‘I look in the mirror and see I’m neither male or female’

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Some days Nevo Zisin doesn’t always like to look at himself in the mirror but on the days he does Zisin is not sure if he sees a man, a woman, child or adult.
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”I used to identify as a man, I used to identify as a woman but right now that’s not relevant to me,” he says. ”I see myself as a mosaic of feminity and masculinity and complex thought and ability.

“I’m a person, I’m an activist, I’m a speaker and it’s not just about the sensational story of ‘Look at the transgender’, as if I’m in a zoo cage. I’m actually a person, a flawed person, and I find other people’s gender just as fascinating as mine.”

We have come to Cafe Shenkin in inner city Sydney, close to the offices of Black Dog Books, publisher of Zisin’s new autobiography, Finding Nevo.

The corner restaurant specialises in the kind of street food Zisin lived off during a gap year in Tel Aviv in 2014, a crucial time in his transition marking the first year on hormone replacement therapy.

Zisin has dressed deliberately for the occasion. His wild curls are held back in a ponytail. He wears shirt and shorts, the very picture of gender neutrality. A lighter necklace hangs around his neck to remind himself of his inner “fire”.

Presentation matters for someone who has interrogated their own identity since the age of four and regards their gender as fluid. He requests that he be addressed in the pronouns of they/their or he/him.

”That is my claim to fame,” Zisin shrugs, “I’m constantly confusing people. But I think everything is really confusing. You talk to anyone – no one knows really what they are doing and mostly it’s a performative confidence and so I think we need to lean into the discomfort of not knowing and just being question marks.”

The autobiography comes a year after a backlash erupted over the transgender activist’s appearance as a “case study” in a video resource for the much-maligned Safe Schools campaign.

n Christian conservatives claimed Zisin’s story encouraged impressionable minors to undergo sex-change surgery without parental consent as they mobilised political opposition against the anti-homophobic bullying Safe Schools program. Zisin’s explicit naming was to plunge him into a ”pit of despair”.

”Firstly, there is no such thing as a sex-change operation, it doesn’t exist,” Zisin says. ”Lots of trans people get different operations or none, it’s a myth. There is no all-in-one, turn a machine, come out a different gender. That’s not the way it works.

”Secondly, I was never going to get that surgery, I was only ever planning on getting chest surgery. I’m not sure how I was advocating for surgeries I wasn’t involved in. It was also said I was talking about doing them without my parent’s consent when my parents were with me the entire way. I came from a Jewish family. Family is important. I was never abandoning my family to do what I want. They were at the centre of these decisions. It was pure slander and pure defamation.”

Zisin scans the menu and recommends the shakshuka, a hearty one-pot dish of eggs baked in a spicy red pepper and tomato sauce, a dipping plate of hummus made with fava beans, and a fold of puff pastry stuffed with vegetables not unlike an Italian calzone.

Zisin’s mother Sharon Swiatlo – Zisin lives with her in Caulfield, smack in the middle of Melbourne’s “bagel belt” – makes a “mean” shakshuka. Zisin’s speciality is a tahini made with the sharp tang of pickle juice.

Zisin was not even in kindergarten when he set on the fact he was a boy. Zisin refused to go to the girl’s section at department stores, would only wear boys’ clothing, and would correct anyone who referred to him as a girl. Accused of being a drama queen, Zisin retorted: “I’m a drama king.”

“I didn’t just decide at four years old I’m not going to be a girl, I’m going to be a boy. There was something in me that felt I had to present myself differently. I wouldn’t say it is entirely a socially constructed thing, or entirely biologically determined. I think there is this mish-mash of in-betweens.”

Zisin spent a year learning how to a be ”good” Jewish woman to undertake the traditional coming-of-age ceremony of the bat mitzvah. Upon return from a trip to Israel he shaved his head for charity and found himself at the centre of rumours that he was a lesbian.

”I was very stoked to be this straight woman with bald head and rocking with the stereotypes,” he says, and yet felt ”backed in the corner”.

When Zisin eventually came out as gay at age 14, “I was so scared, I thought, ‘well right right now I am [lesbian] but I don’t know if I want to be in the future’. I always have doubts about everything, all the time and so does everyone.

“I’m not sure about anything 100 per cent.” At the same time, “I always do things full throttle … Keeping up with myself is difficult for me.”

Zisin’s Melbourne private school was the first n Jewish school to join the Safe Schools Coalition and he credits the support he received with saving his life.

As a gay activist he took part in a documentary, Love in Full Colour, which screened for the first time at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival in 2015. By the time he sat with his mother to watch its premiere Zisin was presenting as male.

Zisin’s gender dysphoria had worsened and he had come out as transgender to his mother in his last year of high school at age 18, changing his first name to one selected from a Hebrew baby’s book.

Lunch is served and Zisin declines alcohol: “Not after the other night.” Three-quarters of the book was written in a rush of about four weeks while “drinking wine”, the look back over a life of 21 years being painful, nostalgic and cathartic to recall.

It’s a ”lie”, Zisin says, to say that his gender variance is a mere phase, as critics of medicalised transition assert, or that he’s too young to know who he is.

”At what age does one know who they are, that’s what I want to know,” Zisin says. ”And what isn’t a phase? Is it the guy you dated in high school that you really regret, or that course you dropped out of, or that job you stayed in for far too long, or the relationship that was abusive?”

While it’s exhausting to be a ”walking search engine”, the book is a chance to reach young people like himself undergoing the transition and bring more ”trans” stories into the mainstream because, he maintains, “gender diversity needs to be normalised and understood”.

“It’s a story of life and growing up and body image and insecurity and coming to terms with realities we are faced with. These are symptoms of the human condition. It’s not just a trans narrative.”

Attitudes are shifting. A swim teacher studying Indigenous cultures and creative writing at the University of Melbourne, Zisin was quizzed in the pool a few months back.

“Are you a boy or a girl?”, the boy asked him. ”I said, ‘I don’t know, both?’ He’s like, ‘You can’t be both.’ I was like, ‘Why not?’ He said, ‘??ou can’t be both unless you are transgender. You don’t look transgender.’

“So I was like, ‘Well, I am.’ And he said, ‘Cool, can I do backstroke now?’ To hear a seven-year-old use that word is mind-boggling and that’s not the first or last time that’s happened. Kids have these open minds and they get things on a fundamental level. They understand being a girl doesn’t necessarily mean pink.”

Zisin’s favourite piece of writing in the book is the last chapter. He imagines himself at a party with his previous selves at ages six, nine, 13, 16, then at 18 with his newly-minted name. Nevo asks his future self, ”Are you happy?”, and he replies, ”Well, I’m certainly trying.”

Donald Trump’s first 100 days

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Trump’s first 100 days: a timeline
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The Trump era began on January 20 in a light, cold rain on the western steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, with a dystopian speech by the new president in which he described a ruined nation exploited to the brink of collapse by the elected representatives who watched on from the bleachers around him.

“That was some weird shit,” the former president, George W. Bush, was overheard as saying as he left the ceremony.

And it was too.

Inaugural addresses are normally used by incoming presidents to unify the nation in the wake of a long election campaign and to signal a benign American authority to the world.

From where he stood Donald Trump would have been able to see over the heads of his audience to the Lincoln Memorial at the far end of the National Mall. On its wall are carved the words of Lincoln’s second inaugural address, considered by many to be the best of the kind, made in the dying days of the nation’s terrible civil war. Lincoln spoke about national healing, rejected triumphalism and emphasised generosity of spirit.

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations,” he said.

In his inaugural address John F. Kennedy implored his fellow Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”. Addressing the real potential of nuclear holocaust and the tension between power and duty incumbent in his office, Kennedy observed that “Man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life”.

This sort of meditation on potential and responsibility is not Trump’s way.

“The day I realised it can be smart to be shallow was, for me, a deep experience,” Trump wrote – or allowed a ghostwriter to write – in his book Think Like a Billionaire. Running for office Trump had been economical with vision, leaving a void for others to fill at the heart of his campaign.

Steve Bannon, a rich and angry anti-establishment nationalist made the space his own, and that afternoon in the rain Trump detailed Bannon’s vision in an address now simply known as the “American carnage speech”.

Far from reaching out to his political opponents, Trump traduced them.

“A small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost,” he said. “Washington flourished – but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered – but the jobs left, and the factories closed.”

And then this: “Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealised potential.

“This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”

The way to stop the American carnage, Trump explained, recycling the name and slogan of a racist isolationist movement of the 1940s, was to put “America First”.

“From this moment on, it’s going to be America First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.

“We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.”

This passage remains the clearest explication of what was to be the central idea of the administration, a guiding philosophy that Bannon called “economic nationalism”.

And it was telling, too ,that it would not be achieved by a unified effort of the people represented by their president, but by the president himself. “I will fight for you with every breath in my body – and I will never, ever let you down,” Trump declared. Gilding the swamp

If these were the ideas of Trumpism, the tone was set the following day as millions attended women’s marches in protest against the administration around the world. Trump watched the rallies – and the news – from the White House and became enraged.

His new spokesman, Sean Spicer, was dispatched to the White House briefing room two days earlier than his planned first appearance to berate the assembled and bewildered White House press corps.

Spicer fumed that American media had lied about the size of the inauguration crowd, which National Parks staff and police estimated to be around 160,000, and had manipulated images to make it look smaller than Barack Obama’s inauguration, which around 1.8 million attended.

Trump’s crowd was the “largest audience to ever to witness an inauguration, period – both in person and around the globe,” Spicer insisted in the face of overwhelming evidence that it was not.

The appearance stunned the press corps, not just because it was itself so odd, but because they found themselves covering an administration unlike any other that had gone before it.

The Trump administration did not just break the old rules and norms, it appeared to have no idea that any existed in the first place.

“I like nepotism,” said Trump three times in an interview with Larry King in 2006 when he installed his daughter Ivanka in a role on The Apprentice, the reality show that became the unlikely platform for his political career.

Trump’s enthusiasm for nepotism and his disregard for conflicts of interest in office became early markers of how far this administration was willing to veer from the norms, and how free it remains of the consequences of its actions, consequences that would have undone previous administrations.

Not only has Trump refused to release his tax returns, he has refused to divest from his business interests, instead handing over day-to-day control of them to his two elder sons, Eric and Don jnr.

Unlike previous presidents, Trump sent a letter to the Federal Election Commission stating he planned to run again in 2020 within hours of his inauguration, thus establishing the legal basis for his continuing fundraising. Much of his so-called “thank you tour” has been related to these efforts, as have “Make America Great Again” merchandise sales. This is significant because Trump campaign events are often held in venues owned by the Trump empire. Trump charges his campaign for this, so donations from his permanent campaign are neatly diverted back into his business’s coffers.

According to a report in The Atlantic, if Trump continues to spend in his own properties at this rate, over the coming election cycle his business will benefit from his campaign to the tune of $US20 million. Meanwhile, his wife, Melania, and youngest son remain residents in Trump Tower rather than the White House. In order to properly protect them the Secret Service and Department of Defence have spent $US3 million renting space in the same building.

With his sons running his business empire, Trump has appointed daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, to senior White House roles.

Ivanka’s role remains unclear, though according to some reports she is to serve as her father’s “eyes and ears” within the White House. Uniquely among advisers she is building an extended staff, hiring her own chief-of-staff earlier this month. As she works in the White House her own business interests are faring well. On the very day Trump and the Chinese leader Xi Jinping dined together this month, the Chinese government approved four trademarks that Ivanka’s clothing line had pending in that country.

Kushner’s role is exhaustive and growing. The 36-year-old cut his teeth working for his father’s New York real estate empire before his father was jailed for tax evasion and witness tampering. Though he has no experience in foreign relations, governance or public policy, Trump has made Kushner responsible for solving the Israel-Palestine conflict (“If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can,” Trump said in a speech appointing Kushner), managing America’s relationships with China and Russia and ending the nation’s epidemic of opioid addiction.

(Already Kushner’s and Ivanka’s role appears to have brought about the greatest change in the administration, with the couple elevated at the expense of Bannon. While Bannon’s alt-right fans are furious at this, and some Democrats see in it the makings of a plutocracy, establishment Republicans view it as sign that Trump is returning to a kind of political moderation.)

Having promised to drain the swamp, Trump has hired a string of Wall Street billionaires to the senior ranks of his administration, including the appointment of an oil executive as Secretary of State and a Goldman Sachs heavyweight to Treasury.

Other cabinet members and agency heads appear to have been appointed for their antipathy towards the departments they have been hired to run. The Secretary for Energy is Rick Perry, who once ran for the White House promising to scrap the Department of Energy. His Secretary of Education is Betsy DeVos, a billionaire Republican donor who has spent much of her life campaigning against public education. The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency is a climate sceptic who is on record as opposing the agency’s regulations. The ‘bigness’ of it all

As Trump’s 100th day in office approached he dismissed the moment as meaningless, calling it a “ridiculous standard” on Twitter, and “an artificial barrier” in an interview with the Associated Press.

Either way the measure is one Trump himself made significant as he sought to reset his campaign after a string of allegations of sexual harassment were made against him.

At a conference centre in the village of Gettysburg, not far from where Lincoln made his famous address, Trump gathered together and unveiled his “contract with America”, laying out what he would have achieved by his 100th day in office.

By now he planned to have 10 key bills either passed or making their way through Congress. So far just one has appeared, his bill to overturn Obamacare. It was an absolute failure, unifying the opposition from Republican hardliners, moderates and Democrats alike.

Likewise his two attempts to ban immigration from Muslim majority nations have been killed by the courts.

Other bills, including a $US1 trillion infrastructure spending package; tax and education reforms; a boost to military spending; a taskforce on crime; and ethics reforms for federal politicians, have not been forthcoming as bills, though some have been discussed or flagged in executive orders.

In other key areas Trump has simply reversed course since winning office. China, he says, is no longer a currency manipulator; NATO, he says, is no longer irrelevant.

Professor Barbara Perry, director of the University of Virginia’s Miller Centre, which studies the first year of all American presidencies, says the first-100-day measure is short rather than arbitrary, and that it can be usefully graded and compared across administrations.

She gives Trump a “C”. Perry says Trump’s success in having a highly regarded Supreme Court justice confirmed so early in his administration is a clear and considerable achievement. She also rates his missile strike against the Syrian regime highly – though it was another reversal of his stance during the campaign – if only because it signals to the world that the US will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons.

She believes that his efforts to have immigration banned from some Muslim-majority nations are at least in keeping with his election promises, though they have failed, and whatever the wisdom of the policy.

On the other hand, she says his failure on the Obamacare repeal was catastrophic because it revealed how badly his administration was in dealing with Congress, even with his natural allies in the so-called Freedom Caucus.

In Foreign Policy magazine this week Stephen Walt, a Harvard University professor of international relations, wrote that Trump’s first 100 days was so full of blunders it was hard to pick which one was worst.

Trump’s appointment of Mike Flynn, a retired general who was sacked after three weeks due to his murky ties with the Kremlin was up there, wrote Walt, as was his eager embrace of authoritarian governments in Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

But what really stood out to Walt was Trump’s “ignorant and incompetent” approach to Asia.

Asia, Walt argues, is the region of greatest geo-strategic significance to the US due to its economic growth and China’s rise, as was reflected in the past administration’s so-called “pivot”.

“For this reason the United States needs smart, sophisticated, knowledgable and, above all, disciplined people working to solidify and nurture our Asian alliance ties. What has Trump done instead? He started by tearing up the TPP, an enormous blunder ??? Then Trump held that acrimonious get-acquainted phone call with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of .

“Since then, Trump has raised the temperature with North Korea, hinted at preventive war, and inaccurately claimed to be sending an ‘armada’ to patrol the waters of the Korean Peninsula.”

Perry also raises North Korea. She says in her talks with analysts in Washington, DC, views on how he has handled the crisis fall down along party lines, with many conservatives relieved to see Trump taking a tougher line than Obama.

But, taking care to note she is taking off her “scholarly hat”, Perry confesses to feeling an existential dread when she thinks of Trump and North Korea, a sick feeling in her gut that she recognises from her Cold War childhood when her father proposed building a fallout shelter in her Kentucky backyard.

Perry notes that as he prepared to take office at the height of the Cold War, John F. Kennedy read The Guns of August, the history by Barbara Tuchman of how the great powers stumbled blindly into the Great War. Kennedy, she said, was determined not to let this happen again.

Trump, she feels, is by contrast incurious, ill-disciplined and impulsive. He is, she says, an agent of chaos, both by habit and inclination. Perry believes that authoritarian figures, or those like Trump who are drawn towards authoritarianism, cultivate chaos as a means to unsettle opponents. Trump, she says, also uses the chaos of his administration as a political smokescreen, obscuring motives for his actions and blame for his failures.

For this reason she believes the chaos will only continue.

Americans are also divided on their president, though Trump’s approval rating is the lowest at this stage in modern polling history. All five major networks have now released 100-day polls. The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has Trump at 40 per cent approval, CBS at 41 per cent, ABC/Washington Post at 42 per cent, CNN at 44 per cent, and Fox News at 45 per cent. When the first of the polls were released Trump dismissed them as “fake”.

Polls also suggest that some of his supporters do not believe he is truthful. Even some of the Americans who approve of President Trump don’t think he’s honest or trustworthy. Only 37 per cent of Americans overall say he’s honest, according to CNN/ORC’s latest poll, released this week.

For all that, 98 per cent of those who voted for him say they would do so again.

Via Twitter this week Trump said he believed the 100-day scorecard to be a “ridiculous” measure. Nevertheless he said in two interviews that his first 100 days to have been greater than any other in history. No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, & it has been a lot (including S.C.), media will kill!??? Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2017

Why only some boys are better at maths

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Girls are better at literacy and reading from the age of four but boys aren’t any better at maths until they turn eight, a new study of NAPLAN and school readiness test data has found.
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The study also found that better performance in literacy was limited to girls from low and middle socioeconomic backgrounds, and only boys from high socioeconomic families did better in numeracy.

“If you just look at the [NAPLAN] statistics without looking at socioeconomic factors, it would suggest that this is just a natural difference,” said Dr Julie Moschion, a senior research fellow at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Social and Economic Research, and a co-author of the study, published in the Journal of Population Economics this month.

On average across , boys score 12 points higher than girls in numeracy in the year 3 NAPLAN test, and girls score nine points higher in literacy.

“But when you look deeper, it’s not that simple,” Dr Moschion said.

“If boys are just better at maths, boys from low and middle socioeconomic backgrounds would also do better.”

The study also found that the advantage boys from high socioeconomic backgrounds have in maths doesn’t appear until about the age of 8, while four-year-old girls already perform better in literacy and reading in school readiness tests.

This has implications for both parents and teachers, Dr Moschion said.

“Girls’ advantage in reading starts before they go to school, which suggests that to reduce this gap, the solution may be at home with parents reading more to boys,” she said.

“In contrast, boys’ advantage in numeracy appears after students start school, so it’s pretty fair to say it’s generated at school.

“I’m not able to tell you how much gendered teaching practices have an impact here but we can probably safety say this contributes.”

The paper found the gap could lead to higher drop-out rates and employment issues for boys and lower participation rates in high-earning STEM roles for girls.

The n research aligns with similar findings by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development across other developed countries.

A separate study found boys’ and girls’ behaviour at home and in the early years of school could affect their performance in literacy and reading and later success.

Girls are far better at paying attention, staying on task and working independently from kindergarten while boys tend to be hyperactive and have problems with conduct, according to the study, which was published in the Australasian Journal of Early Childhood this month.

Study co-author Professor Susan Walker, from the Queensland University of Technology , said the difference could come down to what parents do before their children start school.

“When parents read to children they tend to do better at language in school,” Professor Walker said.

“We’re seeing that girls are spending more time in that activity.

“Once you have a grasp of language and literacy you can use that in everything, so the gap could have a detrimental effect across all areas of learning [for boys].”

In maths, teachers giving more positive feedback to boys could lead to the numeracy gap that emerges in year 3, Professor Walker said.

“The way boys and girls are perceived and the feedback they get becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she said.

The Chinan Bird Guide takes flight

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The Age, news. Jeff Davies – illustrator of a new book on birds.Pic Simon Schluter 28 April 2017. Photo: Simon SchluterIt’s a true story, based on love, obsession and sometimes madness. Thankfully, the authors (and their publishers) managed to avoid murdering each other along the way. But after nearly a decade in the making, The n Bird Guide finally hits bookstores on Monday.
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To call The n Bird Guide long-awaited would be putting it mildly. There are a number of field guides to n birds in print, most of which are regularly revised and updated. But an entirely new tome is as rare as, well, a very rare bird indeed: this is the first publication of its kind in about 17 years.

Melbourne artist Jeff Davies was the first of three illustrators, in addition to three authors, to be approached by CSIRO’s publishing division nearly 10 years ago. Instantly, the questions started: “I had various people tap me on the shoulder saying, ‘when are you going to finish’ – and that was when I’d just started,” he said. Some privately wondered if the book might ever be finished.

For the first year, Davies said, he sat at home without income, accumulating a vast archive of avian imagery for reference: much of what’s new about this book is a byproduct in the explosion of new knowledge generated by digital photography.

When the project ran over time – the authors were on a five-year contract – Davies spent another two years without income as the book was finished. It features more than 4700 colour illustrations, with many species illustrated for the first time.

Davies, who had previously worked on the mammoth multi-volume Handbook of n and New Zealand Birds, has a well-earned reputation as a perfectionist and a stickler for detail. In the twitchier circles of ‘s birding community, however, detail is everything. For them, the wait will be worth it.

Davies said he would have refused the assignment if he hadn’t had sufficient time, but also understood the significance of the opportunity, as well as the magnitude of the task.

“I’m 60. I’m going to be dead in a couple of decades time, I’m not going to f— around and waste time,” he said. “I throw everything in otherwise I don’t bother doing it at all. But I think people who knew me already knew that.”

Federal MPs own properties across Canberra’s richest suburbs

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Government benches during question time at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday 23 March 2017. Photo: Andrew Meares Photo: Andrew MearesWith ‘s housing affordability debate growing ahead of next month’s federal budget, the latest data shows members of Parliament own more than 60 properties in the ACT – almost all in Canberra’s most expensive suburbs.
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Analysis by Fairfax Media shows of ‘s 225 federal politicians and their spouses, 18 declared ownership of properties in Kingston, where the median unit price is $507,500. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek and Social Services Minister Christian Porter are among the highest-profile local owners.

A further 12 MPs own properties in nearby Griffith, where the median unit price is $388,750, including Attorney-General George Brandis, Liberal defector Cory Bernardi and former minister Senator Eric Abetz.

With median prices of $574,000, 10 MPs declare properties in Canberra and Civic, including Queensland Coalition senator and property mogul Barry O’Sullivan, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Michael Sukkar.

Members of Parliament are required to declare property they or their spouses own, with most in the ACT units and townhouses used during parliamentary sitting periods or as investment vehicles. Many MPs charge taxpayers $273 a night to stay in declared properties during sitting weeks, with some renting spare rooms to party colleagues.

Three MPs own properties in the suburbs of Yarralumla and Turner, with two each in Red Hill, Forrest and O’Connor.

Veteran’s Affairs Minister Dan Tehan and his wife declare properties in O’Connor, Turner and Queanbeyan. Liberal Ben Morton declares two properties in Scullin and Griffith, along with Labor frontbenchers Joel Fitzgibbon who owns properties in Red Hill and Yarralumla, and Brendan O’Connor who owns in Kingston and Griffith.

Queensland Labor senator Glenn Sterle declares two properties in Kingston, one residential and one as an investment.

By comparison, the ACT’s four local MPs have unusually low property assets.

While nearly two-thirds of all federal MPs own more than one property, Canberra MP Gai Brodtmann, Fenner MP Andrew Leigh and Labor senator Katy Gallagher each declare one property. Liberal senator Zed Seselja’s home is not declared on the register.

Ms Brodtmann lives in Yarralumla, Mr Leigh in Canberra and Senator Gallagher in Lyneham.

Senator Seselja lives in Macarthur. A spokeswoman confirmed the family home was in his wife Ros’s name, while he declares being a guarantor on the property’s mortgage.

According to the latest reports, federal MPs have about $370 million tied up in the national property market, an estimate based on their 561 declared properties. The list includes primary and secondary homes, investments, holiday homes, commercial buildings and vacant land.

Many more properties are hidden from public view through companies, trusts and self-managed super funds.

The Coalition’s 105 MPs and their spouses own 315 properties, or 56 per cent of the total. Labor MPs declare 198, and minor party and independent MPs declare 48. The data doesn’t include federal Parliament’s two newest members, One Nation’s Peter Georgiou and Family First’s Lucy Gichuhi, who are yet to submit interests register forms.

Ms Gichuhi reportedly owns six residential properties, worth as much as $2 million.

When Fairfax Media asked some of Parliament’s high rollers about their property portfolios last week, chief government whip Nola Marino instructed Coalition MPs not to answer questions. Ms Marino declares nine properties.

Mr Turnbull has sought to distance the government from speculation housing affordability would be a centrepiece of the budget, leading to accusations from Labor the Coalition was divided on the issue.

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Tax Office ‘nudge unit’ gets to work on its fellow public servants

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Public servants from the Tax Office’s “behavioural insights” team have turned their skills on their colleagues in an effort to persuade 19,000 tax officials to accept a new pay and conditions deal.
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But ATO bosses insist they had nothing to do with members of their “nudge unit” orchestrating a workplace campaign to promote the management line on the giant agency’s long running industrial dispute.

The ATO’s Behavioural Insight Team’s day job is using advanced psychological techniques to subtly persuade taxpayers to pay their debts.

But now nudge unit members have quietly taken to the battlefield in the bitter three-year industrial war between Tax Office bosses and their own public servants, most of whom are still resisting attempts to impose the Coalition’s Abbott-era workplace policies.

The revelation comes just a month after the Tax office was exposed handing a vast trove of potentially sensitive employment information on its public servants to a private sector contractor who used the data to map areas of industrial resistance within the workforce.

Behavioural insight techniques are growing in popularity in government and some private sector operations, looking to take advantage of advanced understanding of human behaviour.

The Tax Office has claimed some success in recovering tax debts with letters and other communications drafted using the emerging BI science.

But the ATO workforce is not aware that a “grass roots” campaign for a ‘Yes’ vote in its next enterprise agreement ballot is being orchestrated by members of the Tax Office’s Behavioural Insights Team.

Tax Office public servants have been receiving emails from a group called the “Yes Network” in recent days, urging individual officials to accept the next pay deal that is offered, to forward the email to five colleagues and to join the network themselves.

The email contains promotional material for the network, including posters and desktop prisms carrying the slogan “this time I’m voting yes.”

The Yes Network says it is a grass-roots staff effort, and an ATO spokesman told Fairfax on Wednesday that the network was a staff-initiative.

“The network is independent of the ATO and we’ve gotten the AOK internally on its creation,” the network’s email states.

But the supporting material supplied with the mail-out reveals the creators of the posters, the network’s “charter” and other documents all members of the Tax Office’s Behavioural Insights unit.

In response to questions, the ATO spokesperson said staff were encouraged to participate in the debate about the next enterprise agreement and that there was no official encouragement from agency bosses to members of the insight team.

“The ATO has consistently encouraged staff to be actively involved and engaged in the enterprise agreement,” the spokesman said.

“The Yes Network is a staff-initiated and voluntary network of ATO staff supporting the ATO’s Enterprise Agreement, and is one of the ways staff have chosen to be involved.

“The network is open to, and comprises, staff from across the ATO and represents their individual views.

“Neither the ATO nor the Enterprise Agreement bargaining team engaged the ATO’s behavioural insights team to convene this network.

“Involvement of staff in the Yes Network is entirely at their discretion.”

The day Pacquiao gave a man $100 to shine his Louis Vuitton shoes

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On Wednesday afternoon, in the Virgin Lounge at Brisbane Airport, a man begged Manny Pacquiao to let him shine his shoes.
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The man was the employed shoe shiner for the lounge. He also happened to be Filipino.

Pacquiao’s family were cautious, because the shoes were made by Louis Vuitton – expensive slippers no matter how much a man is worth, even $500 million – but the 38-year-old boxer waved them away. When the man was done, he handed him a $100 tip.

The man refused to take it but finally did so after much insistence from Pacquiao.

“I came from nothing,” Pacquiao says softly. “I know what the feeling is of being poor, of having no food, of being nothing. You know, my philosophies ??? I came to this world naked and I will depart naked. When you die, you take nothing no matter how much you have.”

He doesn’t so much say but whisper this to me in a small conference room in a hotel near Sydney Airport on Wednesday night.

Pacquiao had just flown in from Brisbane with his family, various managers, advisers and security detail as part of his hurricane east coast tour this week to drum up publicity for his July 2 fight against Queensland schoolteacher Jeff Horn to defend his WBO welterweight title.

The largest crowd he’s fought in front of is 51,000, according to his management. They’re trying to get 55,000 to Suncorp Stadium for the Horn fight.

Taking nothing for granted: Manny Pacquiao. Photo: Wolter Peeters

In reality, it’s an easy sell. I mean, this is Manny Pacquiao, arguably the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of his generation, and easily one of the best of all time. The man American boxing writers voted the fighter of the decades for the 2000s. The boxer who claimed 11 world titles across eight weight divisions.

On this night, he is dressed in a dark grey suit, pale blue shirt, pale blue tie and a pair of black shoes so shiny you could see your reflection in them.

His story has been told inside out, through countless stories, books and documentaries, all charting the rise of a kid who left the family home when he was young because he was one of too many mouths to feed, lived on the streets of Manilla for a time, before finding a way out of poverty through boxing.

What else is there to ask? The question I had for Pacquiao was a simple one: why? There is nothing sadder than an old pug shuffling around the ring for the sake of a few more final paydays.

Pacquiao is a long way off that sombre final chapter. He’s a long way off Roy Jones Jr, the near-perfect fighter who is still throwing them at glacial pace at 48. They rarely finish at the peak of their powers in boxing these days. They usually finish facedown, eyeballing the canvas.

Pacquiao’s story is so good, his career so storied, why sour his legacy when there’s enough money in the bank?

“It’s not about the money,” he insists. “No, it’s not hurting my legacy [if I keep fighting], because I have already accomplished my dream in boxing, my career at the top. I’m a champion. I have to defend my title.”

Slippery character: Manny Pacquiao dodges a punch from Floyd Mayweather in their 2015 Las Vegas mega-bout. Photo: AP

When will he consider retirement?

“It’s hard to say, a couple more fights and then I’ll think about it,” he says.

Among the people sitting at the stable while Pacquiao chats is Michael Koncz, an adviser who also runs Manny Pacquiao Promotions, which is separate to Top Rank Promotions, owned by the legendary fight promoter Bob Arum.

Many within n boxing had suspected the fight against Horn would never happen when it was announced at the start of the year. Koncz’s preference had been for Pacquiao to fight against Amir Khan in Dubai this month.

But when the money couldn’t be raised in the UAE they came back to Horn. The Queensland government and Brisbane City Council found the money. Pacquiao was looking to earn $49 million against Khan. Against Horn, he’ll pick up $10 million.

“It’s all about money at this stage,” Koncz says. “It’s not greed. Manny has been boxing for 20 years. I was working for Manny when we were making $400,000 a fight. People call it what they like but it’s not about greed, it’s smart business. So that was the delay – the financial package I was after was much more lucrative than this package.

“My job is to get the best economic package together, especially at this stage of his career. We’re not done yet but it’s getting close to the end. That’s what we did before with Amir Khan and I plan to work the Amir Khan fight for later this year, November or October. We were thankful this offer was still on the table.

“I wasn’t sceptical about coming here to fight in . But I’m Manny’s main adviser. I’m the one that negotiates all of his contracts and boxing is a very small part of what I do now. When I started it was all about boxing. My job is to maximise the profits for Manny. That’s the reason I went to Dubai, I went for Amir Khan.”

Money comes, money goes. The winnings from Pacquiao’s first professional fight, as a 16-year-old against Edmund Enting Ignacio, went towards food.

“1000 pesos,” he says when asked what he earned from it. “About 20 US dollars.”

What did he do with it?

“Bought rice. You can buy one kilo of rice for that much.”

Since then, his generosity in his own country has become legendary.

“I help the people,” he says. “Building house and giving them free.”

Koncz nudges him. How many houses?

“A thousand,” Pacquiao says quietly. “It’s not from government money.”

How much does he think he’s handed out over the years to people he does not know?

“A billion,” he says. He’s talking about pesos. A billion Filipino pesos is roughly worth $A26 million.

This is what also makes Pacquiao so appealing on a global stage and at home: his humility.

It was brought into sharp focus around his 2015 mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather, the flashy American who flaunts his wealth, who still posts $100,000,000 cheques on his social media accounts just because he can.

On a collision course: Manny Pacquiao and Jeff Horn. Photo: Getty Images

“Floyd Mayweather is different, different lifestyle,” Pacquiao grins. “He’s flashy, he shows his money. I believe in God. I am a Christian. I am only in his command.”

Earlier this week, he did a photo shoot in Brisbane and was expecting 200 people to turn up. More than 2000 turned up, many of them Filipinos. At the press conference, Horn’s family, including both his grandfathers, were among the excited throng.

“They take picture with me,” Pacquiao smiles. “It was nice. I never expected this kind of popularity here. I thought a few people know me here. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t put that popularity in my head. I never do that. I don’t want to put that in my head. It’s not hard. That’s my attitude. That’s my heart. I don’t like arrogant. I’m humble. Those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

He says that religion has become a stronger part of his life in recent years. It has also got him in trouble.

Instructions were issued before our interview not to raise his controversial comments about same-sex marriage and comparing homosexuals to being “worse than animals”. The same deal with his political career. Pacquiao ran for Congress in 2010 and was elevated to the Senate last year.

“I want to help people,” he says of becoming a politician. “I want to defend the right of the poor people. It’s not easy. It’s very hard to be a politician and a boxer, but I manage my time. I discipline myself. What happened [with the Horn fight], they offered me to fight in May but I can’t because I have work in the office, so I choose to fight July 2.”

Indeed, he flew out of on Friday evening so he could be back in the Philippines in time for resumption of the Senate session, which is trying to bring in President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial death penalty bill as part of his bloody war on drugs.

“Don’t they [opponents of the death penalty bill] consider rampant drug-related crimes and the magnitude of illegal drug problem in the country as compelling reason?” Pacquiao is quoted as telling a Filipino boxing website. “Shall we allow this kind of poison to continue killing our people particularly the youth sector? This is not just addictive but it also kills the dreams and future of our youths and the moral fibre of our society.”

These are parts of the Pacquiao story that many still want to hear. Hopefully, outside of the all-stops promotional tour this week, the n press will be given a chance to know him better. Like most superstars, Pacquiao is more than just an athlete.

Up for the challenge: Jeff Horn. Photo: Getty Images

Meanwhile, there’s Horn to consider: the schoolteacher who took up boxing as a teenager because he was being bullied.

“He’s young, I know what he’s feeling,” says Pacquiao.

What is he feeling?

“He feels hungry to win, because I have been there. I’ve experienced that feeling when you are young and you are fighting a champion.”

‘Capture of the Clarkes’: Braidwood faithfully reenacts capture

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Tom and Luke Clarke, who are playing their ancestors Tommy and John Clarke in the reenactment. ?? Photos: Elspeth Kernebone Photo: Elspeth KerneboneBraidwood is poised to remember the capture of ‘s deadliest bushranger gang on Saturday with actual descendents of the outlaws themselves.
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The Capture of the Clarkes is set to be a near-faithful reenactment of brothers John and Tom Clarke’s showdown with NSW police, 150 years ago, in 1867.

Brothers Luke Clarke, 33, and Tom Clarke, 28, are descendants of the outlaws and will be playing them on Saturday, including wearing clothing identical to what they were wearing on the day.

“I couldn’t even make the bloody drama class,” Luke said, who will be playing John.

“[I’m] a little bit nervous. I reckon there’ll be quite a few people there.”

The Clarke brothers were responsible for 71 reported robberies in the region but lost community support when they ambushed and executed four police officers sent to arrest them in January 1867.

One of the bodies was found with a one pound note pinned to it.

“It’s not celebrating the Clarkes, it’s just bringing the history up and showing everyone what the history of Braidwood was,” Luke said.

“It’s an important part of the policing history of as well,” Tom said.

“To this day it’s still the largest amount of policemen that have been shot.”

The pair live in Reidsdale where Luke trains race horses, while Tom is a welder.

“[John] trained race horses too; it’s in the blood,” Luke said.

Bizarrely, Tom is the same age his ancestor was when the pair were later hung in Sydney.

John said his family weren’t exactly proud of their ancestors, but he couldn’t change the past and didn’t blink when accepting the offer to take part.

“Once upon a time it was pretty well kept after, nowadays people are more involved,” Tom said.

Braidwood Historical Society president Peter Smith was 19 when he was involved in a reenactment 50 years ago

The group was told not to perform it in Braidwood out of fear of offending descendents of the dead.

“It’s a significant event in the history of New South Wales,” Mr Smith said.

“They had the biggest reward for the bushrangers on their head. They were probably responsible for the murder of at least five police. Compared to the Kelly gang they shot more people.”

The production involved 21 actors, with meticulous details down to the officer numbers of the tunics to be worn by the actors playing police.

The community has also been busy working on recreating Berry’s Hut, the hut police surrounded the Clarke’s in April 1867, with a shoot-out ending in the brother’s capture.

The original siege took six hours but Mr Smith said the reenactment would only go for about 45 minutes.

with Elspeth Kernebone

Half Marathon legend does it for a mate

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When Stephen Mifsud completed his 25th Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon, he thought that would be his most important run.
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But, as the 59-year-old prepares for his 26th half marathon, he does so with his good friend and fellow runner Wayne Pryke in mind.

Mr Pryke sadly passed away last year. After completing 25 half marathons, Mr Mifsud was sure he wouldn’t compete again, but, after being asked to do this year’s race in memory of his good friend, Mr Mifsud couldn’t think of a more important reason to take to the track again.

This will mark the Penrith man’s 35th year of running, but it hasn’t come without its hurdles.

He was partially paralysed in 1999 following a meningitis diagnosis. His body fought off the disease after a tough battle, but Mr Mifsud later developed Crohn’s disease. He hasn’t let this stop him from completing the races.

“It was a struggle,” he said.

“In the last 10 or so races, Wayne really helped me. We always seemed to find each other.”

Other than the sight of the finish line, catching up with the rest of the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon legends is something Mr Mifsud looks forward to.

“The legends get together after every half marathon, talk and check our times. It’s like a routine,” he said.

“The atmosphere of the race is fantastic, when you train in the night and day you’re always on your own, so it’s great to run with such a huge group of people.

“It keeps you motivated.”

Mr Mifsud hasn’t always been a runner, but he’s always been physically active.

He started playing rugby league at a young age, but in his early 20s, a tackle gone wrong left him unable to play contact sport ever again.

The Penrith man turned to running as a way to lose weight, and was soon seen competing in the City2Surf.

The half marathon was the next natural distance for Mr Mifsud to tackle.

“It’s a hard run, there are a lot of hills and turns and it’s not always the coolest weather in May,” he said.

“It keeps me fit and healthy.”

When running half a marathon, it’s all about mental toughness to get you through, and Mr Mifsud has it down to a fine art.

He breaks the 21-kilometre run into five-kilometre sections to push him through to the end.

And of course, heavy training is involved with Mr Mifsud running up to 100 kilometres a week to prepare himself physically.

After running all of Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathons and achieving a goal time of 82 minutes, Mr Mifsud is happy to run this year’s race without a specific time in mind.

“Hitting 25 is such a big achievement, there’s no higher to go from there,” he said.

But, he hasn’t completely ruled out running again next year.

“If I’m fit, then yes, I probably will run again.”

Gas tax review confirms nation faces decade wait for revenue

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Multinational gas companies will soon sell an annual $50 billion worth of n liquefied natural gas to foreign markets, but the nation will have to wait more than a decade for any revenue boost and some projects will never pay a cent in tax for the resources they extract.
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A report prepared for the Turnbull government into the petroleum resource rent tax has confirmed fears, first revealed by Fairfax Media in 2015, that revenue from offshore gas will continue to flatline until at least 2027.

Despite that, Treasurer Scott Morrison insisted on Friday that ns were not being shortchanged, but said the government would consider some changes to the system.

The review of the PRRT by former treasury official Mike Callaghan has acknowledged there are systemic problems and recommended changes to toughen the system for new LNG projects.

But, in a clear victory for the $200 billion industry, he shied away from urging any major changes for projects already past the investment stage, including Chevron’s giant Gorgon and Wheatstone ventures and Shell’s Prelude project.

The Callaghan report was released amid the political wrangling over east coast gas supply and on the same day the Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance grilled LNG bosses in Perth.

Chevron chief executive Nigel Hearne outlined for the first time when the combined $80 billion Gorgon and Wheatstone projects would start paying company tax and PRRT, claiming there was an “incorrect perception” in the public that the company would not pay its fair share.

Chevron predicts it will start paying the petroleum resource rent tax some time between 2029 and 2035, he said, and would eventually contribute between $60 billion and $140 billion over a 50-year project lifespan.

The company – which has paid no company tax for five of the past seven years – would become a top-five taxpayer by the middle of the next decade, he said

“Don’t judge us by the first few years of the boom; judge us by the life cycle of the project,” he said.

Mr Callaghan’s report – which recommends the Treasury take months to engage in a “considered, comprehensive and consultative process” over changes – has provided Treasurer Scott Morrison the political cover to retreat from prior signals the government would present a PRRT fix in the May budget.

When he announced the Callaghan review in November, Mr Morrison said of the PRRT “we think it is a problem”, and set the time frame to allow for budget measures.

But on Friday he said any changes would be considered “outside the current budget”.

“The report finds the decline in PRRT revenue does not, in itself, indicate the n community is being shortchanged in receiving an equitable return from the development of its resources,” Mr Morrison said.

The petroleum industry mounted a fierce lobbying effort against changes to the PRRT.

A month after the review was announced, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s then deputy chief-of-staff, Brad Burke, was hired by Shell, one of the companies that met Mr Callaghan and government ministers.

Former resources minister Ian Macfarlane, who now heads the Queensland Resources Council, met Mr Callaghan, as did Craig Emerson who helped design the PRRT with economist Ross Garnaut for the Hawke Labor government.

The PRRT is based on capturing “super profits”, something that concerns tax transparency campaigners because of the ease with which multinational resource companies can move money between jurisdictions.

Last week, Chevron lost a Federal Court appeal in a profit-shifting case brought against it by the n Tax Office. The court found the company avoided paying $300 million in tax in via steep interest payments on a $2.5 billion inter-company loan made from the low-tax jurisdiction of Delaware in the United States.

In his 180-page report, Mr Callaghan found the PRRT, which had been designed with oil extraction in mind, worked differently for LNG, which requires larger investments and “much longer periods before they become cash positive”.

The “uplift rates” applied to exploration and capital costs – which are carried forward and grow by up to 15 per cent a year – allow companies to write off their investments against positive cash flow when a project starts producing.

The industry holds a stockpile of $238 billion in tax credits, which some academics believe will shield major companies from paying any PRRT for decades.

Mr Callaghan confirmed this, saying: “High uplift rates for deductions, combined with periods of subdued oil prices, may mean that deductions compound over the life of a project such that the project may never pay PRRT.”

Modelling for the review found the sector would pay just $12 billion in PRRT by 2027. In that period, sales to such markets as Japan, South Korea and China could conservatively top $400 billion.

But Mr Callaghan found much more PRRT would be paid between 2027 and 2050, up to $105 billion in total, or $3.2 billion a year.

By comparison, Qatar, which is currently the world’s biggest LNG exporter, is forecast to take $26.6 billion through its flat, volume-based royalty in 2021, when it will sell the same amount of LNG as .

Mr Callaghan did not recommend implementing a royalty as companies had invested under the PRRT system.

“Any significant increase in the tax on existing petroleum projects may substantially increase perceptions of the fiscal risk associated with investments in and may deter future investment,” he said.

“Fiscal certainty is an important factor influencing a country’s investment attractiveness.”

Mr Callaghan split his recommendations in two, saying Treasury should rein in uplift rates applied to new projects, and the outcome could be “substantial changes to the PRRT regime”.

But for current projects he recommended a list of smaller changes, such as streamlining paperwork with the ATO.

The Tax Justice Network, which has spearheaded research into the PRRT, said the changes would make it easier for companies to claim deductions and transfer credits between projects.

“It appears reducing paperwork for multinational corporations has been prioritised over protecting the n community and our shared interest in these resources,” Tax Justice spokesman Jason Ward said.

“This report and the response from the Treasurer will only increase community concern over the integrity of the PRRT and represents a significant missed opportunity.”

Mr Callaghan is expected to be called to front the Senate inquiry looking at PRRT.

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