Switch to safety worked

Good returns … after feeling the sting of the GFC, pension funds are coming good.Spare a thought for investors in pension products. While all super fund members copped a flogging during the global financial crisis, pension fund investors don’t have the luxury of being able to rebuild their retirement savings.
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Quite the reverse, in fact, as they still need to draw down money to live on.

Perhaps that’s why, while accumulation fund members have largely stuck with the more traditional balanced and growth funds in the wake of the GFC, pension fund investors have been more inclined to switch into more defensive investment options.

The the chief executive of SuperRatings, Jeff Bresnahan, says there has been a ”massive swing” by pension fund investors into capital-stable and cash options in recent years.

The GFC, he says, forced them to face the reality that it is up to them – not solely their super fund – to determine the right level of risk for their needs.

That switch certainly paid off in the past financial year with capital-stable funds outperforming balanced options fourfold. The average capital-stable pension fund surveyed by SuperRatings returned 4.8 per cent for the year, compared with a 1.2 per cent return for the balanced funds.

Balanced funds have between 60 per cent and 76 per cent of their investments in growth assets such as shares and property, whereas capital-stable funds hold more defensive investments such as bonds and limit their growth exposure to 20 per cent to 40 per cent. That still provides some upside when sharemarkets are rising, but protects investors from the full impact of a market fall.

Pension funds performed better over the year than accumulation funds, though this difference is largely due to favourable tax treatment. Pension funds pay no tax on their investment earnings.

Accumulation funds are taxed at 15 per cent, or an effective rate of 10 per cent on capital gains where the investment is held for 12 months or more.

SuperRatings says the top-performing capital stable pension funds returned more than 8 per cent last year, largely on the back of an 8.3 per cent return from fixed-interest investments. LGSuper’s defensive allocated pension topped the list with a solid 8.6 per cent return, followed by Commonwealth Bank Group Super with 8.1 per cent.

For those still in balanced options, the best return in the SuperRatings survey was 6.2 per cent with ESSSuper.

But thanks to the strength of bonds over shares, all other balanced pensions returned less than the top 10 capital stable funds.

Russell Investments’ director of client investment strategies, Scott Fletcher, says the GFC has highlighted the huge ”sequencing risk” faced by people nearing retirement.

This is basically the risk that they will need to draw on their money at the worst point in the investment cycle.

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Mind the gap

Steep climb … if you take contributions out of the picture, chances are your super balance hasn’t really budged.Here’s the good news. Your super is clawing its way back after the ravages incurred during the global financial crisis. But don’t hold your breath. If it wasn’t for contributions coming into your fund, chances are your retirement savings have gone absolutely nowhere during the past five years.
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And if your fund has been performing below par, you’re still likely to be sitting on substantial losses.

The 2011-12 financial year was a real roller-coaster for super funds. Up one month, down the next. In early June, there was a real chance that we were looking at another year of losses, but the average fund managed to scrape through with a return of 0.4 per cent.

The chairman of SuperRatings, Jeff Bresnahan, says while that might seem like a poor return, funds actually fared well considering Australian shares were down by 6.4 per cent over the year and international shares fell by 3.3 per cent.

Balanced funds, as measured by SuperRatings, hold between 60 per cent and 76 per cent of their assets in so-called ”growth” investments, such as shares and property, but sharemarket losses were offset by an 8.3 per cent return from fixed-interest investments, such as bonds over the year, and positive returns from property, cash and alternative assets, such as infrastructure and private equity.

Bresnahan says non-profit funds, in particular, have been gradually reducing their reliance on shares for their returns and have benefited from holding unlisted investments.

”There has been a drop of about 4 per cent in their exposure to shares over the past decade and it has gone into unlisted assets,” he says.

”But that raises the issue of whether all balanced funds are comparable and, unfortunately for consumers, they’re not. One balanced fund will behave quite differently to another and that’s unfair on consumers because they get put into these funds but there can be a 10 percentage point difference in performance

”That’s what happened this year and, over the longer term, a performance difference like that is a hell of a lot of money.”

While the top balanced fund, LGsuper, returned 5.1 per cent for the year, SuperRatings says the worst fund in the survey lost 3.5 per cent – a difference of close to 9 percentage points. First State Super’s Health Super Division medium-term growth fund returned 3.3 per cent, but the rest of the top 20 returned between 0.7 per cent and 2.8 per cent (see table on page 6).


The difference between the best and worst was even more spectacular for growth funds (holding between 77 per cent and 90 per cent in growth assets), with the top performer (ESSSuper) returning 4.9 per cent, versus a 5.7 per cent loss for the lowest-ranked fund.

And even in the more conservative capital-stable funds (which are 20 per cent to 40 per cent invested in growth assets), the difference between the best and worst was more than 7 per cent.

The top-ranked Commonwealth Bank Group Super option returned a solid 6.4 per cent, while the worst in the category made just 0.7 per cent.

But it’s the longer-term returns that tell the real story of how the global financial crisis is still affecting retirement savings.

Bresnahan says that while this year’s return isn’t anything to write home about, it has at least consolidated the recovery of the past two years.

”Funds have earned about 20 per cent over the past three years, which is a pretty reasonable result,” he says. Some of the better funds (the balanced options listed for First State Super’s Health Super Division, Recruitment Super, Commonwealth Bank Group Super and LGsuper) have all returned more than 8 per cent annualised during the past three years, which would push their recovery in this period to more than 25 per cent.

However, during the past five years, the picture is much uglier. SuperRatings says the average balanced fund has lost 0.2 per cent a year during this period and only three balanced funds (LGsuper, Commonwealth Bank Group Super and First State Super’s Health Super Division) managed to return more than 2 per cent a year.

Indeed, if it wasn’t for contributions coming into our funds, most fund members would be wondering why they had bothered. ”A lot of people wouldn’t have noticed the [poor] five-year returns because with contributions, they still see their account balance growing each year,” Bresnahan says.

”But you’ve also got to remember that we’ve been through what was arguably the biggest financial and economic crisis of our lifetimes. A year or two back, the three-year returns looked horrible, and the seven-year numbers will eventually look bad, too. It’s a timing issue.”

To put it in perspective, Australian shares have lost 4.2 per cent a year during the past five years. International shares have lost 2.15 per cent when hedged against currency movements or, thanks to the rising Australian dollar, 6.65 per cent a year unhedged.

Diversification has shielded fund members from the full extent of these losses, however, once again, some funds have done much better than others.

While the best balanced fund returned 2.6 per cent a year over the past five years, the worst lost 4.5 per cent a year – outstripping the losses of the local sharemarket.

Over the 20 years since the introduction of compulsory super,

Bresnahan says, the average balanced fund has still managed to beat its targeted return of 3 per cent to 3.5 per cent above the inflation rate.

The average fund has returned a solid 6.6 per cent during this period, while inflation has been about 2.8 per cent.


The problem is that many fund members had become accustomed to the double-digit returns of the boom period. As the graph on the previous page shows, annual returns during the past 20 years have been as high as 18 per cent, and returns in the four years before the GFC were 13 per cent to 15 per cent. Losses were rare and, up to 2008, had been limited to less than 4 per cent.

The director of client investment strategies at Russell Investments, Scott Fletcher, says returns in the mid- to high teens between 2003 and 2007 set unrealistic expectations.

”When you have returns which are completely out of line on the upside, you have to expect a period that will disappoint for a while,” he says. ”The depth and scope of this downturn is what has taken everyone by surprise, but it is a classic deleveraging market.

”Normally you’d expect the peaks and troughs to be over and done with in 12 to 18 months, but deleveraging can be more extended.”

Bresnahan says 6 per cent returns are much closer to what should be expected over the longer term, as balanced funds returns in the high single digits are actually pretty good.

But this doesn’t mean fund members have to accept poor returns.

The range of returns between funds shows that some funds manage market cycles better than others.

While it would be dangerous to ditch your fund after one year of poor returns, Bresnahan says if it has been underperforming similar funds during a five- to seven-year period you need to ask questions.

It may have chosen the wrong investments (funds with high weightings to international shares have been dragged down during this period) and fees can also play a role.

While recent research for the Financial Services Council by Rice Warner Actuaries shows average fund fees fell from 1.27 per cent to 1.2 per cent between 2010 and 2011 (and from 1.37 per cent in 2002), costs can still vary dramatically.

While the average fee for corporate, public sector and large corporate trusts was less than 1 per cent, and the average fee for industry funds was 1.13 per cent, the average for personal super funds was 1.87 per cent and members of small corporate master trusts were paying an average 2.21 per cent.

As with returns, fees also ranged widely within sectors. The cheapest industry funds, for example, charged less than 1 per cent, while the most expensive cost more than 3 per cent.

In the personal super segment, fees ranged from a little more than 1 per cent to about 3.7 per cent.

”A lot of retail funds and some not-for-profit funds need to review their fees and bring them down, especially in some of the cash options,” Bresnahan says. ”They’re returning 2 [per cent] to 2.5 per cent a year, whereas most other cash investments are doing 4 per cent.

”That’s because they’re taking 150 to 200 basis points out of the return in fees before any money goes to the member. Some of the investment platforms charge the same fees whether the money is in a low-cost investment like cash or something like international equities.”


Bresnahan says fund members also need to take ownership of their returns, rather than setting unrealistic expectations for their fund. He says they need to understand where their money is invested and what sorts of returns they can expect in different market conditions.

While most members remain in their fund’s default option, he says there are ”scores” of investment options to choose from if they are not happy with the risk they’re taking or the returns they are getting.

Fletcher says funds have also been working to manage risk more effectively. Before the GFC, he says, most assumed a mix of shares, bonds, cash and property would provide enough diversification to reduce risk.

But there is now a recognition that they need broader diversification to handle GFC-style risks where most of these traditional assets can all be hit at once.

”To maintain the same risk profile for investors, super funds are a bit like ducks swimming on water,” he says.

”Above the water, everything looks the same, but a lot more work is going on under the water to reduce the level of risk.”

Fletcher says funds are realising that it’s not enough to understand the particular risks of each investment class; they also need to understand how different investments interact, how those interactions have changed and how to achieve genuine diversification within each asset class.

”If you mention alternative investments, for example, people often think of airports and tollways,” he says. ”But different infrastructure investments have different levels of liquidity and other features that need to be managed.”

Bresnahan says funds are also reviewing their objectives, which, until the GFC, had not been tested thanks to 15 years of outperformance.

”They’re asking what sort of time period their objectives should be measured against,” he says.

”It obviously needs to be over the longer term. But if you say they should be measured over 20 years, it becomes a marketing ploy. They can underperform for several years and still say they’ve got plenty of time left before they’re held to account.”

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Don’t be caught napping

Deprivation … money under the mattress might be safe, but like fixed interest, the returns are poor. Illustration: Karl HilzingerTrustees of self-managed superannuation funds have a strong preference for investing in shares, cash and fixed interest. According to the Australian Taxation Office, SMSF trustees invest 32 per cent of their money in equities and 28 per cent in cash and term deposits.
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A strong weighting towards cash and fixed interest would have helped produce a good investment return in the year to June. The median return of the capital-stable funds surveyed by SuperRatings was 4.1 per cent for the year to June.

The ATO’s figures are based on a survey of self-managed accounts at the end of the 2009-10 financial year.

More recent research shows not much has changed. According to the SMSF administration company Multiport, as of June 30 this year, self-managed funds had 35 per cent of their money in Australian equities, 27 per cent in cash and term deposits, and 10.5 per cent in fixed-income securities.

SuperRatings says the average asset allocation in a capital-stable super fund is 40.2 per cent fixed interest, 22.6 per cent cash, 12.1 per cent Australian shares, 10.1 per cent international shares, 9 per cent alternatives, and 6.1 per cent property.

Growth portfolios in the SuperRatings survey lost an average of 1 per cent in the year to June, while balanced funds were up an average of 0.5 per cent.

The return for capital-stable super portfolios over the past five years is an average of 3 per cent a year, compared with an average loss of 1.7 per cent a year for growth portfolios, and a loss of 0.2 per cent a year for balanced funds over the same period.

Defensive assets have produced good returns throughout the financial crisis but now investment strategists are warning that cash and fixed interest may not be the best assets to be holding in the period ahead.

The head of investment strategy at AMP Capital, Shane Oliver, says: ”Throughout 2010 and into 2011, there were very attractive rates of interest being offered on bank term deposits.

”The trouble now is that the cash rate is falling as the Reserve Bank has cut rates to deal with softer than expected economic conditions. And just as term-deposit yields have fallen, so too have government bond yields.”

As bond yields fell over the past 18 months, bond prices went up, producing capital gains for fixed-income investors.

Bond yields have fallen to record lows. Anyone getting into bonds now will get a yield of not much more than 3 per cent if they hold the securities to maturity. And if bond yields start to rise again, investors will be exposed to the risk of capital loss.

Oliver says investors who are looking for the defensive qualities of a fixed-income security as well as a higher yield should consider corporate credit. Investment-grade corporate bonds are yielding about 6 per cent.

Investors have had plenty to choose from in the corporate bond market. About $8 billion in subordinated notes and convertible preference shares have been issued over the past 12 months, and all of them have been listed on the ASX. The leading banks have been big issuers and so have companies such as Woolworths, Tabcorp and, most recently, Caltex.

Typical of the returns on offer in this market is an issue of Westpac subordinated notes, launched last month and closing on August 16, paying a floating rate of 2.75 per cent above the 90-day bank bill rate. With the bank bill rate about 3.5 per cent, the notes will pay more than 6 per cent.

Compared with this, the best six-month term-deposit rates on offer at the moment are about 5 per cent. Westpac’s notes have a fixed maturity date of August 2022 but may be redeemed at the bank’s discretion in August 2017.

The executive director of fixed-income strategy at JBWere Wealth Management, Laurie Conheady, agrees investors need to take care with their cash and fixed-income investments.

Conheady says most of the recent fixed-income returns have come from capital gains, as the price of bonds and other fixed-income securities have rallied strongly.

The yield on a 10-year Commonwealth bond has been below 3 per cent this year, reflecting strong demand for the securities. Conheady says these long-term government bond rates are at levels last seen in the 1950s.

”While a repeat of the double-digit returns on government bonds is possible, we believe it is unlikely,” he says. ”Even if capital values remain at current levels, the relatively low running yields associated with current inflated values point to better risk-reward opportunities elsewhere.

”We suggest investors look to floating-rate corporate bonds and better-quality hybrids as a way to improve returns and diversify portfolios.”

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Jewel poised on the Mark

WHEN you are dealing with perfection, there is little left to say, but luckily Mark Kavanagh didn’t need to concentrate solely on his unbeaten superstar Atlantic Jewel when previewing his spring chances at his Flemington stables yesterday.
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For while Atlantic Jewel is showing him all the signs she could live up to her rating and win a race like the Cox Plate this spring judging on her preparation work to date. Kavanagh also fancies his chances in a number of other spring features now he has the less-marketable but almost as remarkable import December Draw back to near race fitness.

Last year, December Draw progressed from restricted class import from England to one of the shortest-priced favourites for the Caulfield Cup in just six months. Ultimately he was galloped on in the Caulfield Cup and broke a splint bone in a hind leg, but what he achieved before that by winning five of his six starts, including the group 1 Turnbull Stakes, was baffling given his make-up.

”He was hairy and bony and small, but he’s put on something like 65 kilograms over his break from racing and has muscled up, is great in the coat and just looks fantastic,” Kavanagh said. ”Certainly bodywise he has taken that next step and he could develop into a genuine weight-for-age galloper this spring.”

Kavanagh said December Draw was given plenty of time to heal, but came into work for a month in April. ”He came in for a little while, then we sent him out again and he really hasn’t put a foot wrong since he’s been back in [work].”

December Draw is expected to make his return at Flemington in September’s group 2 Makybe Diva Stakes, and it is at Flemington where Kavanagh hopes the horse can enjoy his best day at the races in the Melbourne Cup. ”He loves racing at Flemington and the way he’s come back, anything is possible,” he said.

But while December Draw has his followers, Atlantic Jewel will be expected to take over Black Caviar’s role as the spring carnival’s most-photographed ambassador as she tries to closely emulate her unbeaten predecessor. She had a pre-spring showing for the cameras at Flemington yesterday and while a little overawed at the attention, she knows how to hold a pose.

With seven wins from seven runs, and as early favourite for October’s Cox Plate, Atlantic Jewel is nearing a return to racing on Saturday week at Caulfield and Kavanagh knows the next four months could give him a memory for life.

”She looked good in a jump-out here last Friday and if she jumps out well again on Friday, she’ll probably kick off at Caulfield in either the weight-for-age race [Lawrence Stakes] or the mares’ [Cockram Stakes],” he said. ”She’s lovely and athletic and she’s come back stronger.”

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CA juggles styles, loads

CRICKET Australia is confident the likely involvement of three Test players in the Champions League Twenty20 tournament in late October will not compromise their preparation for the Test series against South Africa.
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CA yesterday released its domestic fixture for the 2012-13 season, which included the Sheffield Shield starting on September 18 – three weeks earlier than last season.

Most states will play four matches by the first week of November, which will give most players ample opportunity to press for selection for the first Test of the summer, on November 9 against the Proteas in Brisbane.

While bowlers such as Peter Siddle and James Pattinson are set to play up to four shield matches, Shane Watson, Mike Hussey and Pat Cummins could be restricted to a single match due to their expected involvement in the Champions League and the preceding World Twenty20 tournament.

Two years ago, Hussey and paceman Doug Bollinger arrived late for a Test series in India because they were instructed to remain in South Africa for the finals of the Champions League. Bollinger was subsequently injured.

CA’s general manager of team performance, Pat Howard, yesterday said he was aware of the tournament overlap and was negotiating with Australia’s two Champions League teams, Sydney Sixers and Perth Scorchers, to develop a plan for affected players.

”It makes sense that we have to be … planning this ahead of time,” he said. ”We want to be going into that [South Africa Test] series with some blokes who’ve got some real loads.”

The Sixers’ Mitchell Starc, Brad Haddin and Ed Cowan and the Scorchers’ Mitch Johnson are the other affected players, although all besides Starc should be free to play one or two matches at the start of the season. South Africa is not immune to the effects of the fixture overlap. Test players Hashim Amla, Morne Morkel, Alviro Petersen, Imran Tahir and J.P. Duminy are likely to be playing Twenty20 just over a week before the Test series.

Asked whether he would consider asking the Sixers and Scorchers to release players for the benefit of the Test team, Howard replied: ”I’m not going to be as restrictive as that at the moment.”

He said he believed batsmen and wicketkeepers were capable of changing from one format to another at short notice without hindrance, citing David Warner scoring Big Bash League and Test centuries within a week last summer. But he acknowledged the contrast was more significant for bowlers.

As a result, Howard is formulating tougher training regimens for the likes of Cummins, Starc and Watson during the Champions League period with Sixers boss Stuart Clark, Scorchers assistant coach Adam Griffith and part-time selector Andy Bichel, who will be at the tournament as bowling coach of Chennai Super Kings.

”Our planning for this period is important,” he said. ”Our bowlers are younger than their bowlers, so we have to be able to be far more on the front foot in building their capabilities in the lead-up to that [Gabba] game.

”There’s a fair bit of science around the bowling loads. We have to make sure they’ve got enough bowling under their belts … in training but also playing. You bowl faster in games, there’s a natural [increase in] intensity.”

Howard said he would also seek to ensure Cowan, a depth player last season for the Sixers, was not pulled out of early rounds of the shield to be taken to South Africa simply as a back-up player at the Champions League.

”We want him playing cricket,” Howard said of the developing Test opener.”

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Red Cadeaux taking aim at Caulfield Cup

THE past two winners of the Melbourne Cup, Dunaden and Americain, may head the entries for the $2.5 million Caulfield Cup on October 20 at yesterday’s close of nominations, but it might be another horse who features in Melbourne Cup folklore that could lead the international charge this year.
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Racing’s international recruiting officer, Leigh Jordon, said yesterday that Red Cadeaux, the horse so famously nosed out by Dunaden in the Melbourne Cup’s closest-ever finish last year, was likely to target the Caulfield feature on his way to a second Melbourne Cup tilt.

”There is no reason why Dunaden or Americain will not run in the Caulfield Cup, but I know that Red Cadeaux’s trainer [Ed Dunlop] is seriously looking at the race for his horse,” Jordon said. ”He is looking to come out much earlier than last year and run before the Melbourne Cup, and Ed is fully aware it’s the richest 2400-metre handicap in the world and that he’s got one of the best-performed horses over that trip.”

In all, the Melbourne Racing Club received 222 nominations for this year’s Caulfield Cup while the Cox Plate has 18 international entries and a further 137 local nominations, including Atlantic Jewel, Mosheen, More Joyous and champion colt Pierro.

Nominations also closed yesterday for the group 1 Caulfield Guineas where Pierro and Black Caviar’s little half-brother All Too Hard are among 237 nominations. A total of 206 fillies were paid up for the group 1 Thousand Guineas.

Bart Cummings, the man who has won the most Caulfield Cups, has nine entries this year but his best chance of winning for an eighth time may be the German-bred, US import Sanagas.

The state’s leading trainer, Peter Moody, has 14 Caulfield Cup nominations in his attempt to win the race for the first time, while Lloyd Williams has entered 12 horses, the owner hoping to go one better than last year when Green Moon was second.

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Local to debut at Storm

MELBOURNE Storm could be on the verge of unveiling its first bona fide Victorian talent, with coach Craig Bellamy eyeing off its final regular season home game against Cronulla for Mahe Fonua’s debut.
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Bellamy yesterday said Fonua, and another local product, Young Tonumaipea, were closing in on their first NRL games and he hoped the round 25 clash at AAMI Park on August 27 could present the chance for one of them.

Fonua is believed to have the front running after impressing in the NSW Cup. He spent a large portion of yesterday’s training session on the left wing with Anthony Quinn, who Bellamy said had a stomach complaint, running in the reserves. Tonumaipea also spent time training in the first-grade squad.

”I don’t want to pick out a game, but I’d like to think, hopefully, next home game we might give Mahe or Young a run,” Bellamy said.

Storm has never had a born-and-bred Victorian talent reach the NRL ranks. Former players Jeremy Smith and Jake Webster spent part of their childhoods in Melbourne, but had most of their grounding in the game’s heartland areas.

Melbourne plays Gold Coast on Friday night at AAMI Park and Bellamy said he gave the young talent extended time in the first-grade squad yesterday so that they would feel comfortable when the time came for a call-up.

”We do that every now and then,” Bellamy said. ”Earlier in the season, Kenny Bromwich had two or three full sessions with us. When we decide to put them in, if they’ve only had one week’s training sometimes it’s not enough, but he’s getting close. It’s going to be a good thing for Victoria when a local bloke does it.”

Meanwhile, Bellamy yesterday added his voice to the chorus of concern about refereeing in the NRL, saying the consistency of decisions must improve.

Match officials have come under fire on several fronts, including the interpretation of the obstruction rule. Canterbury is fighting a $10,000 fine handed to Bulldogs coach Des Hasler for comments he made about referees Brett Suttor and Jason Robinson after last Saturday’s game against Newcastle.

When asked about the issue today, Bellamy said ”every coach has got a whinge” but refereeing consistency was one of his biggest complaints.

”We’ve had our issues with referees as well, and they’ve probably had their issues with us,” Bellamy said. ”There certainly has been some things the last couple of weeks, but I think what we’re all after as coaches and clubs is some consistency.

”To me that’s the main thing.”

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Jewish ‘hate speech’ article sparks outrage

THE Jewish community should not be misled by compassion from the Holocaust into supporting Muslim boat people, the owner of The Australian Jewish News has argued in an article condemned by some as hate speech.
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In the latest edition, under the headline ”Curb the compassion”, Robert Magid said Jews tended to want to appear more compassionate than others because of their history of suffering oppression and persecution, but ”the Jews who fled the Holocaust fled certain death. I doubt there is a single boat person in that situation.”

Mr Magid said ”unscrupulous” illegal immigrants pushed genuine asylum seekers down the queue and that immigration in other countries had led to ghettos and calls for Islamic law. He suggested that hiding among Muslim boat people who had destroyed their documents would be an ideal way for al-Qaeda to smuggle a terrorist network into Australia.

The backlash came quickly. An open letter on Facebook by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society had attracted nearly 400 signatures last night, while liberal and conservative religious leaders united against Mr Magid.

Leading Orthodox Rabbi Ralph Genende wrote that although he was scared of Islamic extremism, there were no limits to compassion, and most fears about Muslim immigration were unfounded.

Jewish author Arnold Zable said: ”Refugees and asylum seekers are only doing what we would do in their shoes, what Jews did in the immediate post-war era as they sought a way to a better life, and what Jews have done for centuries – including the massive emigration in the wake of the 1880s pogroms in Russia.”

Last night, Mr Magid said he stood by every word. ”I think the majority of people agree with me but they are not willing to come out and say what I am prepared to say. It is a very cogent statement.”

He said he was neither xenophobic nor racist.

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Guards ‘should patrol trains’

There are enough transit police patrolling Melbourne stations, according to the state government.ARMED guards deployed at rail stations should also patrol trains to boost safety across the network, about a fifth of Melburnians think.
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But the government has rejected such a move, saying there are enough transit police already doing that job.

The government-commissioned survey showed that while making the system feel safer topped respondents’ list of the most important things that Protective Services Officers should do, followed by dealing with anti-social behaviour, next was patrolling trains as well as stations.

There were 36 reported robberies and 152 assaults on Victorian trains in the 2010-11 financial year, with most believed to have occurred on Melbourne trains.

Public Transport Users Association president Daniel Bowen said it was not surprising people wanted patrols expanded to trains because late-night journeys were often intimidating.

”This is a very expensive initiative involving a large number of officers and they should be placed where the problems are and where they’d be most effective,” he said.

”To have two officers at a station like Toorak all night may not actually do much for safety whereas putting those two officers on a train out at the end of the line near Frankston might do a lot of good.

”There are transit police but [they have] no routine presence, it’s essentially random patrols … you can easily go weeks travelling at night without seeing any staff at all.”

Police Minister Peter Ryan said PSOs’ role was to patrol stations and this would not change.

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All-rounder a pioneer for today’s athletes

President of the Australian Paralympic Committee Greg Hartung has a look at the uniforms and medals donated to the Australian Paralympic Committee by Australia’s first female Paralympian Daphne Hilton.As Australia prepares to send its largest away team to a Paralympics, Daphne Hilton can’t help but feel proud of the role she played in inspiring the athletes.
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The 161 athletes heading to London are second only to when Sydney hosted the Games in 2000, and is more than 13 times the size of our first team of 12.

Ms Hilton was the only female on the team that went to the first Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960, but she collected six of Australia’s 10 medals – including two gold.

And yesterday, Ms Hilton donated a set of those medals to the Australian Paralympic Committee, which will lend them to the Australian Sports Museum at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Across three games, Ms Hilton won 14 medals – three gold, five silver and six bronze. Remarkably, they were won across five different sports: swimming, athletics, fencing, table tennis and archery. In athletics alone, she won medals in the javelin, club throw, shot put, 60-metre wheelchair sprint and the pentathlon.

She won a further 18 gold medals at the Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in 1962 and 1966, and was the only woman in the Australian wheelchair basketball team at the 1966 Games in Jamaica.

But rather than boast about her versatility, Ms Hilton said it was a necessity. ”You had to participate in more than one sport,” she said. ”Unlike today, we had to concentrate on five or six just to make the team.”

As one of the Paralympic Games pioneers, Ms Hilton was made to earn her success. She relied on the generosity and goodwill of her home town – Harden-Murrumburrah – to help raise funds for her maiden trip overseas, and only a handful of people watched her gold medal races.

And her third Games were moved from Mexico City to Tel Aviv following doctors’ doubts on how athletes with disabilities would handle competing at altitude.

Ms Hilton, now 78, said it was encouraging to see how the Paralympics had evolved.

”The recognition now is absolutely wonderful, I just wish it was like that when we were on show – with the money support they get today, it’s tremendous and all the opportunities they have for special coaches and training,” Ms Hilton said.

”We had to fund the trip ourselves. My home town helped me a lot, running food stalls and dances and things like that, it was humbling.”

Ms Hilton, who was left a paraplegic after a horse riding accident when she was 17, said she donated the medals – along with three Australian team blazers – because it ”might mean something to people”.

APC president Greg Hartung said Ms Hilton’s efforts represented the foundations of the paralympic movement.

”We’ve all followed after Daphne,” he said.

”The achievements of our paralympic athletes are not to be underestimated … her achievements were remarkable.

”As Australia’s first medallist she’s a wonderful advertisement for that versatility. She competed in five sports, represented Australia in three Paralympic Games.”

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Wangi’s golden Olympic sailors

FROM the Wangi Wangi RSL Amateur Sailing Club on the peaceful shores of Lake Macquarie to a tidal wave of success in Weymouth and Portland, this is the Olympic gold medal journey for Australia’s latest sporting heroes. Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen hold an unassailable lead heading into tonight’s final race of the 49-er class at the London Olympics.
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Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen hold an unassailable lead heading into tonight’s final race of the 49-er class at the London Olympics.

Back home, the people of Wangi and the Lake Macquarie sailing community are preparing for the celebration of a lifetime.

Dobell Drive has been painted green and gold almost overnight with residents and store owners hanging balloons and signs in support of their home-grown heroes.

Even the Wangi RSL Club sign has been altered slightly to say ‘‘Nathan and Goobs’’ Gold instead of the usual XXXX kind.

Hundreds are expected to pack the club about 9.50pm to watch Outteridge and ‘Goobs’ Jensen compete in their final race.

All the pair needs to do is start the race, avoid disqualification and they will be crowned champions.

Wangi RSL Amateur Sailing Club life member Noel Butler said the pair were honest and hardworking athletes who deserved every accolade given to them.

‘‘We’re extremely proud of the boys,’’ he said.

‘‘The fact is all these juniors respect and look up to them as mentors.

‘‘Nathan and Iain both come back here and help with training sessions with the juniors, when they’ve got the time off to be at home.

‘‘Both their families live around here and they grew up here and sailed at the RSL as kids.’’

Wangi club member Karina Hansen said the pair’s success touched her heart and led to her wanting to organise the suburb’s celebrations.

‘‘I came through here last week and I didn’t like that there was no decorations so I started asking everyone if I could decorate the shops and the sailing club and everyone else has come on board since,’’ she said.

‘‘We did a letterbox drop to every home in Wangi Wangi and asked them to hang some green and gold and get down to the RSL to support the boys.’’

Wangi junior sailors Abby Hurst and Julia Tavasci have been sacrificing sleep to follow the progress of Outteridge and Jensen at the Olympics.

‘‘I think it’s pretty good and we’re pretty proud of them for putting in all the effort,’’ Julia said.

At an Olympics, where our swimmers have failed to bring home more than one gold medal, our sailors have exceeded expectations.

Gosford’s Tom Slingsby clinched Australia’s first individual gold medal of the Games yesterday and several Wangi club members are predicting a sharp increase in juniors wanting to try the sport next season.

‘‘I expect we’ll have to turn some away because we won’t have room for them,’’ Mr Butler said.

Jensen is expected to return to Wangi directly after the Olympics while Outteridge will head to the United States for more competition.

Wangi is planning a massive celebration and street parade in November when both competitors are expected to be on home soil together.

UNBEATABLE: Nathan Outteridge and Ian Jensen celebrate their winning position. – Picture by Jason South

Golden sailing celebrations.

Golden sailing celebrations.

Golden sailing celebrations.

Golden sailing celebrations.

Golden sailing celebrations.

Golden sailing celebrations.

Golden sailing celebrations.

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Run for Charlotte has community on board

COMMUNITY support for Tim Blair’s run for Charlotte Rataj has been overwhelming.
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It’s turned a generous act by an individual into a whole community effort and something of which the community should be proud.

That’s according to Mr Blair.

“Without them (community members) it would just be me doing a run like I would on any other day,” he said.

Mr Blair will run 100km from Launceston to Devonport to help raise funds for the Devonport youngster, who is receiving treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

Mr Blair said the run had received overwhelming support from the local school community, with representatives coming on board from Devonport High School, Don College, Reece High School, St Brendan-Shaw College and Latrobe High School.

“All the kids are involved, all the schools are involved,” Mr Blair said.

“From a community point of view it’s been amazing.”

Mr Blair said three support vehicles, containing representatives from each of those schools, would follow his run, collecting donations along the way and harbouring some keen individuals.

“Some of them are going to run with me for some of the way,” Mr Blair said.

Mr Blair said preparing for a run like this was just as much mental as physical, but said he definitely had to be mentally tough.

“My pain is temporary, compared to what Charlotte’s going through.”

Tim Blair’s run for Charlotte will be held on August 25.

Tim Blair with three-year-old Charlotte Rataj, who has acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Mr Blair will run from Launceston to Devonport on August 25 to raise funds for her treatment. Picture: Tony Cross.

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Sikhs live in fear of the hate-filled and the ignorant

Sikh women and men hold candles during a prayer vigil at the Sikh Religious Society temple in Palatine, Illinois. The vigil was held in memoriam of those killed and wounded in a weekend Sikh temple shooting near Milwaukee. Mourners cry during a candlelight vigil at the Sikh temple in Brookfield, Wisconsin.
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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch (L) attend a memorial service for six people killed in an attack.

AFTER shootings in America people tell each other in sad and shocked tones that the victims should have been safe where they were killed.

And the people are always right. The victims of Sunday’s shooting were praying in a temple, preparing for their weekly shared meal. They should have been safe. The 12 killed in Colorado should have been safe sitting with family and friends to enjoy a movie.

Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her staff and constituents should have been safe at a public meeting outside a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona, but six of them died, and Ms Giffords will probably not fully recover. The 17 people wounded in a bar last month in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, when an angry man opened fire on them with an assault rifle should have been safe, too.

Everyone who has been shot in their homes, in bars and schools, colleges, universities, workplaces, even in the streets of the capital, Washington, DC, should have felt safe, should have been safe.

Even as police searched for a suspected second assailant in the Milwaukee temple on Sunday morning (it turned out there was only one), even before the death toll was known, it was clear that America’s Sikh community did not feel safe and has not since September 11, 2001.

“I request all everyone who know #sikhs & tweet or have access to media. Talk now. The world is listening. Tomorrow they won’t,” tweeted Gagan Singh just after midday, long before the police operation had ended.

Minutes later his Twitter account was suspended, but he was happy to speak to a journalist over the phone. He explained that hate groups had targeted Sikhs across the US since the attacks on September 11, probably because – unlike most Muslims – Sikhs wear turbans.

“A lot of the population does not know that these turban-wearing people are Sikh, they expect us to be associated with al-Qaeda,” said Mr Singh, a community activist with a blog called Urbanturbanguy南京夜网.

“A lot of Sikhs live [in America] with fear in their hearts.” (He stresses that no one, Muslim, Sikh or Christian, should be subjected to abuse for his or her beliefs or background.)

Even as he spoke, Sikh community leaders were on air on the cable networks trying to get the same message out, to explain who they were while they fleetingly held the nation’s attention.

The first post-September 11 attack on a Sikh came just four days later, when Balbir Singh Sodh, a petrol station owner in Arizona, was shot dead by a man called Frank Roque. Roque had reportedly told friends and a waitress that he was ”going to go out and shoot some towel-heads”. He is serving a life term in prison.

On Monday the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a brief compendium of hate crimes against Sikhs over the past couple of years, including the story of a Virginian family who received death threats last March by someone calling them “the Turban family” and accusing them of links to the Taliban.

Also that month two friends – Surinder Singh, 65, and Gurmej Atwai, 78 – were shot dead while taking an afternoon walk. The Southern Poverty Law Centre has suggested that assailants who mistook the men for Muslims committed the killings, the Journal Sentinel reported.

It now seems clear that Wade Michael Page, who was killed by police on Sunday morning after he is thought to have murdered six worshippers, was a member of more than one white supremacist organisation.

It is not known whether he mistook the Sikhs he shot for Muslims or whether he just hated anyone who did not look like him. Doubtless that will be discovered in the continuing investigation, and it is doubtless useful information.

But it is unlikely to be much comfort to America’s Sikh community, nor to its Muslims.

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