Spring outlook tilts towards wetter conditions eventually

Prospects are improving for a wetter-than-average spring for coastal NSW but the shift away from the recent dry spell may not occur until later in the season, the Bureau of Meteorology says.

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The forecast comes as Australia closes out what is likely to be the country’s warmest winter on record for maximum temperatures.

In its latest update to its three-monthly outlook, the bureau said a strip of the eastern Australian coast from southern Queensland down to Victoria now had odds favouring better spring rains than usual.

The season, though, is likely to continue the trend of above-average temperatures for both day and night for much of south-eastern Australia and the northern third of the country, the bureau said.

“We’re expecting Sydney’s conditions to stay relatively dry for the first few weeks of September,” Andrew Watkins, manager of climate prediction services at the bureau, said.

“Certainly October is the period when we start to see the odds swing around” to wetter weather, he said.

Sydney’s near-term outlook points to the dry spell continuing, with rain only a 5 per cent chance for each day until next Thursday.

Sunday looks to be the pick of the week for those looking to wave winter goodbye, with 28 degrees forecast for the city and similar warmth in the west.

The absence of cloud cover means nights will remain on the cool side. Those preparing for Saturday morning outdoors can expect the mercury to start from a low of 7 degrees before topping out at 22 degrees on a sunny day.

A cold front moving through late on Sunday will knock daytime temperatures back down below average levels by early next week before they start to climb again by the following weekend,” Tom Gough, a Weatherzone meteorologist, said. Fire season watch

Winter was one of Australia’s driest on record, particularly in northern and eastern NSW.

That prompted the Rural Fire Service last week to bring forward the fire season in nine areas in the state, including Bathurst, Lithgow and the Blue Mountains, to September 1.

The bureau’s outlook for September rainfall alone (see chart below) points to a modest shift towards wetter-than-average conditions for a narrow band around Sydney.

The agency rates its model accuracy for spring rainfall predictions as “moderate”.

The bureau said that with the El Nino conditions in the Pacific neutral, the influence driving a tilt towards a wetter spell for much of the country is warmer-than-usual waters in the central Indian Ocean.

“With the circulation patterns expected, [and] high pressure favoured to the south of Australia, we will see a greater easterly flow across southern Australia,” Mr Gough said. “With these onshore winds in this pattern this would favour increased rainfall on the east coast, and drier in the west.”

This pattern will have a clearer impact for spring as a whole, as shown by the bureau’s rainfall projection chart below: Warm outlook

If fire authorities were hoping for cooler-than-usual conditions during spring to slow down the loss of fuel moisture, the seasonal outlook doesn’t offer much encouragement.

According to the bureau, the odds clearly favour above-average daytime temperatures for south-eastern and northern Australia.

This outlook is particularly true in September, especially for the eastern third of the continent and Tasmania. (See chart below of the chance maximum temperatures will be above average for the month.)

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Could Future Fund manage your retirement savings too?

Future Fund chairman Peter Costello has hinted the sovereign wealth fund could possibly start managing money on behalf of superannuation funds.

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While ruling out managing retirement savings directly, Mr Costello said that if a super fund wanted the Future Fund to manage some of its money, that could be possible.

However, he said that the money would have to be managed separately as the Future Fund is “legally a sovereign fund and, therefore, we cannot mix private monies into it”.

Mr Costello made the comments while announcing the Future Fund produced a 8.7 per cent return for the year to June 30, 2017.

For the past 10 years, which is almost the life of the fund, it is has produced an average annual compound return of 7.9 per cent.

Over the same period, balanced investment options – the options that most workers have their super with – returned less than 6 per cent.

“The Future Fund continues to perform well and has exceeded its benchmark return objective,” Mr Costello said.

“Investment returns have added over $73 billion to the original contributions from government of $60.5 billion,” the former federal treasurer and current chairman of Nine Entertainment, said.

The government recently lowered the fund’s return objective to inflation plus 4 percentage points, a reduction of half-a-point, to reflect low interest rates around the world.

It has also said that it will not withdraw money from the fund for the next 10 years.

Ian Silk, the chief executive of AustralianSuper, said the Future Fund has strong investment performance, but managing money on behalf of a client, like a super fund, is different to managing a sovereign wealth fund.

The Future Fund can invest in the knowledge that there will be no withdrawals from the fund for at least the next decade, he said.

Because of the very long investment time-frame, the Future Fund can afford a bit more risk in its portfolio, which can produce higher returns.

Super funds have to invest in way that provides liquidity to be able to pay members withdrawals.

Mr Costello said that would allow the fund to be able to pay all of the unfunded liabilities of federal public servants. He added that the fund would still likely have assets for the remainder of this century.

“I would be very confident that if there is no drawdown before 2026 the assets of the Future Fund would be sufficient to meet any unfunded liabilities for the century,” he said.

The fund’s chief executive, David Neal, said the fund’s asset allocation had changed little over the year.

The fund has maintained a cash level of about 20 per cent and the fund can quickly take advantage of any investment opportunities that arise, Mr Neal said.

On the outlook, Mr Neal said economies around the world were doing alright, but that “it’s more the structural backdrop that concerns us”.

“The high debt levels that existed during the financial crises have not moderated, and central banks have taken on a lot of that debt,” he said.

“But at some point it [debt] still needs to paid off, and the concern is that many economies are rather hooked on low [interest] rates.”

Mr Neal is concerned that interest rates, when they do rise around the world, could have a dampening effect on asset prices.

He said that asset prices were also reliant on those low rates.

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MudgeCorp in 7th heaven

Steve Mudge, MudgeCorp managing director SEVENTH HEAVEN: MudgeCorp specialises in luxury and bespoke buildings that consistently deliver outstanding, high-quality results

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“A big thank you also goes out to the clients, design teams and dedicated suppliers and subcontractors that worked tirelessly with us. Together, we made each dream a reality.”

While honoured to receive the awards, Mr Mudge admits he has a different focus.

EXCELLENCE: Steve Mudge (MudgeCorp MD), left, and Tobias Drengenberg (MudgeCorp project manager), with Leeanne Farmer (MBA Insurance Services).

“It’s our people, our clients and our commercial relationships that are always at the forefront of what we do,” he said.

“At MudgeCorp we look at excellence as a habit, and not one act.

“We are inspired and motivated by the clients that come to us with an idea, and we use this inspiration from concept to completion with communication, honesty, integrity and shared knowledge. This, to us, is excellence.

Mr Mudge said theyhave the tools (no pun intended), the vision, the values and the expertise.

“We have the team that takes such pride in their work; who stop, reflect on their creations and critique themselves extensively.

“They support one another, and most importantly, they listen. This, to us, is excellence.

Mr Mudge cited a testimonial from a client last month that was really ‘on the mark’ about his company and epitomised why their clients come to MudgeCorp.

“It said, ‘…we have been impressed with the work ethic of Angus, Jake and Matt, and their ability to add suggestions, which has ultimately led to a higher-quality finish’,” Mr Mudge said. “This, to our clients, is excellence.

“Receiving recognition through awards is an honour that we are very proud of, but testimonials like this is recognition like no other. Our clients don’t want us to just build a luxury house, they want us to deliver their dream. They want collaboration, passion and a genuine project team. They want excellence, and that’s where we come in.”

John and Elizabeth Ure recreate wedding photos at Merewether house

Romantic couple recreates wedding photos at Merewether 30 years later True Love: John and Elizabeth Ure recreated their wedding photos at Merewether.

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John and Elizabeth Ure.

John and Elizabeth Ure.

TweetFacebook John and Elizabeth Ure. +9MORE GALLERIES

facebookSHAREtwitterTWEETemailwhatsappWhen John and Elizabeth Ure married 30 years ago, they had wedding photos taken at one of Merewether’s most iconic houses.

Herald reporter Renee Valentine reported last Saturday that this house –at81Patrick Street – was on the market for the first time in its 130-year existence.

The memories came flooding back for John and Elizabeth.

They returned to the house and recreated their wedding shots.

“Looking at the photographs, some keen-eyed observers might detect that our appearances have changed in the intervening 30 years,” John, of Mount Hutton, said.

“However we choose to believe that we have not changed one iota, at least in each other’s eyes.”

The couple were married at Scots Kirk, a church at Hamilton, on November 21, 1987.

“Elizabeth was brought up in Merewether and I’m an Adamstown boy, however we were both living in Sydney when we started courting,” John said.

Topics loves that John said courting.

Austen-maniaSpeaking of romance, an event will be held in Newcastle on Saturdayabout Jane Austen.

Jane Austen.

Austenis the Queen of epic romance novels.

Pride and Prejudice has long been considered the bestselling novel of all time. It’s neverbeen out of print.

Austen-mania has been growing in recent years, coinciding with the 200th anniversary of the author’s death in July.

That’ll continue at Harbourview Function Centre inNewcastle, with a conference titled “Jane Austen on Stage and Screen”.

We asked the Jane AustenSociety’sHunter Chapter to explain what all the fuss was about.

Keira Knightley in the film Pride and Prejudice.

Leanne Garvey: “Jane Austen novels are about the indoor life of women. Everyone can relate to annoying younger sisters, hysterical mothers and vain relatives. Throw in a bit of romance, what more could you want?”

Cerilea Baker: “Austen-mania has grown from a reaction against the coarseness and vulgarity of modern romantic dramas and the frequent dramatisations. Jane Austen presents us with a formal social code, heroines who are engagingly unconventional and who, with spirit and humour, triumph over disadvantage and deceit and find their hero”.

Kerrie Lamrock: “In this day and age, people are still reading books and there is a timeless charm about Jane Austen’s writing.It takes us away from our age of rushed text messages and back to a time when language was elegant and crafted.Her books are a joy to read over and over”.

Leanne Garvey:“Her novels capture what was happening in society during her lifetime and endure because they are so well written”.

Cerilea Baker: “Jane Austen is loved for the humour, irony, the entrancing bad-boy villains, the sparkling strong-minded womenand the plots. In addition you can read the books, hear the CDs, go to the plays and watch the films. There are universal themes of love, the power of money and influence, with insight and drama thrown in”.

Leanne Garvey:“Jane Austen sells. You can walk into a newsagency, a bookstore and even a post office and you will find merchandise that claims some relationship to Jane – socks, stationary, cups with quotes and even Jane Austen toothpaste”.

Austen FashionLeanne is right. Jane Austen is everywhere. Fashion brand Laura Ashley just launched its new spring collection, which was inspired by –you guessed it –Jane Austen.

Laura Ashley clothing inspired by Jane Austen.

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Marcos family vows to return loot to Philippines

Bangkok: By the time Ferdinand Marcos fled a popular uprising on the streets of Manila, he had amassed a fortune estimated at $US13.5billion ($17billion).

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His annual salary during 21 years as president of the Philippines never rose above $US13,500.

Now, 31 years, later Marcos’ heirs have offered to return some of the wealth they claimed never existed.

“They [the Marcos family] told me they’ll open everything and probably return what is uncovered,” incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte told reporters, after being approached by an unnamed Marcos family member.

“They are ready to bring it back???including a few gold bars,” he said.

But Duterte, a political ally of the late president’s son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos jnr, said the amount offered was not “Fort Knox”, referring to the vault that stores United States gold reserves.

Duterte attempted to justify one of the largest plunderings of state coffers in modern times, claiming that Marcos, who died in Honolulu in 1989, had kept the wealth because he was just protecting it for the economy.

Marcos family members have enjoyed a remarkable political comeback in recent years and are grooming Bongbong to become the next president.

After running for the vice-presidency last year, Bongbong is challenging the vote in court in a fight that could install him in the country’s second-highest office.

When the late Ferdinand Marcos and his family fled the country in 1986, the 1220 pairs of shoes his wife Imelda left behind became a symbol of kleptocracy??? in a nation where many still walked around barefoot in abject poverty.

Over the decades, the shoes, stored in a museum, were damaged by termites, storms and neglect, as staff appointed to a Presidential Commission on Good Government initiated legal action across the world to track down the Marcos fortune.

They recovered $US4.4billion from Swiss bank accounts, shares, real estate, paintings and jewellery, including three of the world’s top jewel collections that included “diamond studded tiaras, necklaces, brooches, earrings, belts and other gems”.

But powerful Philippine politicians are now demanding the return of the remaining billions.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel, a staunch Duterte ally, said it isn’t enough that the Marcos family only return part of their ill-gotten wealth.

“Everything that was stolen should be returned???it’s not like we will be satisfied just with crumbs,” he said.

Senator Francis Pangilinan said the intentions of the Marcos family should not be taken at face value.

“Aside from returning the ill-gotten wealth the Marcoses should also apologise for atrocities committed during martial law,” he said.

But BongBong denies his parents ever committed any crime. He seems assured of Duterte’s backing in his bid for the presidency at the next elections.

Despite ordering a war on drugs that has left more than 12,000 mostly poor Filipinos dead, Duterte’s popularity remains high among the country’s 100 million citizens.

Duterte stunned his nation in November when he allowed the late president’s body to be buried in the national Heroes’ Cemetery. Critics said Marcos should have been denied such an honour.

The Marcos family has again become one of the Philippines’ most powerful political clans.

Imelda, now 88, has been a congresswoman since 1995. Attempting to justify her extravagant lifestyle, she has often claimed her late husband’s fortune came from a recovered treasure hidden by a Japanese general during World War II.

The oldest Marcos daughter, Imee, is Governor of northern Illocs Norte, the family’s stronghold.

After winning office in a landslide last year Duterte thanked the Marcos family for their financial support during his campaign.

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