John Waters: Star and car

Actor John Waters and his Toyota Tarago.The lowdown Born in London and moving to Australia in 1968, Waters has been a much-loved stalwart of the film, theatre, TV and music industries for more than 40 years. He is perhaps most famous for his long-running role on the acclaimed children’s TV show Play School.
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Other career hihglights Roles on TV shows, including Fireflies, All Saints and Offspring; playing Captain Alfred Taylor in the classic 1980 film Breaker Morant.

Current projects Starring in Looking Through A Glass Onion – John Lennon in Word and Music. For tour dates, see lookingthroughaglassonion南京夜网.au.

The year I bought my co-owned Hillman Minx – 1966

The price we paid for it – £12

What was your first car?

The first car I had I co-owned with a friend of mine from school. I was 17 and we bought a 1958 Hillman Minx. This was in south-west London, where I was born and grew up. I remember the interesting feature of it was that it had only one interior door handle, so to get out, you had to pass it around to everybody one by one. I don’t remember it going very well at all, although it was quite hardy. We owned it just for the course of one winter, and it survived, which was quite something in those days.

What are you driving now?

A Toyota Tarago, which is a great vehicle. I have small children all over again, having first had children 40 years ago, so when you have three primary school children, you’re not only driving them around, you’re driving their friends as well. So it’s a full eight-seater and it does the job really well.

Do you have a dream car in mind?

I guess it would be a sort of 1961 Cadillac DeVille convertible with white-wall tyres. That’s the rock’n’roll car. It’ll happen when the opportunity comes along.

What’s your pet road peeve?

I think probably drivers who pull up at a set of lights with a crossroad in the right-hand lane without indicating, and then once everybody’s stopped, indicate that they’re going to turn right. I think there should be a little rocket launcher in the front of every car to do away with people who do that. Of course, the truth is that some poor sod might just be totally unfamiliar with the area.

What’s your favourite drive?

I once drove what you might call the Riviera road from Marseilles in the south of France to Nice. It’s a winding road that clings to the side of a cliff, with views of the Mediterranean on one side and rocky outcrops on the other.

I was in an open-top Sunbeam Alpine that I borrowed from a friend in England to drive on the continent. That was back in my early 20s, when I spent a fair bit of time in France.

If you could go on a long road trip with absolutely anyone, who would it be?

It would have to be Jimmy Greaves, my favourite footballer of all time. He started out his career at Chelsea and had the bulk of his career at Spurs and was the record goal scorer for England. He’s a very funny East End cockney lad.

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

Bouncing baby courts team attention

Mum’s the word: Canberra basketballer Abby Bishop with her five-month-old niece Zala whom she has been looking after for her sister since last August. Photo: Katherine GriffithsWhen elite basketballer Abby Bishop flew into Melbourne last night for a weekend of matches, she had an unlikely companion at her side – five-month-old baby Zala.
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The Canberra Capitals star volunteered to take care of her niece on behalf of her sister last August, when baby Zala was just two days old. That may have seemed a major impediment to a professional sportswoman who spends much of her life on the road but Bishop, whose achievements include playing for Australia at the 2012 Olympics, figured Zala could come along too. So far, it’s worked.

Zala has become a regular fixture at the team’s training sessions in Canberra. If she gets restless, coach Carrie Graf, a new mother herself (to twins) steps in as babysitter and perches Zala on her shoulder while barking orders on the court.

When the Capitals are on the road, Bishop arranges for a friend or teammate to watch Zala during the game. Bishop is even negotiating with Basketball Australia for Zala to be allowed to go on international trips.

The past five months have already included Canberra’s taxing eight-game, 37-day, 10,500-kilometre trip around Australia. Zala was there for every match and she will be in the stands again as the Capitals take on the Melbourne Boomers on Saturday and the Dandenong Rangers on Sunday.

“It was an easy decision to take [Zala] and it’s been rewarding,” Bishop said.

“It was a spur of the moment thing, one week I was a normal 25-year-old and the next week I had a baby. There was no pregnancy, so people were a bit surprised.

“From the moment we left the hospital I felt like she was mine and as time’s gone on it’s been stronger.

Obviously my life has changed, but all in a good way. It’s put basketball and life into perspective.”

Bishop and her sister are in regular contact, sharing photos, videos and video phone calls to share Zala’s special moments.

The lifestyle change and sleepless nights took their toll on Bishop at the start.

“Things as simple as grocery shopping become different and hard, I don’t have family in Canberra so Zala does everything with me,” she said.

But she has recovered and plans to have more children in the future.

“I’ve always loved kids, and the switch just goes on,” she said. “Even though I didn’t carry Zala for nine months, the switch did go on for me.”

For most of Bishop’s life, her only concern has been basketball.

She played for Australia at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and has won multiple WNBL titles.

Bishop has won a WNBA championship in the United States and had a playing stint in France.

She’s aiming for a world championship berth this year and is considering returning to France at the end of Canberra’s WNBL campaign.

She also wants to play at the 2016 Olympics. But from now on, she’s a package deal with baby Zala. “I still treat basketball seriously,” she said, “but Zala is No. 1 now. Basketball is second to her and always will be.”

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Jail likely for man who used `coward’s punch’

A MAN who used a “coward’s punch” to hit a man in the face in a violent attack in Launceston is likely to face jail when he is sentenced.
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Dion Francis Saunders, 21, pleaded guilty in the Launceston Magistrate’s Court yesterday to one count of common assault and one count of having committed a nuisance.

Police prosecutor Brett Steele told the court that Saunders’ offending had likely breached a four- month suspended sentence.

Court security officers immediately took Saunders into custody after his appearance.

Magistrate Reg Marron will sentence Saunders on Monday at 11.30am.

Mr Steele earlier told the court that Saunders was among a group of men in the Quadrant Mall about 12.30am on September 22, when another group of men passed them.

The two groups brushed shoulders with one another, leading to a short verbal exchange.

The groups separated, then one man returned to shake hands with a member from Saunders’ group.

Saunders approached the complainant and threw a single punch with his right fist, hitting the man in the face. The man retreated and reported the matter to police.

He suffered a swollen cut lip and spent $1250 on dental work to repair his teeth.

The complainant’s mother wrote a letter to the court, outlining her concerns with high-profile “one- punch” assaults, now called “the coward’s punch”, in the media.

Police showed Saunders CCTV footage of his attack on the man, but while Saunders identified himself, he said he could not remember anything because he had been drinking heavily.

Mr Steele also told the court about the time Saunders urinated in the doorway of the old Chicken Feed store in Charles Street, on the night of September 7, telling police to “f— off” and continuing to urinate when officers saw him.

Saunders’ defence solicitor told the court her client was the provider for his family and his partner was seven weeks’ pregnant with their first child.

She said Saunders had an “intense need to relieve himself” when he urinated in the street, having been drinking heavily, and also recognised his problem with alcohol-fuelled violence.

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What diesel 4WD should I buy?

Nissan X-Trail’s solid off-road credentials make it a solid option for the well-travelled.The dilemma
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Janet and her husband are looking for a car that can tow their new camper trailer, which weighs about 700 kilograms, and has a boot big enough to hold a camping fridge and other gear. They would like a manual transmission and have settled on the idea of some kind of used diesel compact four-wheel-drive, preferably with less than 50,000 kilometres on the clock. They are keen on Nissan’s X-Trail, but want to know if anything else might suit.

The budget

Up to $30,000.

The shortlist

The X-Trail wouldn’t be our first choice for the average urban-bound buyer, but for this kind of scenario it’s bang on target, despite its advancing age.

The creeping miniaturisation of the compact 4WD segment means many options either don’t have the boot space Janet wants, or are too tarmac-oriented.

There’s no guarantee with some models at this budget that she will get a diesel engine, so we’ll wave goodbye now to contenders such as Ford’s Kuga, Honda’s CR-V, Mazda’s CX-5 and Volkswagen’s Tiguan and focus on two alternatives to the X-Trail capable of catering to those with an adventurous streak.

2008-on Nissan X-Trail diesel, from $18,150*

This Nissan is on its last legs in market terms and is due for replacement soon. There are more agile, thriftier compact 4WDs with roomier back seats, more refined diesel engines and better ANCAP safety ratings than its four stars, but its strong off-road potential, cushioned rough-road ride and big, versatile boot are very well aligned with Janet’s criteria. Manual versions, which have a 2.0-litre diesel engine with more grunt than autos, are the pick of the litter.

Value is another strong suit, with $30,000 more than enough to target a base TS model with next to nothing on the odometer. TLs at this budget tend to be a little older and more travelled, but compensate with a luxurious, leather-clad specification.

2011-on Skoda Yeti 103 TDI, from $24,420*

An altogether different package from the Nissan, this has a more diminutive exterior, better road manners and a more refined, economical 2.0-litre diesel engine. It has a more upmarket cabin too.

However, it also has a smaller boot and bitsier rough-road ride, and its long-term durability prospects are up for debate in this company. Only an optioned-up example would match an X-Trail TL’s level of kit. The Yeti is good value, though, with 2013 models with less than 5000 kilometres on the odometer available for this money.

It’s also not afraid to get its feet dirty and, while the cabin cedes to the Nissan for room, you can remove one, two or all three of its individual back seats to make the most of the available space.

2010-13 Subaru Forester diesel, from $23,650*

These jiggers retain their value well, so you’ll be lucky to get more than a 2012 base 2.0D with some kilometres on the odometer for $30,000. Leather-clad 2.0D Premiums will be older again.

The Subaru, though, wins back ground with spotless safety credentials and probably this group’s best compromise between handling and rough-road comfort.

Manual models, with their low-range gearing, are adroit off road by compact 4WD standards.

The lack of an auto variant is also unlikely to be an issue here and the cabin, despite ceding to the Nissan for boot space and the Skoda for flexibility, has a strong, functional streak. It’s a pity, then, that turbo lag makes the otherwise flexible and refined boxer diesel engine the least driveable here.

Drive recommends

The Subaru is too well suited to this scenario to be discounted lightly, but you’ll have to pay over and above to get into one. With equally talented rivals available for less, that’s a problem.

The Skoda? It’s a brilliant compact 4WD for city buyers with occasional rough and tumble on their agenda, but for more serious adventurers, its stern ride and long-term durability and reliability question marks would make us think twice.

So we end up where we began. The X-Trail isn’t the sharpest, most state-of-the-art compact 4WD, but it’s better used value than a Forester and has the Yeti covered away from the big smoke. That’s just enough to get it over the line first.

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

Heads and tails: Frank Camorra’s baked fish

Whole snapper baked on potatoes and capsicum, with Catalan wilted spinach. Whole snapper baked on potatoes and capsicum, with Catalan wilted spinach.
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Cooking a whole fish is a fantastic way of feeding a large group and it is a lot easier then it looks. I know many people worry they will not know when the fish is cooked, but by cooking it whole you give yourself a lot more leeway with the timing. By cooking fish on the bone, the flesh retains much more moisture than when it is filleted, and it remains at a beautiful serving temperature for longer. The succulent flakes of fish also draw flavour from the bones during this process.

I like to use small snappers for this dish, but you can use red emperor or any large, white-fleshed fish and just cook it for longer. The bed of potato and vegetables absorbs any cooking juices, which make the potatoes even tastier. In fact, the potatoes are my favourite part of this dish, as they take on the intense flavour of the stock and wine and the richness of the fish.Whole snapper baked on potatoes and capsicum

210ml extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, firmly packed

5 garlic cloves

4 x 500g whole snapper, cleaned and scaled

1 1/2kg brown onions, finely sliced

2 red capsicums, seeded and finely sliced

2 green capsicums, seeded and finely sliced

7 bay leaves

fine sea salt

4 lemons, sliced

200ml fish stock

4 waxy potatoes (such as Nicola), sliced in

5mm rounds

3 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

100ml white wine

sea salt flakes to sprinkle

In a blender, puree 60ml of olive oil, parsley and two large garlic cloves, season to taste and set aside. Remove the fish fins and spines with a pair of kitchen scissors. Rinse fish under cold water and pat dry with paper towel. Heat 80ml of olive oil in a large frying pan over low-medium heat.

Finely chop remaining three garlic cloves and cook with onion, capsicums, three bay leaves and a pinch of salt for 15-20 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Put the fish in a large bowl with several pinches of sea salt and the garlic and parsley paste and rub all over.

Season the cavity of each fish with salt, a few slices of lemon and a bay leaf. Drizzle a little olive oil into a large baking tray, then spread about a quarter of the onion mixture over it. Pour the fish stock over, put potato on top then season.

Lay the remaining onion mix over the potato, sprinkle with tomato pieces and most of the remaining lemon slices and season again. Place fish on top and dress with remaining lemon slices.

Drizzle white wine and the remaining olive oil over the fish. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the fish flakes when tested with a fork. Remove the fish and place on a plate, cover with foil and keep warm.

Cover the baking tray with foil and return to oven for 15 minutes, or until the potato is soft. Make a bed of the baked vegetable mix on four warm plates and place a snapper on each. Sprinkle with sea salt flakes and serve.

Serves 4

Catalan wilted spinach

80g pine nuts

500g baby spinach leaves

120g raisins

200ml Pedro Ximenez sherry

125ml extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

sea salt flakes

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Place the pine nuts on a baking tray lined with baking paper and roast for five minutes or until lightly golden.

Wash and dry the spinach in a large stainless steel bowl. Soak the raisins in the sherry in a small bowl.

Heat the olive oil in a frypan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring regularly, for two to three minutes or until golden. Pour hot oil and garlic over the spinach and mix well with tongs.

Add the raisin mixture and lemon juice and season with salt. Toss to combine. Set aside for 15 minutes, tossing the dressing through the leaves every five minutes. Check the seasoning, add pine nuts and serve.

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

Government no longer pursuing schools policy

PARENTS will still be able to decide where to send their children to school next year after the state government last night announced it would no longer pursue the out-of-home-area policy.
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Education Minister Brian Wightman said the policy, which included guidelines and maps to restrict children bypassing their local school, was causing unnecessary uncertainty for families and it was no longer a priority for the government.

“We should be focusing on giving children the best education possible, not causing undue concerns as to which school they can access,” he said.

“We should be concentrating on getting positive educational outcomes for our kids, not causing uncertainty for families over schools on maps.”

The out-of-home-area policy was announced by former education minister Nick McKim in 2012 as the next step in the ongoing schools viability issue.

The policy included revised out-of-home-area guidelines and maps to restrict children bypassing their local school to attend a school in another area.

It also meant parents wanting to enrol their child at an out-of- area school would first have to seek the permission of their local principal and then the principal of their preferred school.

Tasmanian State School Parents and Friends president Jenny Eddington said she was happy the government decided not to introduce the policy.

She said the majority of parents were against it, with many stating work and childcare would become issues if they had no choice on where they sent their children to school.

“Fine-tuning of boundaries will still need to happen, especially due to school closures and mergers,” she said.

“But this will be good news for the majority of our kids and parents.”

Mrs Eddington said she would still encourage people to look at their local school first, and if a school was full, students in the area would get first preference.

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

Holden’s other near-death experience

Greeted with derision: The unloved Toyota Lexcen was the love child of a short-lived relationship between the Japanese brand and Holden.Long before the current meltdown, there were at least two occasions when Holden came within a whisker of shutting its Australian plants.
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The first was in 1986, when the Commodore was being outsold by the Falcon, and General Motors-Holden’s Ltd, as it was then known, still had the bloated structure of the glory days when it commanded more than 50 per cent of the market.

It was said that, when the financial books were balanced, the case for keeping Holden as a manufacturer was only a few hundred dollars stronger than the case for dragging it behind the shed and putting it out of its misery.

Under extreme lobbying from Down Under, the American parent provided more funds. These and various government handouts allowed it to fight another day.

By 1989, sales had improved, but the company was still bleeding.

This time, GM Corp’s solution was to push Holden into a marriage with Toyota Australia. Although largely written out of both companies’ histories, it was more than a joint venture. It was almost a full-blown merger and, early on, seemed suspiciously like the first step towards the Japanese devouring the unprofitable Holden. The chief executive of the new combination was, after all, to be Toyota’s Nobuo ”Norman” Itaya.

Both companies denied it was anything but a partnership of equals as they threw all their manufacturing assets and goodwill into a new company called United Australian Automotive Industries (UAAI).

The new concern controlled both passenger-car brands and, with it, 40 per cent of the market. It was going to be more efficient and strategic and synergistic and all the things promised for such moves before they inevitably melt down amidst mournful howling and brutal recriminations.

The first phase led to products from Toyota’s Australian factories being ever so slightly restyled and rebadged as Holdens. That gave us the unloved Camry-based Apollo, and the equally unloved Corolla-based Nova, while the Commodore was given a Japanese-badged twin.

This was the Toyota Lexcen, named after Ben Lexcen, the designer of Australia II, the America’s Cup winning yacht.

The name was one problem – the company was trying to establish the new Lexus luxury brand at exactly the same time – but there were plenty of other issues to choose from.

Sticking different badges on the best-known (and by then best-selling) car on the market was greeted with derision from punters. They wouldn’t buy a Lexcen without a huge discount and, ideally, a set of Holden badges included, so they could disguise it.

Maybe over time these things could be made to work. However, there was a much bigger issue.

The culture within the local companies has often been likened to football teams. Toyota and Holden people still saw each other as the enemy. Only a merger with Ford Australia would have caused more deep-seated, barely suppressed rage within Holden.

As it was, they saw the Apollo and Nova as boring, characterless fridges on wheels.

Meanwhile, you should have heard the off-the-record bile about the quality of Holdens from Toyota executives.

The staff of each brand, from designers and engineers to sales people, considered the blow-in models an embarrassment and had little interest in helping shift them.

Since both companies had specifically left their light commercial vehicles outside UAAI, they put a new focus on flogging them. No profit sharing there.

Whenever there was a problem with the workings of UAAI – ie, every day – senior management on both sides lobbied their head offices to unravel the combined structure. The fact that this unravelling would be complex and expensive didn’t matter.

In 1996, the UAAI concern was quietly buried and the two brands separated. They could once again go for each other’s throat entirely on the record.

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

Freight scheme

IN RESPONSE to Martin Gilmour (The Examiner, January 27) my position has been consistently clear in supporting a more efficient Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme and for the inclusion of northbound international exports into the scheme.
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The state government’s submission explicitly backs these changes.

But there are elements of this report – commissioned by the federal Liberal government – which pose a massive threat to Tasmanian business.

One of the report’s recommendations could cut $90 million (over two years) in payments to Tasmanian businesses by changing the way freight equalisation is calculated.

Given Tasmanian businesses receive around $200 million in support over the same period, this would effectively be slashing half the support for Tasmanian businesses that rely on the TFES.

The report also proposes removing support to southbound freight movements, which accounts for a quarter of all TFES payments.

This would critically impact iconic Tasmanian companies, such as James Boag & Sons, which currently benefits from assistance to reduce the cost of inputs to their end product.

The report further questions the existence of the Bass Strait Passenger Equalisation scheme.

If this scheme was cut, it would add hundreds of dollars to the cost of visiting Tasmania by sea for every one of the 100,000 people who do so every year.

Before last year’s election the federal and state Liberals said this review was the answer to addressing Tasmania’s freight challenges.

The reality is far from it and instead it poses a major threat to the Tasmanian economy.

The Tasmanian Labor government has worked hard with business through the industry-led Freight Logistics Co- ordination Team.

Its report is a comprehensive document, and as a state we are already taking action.

– DAVID O’BYRNE, Minister for Infrastructure.

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

Mazda3: Next big thing?

It’s now a matter of history that Australians have fallen out of love with traditional family cars such as the Holden Commodore. The decision by both Ford and Holden to quit local manufacturing by 2017 underscores that sentiment.
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Of course, there was a time, for 15 years in a row, when the Commodore was the firm favourite among families, but somehow, we have since fallen into step with the rest of the world, except for the United States, and the small car is king.

Witness the runaway success of the Mazda3 in this country. For the past decade or so, the Mazda hatchback and its sedan stablemate have been the most popular new-car choice among private buyers.

It’s a global phenomenon. Almost 40 per cent of all Mazda sales are from the 3 catalogue and Mazda hopes that the new model will continue that trend.

”Early indications are that it will be a winner,” says Mazda Australia senior public relations manager Steve Maciver. ”It’s been [to customer clinics] here and we’ve had 70,000 prelaunch hand-raisers [expressions of interest] in Australia.”

In 2011, Mazda’s 3 became the first imported car to top the sales charts, a feat it repeated in 2012. Last year, the Toyota Corolla snuck past to give Toyota its first top seller and reaffirm that small cars are the new black.

Mazda is boldly predicting more than 45,000 of its 3 will sell annually, a total big enough for it to top the sales charts, assuming that the imminent arrival of a Corolla sedan doesn’t cause its sales to rise further.

Now that the new 3 is here, we were keen to see how good the anointed one is in its latest guise. It was also a chance to take a road trip with the old guard in the form of a Holden Calais, to see how our tastes have changed.

The temptation is to imagine that, as a nation, we’ve simply lost our craving for interior space. That doesn’t seem to hold water when you take the Mazda to pieces and apply the tape measure. Just parking the cars side by side reveals that the biggest difference is in overall length, while the Mazda, even in hatchback guise, looks wide.

Compared with the outgoing Mazda3, the new hatchback is the same length overall, but has less front and rear overhang, maximising the space between the axles with 60 millimetres more wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels). The new 3 is also 40 millimetres wider than the old car and lower, at 1455 millimetres.

Comparing those figures with the Calais, it’s obvious that the Holden is bigger, but not by as much as you might imagine. The real difference is in the overall length and, at 4966 millimetres from stem to stern, the Calais is 506 millimetres longer than the Mazda. The wheelbase is also greater, at 2915 millimetres versus 2700 millimetres, and those two figures are what give the Calais its rear-seat stretching space and its long, deep boot.

Obviously, the Mazda cannot match that luggage capacity and, while there is less knee room in the back seat of the 3, it’s hardly what you’d call cramped. Crucially, it will be big enough for many families.

Exploding even further the myth that we don’t like interior space is a comparison with the first Holden Commodore, the VB model of 1978. While the original Commodore did cop flak for being a bit dainty in some directions, it still found plenty of homes with Aussie families and set the tone for all future Holdens to bear the Commodore badge.

And what do you know? Compared with the new Mazda3, the first Commodore was a bit longer at 4705 millimetres (compared with the Mazda hatch’s 4460 millimetres), but it was narrower at 1722 millimetres (1795 millimetres) and had a shorter wheelbase, at 2668 millimetres (2700 millimetres).

Meanwhile, just because you’re losing a bit of space, it doesn’t mean anybody is willing to compromise on safety, comfort or equipment levels.

The new 3 has options that were unimaginable in smaller cars (at this price point anyway) a few years ago, including a head-up display, colour touchscreen, a real-time traffic and weather update service and even radar cruise control.

There’s also a hill-hold function and a reverse camera is standard on all but the most basic Neo model, a car designed primarily as the price teaser to tempt people into dealerships. While the heavily marketed runout-model Mazda3 attracted buyers mainly to the base model, the new Neo is expected to initially account for 40 per cent of sales.

An optional $1500 safety pack includes autonomous braking for low-speed crash avoidance and a blind-spot warning system.

What is almost certainly driving small-car sales more than an imaginary downsizing trend is the move towards greater fuel efficiency.

Squeezing every drop out of each petro-dollar is the name of the game now, and conventional wisdom is that big cars simply don’t cut it.

That’s debunked in the case of the Calais, which managed a very impressive 7.6 litres per 100 kilometres on a long stretch of freeway running.

Given the extra performance offered by the Holden’s 210kW, 3.6-litre V6, that’s a great result, but it pales in comparison with the Mazda’s 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres in the same conditions. In fact, that’s a result many diesel hatchbacks of the same size would struggle to match, yet it’s all done with conventional technology marketed under the Skyactiv banner.

Despite a trend towards smaller engines fitted with turbochargers, the Mazda philosophy is that a well-engineered 2.0-litre engine can do the same job.

There is also a manufacturing cost advantage in remaining non-turbocharged, as well as simpler servicing for the owner and a potential fuel-consumption advantage.

Throw in the use of high-strength steel to increase strength without adding to the car’s weight and excellent aerodynamics (a drag coefficient of just 0.26 for the sedan), and Mazda is claiming a massive 30 per cent cut in fuel consumption over the old car. To be fair, the Mazda3 it replaces was one of the thirstiest small cars on the market, but it has jumped to being one of the best.

Mazda will offer two petrol engines in the new 3: a 2.5-litre unit and the 2.0-litre version we drove. There will also be a 2.0-litre turbo diesel which, for the first time, will be available in the 3 with an automatic transmission. Given the fuel economy of the petrol, we can’t wait to see what sort of figures the diesel will produce.

Our test car was fitted with six-speed conventional automatic transmission, Mazda again ignoring the voguish double-clutch gearboxes that work brilliantly once you’re moving, but can hesitate in traffic.

Part of its Skyactiv technology, however, is a function that keeps the torque converter partially locked up even during gearshifts, so it feels taut and positive in its action.

The engine itself is much quieter and smoother than previous-generation Mazda petrol engines and, although it spins freely, it does get a tiny bit strained as you approach the 6000rpm red line.

It’s not as punchy or playful as a good turbo motor, either, but it certainly does everything it needs to or would be expected of it, and that potential fuel economy just can’t be underestimated.

The big bogey of previous Mazda3s was their interior noise, but here, Mazda has found a fix. There’s very little wind noise, almost no suspension noise and only some tyre roar on coarse surfaces to upset the serenity of the interior.

The move to electrically assisted power steering has also resulted in a change in the preciseness. Although it feels more composed at speed, it has lost a little of its tactility through the wheel and perhaps a small measure of its eagerness to turn in.

The payoff is a much more grown-up ride at the cost of a little body roll, but the suspension settings, in particular, seem beautifully considered.

That cars like the Holden Calais of the last decade are a size bigger than they’ve ever been suggests that the trend had to stop somewhere. With the Mazda’s all-round abilities and the fact that it has a spacious, well-presented interior, there’s little reason to think this latest one won’t continue its broad-ranging appeal.Vital statistics

Price $20,490-$38,190, plus on-road and dealer costs


Mazda3 Neo $20,490 (man) $22,490 (auto)

Mazda3 Maxx $22,990 (man) $24,990 (auto)

Mazda3 Touring $25,490 (man) $27,490 (auto)

Mazda3 SP25 $25,890 (man) $27,890 (auto)

Mazda3 SP25 GT $30,590 (man) $32,590 (auto)

Mazda3 SP25 Astina $36,190 (man) $38,190 (auto)

Engine 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol (SP25, SP25 GT and SP25 Astina models)

Transmission 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic

Power 138kW at 5700rpm

Torque 250Nm at 3250rpm

Claimed average fuel use 6.5L/100km (manual sedan and hatch), 6.0L/100km (auto sedan), 6.1L/100km (auto hatch)

Engine 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol (SP25, SP25 GT and SP25 Astina models)

Transmission 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic

Power 138kW at 5700rpm

Torque 250Nm at 3250rpm

Claimed 6.5L/100km (manual sedan and hatch), 6.0L/100km (auto sedan), 6.1L/100km (auto hatch)Astina returns as Mazda3 flagship

Proof that Mazda has big plans for the Mazda3 Down Under can be seen in the sheer variety of permutations that will be offered, including the return of the Astina nameplate that was once reserved for hatchbacks, but is now being applied to a flagship model that will sell from $38,190, plus on-road and dealer costs.

It’s a big ask for a small car, especially considering the starting price for the entry-level Mazda3 Neo is $20,490.

As well as the two body styles (sedan and hatch), there are three engine choices: a 2.0-litre petrol with 114kW and 200Nm, a 2.5 petrol with 138kW and 250Nm and the turbo diesel to come later.

A six-speed manual or six-speed automatic (for an extra $2000) are the transmission choices.

The 2.0-litre engine range starts with the base-model Neo, which misses out on alloy wheels, and then moves to the Maxx and the Touring as the top-shelf 2.0-litre car.

The 2.5-litre engine will be fitted to the SP25 and the sportier SP25 GT, while the top-rung 2.5-litre version will again wear the Astina badge, first used by Mazda in the 1990s.

All 2.5-litre cars will have smart key entry and the 2.0-litre Touring, SP25 GT and Astina will have leather seats, heated in the latter pair.

Mazda has gone to town specifying the Astina, which will have as standard a sunroof and all the safety gear, such as blind-spot warning, forward obstruction warning (optional on all other models), lane-departure warning and radar cruise control. The head-up display will be available only on the SP25 GT and Astina.

However, all the variants will have airconditioning and cruise control, and only the base-model 2.0-litre will miss out on the seven-inch colour screen, satellite navigation, shift paddles and a reversing camera.

Mazda is tipping a 50-50 split between sedan and hatch and expects the Neo to make up about 55 per cent of sales, which could be as high as 4000 cars a month.

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

Pressing times on streets of Egypt

Animosity on the street towards journalists is on the rise in Egypt, especially towards photographers.It doesn’t take long for a crowd to turn on you on the streets of Egypt these days.
Nanjing Night Net

A finger pointed, an accusation levelled, and you are literally running for your life.

For months now I have been hesitant to even pull my notebook from my bag when I am reporting from the street, such is the animosity against, and suspicion of, foreign journalists.

But I am lucky – I can usually move through a crowd, observe the mood, chat to a few people and leave quickly before drawing too much attention.

Not so photographers, whose cameras have become a magnet for angry crowds and security services who smash, grab and detain.

Two weeks ago I was a few blocks from Cairo’s Tahrir Square, interviewing stallholders and passers-by about the constitutional referendum due to begin the next day.

I had identified myself as an Australian newspaper journalist. As people began to speak, I took out my notebook.

A middle-aged man suddenly began paying close attention to my questions – little more than simple inquiries about what people thought of the constitution, was it better than the last one they had voted in a little over a year ago?

“You are from TV?” he asked. “No, a newspaper,” I replied, acutely alert to where the conversation was going.

“You are from Jazeera,” he shouted. “No,” I insisted. “A newspaper – look,” I said, gesturing around me: “I have no camera crew.”

“You are a spy,” he yelled, as people crowded around us and began repeating his accusations as if they were facts. And again: “You are from Jazeera.”

The mood darkened. There was no possibility of negotiation, no hope of discussion. It was time to run.

I dashed through the all-but-stationary traffic, turned down a side street to avoid police gathered on one corner in case they grabbed me, and in a few short minutes I came to a roundabout where the cars were moving, flagged a cab and went home.

It was an incident hardly worth mentioning. Unlike so many of my colleagues, I was not beaten by the crowd or detained by security forces.

It was just another day trying to report on the wave of revolution and crackdown, fledgling democracy and repression that Egyptians are riding.

And it was another reporting exercise cut short by an angry crowd, encouraged by an interim government, backed by a powerful security establishment and fuelled by the country’s media which are loudly feeding a tide of xenophobia that threatens to spill over at the slightest provocation. Like taking out a notebook, or interviewing the other side of politics.

The threat of arrest is ever-present. The detention of our journalist colleagues from al-Jazeera – Australian Peter Greste, dual Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, along with Egyptians Baher Mohamed, Abdullah al-Shami and Mohamed Bader – weighs heavily on our minds.

Greste, an award-winning journalist who grew up in Brisbane, was arrested with his colleagues at a Cairo hotel on December 29.

They are accused of broadcasting false news in the service of the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood.

The media have always had a difficult relationship with the powerful in Egypt. Repression was rife during president Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule and the Muslim Brotherhood-backed government of Mohamed Mursi sought to quash criticism of his short-lived, dysfunctional administration.

But the targeting of journalists from al-Jazeera English over the network’s alleged pro-Brotherhood stance – a charge denied by al-Jazeera executives – has spilt over to encompass all foreign media.

I will no longer answer “sahafia” – the feminine form of ”journalist” in Arabic – when I am asked what I do. Not since a taxi driver took a journalist straight to a police station after he revealed his profession.

Soon after the incident downtown I travelled with a photographer to Fayoum, two hours from Cairo, to report on the second day of voting in the constitutional referendum.

Soldiers backed by local plain-clothes police armed with shotguns were in control of every polling booth. A judge oversaw the voting inside.

During the day our every move – interviewing voters, taking photos or seeking a judge’s permission to enter the room – was filmed by a soldier on his mobile phone.

Our driver was also filmed, his identity now inextricably linked to the foreign journalists he takes with extreme care from point A to point B.

Despite the lure of great pictures and interviews, we decided against getting out of the car in the local markets. The mood felt wrong, the threat of violence too great.

During an earlier visit to the site of a bomb blast in Cairo’s Nasr City, my colleague and I lasted just over seven minutes observing and photographing the wreckage before security police challenged our presence and it seemed the crowd could turn on us.

Only a month ago I worried that a quick visit to a protest or bomb blast site was not enough to do a decent reporting job. Now I wonder if I should go at all.

At least 12 journalists were detained and several were wounded as they tried to cover the third anniversary of the overthrow of Mubarak.

Almost every journalist and photographer I know has been detained, and those of us who haven’t have regularly run for cover, hiding in residential buildings, ducking into cafes, talking our way into the safety of a big hotel.

The threat of being detained, or a crowd turning on us, versus the need to cover the story, is a constant debate among those covering Egypt.

Every day we hope we have the right answer, because one wrong move can be devastating.

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