Archive for January, 2019 | Monthly archive page

My Kitchen Rules 2015 episode 1 recap: Jac and Shaz are lambs to the slaughter

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

Onya Jac and Shaz (QLD)! My Kitchen Rules’ first victims. Meet all of MKR’s characters – sorry, contestants.

We’re off to Queensland to see what villains Ash and Camilla make of cackling cousins Jac and Shaz’s home restaurant, eye roll please.

Yes it’s another season of My Kitchen Rules, cooking’s answer to Law & Order, where you get locked up for months with no outside contact, slaving for hours with little sleep, only to fear your fellow inmates may be sharpening toothbrushes behind your back.

If you’re a first-time viewer, the rules are simple and ridiculous – a bunch of strangers whose personalities come straight out of the classic reality TV hall of fame compete against other cartoon characters, cooking a feast in their respective houses. Someone will then cry.

We’re meeting all the characters, sorry, “real home cooks”, who look so excited to be on telly at least two are in danger of wetting their pants.

“When it comes to food, we’re both as snobby as they come,” says two bales of hair claiming to come from Victoria. “We’re hungry for success,” the master villains, Ash and Camilla continue. Oh, I see what you did there!

There’s a cowboy, some pretty boys, a bunch of women, one of whom is destined to be a “dessert queen”.

The hosts slash judges Pete Evans, the human version of a white leather couch, and Manu Feildel, owner of the weakest French accent since Pepe Le Pew, are ready to pour freezing cold water on the hopes and dreams of ordinary Australians hoping to get their own TV cooking show open their own quaint little food business.

We’re being promised the judges are going to bring a “new excitement” this season. Are Pete and Manu going to kiss?

“We’re definitely here to win,” says Gina and Anna, who are yet to reveal whether they’re part of Team Bitch or Team Cry-Baby.

So let’s head to the state that boots out its premier Campbell Newman in one of the biggest election upsets ever and serves up colourful cousins Jac and Shaz for the first slaughter! Jac and Shaz (onya, Shaz!) are doing the honour of creating a “simple” but delicious menu, Pete says, as he looks for activated almonds and zucchini-infused chocolate.

Jac and Shaz are naming their instant restaurant “Stacks”, which could be what the competition ends up with if they don’t cook very well.

In the kitchen, they’re doing that “explaining everything they’re doing thing”, which producers clearly love; I clearly hate it as it’s like watching a kitchen appliance ad (oh wait, Shaz sells those, doesn’t she).

“The pressure couldn’t be any higher,” says Shaz. I disagree. I was once given the wrong medication for the flu the day before my Year 12 English exam and I hallucinated mid-way writing about Macbeth, Now, ladies, that is pressure.

Sitting at the Stacked table, the guests are wondering out loud – aka being obnoxious – about the food that is being presented to them. Ash and Camilla hope Jac and Shaz will smoke their own salmon, because that’s what they do. OH MY GOD DID THEY JUST SAY THAT? In the holy words of Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for dat”.

Their first stack – the potato and zucchini rosti with smoked salmon THAT THEY DID NOT SMOKE THEMSELVES – looks like an editable Jenga puzzle. The judges are looking at their food like it might have a mini nuclear bomb inside. I’ve never seen anyone so distrusting of potatoes before.

But they get the tick of approval – the golden activated almond! Now on the main, and extra points for Jac, who is cooking while wearing a silver dress so tight I think she’s shrunk one of her kidneys.

The focus is now on Ash and her amazing afro, which she flicks with the confidence of Queen Cleopatra. Everyone is intimidated by her because she’s “intense” and barely blinks. Maybe it’s pink eye?

Jac and Shaz are making the sauce to complete their main – they know Manu likes his sauce (that’s what she said). And tragedy strikes – the lamb is too fatty, the potatoes under-cooked and this viewer is bored. Annie and Lloyd, the highschool sweethearts, try and keep things diplomatic because as wet blankets that is their job.

Now serving their pear and walnut crumble with blue cheese, Jac and Shaz fear if this dish doesn’t work, they’ll be sent home (but it’s your house – you’re already home!).

Right. It doesn’t work. The competition are overwhelmed by the smell of the fragrant cheese and look more confused with each bite.

In the end, Jac and Shaz are scored 59 points for their effort. They looked bummed but are philosophical. And if the worst comes to worst and they’re kicked out, I would totally watch their reality show, “Jac and Shaz do jazz”.

Former Rudd candidate Samuel Miszkowski donates $200K to Liberal Party

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

Donations surge prior to election

In politics, revenge is a dish best served with a lot of cash.

In 2007, Samuel Miszkowski sold his house to contest the safe Liberal seat of Moncrieff on the Gold Coast.

Such was Mr Miszkowski’s enthusiasm to join the march of “Kevin 07” as a Labor candidate he cashed in $372,000 in property and assets to finance his own campaign and ran under the slogan “Sam’s the Man”.

But, less than a month out from the election, he admitted to feeling “neglected” when Kevin Rudd could not recall his name during a media conference.

Mr Miszkowski almost quit the ALP but contested the election, struggling to make an impression on sitting Liberal Steve Ciobo who survived with a muscular two-party preferred result of 64:36 in his favour.

So it might come as a surprise to Mr Miszkowski’s former ALP comrades that he is at the centre of one of the largest single donations to the Liberal Party in 2013-14.

He is listed as the financial controller of Mist Consulting, located in the Gold Coast suburb of Bundall. Mist donated $200,000 to the federal Liberal Party, according to returns released by the Australian Electoral Commission on Monday.

Mist Consulting did not donate to Labor.

Contacted by Fairfax Media, Mr Miszkowski said: “I was left hanging like a shag on a rock by the ALP when I ran.”

He said he viewed the Liberal Party as having “potential going forward” but after the weekend landslide against the Newman state government he was no longer so sure.

“We might just give up donating at all to either side,” he said.

According to the Australian Business Register, Mist Consulting is the entity behind Friends of Israel (Queensland).

Mr Miszkowski, who is a director of the Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland and a former director of the Gold Coast Jewish Community Council, said that was just a registered trading name that had not been used and the donation had nothing to do with the Israel lobby, as claimed by the Greens on Monday.

Interviewed after his failed election bid, Mr Miszkowski revealed his family’s opinion of selling their home. “(They’re) not happy – it’s not an adventure we’d repeat,” he said in 2008.

Julie Bishop bats away questions about leadership

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

Challenge?: Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull are widely considered the top leadership alternatives. Photo: 3aw-com-au Challenge?: Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull are widely considered the top leadership alternatives. Photo: 3aw-com-au

Challenge?: Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull are widely considered the top leadership alternatives. Photo: 3aw-com-au

Challenge?: Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull are widely considered the top leadership alternatives. Photo: 3aw-com-au

While Tony Abbott was fighting for his political life in Canberra on Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop batted away questions about her loyalty to the Prime Minister during the annual AUKMIN meeting in Sydney.

The meeting brings together the Defence and Foreign Ministers of the UK and Australia and was focused on the fight against the Islamic State, the future of Afghanistan, the tense situation in Ukraine and the defence white paper currently underway.

But standing alongside her UK counterpart Philip Hammond as well as Australia’s Defence Minister Kevin Andrews and UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, Ms Bishop was asked whether Mr Abbott had requested she not to mount a leadership challenge during a meeting in Sydney on Sunday night, and whether she had given that assurance.

Fairfax Media revealed on Monday that Ms Bishop and her ally Malcolm Turnbull are under growing pressure from colleagues to challenge Mr Abbott and are now said to be considering their options, after previously rebuffing those demands.

But Ms Bishop dismissed the question, declaring she had had a “delightful meeting” with Mr Abbott and the three men alongside her.

“As for any private conversations between the prime minister and me, I don’t reveal the details of private conversations I have with any leaders, let alone my own prime minister,” she said.

“As I have said repeatedly, I support the prime minister, I understand the speech he gave today outlined a very positive direction for us, a narrative for us to take to the next election. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be in Canberra because we had our very important AUKMIN meting today but I understand from all reports that it was a very positive speech.”

In Canberra, earlier in the day, a defiant Mr Abbott declared that “it’s the people that hire and, frankly, it’s the people that should fire [prime ministers].”

Asked about the meeting with Ms Bishop, Mr Abbott conceded the government had had a bad patch but that “failing to buckle down to business always makes a bad situation worse”.

“As for Julie, Julie’s a friend of mine, Julie’s my deputy, she’s been a terrific deputy, she’s been a terrific minister, I believe I have her full support and I certainly look forward to continuing to have that.”

Follow James Massola on Facebook.

Why I think the Reserve Bank will cut interest rates

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

The Reserve Bank is set to cut interest rates on Tuesday because it’s the only thing it can do.

The Australian economy has the potential to grow at more than 3 per cent per annum. Until around two years ago it was. The latest readings have it growing at an annualised pace of just 1.6 per cent – much less than we have become used to and much less than would be needed to make a dent in unemployment.

The Reserve Bank is required by its act to contribute to the maintenance of full employment and the economic prosperity and welfare of the people of Australia.

The only tool it has to do that is monetary and banking policy, which means that, short of easing the rules to allow banks to lend more recklessly, the only means it has of edging Australia back towards full employment and economic prosperity is to cut interest rates.

The only constraint in its act is the requirement that it contribute to the stability of the currency of Australia, which is taken to mean contributing to stable prices. Its agreement with the government commits it to strive to keep the rate of inflation between 2 and 3 per cent.

That constraint currently isn’t a constraint. The collapse in the oil price has pushed the inflation rate down to 1.7 per cent. Importantly, the bank believes that as the lower oil price feeds through into the price of everything we buy, it will continue to bear down on inflation. The bank can cut rates without the risk of breaching its inflation target.

So why wouldn’t it cut, and why wouldn’t it do it tomorrow? One argument is that it waits long enough something else will boost the economy. But what? Consumer and business confidence have been low ever since the budget. Abbott has neither announced anything that would lift confidence nor has been replaced (which actually might lift confidence). Wage growth is the slowest in two decades; unemployment is higher than it has been in 12 years. Consumers are unlikely to get out their wallets and businesses are unlikely to expand without help.

Might the lower oil price provide that help? It is possible that it might. But it’s hardly enough reason to wait. The economy needs more of a boost than cheaper petrol is likely to give it, and the government is showing no sign of using budget measures to do it itself.

Cutting rates brings a risk. The risk is that consumers will use the extra buying power to bid up house prices rather than consume, and that businesses will pocket the lower borrowing costs rather than expand.

But what else can the the Reserve Bank board do? Interest rates are the tool it has been given. Sometimes you’ve got to use what you’ve got.

Peter Martin is economics editor of The Age.

Twitter: @1petermartin

Kathmandu share price smashed on profit slump

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

Kathmandu accounts are troubled by a poor start to Christmas sales.Outdoor clothing and adventure wear retailer Kathmandu is under pressure to abandon its dual high-low pricing strategy and tweak its product range after flagging its first loss since listing five years ago.

Barely a week after announcing the appointment of a new chief executive, Xavier Simonet, Kathmandu shocked investors on Monday, flagging losses between $NZ1 million ($935,000) and $NZ2 million in the six months ended January 25 – its first underlying loss as a listed company – compared with a $NZ11.4 million profit in the first half of 2014.

Kathmandu’s acting chief executive, Mark Todd, who has been leading the company since the resignation of Peter Halkett last year, said sales had risen a slower-than-expected 6.9 per cent in the January half and same-store sales had gone backwards in December and January, forcing the company to slash prices to clear excess stock.

As a result, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation were expected to plunge by between 69 per cent and 74 per cent to between $NZ6 million and $NZ7 million.

Kathmandu shares dived 27 per cent or 51¢ to $1.35 on Monday, the lowest close since November 2012. The shares traded as high as $3.77 in July 2014.

“Sales didn’t come early enough so they’ve had to discount heavily,” said one analyst. “No-one else seems to have had this sort of hit.”

Kathmandu is the fourth retailer in four weeks to issue a profit downgrade, confirming market fears that discretionary spending over Christmas and the New Year period was patchy and retailers were forced to discount heavily to lure shoppers into stores.

Oroton, The Reject Shop and Specialty Fashion cut profit guidance last month, citing weaker-than-expected sales or margins, and homewares distributor and retailer McPhersons issued a profit warning on Monday, saying first-half earnings per share were expected to fall 17 per cent.

The magnitude of Kathmandu’s profit slide underlines the challenges ahead for Mr Simonet, who is not due to join the company for another six months. Mr Simonet must serve out his notice period at UK accessories retailer Radley.

Kathmandu gave no full-year profit guidance, but analysts are confident it will return to profit in the July half, when the company typically generates 60 per cent of annual sales and 70 per cent of profits.

Before the profit warning, analysts were forecasting a full-year net profit of $NZ35.5 million, down from $NZ42.2 million in 2014.

However, they believe Kathmandu must review its pricing and promotional model, saying its strategy of slashing prices during twice-yearly clearance sales at Easter and in winter contributed to subdued first-half sales.

“Their high-low pricing model doesn’t seem to be working in this environment,” said one analyst, who declined to be named. “They may need to go to a consistent pricing model.”

“The new CEO has quite a task ahead and the delay (in his arrival) compounds the difficulty,” he said.

Fund managers said Kathmandu may need to introduce more fashionable products to its range to drive sales and reduce the company’s dependence on the weather.

“Once you have a Kathmandu black gortex jacket it lasts a long time,” he said.

Kathmandu said lower-than-expected demand for summer clothing and non-technical apparel over Christmas and January and reduced sales of cold weather apparel in New Zealand during extended dry, warm weather contributed to first half weak sales.