Australia should embrace ‘US-style privately managed public schools’

Charter schools have the potential to boost academic performance, a new report has found.State governments should look to US-style “charter schools” – privately managed public schools – as a way to boost the poor academic results of Australian students, a new report argues.
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The report, published by the free market Centre for Independent Studies, argues that charter schools would encourage innovation and extend school choice to poorer parents who cannot afford private schooling.

Charter schools would be funded at an equivalent rate to public schools, but would be run by private organisations – including non-profit and for-profit companies. They would not charge fees.

“Charter schools can be much more responsive to the challenges local communities face,” one of the report’s authors, CIS policy analyst Trisha Jha, said.

“There has been a strong trend towards greater school autonomy in Australia over recent years and this would be the next step to bring more flexibility and choice into the public system.”

The report, Free to Choose Charter Schools: How charter and for-profit schools can boost public education, says the United States, England, Sweden, Chile and New Zealand have all introduced forms of charter schooling.

A review of academic studies on US charter schools found small academic improvements overall, but strong positive impacts for disadvantaged families – especially if schools adopt high expectations and a “no excuses” approach. The most successful US charter schools are run by non-profit “chains”, running networks of schools in disadvantaged communities, the report finds.

Ms Jha said charter schools would expand the educational options for low-income families.”The use of residential zoning to determine public school enrolments means choice is currently limited to parents who can enter the non-government sector or who can afford to move house,” she said.

Parents would apply for their children to attend a charter school and if there were excessive applications a lottery system would apply.

The results of Australian students in international tests have been stagnating or going backwards despite significant funding increases, the report argues, and charter schools could help correct this.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne has stressed the importance of school autonomy and allocated $70 million to make public schools more independent.

Australian Education Union president Correna Haythorpe said allowing for-profit companies to run schools would be a “disaster” for Australia’s schooling system.

“The key to improving our schools system is to invest in schools through needs-based Gonski funding and ensure that all schools have the resources to deliver a quality education to every child,” she said.

“OECD research shows that the best-performing systems are those which focus on equity in funding.”

Grattan Institute school education program director Peter Goss said teacher quality was the most important factor in boosting results and that this was only partly dependent on the level of autonomy from government a school has.

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Fears thousands will still slip through the net after workers compensation changes

Teacher Dianne Denton who injured her shoulder in a fall in late 2013 has less than two months to appeal an insurer’s decision. Photo: Christopher Pearce MSW Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet says the government is committed to a scheme that places the injured worker at the centre. Photo: Supplied
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Injured workers will no longer have the opportunity to top up lump sum compensation payments if their condition deteriorates over time as a result of a NSW Court of Appeal decision which has ruled they will be limited to making just one claim.

The decision comes after the state government restored some of the benefits it took away from injured workers under its WorkCover reforms in 2012.

However, the government ignored warnings from the WorkCover Independent Review Office when it amended the workers compensation scheme earlier this month, introducing changes which increased benefits for people with the most serious injuries and those needing hearing aids and prosthetic limbs who lost benefits in 2012.

However, for the vast majority of people with less serious injuries needing continuing  medical treatment, WorkCover Independent Review Officer Kim Garling warned that access to benefits would be more difficult.

“Where the insurer disputes whether the treatment is reasonably necessary there are instances where the compensation period expires before a decision is made by the Workers Compensation Commission or on appeal to the court,” he said.

Mr Garling was also concerned that injured workers would no longer be assessed for their long-term needs, based on their level of permanent impairment. Instead, they will be given only one assessment which means if their condition deteriorates at a later date, or after surgery, they will not be able to ask for an increase in their lump sum compensation payment.

A NSW Court of Appeal decision in Cram Fluid Power v Green on Thursday has confirmed that injured workers will not be entitled to make a further lump sum claim if their condition worsens.

Patrick Scala, from Shoalhaven Heads, said he was “shattered” to learn on Friday that he will have no further entitlement to a lump sum payment.

He injured his lower back on three occasions between 2005 and 2008 when he was working as night filler packing shelves at a supermarket. He received a lump sum payment in 2009 and has not worked since 2007.

“My condition has got worse since 2007 but the door has been slammed shut,” he said.

“In the last three years, I’ve had two hip replacements and back surgery and am going in for another one on the 9th of September because the first surgery failed,” he said.

Sydney teacher Dianne Denton injured her right shoulder in a fall in late 2013 and after the pain became progressively worse, a specialist doctor recommended surgery earlier this year. But because she can only qualify for payments for medical expenses for two years from the date of her injury under the government’s latest amendments, her window will expire in October.

“I am disappointed that …the insurer automatically said sorry, we cannot open your case,” she said.

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said the Court of Appeal decision meant that once an injured worker had their level of  impairment assessed “they are stuck with that assessment forever, regardless of any serious deterioration or surgery that has made their injury significantly worse”.

“The effect of this is that thousands of workers are prevented from getting access to necessary medical treatment and income support.”

NSW Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet said the government was committed to a workers compensation scheme that is “fair, sustainable and places the injured worker at the centre”.

“[T]he 2015 insurance reforms passed this month will see $1 billion of benefits and premium reductions distributed to injured workers and business.”

A WorkCover NSW spokesman said it was reviewing the Court of Appeal decision which relates to the 2012 changes.

He said the government had considered advice on the 2015 reforms from a range of stakeholders.

“The assessment of whole person impairment for an injured worker is intended to occur once the injured worker’s condition has stabilised,” the spokesman said.

“Any potential for delays in treatment associated with ongoing legal disputes should be mitigated by the extension of medical entitlement time periods, a feature of the recent changes to the workers compensation system.”

Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesman Anthony Scarcella said he welcomed the government’s decision to restore extra resources to the workers compensation scheme.

However , he was “troubled” by the changes to the entitlement to payment of medical expenses.

“There are many conditions that result in significant levels of impairment that require little treatment. The government has recognised this by providing lifelong assistance with hearing aids, batteries, and other aids,” he said.

“On the other hand there are many conditions, such as non-surgical back injuries, that result in little impairment but require significant ongoing treatment to support a worker continuing to work. The legislation also fails to recognise that the level of impairment can increase over time as a result of a deteriorating condition or subsequent surgery.”

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Prime Media chairman John Hartigan defends push for media reform

John Hartigan says the campaign for media reform is picking up. Photo: Louise KennerleyPrime Media Group chairman John Hartigan has defended the company’s push for media reform and said that an attack by Seven Group chief executive Ryan Stokes is aimed at securing a seat on the regional broadcaster’s board.
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“I wonder why Seven is so scared of what the competition may look like in the event that the media laws change. Their concerted campaign to stop them suggests that concern, I simply don’t understand it,” Mr Hartigan said.

He refuted claims that Mr Stokes made to News Corp that Prime was undermining its own business in its campaign to have the government act of media reform.

“It suggests to me that [Mr Stokes] might be trying to persuade some of the bigger shareholders that Seven should have a seat on the board and this is something that he has been actively doing over the past few weeks,” Mr Hartigan, who is a former chief executive of News Corp Australia, said.

Seven is Prime’s second-largest shareholder with more than 11 per cent of the company.

Regional television operators, as well as Nine Entertainment Co and Fairfax Media, publisher of The Australian Financial Review, have all argued that media laws are outdated and need to be relaxed.

Seven West Media, which is more than 39 per cent owned by Seven Group and is chaired Mr Stokes’ father Kerry Stokes, and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp have been opponents for changes to media ownership laws. News Corp would ack change only  if Foxtel, of which it owns 50 per cent, can get more exclusive sports rights, which would mean changes to anti-siphoning.

Prime, along with WIN, Southern Cross and Imparja, launched a campaign across their networks to raise awareness of the reform issue and garner public support.

“Our Save Our Voices campaign is not about Prime, it’s about regional jobs, it’s about regional advertisers, it’s about regional community support and the future of those regional voices,” Mr Hartigan said.

“It’s not dissipating at all. We see it as continuing to build momentum, not just for the next weeks but for the next months. We’re in this for the long term and you’ll see all sorts of new ingredients brought into it over the coming weeks,” Mr Hartigan said.

Prime executives, along with the other regional networks, have continued to meet with politicians on all sides to try to push media reform forward. It is understood the regionals have also put forward the proposition of removing legislation that would prevent mergers and acquisitions between them.

Seven Group said as Prime’s second-largest shareholder, it had the right to question the broadcaster’s strategic choices.

“It’s absolutely in our commercial interests for Prime to flourish, not the reverse, given we get a percentage of their revenues; we want them to make as much as they possibly can,” a spokesperson said.

“There is simply no demonstrable link between calls to scrap the reach rule and the sustainability of local news. Their continued focus on regulatory change rather than the future of their regional broadcasting business is short changing their shareholders and regional viewers.  Both deserve better.”

Seven noted that Prime on Thursday delivered profit growth for the past financial year, but it had no interest in buying the regional broadcaster even if the reach rule were changed.

“This week Prime has yet again delivered a best-in-class result for which they are to be congratulated.  But it defies credibility that a regional broadcaster with a net profit of over $35 million cannot afford to deliver local news to the communities it is licensed to serve.”

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Freeview to release new personal video recorder

Freeview’s Liz Ross said the time was right for networks to get their on-demand services into the market. Photo: James AlcockFreeview will launch its first personal video recorder on Tuesday as it markets the one-year anniversary of the launch of its FreeviewPlus service.
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Freeview is hoping the launch of a PVR will help the service grow, as it continues to add to the range of television brands, including Samsung, Sony and LG, with competition increasing over the last 12 months.

“It was the right time for the networks to do something about getting their on-demand services out into the market, particularly the commercial networks,” Freeview chief executive Liz Ross said.

Since the launch of FreeviewPlus in September 2014, Foxtel has halved its entry level price to $25, and subscription video on-demand services Netflix and Stan, which is 50-50 owned by Nine Entertainment and Fairfax Media, publisher of The Australian Financial Review, have launched in Australia.

Foxtel’s penetration has remained relatively stable at about 30 per cent in recent years, unlike the American market where subscription TV penetration is more than 85 per cent.

Freeview will be hoping the combination of the free-to-air broadcaster’s catch-up services and the ability to record live television, will keep Australians tuned into free content. Multiple chanels

Freeview’s first certified PVR will have a digital tuner, built-in wi-fi, a 1 terabyte hard drive and allow for multiple channels to be recorded at once.

Ms Ross said sales for the set-top box it launched in May were going well, with retailers going through several re-orders and more retailers trying to sign on to sell the box.

In its first year FreeviewPlus has won best enhanced TV service at the international interactive TV awards and was shortlisted for best TV or video service to update or launch at the Videonet Connected TV Awards.

“This is an exciting time in television. New services, interactive advertising, personalisation and social networking are all possible with this technology platform and we will continue to see more innovation in the near future from our free-to-air broadcasters,” Ms Ross said.

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Labor under pressure to back long service leave changes being considered in many states

Federal Labor is under pressure to get behind changes that would let workers transfer their long service leave entitlements from job to job.
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The Australian Greens have joined with the union movement and public policy experts in advocating for a national portable long service leave scheme. But employers have warned such a scheme would impose big costs on companies and could see wages, benefits and work hours slashed.

While portable long service already exists in some sectors, namely construction and cleaning, it is not widespread. The Victorian government recently announced a state-based inquiry into portable long service leave but the Greens and ACTU are pushing for a national inquiry.

The Greens sought to set up just such an inquiry last year but Labor sided with the Coalition to vote against it.

But spurred on by Victoria’s move – as well as the ACTU’s campaign and supportive research by the McKell Institute – the Greens have decided to try again.

Lower house Greens MP Adam Bandt has written to opposition employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor asking for Labor’s support to set up a Senate inquiry when parliament resumes next month.

“Two crossbench Senators have already indicated their support and I believe Labor’s backing will see the inquiry established,” Mr Bandt says in the letter.

Advocates believe everyone should continue to receive entitlements like long service leave despite changes to the employment market that force people to work a high number of jobs with different employers.

The latest research shows that under the current system only a quarter of Australian workers will stay with the same employer for  10 years, meaning most  people never get access to long service leave.

But Labor appears resistant to such a national portable scheme. A spokeswoman for Mr O’Connor said only that Labor is “committed to working with state and territory governments to achieve a national minimum standard for long service leave to form part of the National Employment Standards”.

The McKell Institute, a progressive think tank, says a portable long service leave system would be of great benefit not only to employees but also to employers, government, the community and economy more generally. It argues workers would be more productive and less likely to have accidents or get sick if they get a solid mid-career break.

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Tensions rise as public film police on the job

WATCHING YOU: Police have been filmed in recent time while conducting random breath tests. Picture: Grant Wells.FRUSTRATED Tasmania Western District traffic and station police are being targeted with hidden and visible cameras, causing heated exchanges and calls for officers to have their own body cameras.
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The individual/s, who have been pointing cameras at police from vehicles at breathalyser stops, when in custody, at station headquarters and other locations, recently posted their camera footage on YouTube under the tag “Filming Police”.

The clip footage is linked to a recently established anti-police Facebook page titled Filming Tasmanian Police, which describes itself as: “Accepting all videos interacting with the local POLICY ENFORCERS, it is not illegal to film the police.”

The individuals claim it’s not illegal to point a camera at a police officer, but North-West officers have, on occasions, reacted angrily after belatedly discovering they were being filmed.

During a breathalyser stop earlier this year apparently involving a Burnie officer, where the driver was told he was over the legal blood alcohol limit, while having an opened alcoholic drink in his vehicle, the policeman became somewhat agitated when he realised he was being filmed.The officer asked the passenger to “turn that camera around”, to which the passenger replied “sorry I did not know it was illegal to film police”.

The officer responded, saying “excuse me, turn that off” and “face it the other way” – a request which was denied, prompting the officer to repeat that the camera should be turned off “because I’m asking you to”.

Other camera footage targeted at Tasmania Police and uploaded to YouTube three months ago included clips titled: “How Burnie Police Department Treats Citizens; Treatment from the Tasmania Police; and Tasmania Police Abusing their Power”.

Some of the footage showed police having their patience extremely tested by those doing the filming.

It is unclear how much of the footage, if any, has been edited before being posted online.

Tasmania Police Association president Pat Allen said while police expected to be filmed, the use of cameras should be disclosed by the public.

He said police were also wary of video being edited, which was why police should be allowed to use body-worn cameras.

“We have asked for body-worn video,” Constable Allen said yesterday.

“These people can have cameras – there’s nothing we can do about that and our members expect to be filmed or taped. I guarantee these (videos) are edited and changed to suit their events.”

Constable Allen said police objected to being filmed covertly.

“I don’t believe it should be allowed,” he said.

“If you want to do it, you should do it overtly.”

Three months ago the police union said it was a “ridiculous situation” that mobile phone and other camera technology was widely available for members of the public to use against police, however the Police Department would not approve rank and file members to wear their own body cameras, with the cost of data storage being the main issue.

The union said police were given a directive not to use body cameras.

The YouTube videos have been posted about three years after the high-profile case of a Burnie police officer and mobile phone footage of a capsicum spray incident.

In that case, Burnie officer Luke Charles Negri was found not guilty of assault after he used the spray on a boy who struck his partner in an incident at Shorewell Park, the court was told.

Originally published asTensions rise as public film police on the job by The Advocate.

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We do, say Young Nats

NATS CHAT: State chairman Dom Hopkinson (Wagga), delegate Richard Maher (Henty) and federal president Ruby Cameron (Canberra) at the Young Nationals conference. NSW Young Nationals have given approvalto gay marriage, breaking new ground for conservative parties in Australia.
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The endorsement came at the annual conference of the NSW Young Nationals which was held at Corowa Golf Club at the weekend.

The Young Nationals state director Nathan Quigley said the motion supporting gay wedlock, initiated by a Gundagai member, drew differing opinions.

“There was a spirited debate from the both sides and it was narrowly won,” Mr Quigley said.

He declined to revealthe exact margin of the vote, but said the outcome was groundbreaking.

“The Young Nationals are the first conservative youth wing to back marriage equality,” Mr Quigley said.

The support for gay nuptialsis at odds with many Nationals MPs who back the traditional definition of marriage.

Federal Nationals leader Warren Truss has said he is of “the view that marriage is an institution that by definition should be reserved for a man and a woman”.

Nationals member for Riverina Michael McCormack also adheres to that opinion.

“Same-sex marriage will never be off the radar but I do not support it and I would vote against it,” he said in 2014.

Despite the Nationals being seen as largely against gay marriage,Mr Quigley said the community should not be surprised the matter has won support among under-35s in the party.

“The Young Nationals have always had a reputation for pushing the boundaries in terms of policy with the senior party,” Mr Quigley said.

“It will attract attention, but to those who know the Young Nationals it won’t be a surprise.”

About 60 members attended the two-day conference which featured a dinner on Saturday night with addresses from NSW Nationals leader Troy Grant and former federal Nationals leader Tim Fischer.

Other motions backed mental health first aid for primary and secondary school teachers, a move to regional governments and opposition to the Shenhua coal mine in northern NSW.

Mr Quigley said although Corowa was no longer a Nationals seat at state or federal level the party was keen to stage the 50thanniversary Young Nationals conference in the town.

“The local National Party branch contacted me about it and sold the place really well and the other thing is without representation at state and federal level down here, National Party events have been a little light on the ground,” Mr Quigley said.

“We’ve still got a strong membership down here and there was huge interest from them in hosting the conference, especially at this stage of the political cycle when it is as much about policy as election campaigns.”

Among the delegates was Henty’s Richard Maher who highlighted the need for more funding for the university sector.

He said there was a lack of thoughtful consideration and meaningful debate on the issue and in particular the plight of battlers wanting to study at university.

Mr Maher representspost-graduate studentsonCharles Sturt University’s academic board.

Originally published asWe do, say Young Nats by The Border Mail.

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Friendliest countries for tourists: Where the locals will be most welcoming

In Japan, the locals are always happy to make you happy. Photo: Marvin Fox In Ireland, head to a pub and it won’t take long before you’re mixing with the locals. Photo: Holger Leue
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In Japan, the locals are always happy to make you happy. Photo: Marvin Fox

In India, the locals are very friendly. Photo: ferrantraite

Locals in Laos. Photo: Bartosz Hadyniak

Warm is the way to describe Brazilians. Photo: JAG IMAGES

In Japan, the locals are always happy to make you happy. Photo: Marvin Fox

In Japan, the locals are always happy to make you happy. Photo: Marvin Fox

Forget the monuments. Forget the museums. Forget the galleries, the restaurants, the landscapes and the animals. None of those things provide the real highlight of the travel experience.

What’s most important as you tour the globe is the people you meet along the way. Local people. They’re everything. They’re the reason we travel. They’re all the history and the culture, the knowledge and the experience, the good and the bad of an entire nation. Local people can make or break your trip. They’ll make you laugh, they’ll make you curse, and they’ll make you do almost everything in between. And if you go to the right places, you’ll meet some of the most amazing people in the world.

“People can make any place come alive,” says Greg Carter, director of travel companies Chimu Adventures and GetAbout Asia. “The way people interact with the world around them, they way they pass on their traditions, their culture, and their food, just through being themselves, makes travel special.”

Where can you find the most interesting people? The friendliest people? For Dennis Bunnik managing director of Bunnik Tours, it’s Cambodia. “I’ve been twice and each time have found it to be an incredibly touching and inspiring country,” he says. “When you think of the horrors that the country has gone through, to see the enthusiasm and zest for life that everybody has there is amazing.”

Carter, meanwhile, nominates Japan. “I will never forget trying to ask a local man for directions in Tokyo once, to have him call our hotel on his mobile phone, then walk with us two kilometres to the front door to make sure we got there.”

That’s what makes travel great. And you’ll find similar highlights in these countries. SCOTLAND

“Sorry pal,” the text message said. “You’ve got the wrong number.” I was hugely disappointed. I’d been trying to get in touch with a long-lost friend, a Scottish guy called Mike who I’d worked with in Edinburgh probably 12 years ago. Back in the city for a flying visit, I thought I’d succeeded in finding him after a mutual friend supplied me with a phone number. Clearly though, I’d got it wrong.

Hours passed. I wandered the city, breathing it in, getting to know it all over again. I had lunch in a pub. I wandered some more. Suddenly, my phone buzzed. “Joking Groundy! Meet you in an hour. You’re staying at my house.”

That, for me, sums up everything I know about Scottish people. Here was an old friend I hadn’t seen in more than a decade, and he not only wanted to meet up with me, but he took me out on the town that night, and then he took me into his home and gave me a bed for as long as I wanted it. And yet he was also willing to let me wander around town for a few hours on my own just so he could amuse himself.

Scots are unfairly maligned as being dour, but the truth is that with only the tiniest bit of coercion, they’re anything but. And once you’ve made friends with a Scot, you’ve made a friend for life. Even if they’ll play tricks on you. See visitscotland上海夜网m. FIJI

The mother looked surprisingly calm. She’d obviously spent time in Fiji before. We were on a ferry heading to the Malolo Islands, and a Fijian had approached the woman almost immediately and begun pointing at her young child. A few words were said, and the mother passed the baby over to the smiling Fijian lady, who whisked it away and began passing it among all of the other locals on the boat. There was a lot of smiling and cooing as the child made its way to the back of the ferry and then forward again, passed between adoring hands. The mother didn’t flinch.

That’s because this is Fiji, where children are genuinely loved. And not just some children – everyone’s children. That’s why this is such a popular destination for families. You can always be sure your kids will be in safe, friendly hands in Fiji.

Older visitors receive a similar welcome, too – those huge smiles and cries of “bula” aren’t just cliches for tourism campaigns, they really exist. Fijians are naturally kind, welcoming people who just want to have a good time, and want you to have a good time. And they’ll never tire of playing with your kids. See fiji.travel. IRELAND

It was raining, of course, when I arrived in Dublin for the first time. The taxi driver didn’t seem fazed. “Over here it only rains twice a week,” he said, glancing in the rearview mirror. “Once for three days, and once for four.” He then roared with laughter at his own joke, and we continued on our merry way. That was my introduction to Irish people, and it was a good one. The Irish, I would come to find, love a joke. They love to have fun. It’s all about the “craic”, whether that’s a joke, or a song, or a pint at the pub.

Ireland is one of those rare places where you’ll always make friends. You don’t even have to try. On numerous occasions I’ve walked into a pub in Ireland by myself, and walked out with a group of people who’ve welcomed me into their circle. All you have to do, seemingly, is sit by yourself with a pint, and someone will talk to you. The jocularity of the Irish is infectious; their hospitality genuine. Visitors just have to try to keep up. See ireland上海夜网m. USA

The greetings and the good wishes ring out solemnly and regularly, as reliable as a Texan’s steed.

“What’s up guys!”

“Hey, you have a great day!”Americans really are that friendly. Yes, they really are that impressed with your accent. And yes, they really do want you to have a great day.

“Have a blast guys!”

It’s a little disarming at first. You figure they must be putting it on. No people could possibly be that jolly their entire lives. No one’s that nice. But after a few days in the United States, you get to realise that yes, Americans really are that friendly. Yes, they really are that impressed with your accent. And yes, they really do want you to have a great day.

Americans, perhaps because of the behaviour of their foreign tourists, have been smeared as boorish and loud, but on home soil they’re about the nicest, friendliest bunch you could hope to meet. Take New York, the big bad city, where everyone is supposed to push past you yelling, “I’m walking here!” The reality is not even close. Pull out a map in New York and stare at it for a few minutes and someone will offer to help. Look confused in the subway and a commuter will point you in the right direction. And after any exchange someone will inevitably tell you to have a great day. And they’ll mean it. See discoveramerica上海夜网m. IRAN

It’s not the fact that everyone is so genuinely friendly. It’s not even the fact that during a standard day in Iran you’ll be invited to share tea with strangers, invited to share dinner with families, and invited to sleep in new friends’ homes. It’s not even the fact that this will happen over, and over, and over again. No. The most amazing thing about Iran is that it’s not supposed to be this way. This is the Axis of Evil, the great enemy of the West, and all anyone wants to do is drink a cup of tea with you and ask what you think about their world.

You haven’t experienced hospitality, or generosity, until you’ve been to Iran. Until you’ve sat in a taxi and gritted your teeth while the driver stares at a phrasebook instead of the road just so he can turn around and say, “Welcome in Iran.” Until you’ve had a group of children give you a tour of their mosque, or a random stranger take you out for dinner, or a kid almost plough his motorbike into a fruit stand as he yells greetings from the street. Iran is hopelessly misunderstood. The only way to change that is to go there. see tourismiran.ir/en. LAOS

“You can play badminton, right?”

“Sure,” I replied, neglecting to add that while I know how to play badminton, I don’t actually play badminton. But how hard can it be? It’s like tennis, but easier.

I was in Luang Prabang, at the end of a tour through Laos, and my guide had invited me to spend a final evening with his friends doing what they like to do: play badminton. He could have just left me in a hotel; the tour was over. But instead he’d invited me into the normal life of a young guy in Luang Prabang.

The game was a disaster. It turns out that badminton is actually really hard to play, and I disgraced myself thoroughly in front of a whole lot of people who took the game very seriously. No one, however, seemed to mind. They invited me for a beer after the game. They laughed at my incompetence.

Laotians, you soon find, are incredibly friendly, positive people – something that’s all the more amazing when you consider their country’s tragic history. The Laos people have every reason to despise the West, and yet we’re welcomed there like old friends, treated with kindness and generosity. And no one minds when you can’t play badminton. See tourismlaos上海夜网. NEW ZEALAND

“Ah you’re over from the West Island, eh bro?” Sigh. Yes.

“You’re from Aussie eh? Well, no one’s perfect.” Sigh.

“Did you guys bring your deodorant? We don’t want any more dodgy underarms, eh?”

Sigh. The jokes are to be expected. There’s a rivalry between Australia and New Zealand that’s sometimes taken a little more seriously across the ditch than it is over here, so you can expect a few jibes – sometimes about rugby, or netball, or a cricketing incident from the distant past.

But that’s all OK. Because every dig from a New Zealander is delivered with a smile. Every joke is meant as fun between friends. Kiwis, you see, are nice. They’re extremely nice. They’re so nice, in fact, that you find yourself wandering around the country thinking, “Why can’t Australians be like this?” Everyone in New Zealand is genuine. Everyone is welcoming. They’re completely lacking in cynicism. The travel experience will always a good one if it involves people from the land of the long white cloud.

And that’s because, in short, Kiwis are very good people. Just don’t tell them I said so. See newzealand上海夜网m. INDIA

There are countries you’ll visit and struggle to meet any locals at all. And then there’s India, where you meet a new person every minute, where everyone wants a piece of you, wants to get to know you, wants to welcome you. With more than a billion people there to share the Indian experience, it’s no wonder those people provide the country’s most memorable experiences. And those experiences will run the full gamut. Indians are warm, they’re funny, they’re pushy, they’re exasperating, they’re generous and they’re sly. They’re the family who insists on sharing their food with you on the train. They’re the guys who try to swindle you into visiting their carpet emporium.

Despite the inevitable fraudsters, Indians are by and large an honest, welcoming, and curious people. Everyone wants to know you. They want to know where you’re from, what you do, what your dad does, how much money you make, whether you’re married, why you’re not married, whether you’ll marry one of their daughters, why you won’t marry one of their daughters, and most importantly, what do you think about Ricky Ponting?

No one leaves India without a thousand stories of their interactions with Indian people. In a country of many highlights, those meetings are surely the best of them. See incredibleindia上海夜网. THAILAND

My friend Andrew was having an argument with the waitress. I could hear the two of them, voices raised in Thai, disputing something to do with our bill. Eventually a deal was struck and money changed hands, before Andrew came back to our table. “She was trying to undercharge me again,” he laughed. “I’ve told her she can’t do that. It’s bad for business.”

Andrew’s an Australian who was living in the north-east of Thailand, near Ubon Ratchathani. He said his struggles to pay the full amount he owed at restaurants happened daily. Everyone was trying to be too nice.

Those cliches about Thailand being the “land of smiles” have a strong basis in truth. While there have been a few very troubling incidents in Bangkok recently, on the whole Thailand is a friendly, welcoming country, particularly once you get away from the tourist centres of Bangkok and Phuket (though they, too, are often just fine). Up in the north, there’s an easy hospitality to the Thais that almost always comes with a smile. Even when you’re arguing over your bill. See tourismthailand上海夜网. BRAZIL

Warm. That’s the best word to describe the people of Brazil, a nation where family and friendship comes above all else. You feel loved in Brazil, as new friends embrace you both emotionally and physically. If a Brazilian likes you, you’ll never be in any doubt. They’ll show it time and time again.

I spent the day in Sao Paulo once with a local guy called William, a friend of a friend who’d offered to show me around despite the fact I don’t speak a word of Portuguese and he didn’t speak a word of English. We met up at his apartment, where we sat across the table from each other and established that we couldn’t understand a single thing the other person was saying. William tried acting a few things out. He failed. I tried speaking very slowly. I failed.

But William persisted, and eventually hit on a solution. Grinning in triumph, he pulled his phone out and typed something into it. Then he turned it around to show me. “What would you like for breakfast,” it said. He’d typed it into Google Translate. The two of us spent an entire day together communicating by telephone.

Who would go to that trouble for a friend of a friend? A Brazilian. See visitbrasil上海夜网m. How to make friends overseas

Five tips for meeting locals while you’re travelling

Go it alone

If you want to meet people, you can’t be afraid to hit the town by yourself. Go to a bar and take a book. Sit at a cafe and people-watch. Dine alone at a restaurant. There’s every chance that someone will talk to you.

Attend events

People tend to be at their most open when they’re out of their daily routine. So when you’re travelling, attend events – go to football matches, or concerts, or festivals. That’s where you’ll find locals who feel as open and friendly as you.

Break the language barrier

Want to make local friends? You have to be able to speak their language. Even if it’s just a few words to signal the fact you’re making an effort, being able to greet people in their local tongue is a huge ice-breaker.

Do a homestay

Rather than just hope to bump into people while you travel, it’s far easier to stay at their house. Book a homestay through a website such as Airbnb, or sign up for couch-surfing, and you’ll find yourself immediately surrounded by local friends.

Just do it

The real trick to meeting people when you travel is to be unafraid to approach strangers. Just go and say hello. You’ll get an odd look here and there, but this is no time to be shy. You’ll be surprised at how many people will be pleased to meet you. Hard work

The countries where you’ll have to put some effort in to meet people

Russia

Russians can be tough nuts to crack. They’re not immediately friendly towards strangers, and they’re not exactly emotionally demonstrative. The best way to tackle this is with persistence. And, in times of desperation, vodka.

Mongolia

There’s a natural wariness of foreigners in Mongolia; in more remote areas that can occasionally turn into aggression. Best policy is to take the lead and introduce yourself to people. Once the ice is broken, Mongolians are great.

Cuba

Having been cut off from the West for so long, Cubans have a tendency to distance themselves from foreign tourists. So rather than stay in a state-run hotel, book accommodation in a “casa particular”, the Cuban version of a B&B, and everything will change.

NorthKorea

The hard thing about meeting North Koreans is that you’re not supposed to meet North Koreans. The system is designed to keep the few tourists allowed into the country separated from the local populace. Your only hope is to make friends with your guide.

Sweden

Swedes are wonderful people, kind and friendly – once you get to know them. The hard part is breaking that initial barrier, and for that there’s no easy solution. You just have to be patient. The warmth will come with time.

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Bart Cummings dead: Perth jockey JJ Miller remembers the Melbourne Cup king

John Miller unsaddles Galilee after the 1966 Melbourne Cup.Bart Cummings dies aged 87King of the Melbourne Cup…and the one liners
Shanghai night field

As the tributes flowed for legendary racehorse trainer Bart Cummings, the 12-time Melbourne Cup-winner’s “best” jockey, former Perth rider Johnny “JJ” Miller reflected on some quiet moments of recent years spent well away from the limelight.

The story, as told by Miller himself , goes that Cummings, who died in Sydney on Sunday aged 87, was once asked to reflect on the most talented riders he’d legged up on to a horse.

Roy Higgins, Damien Oliver, Darren Beadman and Harry White were all names offered forward. But Cummings apparently was having none of it.

The best of them had been left out – Miller.

“I must have still been on his mind,” Miller recalled in an interview with Radio 6PR’s Harvey Deegan on Sunday evening.

“We had our moments but I probably got along with him better than most.”

A victorious Galilee and JJ Miller return to scale.

Cummings was famous for his distrust – at times disdain – for jockeys. But Miller helped provide him with some of his most memorable moments in racing when he rode Galilee, rated by Cummings the equal of any horse he ever trained, to wins in the 1966 Caulfield and Melbourne cups and the 1967 Sydney Cup.

Their lives took divergent paths later in life – Cummings a beloved national icon, Miller clashing with stewards as both rider and trainer – but the former jockey says they stayed in touch.

“Until he got sick I used to ring him up every second or third Sunday for a chat,” Miller recalled.

“We’d talk about politics, the share market and red wine. I said to him ‘are you still drinking that Grange?’

“He told me he’d moved on to the Henschke.”

A fine vintage himself, Cummings finished with 268 Group 1 winners in a career spanning more than six decades.

The Melbourne Cup is the race with which his name will always be most associated but Liberal Member for South Perth and long-time The West Australian racing writer John McGrath won’t forget his support of  WA racing.

Indeed, it was the unfashionably WA-bred Rogan Josh who provided Cummings with his 11th Melbourne Cup win in 1999.

Bart Cummings after winning his eleventh Melbourne Cup with horse Rogan Josh. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

“I first met him when he came to Perth back in 1969 for the Perth Cup,” McGrath said.

“He loved coming to WA and the Perth Cup at $100,000 [in those days] was a very lucrative event.

“I’d also see him every year in Sydney and Melbourne for the big events.  He was a practical man and I was always struck by his patience.

“Bart always like to say that patience was one the cheapest commodities around, but one that was rarely used.”

McGrath said those who did know not know him sometimes misunderstood Cummings because he rarely showed emotion.

“But that’s not to say he didn’t have a great sense of humour,” Mr McGrath said.

“A young journo once asked him whether a particular horse was going to win a race. Bart asked the reporter where he had heard that. The journo said it was in a newspaper.

“Bart told him ‘the only think you can believe in a newspaper, son, is the price that’s printed on the front page’.” Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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Marcus Stoinis to to make T20 debut for Australia in Cardiff

Victorian all-rounder Marcus Stoinis will make his international debut on Monday. Photo: Paul JeffersCardiff: Victorian all-rounder Marcus Stoinis will make his international debut on Monday when Australia begin their limited-overs series against England, in the teams’ one-off Twenty20 in Cardiff.
Shanghai night field

The 26-year-old’s selection was confirmed on Sunday by Steve Smith, who will be acting captain for the match because full-time Twenty20 captain Aaron Finch is still recovering from a foot injury. Shane Watson will open with David Warner in place of Finch.

Stoinis has not played in the Big Bash League since February 2014, having missed last season’s tournament due to injury. He was an unused member of Delhi’s squad in this year’s IPL.

“I played in the under-19 World Cup with Stoinis in Malaysia in 2008… and he’s certainly come a long way. He’s improved every year,” said Smith.

“He’s thrown up good performances first of all for WA, then moving over to Victoria it was a big move for him. He’s put the numbers on the board and thoroughly deserves an opportunity here tomorrow.”

Former captain George Bailey, spinner Ashton Agar, batsman Joe Burns and fast-bowler James Pattinson are the players to miss selection for the match.

Smith also confirmed Queensland leg-spinner Cameron Boyce, selected only in the Twenty20 squad, would play on Monday, in what will be his fifth match for Australia since making his debut late last year.

“There’s a T20 World Cup coming up… so we need these guys to play as much as they can. He performed really well for us in our one-off T20 we played in the UAE (against Pakistan) and I’m sure he’s looking forward to playing out here tomorrow,” Smith said.

“He’s got a lot of skill, got a lot of variation. It’s going to be a good test for him bowling out here, with the short, straight boundaries and the short boundary on one side. I’m really looking forward to seeing how he goes.”

Smith said the match would be an opportunity to build momentum, not just for the five-match one-day series against England, but also for next year’s World Twenty20 and the next two major one-day tournament in England, to be played in 2017 and 2019.

“It’s been disappointing for us obviously with the Ashes, not being able to retain them. It is a fresh start for us, a new (one-day) captain obviously. Hopefully I can take this team forward – and it starts here tomorrow in Cardiff,” he said.

“Playing in these conditions are really important for us. Obviously we’ve got the Champions Trophy here in 2017 and the World Cup in 2019, so every opportunity we get to play in these conditions we have to relish that, and try and improve as much as we can.”

ENGLAND (from): Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Steve Finn, Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Reece Topley, James Vince, David Willey, Chris Woakes.

AUSTRALIA: Shane Watson, David Warner, Steve Smith (c), Glenn Maxwell, Mitch Marsh, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc, Cameron Boyce.

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