Voter fatigue won’t dull Labor’s chances of Griffith victory

If anyone in Australia can lay claim to a solid case of voter fatigue, it’s the good burghers of Griffith.
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On Saturday, many in the electorate will be voting in their fifth election in less than two years.

”Intuitively, it must fatigue voters,” said Paul Williams, a Queensland political expert and senior lecturer at Griffith University.

”It must … have a dampening effect on people’s enthusiasm to engage electorally.”

Granted, two of those elections – the 2012 Brisbane City Council poll and the byelection in retiring premier Anna Bligh’s seat of South Brisbane – fell on April 28.

But both those came hot on the heels of the March 2012 state election and, since then, there has been last year’s federal election.

”Given that areas within Griffith are generally heavily populated with university students, people with at least one degree and possibly double degrees, or have high incomes, you’d expect voter fatigue to be less of a problem than it would be in more outlying areas on the fringes of the city,” Williams said.

”There’s no doubt there will be some people in Griffith who won’t turn out on polling day, despite having turned out last year in the general election, simply because they’re over politics.”

The Griffith byelection will be the first real test of leadership for both Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

But it is also a hard electorate to pigeonhole, with a demographic ranging from young, broke share-houses to some of Brisbane’s most wealthy.

Based on last year’s election results, the north-west of Griffith is Glasson heartland. He easily outpolled former prime minister Kevin Rudd in the affluent suburbs along the eastern stretch of the Brisbane River, such as Hawthorne, Bulimba and Balmoral, despite (or perhaps because of) Rudd’s signature appearances along the famed Oxford Street cafe strip. That is offset by the southern and western parts of the electorate, such as Dutton Park, Carina and bohemian West End, which are firmly in the red column.

Williams is hardly Robinson Crusoe in predicting a Labor victory.

With Labor winning each of the aforementioned elections, not many are rating the LNP’s chances. Indeed, one online booking company has Labor’s Terri Butler at almost even money to win, with an ALP victory paying just $1.08 last week.

History suggests those odds are justified.

The last – and only – time a federal government has gained a seat from an opposition in a byelection was in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, in 1920. This, coupled with some missteps by the new government has many observers thinking Glasson’s best chance came and went last September.

”The Abbott government hasn’t got a record to run on. It’s got four months of accidents,” Williams said. ”It hasn’t got anything it can point to, to say ‘This is what we’ve done since the election.”’

But don’t tell Glasson’s supporters that. Campaign insiders point to Griffith’s moderate nature and are predicting a very close race, perhaps even a narrow Glasson victory, by as much as 1.5 per cent.

”Griffith isn’t a Labor or a Liberal electorate, it’s a moderate electorate,” said a source on the Glasson campaign.

It was that moderation, he said, that made Rudd, a member of the middle-of-the-road Labor Unity faction, so popular with voters within the electorate.

”When all is said and done, I think this is a toss-up. It won’t be the walkover that’s been suggested by many.”

While Williams agrees the final margin may be tighter than expected, he pours water on the Glasson optimism.

”Clearly the Labor brand is not as damaged as people suspected and that’s been reflected in a couple of federal polls,” he said.

”My argument has long been that the Labor brand wasn’t the problem. It was the Gillard/Rudd feud that was the problem. Take those two actors out and a lot of the damage has been repaired.”

Williams is tipping a swing towards the ALP that, given the party’s existing 3 per cent margin, would result in a solid victory for Butler – and Shorten.

But Glasson isn’t going down without a fight. It was hard to fault his performance in the general election, or his impressive grassroots campaign.

But there have been some subtle differences. LNP headquarters has taken more control of this campaign. Media queries are directed through party HQ, which is a departure from last year when the candidate handled most queries himself. That increased control of head office has also been felt by campaign staff and volunteers on the ground.

Things have changed on the Labor side, too. The ALP is taking the fight to Glasson much more aggressively that it did last year. And having a candidate on the ground for the duration of the campaign, as opposed to Rudd who jetted across the country in his role as prime minister, does tend to sharpen a campaign’s focus.

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

Lead-footers hit the highway in NT

Low traffic: Peter Styles said there were no speeding deaths on the highway for 10 years. Photo: David McCowen Peter and Chris Jackson with their Aston Martin V8 Vantage on the Stuart Highway. Photo: David McCowen
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Northern Territory police have hit out at drivers who exceeded 200km/h during the first hours of a trial of open speed limits.

The territory has removed speed limits on a stretch of the Stuart Highway north of Alice Springs as part of a 12-month study. The road was not subject to speed limits until 2007, when 130km/h maximums were introduced.

Northern Territory Transport Minister Peter Styles said he had not seen any irresponsible drivers on the highway but was disappointed when told people had driven at more than 250km/h on public roads.

”This is a long section of road with very low traffic volumes,” he said.

”This road is not an autobahn. If people want to do those speeds, then I suggest they go to Germany.”

Mr Styles said the road was selected for a trial without speed limits because it ”has not had speed-related deaths on it for a 10-year period”.

Assistant Commissioner Jamie Chalker, of Northern Territory police, said increased patrols would operate in the trial zone.

”We will be encouraging people to drive safely, to drive to the conditions,” he said. ”Don’t try to push the boundaries … we will not accept stupidity on our road. Please do not come here to treat this as a racetrack. Don’t treat this as a place to drive recklessly.”

Critics of the trial, including the Transport Workers Union and the Australian Automobile Association, say it increases risk and will threaten life on the roads.

Fairfax Media spotted several high-performance machines on the stretch of road at the start of the trial, including a classic Ferrari F355, a supercharged Chrysler coupe and a 1000cc Yamaha superbike.

Dozens of motorists hit a 200-kilometre section of the road in the first hours of the trial on Saturday, including Aston Martin owners Peter and Chris Jackson.

”It was beautiful,” Mr Jackson said. ”The car was built for it so I pushed it over 250km/h. I’ll have to go home and wash the bugs off it now.”

Alice Springs residents have been split by the decision to trial open speed limits.

Gary Partridge used to work in roadhouses in the bush and said it was ”about bloody time” the government reinstated open limits.

”No one really speeds on that road anyway, most people do 130 or 140km/h,” he said.

Other residents said they appreciated being given the opportunity to decide what was responsible on the road.

But many do not support the trial, including Rob Manning, a travelling salesman who spends many hours on outback roads.

”I used to drive on that road when it was on an open speed limit … many times over 200km/h,” he said. ”But I don’t agree with it – 130km/h is enough.”

Richard Giltrap drives 50-metre-long triple road trains out of Alice Springs, often having to avoid ”idiots on the road”.

”They overtake when it is unsafe all the time,” he said. ”[The trial] shouldn’t happen, shouldn’t be allowed … There will be one accident and that will be the end of [it].”

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What went wrong with the Nintendo Wii U?

With sales of more than 100 million, Nintendo’s original Wii easily won the last round of the console wars. Like Mario jumping over a man-eating flower, the Wii’s sales leapfrogged both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, ushering in a golden age of mainstream gaming. Key to this success was the revolutionary Wii remote, a gesture-based controller that removed the complex controls of other consoles. Combined with a family-friendly range of games, it captured the imagination of the masses, from six-year-old girls to 60-year-old grandfathers. So how did Nintendo get it so wrong with the Wii’s successor, the Wii U, which has crashed and burned like an out-of-control Mario Kart?
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Released in November 2012, early sales of the Wii U were strong despite a relatively soft range of launch titles. The first shipments quickly sold out, but the happy story ended there with sales rapidly declining. The Wii U sold a mere 2.8 million units in the whole of 2013 – less than the new Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One sold in just two months. It’s also a fraction of the number of original Wiis sold over the same length of time when it was first released.

As a result, Nintendo’s share price has taken a beating, profit fell 30 per cent, and top company executives have taken major pay cuts. The Wii U is in dire straits. Even Nintendo’s president Satoru Iwata – whose salary has been halved – hasn’t beaten about the bush, admitting the company’s sales suffered ”a huge gap from their targets”.

Issues have included the Wii U’s name, which sounds very similar to Nintendo’s earlier console, and an advertising campaign that failed to convey the Wii U was actually a new console. Many gamers mistakenly believed the Wii U was just a new controller for the older Wii.

According to Marla Fitzsimmons, marketing manager at Nintendo Australia, the company quickly realised this. “One of the challenges was to explain to consumers that Wii U was a new console and new controller, and not just a controller for Wii.”

The biggest physical difference is the new gamepad, which combines a standard control pad with a large touchscreen. While the Wii U still uses the Wii remotes, the new gamepad is central to the Wii U experience and requires the dexterity of an experienced gamer on twin control sticks and buttons. Many see this as the biggest flaw of Wii U, reintroducing the barrier the original Wii successfully removed.

But Nintendo doesn’t see it that way. When asked if upcoming games would place emphasis on the remotes instead of the gamepad, Fitzsimmons says: “Our job continues to be to get out there to consumers and show them the entertainment and fun that the Wii U offers, and that includes showing them all the great things you can do with the gamepad.”

It appears mainstream gamers will need to adapt to the gamepad if they hope to enjoy upcoming games, but with so few Wii U consoles out there, software publishers are loathe to invest. Electronic Arts announced an “unprecedented relationship” with Nintendo at the launch of the Wii U, but a year later had no Wii U titles in development. Key 2013 titles from other publishers, such as BioShock Infinite, Grand Theft Auto V and Tomb Raider, all skipped the Wii U. This leaves Nintendo relying on its internal studios to deliver the bulk of Wii U games. But based on known releases for 2014, it seems Nintendo plans on releasing fewer games than it did in 2013.

Despite this, Fitzsimmons claims 2014 will see a resurgence in sales resulting from games sales, saying that “we feel there’s more momentum with the upcoming line-up”. Australia’s top physical gaming retailer EB Games echoed this, saying “Nintendo is definitely stepping up to the plate when it comes to the software on offer”.

Now that the Playstation 4 and Xbox One are available – both delivering raw performance exponentially more powerful than the Wii U, and both selling like hot cakes – Nintendo faces an even tougher time as casual gamers flock to the increasingly high quality games offered on smartphones and tablets.

Nintendo HQ in Japan is responding with a management shake-up and share buy-back, while Nintendo Australia remains slightly more optimistic. ”Our upcoming line-up is incredibly strong,” Fitzsimmons says. ”We feel that the Wii U is in a much better position in 2014.”

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Smart light bulbs: Belkin v Philips

Plugged in: Philips’ smart light bulbs.The simple light bulb is looking like the cornerstone of the smart home, with the ability to turn your lights on from across the room or around the world.
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At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Belkin unveiled its new WeMo LED light bulbs as part of its home automation range, while Philips touted its latest BR30 downlight bulb.

These smart light bulbs are designed to work with a normal light socket, although the Philips Hue is only available with a screw fitting (you can buy bayonet adaptors). The Belkin bulbs will be available with either bayonet or screw fittings.

Both support the ZigBee short range wireless protocol, which looks destined to become the backbone of home automation and is already built into some smart meters. Both starter kits come with a central ZigBee hub which connects the lights to your home Wi-Fi network, letting you control them from your Android and Apple gadgets.

The new Philips Hue BR30 is a 630-lumen downlight, joining the original 600-lumen Philips Hue bulbs. You can choose from millions of colours to suit any mood, set timers, use GPS-based geofencing and take advantage of the If This Then That online automation service.

You can’t adjust the colour of the 800-lumen Belkin bulbs. Their selling point is tight integration into the Belkin WeMo ecosystem which already includes smart light switches, power adaptors and motion detectors. You can also set timers and tap into If This Then That.

The writer travelled to Las Vegas as a guest of LG.

The verdict

Philips’ coloured lights are great for setting the mood but Belkin’s wider WeMo ecosystem makes it the more practical choice for people looking to really embrace home automation.

Belkin$US129 (2 bulbs + hub)belkin南京夜网/au

Philips$US199 (3 bulbs + hub)philips南京夜网.au

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AFL drafts top crime fighter

Veteran detective Gerry Ryan. Photo: Jason SouthThe AFL has recruited one of Victoria’s highest-ranking detectives to work as an anti-corruption investigator as part of a major revamp of its integrity department.
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He is expected to work in the areas of match fixing, illegal betting, improper associations, supplement abuse, and performance-enhancing drug use and trafficking.

The move comes as professional sports in Australia have been targeted by international illegal betting syndicates as potential areas for expansion, and follows warnings from the Australian Crime Commission that some codes are vulnerable to corruption.

Detective Superintendent Gerry Ryan from Victoria Police’s crime department will move to the AFL with a brief to liaise with Australian and international law-enforcement agencies that specialise in sports-related crime.

He oversaw last year’s investigation into allegations that a series of Melbourne soccer games were fixed as part of an international betting scam. It resulted in six arrests.

The appointment is part of an investment by the AFL in anti-corruption measures following the Essendon supplements scandal that immersed the competition in controversy throughout the 2013 season.

New measures put in place include:

■Bans on injecting players other than for a specific medical condition.

■Tougher gambling restrictions for AFL players and officials.

■Broader integrity examinations for club officials and employees.

■Bans on undesirables from entering changing rooms and coaches’ boxes.

■Mandatory reporting of anti-doping claims.

■Witness protection rules.

■Wider anti-tanking rules.

Superintendent Ryan, a 40-year police veteran, has long been involved in top-level football and has been president of VFL club Sandringham since 2006. He will resign that post with his AFL appointment.

He told Fairfax Media: ”We have seen from what has happened around the world that sport is at risk. People said match fixing would never reach Australia, but we know with the recent soccer investigation that it has.

”Asian betting is massive and Australia sits in a vulnerable position because of time zones.

”I am looking forward to working with the AFL’s integrity team to protect the game and the industry.

”The supporters need to have faith in the standards maintained in the competition.”

Australian Football League general counsel Andrew Dillon said Superintendent Ryan’s investigative skills and experience would be strong assets in the integrity area.

”Gerard Ryan is uniquely suited to this important role. He has a deep understanding of the Australian football environment and also an intimate knowledge of the risks that Australian sport faces from corruption, drugs and organised crime,” Mr Dillon said.

”In addition to many significant achievements at Victoria Police, he was more recently senior investigating officer in Operation Starlings, which investigated allegations of match fixing within the Victorian Premier League, and he has managed Purana taskforce’s collaboration with Victoria Police’s sporting integrity intelligence unit in relation to a number of sport-related investigations for Victoria.”

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