Monthly Archives: July 2019


REVIEW:The 39 StepsTheatre on Brunker,St Stephen’s Hall, Adamstown (4956 1263).Ends April 23ALFRED Hitchcock’s thrillers invariably had elements of comedy, so it’s not surprising that this stage adaptation of his 1935 film The 39 Steps has audience members constantly laughing and smiling as hero Richard Hannay is chased by spies and police alike across the Scottish moors.

This brisk adaptation of the film script by English playwright Patrick Barlow is all the more engaging because it has just four actors playing more than 130 roles, with two males having watchers in fits as they make rapid changes from one character to another.

Derek Fisher is the only actor in a single role, as Richard Hannay, a debonair bachelor who begins the tale going to a theatre “for a bit of fun”. He finds himself sitting beside a foreign woman who fires a gun at the stage, then asks to come home with him. But the spies the woman is trying to escape follow them, and Hannay finds himself on the run after she is murdered.

Alison Cox has three roles, as the woman involved with the spies, who are known as the 39 Steps, a frustrated farmer’s wife who helps Hannay get out of a jam, and a cool blonde, Pamela, who is handcuffed to Hannay ahead of a pursuit.

Pamela and Hannay initially pass each other as strangers on a train (one of many references to Hitchcock’s films), with their subsequent meeting in a highlands town community hall, where Hannay finds himself introduced as a guest speaker who has failed to arrive, leading to Pamela calling out that he is someone else.

Mark Spencer and Peter Bird do amazing things with their voices and bodies as all the other characters, with the pair as music hall performers, the husband-and-wife owners of a country pub, a professor who proves to be someone else and his sinister partner, and numerous police, spies, farmers and street people. And, somewhere along the way, Alfred Hitchcock, as was his custom, makes an amusing appearance.

Director Brian Lowe, with the support of an excellent technical team, engagingly stages incidents such as a chase on the roof of an express train with minimal props, and the pursuit of Hannay and Pamela by a crop-dusting plane that is seen in silhouette as the sound reveals its increasing approach.

The references to Hitchcock’s films are amusingly used, with the birds in one scene created by puppet characters, and Hannay told, when trying to escape from one team of pursuers, to use the rear window, with a real window appearing so that he can climb through it.

THE actors in the current Newcastle production of the English hit play The 39 Steps had a surprise when they took their bows at the end of a matinee on Sunday.

Special guestThey learnt that the play’s writer, Patrick Barlow, was in the audience. And he came on stage and said it was one of the best productions of the work that he had seen.

Patrick Barlow is married to former Novocastrian Jodi Shields and arrived in Newcastle with her on Saturday for a holiday at her parents’ home.

The parents, aware that he was keen to see the show, booked tickets for Sunday’s matinee at Adamstown’s Theatre on Brunker. In conversation with company administrator Meri Bird at interval, they revealed that he was there.

Meri Bird kept his presence a secret from the four actors, afraid that they would be nervous during the second act.

They kept the show flowing smoothly, and, along with the audience members, were delighted when Barlow signed programs for them.

Barlow adapted The 39 Steps from the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film of that name which has its hero, Richard Hannay, being pursued by spies in Scotland after they murder a woman who asks him to help protect her.

Barlow’s stage version has four actors playing more than 130 characters, with the Theatre on Brunker cast including Derek Fisher as Hannay, Alison Cox as three very different women, and Mark Spencer and Peter Bird as spies, police, farmers, innkeepers and a host of others who deliver a mix of comedy and drama.

The writer told the Herald that he was delighted with the production.

“They did a great job, with the barest minimum of a set,” he said.

He praised the way the production team, headed by director Brian Lowe, put together the tale’s elements, including wheels coming off a plane and the amusing handling of police dogs without any canines on stage.

“I was thrilled with the staging,” he said.

The 39 Steps opened in London in 2006 and ended a nine-year-run last September. It has played to millions of people around the world.

Barlow’s wife, Jodi Shields, was a member of the renowned Newcastle Castanet Club, which presented song and comedy programs around Australia in the 1980s and ’90s.

She was also the administrator of the Castanets and met Barlow after moving to London in 1998, where she became a talent agent managing some of Britain’s biggest show business names.

The pair holidayed in Newcastle at Christmas in 2008, a few weeks before the first Australian professional tour of The 39 Steps was due to begin, with a season at Newcastle’s Civic Theatre in February, 2009.

Patrick Barlow said at the time that he regretted he would be returning to London without seeing that show, but the Theatre on Brunker production has shown him just how well it could be staged in Australia.

Abundant Produce’s magic beans to hit the ASX

Abundant Produce has spent five years developing its technology with the University of Sydney. Lucrative opportunity: Abundant Produce is pinning its hopes on developing hardier cucumber, tomato and eggplant seeds.

What can be packed into a small snap lock bag, weighs about 30 grams and is worth $2000?

No, it’s not suspicious white powder but 2000 mini cucumber seeds.

It sounds like the stuff of fairy tales.

Will these seeds grow into an enormous plant that will lead to a land of giants and a goose that lays golden eggs?

After all, the seeds are almost worth double the price of precious metal. But this is no joke.

The seeds have been designed by Abundant Produce, which will list on the ASX next week.

The company has spent five years developing its technology with the University of Sydney’s Plant Breeding Institute.

Chief executive Tony Crimmins said the company was the first of its kind to list on the ASX, specialising purely in agriculture intellectual property, generating revenue mainly from royalties.

“It costs 0.8 of a cent to produce a seed,” Mr Crimmins said. “The rest [of a seed’s overall value] is distribution and IP.

“And the divide between distribution and IP is the negotiation you have with the companies that you are trying to sell the seeds to.”

Typically, royalties range from 5¢ to 11¢ a seed and some of the world’s biggest seed companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont and Limagrain, are taking notice of  the Sydney company’s technology.

Mr Crimmins said those big four companies controlled about 80 per cent of the market, meaning working with them to secure distribution contracts was a necessity.

“Those big boys don’t like each other dramatically,” he said. “But we’re small and have great ideas and these large houses are the beneficiaries.

“The majors tend to buy innovation rather than breed it.”

The company – which has raised $3.5 million from mainly institutional investors and will list with a market capitalisation of $9.3 million at 20 cents a share – is aiming to differentiate itself from other seed designers.

It is focusing on creating varieties that can withstand the harsh climates in emerging markets, such as India and Mexico.

“These areas are developing a proliferation of greenhouses with products being shipped to more developed markets in the northern hemisphere during the winter,” said Abundant’s research manager, Graham Brown.

“These areas have low cost structures but more extreme heat and more extreme cold. And whether you believe in climate change or not there are more extreme weather events.”

The harsh conditions can damage entire crops or leave blemishes on produce, slashing farmers’ incomes, but Mr Brown believes Abundant can help mitigate these risks.

For example, it has already developed a heat-tolerant gene which resulted in tomato plants still being able to produce fruit in 50 degree heat in Pakistan.

It’s not alone in investing in IP. Australia’s biggest horticulture company, Costa Group, has partnered with US giant Driscoll’s to develop and market superior varieties of berries.

Meanwhile Greg Hunt, the chief executive of herbicide and pesticide company Nufarm, said his business was not just helping farmers grow bigger crops but ones with added health and consumer benefits.

“The next wave is going to come on output traits and that’s where you see canola crops that are rich in omega 3, grain-based products that produce a flower that may have some other benefit such as gluten-free,” Mr Hunt told Fairfax Media in January.

Mr Brown has more than 20 years’ experience in product development in the wheat and ornamental flower market – but he said high value crops is where future growth is.

Mr Crimmins adds that in developing countries like Vietnam, supermarkets were overtaking traditional markets and this was an opportunity for Abundant.

“I was in Ho Chi Minh City about 20 years ago and it was mainly wet markets back then. But that’s changed. It’s all supermarkets and sometimes you can’t physically touch any produce before you buy it, it’s all wrapped up.

“The food market is growing as the world’s population grows and people are becoming more affluent. It’s rapidly changing.”

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

Frigate ‘gift’ a lesson

WHEN the Department of Defence “gifted” the frigate HMAS Adelaide to NSW to create an artificial reef off Avoca Beach in April, 2011,Australia was onthe cusp of something big.

We are at the startof a giant Department of Defence house-cleaning exercise.As the Australian National Audit Office described it in a performance reviewin 2015, Defence is going through the“biggest disposal of military equipment since World War II”.

By 2030 Defence expects to replace or upgrade up to 85 per cent of its military equipment, which means it’s going to have a lot of surplus material. The National Audit Office outlined just how much.

“Defence plans to dispose of up to 22 ships, 14 boats, 70 combat aircraft and 100 other aircraft, 110 helicopters, 470 armoured vehicles, 10,000 other vehicles, and a range of communications systems, weapons and explosive ordnance,” the Audit Office said.

The problem is that Defence is not good at letting go, as the HMAS Adelaide“gift” and scuttling five years ago showed.

The Defence“gift” of HMAS Adelaide to NSW, and HMAS Canberra to Victoria, ended up costing Australian taxpayersmore than $13 million in federal funds alone.

That is notto mention a few million more bythe NSW Government, once the three Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Australia hearings were finalised, and the tribunal was satisfied the wreck was not going to be an environmental hazard as it sat on the seabed1.8 kilometres off the coast.

The Department of Defence manages about $75 billion of Commonwealth assets, including $41 billion ofspecialist military equipment like HMAS Adelaide.

While it spends a great deal of time, effortand public resources buying new specialist military equipment like the 72 Joint Strike Fighter jets, carrying a $17.8 billion price tag and with the majority bound for Williamtown RAAF Base, Defence is not so good at disposal, the National Audit Office concluded.

“The major disposals examined as part of this audit have had a largely disappointing history,” it found.

“Overall, Defence’s management of specialist military equipment disposals has not been to the standard expected, as insufficient attention was devoted to achieving the best outcome for the Australian Government, reputational and other risks that arise in disposing of military equipment, managing hazard substances and adhering to Commonwealth legislation and policy for gifting public assets.

“In the cases examined, disposals have generally taken a long time, incurred substantial and unanticipated costs, and incurred risks to Defence’s reputation.”

The $13 million price tag for the cost of “gifting” HMAS Adelaide and HMAS Canberra to the states prompted a 2011 Defence reform review of its disposal program.

But even that failed to address the issue.

A first round of reforms aimed to“reduce if not eliminate” disposal costs andmaximise revenue from the sale of military assets”.But adisproportionate focus on revenue without full regard to costs; insufficient attention to risk management; the quality of internal guidance; fragmented responsibilities; and limited senior management engagement meant the 2011 reforms were gathering dust while HMAS Adelaide was still settling into the seabed.

The Audit Office raised one example, among many, to highlight why focusing on a sale, without looking at the potential costs of the sale, can end up being an expensive exercise.

The Department of Defence negotiated a sale price of $540,000 for a Caribou aircraft. The only problem was it cost Defence $743,000 for the disposal, including $242,000 to pay contractors to identify and pack Caribou spare parts.

A more concerning aspect of Defence’s focus on selling the equipment it no longer wants is its record when it comes to equipment with asbestos.

The Audit Officeidentified cases where the cost of removing asbestos, and the“prospect of greater disposal revenue”, led Defence to dispose of items that may contain accessible asbestos without“transparent declaration of those risks to potential purchasers”.

The “gift” of HMAS Adelaide started with an offer from a federal government minister to the State of NSW, and ended with the Adelaide becoming a lesson learntfor the Department of Defence.

The full cost of a dive wreck is estimated at $10 million, and Defence’s response these days is “cautionary”.

Scuttled: The $6 million “gift” of HMAS Adelaide to create an artificial reef off Avoca Beach led to soul-searching in the Department of Defence.

Eating whale, Japan style, in the name of science

A website promoting whale meat recipes, revealed to be hosted by the Institute of Cetacean Research, the organisation responsible for Japan’s so-called “scientific” whale hunt. A selection of whale meat. Photo: Twitter

Two minke whales, possibly a mother and calf, are hauled aboard the Nisshin Maru in 2008. Photo: Australian Customs

 “Whale bacon”, it turns out, is a critical component of scientific inquiry into the habits of peaceful ocean giants. Ditto for whale steak. And edible slabs of raw whale meat (aka sashimi).

Gourmet recipes to prepare and cook whale meat are being promoted on a website owned by the Institute of Cetacean Research, the Japanese organisation supposedly conducting “scientific” research to justify whale hunting in waters near Antarctica.

The latest harvest – which defies a 2014 international court ruling that declared Japan’s whaling illegal – included the slaughter of about 200 pregnant minke whales in waters near Antarctica.

The Institute of Cetacean Research, having sent its whaling fleet into the Southern Ocean over the summer, boasted last month that the high number of pregnant cows meant the whale population was in good health.

The institute, a non-profit organisation “authorised” by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, has an official website that includes details of the “scientific contribution” and “research results” of the whale hunt – findings universally dismissed by the world scientific community.

But the institute has also been revealed as the owner of an otherwise separate website, Whale Street, which includes glossy promotions for the consumption of whales.

The recipe website overflows with jolly whale meat dishes and messages supporting whaling, and features as its mascot a cartoon of a (presumably edible) blue whale designed to appeal to children.

The surprising discovery was made by Nick Jaffe, a Melbourne-based technologist, who stumbled across the whale recipe website and used a commonly available network administration tool to search out the owner of the site.

Hidden in the code of the whale recipe website he discovered the name for the organisation responsible: “Institute of Cetacean Research”. Whale recipes & links to where you can buy whale meat – Domain owners? The Institute of Cetacean Research, Japan.— Nick ☠ Jaffe (@hellojaffe) March 29, 2016

The whaling controversy has continued to cloud Japan’s charm offensive to win the rights to build Australia’s multibillion-dollar fleet of submarines.

Australia successfully challenged Japan’s claim to “scientific” whaling in 2014 in a landmark ruling by the International Court of Justice, but Japan has since withdrawn its whaling program from the jurisdiction of the court.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop last week warned that Australia was considering further legal action against Tokyo over the whale hunt.

The institute has been approached by Fairfax Media to ask how the recipes advance scientific understanding of whale behaviour.

The recipe website also promotes “Friends of the Whale Association” (Kujira Tomo no Kai), with the objective of supporting the Institute of Cetacean Research and “consumption of whale meat as a byproduct of whale research”.

Members join for ¥5000 ($60) and are promised delivery of “a selection of whale meat food products with value above this amount”.

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

Doncaster Mile winner Winx’s half-brother sells for $2.3 million

Winx half-brother Photo: SegenhoeWinx won’t run in Queens Elizabeth StakesPresnell: Donny star Winx deserved better

What does a half-brother to a superstar cost? It was $2.3 million for Winx’s relation at the Inglis Easter Sale on Tuesday with Gai Waterhouse to train the colt.

The six-time Golden Slipper-winning trainer waged a bidding war to secure the Snitzel colt – out of Winx’s mother Vegas Showgirl – and turned her back on the ring when the frenzy reached $2.2 million.

But after indicating she was out of play, Waterhouse was prodded by Hussain Lootah, the son of Emirates Park principal His Excellency Nasser Lootah, and put her hand up one last time.

“I spoke to the son and he said, ‘I want the colt’,” Waterhouse said. “I’m over the moon. [Full brother and Kindergarten Stakes winner] El Divino is the sexiest horse I train and this horse is so perfect, he just glides over the ground.”

Lootah said his interest in the colt spiked after Winx’s crushing Doncaster Mile win on Saturday, which came just a few hours after El Divino dead heated with Astern for his first group success.

“I was expecting [that price],” Lootah said. “We were in love with him, he’s an exceptional horse and we had to have him.

“He’s got an exceptional pedigree, is exceptional looking … he’s just a cracking colt.”

Winx has reached superstar status with her five group 1s and nine wins in a row, but will skip the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes on the second day of The Championships after trainer Chris Waller confirmed on Tuesday morning she will be sent to the paddock.

While Waterhouse and Lootah expected bidding to crash through the $2 million mark, Winx’s breeder John Camilleri wasn’t so sure about his latest progeny from Vegas Showgirl.

“​I’m not sure what to say, but what a great thrill … what a great result,” Camilleri said. “We thought he’d be hovering around the $1.5 million mark and when it shot past $2 million I was quite surprised, but pleasantly surprised.

“He’s a late November foal, if you can imagine him in May and June he could transform into something when he fills into himself. She’s as good a trainer of two-year-olds as you will find.

“She trains his full brother [El Divino], she’s trained Vancouver, Pierro, Dance Hero and I think she has more than got the credentials on the board.”

The colt was the opening day sales topper before the second and third sessions are conducted on Wednesday and Thursday.

The bidding started at $500,000 and went up in $100,000 increments to $1.7 million when Waterhouse went for the knockout with a $2 million bid.

It would take her another couple of bids to win the colt at $2.3 million.

“With a family like that we were thinking around $1 million and anything past that was a bonus,” said Segenhoe Stud’s Peter O’Brien, who offered the colt on account of Camilleri. “We’re naturally very happy.”

The Snitzel colt was the third lot to break the $1 million barrier late on Tuesday afternoon after a Redoute’s Choice colt out of Top Cuban, a half brother to Havana, sold for $1.5 million to Shadwell Stud.

Coolmore’s Tom Magnier, in partnership with Waterhouse, paid $1.2 million for a Fastnet Rock colt out of Rose Of Cimmaron, a brother to Bull Point.

Snitzel continues to be the leading stallion in the country. Shadwell Stud paid $900,000 for a colt of Rose ‘n’ Wine, a half brother to Spring Champion Stakes winner Hampton Court and New Zealand operation Wexford Stables parted with $800,000 for another Snitzel colt out of Subsequent.

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