杭州龙凤 21/12/2018

Six of the best: City B&Bs

Simpsons of Potts Point.TARA GUEST HOUSE
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Breakfast can stretch beyond two hours as guests chat over shared platters of frittatas, prosciutto and sweet corn fritters while hosts Brom and Julian Rapley rustle up coffees. The wonderful sense of community of inner-Sydney Enmore invades Tara, an 1886 two-storey property that languished as a boarding house before the Rapleys saved it. The hospitality begins with complimentary airport pick-up and plenty of tips on where to dine among the 400 nearby cafes and restaurants. Each of the art-filled rooms is different; the larger two at the front have sitting rooms, while another has a four-poster bed and another a marble bathroom. Soiree concerts with local musicians are held every three months.

Rooms from $175 a night. See taraguesthouse上海夜生活m.au.



This luxurious bed and breakfast in tree-lined Challis Avenue is a Sydney gem. A cosy haven metres from cafes and bars, its library-drawing room is warmed by an open fire and the sunlight-filled conservatory is the perfect breakfast spot. No two of the 12 rooms are the same, from the dormer rooms in the attic to the family suite with private courtyard and the lavish Cloud Suite with gilt mirrors, stained-glass windows and jacuzzi for two. Built in 1892 and tastefully restored, the B&B is undeniably elegant, but its homely atmosphere and personalised service are what keeps guests coming back.

Rooms from $235 a night, with minimum two-night stays during for weekends. See simpsonshotel上海夜生活m.



Musicians, painters, writers, philosophers and mere mortals mingle over a nightcap in the sitting room and linger over casual breakfast. Owner and artist Maggie Fooke has created something of a European salon in her 19th-century mansion. It has a touch of the makeshift and a good dash of the country cottage – and it all works perfectly in fashionable Fitzroy. The upstairs “green room” is the pick, furnished with antiques and with a private bathroom. There are seven rooms and six bathrooms. Silk robes are provided for guests who walk a few metres to the shared bathrooms. The courtyard-garden is ideal for reading the papers over a morning coffee. Rates from $135 (shared bathroom) and $195 (private bathroom). See brooklynartshotel上海夜生活m.au.



This 1920s-style mansion in a quiet suburban street offers all the comforts of home. Owner Stan Turton has hospitality running through his veins, picking up guests from the airport (at a charge) and providing free city transport travel passes. Chandeliers, stained-glass windows and a grand piano give the lounge and dining areas a touch of history, while each of the four rooms has its unique style: the Heritage room has a calico-swathed four-poster bed and the Scroll room has an open fire and plump sofas. All rooms share bathrooms, which have claw-foot baths. Glendalough is five kilometres north of the city.

Rooms from $95 a night. See glendalough上海夜生活.au.



Waking up next to a big red fire engine is a little disconcerting, especially for fans of The Hangover movie trilogy. The vehicle, however, is not stolen but a fixture at the quirky-as-it-comes, fantastic Fire Engine Suite. One of three apartments in the 19th-century bluestone former fire station, the suite is dominated by the 1942 fire engine, complete with ladder, cartoonish headlights and a shiny horn. A metre away is a red fire pole, and fireman’s memorabilia – for the kids, of course – fill the rooms. There’s a queen bed and a sofa bed for the little ones. Breakfast is do-it-yourself from an abundance of locally grown and baked provisions.

Rates from $199 a night. See adelaideheritage上海夜生活m.



Hikers ready to explore Cataract Gorge fuel up on host Steve’s extraordinary breakfast fare. The table groans with home-made mueslis, organic jams and even his own honey, while the rice pudding and pikelets like mum used to make are irresistible. It’s billed as a continental breakfast but it’s more than even the heartiest eater could manage. Steve exceeds half of the bed-and-breakfast equation and serves it in a charming dining room overlooking a garden. The Victorian-era house and rooms are gracious rather than grand, although all have kitchenettes; they ooze charm, just like Launceston. On a hill with views over the Tamar, the lodge is an easy walk to town.

Rooms from $130 a night. See windmillhilllodge上海夜生活m.au.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州龙凤 21/12/2018

Flight test: China Eastern

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Melbourne to Shanghai.




Eastern Miles or Qantas Frequent Flyer. (This flight was booked with Qantas but is codeshared and operated by China Eastern.)


Economy 61L, a window seat in the exit row with more legroom than a standard seat and a bulkhead in front so no one can lean back into you. No extra charge; I simply ask for it at check-in. (The exit rows can’t be pre-booked but are given on a first-come basis at the counter to suitable-looking people.)


10 hours, 20 minutes. (Flight times are civilised, we depart at 11am and arrive about 7.30pm local time).


32-33 inches (81-83 centimetres) pitch, 18 inches (45 centimetres) width. It’s a 2-4-2 layout for 204 economy class seats.


20 kilograms check-in, seven kilograms carry-on.


The seats seem harder than usual. A blanket and pillow are provided. The plane is hot but there is no overhead personal air adjustment. Insufficient water is served.


In the exit row, personal TV screens pop out of the armrest. In the other rows, they are in the seatback. There are on-demand movies, TV shows, games and music but the quality and quantity don’t come close to Qantas, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand or any other airline I have flown with recently. Skyfall is the big drawcard in the “latest movies” section, but it was released in Australia more than six months earlier. The best entertainment is watching the high number of passengers who fail to follow basic instructions: going to the toilet during takeoff, walking around when we are told to buckle up during turbulence …


It’s friendly, but the crew has limited English and I have no Mandarin, so idle chatter is out of the question.


Two meals are served with plastic cutlery. No.1 is beef with noodles and No.2 is pork curry with rice. Tiny prawns in a salad with the first meal are alarmingly pink and artificial looking. There are no snacks between meals. Alcohol is limited. Wine and beer are available with the first meal. When I ask for a second drink, a tiny portion is served reluctantly, but after that I’m told the alcohol has run out. I notice some passengers break out their own Baileys Irish Cream.


China Eastern is flying high in the fashion stakes, recently unveiling new blue uniforms with red accessories by Christian Lacroix.


If possible, go on a flight actually operated by Qantas. (Sydney-Shanghai flights are still operated by Qantas but Melbourne-Shanghai by China Eastern). My experience with codeshare buddy China Eastern is nowhere close to Qantas standard. But if you have to go with China Eastern, at least you get Qantas frequent-flyer points.


Qantas increased its codeshare arrangements with China Eastern on May 1 so Qantas passengers now have 17 direct Qantas or China Eastern services between Australia and mainland China each week.

Tested by Robert Upe who flew courtesy of the International Luxury Travel Market.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州龙凤 21/12/2018

Luxe Nomad: a classic case

We can all be happy that luggage these days is lightweight and rollable but to my mind most modern cases have one great flaw.
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You can’t put stickers on them.

In the old days, before affordable air travel, people travelled with trunks, onto which porters would affix identifying stickers. The trunks were made of solid wood and canvas and the stickers would stay firmly attached, so much so that, over the course of a lifetime, as other stickers were slapped on, the trunk or case became a sort of diary of the voyages a person had taken.

In our disposable society, it’s unimaginable that a person would keep the same case over decades of travel. But that’s what people did. Flying now is like taking a bus, but when it took weeks to sail from London to Melbourne or 20 days to fly from Sydney to Paris, the journey was worth commemorating. And if you did it multiple times, the stickers on your suitcase were multiple badges of honour.

I love antique steamer trunks and for years I’ve collected them to store clothing, but never fancied the reaction I would get if I turned up to the airport with one. I’ve never seen a passenger try to check in a trunk for a flight or a cruise, and I haven’t led a sheltered life.

One of my trunks has seen better days but the stickers on it have clung tenaciously despite the bashing it has received over the years. The stickers tell me the owner once sailed from Southampton Pier and stayed at the Hotel Lotti in Paris.

What does my new nylon Samsonite tell anyone? Nothing. It may have only travelled to Hobart for all anyone might guess, and yet already it has seen four continents. It would be a very colourful and tarty suitcase by now if it had collected sticky labels – it has already been unpacked in Paris’s Le Meurice, Scotland’s Gleneagles and Marrakech’s Taj Palace. But, so far, it has gathered only an oil stain and a few grubby fingerprints.

I returned a few weeks ago from a journey on the wonderful Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. It’s as romantic as you can imagine – beautiful old carriages exactingly restored, porters in snappy blue-and-gold uniforms bringing you afternoon tea in your cabin, and elegant four-course dinners in formal dining cars where Josephine Baker and Graham Greene once sat.

The experience demanded the glamour of a trunk, but the practicalities of flying from Sydney through Dubai to Venice meant the lightweight suitcase had to do. As we passengers boarded from the platform, our luggage was a mundane sea of nylon and polycarbonate. The porters, in their bright blue and gold-braided uniforms, deserved better.

Now here’s the thing: in lieu of stickers, our luggage was labelled with fetching paper VSOE tags, beautiful mementos of the trip. Mine stayed attached until it met its first airport baggage handler. Now I have only the remnant of an elastic string to remind me of that wonderful journey.

We record our travels so well these days via Instagram and Facebook and videos we post on YouTube that perhaps we don’t need our suitcases to speak for us. But I can’t help feeling something is lost.

Certainly, I’m not the only one in a nostalgic mood. Where once I might have nabbed a handsome 1920s steamer trunk for $100, these days even an old cardboard suitcase from the 1960s might cost you double that. Anything made by Vuitton, Moynat or Goyard is likely to sell for considerably more.

Interior designers are among those snapping them up. It’s fashionable to decorate homes and hotel lobbies (such as Sydney’s new QT) with vintage luggage. The more a suitcase or trunk looks like it has travelled – multiple stickers, worn straps, beaten-up buckles – the more evocative it is. Maybe some hipster cafe in Brunswick in 2040 will decorate ironically with stacks of torn and stained lightweight rolling suitcases, and maybe they will seem nostalgic, but not one will speak to where we have been.

Last year, during a stay at the historic Raffles Hotel in Singapore, I received an envelope of nostalgic luggage stickers from classic hotels such as the Grand Hotel Nongkojajar in Java and the Strand Hotel in Rangoon. Try as I might, I couldn’t get them to stay put on any of my bags. But they did stick to my laptop, so I suppose that’s a modern consolation.

[email protected]上海夜生活m.au

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Twitter @missleetulloch

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Blog  www.mrandmrsamos上海夜生活m

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州龙凤 21/12/2018

One day, three ways: Geneva

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One of the world’s priciest cities doesn’t have to be expensive. Get yourself a couple of croissants ($4) and a day bus ticket (tpg.ch; $9) and check out the Reformation Monument, 140-metre Jet d’Eau fountain and beautiful lake-shore parks. In the old town, learn about Genevese history at Maison Tavel (ville-ge.ch; free), parts of which date from 1303. Then duck into the Museum of Art and History

(ville-ge.ch; free) before enjoying cathedral tower views (saintpierre-geneve.ch; $4). Get the dish of the day at lakeshore Buvette des Bains (buvettedesbains.ch; $13). See the Museum of the Red Cross (redcrossmuseum.ch; $15) and have an early dinner at Manora cafeteria (manor.ch; $20). Sleep at the highly regarded youth hostel (yh-geneva.ch; $35).

TOTAL: $100


After a breakfast of muesli and baguette at Le Pain Quotidien (lepainquotidien.ch; $25), wander along lakeshore promenades with views to the French Alps, and on through Parc Mon Repos before joining a tour of the Palais des Nations (unog.ch; $13), the United Nations’ European headquarters. Nearby Musee Ariana (ville-ge.ch/ariana; free) houses one of Europe’s best glass and porcelain collections in a 19th-century villa. Have salad, steak and endless fries at Cafe de Paris (cafe-de-paris.ch; $45). In the afternoon, take to a lake steamer for a cruise to the French mediaeval town of Yvoire (cgn.ch; $60). For dinner, the 1764 Brasserie de l’Hotel de Ville is so old-fashioned it’s hip (hdvglozu.ch; $57). Sleep at stylish boutique Hotel Tiffany (hotel-tiffany.ch; $204).

TOTAL: $404


Have a fine breakfast at cosy Cafe Metropole (cafemetropole.ch; $30) before admiring the splendid Brunswick Memorial and Geneva’s old town, where you can enjoy a lake perch at Les Armures (hotel-les-armures.ch; $39). After your morning walk, get around by taxi (taxi-phone.ch; $46). In the afternoon, the Baur Collections (fondation-baur.ch; $11) showcase superb oriental art. Then take in the Patek Philippe Museum’s (patekmuseum上海夜生活m; $10) antique timepieces. At dinnertime, the regional French food at Le Chat-Botte (beau-rivage.ch; $140) is exquisite. For opera and ballet, head to the Grand Theatre (geneveopera.ch; $155 mid-range seats). Stay in style at Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues (fourseasons上海夜生活m/geneva; $744).

TOTAL: $1175

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州龙凤 21/12/2018

Larkham keen to fine-tune new moves

ACT Brumbies backs coach Stephen Larkham insists the team has shelved talks of chasing a four-try bonus point against the Western Force and he urged the players to focus on fine-tuning combinations.
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The lure of a bonus-point win in Perth on Saturday night is impossible to ignore as the Brumbies eye off a finish in the top two on the ladder.

If results go their way, the Brumbies could finish first or second and be within one game of a grand final appearance.

But Larkham said the Brumbies had not been seduced by the prospect of rising up the ladder and would resist the temptation to stray from their plan.

”It’s pointless focusing on a bonus point when the priority is to get things working for the finals. We have to find our combinations,” Larkham said.

”We need to win this game to play well in the finals. No one is looking at the ladder, we’ve been really focused this week.”

The Brumbies have tinkered with their playbook in the four-week bye to add new moves to their game in a bid to boost their chances of play-off success.

Larkham admitted the new moves might not click immediately with the Brumbies injecting nine players at training this week after they returned from Wallabies duties.

But instead of a post-British and Irish Lions tour letdown, Larkham said the Wallabies loss had ”strengthened the team attitude”.

The Brumbies won their last three games before the extended Super Rugby break and secured a historic win against the Lions last month when they became the first Australian provincial team in 42 years to beat the tourists.

Captain Ben Mowen is back with the Brumbies after making his Test debut for the Wallabies and playing a starring role in the series loss to the Lions.

Mowen admitted losing to the Lions was ”emotionally flattening”, but said the Brumbies’ Wallabies contingent was desperate for Super Rugby success.

”It’s been exciting to be back … the Brumbies game has gone way beyond where it was when we left for Wallabies camp,” Mowen said.

”The group is highly energised … they’re driving standards that in the past were driven by senior players. They’ve created all the momentum and now we’re adding our enthusiasm to the group.

”Losing the Test series the way we did was draining. But you just want that bad memory out of your head. We stewed on our missed chance with the Brumbies last year, but now we can get stuck in.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州龙凤 04/12/2018

I know this great little place …

Christina is chef, owner and founder of Momofuku Milk Bar, a bakery in Brooklyn, New York. See milkbarstore上海夜生活m.
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A seat at Wylie Dufresne’s newest, Alder, in the East Village, for clever small plates such as root beer pudding. If my folks were in town, Prime Meats (of Franks F. & C. fame) in Brooklyn, a farm-to-table place with Germanic style. See aldernyc上海夜生活m; frankspm上海夜生活m.


Yuji Ramen at Smorgasburg at Whole Foods Market in Bowery. It’s a pop-up where Yuji Haraguchi serves takeaway mazemen, noodles without broth, and ramen “ravioli”. He’s opening a permanent spot in Williamsburg later this year. Follow him on Twitter: @yujiramen. See wholefoodsmarket上海夜生活m/stores/bowery.


Legend Bar & Restaurant in Chelsea, a smart pan-Asian with Sichuanese and Vietnamese menus. Oh, and Sushi Azabu, a small Edo-mae style sushi bar in the basement of Greenwich Grill. See legendrestaurant88上海夜生活m; greenwichgrill上海夜生活m/sushiazabu.


Del Posto. It’s Italian that’s all class, from 100-layer lasagne to Livorno-style cacciucco (fish stew), the piano player, serious Italian wine list and immaculate service. See delposto上海夜生活m.


Lunch at Le Bernardin. It’s all about seafood and at $75 for three courses, is nearly half the dinner price. Spend what you save on the $45 supplement for shaved geoduck clam with Osetra caviar. See le-bernardin上海夜生活m.


The Pines. It manages to be both a cheerful local hang and serious eating spot. The other big thing is cronuts, a doughnut-croissant hybrid, from Dominique Ansel’s Bakery in SoHo. See thepinesbrooklyn上海夜生活m; dominiqueansel上海夜生活m.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州龙凤 04/12/2018

Q & A: Dean Lucas

Dean Lucas, founder and chief executive, 666 Pure Tasmanian Vodka.Dean Lucas Founder and chief executive, 666 Pure Tasmanian Vodka
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The SLS Hotel in Los Angeles. It is on the border of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood; so close to all the top restaurants, bars and clubs. It is a Philippe Starck design, which makes it a little quirky, but still manages to feel luxurious and comfortable. Although it is probably too large to be considered boutique, I still receive personalised service.


I always fly Virgin Australia to the US. The flight attendants are relaxed and friendly. Their business-class seats convert to a fully flat bed so I can get some real sleep; and I love the walk-up bar. They offer 666 as their only premium vodka, which makes us the only Australian vodka served at 35,000 feet.


Katikies Hotel Santorini. Built on the edge of the Caldera, it has a spectacular view and probably the best horizon pool anywhere. I take my family to Greece every July, and the weather is always perfect. It is a boutique resort with a high staff-to-guest ratio, so the service is extremely attentive. Being located in Oia, it is a much quieter [part of the] Greek island.


I use Tumi luggage because it is lightweight but virtually indestructible. I know I don’t need to worry about my bag sliding onto the carousel with a tear in it and my clothes spilling out. I also often pack sample bottles so I need luggage that can protect the glass bottles from breaking. My carry-on is a Louis Vuitton carryall. I’ve had it for nearly 20 years and it definitely has the well-worn look.


My Bose noise-cancelling headphones. On domestic flights you don’t usually get quality headphones, so these are perfect for watching movies or TV shows, which I find so relaxing while flying.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州龙凤 04/12/2018

Funding crisis hits schools after fall in overseas students

Excess fees: Overseas students may be required to pove they have sufficient funds for tutition fees sometimes up to two years in advance. Photo: Michele MossopEnrolments of international students in NSW high schools have plummeted, falling 22 per cent since 2009 and shaving $320 million off the lucrative industry.
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There are now 4333 international students at the state’s independent and public high schools compared with 5576 in 2009, the NSW Department of Education and the Association of Independent Schools of NSW says. The collapse in the market has hit independent schools hardest, with a 36.6 per cent drop.

Education professionals blame the decline on the global financial crisis, the high Australian dollar in recent years and tougher visa application regulations that apply only to high school students.

The national executive director of the International Education Association of Australia, Phil Honeywood, said that while the industry hoped the recent drop in the dollar would attract more overseas students, it would take time for its effects to be seen because ”enrolment decisions are often made many years in advance”.

Mr Honeywood believes a heavy-handed federal government has been the bigger factor in the falling enrolment numbers. He said the Department of Immigration and Citizenship introduced streamlined visa processing in March last year that reduced the requirements of university students to gain a visa, but the visa regulations excluded school students.

“They haven’t allowed high schools to have this streamlined visa procedure, meaning there’s a lot of paperwork and red tape around who can and can’t be brought in for schools, making it very difficult for them to recruit international students in an efficient manner,” Mr Honeywood said. “Schools are having quite a crisis when it comes to international students.

“The government’s responsibility is to ensure the regulatory framework is made as easy as possible for high schools to recruit international students while maintaining policy assurance … the introduction of streamlined visas means only students recruited through a university will be given a much easier visa pathway. Schools are missing out.”

International student enrolments are a $5.5 billion export market for NSW, second only to coal. Charges range from $13,000 for an average public high school to as much as $120,000 for independent schools such as Sydney Church of England Grammar School.

The director of marketing and enrolments at St Luke’s Grammar School in Dee Why, Danielle Hargrove, said that depending on a student’s assessment, parents may find it difficult to meet Australian immigration laws.

“They may need to prove they have sufficient funds for tuition fees in their bank accounts before a visa is approved,” she said. ”These fees can be for up to two years in advance, which can be in excess of $70,000. Other countries, like the USA and Canada, don’t require this upfront.”

The federal government made changes to visa fees on July 1, which a spokesman for the NSW Deputy Premier fears could “effectively price Australia out of the highly competitive global market for skilled migrants and students”.

“The additional applicant charges will have the most significant impact, adding a surcharge of 50 per cent for a family member aged 18 or over and a surcharge of 25 per cent for family members aged under 18,” he said.

The executive director of the Association of Independent Schools in NSW, Geoff Newcombe, said that before 2009 a steady increase in numbers reflected a significant growth of middle classes in major student markets in Asia.

“This is where families view study at high quality educational institutions in English-speaking countries as a valuable foundation for employment and business success,” he said.

While most NSW schools have experienced dropping numbers, some north Sydney schools remain popular for international students.

Bucking the trend with a 261.9 per cent enrolment increase in three years is Chatswood Intensive English Centre.

School principal Julie Ross said this was because the north Sydney region reputation was unique and attractive for mainland Chinese parents.

The NSW Department of Education last year reported seven countries provided for 91 per cent of enrolments, with 52 per cent from China, followed by 15 per cent from Vietnam, 14 per cent from South Korea, 3 per cent from Germany and Hong Kong and 2 per cent from Thailand and Japan.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州龙凤 04/12/2018

Holiday departure lounge is anything but a cruise

Passengers with luggage walk out of the White Bay terminal. Photo: Peter RaeIt’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when Ethirajan Ramakrishnan lost his faith in Sydney’s public transport solutions.
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It could have been the moment – almost two hours after he set out for the White Bay Cruise Terminal via a bus from Seven Hills – that his bag finally broke. Or when it started raining.

Or it could be when he was forced to stop his three-year-old son walking into Balmain’s traffic after the Robert Street footpath abruptly disappeared.

It was at this point that his wife Lakshmi suggested they try to reach the Pacific Jewel by taxi instead. Their two-week holiday was on the horizon, but the family still had a kilometre’s walk to get to it.

”It’s hard for us,” said Mr Ramakrishnan, who explained the cruise’s central appeal was that everything – once they got on the boat, at least – was self-contained and organised.

”Maybe in the future we will have friends who can drop us.”

The $57 million White Bay Cruise Terminal began operating only in April, but already tourism message boards and P&O’s Facebook page are littered with negative feedback about its access problems.

”What about the people who can only get there by [public] transport like me? I don’t know how I am going to get there and back,” said one on TripAdvisor. ”I won’t be booking with P&O again.”

Bus is the only public transport option for the luggage-laden seeking to get to White Bay, and ”it is a long walk” to the terminal, concedes a Sydney Ports spokesman. The ”overwhelming majority” of passengers travelled there by car, taxi or coach instead, he said.

A $12 shuttle to Central and the airport is provided by P&O Cruises for its passengers. Parent company Carnival Australia had been a consistent past critic of the area’s ”sub-optimal” location and public transport issues, but has since pledged to help make the terminal a success.

”People have adjusted to the new arrangements,” a spokesman said.

But Tourism & Transport Forum chief executive Ken Morrison said cruise holidays were the fastest-growing area of the tourism industry and passengers should have a range of transport options to get to the terminal.

”We urge the NSW government to explore public transport options, including a possible ferry service, especially in the countdown to the start of the next cruise season in October,” he said.

Passenger Jun Feng was headed home by bus after discovering the costs of the taxi to the ship for her large group.

”It’s so expensive,” she said.

A government committee is preparing a two-year working plan that will consider ways to improve public access to the area.

In the meantime, Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said the irregularity of cruise ship arrivals meant ”increasing public transport would not be an efficient use of taxpayer funds”.

”Taxis and charter bus services which link to public transport hubs are a more effective option,” she said.

But Leichhardt mayor Darcy Byrne said the problems would only be compounded when the temporary exhibition space opens next year at nearby Glebe Island, which will include a ferry connection for events only.

”With so much vital economic infrastructure getting off the ground in White Bay it is short-sighted not to provide any public transport into the precinct,” he said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

杭州龙凤 04/12/2018

ACCC on scent of Packer’s ‘secret deal’

The competition regulator is investigating an alleged secret proposal by James Packer to keep his Crown casino empire out of Brisbane if the executives of Echo Entertainment, owner of the Star, agreed to let him into the Sydney market.
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Central to the investigation is an alleged statement from Mr Packer that Crown would stay out of Queensland if Echo ”behaved” itself ”vis-a-vis Sydney”.

An Australian Competition and Consumer Commission official said the investigators would look into potential breaches of competition and cartel law, following reports of a secret meeting between Mr Packer, who is the executive chairman of Crown, and Echo chairman John O’Neill, on Mr Packer’s boat on Sydney Harbour in March this year.

Investigators at the ACCC began the inquiry after an article in The Australian Financial Review on Thursday, in which Mr O’Neill says Mr Packer said Crown would not bid for a casino in Brisbane – where Echo was hoping to expand – if the owners of the Star did not hinder his desire to build a luxury casino at Barangaroo.

”James Packer categorically said that if we behaved ourselves vis-a-vis Sydney, he would stay out of Queensland,” Mr O’Neill said.

”The chairman of Crown said that he was 110 per cent confident of winning Crown Sydney at Barangaroo.”

The allegations made by Mr O’Neill are now under investigation by the regulator.

”We would always look into such serious competition law issues as those raised by some of the statements in that article,” an ACCC official said.

Competition law forbids activities such as bid rigging, when two or more competitors agree they will not genuinely compete for tenders, and market sharing, when competitors agree to divide customers or areas between themselves rather than competing with each other.

Both actions are considered cartel conduct, and could be subject to criminal penalties, including up to 10 years in jail.

Crown has disputed Mr O’Neill’s account of the meeting, which it is understood was attended by Mr O’Neill, Mr Packer, Echo chief executive John Redmond and former federal sports minister Mark Arbib, who is advising Mr Packer on the Barangaroo casino proposal.

A spokesman for Crown said: ”Mr Packer refutes the claims made by Echo, saying they are untrue.”

At the time of the meeting, Mr Packer had a 10 per cent stake in Echo, which he sold in May. News of the ACCC’s inquiry follows last week’s decision by the NSW government to end Echo’s casino monopoly in Sydney by backing Crown’s plans for Barangaroo. It was favoured ahead of the rival proposal to expand the Star.

The two companies are also facing a turf war in Brisbane, with competing plans to build a new casino in the central business district. Echo already owns casinos in Brisbane, Townsville and the Gold Coast.

Should the ACCC decide to pursue Mr Packer, it would be the highest-profile cartel case in Australian corporate history since its 2005 investigation of packaging giants Visy Industries and Amcor. Under the ACCC’s immunity policy, Amcor escaped penalties by co-operating with the investigation, while Visy and its late owner, Richard Pratt, were fined $36 million.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.