Captains cook up a real clash of styles

When Nick Maxwell was on the rookie list at Collingwood, seven short years ago, his then captain immediately noticed the kid from Geelong who seemed to have plenty to say.Nathan Buckley has been around football clubs long enough to know that there are blokes who want to lead and blokes who follow. In Maxwell, he saw the first of the two categories. ”I reckon he’s always been a leader,” said Buckley during the week. ”Even back then, he’d be organising blokes for social functions, making sure blokes were doing the right thing.”Hence, when Scott Burns retired at the end of 2008 and Collingwood needed another captain, Buckley was a strong advocate of Nick Maxwell’s credentials for the job, albeit from a distance. Outside the club there were doubts; in the inner sanctum, the self-made player was a walk-up start. As a player, Maxwell has had to work for everything. But as a leader, he is Mr Natural.At 2pm today at the MCG, he will trot into the centre to toss a coin and shake hands with Chris Judd, Carlton’s inspirational captain and champion of the game. Judd was destined to captain an AFL club from the time he was a teenager, though the journey has been strewn with difficulties.As a self-confessed introvert, Judd has struggled with aspects of the captaincy that was first thrust on him at West Coast when Ben Cousins imploded. When he lifted the premiership cup in 2006, he had to share the podium with Cousins who appeared intent on thumbing his nose at the world with his whirling dervish act. At Carlton, people let Judd down, notably Brendan Fevola. Critics took potshots at him for failing to control the actions of others, and some of the mud stuck.While Judd has always had the fallback position of performing heroics on the field – witness his game against Geelong last Monday – he is yet to win unequivocal public acclaim as a captain.The one thing today’s captains at the MCG have in common is that they are profoundly important to their teams.Aside from his leadership, Maxwell is now an all-Australian defender, a lightning rod for his team. Matthew Lloyd, the former Essendon captain, sees Collingwood developing in Maxwell’s image.”The way the team plays signifies what Nick’s about, I reckon,” said Lloyd. ”They don’t rely on any one individual, they all contribute. There’s nothing lairy about them. They do everything right, which is how you’d describe Nick Maxwell’s game. Also, they’re very strong and hard.”Improvement as a player has been pivotal to Maxwell’s success as a captain. Even his supporters at Collingwood would admit to some surprise that the upward curve was so dramatic.”I’ve always loved the way he’s gone about it,” said Buckley. ”I mean, he was always going to get the best out of himself.”There’s plenty of ways to judge an individual’s contribution to a footy club. First and foremost is their ability to play the game, and he’s improved that, probably exponentially, really. He’s gone from being a role player, worked on his game to the point where he’s a weapon for us now. You wouldn’t have said that three years ago, but he’s done that.”Unlike Judd, Maxwell was not a champion junior. He played for St Joseph’s College in Geelong and for Geelong Falcons in the TAC Cup, but was scarcely noticed. He did not play for Victoria, and in his final year, osteitis pubis stopped him from finishing the season.He would not be drafted; not even rookie-listed.”He was a good player; I wouldn’t say he was an outstanding player,” recalls Michael Turner, the Falcons’ regional manager and former Geelong captain. ”But at the same time, he worked really hard.”Turner believes it is attitude that set Maxwell apart from any other rejected player. ”I remember when he was finishing with us, he needed a car, and he went ‘bang’ and bought a [Mitsubishi] Magna. He paid $18,000 cash and he’d saved it up. He always had a job, even when he didn’t need to. That’s the type of person he is.”Maxwell went to Ballarat University, played for North Ballarat in the VFL, and soon found himself at Collingwood. ”The thing that has driven Nick Maxwell and got him to where he is now is attitude,” said Turner. ”He’s very determined, very organised; he gets the best out of himself. That’s why he was a good pick as captain. He’s a good decision-maker … Athletically, he’s improved a lot. And as captain, he’s gone to another level. Being captain of such a big club, it’s never bothered him or overwhelmed him.”As for Judd, Lloyd believes he is growing into the role after the Fevola debacle and the infamous ”booze cruise” during the off-season.”One of the points I made is that if he’s not a vocal leader, he needs to become one,” said Lloyd. ”If they feel there’s a cultural problem at Carlton, he has to.”Buckley also admires Judd from afar.”There’s no doubt those players walk taller when he’s out on the field,” he said. ”Drawing a line from that, you’d have to say Judd’s pushing the right buttons at Carlton.”
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Sweet revenge – Bradshaw boomer sinks Lions

Sydney 16.11 (107) Brisbane 13.9 (87) UNWANTED former Brisbane Lion Daniel Bradshaw kicked six goals – including an epic 60-metre torpedo punt on the stroke of three-quarter-time – to remind those up north the kind of player they let go as the top-of-the-ladder Swans scored a momentum-building win over the highly fancied Lions last night.Bradshaw was replaced at the Lions by Brendan Fevola, but the controversial marksman’s formidable partnership with Jonathan Brown reaped only moderate rewards for the out-enthused visitors. They kicked four goals each as the Swans midfield starved them of possession.The Swans dictated most of the first half, including an extraordinary run of 9.1 between late in the first term and midway through the second, after which they led by seven goals, thrilling a vocal crowd of 30,975. The Lions hit back with three unanswered goals before the main break, including Fevola’s first, to leave the score at 9.5.59 to 5.3.33.The third term proved a vicious battle, but it was topped off by the goal of the season so far. With the Swans leading 15.8 to 11.4, Bradshaw marked about 55 metres from goal, deep on the right wing.The siren sounded and Bradshaw used the only option possible – a torpedo.He hit it sweetly and the ball seemed to take an eternity to travel the distance before sailing through the posts.All the Swans players ran to their new teammate, the crowd went wild and the Lions players stood stunned. The goal put the Swans ahead by 34 points and gave them the impetus they needed to remain on top in a nail-biting final quarter.The ingredients for a Bradshaw-Brown shootout were in place early. Brown scored twice in the first few minutes, including a silky free kick from 55 metres.But the Swans hit back heavily. On 14 minutes, Bradshaw marked strongly over Joel Patfull and converted from the arc.The Swans’ speed off half-back – a key to their early-season good form – hurt the Lions’ midfield and led to Bradshaw’s second, and his third moments later.Jarred Moore chipped in with a mark and goal after more frantic work over the ball, and Jude Bolton completed his comeback from a nasty concussion in the opening minutes by scoring to give the Swans a neat cushion at the first break. The rush continued in the second term. Bolton scored another from half-forward, Nick Smith picked up the crumbs to score a goal and Bradshaw took a brilliant one-handed mark in the forward pocket and then scored – all in the first five minutes.Daniel Hannebery left the field with a dislocated shoulder, but returned soon enough, as the Swans powered on, with Adam Goodes extending the lead to a commanding seven goals.But the Lions wouldn’t be tamed.Todd Banfield pulled one back midway through the term, before Fevola was awarded a free against his marker, Lewis Roberts-Thomson, and scored.The tussle grew in intensity and Lewis Jetta nearly brought the house down when he scooted down the left wing, shot from 45 metres … and shaved the post. Instead, five minutes later – off just one step – Brown punted a 55m goal to give the Lions some joy at half-time. Fevola had only four touches in the first half, but scored two goals in the first five minutes after the break to close the gap to just 14 points.The tension roused the Swans, who hit back with goals to Goodes and Smith.But the Lions again crept back. Fevola kicked another off the ground, Banfield kicked his second and when Matthew Leuenberger crumbed another goal, and the difference was only 10 points.The Swans responded.The in-form Kieren Jack snapped a goal, Bradshaw kicked his fifth and Nick Malceski wandered up the ground to mark strongly, score and restore a 29-point lead.Brown and Goodes swapped majors before Bradshaw produced his epic torpedo.A third goal to Banfield, and one to James Polkinghorne kept the final term anxious for the Swans, but after an all-round superb effort, they weren’t going to let the game slip out of their grasp.
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Smith calls on NRL to halt the exodus of star players

MELBOURNE STORM skipper Cameron Smith last night declared the NRL must do more to retain its star players as Israel Folau continues to contemplate his future in the code.”I hear people at the top of our game say that young stars will keep coming through but I haven’t seen another Sonny Bill Williams come through since he left. He’s left a massive hole in our game,” an emotional Smith said.”I don’t know what way the NRL need to go about keeping all of our young stars or our older stars in the game, but I think they need to do something. You just can’t let blokes like Israel Folau leave the game – he’s only 22. I don’t know whether it’s increasing rep payments or what it is but I think we need to be working harder to keep those good players. We just can’t keep letting them leave our code to go to other codes or overseas.”You want to play against the best players in the world and I know the fans want to see all the great players play our game as well.”Meanwhile, Cooper Cronk’s week from hell will get a little brighter this afternoon when the halfback is named in the Australian Test team for this Friday’s Anzac test.Star No.7 Johnathan Thurston has been ruled out after leaving the field with a right shoulder injury just 11 minutes into the Cowboys’ loss to the carefree Melbourne Storm at Dairy Farmers Stadium, which packed in a season-high 19,853 fans – most of whom were sympathetic to the Storm.They might not be playing for points but the Storm showed they still have a point to prove, with big hits from Adam Blair and Brett Finch at the seventh and eighth minutes respectively relegating a sorry Thurston to the sheds.Many wondered if the team could replicate last week’s charged flogging of the New Zealand Warriors just three days after learning their season was effectively over; the Storm gave an emphatic yes at the 16th minute when forward Brian Norrie crossed to help the side to a 6-0 lead with Smith’s ensuing conversion. Cronk, Smith, Billy Slater, Finch and Greg Inglis dominated proceedings, at least two having a hand in all four first-half Storm tries to Norrie, Matt Duffie, Inglis and Finch.”The thing we look forward to now is enjoying our weekend and our game, and that was us having fun,” said Smith, who attempted one conversion with his right foot after a horrible night with his left. ”That’s no disrespect to the opposition; having fun is what we want to do. We’ve been told we can’t play for points and that’s a way for us to enjoy the game. Hopefully that will keep bringing the fans to the game.”I think a few of the boys took on board the comments from [Penrith coach] Matt Elliott about revolutionising the game and we’ve had a bit of a chat about the way we want to play our footy – but Globetrotters is probably going a bit far [laughs].”We just want to express our skills on-field whereas when we were playing for points, it was more of a regimented game … Now it’s about [scoring] points and [having] fun.”MELBOURNE 34 (M Duffie B Finch G Inglis J Lima D Nielsen B Norrie A Quinn tries C Smith 3 goals) bt NORTH QUEENSLAND 6 (S Bolton try A Graham goal) at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Referee: Gavin Badger, Gerard Sutton. Crowd: 19,853.
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Obama to see oil slick amid unchecked gusher fears

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama will visit an oil spill area in the Gulf of Mexico in the next 48 hours to assess the situation and the US government’s response.Oil from a giant Gulf of Mexico slick began washing onto Louisiana shores on Friday, threatening an environmental calamity, as two more neighbouring states declared a state of emergency.With up to 757,000 litres of oil a day spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, the accident stemming from a sunken offshore rig may soon rival the Exxon Valdez disaster as the worst oil spill in US history.The Mobile Press-Register reported yesterday that the US Coast Guard now feared the underwater oil well could become an unchecked gusher shooting millions of litres of oil per day.Citing a confidential National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report, the Alabama newspaper said two additional release points had been found.”If the riser pipe deteriorates further, the flow could become unchecked, resulting in a release volume . . . higher than previously thought,” the paper quotes the report as saying.Earlier, Mr Obama said about 1900 federal response personnel were in the area with 300 boats and aircraft.The White House also put new domestic offshore oil drilling on hold until the disaster had been fully investigated. It has sent teams to the Gulf Coast “to inspect all deep water rigs and platforms to address safety concerns”.BP faces a slew of US lawsuits accusing it of negligence over the spill. The suits were filed as US government officials said that BP was responsible for cleaning up the slick and the British oil giant pledged to pay for “legitimate claims” stemming from the disaster.Two shrimp boat operators have filed a suit in New Orleans seeking class-action status on behalf of all Louisiana residents who live, work in or derive their income from the zone affected by the oil spill.Their suit alleges that the fire, explosion and resulting spill at the rig were “caused by the joint negligence and fault” of BP and other defendants.
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Lovers caught in web of intrigue: desperate, dateless and married

We are a nation of philanderers. Two new dating websites have confirmed our infidelity.More than 280,000 people – 36 per cent of them women – have signed up to ashleymadison南京夜网 since it was launched here three weeks ago.Along with rival gleeden南京夜网, it follows the basic structure of most dating sites, where members publish profiles outlining their interests, passions and sexual proclivities.About 13,000 people visited gleeden南京夜网 in its first week.But instead of singles, the pay-to-join sites specifically cater for married people looking for secret dalliances or long-term affairs.”It is not in anyone’s DNA to stay with the same person,” ashleymadison南京夜网 founder Noel Biderman said. ”So this notion that [our site is] generating this kind of behaviour is wrong.”American TV host Dr Phil McGraw agrees. Last week, the clinical pyschologist known as Dr Phil told female viewers how to tell if their man would cheat on them.He said men with a ring finger longer than their index finger have higher testosterone levels and were more likely to cheat. He also said that men with a short gene – the vasopressin receptor gene – were predisposed to infidelity.But University of Sydney professor of medicine and molecular genetics Ron Trent said proving that a ”cheating gene” existed would be difficult.”There may be some sort of connection but these are complex traits and a lot of these situations involve a combination of genes and environmental factors,” Dr Trent said. ”For one, we cannot prove infidelity runs in families.”Running an adultery website has not made Mr Biderman insecure about his marriage but it has made him more pragmatic: ”It has challenged the paradigm I grew up with, that you should just get married. But there is more diversity than that out there.”NSW Family First representative the Reverend Gordon Moyes said the popularity of such sites was disappointing, if not surprising.”Infidelity solves nothing,” Mr Moyes said. ”It is not surprising that there are significant numbers of people who think they can get out of their rather boring malaise within their existing marriage by having an affair. However, you only have to read the celebrity pages to realise that the other partner often responds badly.”Mr Biderman said the Australian site had higher levels of female participation than sites in the US and Britain. ”Women who use the service haven’t been paid attention to, these women who were once such objects of desire that someone married them,” he said.University of Sydney behavioural scientist Dr Di Sansom said some people rediscovered the love they felt for their spouse after partaking in an affair: ”They find it is not as fulfilling as their marriage and so they end it.”Mr Biderman said his website was allowing more than 5.8 million people internationally to test the waters. ”It is hard for people to shed that idea of monogamy. When they are tired of vanilla, they want to try different flavours.”
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How I cheated on my wife… with my wife

When I heard about Noel Biderman and his website, sleazyparasite南京夜网.au (not sure if that is quite correct), I wanted to write about it but couldn’t – at least not straight away. I had to wait for the bile to die down so I could do it without swearing in front of the kids, or smashing my fist through the iMac.As someone who has just spent his “seven-year itch” year interviewing couples in great relationships, I realised how deeply anyone who signs up to that site misunderstands what it really takes to make love work.But, rather than rant and rave, I’ll just tell a quick story, then get a little obnoxious and judgemental to finish off.For my 40th birthday, my siblings gave me and my wife a voucher for a weekend away in the Hunter Valley. Even more importantly, mum and dad chipped in with the priceless “babysitting coupon”.Four weeks ago, we finally organised the time off and had a wonderful two days away. I am now 42 years old.As we planned for the break, we realised this would be our first weekend away in over five years. We talked about everything else we’d managed to squeeze into that time: we’d moved back to Australia; I’d gone back into advertising; got a book deal; had a second child; finished my first book; ran screaming from advertising; started comedy and corporate speaking again; saw our first child start school; had both kids in hospital; and finished my second book. How could we not sneak in a lousy weekend away? We really, really, really needed a break.It was wonderful how quickly we recaptured the spark. By the time we’d driven the three hours from Sydney, we felt like “Allie and Marty” again, and not just “Mum and Dad”.We have some friends who talk about how things used to be “BC” (Before Children). We could now see what they meant. We were slower, calmer, softer.We checked into Wilderness Grove, a gorgeous, secluded place with only four suites in the middle of an expansive olive grove, and spent the rest of the morning doing nothing much. We had a huge spa bath in the afternoon – because we could – and my wife said, “Isn’t it a glorious luxury to lay in a bath without a toy shark sticking into your bum cheek?” I agreed, “It’s just lovely doing a wee without a three-year-old barging in asking, ‘Are pterodactyls herbivores or carnivores?’ ”A typical conversation went like this: “Isn’t the scenery lovely? It could be Europe, with the hills covered in vines and the olive trees. Remember that trip to Italy we had when we lived in England? I miss that.”Instead of this: ”Isn’t the scenery lovely? (Connor take your fingers out of your brother’s nose). It could be Europe (Elliot, beans are not lightsabers), with the hills covered in vines and the olive trees (finish your lunch or no ice-cream. That’s one). Remember that trip to Italy we had (Boys! That’s two) when we lived in England? (Three. Right no ice-cream). I miss that.”The next day we went for a lengthy walk. This was by far the highlight of our weekend. We ambled along, adoring the stunning vineyards and we (drum roll please) talked, to each other and no one else, for almost four hours.We hadn’t done that in five long years, except for those sporadic dinners when you’re so ecstatic to be outside the four walls of your house together you end up ordering that second, sometimes third, bottle of wine and not remembering exactly what you talked about.It all felt so natural, so easy, so just-like-it-used-to-be “BC”. It reaffirmed our commitment to each other and reminded us both why we got hitched in the first place.I may be playing amateur psychologist here, but I think if only more couples made time to have weekends away, these revolting and brainless websites would never get off the ground.Here comes “judgemental and obnoxious”: Noel Biderman is promoting and preying on what can only be called “emotional consumerism”, and his view of love is as deeply soulful and rewarding as a new pair of Dolce&Gabbana undies.If you don’t understand why love doesn’t work that way, be my guest and sign up with Noel, and enjoy your life full of romantic skidmarks.Marty Wilson is a stand-up comedian, professional speaker and author of the bestselling What I Wish I Knew series. His latest book, What I Wish I Knew About Love, is in stores now. Read more of his blog www.whatiwishiknew南京夜网
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Next ban for smokers: the great outdoors

SMOKERS should prepare for the day when they are virtually confined to lighting up in their own backyards.They will not be able to smoke on footpaths, and feeding their habits in public will be restricted to a few designated smoking zones.A wide-ranging ban on outdoor smoking in public areas is the logical next step in stamping out smoking from public life altogether, according to Cancer Council NSW chief executive Andrew Penman.Dr Penman said it was becoming increasingly unacceptable that people could be subjected to drifts of smoke from fellow pedestrians when they walked down the street.”It should get to the stage where there are only certain places you can smoke a cigarette, that is, smoking-permitted parks or small squares,” he said. “We are recommending to the government that outdoor smoking needs to move . . . to the assumption that smoking is prohibited from all outdoor areas unless otherwise stated.”Smokers, and retailers who sold tobacco products, needed to prepare for a “post-tobacco world”, he said.NSW legislation already bans smoking from enclosed public areas, workplaces, hospitals and cars carrying passengers under 16. In what anti-smoking campaigners describe as a loophole, lighting up is still allowed in semi-enclosed rooms in pubs and clubs.But the smoking battleground has moved from indoors to outdoors, with councils leading the charge. Smoking is banned in many children’s playgrounds, sports fields, public pools, beaches, outdoor dining areas and bus shelters.Heart Foundation NSW chief executive Tony Thirlwell said 74 of the 152 councils in NSW had introduced smoke-free outdoor areas policies, with 14 of those policies covering alfresco dining areas.The latest councils to enact smoke-free policies are City of Sydney, Leichhardt and Waverley. Warringah is expanding its policy to cover bus shelters and the grounds of Brookvale Oval. Newcastle has banned smoking at bus shelters. Mr Thirlwell said the next step should be a state law banning smoking in all outdoor crowded areas, including concerts.Anne Jones, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, known as ASH Australia, said councils had taken responsibility where the NSW government “was doing nothing”.Queensland and Victoria had been more active. “The focus up to now has been protecting people indoors,” she said. “Now, it’s crowded outdoor areas.”Ms Jones praised tough measures announced last week by the Rudd government to raise the prices of cigarettes by about $2 and mandate plain packaging by 2012. In another federal assault on the tobacco industry, displays of its products in shops will stop by July 1.Smoking kills 15,000 people a year in Australia. The government’s aim is to reduce the smoking rate from 16 per cent to 10 per cent within the decade.
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Farmers not sold on climate change

AUSTRALIAN farmers are sceptical about climate change and many do not believe it will affect agriculture during their lifetimes, a report says.But the CSIRO research is calling on rural producers to increase their knowledge of the implications of global warming so they can make their farms more resistant to changing climatic conditions.The report, A Participatory Approach to Developing Climate Change Adaption Options for NSW Farming Systems, identifies ways farmers can protect their livelihoods, such as by planting crops that can withstand hotter and drier weather, identifying ways to manage fertiliser, and maximising water use through efficient harvesting.The report confirmed there was significant scepticism and misunderstanding among farmers on climate change and the impact it would have on agriculture. Farmers must also prepare for a future carbon emissions trading scheme.CSIRO research team leader Steven Crimp said the need for improved climate change knowledge was paramount.”There is a lot of information about climate change and climate projections but there isn’t a lot of information on how to make changes within farm management,” he said.”Many farmers don’t believe that climate change will affect them in their lifetime but we are already starting to see the effects of climate change and variation on the land.”A spokeswoman for NSW Climate Change minister Frank Sartor said the government was working with farmers to assess regional areas for climate change vulnerability.”The impacts of climate change pose a considerable risk to farmers,” she said. “Probable effects include hotter, drier conditions, which will put crops under greater heat and water stress.”Agricultural business workshops for young farmers have been established by the food and agribusiness specialist bank Rabobank to deal with emerging challenges for Australian producers. They cover leadership strategies, business planning and economic management.Andrew Stott, 23, from Whitton in the NSW Riverina, took part in one workshop. He runs the family farm in partnership with his father, Richard, and brother Mathew. It has been operating since 1977.The 2200-hectare property produces grains and seed crops including lettuce, onions, sorghum, pumpkin, maize and sunflowers. It also has a 100-hectare vineyard.Mr Stott said climate change would prove a challenge for farmers.”Climate change and carbon emissions will drive some farmers off the land. You can’t produce a product without making the changes needed,” he said.”Farmers need to accept that there are going to be changes [in the future] that will mean we have to pay more taxes. The drought has been affecting us for eight years and, up until this point, that has been our biggest challenge.”The workshop taught me how to be economically sustainable in our family business and has improved my management skills. We have to keep a very close eye on what we’re spending and constantly watch our overall crop costs.”Workshop co-ordinator Skye Ward said the seminars prepared farmers for the possibility of a carbon emissions trading scheme and further water shortages.”My husband and I run a farm and decided that we needed to address the emerging issues in the farming sector,” Ms Ward said.”These workshops allow like-minded farmers to come together and share ideas and compare what business tools they are using to prepare for the impact of climate change on their business practices.”
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Jeers expected for acting Premier

UNION leaders will steer clear of using tomorrow’s Labour Day march to protest against privatisation, but the acting Queensland Premier Paul Lucas can expect to be heckled and jeered.A Queensland Council of Unions spokeswoman, Tanya Reeves, said the theme for the march was ”Working for a better life”, although each union was free to have its own theme during the walk.Ms Reeves said several unions were likely to vent their frustrations about the Queensland government’s privatisation plans and the Health Department’s payroll bungle.”We expect about 30,000 for the march … [that] is about standard,” she said. ”Some unions [have a] sub-theme or campaign against issues that are affecting them.”Issues such as health and privatisation, I’d imagine, would be featured during the march.”It will come down to common courtesy regarding Paul Lucas.”I’d imagine there may be some heckling from the crowds as they march.”Mr Lucas will head the march, along with QCU president John Battams and QCU secretary Ron Monaghan, and outgoing ACTU president Sharan Burrow. Ms Reeves said the Builders’ Labourers Federation would be the first union to take to the streets in honour of its centenary celebration.Mr Monaghan said the focus of the Labour Day march would be the ”big-picture” gains made during the entire history of the union movement.These would include highlighting successes such as the eight-hour working day, four weeks’ paid leave and compensation for injuries.”We’ve always seen Labour Day as an opportunity to reflect on the successes of the past as well as to look ahead [at] what we’re still fighting for,” Mr Monaghan said.”Regardless of the battles that still lie ahead, Labour Day is a day for celebration.”The march will begin at 10am at the corner of Wharf and Turbot streets in the CBD and will conclude at the RNA Showgrounds at Bowen Hills.Ms Reeves said guest speakers would address the Labour Day crowd, and there would be children’s rides, a barbecue lunch and live music would also at the showgrounds. ”Labour Day is a major family day and we try and stick to that,” Ms Reeves said.
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Multiple births to cash-strapped IVF mums on rise

TWIN and triplet birth rates are set to rise as more Australian women undergoing IVF ask doctors to implant multiple embryos to reduce the cost of fertility treatment.Specialists say cuts to the Medicare rebate have pushed up patient costs by about $1500 for each IVF cycle, forcing many to delay or abandon attempts to conceive.They say there is more pressure from cash-strapped patients to implant multiple embryos to boost chances of pregnancy in one cycle.Despite multiple births carrying a fivefold greater risk of death, prematurity or other complications, clinic chiefs say more couples are taking the chance.”They’re saying, we understand that it’s more dangerous but we can’t afford to do another cycle so we’ll have two embryos put back and we’ll deal with the consequences. If our [premature] baby … has to have eight weeks in intensive care, well Medicare pays for that,” said Gab Kovacs, international medical director at Monash IVF in Melbourne.Medical director of Fertility First in Hurstville, Dr Anne Clark, said while some patients asked for more than a single-embryo transfer, more opted out of having a second child through IVF.IVF Australia medical director and Fertility Society president Peter Illingworth said the trend would affect the health system.”There can be long-term health complications for twins born as a result of IVF,” he said.”Ideally, we would like to put one embryo in at a time because of those risks but we are getting more pressure from patients to do two.”In January, federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon capped Medicare safety net payments – which paid 80 per cent of the gap between doctors’ fees and the Medicare rebate – after a review found specialists were charging patients excessive fees.Ms Roxon vowed patients would be no worse off if specialists charged $6000, the cost of a typical cycle, according to the government. But doctors said the average cycle cost up to $7500, or higher if patients required extra treatment.Sandra Dill, from infertility support group Access Australia, said it had been receiving 30 to 40 calls and emails a week since the changes, from patients complaining to be under increased financial stress.
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