is they should write to the Governor General and tell him to take it off me.”

Mr Cook grew instatureasafigure in the figs furorewhenhe released a point-by-point YouTube video makingthe case for the trees’ removal, described as “infamous” by Save Our Figs.

Someof Mr Cook’s opponents from his four years on Newcastle CityCouncilquestionedthe award.

Former Greenscouncillor John Sutton saidit wasa “surprise”.

Current Greens councillor Michael Osborne said he hadn’t readthe citation for giving Mr Cook the award, but that the decisionwas“very curious”.

“It is surprising given the number of development decisions he supported,” Cr Osborne said.

“I do think whoever hands out these awards needs to look at someone’s entire record.”

The council debated the Laman Street figsamidtwo years of legal wrangling and spent more than $1 million on legal fees, site security and other costs before the treesfellin January 2012.


RBA governor Glenn Stevens. Photo: Luis AscuiInflation slightly higher than expected
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Inflation is very low. It will remain low for the rest of the year.

But the Reserve Bank board will not be rushing to cut the official cash rate when it meets on Tuesday. A rate cut may be on the cards by the middle of the year if conditions deteriorate considerably.

That’s the view of economists anyway.

The Bureau of Statistics has just released its latest inflation figures, and annual underlying inflation is running at 2.1 per cent, near the bottom of the Reserve Bank’s target range of 2 to 3 per cent.

It is being hampered by petrol prices, which fell 5.7 per cent in the December quarter, and falls in fruit prices (down 2.6 per cent) and telecom equipment and services prices (down 2.4 per cent).

But it is being supported by tobacco prices, which jumped 7.4 per cent in the December quarter after an increase in the federal excise; domestic holiday travel and accommodation, which climbed 5.9 per cent; and international holiday travel, which rose 2.4 per cent.

Those price rises are enough to make inflation slightly higher than expected. They also mean the RBA won’t be hugely worried by inflation at the moment.

As HSBC’s chief economist Paul Bloxham has pointed out, underlying inflation this low is usually a recipe for an RBA cash rate cut.

But it isn’t this time (at least not yet) for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, RBA governor Glenn Stevens said last year he was going to be more tolerant of low inflation because it is a global force that he can’t do much about. And since the cash rate is already at a record low of 2 per cent, any rate cut will not be as effective as it would be if rates were higher.

Secondly, the jobs market and business activity indicators have been lifting recently. Australia’s official unemployment rate fell to a two-year low of 5.8 per cent in December, and the RBA board will be more concerned about the pace of jobs growth than inflation.

“While the labour market and activity surveys are still holding up, the RBA is unlikely to cut rates. This pretty much rules out a cut next week,” Mr Bloxham said on Wednesday.

Mr Stevens knows economic growth is below trend, and that it is likely to remain below trend for the rest of the year. He will also be mindful of recent global developments, particularly in China, which suggest global growth will be soft through the year.

But he should be happy enough with conditions in the labour market to hold fire on rates for the moment.

It’s a view shared by economists at the big banks.

“We believe the low inflation outcomes will give the RBA room to maintain their conditional easing bias, but they are unlikely to act on it unless there are signs of deterioration in the jobs market, and the improvement in the jobs data is remarkable,” Commonwealth Bank senior economist Michael Workman said in a note to clients.

“There have been an extraordinary 300,000 extra jobs added over the past year and the unemployment rate is at 5.8 per cent.”

So what could trigger a rate cut? If the pace of employment growth slows considerably, or if business conditions weaken seriously, or if house prices in Sydney and Melbourne slow enough. But the RBA may not need to cut rates again if Australia’s dollar falls towards US60-65¢ because it will do the work for them.

It remains a balancing act for the Reserve Bank’s board.

Feeding into this story is Deloitte Access Economics’ latest Investment Monitor, released overnight.

It has tracked the number and value of local investment projects in the pipeline, and shows the value of planned projects in its database contracted in the December quarter by $10.3 billion. The value of planned projects is now $37 billion below the value recorded this time last year.

It also shows the value of definite projects in its database (those under construction or committed) has fallen by just over $27 billion over the quarter, equivalent to a 6.7 per cent fall.  That takes the value of definite projects to its lowest level in more than four years.

Overall, total recorded value of projects in its database is $776.9 billion. That represents a 4.6 per cent decrease from the previous quarter, and is 6.8 per cent below the level recorded in December 2014.

The effects of the drop off in mining-related engineering project activity is being compounded by falls in global commodity prices, which keep delivering an unwelcome income shock to our economy.

Thankfully, the dollar falling to around US68¢ has helped our tourism and international education sectors, and record-low interest rates have boosted the finance sector, while housing construction and retail remain relatively strong, despite sentiment in the housing sector waning somewhat.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.


Tennis Australia’s Steve Healy. Photo: Rohan ThomsonThe need for greater transparency in tennis match-fixing investigations must be mitigated by the rights of the individuals concerned, says Tennis Australia president Steve Healy, who has branded as “shocking and appalling” the unsubstantiated smear over a 2011 Davis Cup match involving Lleyton Hewitt.
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ATP executive chairman Chris Kermode also backed the former world No.1, whose name was on a leaked list of players involved in matches found to have attracted suspicious betting patterns.  Vigorously denying any wrongdoing, Hewitt labelled the suggestion as “an absolute farce” last Thursday night after the final singles match of his career.

“Lleyton Hewitt, as we all know, is one of the greatest competitors of all time. I’m not sure he’d give his mother one point when he was playing,”  Kermode said during Wednesday’s announcement of an independent review into the sport’s anti-corruption procedures, and a pledge to implement all its recommendations.

Healy said it was outrageous to target Hewitt’s loss to Stan Wawrinka in the final rubber of the 2011 world group play-off in Sydney on any list of suspicious matches. “I watched the whole of that match, he tried his heart out; it was unbelievable he got as close as he did,” Healy said of Hewitt.

“He was playing on one leg, he’s barely played a match all year, and still he got close. You couldn’t fault his effort. And in the end, he says publicly, it’s the only match he’s ever cried after, he was so devastated to have lost the fifth and deciding rubber, and they throw that out, and his name out [there]. I think it’s just shocking.”

Healy says Tennis Australia’s support for the unveiling of  the independent review, headed by British barrister and sports law expert Adam Lewis, is designed to provide some “clear air” for the remaining four days of an otherwise-successful grand slam hijacked by the match-fixing debate.

“Our view is that while it’s unfortunate it’s happening during our tournament, and we’re unhappy really at what was a really targeted thing to attract maximum publicity for the BBC and the journalists, we’re fully supportive of this,” Healy said, in reference to the BBC and BuzzFeed reports released on the eve of the year’s first major event.

“It’s a whole-of-sport issue, and we think not only is it good for the sport to move on this and move quickly, we think it’s good for the tournament to get it out there. What I hope now is that we get some clear air to the end of the tournament, because it’s been probably the best Australian Open we’ve ever done, and it deserves to stand in its own right without all the negatives around it.”

The TA boss supported the publication of an annual or bi-annual report to provide updates into match-fixing investigations and anti-corruption activity, but also stressed that the rights of athletes not to have their names aired without sufficient evidence was paramount, and said a better balance must be struck in that regard.

“In general terms we need to at least tell the tennis media and the public about how much work [the Tennis Integrity Unit]  is doing and how many investigations,” he said. “But I do think the naming of the players this time that the BBC appeared to have leaked, is just appalling.

“Without evidence other than there was a suspicious activity, and red-flag something to investigate, they’ve just thrown the names out there and besmirched people’s reputations. That’s appalling, so I don’t think ever that it should extend to that, the second that there’s anything investigated throw their names out [there], because it may not lead anywhere and they may be cleared.”

Healy did not elaborate on whether there was scope to terminate the Australian Open’s  commercial arrangement with betting outfit William Hill should the review find it inappropriate for tournaments to be sponsored by gambling companies. He reiterated that TA was comfortable with the deal at the time it was signed, and reiterated the difference between legal betting and that related to match-fixing or corruption.

“I don’t think you can look backwards in that sense. We’ve passed it through the TIU and it’s fine,” Healy said. “But I accept the public perception of it around the timing of this is difficult, but I think that needs to be taken into account. We will look at all of those reviews, and so on, and in the future with all of our sponsorships, anything that is that sort of product, or is sensitive publicly, we will look at.”

He said there would be no extra complication with the deal if the review leads to in-play betting being banned, as is the case in France, for example, and said that in-play betting was the area of greatest concern to tennis authorities.

“The in-game betting is the one that is I think the easiest to corrupt for those that are wanting to do that, so that’s a discussion we have in Australia as well with our government, and I’ve spoken with a couple of government ministers already about that. We will discuss that at board level and we’ll discuss that with the government.”

Healy said that although the fact the Open’s $44 million prize pool this year dwarfed the $19.94 million spent on operating the Tennis Integrity Unit since its establishment in 2008, no expense would be spared.

“You can throw more and more at it; how much is enough? So I think we’ll wait for the results of that review and see what [Lewis] says and his co-reviewers as to, what we need, but as far as Tennis Australia is concerned we will put in whatever it takes, because it’s the reputation of the sport, and so cost is, in that sense,  irrelevant. We’re protecting the integrity and there’s no limit on what we will pay to  fund that.”

Kermode praised the Australian Open’s co-operation with the timing of Wednesday’s announcement, despite the fact it will continue to overshadow an event now at the pointy end.

“It has been hard on the Australian Open, no question about it,” Kermode said. “Obviously the report was timed to hit at this point, to try and create as big a story as possible. But they’ve been unbelievably supportive of the actions we’ve taken. They’re fully behind this. They agree we had to hit this head on now even though it was during the championships.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.


Knifemakers Terri and Adam Parker in their workshop in Ballarat. Photo: Kate Healy.Among the many creativetrades making a revival in recent times, one of the most difficult and distinguished is the trade of making knives and swords.
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Within that trade, the making of patterned steel –called, somewhat erroneously,‘Damascus’ steel,is a skill that requires not only years of practise but also a scientificprowess and a keen sense of timing.

Adam Parker is president of the Australian Knifemakers Guildand has been making knives for more than 25 years.

“I’ve got a background as a farmer; I grew up on the family farm.

Forging the billet into a single piece of metal. Photo: Kate Healy

“I read a three-page chapter in a book on how to make a knife, so I made one out of an old circular saw blade to start with. It came up pretty well and a neighbour was impressed with it, and he said,‘can you make me one?’

“I was hooked. It became a real passion.”

There are a number of processes that can be pursued inmakinga knife, but Mr Parker is intrigued by the ancient method of layering carbon-rich steel blanks into a block (known as a ‘billet’) and forging them into a single piece of metal.

Adam and Terri Parker prepare pattern steel for knifemaking.The process involves folding and hammering the red-hot softened metal back into itself hundreds of times to create extraordinary patterns of carbon within the material.

Differences in the make-up of the steel layers produces patterns that can resemble sunbursts, woodgrains and raindrops.

“The sheer heat that we are generating in my forge, up around 2,000 degrees Celsius, is going to help the steel weld together, but to reduce oxygen, which inhibits welding, we flux (coat) it with borax, which is a household laundry product,” says Mr Parker.

Beautiful patterns in blades made by the Damascene process. Photo: Kate Healy.

“We heat it again until it’s a bright lemon colour, and then when we hit it with the hammer on the anvil, it’ll fuse into one piece.”

Mr Parker stresses that careful preparation and choosing the best materials are the keys to success in making patterned steel –aprocess first discovered in southern India perhaps thousands of years ago.

“If you’ve got a tin can and you fold it a thousand times, you’ve still got a tin can.

The heat inside the forge reaches 2,000 degrees Celsius. Photo Kate Healy.

“It’s an art-form that is completely limitless. You can make a basic tool fairly easily, or you can go right into the embellishments of it.”

The Courier