Time to get fit: a guide to HIIT


Sarah Berry
Published: May 24, 2016 – 11:22PM

HIIT is hot right now, at least that’s where exercise science is at.

It’s not hard to see why scientists – and people interested in fitness – are excited.

HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is as fast as it is famous right now and it’s been getting faster.

There’s the 45 minute work-out, popularised by F45, 30-minute classes, then, more recently, HIIT has accelerated into the seven-minute workout, the four-minute Tabata-based workout, the impossibly athletic 30-second workout and the recently researched one-minute workout.

The idea for all of them is the same: all the benefits of exercise are condensed in one extremely fell swoop.

“My whole philosophy on HIIT is you’re giving your body a good blast,” says Professor John Hawley, director, Centre for Exercise and Nutrition, Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research, Australian Catholic University.

Does it matter which version or length of time you do?

Emmanuelle Statamakis, Associate Professor of exercise, health and physical activity sport sciences at the University of Sydney, says that, presently, the research is not there to say one form is better than another.

“I do not think that anyone can make any assertions about comparisons of all these different HIIT regimes that have been published or publicised,” Statamakis says.

“In the absence of a study comparing the HIIT regimes … I would speculate that regimes like the 10-20-30 or the seven-minute ones will produce better results in the long term because they combine aerobic and anaerobic processes and higher total energy expenditure than the one-minute regime.”

Hawley adds that shorter intervals can be easier to cope with psychologically.

“If you do 30 seconds or four minutes, it’s probably not going to make a huge difference,” Hawley says. “I can’t tell you that x is better than y, any stimulation is better than none. It depends what the individual likes to do.”

Whatever will get you moving is what will be the better workout.

“They all seem to work well to some extent and it is all down to factors like people’s time availability and individual preferences,” says Statamakis, adding that his concern is that it may be a struggle for sedentary people to go the distance with HIIT.

“Unfortunately the health benefits of exercise are transient and unless we come up with strategies to make exercise attractive/desirable for the masses of sedentary people and maximise the adherence to it there will be very little (if any) public health benefit,” Statamakis says. “We should be mindful that this kind of training (HIIT) appeals mostly to relatively young individuals who are perhaps already active and fit.

“As it stands, very-high-intensity exertion will be too unpleasant and will not appeal to the large majority of sedentary middle-aged and older individuals who are most in need for lifestyle improvements because they are at imminent risk of developing chronic disease and even dying prematurely.”

He points out that about 50 per cent of Australian adults do not meet the guidelines of 2.5 hours of brisk walking a week and nine out of 10 do not meet the twice-weekly strength-training guideline.

How to address this shortfall is a challenge many in the industry are attempting, particularly those researching HIIT, which is attractive given so many people (rightly or wrongly) claim that time constraints prevent them from meeting the guidelines.

Hawley points out that HIIT does not have to involve sprinting or working out like a maniac and still get the “afterburn” effect where the metabolic rate after exercise remains elevated.

“Walking briskly up a hill – that’s HIT for 90 per cent of the population,” he says, reminding that we can start slow(er) and build up – even with HIIT.

“I would even say in case of those who are overweight and obese, just walk up the stairs – that’s enough to get most people out of breath.

“You just need to break inactivity patterns.”

How long have you got?


One study found that short-term interval training using a 10-minute session involving one minute of hard exercise, three times per week, stimulated physiological changes linked to improved health in overweight adults

HOW TO DO IT: 2 min warm-up, 3×20 s all-out cycling efforts against a load corresponding to 0.05 kg/kg body mass, separated by 2 min of low-intensity cycling and 3 minute cool-down.


The seven-minute set of 12 exercises, designed to work the entire body. “The exercise order allows for a total body exercise to significantly increase the heart rate while the lower, upper, and core exercises function to maintain the increased heart rate while developing strength,” the workout’s creators said.

The set, which they suggest repeating two to three times, is possible to be performed anywhere, without special equipment.

HOW TO DO IT: Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, working at about 80 per cent capacity and with 10-second breaks between each exercise, for a total of seven minutes. The exercises? Star jumps; wall sits (back against the wall with the knees bent at a 90-degree angle); push-ups; abdominal crunches; chair step-ups; squats; tricep dips; plank; running high-knees; push-up rotations and side plank.


One study from 2013 found that those who exercise to 90 per cent capacity (you should be able to say single words but be too puffed for sentences), for four-minute bursts, three times a week improved endurance, metabolic and cardiovascular health.

HOW TO DO IT: You can cycle, run or do stairs hard-out for four-minutes. The full program is to repeat this four times with three minutes of slow walking between, then a short cool-down.


New research shows that in just one minute we can lower blood pressure and power-up energy cells.

HOW TO DO IT: The trick for gaining the benefits is to go hell-for-leather for that minute. Again, it doesn’t really matter what form of hell-for-leather you do, but Hawley says the biggest bang for buck will be when people can use largest muscle mass (i.e. upper and lower body) at the same time.

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/time-to-get-fit-a-guide-to-hiit-20160518-goxmgm.html





‘Earth-shattering’ study reveals the best exercise for anti-ageing


Sarah Berry
Published: March 28, 2017 – 12:31PM

The secret to keeping your body youthful may be found in the way you move.

A new study has found that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can essentially stop cellular ageing in its tracks and, in some cases, rejuvenate the cells that repair damage in the body.

For the study, researchers from the Mayo Clinic took 36 men and 36 women split into younger (aged between 18 and 30) and older (aged between 65 and 80) age groups.

The participants were then assigned a three-month program of HIIT, strength training or a combination of the two.

They already knew that both HIIT and strength training provided enormous health benefits to our bodies, they just didn’t know exactly how or why, or which was better.

So, to understand the way exercise effects us at a molecular level, the researchers then took biopsies from the participants’ thigh muscles and compared them with samples from sedentary volunteers.

The strength-training group predictably saw the greatest improvements in muscle mass, but the findings that have been described as “earth shattering” were at a cellular level in the HIIT group.

Mitochondria are the “powerhouses” of our cells, responsible for creating more than 90 per cent of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support organ function. Their function typically declines with age.

However, in the HIIT group, the mitochondrial functioning improved by 69 per cent among the older participants, and by 49 per cent among the younger group.

As well as improving their insulin levels, heart and lung health, some in the high-intensity biking group also saw a reversal of the age-related decline in mitochondrial function and proteins needed for building muscle.

The research provided an explanation for the many health benefits of exercise said the lead senior author, Sreekumaran Nair.

“Based on everything we know, there’s no substitute for these exercise programs when it comes to delaying the ageing process,” says Nair, of the study published in the journal Cell. “These things we are seeing cannot be done by any medicine.”

He adds: “If people have to pick one exercise, I would recommend high-intensity interval training, but I think it would be more beneficial if they could do three to four days of interval training and then a couple days of strength training.”

Emmanuel Stamatakis of the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney says it is a “fascinating piece of research”.

“This not only sheds light on how high-intensity interval exercise works at the cellular level, but [also] on the potential of vigorous exertion in general,” says Stamatakis, who was not involved with the research.

It also shows what is happening beneath the sweat that makes HIIT more beneficial to our bodies than other forms of exercise. Which aspect of HIIT is responsible for such dramatic changes, however, is still an unknown.

“Assuming that the key attribute of HIIT is the vigorous intensity that challenges the human physiology to make rapid adaptations, this research supports well what we saw recently in a large epidemiologic study where even one to two sessions per week of  predominantly sport/exercise of vigorous intensity were associated with substantial all-cause, CVD and cancer mortality benefits,” Stamatakis explains.

“These benefits were comparable with meeting the physical activity recommendations by doing regular physical activity of mostly moderate intensity.”

Now the question is whether HIIT is right for everyone. Given how few of us manage to meet the recommendations (about 50 per cent of Australian adults do not meet the guidelines of 2.5 hours of brisk walking a week and nine out of 10 do not meet the twice-weekly strength-training guideline), Stamatakis remains unsure.

“There is a big debate as to whether HIIT is the way to go for better population health, but it is certain that it has a time and a place,” he says. “Although not every physically inactive person would be willing or able to join a HITT program, this new piece of research highlights that in addition to  public health messages like ‘move as often as possible, a little is better than nothing’, we need to also add ‘aim to huff and puff sometimes’.”

This might be as simple as taking the stairs whenever you can – both a form of incidental and HIIT exercise.

“For many people, stair climbing will involve bouts of high-intensity activity lasting one or more minutes, and if this is repeated regularly enough in everyday life it could potentially improve fitness and other aspects of cardiovascular and metabolic health quite rapidly,” Stamatakis says.

And of course, it will keep us young.

“There are substantial basic science data to support the idea that exercise is critically important to prevent or delay ageing,” says Nair, who plans to look at the effect of exercise on other tissues in the body. “There’s no substitute for that.”

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/executive-style/fitness/earthshattering-study-reveals-the-best-exercise-for-antiageing-20170328-gv7yx2.html





Australian Wage Fraud on Visa



Pawanjeet Heir’s eyes well up as she retells the story of how she unwittingly became a victim of visa fraud, extortion and indentured servitude.

She is now facing her worst nightmare: deportation, along with her husband and young son, who have given up hope after the system failed them.

She is not alone. Exploiting foreign workers is rampant in Australia, so too is visa fraud. Most are too afraid to speak publicly for fear of deportation.

For Heir the nightmare began in 2013 when she saw a job ad on the Gumtree website for a cook and sponsorship on sub class 457 Visa. The pay seemed fair, $52,500 a year for a three-year contract at an Indian restaurant in the northern suburbs of Adelaide.

The family decided to move from Melbourne to Adelaide because sponsorships aren’t easy to get and her family were desperate for permanent residency.

It took six weeks before things started to unravel, when her boss started to lay down the law.


“He told me I can’t pay you because I sponsor you so you have to work for free,” she said. “He then asked for money and said ‘I will cancel your sponsorship and you will be deported’ if you don’t pay.”

In August 2013 he demanded $30,000 for the visa. “We were very scared so we paid him what he wanted,” she said. “I was working for free.”

For the next two and a half years Heir worked long hours, six days a week for no pay. Months later he started using the so-called cash back scam, which involves the company paying her wages then her husband withdraws a similar amount and gives it back in cash.

She then had to find another $20,000 or face deportation. “He would say: ‘You go to immigration, nothing is going to be happen to me as I am citizen of this country, but they will definitely deport you back to India’.”

One of Heir’s darkest hours was in August 2015 when her appendix burst at work. Doubled over in pain, she wasn’t allowed to go to hospital until she finished her shift. It would be a decision that cost her dearly, with multiple health complications, leaving her hospitalised for weeks. “He would tell me I had to go back to work,” she said.

Extortion, blackmail, cash back scams and slavery are happening every day under our noses. They happen in the most unsuspecting places such as suburban restaurants and nail bars. Most suffer in silence.

He told me I can’t pay you because I sponsor you so you have to work for free.

Pawanjeet Kaur Heir

In some cases unscrupulous employers offer sponsorships to desperate foreign workers in return for payment. In other cases they lure unsuspecting workers into a job with the promise of sponsorship, then they turn on the blackmail dial.

The price of visas can vary from $30,000 to $150,000 depending on the visa, the job on offer and the worker’s nationality. For companies engaging in this illegal practice, the scheme offers big bucks. In Heir’s case it was cash and free labour.

Azrael Yin, a former store manager at Domino’s, said many small businesses sell sponsorships. “I know of one person who is sponsored and work 60 hours a week and gets paid for 40 hours.”

Yin says another franchisee sponsored two foreign workers, charging them tens of thousands of dollars, only to withdraw the offer.

“One of the workers went back to China after the rip-off,” he says.

If workers complain, their sponsorship is likely to be cancelled, inevitably leading to deportation unless a new sponsor can be lined up. Finding a legitimate sponsor isn’t easy and there are no protections for workers who are exploited.

Mark Glazbrook, a migration agent who runs Migrant Solutions, said Pawanjeet Heir’s case was the worst case he had come across in his many years as an agent.

He took on her case in October 2015, along with a number of other staff who had been sponsored by the same company.

Documents show that in September 2015 Australian Border Force had warned the company that it had been monitoring it since May and had a series of concerns, including supplying the department with false and misleading information, workers were being paid in cash and there were no proper records. “Some visa holders have signed cash payment receipts for dates that they were not in Australia,” the letter said.

For Heir, what happened next was devastating. On October 20, 2015, still suffering from health issues, she was told the company she worked for had been banned as a sponsor. The upshot was her visa had been cancelled.

Her husband Raj said the news was like a heart attack for his family. “We could not leave our house for two days after this news, as we were so depressed and confused. My wife cried the whole day inside her room and could not say even a single word. We lost everything in one day, all our hopes to stay in this country and have a good life in the future.”

Raj quit his job. His wife’s illness and the stress of spending so much money on a visa that was now useless became all too much.

They contacted the ATO and the Fair Work Ombudsman to try and reclaim unpaid super and wages, but that came to nothing because the company had collapsed.

They then applied for ministerial intervention, but that also failed.

They are now in a situation where they have no working rights. Penniless, they had to move back to Melbourne to live with their cousins.

Their last hope is the Federal Court, which is due to hear their matter in May, but they aren’t hopeful.

For Glazbrook it is the case that continues to haunt him. He said if the government was serious about stamping out worker exploitation it would introduce protections. In other words, if they dob in their boss for visa fraud, they should be given a temporary working visa.

But it seems nobody cares.

Glazbrook contacted the department in February 2016 requesting a meeting to discuss “substantial abuse and exploitation” of multiple former employees. The response was brief: he was told the department had concluded monitoring the company. They couldn’t comment any further due to privacy concerns.

The Heirs have suffered extortion, blackmail and are staring down the barrel of deportation. The company that did this appears to have gotten off lightly with a three year banning order for sponsoring workers. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection said it was aware of the case but couldn’t comment for privacy reasons.

It is little wonder, so many suffer in silence.





How to recognise a narcissist

Jane Brody
Published: July 22, 2016 – 12:15AM

Does this sound like anyone you know?

  • Highly competitive in virtually all aspects of his life, believing he (or she) possesses special qualities and abilities that others lack; portrays himself as a winner and all others as losers.
  • Displays a grandiose sense of self, violating social norms, throwing tantrums, even breaking laws with minimal consequences; generally behaves as if entitled to do whatever he wants regardless of how it affects others.
  • Shames or humiliates those who disagree with him, and goes on the attack when hurt or frustrated, often exploding with rage.
  • Arrogant, vain and haughty and exaggerates his accomplishments; bullies others to get his own way.
  • Lies or distorts the truth for personal gain, blames others or makes excuses for his mistakes, ignores or rewrites facts that challenge his self-image, and won’t listen to arguments based on truth.

These are common characteristics of extreme narcissists as described by Joseph Burgo, a clinical psychologist, in his book “The Narcissist You Know.” While we now live in a culture that some would call narcissistic, with millions of people constantly taking selfies, spewing out tweets and posting everything they do on YouTube and Facebook, the extreme narcissists Burgo describes are a breed unto themselves. They may be highly successful in their chosen fields but extremely difficult to live with and work with.

Of course, nearly all of us possess one or more narcissistic traits without crossing the line of a diagnosable disorder. And it is certainly not narcissistic to have a strong sense of self-confidence based on one’s abilities.

“Narcissism exists in many shades and degrees of severity along a continuum,” Burgo said, and for well-known people he cites as extreme narcissists, he resists making an ad hoc diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder, as defined by the American Psychiatric Association.

The association’s diagnostic manual lists a number of characteristics that describe narcissistic personality disorder, among them an impaired ability to recognise or identify with the feelings and needs of others, grandiosity and feelings of entitlement, and excessive attempts to attract attention.

Dr. Giancarlo Dimaggio of the Center for Metacognitive Interpersonal Therapy in Rome wrote in Psychiatric Times that “persons with narcissistic personality disorder are aggressive and boastful, overrate their performance, and blame others for their setbacks.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, people with a narcissistic personality disorder think so highly of themselves that they put themselves on a pedestal and value themselves more than they value others. They may come across as conceited or pretentious. They tend to monopolise conversations, belittle those they consider inferior, insist on having the best of everything and become angry or impatient if they don’t get special treatment.

Underlying their overt behaviour, however, may be “secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation,” Mayo experts wrote. To ward off these feelings when criticised, they “may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person.”

Burgo, who sees clients by Skype from his home in Colorado, noted that many “grandiose narcissists are drawn to politics, professional sports, and the entertainment industry because success in these fields allows them ample opportunity to demonstrate their winner status and to elicit admiration from others, confirming their defensive self-image as a superior being.”

The causes of extreme narcissism are not precisely known. Theories include parenting styles that overemphasise a child’s special abilities and criticise his fears and failures, prompting a need to appear perfect and command constant attention.

Although narcissism has not been traced to one kind of family background, Burgo wrote that “a surprising number of extreme narcissists have experienced some kind of early trauma or loss,” such as parental abandonment. The family lives of several famous narcissists he describes, Lance Armstrong among them, are earmarked by “multiple failed marriages, extreme poverty and an atmosphere of physical and emotional violence.”

As a diagnosable personality disorder, narcissism occurs more often in males than females, often developing in the teenage years or early adulthood and becoming more extreme with age. It occurs in an estimated 0.5 percent of the general population, and 6 per cent of people who have encounters with the law who have mental or emotional disorders. One study from Italy found that narcissistic personality traits were present in as many as 17 percent of first-year medical students.

As bosses and romantic partners, narcissists can be insufferable, demanding perfection, highly critical and quick to rip apart the strongest of egos. Employee turnover in companies run by narcissists and divorce rates in people married to them are high.

“The best defence for employees who choose to stay is to protect the bosses’ egos and avoid challenging them,” Burgo said in an interview. His general advice to those running up against extreme narcissists is to “remain sane and reasonable” rather than engaging them in “battles they’ll always win.”

Despite their braggadocio, extreme narcissists are prone to depression, substance abuse and suicide when unable to fulfil their expectations and proclamations of being the best or the brightest.

The disorder can be treated, though therapy is neither quick nor easy. It can take an insurmountable life crisis for those with the disorder to seek treatment. “They have to hit rock bottom, having ruined all their important relationships with their destructive behavior,” Burgo said. “However, this doesn’t happen very often.”

No drug can reverse a personality disorder. Rather, talk therapy can, over a period of years, help people better understand what underlies their feelings and behaviour, accept their true competence and potential, learn to relate more effectively with other people and, as a result, experience more rewarding relationships.

The New York Times

This story was found at: http://www.dailylife.com.au/life-and-love/work-and-money/how-to-recognise-a-narcissist-20160719-gq8odv.html

Sydney Taxi Industry and Uber

Cabcharge wants cap on new taxi licences scrapped so industry can take on Uber

Matt O’Sullivan
Published: April 28, 2016 – 4:25PM

Taxis would become more commonplace on Sydney’s streets to ensure passengers who book cabs are picked up more quickly, under a controversial proposal by Cabcharge to scrap the cap on plates.

In a call that puts it at odds with the NSW Taxi Council, Cabcharge chief executive Andrew Skelton said the cap on the number of plates meant a “capacity constraint” had been placed on a part of the market to protect licence-plate holders.

“To arbitrarily go, ‘right, no more licences for four more years, you can’t grow’ – I think that’s nuts,” he told Fairfax Media.

“Taxis have to be able to evolve and grow into this massive transport opportunity … not at some contrived pace to protect some licence holders. The taxi industry is not licence holders.”

As part of the legalisation of ride-sharing services such as UberX in December, the Baird government placed a four-year freeze on the release of taxi licences in Sydney to “help the industry adjust”.

Taxi licence holders have watched the value of their investments in plates plunge since reaching a high of about $430,000 in 2012.

The average transfer value of a taxi licence in Sydney has slumped by 41 per cent to $210,000 over the past year, the latest government figures show.

The state has almost 7300 taxi licence plates, about 5700 of which are in Sydney.

NSW Taxi Council chief executive Roy Wakelin-King said the priority should be to let the market settle before the government considered releasing more taxi licences.

“We are all looking for a strong and viable industry … but we just have to make sure we chart a very careful pathway,” he said.

Mr Wakelin-King said the government’s recent decision to put a freeze on taxi licences was sensible because a large number had been released in recent years, resulting in an oversupply of cabs.

However, he said the council was open to changes to the number of taxi licences at some point in the future to ensure the industry did not put itself at a disadvantage to competitors.

In December, the government announced payments of $20,000 to owners of taxi licence plates in perpetuity. The one-off payment has been capped at $40,000 for owners of multiple plates.

The compensation package includes a fund of up to $142 million for taxi licensees who face hardship as a result of the changes, and a buyback scheme for perpetual hire-car licences. It is to be funded by a $1 levy on taxi and ride-sharing operators for five years.

A spokesman for Transport Minister Andrew Constance said there was no evidence that the decision to put a stop to new taxi licences for four years was holding back the industry from reform.

“[It] will help stabilise the market for taxi licences, particularly for mum and dad investors,” he said.

Facing intense competition from ride-sharing operators and a cut to revenue from fees on card payments for taxis, Cabcharge is eager to highlight its focus on customers and the need for more taxis to ensure passengers are picked up promptly once they book cabs.

It is a similar strategy to ride-sharing companies such as Uber and GoCar, which aim for a critical mass of vehicles at any one time.

Mr Skelton said he wanted the removal of the “artificial limit on the taxi industry’s ability to service customers” because it risked losing customers if it did not adapt.

“The less relevant you make taxis, the less value there is in a licence,” he said.

Cabcharge, one of the Taxi Council’s most influential members, still makes the lion’s share of its revenue from the service fees on passengers who pay for taxis with credit or debit cards.

However, the sharemarket-listed company has been hit over the past 18 months by state governments, including NSW, halving the fee it can charge for processing taxi payments to 5 per cent.

The freeze on plates in NSW does not apply to wheelchair-accessible taxi licences.

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/cabcharge-wants-cap-on-new-taxi-licences-scrapped-so-industry-can-take-on-uber-20160428-gogvaf.html

Also see: http://www.smh.com.au/video/video-news/video-national-news/the-workings-of-uberx-20160201-49u69.html

Be thankful you work in Australia

James Adonis
Published: November 27, 2015 – 12:00AM

There’s much that’s troubling about the United States of America. Gun laws, for instance. Obesity, too, although Australia’s not far behind. To the list you can also add unaffordable healthcare and, of course, the Kardashians. But despite America’s flaws, there’s substantially more to love about the nation, especially the heart-warming Thanksgiving holiday celebrated nationally this week.

It’s an annual tradition lasting more than 150 years – double that if you include its inception back in the 1600s when British settlers held a massive feast to thank God for a bountiful harvest. Nowadays, Thanksgiving prompts many Americans to reflect on all that they’re thankful for – a practice I’m going to engage in today in the context of employment in Australia.

I’m thankful, for instance, that I live in a country where unemployment is lower than almost any other place on the planet. Even if you exclude the developing world, we still do better than Canada, France, New Zealand, Britain and the US. And significantly better if you include other Western nations such as Greece and Spain where a quarter of the population still cannot get a job. Joblessness is a brutal experience but I’d rather it happen to me here than almost anywhere else.

And let’s say that, after spending time in the unemployment queue, the best job I could find was one that paid only the minimum wage. I’m really thankful it’d be a minimum wage determined by an Australian commissioner, since ours is more generous than any other in the OECD. We pay nearly 13 per cent more than Ireland, 52 per cent more than the US, and 844 per cent more than Mexico.

While I’m at work, I’m extremely thankful there’s a lower chance of being injured because workplaces here are governed by robust occupational health and safety laws. People working elsewhere aren’t as fortunate. Our rate of workplace accidents is half that of Canada and Portugal, and almost a third of what Spanish employees endure. In terms of fatalities, our rate is 3.2 deaths for every 100,000 workers. In the US it’s 5.2, in Canada it’s 6.4, in Morocco it’s 47.8.

I’m also thankful that my colleagues are more likely to love their work, to feel connected to their employer and to be innovative, all of which are encapsulated by the term “engagement”. Levels of engagement are 50 per cent higher here than in Canada, and 2½ times greater than they are in France, the Netherlands, South Africa and Indonesia. Things get really bad in places like China (we’re 400 per cent more engaged) and Croatia (800 per cent).

I’m thankful, too, that Australia is an incredibly fertile ground for the launch and growth of new businesses. Sydney, for example, ranks 16th on the list of the world’s most start-up-friendly cities. That ranking is determined not only by the performance of start-ups but also by the funding they attract and the talent they employ. In regards to the annual growth in seed funding, we’re second in the world – ahead of London, New York, Tel Aviv, Singapore, Paris and Silicon Valley.

Let’s also take a look at productivity. The measure preferred by the OECD is the amount of GDP generated by every hour we work. Using that model, we’re more productive than Britain and the European Union. In comparison with our friends across the Tasman, our productivity is almost 50 per cent higher.

So, are any of my comments a reason to become complacent? No. And have I cherry-picked only the most favourable statistics to tell a good story? Yep. But, hey, it’s Thanksgiving. Let’s just leave it at that. For now.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Twitter: @jamesadonis. Follow MySmallBusiness on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/small-business/franchising/work-in-progress/be-thankful-you-work-in-australia-20151126-gl8p2m.html

Egalitarian period in postwar USA


Cinderella’s new moral: Be rich or be a pumpkin

Lynn Stuart Parramore
Published: March 28, 2015 – 10:47AM

In the end, Cinderella gets the prince and the palace, and the other women get absolutely nothing. That's the way of tournaments.
Once upon a time, during a brief egalitarian period in postwar America, people of different classes did not live in separate worlds. The promise of mobility and prosperity was alive throughout the land. In 1950, Walt Disney Productions was saved from bankruptcy with its smash hit “Cinderella,” which audiences cheered at a time when the future looked bright and it was still possible for the dream of marrying up to come true.

A new Disney film of “Cinderella” is a big box-office success today, but how different things look! Cinderella marriages are getting to be as rare as golden coaches. Economist Jeremy Greenwood has found that your chances of marrying outside your income bracket have been dropping since the 1950s because of something called assortative mating, which means that we are increasingly drawn to people in similar circumstances.

Since the 1980s, inequality has grown and mobility has stalled. Today, the rich forge their unions in exclusive social clubs, Ivy League colleges and gated communities. Unless you have a fortune or a fairy godmother, you’re probably out of luck. Without that magic, the gates remain closed.

At first glance, Kenneth Branagh’s remake of the classic Disney film seems to offer a sunny romp through the magic kingdom. But a closer look reveals a troubling economic message.

Economists like Thomas Piketty have been warning that if we don’t do something to stop growing income inequality, we may end up back in a 19th-century world, where hard work won’t lift you up the economic ladder because the income you can expect from labor is no match for inherited wealth. This is the world of the new “Cinderella.”

More so than the original Disney film, Branagh’s version highlights what happens when people are forced to compete for illusive rewards in a harsh economy. Families turn on each other, chances to get ahead are few and you’d better hope for a magic wand.

Subtle changes to the story bring the point home. In the original animated version, the father is a gentleman, a widower who remarries and then promptly dies, leaving a jealous stepmother and her mean-girl daughters to torment his beloved only child. But in Branagh’s film, the father is a merchant, and his death deprives the family of his income – leaving them all in straitened circumstances.

The stepmother’s first thought on hearing of her husband’s demise is entirely practical: How shall we survive economically? Her answer: Turn Cinderella into a servant and search for wealthy matches for her two daughters.

The marriage market illustrated in the movie reflects what economists like Robert H. Frank describe as a tournament, a “winner-take-all” game associated with economies where wealth is increasingly concentrated at the top. In these cutthroat markets, only a handful of people can win big, while the rest are left with little.

Cinderella and her stepsisters are locked in a down-and-dirty competition for scarce resources, and they understand how high the stakes are. Luckily for her, Cinderella possesses advantages that her sisters lack: She is beautiful and charming.

She is clever, too. But there’s no notion that her intelligence can be put to any use other than besting her competitors in the marriage tournament. She’s not going to be looking for a job or an education. That’s for suckers. Or peasants.

The importance of being rich is clear when Cinderella goes to the ball – the fairy godmother must make her appear to be a wealthy young lady. You can’t win the prize dressed in rags. The film may give lip service to the values of kindness and courage, but it’s the ability to gain access to luxuries like a bedazzled gown and golden coach that really gets you places.

The privileges of the prince and his fellow one-percenters are simply accepted as an immutable law of the universe. There’s no notion of busting up the system, Katniss Everdeen-style. Best to just accept it and grab the goodies if you can.

In the end, Cinderella gets the prince and the palace, and the other women get absolutely nothing. That’s the way of tournaments.

The postwar America that was demonstrates that extreme inequality does not have to be our reality. Americans can write their own story so that even people without a fortune can lead a secure and dignified life. Things like making the rich pay their share in taxes, allowing unions to organize and increasing fiscal spending on things like infrastructure and jobs would ensure that many more Americans could expect a happy ending.

But Branagh’s “Cinderella” in no way attempts to question, much less abolish, a paradigm of haves and have-nots that leaves us with fewer opportunities. The film teaches little viewers a harsh lesson: If you’re not rich, you may as well be a pumpkin.


This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/business/world-business/cinderellas-new-moral-be-rich-or-be-a-pumpkin-20150328-1m9smw.html





Sexual desire often fades in relationships

Matty Silver
Published: February 17, 2015 – 12:00AM


One of my clients is a 35-year-old man who has been in a relationship with his current girlfriend for about two years now. This is the longest time he has been with a partner – all his other relationships have lasted between only a few months and a year. His initial sexual attraction towards his girlfriends is usually very strong but after a while just disappears.

This time he was convinced he’d found the “right” one. He was very happy because he felt it was time to settle down and was looking forward to starting a family. However, even though he adores his partner, he has again started to lose his sexual feelings for her. He isn’t motivated to have sex with her any more; sex has slowed down to once a fortnight, instead three or four times a week. He doesn’t see himself as sexual or passionate, and he’s worried because his pattern of losing sexual interest means he finds it difficult to sustain physical and emotional connections. Not surprisingly, his partner has started to notice and complain about it.

He also feels he is cheating on her. He has started fantasising about other women and he is now convinced he is unable to love his partner.

My client is not alone. Many men and women experience feelings like this that make them extremely confused. The problem is, they are under the impression that love and lust are the same thing.

In 1979, American psychologist Dorothy Tennov coined the word limerence; this is defined as a period in a relationship known as the falling in love and lust stage. It’s driven by the neurotransmitter phenyl ethylamine (PEA) which, combined with dopamine and norepinephrine, creates pleasingly positive feelings between people.

These so-called love chemicals can prompt euphoria, increased energy and sexual desire. They are responsible for intense passion and the rose-coloured glasses we see our partners through. Limerence feels good, but unfortunately it has a shelf life lasting from about six months to two or three years. Its decline is gradual.

When I explained limerence to my client, he agreed this is exactly how he feels in relationships. But this time he doesn’t want to break up, he loves and is committed to his partner and wonders what he could do to help the situation. Meanwhile, she just doesn’t understand what is happening.

Another client fell madly in love and became engaged within a year. She was excited and spent months planning their fairy-tale wedding. The date was set, the venue chosen and their families and overseas friends had booked airline tickets to attend. But three months before the wedding she got cold feet and realised that she and her future husband had little in common and she wasn’t in love with him any more.

She didn’t know what to do. How could she possibly tell him or explain her feelings to family and friends?

Another client realised that the woman he thought was “the love of his life” wasn’t the one after all, but by then they were expecting a baby!

I hear it all the time: “I love my partner but I am not in love any more … what can I do?”

Most people believe the excitement of those early months and years will last forever, but unfortunately this doesn’t happen that often. We live in a society that projects romantic love as the be-all and end-all on TV, movies, popular magazines and novels.

When the limerence stage fades away, a deeper commitment – an emotional intimacy – is needed.

While the emotion of falling in love is intense, the emotions of falling out of love can be as intense, but the signs may not be that clear.

When love/lust seems to disappear, people usually start spending less time together. They start having fights, arguments or stop talking; they may feel unappreciated, and resentment can build up and they drift apart. It’s easy to understand how people become disappointed and frustrated with each other, and eventually will stop having romantic feelings and having sex.

One reason this happens is a lack of emotional intimacy – it’s extremely important for couples to make a habit of spending time together and connecting again.

There is no easy fix, but when you start noticing the passion disappearing in your relationship it may give you an opportunity to discuss what you are experiencing with your partner and find ways to turn things around.

If you know the signs, you can use them to rework your relationship. In the worst case scenario, you’ll know why you need to walk away from a relationship that may not go the distance.

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/sexual-desire-often-fades-in-relationships-20150216-13fzgh.html

What it’s like to take the abortion pill


One woman’s experience with RU-486.

Woman looking through window at home. sad introspective alone thinking reflective moody depression abortion

My period wasn’t due for another few days, but I knew I was pregnant. The three previous pregnancies that blessed my husband and I with our cherished, healthy children began with the same symptoms: a creeping nausea, bleeding gums when I brushed my teeth, a sudden aversion to my morning cup of tea.

But there was no question of continuing this pregnancy. For personal reasons – health, family, employment – I knew it with unwavering certainty.

Living in regional South Australia, my local area health service was my only option. My GP was empathetic. Apologetically, he explained that before I could access a termination of pregnancy I would need to have a blood test and an ultrasound – the ultrasound to confirm gestation, and to ensure that it was within my uterus. It was the law, I had no right to informed refusal. More positively, a medical abortion was now available to me, an option less invasive or risky than surgical dilation and curettage.

However, for the ultrasound to be definitive I would need to be five to six weeks pregnant. And that day, at my GP’s office, I was merely three weeks and four days pregnant.


During that long fortnight’s wait I became increasingly symptomatic, and swung between pragmatism, frustration and quiet sadness. I cared for my children, tried to keep busy, and tried not to think about what ticked inside my body.

Getting the blood test, the nurse remarked over the baby’s due date – close to Christmas. When I politely informed her I was having a termination she coloured and stuttered. When I made an appointment for the ultrasound, the receptionist asked, How many weeks? And then eventually, lying on the bed in the dimly-lit room at the imaging clinic, the sonographer turned the screen away as she inserted the transducer into my vagina. Everything is where it needs to be, she told me.

Finally, sitting in a consultation room at my local women’s health clinic with the licensed doctor and a nurse, I signed forms and consented to risks. The procedure, its side effects, and how it might feel were explained to me. I was given painkillers and antinauseants to take home and then, at last, I was handed a small, square foil blister pack containing a single, large, round tablet.

A medical abortion is essentially a forced miscarriage. Two drugs are used to induce menstruation: the first, mifepristone, more commonly known as the abortion pill or RU-486, is an anti-hormone that blocks progesterone, the hormone essential for a pregnancy to continue. Two days later a second drug named misoprostol is given that induces uterine contractions to expel the products of conception.

After taking the mifepristone I went home, flooded with sad, grateful relief. No side effects presented themselves after taking the medicine, although I still experienced strong morning sickness.

Two days later, on the morning of my second appointment, I lost a clump of blood-stained mucous. It was almost over. Returning to the clinic I was given four misoprostol tablets, tiny and hexagonal-shaped. The nurse helped me insert them buccally – between my cheek and lower jaw, two on each side, where they would dissolve over an hour and be absorbed into my bloodstream. The pills were tasteless, and I could talk and even drink water whilst they gradually disintegrated.

On the way home I felt apprehensive. I’d been told to expect anything from mild discomfort to excruciating, labour-like pain, but I only trembled with adrenaline. About an hour later, I went to the toilet and noticed I was bleeding. A smear of bright red blood upon wiping.

It was sixteen days late, but my period had arrived.

Other than some initial cramping, my menstruation is rarely uncomfortable. This was the same. Mild, painless cramps, no vomiting or nausea except for the lingering morning sickness. And six hours later, my nausea disappeared. For the first time in two weeks I ate dinner with my family. I was able to smile and laugh with them.

For six days I had moderate, period-like bleeding, and on the seventh day I lost the pregnancy tissue – a lump of reddish tissue, about the size of a fifty cent piece. At first I thought it was a blood clot; there was nothing discernibly foetal about the shape or appearance. But it was firmer than a blood clot, and lighter in colour. I felt a sense of intense closure, a gratitude of sorts. After this, the bleeding slowed to light spotting for about another ten days.

My menstrual cycle returned, as normal, one month later, almost like clockwork.

Despite the regular use of mifepristone for over two decades in 46 other countries–including China, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom–medical abortion has only been available in Australian since 2012. Appearing on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines, in some countries the abortion pill is available over the counter.

For as long as women have been fertile, women have experienced undesired pregnancy. The safe availability of medical abortion for early pregnancy is a progressive, positive step for Australian women. However, abortion still remains on the criminal code in most Australian states and territories. Even in ACT and Victoria where termination of pregnancy is entirely legal, the abortion pill is only available from specialist clinics and practitioners and only after an ultrasound.

Each woman’s experience of medical abortion will be different. It can be unpleasant or painful, and not all women will feel comfortable experiencing a miscarriage at home. It can take days, there is blood, and involves passing foetal tissue. But I found the experience cathartic. I was able to grieve, and I was able to nurture my body and what it was going through. And despite Australia remaining decades behind other countries in its availability of abortion, I’m grateful to live in a time where I have safe and legal access to this vital procedure.

Like most women who have had an abortion, I feel regretful it had to happen, but no regret that it did happen. Although I hope I never have to, if I found myself unexpectedly pregnant again, I would choose another medical abortion.

*Not the author’s real name. Some details changed to protect identity.



Public Attitudes towards Taxation and Government Expenditure

by David Hetherington

Executive Summary

There has been a marked turnaround in Australians’ attitudes to public spending and tax over the last 18 months. Between 2010 and late 2012, our views of the tax system became steadily less generous – we felt increasingly that we were paying too much tax and our support for public spending, while high, was falling.

These sentiments have now reversed. Rather than saying they pay too much, Australians now claim they are paying about the right amount of tax, and their support for higher public spending has risen. They believe that spending increases should be paid for with higher taxes on top income earners, and through the removal of tax concessions on superannuation and housing. They reject the approach to spending cuts mooted by the Government’s Commission of Audit.

This change has been driven by several factors: the retreat of alarmist rhetoric around the carbon and mining taxes; the absence of major economic pain arising from those taxes; an acceptance that the end of the commodities boom means we can no longer expect tax cuts without service reductions; an increased focus of ending “the age of entitlement”; and a growing realisation that Australia is not the high-tax country we have previously held it to be.

This is the fourth Per Capita Tax Survey. In February 2014, the Survey asked a representative sample of 1,445 adult Australians for their views on a range of tax and public spending issues.

The results can be grouped into four primary themes, three of which constitute the reversal of trends from the earlier Surveys.

The first is that a majority of Australians (53%) now believe they pay about the right amount of tax, a jump of 17 percentage points since the last Survey. By contrast, the share who say they pay too much tax has fallen by 18 points.

The second theme is a turnaround in support for higher spending on public services. The share of those who want to see spending increased or maintained increased by eight points to 85%, while those who wish to see spending cut fell by four points to 8%.

Thirdly, Australians increasingly view the tax system as unfairly regressive: we believe those at the bottom and the middle of the income ladder are paying their fair share of tax, but those at the top are not. After falling in earlier Surveys, the proportion of those who said that high income earners paid too little tax jumped by 17 points to 72%. Simultaneously, there were significant jumps in the proportions who said that low- and middle-income earners and small businesses pay the right amount of tax.

The final theme that emerges from the Survey findings is that Australians want increases to public services to be funded by high income earners who they do not perceive as paying their fair share. 69% of respondents said that increased funding for public services should be paid for by tax increases on the top 5% of income earners or removal of tax concessions on superannuation and housing, which also flow primarily to high income earners.

Clearly, these sentiments are not echoed in the approach taken by the Abbott Government in the 2014 Budget, where spending cuts have been the primary mechanism for reducing the budget deficit.

It appears that Australians are increasingly acknowledging that they are not overtaxed, and that for services to be maintained as we want them, the tax take must be lifted in a fair fashion. This is consistent with both international comparison data showing Australia’s low levels of tax, and the drop-off in our tax revenue base since the end of the commodities boom.

Australians understand that our fiscal challenges are not the result of too much spending, but of too little tax. They want the Federal Government to respond accordingly.