Archive for October, 2018

MWC 2016: Australians’ suspicion of Chinese electronics mostly gone, says Huawei boss

The Huawei P8 is a 5.2-inch smartphone with high specs that can be bought online for much less than its Australian RRP of $699.Amidst the chaos of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Huawei Australia’s chairman John Lord took time out to discuss how our little country has become a testbed of sorts for exporting the Chinese brand into western markets.

A former admiral with the Australian Navy, Lord joined Huawei in 2012, when he was approached by the company to steer the ship. Lord’s appointment gave the little known brand some much needed authority and political clout. Lord took seven months researching the role and Huawei before deciding to take the offer. Four years later, it seems the fit was a good one.

The Australian office was the first in the company to establish an independent board, to allow Huawei to shape the product line and marketing message specifically for Australians. When asked about the main point of contention between the Sydney and Shenzhen offices, Lord was diplomatic. “Our colleagues in China are patient, considered. We would sometimes like to move a little faster than them”.

In Australia, Huawei offers phones and tablets that approach or rival the capabilities of other brands on the high end of the market, but tend to be sold at a slightly lower pricepoint. Current devices on offer here include the flagship P8 phone ($699), the Google-commissioned Nexus 6P ($899) and the Huawei Watch, with the phablet Mate 8 coming soon. At MWC, Huawei unveiled its MateBook hybrid device.

Lord believes the most common misconception of the Huawei brand is one that many Chinese brands face — that China means cheap, both in price and in quality. But that perception is changing over time.

“People don’t give Australian consumers enough credit,” Lord says. “They’re smart. They know that even when their phone is ‘designed in California’, it’s probably got a screen from Korea, internals from Japan, and it’s been assembled in China.”

He believes that, once consumers are aware that China manufactures most of the technology we use today, it’s a not a huge leap from buying Chinese manufactured products to Chinese owned products.

Huawei has been in Australia for eleven years now, making it one of the elder statesmen of Chinese technology companies. Lord thinks this gives Huawei a responsibility to act as ambassador for China, a responsibility that he relishes. He points toward a $30 million dollar research and development centre the company is building in Sydney, and its Seeds for the Future program, which sends the best and brightest ICT students to China for training, as Huawei’s way of fulfilling this role.

Lord is clearly passionate about research and development. A number of times he mentioned Huawei have invested 14 per cent of its annual revenue back into research and development in recent years.

So does Huawei welcome Chinese upstarts Oppo and Alcatel entering the Australian market, and the increased interest in Chinese phones they bring, as a sort of safety in numbers?

“No,” Lord laughs “Well, they are our competitors!” Instead, Lord sees interest in other Chinese technology companies, such as the IPO of Alibaba, as the tide that will lift all boats.

It makes sense for Huawei to distance itself from Oppo and Alcatel, who unashamedly make budget handset. Huawei positions itself toward the high end of the market, and sees Apple and Samsung as its main competitors. And as the third largest phone maker behind those two companies, a fact evidenced by Huawei’s staggering presence at this year’s Congress, the strategy is working.

The writer travelled to Barcelona as a guest of Huawei.

MORE FROM MWC:Sony reboots Xperia brand with trio of phonesVR steals the show at MWCHands on with LG’s modular G5

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Active living, selling fast

PASSPORT TO ADVENTURE: Palm Lake Resorts are master planned, security gated, lifestyle communities built exclusively for active mature age living.Extensive world-class facilities have helpedPalmLakeResort Fern Bay break sales records over the past months.

The complex, close to Newcastle, is in high demand for upmarket over-50s resort-style living.

A development application for a fourth stage is currently before Port Stephens Council.

‘‘PalmLakeFern Bay has proven to be popular as the resort is now over 92 per cent sold out, all within a two-year period,’’ a spokeswoman said.‘‘This success has seen potential buyers rushing in to secure a home in the last stage to be built so they don’t miss out on this unique opportunity.

‘‘Part of the attraction has been the no entry-no exit fee, and the fact that some qualify for government rental assistance on site fees – a difference that you won’t find in a retirement village.Then there is a friendly community feel and loads of ways to make new friends, plus join in on all the free activities.’’

The spokeswoman said having a medical centre on-site and hospitals nearby, plus restaurants, cafes, entertainment, beaches, airport, train, buses and all the things that a major city has to offer, has been ‘‘extremely popular for purchasers’’.

‘‘Fern Bay is conveniently close to everything,’’ she said.

‘‘The resort also has a hairdresser on-site and offers a wide range of activities to either expand on your skills and knowledge or learn something new. There is something for everyone –even a workshop.’’

Homes on offer are modern with three bedrooms or two bedrooms plus a study. Most homes have ensuites and double garages.

The quality fittings include stone benchtops, Smeg kitchen appliances, airconditioning, quality window covers and landscaped gardens.

The Palm Lake Resort Fern Bay site can be found adjacent to the Fullerton Cove waterway. Aplace where the serenity of subtropical forest merges seamlessly with the sea.Where protected corridors ofretained bushland combine with pristine sands, to create a beachside village community where life and living come first.

Whatever your favourite outdoor activity, at Fern Bay you will be in your element –fishing the Hunter River, apply to become a member of the Newcastle Golf Club or even enjoy a short four-wheel drive to the beach where you’ll find coastline as far as the eye can see.

‘‘If you have ever wondered what it’s like to live in such a beautiful over-50s lifestyle resort, now is the time to act and pop in to the information centre,’’ the spokeswoman said.

‘‘You are invited to come and visit our master-planned residential lifestyle community and see for yourself. For further information, a free DVD can be posted or book a tour ofPalmLakeResort Fern Bay by calling our friendly staff on 1800 648 868.’’

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Memory on the waters

PROUD CREATOR: Boat-builder and Hunter River legend Reg Hyde shows a framed picture of his favourite trawler.

ONE long forgotten secret of Newcastle Harbour is the big wooden ship once anchored at the mouth of Fullerton Cove.For more than 60 years, she never went to sea.

BLAZE: Shocked Salt Ash resident Reg Hyde surveys his burnt out sheds immediately after a firestorm destroyed his boat building business in 2013. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Later she was claimed to be the largest non-ocean going vessel in Australia when finally dismantled in the late 1940s.Measuring 140ft in old money(42 metres), her name was the Soudan and she died beached amid mud and mangroves on the south bank of the now equally forgotten Platt’s Channel at Sandgate.Flat bottomed and weighing about 700 tonnes, her hold was divided into about 50 small compartments as she had been vital to the 19th century Hunter Valley mining industry.

Soudan was a real oddity and reputed to be the largest floating powder magazine ever built in the Australian colonies.Boxes and kegs of gunpowder were stored in her for use by mining companies. She was apparently first moored at Fern Bay, then towed further north to Limeburner’s Bay, Fullerton Cove, for the safety of other moored ships and Newcastle township itself.

Her existence is among the vivid memories of retired Hunter prawn fisherman and prominent boat-builder Reg Hyde, of Salt Ash, who turns 91in April.

“I wanted the timber from her decks when she was being dismantled. All teak, I think,” Hyde said.

“I was married about that time. That’s a reason I remember the Soudan. She was a big boat. I started prawning in 1940, but was apprenticed to the BHP Steelworks in 1941 as a carpenter and joiner. I mostly taught myself though later on as a boat-builder,” he said.

“After BHP, I was prawning six months a year and then boat-building the other half.

“During World War II in Newcastle Harbour there were only four or five prawn boats about. You could catch half-a-tonne of prawns in two hours back then. We couldn’t sell them all.

“As a BHP apprentice I was earning seven pound, 10 shillings (about $14.10) pay a week, but on Sunday I could earn eight pounds a day ($16), but you’d really work for it.”

Reg Hyde said another reason he remembered the Soudanwas that he liked to prawn near where she was moored, so the ship’s caretaker was bribed with a swag of prawns as a reward for looking the other way.

“This watchman lived on an old sailing ship, a fair size, maybe up to 150ft, moored behind the Soudan along with three barges, of different sizes, with the biggest being around 45ft,” he said.“That was at what we called Mud Island, but is marked Sandy Island on maps. The steam tug Psyche would work during the day towing the barges full of explosives down from Fullerton Cove to the Horseshoe Beach area,” Hyde said.

“There they would be offloaded from the barges and loaded onto rail trucks to be taken to the mines. The Soudan may have been moved because of an explosion ashore close by when two men lost their lives. Someone’s shovel hit a nail on a box, causing a spark, then an explosion.”

Asked about other early Port Hunter memories, Hyde chuckled and said he slept through the Japanese submarine’s shelling of Newcastle Harbour in June, 1942.

“I woke up. It was just noisy with lights and all. I thought it was another Army exercise and went back to bed. An uncle afterwards though got a Jap star shell parachute as a souvenir.

“There was also a second panic in the port soon after, but it was a false alarm. An enemy submarine was ‘spotted’ in the channel entrance and part of the big Zaara St power station, now gone from the foreshore near Nobbys, got shot up by our gunners in the confusion,” Hyde said.

“While on the war, all the port’s small boats were impounded by the government and heaped at Carrington to be burned if the Japs had landed.”

Reg Hyde went on to become a bit of a legendary figure in the Lower Hunter fishing industry. A founding member of the Newcastle Commercial Fishermen’s Co-Operative Ltd, he became a keen advocate to reopen the Hexham wetlands floodgates saying the Hexham swamp was once the biggest fish nursery in NSW and home to the king prawns.

And in between, he found time to build 60 work boats, boats, that is, measuring over six metres, like sea-going trawlers (20 built by himself) and countless smaller boats.

Now a widower, the self-confessed tough, old bugger might mainly be remembered by the public these days, however, for surviving a 30-metre wall of flames that engulfed his Salt Ash property in October, 2013. The firestorm abruptly destroyed his boat-building workshop along with two area homes and at least 12 other structures. The blaze was blamed on arcing power lines thrown together by strong winds.

“We lost two boats being built in the shed and I lost 70 years of tools, but it could have been worse. Another boat there earlier had been taken away to be launched,” he said.

“And I believe the Hunter River has never been better than is it now, despite everything. A while ago I discovered to my surprise the entrance to the north arm of the Hunter River at Kooragang might now be 100 metres narrower than it ever was before,” he said.“That’s 50 metres on each bank coming towards the centre of the river. That’s how much the mangroves have grown out. People don’t realise that growth’s been helped by 70 years of (flood) topsoil coming downriver.

“You also see some odd sights on the river years ago. When river pollution isn’t flushed away you’d see dead fish or fish grasping for breath on the surface. One time at Stockton, maybe because of a sulphuric acid discharge, the Hunter River side of Stockton was silver with fish. You’d just pick one up, then throw it back and it would jump out again,” Hyde said.

“When BHP was operating, its power house workers could fill a 44-gallon drum full of prawns, mostly king prawns, sometimes in one night by cleaning off their water filter screens. Prawns used to bung up the water intake otherwise.

“Another time we thought we found a diver’s body floating in the north arm of the Hunter. It turned out to be an old fashioned hard-hat diving suit that must have been worn out and discarded.”

“Oh yes, I’ve seen a lot of things. It’s been a good, interesting life,” Hyde said.

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‘We’re the most corrupt detectives you’ll ever see’: Men charged after allegedly impersonating police officers

Two men accused of posing as police officers and robbing a man and his stepson near Newcastle have been committed for trial.

Justin Glen Beckingham, 23, and Paul Colvin, 30, are accused of approaching the two men while they were in a car in Heaton Street, Jesmond, on April 14 last year, shining a torch in their eyes, ordering them out of the vehicle, searching them and stealing car keys, a phone and wallet.

Mr Beckingham allegedly told the driver: “Mate it’s like this, we’re the most corrupt detectives you’ll ever see operating out of Sydney and these number plates are known”, court documents state.

The victims told police the driver was repeatedly hit with a metal bar, pushed into the car and grabbed in a bear hug during the alleged robbery.

When neighbours came outside to see what was happening, the men allegedly assuaged them by saying they were undercover police investigating a stolen car.

The pair are alleged to have repeatedly asked the men to hand over the guns and drugs.

“We are undercover detectives from Sydney and we have been looking at this car for a while,” Mr Colvin is alleged to have said. “We are undercover cops but not, if you know what I mean.

“We are dirty. All we want to know is where the guns and drugs are.”

The two men eventually left in a vehicle and the man and his stepson fled on foot.

Mr Beckingham and Mr Colvin, who are both in custody, have been charged with robbery in company and impersonating a police officer.

They will be arraigned in Newcastle District Court on March 24.

Newcastle Herald

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APN to exit Australian Regional Media as it swings to $10m annual loss

“Strong radio growth and increasing revenues following digitisation of Adshel have been offset by the challenging advertising markets in New Zealand and regional Queensland,” says APN chief executive Ciaran Davis. Photo: Christopher PearceAPN News & Media has flagged it will exit its regional publishing business as the owner of radio station KIIS FM looks to focus more on its growing assets, such as outdoor advertising and radio.

The news come as APN said it swung to a $10.2 million loss for calendar 2015 from a year-earlier $11.5 million profit.

A non-cash write-down of $50.8 million on Australian Regional Media (ARM) contributed to much of the loss.

Barring one-offs, net profit fell 7 per cent to $70.2 million. Revenue edged 1 per cent higher to $850 million.

“APN has been a long term supporter of regional publishing in Australia however, our future investments must remain focused on growth assets and opportunities,” chief executive Ciaran Davis said.

“We have therefore commenced a process to divest ARM. New ownership should give ARM the flexibility to invest where required, to continue to providing quality news and content to its audiences, without having to compete for APN’s capital.”

ARM earnings before internet, depreciation and amortisation fell 27 per cent to $18.4 million.

However, APN’s radio business, Australian Radio Network enjoyed a 25 per cent jumped in EBITDA to $82.8 million.

“Strong radio growth and increasing revenues following digitisation of Adshel have been offset by the challenging advertising markets in New Zealand and regional Queensland, which affected overall performances in NZME and ARM,” Mr Davis said.

For full coverage of today’s earnings results, visit the AFR Results Wrap – February 25. 

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