Monthly Archives: July 2019

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The Syndicate (season premiere)

Cautionary tale: The Syndicate.Saturday, BBC UKTV, 8.30pm

This BBC drama series falls firmly into the category of ”be careful what you wish for”, as it traces the impact on a handful of workmates of a multimillion-pound lottery win.

The first season featured supermarket workers in Leeds, while this second one follows the fortunes of co-workers at a public hospital in Yorkshire.

Created and written by Kay Mellor, each of the six episodes focuses on one of the characters and none of them could be classed as comfortable middle-class medico. The first and last episodes revolve around careworn nurse Mandy (Siobhan Finneran), wife of the abusive Steve (Steven Waddington), mother of trainee nurse Becky (Natalie Gavin) and grandmother of Becky’s young daughter. In between her bookending episodes are chapters about bubbly Becky, nurse Tom (Jimi Mistry), lively auxiliary nurse Rose (Alison Steadman) and Alan (Mark Addy), who transports patients around the hospital. Scowling on the periphery is Helen (Sally Rogers), who started the syndicate but left before it hit the jackpot and believes that she’s entitled to a share of the winnings.

Mellor has a history of developing engaging dramas about groups of characters, often with a focus on women: Fat Friends, about a slimming club; Band of Gold, about prostitutes working the same street; The Chase, about female vets. Here, she introduces the central characters and provides enough information about each of them to keep the plot cooking. Mandy, in particular, makes the heart ache.

Like all the characters, she is looking for a little luck in her life and is hoping that this windfall will alleviate some of the more pressing problems. We’ll have to wait and see, but the opener certainly suggests that it’s worth staying tuned.

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Krygios gets good injury news

Nick Kyrgios has had positive news about his injured shoulder and could play in the International Sydney qualifiers on Saturday.

The emerging Canberra tennis star was forced to withdraw from the first round of this week’s Brisbane International, where he was drawn to play fellow Australian Matthew Ebden after getting a wildcard into the main draw.

There were fears his summer was over before it began.

It left Kyrgios shattered as he hoped to make a big impression in his first Australian summer on the senior tour.

But he received good news from the doctor in Melbourne on Tuesday afternoon.

Coach Simon Rea said there was ”potentially some bursitis” (an inflammation of a fluid sac in the joint) but there was no need for surgery at this stage.

It is hoped resting the shoulder will have Kyrgios right to play by the weekend.

Rea said it was too early to say whether Kyrgios would get a wildcard into the Australian Open, starting in Melbourne on January 13. The only focus was getting fit for Sydney.

”We saw our chief doctor Tim Wood and that was helpful,” Rea said on Wednesday.

”The shoulder’s in good nick structurally, which is the main thing and we’ve just got to see what plays out over the next few days.

”Potentially [there’s] some bursitis. If Nick’s right to play in Sydney that would be great, we’ll head to Sydney tomorrow night.

”And if he’s not right for Sydney we’ll aim for the Australian Open. If he’s not right there we’ll aim for something later.

”The main thing is his long-term wellbeing and what’s in his best long-term interest. The doc’s report was encouraging.”

Kyrgios had a breakout 2013 and was hoping this year he would continue his climb up the rankings.

The world No.182 beat Radek Stepanek in his French Open debut, played Davis Cup for the first time and qualified for the US Open.

But an elbow injury ended his 2013 prematurely and just when he was right to return to playing his shoulder pulled up sore.

”He was heartbroken about not being to play, he really had his heart set on playing in Brisbane and was really grateful for the opportunity and had put in a lot of hard work over the pre-season to get ready,” Rea said.

”He seems in better spirits now … he’ll bounce back just fine.”

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PM Tony Abbott under fire over looming health bill surge

Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo: Andrew MearesAustralian politics: full coverageCoalition set to break jobs pledgeComment: Jobs key to disability pension reform

Decisions made by Tony Abbott when he was health minister will soon cause a blowout in healthcare costs, dwarfing potential savings from a $6 fee for GP visits, a health workforce expert says.

As health minister in the Howard government, Mr Abbott oversaw a massive expansion of new medical schools, leading to an oversupply of graduating doctors, said Peter Brooks, former director of the Australian Health Workforce Institute and now a professorial fellow at the University of Melbourne.

Australia is expected to have 2811 superfluous doctors by 2025, according to projections in a 2012 report by the government body Health Workforce Australia. The figure assumes a modest 5 per cent increase in productivity in the healthcare system.

Professor Brooks said health lobby groups often say Australia will be short 2700 doctors by 2025, but the figure was misleading because it assumed no productivity gains would be made.

The boom in medical graduates would lead to a blowout in costs, with doctors already giving patients too many unnecessary procedures so they could earn a good living in Australia’s fee-for-service system, Professor Brooks said.

At least $20 billion of ”low-value” medical procedures were being done every year.

Professor Brooks said if Mr Abbott wanted a ”sustainable” healthcare system he should fix these multibillion-dollar structural healthcare problems rather than ”fiddling” with fees for GP visits.

The Medicare controversy began at the weekend with reports of a submission to the government’s Commission of Audit by Mr Abbott’s former health adviser, Terry Barnes. Mr Barnes said the government would save $750 million over four years by forcing bulk-billing patients to pay $6 to visit their GP for the first 12 visits a year.

A spokeswoman for Mr Abbott said the Coalition ”won’t be commenting on speculation around what the Commission of Audit may or may not recommend”.

”Labor spent a lot of money on creating huge health bureaucracies,” she said. ”The Coalition government is committed to directing more of that money back to delivering and improving front-line services for patients.”

Professor Brooks said debate over the $6 fee was obscuring a more important debate over healthcare costs.

Australian governments had become ”doctor obsessed”, ignoring evidence that many tasks performed by doctors could be given to other professionals such as pharmacists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

The healthcare system is plagued by waste, according to the CareTrack study published in 2012, with patients getting appropriate care in only 57 per cent of visits to doctors.

Another study published in 2012, led by Adam Elshaug from the Menzies Centre for Health Policy, identified 156 ”low-value” medical services. Questionable, expensive procedures cited included arthroscopic surgery for knee osteoarthritis, prostatectomy for early-stage prostate cancer, upper airway surgery for sleep apnoea and acupuncture for depression.

In recent years federal governments have allowed new medical schools to open at Deakin University in Victoria, Bond, James Cook and Griffith universities in Queensland, Notre Dame in Western Australia and NSW, and New England, Western Sydney and Wollongong universities in NSW.

Health Workforce Australia reports that in 2003, 1889 students began medical degrees. By 2012 there were 3686 students beginning medicine studies.

The medical education peak body, Medical Deans Australia, says medical graduates more than doubled between 1996 and 2012, excluding international students.

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Fourteen of the best films to keep an eye out for in 2014

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as corporate hustler Jordan Belfort in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Blue is the Warmest Colour

Movie session timesFull movies coverage

It’s true: a fourth Transformers, a third Expendables and a second 21 Jump Street are heading for cinemas this year, plus what must be an 11th Spider-Man and possibly a 17th X-Men. But not everything will be a Hollywood sequel or a popcorn movie. Here are 14 movies to catch in 2014, including some likely best picture nominees for the Oscars.Her

Director: Spike JonzeStars: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara.

The buzz has been exceptional for a futuristic tale about a professional letter writer who falls for his computer operating system, voiced by Johansson.

Prediction: Scarlett Johansson will be offered millions to voice satnavs, mobile phones and bedside digital clocks.

Out: January 16

Inside Llewyn Davis

Directors: Ethan and Joel CoenStars: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake.

A struggling singer-songwriter tries to get a break in the New York folk scene in the 1960s.

Prediction: Someone, somewhere is planning a biopic of Marcus Mumford from Mumford & Sons.

Out: January 16

The Monuments Men

Director: George ClooneyStars: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman.

During World War II, an unlikely team of museum directors, curators and art historians heads into Nazi Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces.

Prediction: Will do for museum curators what Indiana Jones did for archaeologists.

Out: March 13

The Wolf of Wall Street

Director: Martin ScorseseStars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey.

Scorsese and DiCaprio team up again for the rousing story of Jordan Belfort, who became one of America’s great corporate hustlers in the ’90s.

Prediction: While it might be meant as a cautionary tale, many in the finance sector will see it as a training video.

Out: January 23

12 Years A Slave

Director: Steve McQueenStars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch.

An emotional drama based on the autobiography of Solomon Northup, who was hijacked into slavery from Washington to the Deep South in 1841.

Prediction: Might well jag best picture at the Oscars and at least nominations for Ejiofor, who plays Northup, and Nyong’o, who plays a slave named Patsey.

Out: January 30

Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom

Director: Justin ChadwickStars: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris

The timing could hardly be better for a bio-pic of the great South African freedom fighter who became his country’s inspirational president.

Prediction: Screenings for the deaf will not be using the sign language expert from Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.

Out: February 6

Blue is the Warmest Colour

Director: Abdellatif KechicheStars: Adele Exarchopoulos, Lea Seydoux.

A teenage girl meets a blue-haired lesbian in a French film that won the top prize at Cannes and famously features a graphic seven-minute sex scene.

Prediction: While his sister might see it, the Prime Minister is unlikely to take the family.

Out: February 13

Wolf Creek 2

Director: Greg McleanStars: John Jarratt, Ryan Corr, Shannon Ashlyn.

Nine years after Wolf Creek became a cult hit, Mick Taylor is back terrorising tourists in the outback.

Prediction: A singalong to Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport in the film will not revive Rolf Harris’ career.

Out: February 20


Director: John CurranStars: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver.

Adaptation of Robyn Davidson’s famous book about her epic trek through the outback with camels in the 1970s.

Prediction: Taking a cue from the dancing Spanish horses of El Caballo Blanco, watch for the launch of El Camello Blanco.

Out: March 6


Director: Darren AronofskyStars: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins

In a year when Hollywood aims to cash in on biblical movies, Noah builds an ark to protect his family from a coming flood.

Prediction: Bunnings will do a roaring trade in DIY ark kits.

Out: March 27

The Rover

Director: David MichodStars: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson and Scoot McNairy.

After impressing the world with Animal Kingdom, Michod’s follow-up is a futuristic drama about a loner who tracks a criminal gang in the outback.

Prediction: Twilight fans who go will spend the entire movie wondering if RPatz is still with KStew.

Out: July 31

Untitled Lance Armstrong Movie

Director: Stephen FrearsStars: Ben Foster, Chris O’Dowd, Dustin Hoffman, Guillaume Canet

The rise and fall of the champion cyclist, drawing on David Walsh’s book Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit Of Lance Armstrong.

Prediction: Will do nothing for sales of Armstrong’s books.

Out: Possibly October

The Hobbit: There and Back Again

Director: Peter JacksonStars: Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen

The final instalment of the Hobbit trilogy.

Prediction: It will the biggest Boxing Day in Australian cinema history as fans flock to see how the story ends.

Out: December 26


Director: Angelina JolieStars: Jack O’Connell, Garrett Hedlund, Jai Courtney.

The story of Italian-American Olympic distance track star Louis Zamperini who became a hero during World War II.

Prediction: Will be popular in Sydney, which co-stars as ”background”.

Out: December 26

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Tour Down Under cycling: Drapac’s Tom Palmer gives GreenEDGE a warning

Drapac-Skoda cyclist Tom Palmer. Photo: Jeffrey ChanHe’s a little known rookie preparing for his first pro event, but Canberra’s Tom Palmer refuses to be intimidated by the prospect of racing European big names Thomas Voeckler and Andre Greipel at this month’s Tour Down Under.

Palmer is part of the Australian-based Drapac-Skoda team, which has moved up to Pro-Continental level for the first time.

He declared reputations will count for little as the team looks to rival Australian powerhouse Orica-GreenEDGE.

Palmer is the team’s longest-serving rider, having joined it seven years ago while still at school, but at 23 is also its youngest.

”You need to step on the gas straight away,” he said.

”If you let yourself be intimidated by those bigger teams you’re going to run into trouble.

”If you look back at the history of the race it doesn’t necessarily favour the big names and famous guys from Europe. I think we’re in with a really good chance.”

The all-Australian team, headed by world tour veteran Jonathan Cantwell, will finish its preparations at next week’s national road championships at Ballarat.

”We’re not going to sit back and think we’re the underdogs and we’re happy to come second, we’re going to be up there trying to prove ourselves,” Palmer said.

”It looks to be a team which isn’t hedging its bets on stage wins or breakaways, it looks like a team which wants to be able to go for everything.”

Palmer raced for a composite team in 2012. Usually in the thick of sprint finishes, Palmer will be the lead-out rider for Cantwell. He believes this role suits his style.

”That’s definitely my role – to look after Jonny and try and lead him out in those sprint finishes,” he said.

”It’s going to be a massive thrill to have someone like him, with that experience and speed. He’s been good for the confidence of the team and is giving everyone the belief we can do it.”

Palmer said Drapac was relishing the Australians’ team mentality. ”At our first camp a lot of the guys who have been with foreign teams before were really happy to be surrounded by Aussies again.”

Fellow Canberra riders Michael Matthews and Mathew Hayman have also been named in GreenEDGE’s seven-rider Tour Down Under team.

Meanwhile, a host of Canberra riders, led by Gracie Elvin and Chloe Hosking, will continue their national road championship preparations at the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic, from Thursday.

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