State changes won’t counter RET damage to wind industry

THE state government’s promise to relax planning regulations on wind farms is unlikely to lead to a rush of local investment in the industry, according to both pro and anti-wind farm groups.
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A spokesman for the 223-turbine farm proposed for near Penshurst said a federal government decision on the renewable energy target was more crucial to the future of the project than state Labor’s promise to reduce the buffer zone around wind turbines from two kilometres to one kilometre.

The present buffer zone gives a veto to landowners within two kilometres of a proposed wind farm.

Penshurst wind farm developer, RES Australia, welcomed the Labor government’s promise to reduce the buffer zone, saying it would allow the project to have more turbines.

However RES Australia spokesman Simon Kerrison said the company would not proceed with the $1 billion project until the federal government had set a decent renewable energy target.

The current target aims to produce 20 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020, but the federal government wants to reduce it by more than a third.

Such a cut would reduce the amount of renewable energy produced from 41,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) to about 26,000 GWh but Labor has blocked the move.

Another company, Wind Prospect, downsized its proposal for a wind farm at Willatook a few months ago because of the two-kilometre setback laws and the introduction of more powerful three-megawatt-plus turbines.

Southern Grampians Landscape Guardians president Keith Staff, of Penshurst, said a decision by the federal government to reduce the target would make the state government’s promise to relax planning regulations for wind farms “irrelevant”.

Mr Staff said there should be a moratorium on approvals of any large-scale wind farms until the federal government had set the new target.

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Mikala masters art of a volunteer holiday

A Deakin University student has come from Melbourne to Warrnambool for a work placement and liked it so much she’s reluctant to leave.
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Mikala Knights, 24, of Narre Warren, enjoyed her work placement at Warrnambool Art Gallery so much she is staying as a volunteer over the summer holidays. 141219AM08 Picture: ANGELA MILNE

Mikala Knight, from Narre Warren, has just completed a four-week placement at the Warrnambool Art Gallery as part of the university’s Work Integrated Learning Program and intends to stay on as a volunteer over summer.

“This was my first time to Warrnambool but I’ve absolutely loved it,” Ms Knight said.

Her volunteer work over summer will include acting as a tour guide and security for the renaissance art exhibition.

“I’ve been learning a lot about art curatorship. I’ve constructed a diorama, changed exhibitions, bubble-wrapped a taxidermy exhibition. It’s been quite practical and hands-on,” she said.

She has also been interviewing staff about their roles at the gallery and the work they believe to be iconic in the collection.

Ms Knight hopes to pursue a career as an artist and work in a gallery.

She has finished the second year of her three-year Bachelor of Creative Arts course majoring in visual arts at Deakin’s Burwood campus.

Several students from Burwood and Geelong have come to Warrnambool for their placements through the Higher Education Participation Program.

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Cessnock student travels to Gallipoli to honour great-great uncle

HONOURING ALL THOSE WHO DIED: Cessnock student Lauren Wood, who will visit Gallilpoli in 2015. Picture by STUART SCOTTA young student will be on a special mission after she is rowed ashore at the Gallipoli beaches in a few months.
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Lauren Wood, 16, will step ashore on the same beach her great-greatuncle Sydney Sawtell walked on when he was a soldier in the 2nd Infantry Battalion in April 1915.

Lauren, from St Philip’s Christian College in Cessnock, was chosen as one of 20 students to go to Gallipoli to attend the 100th anniversary of the ill-fated landing.

After just 13 days of service, Lauren’s ancestor was killed.

And soon, the young schoolgirl will be able to visit his grave at Lone Pine Cemetery.

“I have always been interested in stories about war and I know it brings out the best and the worst in people,” she said.

“My great-great-uncle Sydney Sawtell is buried at Lone Pine – I have his grave number. I want to visit his grave and pay tribute to him and, through this, to honour all those who died at Gallipoli.

“ I also want to look at this conflict from a Turkish point of view, too, and see things from their side.

“I am told Turkish people really like Australians and I want to meet as many of them as I can.”

Sydney Sawtell enlisted in the Australian Army in 1914 when he was 22.

“The day before he died, 42,000 Turkish soldiers attacked the 17,000 Anzac troops,” Lauren said.

“Through my research, I have gained a greater respect and appreciation for what Sydney and many other men and women did for their family, their country and for other nations.

“I am so proud Sydney is related to me and, in my eyes, he is a true hero, along with all the other men and women who sacrificed so much for us.”

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Herald Breakfast – December 31

Credit – @glenn_landers (Instagram) Weather: Partly cloudy. Medium (50%) chance of showers about the Lower Hunter, slight (30%) chance elsewhere. Winds E/SE 20 to 30 km/h. Daytime maximum temperatures 25 to 31.
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Beachwatch:Ordinary conditions on the open beaches with bumpy waves on offer, the odd set worth surfing. Protected southern corners have slightly better conditions with a bit of protection from the wind though its only average.

Traffic:Road closures will be in placefrom6pm to 10pmon Honeysuckle Dr, Wharf Rd, Workshop Way and Settlement Ln.If you are driving in the area, expect delays and exercise caution as pedestrian activity will be high.

Trains:Newcastle trains start and end at Broadmeadow.

Buses run between Newcastle and Broadmeadow, leaving stations Newcastle to Hamiltonup to 25 minutes earlierthan train departure times at Broadmeadow.

If you are connecting with Hunter Line trains, please change at Broadmeadow.

Morning Shot: A man searches for treasure at Bar Beach. Picture: Darren Pateman

MPs told to respect donation laws:AN EXPERT panel advising on electoral funding reforms has rebuked two Hunter MPs for criticising laws and downplaying the seriousness of dodgy donations.

30,000 expected at Newcastle Foreshore for New Year’s Eve:DRUNKS and troublemakers face being arrested or thrown out of New Year’s Eve celebrations along the Newcastle Foreshore and Honeysuckle, as police crack down to ensure a safe and happy start to 2015.

2014 in review: Coal exports set to grow despite price fall:FOR the coal industry, 2014 was not a stellar year.

Melbourne City 5 defeat Newcastle Jets 2: photos:JETS coach Phil Stubbins admitted his players were “a yard off the pace” from the outset after copping a 5-2 hammering from Melbourne City at Hunter Stadium on Tuesday.

Sydney siege: Mamdouh Habib claims he could have stopped hostage deaths

Bold claims: Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib says his offer to negotate with siege gunman Man Haron Monis was rejected by police. Photo: Janie Barrett Bold claims: Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib says his offer to negotate with siege gunman Man Haron Monis was rejected by police. Photo: Janie Barrett
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Bold claims: Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib says his offer to negotate with siege gunman Man Haron Monis was rejected by police. Photo: Janie Barrett

Bold claims: Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mamdouh Habib says his offer to negotate with siege gunman Man Haron Monis was rejected by police. Photo: Janie Barrett

Sydney siege gunman Man Haron Monis. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Counter-terrorism at New Year’s Eve frontline

More than seven years before he mounted the deadly Lindt cafe siege, Man Haron Monis worked on the NSW election campaign trail for Mamdouh Habib, the Australian citizen released from Guantanamo Bay after the United States wrongly accused him of being an “enemy combatant”.

Mr Habib, who stood unsuccessfully as an independent in the safe Labor seat of Auburn in 2007, now makes two bold claims about Monis. Firstly, he insists the gunman had no intention of killing any of his 18 hostages, despite the violent finale to his 16-hour siege in which cafe manager Tori Johnson and barrister Katrina Dawson were fatally shot before police killed Monis.

Secondly, Mr Habib says he is “100 per cent”  sure that he could have convinced the gunman to give himself up, if only police had agreed to his offer to help them negotiate.

“This man is not violent,” Mr Habib told Fairfax Media. “I know him very well.”

He believes 50-year-old Monis was “sick and disturbed” and desperately seeking attention over his grievances with government officials that had nothing to do with terrorism, particularly his failure to gain access to his two children. But Mr Habib does not accept that Monis was so mentally deranged that he meant to harm anyone.

“I believe this man, in this situation, prepare himself to be shot – but he doesn’t want to shoot somebody. He is prepared to be killed but he doesn’t want to kill anybody. He is prepared to be harmed but he doesn’t want to harm anybody.”

Other Muslim leaders also offered to help police during the siege in Martin Place on December 15. They included the Grand Mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, and Rebecca Kay, who has previously told Fairfax Media:  “We felt the only people that could get through to him on a religious level or a cultural level was a member of the community.”

None of these offers was accepted and it appears police were unwilling to allow untrained civilians to have any contact with the gunman. However, asked why they did not – or could not – accept the offers, NSW Police said no comment could be made while its “major critical incident investigation” continued with the oversight of the State Coroner.

Mr Habib first met Monis, an Iranian refugee, while they were protesting in support of detainees at the Villawood detention centre. Monis later offered to help Mr Habib in his campaign for the state election of March 2007, in which the Egyptian-Australian took about 4 per cent of the vote.

Monis handed out pamphlets, talked to voters and was “smart” with the internet campaign, Mr Habib recalls.

In January 2005, the United States had released Mr Habib from Guantanamo Bay without charge after holding him for more than three years. Five years later, an Egyptian intelligence officer confirmed Mr Habib’s claim that he had been tortured in the presence of an Australian official. The federal government soon made an undisclosed payment to Mr Habib.

He now dismisses Monis’ claim during the siege – via messages delivered by his hostages on YouTube – that he was launching an attack on Australia for Islamic State.

“He wanted the biggest attention,” Mr Habib says.

He says he called the federal Attorney-General’s office and police twice each during the siege, but neither came back to him. He was willing to enter the cafe but also offered to speak on the phone to Monis and suggested that the hostage taker’s family or doctor might also be used as intermediaries.

“Whatever he want me to do, I will do it,” Mr Habib says, “because we don’t want any crime to happen, because we don’t want to look bad, because we don’t want anybody to say Muslims done this rubbish.”

He still refuses to believe Monis fired the shots that killed his hostages. He says judges and magistrates had also decided Monis was not dangerous when they granted him bail in two cases. Monis took his hostages while on bail awaiting trial for being an alleged accessory before and after the fact of the stabbing murder of his former wife; and he was accused of the sexual assault of seven women who had attended his spiritual healing practice in western Sydney.

Following Monis’ arrest over the murder, police found Mr Habib’s number in his phone and called. “What I tell you now I told the police:  ‘I don’t believe this man is violent.’ “

Claiming he “definitely” could have pacified Monis, he says: “If he tell me what’s the problem, I will tell the world. I’ll keep my promise and tell the world.”

AirAsia wreckage confirms the worst for victims’ families

Killed in the crash: Herumanto Tanus (second from left) with his wife and two sons. Photo: Supplied/Amilia Rosa Killed in the crash: Herumanto Tanus (second from left) with his wife and two sons. Photo: Supplied/Amilia Rosa
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Killed in the crash: Herumanto Tanus (second from left) with his wife and two sons. Photo: Supplied/Amilia Rosa

Killed in the crash: Herumanto Tanus (second from left) with his wife and two sons. Photo: Supplied/Amilia Rosa

Weather may have caused crash: CEOBodies pulled from AirAsia plane wreckageThe passengers on board AirAsia Flight QZ8501

A man who lost seven members of his family in the AirAsia tragedy says confirmation that flight QZ8501 had crashed had at least given them some certainty.

Agus Panjaya has been in the families’ room at Surabaya airport for much of the past three days, waiting for news, jumping at every rumour of debris found.

On Tuesday afternoon, Indonesian search and rescue authorities confirmed the worst.

“In total it’s seven family members. My aunt, her husband, one son and his girlfriend and two daughters. They were aged 17, 15 and the youngest was 12 years old,” Mr Agus said after emerging from the room on Tuesday night.

“We are sad, but with the finding, at least we will get that certainty … We’ve been sad, sleeping restlessly. Missing our loved ones”.

Mr Agus said his grandmother had been “so excited” to be taking a trip to Singapore and following it with a cruise.

“She always loved and looked after her family members – we are going to miss her.”

While AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes had spoken about a grant of compensation “straight away” to the bereaved families, Mr Agus said he had not yet thought about money, or the future.

“As long as the bodies are found, we are grateful. That’s what we’re thinking about now.”

Herumanto Tanus, the vice-president of Boga Sari, one of the biggest bread companies in Indonesia, was going to visit his elder daughter, who studies in Singapore.

According to a family member who wanted only to be known as “Yohannes”, the family, including two brothers, were going to take her some goods and then spend the holidays with her.

Now all were dead and the daughter whom they were going to visit “cannot stop crying”.

with Amilia Rosa

NSW bans the commercial use of solariums

Sara Cuneo sprays a customer at her business on the central coast. Photo: Edwina PicklesSara Cuneo felt much more confident with a bit of colour. Working long hours at her corporate marketing job in Alexandria, she would often slip into the solarium at lunchtime to work on her tan. On holidays on the Gold Coast with her husband, they would seek out apartments that had sauna and solarium facilities. “Essentially, our holiday was focused around getting a tan”, Ms Cuneo said.
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After emerging from a routine visit to the solarium with burnt skin nine years ago, Ms Cuneo became concerned about the risks associated with the cosmetic treatment, and decided to put a stop to her tanning-bed sessions. Today, her spray-tan business on Toowoon Bay services former solarium users who have opted for spray tans upon the advice that it’s a safer alternative. “Spray-tans have come a long way in the past five years”, Ms Cuneo said.

A ban on the commercial use of solariums will come into effect in NSW from Wednesday, December 31. It will be illegal to offer anyone in NSW UV tanning services for cosmetic purposes for a fee or reward. Offences will carry fines of up to $44,000.

The ACT, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland will ban the practice from the beginning of 2015.

According to the Cancer Council’s National Sun Protection survey, released in November, the majority of Australian adults (76 per cent) support the ban on solariums. The survey, which sampled 6349 Australians, found that less than 1 per cent had used a solarium in the past 12 months.

But Maggy Der Bedrossian, the owner of  a spray-tanning business in Bondi Junction, said she receives as many as 20 phone calls a fortnight from people who are searching for solarium facilities.

Anti-solarium campaigner and melanoma sufferer Jay Allen has applauded the NSW Government for implementing the ban. Allen was diagnosed will stage 3 melanoma in 2007. He was told by surgeons who treated him at the time that his history of sun-bed tanning – which included undergoing 20-30 sun-bed sessions between 2005 and 2007, many of which were doubles sessions – is likely to have contributed to the severity of his disease.

According to the Cancer Council NSW “those who use a solarium before the age of 35 have a 59 per cent greater risk of melanoma than those who do not.”

“I’ve lost many of my friends from skin cancer, and my own life is still at risk”, Mr Allen said.

“I like to think I have finished what was started by Clare Oliver,” said Mr Allen, after six years of campaigning for the ban. Miss Oliver died from melanoma in 2007, at age 26. She had a history of tanning bed use and spent the final years of her life warning the public about the risks associated with solariums.

Solarium business owners have criticised the government’s handling of the ban, saying the move is likely to stimulate an unregulated black market of tanning-bed operators. Under the The UV Tanning Units Disposal Scheme, introduced in 2013, eligible solarium businesses receive $1000 for each sun-bed collected and disposed of by a licensed specialist waste operator.  Commercial-grade machines are being advertised  in NSW on popular online trading websites Gumtree and Ebay for between $900 and $8000 dollars.

Attitudes towards sun tans are changing among young Australians, according to The Cancer Council’s National Sun Protection survey. It found 38 per cent (aged 12-17 years) like to get a sun tan, compared to 60 per cent 10 years ago. The Cancer Council of NSW recommends the use of fake tan, in place of solariums, for those who still wish to achieve a tanned-skin look.

Bushwalks under 10km in Sydney

Hidden away: Henry Head Circuit in Botany Bay National Park is a record of Australia’s war history. Photo: Tamara DeanWhat sets Sydney apart from other global cities is that scenic bushland is never more than a short drive away. All across Sydney, there are wonderful pockets of Australia’s diverse flora and fauna.
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Here are five of the best bushwalks under 10 kilometres.

1. Blue Gum Walk (Joe’s Mountain Circuit), Hornsby

Hidden within the northern suburbs, this 4.2-kilometre track features an array of creeks, cascades, sandstone caves and plant life. Have a rest at Waitara Creek and enjoy the tranquil isolation. There are a few difficult hills and creek crossings. Accessible by car or a one-kilometre walk from Hornsby station.

2. Taronga Zoo to Balmoral Beach

For lovers of history and coastal views, this six-kilometre walk has both. Heritage gun pits, underground tunnels and brick workshops tell the tale of defence fortifications that once watched over the sea. Stop off at Chowder Bay, grab some lunch and go for a snorkel or kayak out in the water.

3. Henry Head Circuit, Botany Bay National Park

Stowed away in the south of Sydney, the 7.4-kilometre Henry Head Circuit is a museum of Australia’s war history. Take a short detour to the coastal cemetery and meet the people who died in the world wars.

4. Grand Canyon Track, Blue Mountains

This heritage listed walk runs for six kilometres in the majestic Blackheath landscape. Enjoy the majestic views from Evans lookout before setting out on a journey past creeks and waterfalls. This well-shaded track is particularly popular in summer.

5. Lake Circuit, Parramatta

Circling Parramatta lake, this 4.2-kilometre track sits on the land of the Burramattagal clan of the Dharug people. Shelter caves, hand-stencils and tree scars tell their story. A place where man and bush come together, this land is home to culturally significant plants and several birds and reptiles.

Melbourne plans extravaganza for NYE

Fireworks, loud music and human gridlock: for many, New Year’s Eve is the party of the year.
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More than half a million people are expected to pour into the city on Wednesday for what Premier Dan Andrews and lord mayor Robert Doyle have promised will be an “extravaganza”.

“Anywhere you can see the skyline of the city, you will be able to see the fireworks of the city,” Cr Doyle said. He expected about 100,000 at Yarra Park alone to watch the family fireworks at 9.30pm.

The city and surrounds will offer parties for all tastes, ranging from the burlesque of the Mad Hatter’s Ball, to be held at St Brigid’s Parish Hall in Fitzroy, to prayer at a special service at the Catch the Fire Ministries’ Apostolic Centre in Hallam.

Bimbo Deluxe manager Brendan Kenner said the Brunswick Street institution and its south-of-the-river counterpart Lucky Coq will host a “no frills” night to cater for “those that see New Year’s Eve as something that’s a little over-rated, a bit full-on and intense”.

For those seeking a more solitary New Year’s Eve, the Melbourne Shyness and Social Anxiety Meetup group will be watching the Rocky Horror Picture Show from 7.30pm at the Astor. The organiser of the meetup group did not respond to emails for comment.

If you have the $650 spare to attend Vue de Monde’s New Year’s event atop the Rialto, you may look down on a crowd topping 550,000 while you eat herring and drink 1993 Chateau d’Yquem.

For a mere $400 per person, you could catch an Edwardian-era steam yacht for a cruise on the bay. Drinks and finger food included. Or, for $290 a couple, you could rise above the rabble for a late-night high tea at the Hotel Windsor.

Party centres will be organised at the city’s four corners: Docklands, King’s Domain, Treasury Gardens and Flagstaff Gardens. These will play host to music and entertainment, as well as a digital countdown to the year’s final seconds.

Victoria Police will take to the streets, the skies, the waterways, the roads and public transport networks, “to keep the extravaganza as safe as possible for everyone”, Deputy Commissioner Lucinda Nolan said.

“We will have a big contingency of uniform members, plainclothes police officers and a lot of our specialist capability to ensure that we can actually deal with anything that comes up,” she said.

“We don’t want people to wake up in 2015 with something worse than a hangover, which could be fines for drunk in a public place, $590, or fines for drunk and disorderly, $758.”

More than 60 suburban rail stations would remain open and patrolled until 7am on New Year’s Day, marking a first for Victoria, Ms Nolan said.

However, city loop railway stations including Flagstaff, Melbourne Central and Parliament will close at 11.45pm to avoid the problem of passengers trying to board trains that would arrive full from Southern Cross and Flinders Street stations, which will remain open.

In light of Australia’s heightened terror environment, Ms Nolan said Victoria Police had conducted rigorous risk and security assessments for New Year’s Eve festivities.

“We certainly have well and truly gone into that because of recent events,” she said. “We’re very confident about the arrangements and I think that Melburnians and the rest of Victorians will come out in numbers just because that’s just the sort of people we are.”

Why New Year’s resolutions work

Why New Year’s resolutions work. Illustration: Simon Letch.New Year’s resolutions are ridiculous.
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Think about it. People who want to change their behaviours decide to change their behaviours and then all do so at once at midnight. But if they really wanted to change their behaviours they would do it of their own accord, without waiting.

At least that’s what anyone who has ever studied economics has been taught. People are meant to be straightforward, literally single-minded.

But we’re not, and the success of New Year’s resolutions proves it. That’s right, success. Because despite all the jibes, the truth is that New Year’s resolutions work, and work far better than the alternative of simply deciding to change behaviour and then changing it.

The reasons why give us an insight into what it means to be human and into why many of us are never quite sure who we are.

Here’s the evidence, assembled by United States psychologist John Norcross. In the lead-up to New Year’s Eve 1995 he and a team from the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania phoned hundreds of Americans at random and asked whether they were planning to make a specific measurable resolutions at midnight or whether they weren’t but still had measurable goals they would like to achieve.

Half a year later an impressive 46 per cent of those who had made resolutions claimed to be meeting their goals, compared to only 4 per cent of those who had not.

Conceding that self-reported success might be exaggerated, he said his findings should be seen “in a comparative context – compared to what”.

“In this case, the success rate of resolutions is approximately 10 times higher than the success rate of adults desiring to change their behaviour but not making a resolution.”

His finding has been replicated repeatedly: resolutions work. And it suggests that rather than being single-minded, as economists have traditionally believed, many of us are better thought of as having at least two minds, each fighting for control. One might be the saver, the other the spender; one the lifter, the other the leaner; one the dieter, the other the eater.

Economist Richard Thaler had his epiphany when he invited a group of graduate students to his house for dinner. While he was cooking he brought out a bowl of cashews.

“We started devouring them,” he later explained. “I could see that our appetites were in danger. After a while I hid the bowl in the kitchen. Everyone thanked me.”

And then it hit him. He was being thanked by graduate economists. They wouldn’t be thanking him at all if they really believed human beings were rational. “After all,” he recalled in his biography, “if we wanted to stop eating cashews, we could have done that at any time.”

Economics has traditionally explained away what appear to be two separate selves by saying each of us is one self with stable preferences moderated by a discount rate. Because we care most about the present we “discount” whatever good or bad things are likely to happen in the future when comparing them to the good or bad things we are facing now. We are said to have a constant discount rate of about 8 per cent per year.

But the explanation doesn’t stand up. Rather than being constant, our discount rate seems to climb the closer we get to the choice we have to make.

Ask someone today to choose between working seven hours on April 1 or eight hours on April 15 and that person will almost certainly choose the easier day on April 1. But ask again when April 1 arrives and the same person will almost certainly choose the harder day in a fortnight’s time.

The example comes from US economists Ted O’Donoghue and Matthew Rabin who in 1999 published a paper in the American Economic Review eviscerating the traditional idea of a constant discount rate and proposing instead a model of two selves in which the first was concerned only about the present (always wanting to put off anything unpleasant) and the second was concerned about where that would lead.

The two fight it out. There’s no single “self” always in command.

If they are right it explains the success of resolutions – they are a tool the long-term self can use to trap the short-term self into acting.

And it explains why certain types of resolutions are more likely to succeed than others – those that are specific and are made in public with no room for backing out.

John F. Kennedy did it most famously in 1962 with his commitment to send a man to moon “before this decade is out” and just as effectively a year earlier declaring that the US would regard any attack on West Berlin “as an attack upon us all”.

In both he was influenced by Thomas Schelling, an adviser to President Truman who later won the Nobel Prize in Economics and probably invented the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction, which against all odds has kept the world free of nuclear attacks for seven decades.

His insight was that closing off options can be empowering. The US was formidable when it declared that it would send a man to the moon no matter what, frightening when it declared it would defend Berlin no matter what and terrifying when it declared it would respond to nuclear force with nuclear force no matter what.

His advice for tonight is to eschew vague resolutions and go for absolutes: “Just as it may be easier to ban nuclear weapons from the battlefield in toto than through carefully graduated specifications on their use, zero is a more enforceable limit on cigarettes or chewing gum than some flexible quantitative ration.”

And say it out loud. Lock yourself in. Surprise yourself.

Peter Martin is economics editor of The Age.

Twitter: @1petermartin

AirAsia flight QZ8501: ‘Unique weather’ may have caused plane crash, says CEO

Bodies pulled from AirAsia wreckageThe passengers of AirAsia Flight QZ8501
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The AirAsia chief executive whose plane crashed on Sunday killing 155 passengers and seven crew has told Indonesian President Joko Widodo he believes the blame can be put squarely on bad weather.

CEO Tony Fernandes said his company would pay an immediate advance of money to families bereaved by the tragedy, and that AirAsia would not run away from its future obligations to them.

Mr Joko said his priority was to get the bodies and wreckage of flight QZ8501 off the bottom of the Karimata Strait as quickly as possible so victims can be identified and returned to their families. He has instructed search and rescue agencies to deploy all available ships and aircraft to speed the task.

Speaking of the families of the passengers and crew, he said: “We also feel the loss from this tragedy”.

Six bodies were recovered before night fell on Tuesday, and the grim task will recommence at first light on Wednesday.

Mr Fernandes said the “black box” flight cockpit recorder, which should provide crucial clues as to the cause of the tragedy, had not yet been located. He was confident that it would be.

While saying it would be “improper” to speculate on a cause, Mr Fernandes said he had spoken with the Indonesian President “about some of the information that we [AirAsia] have about what could have gone wrong”.

He then added that there were “some very unique weather conditions” in the area at the time.

“We cannot make any assumptions about what went wrong. All I can say is that the weather in south-east Asia is bad at the moment,” he said.

Referring to floods in Malaysia and Thailand, he suggested that climate change may have played a part in more dangerous conditions for air travel: “There’s a lot of rain, so that is something we need to look at carefully because the weather is changing. The weather is changing”.

Standing outside the Surabaya airport facility set up to cater for about 200 grieving families, Mr Fernandes said AirAsia would advance money “straight away” to the victims’ families, and “will not run away from any of our obligations or hide  behind any conventions”. The grief stricken families, who had only hours earlier learned about the certain deaths of their loved ones, were “an amazing group”.

“Many of them say they will continue to fly on AirAsia,” he said.

The airline’s bookings were still strong and he would “continue our business as normal”. There had been no suggestion from Mr Joko about ramifications against the company in Indonesia, and it was too early to talk about operational changes as a result of the company’s first crash in 13 years of flying.

“I have full confidence in my fleet and crew … in our operation in Indonesia and elsewhere,” Mr Fernandes said.

Mr Joko said “ships and helicopters, from the sea and air, will conduct a massive search” of the area.

The President thanked the search and rescue crews and also other countries that had provided assistance, including Australia.

My fitness wristband took over my life

Handy companion: But I feel like it’s watching me all the time. Photo: iStockBlame it on the boredom of Heathrow airport. I had just disembarked from a long-haul flight and I was in what Oprah might call  “a vulnerable place” – sleep-deprived and guilt-ridden over all those delicious white dinner rolls I had consumed on the way over. Reader, I had not spared the butter. Neither had the complimentary wine cart escaped my attentions. And there seemed to be no way to amuse myself for five hours without spending money.
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Whatever the psychological cocktail that led me there, I decided it would be a good idea to buy one of those fitness tracker wrist-band things so trendy they have been personally endorsed by Rupert Murdoch.

And since then, life hasn’t been the same.

These wristbands are the latest technological step in the “self-quantifying movement”, the contemporary craze for accumulating and analysing data on yourself – from daily calorie counts, to steps walked and energy burned, to your mood and sleep patterns.

Mine was black and slim, and fit snugly around my right wrist. I quickly began wearing my handbags on my left side to accommodate the hand-swinging action it needed to pick up my activity. This was the first in many ways in which the wristband began to control my life.

The gadget was paired with an app on my smartphone, which could magically tell how many steps I had taken that day, how many hours I had slept at night and whether I had taken vigorous exercise. It wanted me to take 10,000 steps a day and I quickly became its slave, walking unnecessarily and even jiggling more in an attempt to please it.

The app could also be paired with a calorie counter that told my master how much I had consumed in a day. The omniscient creature would then calculate whether I had arrived at an energy deficit. If I had, my wristband would communicate warm congratulations. Sometimes it even vibrated in approval, and I would feel a surge of disproportionate pride which was actually a strong signal that the relationship had become unhealthy.

Soon, the fitness tracker went from fun gadget to panopticon. I began to believe it saw everything, and the things it didn’t see – for example, if I accidentally left it at home while off for a run – seemed pointless if it couldn’t record them.

As with all technology, my black manacle-master is fast becoming out-dated. I find myself eyeing others on the market that can measure my heart rate, or tell me exactly how many hours I have left to live on earth.

But the truth is I am too frightened to upgrade. It will know.

BHP workers win jobs back after breaches

For the second time in as many weeks, BHP Billiton mine workers sacked for breaching safety rules have won their jobs back, after the Fair Work Commission ruled firing the men was unduly harsh.
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Harley Schofield and Mark Winterton were sacked in March from their jobs at Broadmeadow Mine Services, which employs workers at the BHP BIlliton-Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) mine at Broadmeadow.

They were dismissed after breaching one of BMA’s seven life-saving rules at the site, relating to guarding against falls and falling objects.

The decision followed a similar case, where two workers at a BMA site won their jobs back after the commission ruled it was unduly harsh to sack the workers for using their phones on site in breach of safety rules.

Mr Winterton, a fitter, and Mr Schofield, a diesel technician, had worked for BMA for five years and about 18 months respectively and neither had any safety or disciplinary blemishes on their records.

Both were aware of BMA’s policies on working from heights, which required steps to mitigate hazards, such as the use of work baskets or harnesses.

However, the pair, with a manager, used the roof of a mine vehicle, known as a drifty, as a work platform to carry out maintenance.

Mr Winterton told the commission he had done this before and believed it was accepted practice, partly because he believed the roof platform was lower than 1.8 metres.

A more senior manager arrived at the site and demanded work cease. Following an investigation Mr Winterton and Mr Schofield’s supervisor resigned.

The mine’s senior HR business partner, Kristi Gooch, found their conduct “reckless and grossly negligent”, on the basis that the men knew the rules and failed to identify a hazard that a competent mineworker would have recognised.

The company said it had lost faith in the men to perform their jobs competently and without endangering themselves or others and their employment was terminated.

The men told the commission they had struggled since to find employment.

Commission vice-president Adam Hatcher found the dismissals had a valid reason but were unduly harsh because a manager had proposed the use of the drifty and it was also not obvious that the 195cm-high roof platform was above the 180cm trigger height for BMA’s rules.

It was also well below the statutory guide for working at heights of 240cm, Mr Hatcher found, adding that other employees had breached the rules without being fired.

He ordered the two men should get their jobs back but not get compensated for lost wages, given their conduct was negligent.

A BHP spokeswoman said BMA’s “first and foremost consideration” was the health and safety of employees.

“We welcome the opportunity to continually improve our health and safety policies and procedures, and will take feedback by the Fair Work Commission into account as part of this ongoing process,” she said.