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Waffles are not just for breakfast

Buttermilk waffles with maple bacon butter. Photo: Steven Siewert. Food: Jill Dupleix Hot Food: Buttermilk waffles. Photo: Steven Siewert

What are they?

Crisp, golden, deeply gridded batter cakes baked in a waffle iron or electric waffle-maker. Descendants of the 12th-century French walfre and Dutch wafel, they’re gaining ground on local menus as all-day breakfasts, desserts, and increasingly, as savoury snacks.Where is it?

Respect, please, for the duck waffles at Melbourne’s Cumulus Up wine bar, stuffed with shredded duck confit and topped with foie gras parfait and sticky prunes.

At the light, bright, new Touchwood Cafe, chef Tristan White’s heart-shaped wholemeal waffles come with peanut butter and jelly (reduced raspberry compote) and whipped peanut butter ricotta and peanut brittle. ”It’s awesome,” says owner Jamie McBride. ”A lot of people order it after their bacon and eggs, and share it as a breakfast dessert.”

In Sydney, it’s the waffles at Surry Hill’s Paramount Coffee Project that take the cake. Head chef Brett Barbuto not only cooks sweet waffles with peanut butter ice-cream, dulce de leche and hazelnuts on the Roller Grill waffle iron, but also savoury waffles topped with guacamole, sour cream, grilled peppers, fried eggs, and bloody mary salsa. ”People were a little unsure how to approach eating them at first,” says Barbuto.

”Now we’re selling almost as many as the crab po’ boy.”Why do I care?

Because that deep gridwork of dimples traps all the butter, maple syrup, honey, cream or ice-cream your heart can cope with.Can I do them at home?

Yes, as long as you have an old-school waffle iron or a flash new Breville waffle-maker (from $59.95).Sourcing


Cumulus Up, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 03 9650 1445

Touchwood, 480 Bridge Road, Richmond, 03 9429 9347


Paramount Coffee Project, 80 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills, 02 9211 1122.

RECIPEButtermilk waffles with maple bacon butter

For super-crisp bacon, lay the rashers flat on an oven tray and bake at 190 degrees for 10 minutes.

2 large eggs, separated

375ml buttermilk

2 tbsp melted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

225g self-raising flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of sea salt

1 tbsp caster sugar

Maple syrup for serving

For the maple bacon butter:

100g softened butter

1 tbsp maple syrup

4 rashers crisp bacon

1. To make the maple bacon butter, crush the crisp bacon into bits and beat into the butter with the maple syrup. Chill until required.

2. Whisk the egg yolks lightly then whisk in the buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla. Sift the flour, cinnamon and salt into a second bowl and stir in the sugar. Make a well in the centre and add the egg mixture, mixing lightly until smooth.

3. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter.

4. Heat the waffle-iron or waffle-maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

5. To cook the waffles, ladle the batter into each mould and cook for 5 minutes or until golden. Serve with maple bacon butter and extra maple syrup.

Serves: 4

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Britain’s phone-hacking trial: Juror selection begins with verdict not expected until Easter next year

Defendants: Rebekah Brooks and husband Charlie arrive at the Old Bailey for the start of their trial. Photo: Kirsty WigglesworthJurors at the so-called ‘trial of the century’ will likely not be handing down their verdicts until well into next year.

Around Easter, their ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ could decide the fate of not only some of the UK’s most high-profile journalists, but entire media empires.

But in the meantime they have been given an early, tough decision: do they want to spend the next four or five months of their lives listening to the ins and outs of the phone hacking saga?

Monday was the first day of the trial at the Old Bailey, where eight defendants faced charges relating to alleged phone-hacking and payments to public officials at the now-defunct News of the World newspaper.

The defendants include Rupert Murdoch’s star protégé and confidante Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of News International and editor of the News of the World; her husband Charlie Brooks, and Andy Coulson, former editor of the News of the World and Downing Street’s communications director.

The other defendants are Ian Edmondson, former editor of the NOTW, Stuart Kuttner, the paper’s former managing editor, Clive Goodman its former royal editor, Mark Hanna, former head of security at News International and Cheryl Carter, former PA to Ms Brooks.

Ian Edmondson, Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and Stuart Kuttner are charged with conspiring to hack mobile phone voicemails.

Mr Goodman, Mr Coulson and Ms Brooks also face charges over alleged payments to public officials. And Brooks, her husband, Carter and Hanna have been charged over alleged concealment of evidence.

The trial is attracting intense media interest – with 20 reporters in the courtroom, another 50 in a nearby annex, and many more exchanging comments and observations on Twitter.

However, tweeting or texting from the court will be banned during the trial.

Daily Telegraph columnist Peter Oborne dubbed it the “trial of the century”, predicting “Hollywood movies are going to be made about Rebekah Brooks, guilty or not guilty, and her journey from the Cheshire village of Daresbury to become the most powerful and courted woman in Britain.”

Hollywood producer Gene Kirkwood has reportedly already optioned a Vanity Fair profile of her, with Nicole Kidman suggested for the lead.

However, the movie will almost certainly not feature Monday’s events.

Ms Brooks arrived at court amid the glare of camera flashes (and on the wings of one of Britain’s worst storms in years), but the events in court were merely procedural.

Such a criminal trial normally begins with the prosecution and defence agreeing on questions to put to potential jurors – who are then sent home for the night to consult with family and employers about the ramifications of taking on a trial expected to run for at least four months, with scores of witnesses.

The prosecution is expected to open its case on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Andrew Edis QC, leading the prosecution, was named ‘crime silk of the year’ this month and the award citation noted he was “at the very top of the list for serious crime”, with several successful high-profile prosecutions under his belt including former MP Chris Huhne.

Ms Brooks also has a top silk on her side: her lead counsel Jonathan Laidlaw QC, who in a previous life as a prosecutor was involved in such cases as the IRA bombing of Canary Wharf and the Jill Dando murder trials. The Sunday Times reported that he has “lethal cross-examination skills” and a “mean way with closing speeches”.

The trial comes with the UK government and the press at loggerheads over a proposed new regulatory regime, based broadly on recommendations from the Leveson Inquiry, which the newspapers claim is an historic attack on the freedom of the press.

The Daily Telegraph reported that the solicitor general Oliver Heald wrote to the leaders of the three main political parties, asking for MPs to refrain from commenting on the case behind the legally-privileged walls of Parliament.

The trial may have ramifications, not only for future treatment of the press by politicians, but also for the political influence of Rupert Murdoch – as well as his business empire.

The Leveson Inquiry into press misbehaviour steered clear of the potential criminal actions, so this trial may see new detail of allegations about who was hacked, when and to what extent.

And the evidence may give a better picture as to exactly who at News International and News Corp knew what their employees were allegedly up to, and to what extent it may have been authorised.

Potential jurors were asked to fill in questionnaire and will return for final selection on Tuesday.

Justice John Saunders warned the jury panel they should be prepared for the case to last a long time.”This trial concerns allegations of criminal conduct at the News of the World and the Sun newspapers which preceded the closure of the News of the World,” he said.

“It’s an important case. The trial we are about to start will take a considerable length of time. It’s estimated the case may last until Easter.

“I hope that with the assistance of counsel the case will finish more quickly, but people who sit on [the jury] should be prepared for the case to go on that long.”

They were reminded not to look up anything about the case on the internet – including Google and Twitter – and were warned it was the sort of case where “people have a lot of views”.

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Sky’s now the limit for predicting heatwaves

Meteorologists may have found a way to predict some killer heatwaves up to three weeks in advance. The best they can do now is about 10 days.

An earlier warning would help cities prepare for the heatwave, arrange to open up cooling centres and check on the elderly, said Gerald Meehl, co-author of a study that describes the forecasting clue. ”It gives you a little bit of a heads-up of what’s coming,” he said.

The key may be a certain pattern of high and low pressure spots across the globe high in the sky. When that pattern shows up, the chances double for a prolonged and intense heatwave in the eastern two-thirds of the US, according to the study published on Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

This could predict some types of heatwaves but not all, meteorologists said.

The researchers at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, looked at heatwaves that lasted at least a week and were about 3 to 5 degrees warmer than normal.

They did thousands of computer simulations and discovered that when high pressure and low pressure systems line up in a specific pattern, it foreshadows heat to come in about 15 to 20 days. The weather on the ground at the time of the pattern really does not matter; it can be rainy, dry, hot or cold, said study lead author Haiyan Teng, a scientist at the research centre.

The same pattern that signals a US heatwave also indicates different extreme weather in other parts of the globe, like heavy rains, she said.

This wave pattern was seen before the 1980 heatwave in Dallas that was blamed for 1250 deaths, said Randall Dole, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who did not participate in the study.


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Is monogamy really flawed?

THE PLANNER OCT 26Dan SavageSavage_CAASpeakers_Photo1 credit LaRae Lobdell.jpg Photo: [email protected]苏州美甲美睫培训学校 Why monogamy is bad for you.

Dan Savage – advice columnist, author, provocateur and parent, among other things – learnt to stop mincing words a long time ago.

Growing up in Chicago in the 1960s and ’70s, the product of a family enthusiastic in its Catholicism, there came a time when the boy they called Danny had something to say. He’d thought about it a lot, and then he finally said it. In the process he learnt that when it comes to thinking and talking about life – the forces that shape us, and the shapes we’re forced to fit – he had a talent for navigating the more complicated byways of the human head and heart.

That first brave conversation, 31 years ago, was always bound to leave a mark; it does on almost everyone who has it or hears it. ”Coming out is a process, as they say,” Savage says. ”I came out to myself at 14, 15, came out to a few friends at 16 as bisexual, I was about to come out to my parents when my parents [separated] … my dad left my mum and I actually waited a couple of years longer before I came out to my mother because I just didn’t feel like she could take those two blows at once and survive.”

But once he’d crossed that final frontier, there was no stopping him. Out to the world, he left by the wayside the faith he’d been raised in. He went to college, studying theatre and history. It wasn’t until he was almost 30, in the early 1990s, that the voice found its first major public platform – as an advice columnist for The Stranger, a new alternative weekly in Seattle – but since then it has rarely been quieted.

He’s written six books; he co-founded a theatre company; he’s a prominent American voice on some of the major social issues of the times, from abortion to gay marriage; and, with husband Terry Miller, in 2010 he created one of the most potent media projects of the age, the anti-bullying It Gets Better initiative, a video-driven concept with a powerful message that attracted even US President Barack Obama to the cause.

He still writes the advice column that started it all, Savage Love, now syndicated around the world and also available in podcast form.

Whatever the platform or outlet, the voice is bold, blunt, often contrary, always challenging – as it has been since he first spoke up for himself as a teenager, when he found himself and lost his religion. ”I’m grateful for my sexuality bringing me into conflict with my faith. It makes you think, without my sexuality I might have just coasted along.” He talks of ”all that shit poured into my head” as a kid – ”exclusionary, judgey, condemnatory crap”. As we said, Savage doesn’t mince his words, as Australian audiences are about to find out up close for the first time.

The Festival of Dangerous Ideas, a Sydney event with a one-day Melbourne sideshow on November 3. He is not yet in the country, but Savage has his ideas about the country he’s coming to, and on the phone to Fairfax Media he happily accepts the invitation to share them. They are based on impressions – he’s been here only once, and that was a holiday 20 years ago – but Savage is skilled at making his impressions of those impressions count.

The times here would seem to suit him, given that a bunch of his favourite topics – gay rights, sexism and, courtesy of the new incumbent of The Lodge, Catholicism – feature prominently in national debate.

”Australia, my impression is it’s a little schizoid considering the Prime Minister you dudes just elected down there,” he says. ”The gulf between very liberal laws on prostitution and other sexual-related matters and then there’s this kind of instinctual, knee-jerk conservatism when it comes to marriage equality.”

That Australia would be ”the last country in the Anglosphere to legalise marriage equality” baffles him. ”Australia’s looking a little bit like you guys got the Puritans and we got the convicts; it’s the wrong way round.”

He knows of Tony Abbott and knows he’s a political conservative, and for Savage that is enough to warrant withdrawing any thought of giving the new PM the benefit of the doubt: ”All I’ve seen is that one video where your former prime minister beat the shit out of him during question time, that was delicious.”

I bring him up to speed on some curiosities of the Australian moment that have escaped him, among them that the new US ambassador to Australia is a gay man with a husband – their union recognised by US law but not here. ”That’s too bad,” Savage says. ”I look forward to him meeting your new Prime Minister at a state function and introducing his husband in America, boyfriend in Australia.”

On the same theme, he learns of Abbott’s family conflict on marriage equality, and files it away as just another example of a leader choosing political convenience over doing the right thing. Remember George Bush snr, he says, whose nominating convention in 1988 was a festival of public homophobia; then last month the Republican former president was a witness at the nuptials of a lesbian couple. ”This motherf—er Abbott”, Savage says, will no doubt also see the light and support his sister’s right to marry – when he no longer needs the votes of bigots to win power.

None of this is to suggest Savage has been invited to Australia to hold forth on local politics, or even on the subject of gay marriage, an issue about which he is deeply passionate. He is coming instead to share with the festival his views on monogamy, but inevitably these issues are all of a piece – marriage, its rules, its relation to religion – and Savage dismantles with relish the conventions that govern their debate.

On marriage, for starters he contends that it is straight people who have dramatically changed the nature of the institution, and that arguments against same-sex unions are often based on notions of tradition that have long since been abandoned by heterosexuals.

”There’s a reluctance on the part of many straight people to acknowledge how they have changed marriage,” he says.

”[This] shit that we [gay people] want to redefine marriage – no, no, no. There’s this kind of nostalgia in some ways for gender roles and their legal expression. Marriage used to be a very gendered institution and it was very unfavourable for women and straight people eventually rejected that and re-created, redefined marriage to be the legal union of two autonomous people. Allowing same-sex couples to marry really does force straight people to confront what marriage is – not for us, but for them.”

Those old gender norms, he says, are now ”optional”, yet outdated traditions are the go-to argument of opponents of same-sex marriage. ”Straight people,” Savage says, ”want gay people to marry in 1813 and they get to marry in 2013.”

But when it comes to monogamy – the focus of his Australian speeches – Savage argues that in redefining the old rules of marriage, this is one area where change has not gone far enough. He believes sexual fidelity as a social norm is not merely old-fashioned but is actively damaging to relationships and the individuals within them.

A dangerous idea? It may be billed as such, but Savage seems equal parts amused and bemused that his views could be regarded that way.

”Some of the things I say about monogamy are regarded as dangerous,” he says. ”But I actually think the attitudes we hold about monogamy and the importance we place on it is more dangerous, is doing more damage, is harming marriages, is leading to more divorces than anything I’ve ever recommended that people do or think.”

He insists he is not in favour of a sexual free-for-all for committed partners. Indeed, he has coined a word, monogamish, which is how he describes his marriage to Terry Miller. (The couple were married in Canada in 2005, and again in the US when Washington state legalised same-sex unions in 2012. They have an adopted son.)

”We were monogamous for four or five years and not monogamous for 15 years,” Savage says. ”We’re blissfully happy and we still have sex all the time with each other. I coined the term for our marriage, monogamish, [because] we were so much more monogamous than not.”

But it is common sense, not his own marriage, that Savage holds out as the basis for his views. ”We tell people that humans are naturally monogamous and [it’s not] true. We know that in most serious long-term relationships, 60 per cent of the men in them will cheat, 40 per cent of the women … and we pound it into people’s heads that if there’s infidelity you must end the marriage, that the marriage is destroyed.

”It’s saying that one blow-job on a business trip should be given more weight and consideration and more importance should be attached to it than the 25 years you’ve spent together, the kids you’re raising together, the property you own together, the history you have together, the affection you still have for each other – all of that must be discarded. All of that weighs less on the scales.”

The default position should be reversed, he argues. ”It should be, ‘We’ll get through this,’ not divorce as the default.”

And the result? ”It’s going to save marriage, it’s going to make marriage better and stronger,” Savage declares.

And that, right there, is where listening to Dan Savage not mince words on life and love can lead you: from radical idea to conservative outcome, with human nature as your ever fallible guide. Dangerous? Some may think so, but you’d be mad not to buckle up and take the ride.

Dan Savage is at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre on Sunday, November 3, for the Pop-Up Festival of Dangerous Ideas, presented by the Wheeler Centre and the Sydney Opera House. Bookings wheelercentre苏州美甲美睫培训学校

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Freaks and treats for comedy geeks

If you had a third, superfluous, ear growing at the back of your neck, there are several options. You could keep your hair long and wear high-collared garments. You could quietly seek medical advice about its removal, or you could view it as another diamond-drop earring option and seek out the nearest television camera.

Welcome to Embarrassing Bodies Down Under (LifeStyle You, 9.30pm), in which Australians with ailments best covered under doctor-patient confidentiality agreements drop their kit and scream ”look at me”.

This is the Antipodean version of the British original, which had no Down Under in the title but much down under action. Every second patient’s embarrassing secret resided in the vicinity of their underpants.

The Aussie version is no different. While there is medical science involved here, it is definitely part freak show. Who’s for some holiday snaps of unusual bowel motions?

David Walliams’ Mr Church from Big School (Channel Nine, 8.30pm) is in a position to contribute in that regard after an altercation with some bad seafood.

Financial constraints have led to Miss Postern’s school trip to France being downscaled from a visit to Paris to a ferry jaunt to the dreary port town of Dieppe. Naturally, the tracky dacks-clad sports teacher Trevor is on board – not so much to help with the children but to sell them alcohol and ”shag Postern”.

Mr Church has far more honourable, though still romantic, intentions, as anarchy threatens.

Comedy and travel sit beautifully side by side in Michael Palin: From Python to Brazil (ABC1, 10pm). The absurdist skill of Monty Python was a big influence on Walliams and Matt Lucas in the creation of Little Britain. In fact, Python has had its way with much great British comedy.

Here, Palin takes us through his career transformation, from comic actor to much-loved and respected television travel guide.

Any chance to sit and listen to Adam Goodes talk for half an hour should be grabbed. His conversation with Karla Grant in Living Black (NITV, 8pm) is all you would expect from the AFL great: erudite, considered, confident and illuminating.

From family values to becoming an ”elder” within the Sydney Swans set-up, ensuring that players commit to its culture (welcome Buddy Franklin) to the ugliness of the racial vilification moments from this season, Goodes is open to it all.

When asked, there’s even the tiniest hint that politics might be a post-footy career option. After all, for someone who likes to be involved in the process of change, politics is considered the place to be. Were it to happen, let’s hope Goodes could change politics rather than it changing him.

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Can an affair save a marriage?

Photo: Steve BacconIn today’s society it is accepted that when we are in a relationship we have to be monogamous. Being monogamous is not always discussed or agreed on when a relationship starts – it is often just expected. In practice, however, many couples struggle with the concept.

As part of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House this weekend, America’s leading sex-advice columnist Dan Savage will speak about one of his favourite theories, redefining the rules of marriage. He believes that monogamy can be restrictive, has become old-fashioned and is the reason for many unhappy relationships.

About two years ago he coined the term “monogamish” to refer to long-term committed relationships that bend the rules of monogamy with the consent of both parties. He believes we need a more flexible attitude within a relationship. As you might expect, he received an enormous amount of criticism, but he also received thousands of letters and emails from people thanking him for giving them permission to live in a non-traditional relationship they often felt guilty about.

Another more extreme opinion about infidelity was put forward last year by Catherine Hakim, a British social scientist who was educated in France and wrote the book The New Rules Of Marriage. She believes we should take our cue from the French, whom she claims are happier and have a more philosophical approach to adultery.

An unforgiving attitude to adultery is damaging married life in Britain and driving couples to divorce and children to suffer, she believes, and says that it is possible to have a successful affair where both parties are happier and no one is hurt. France and several other European countries have more accepting attitudes to infidelity and have lower divorce rates.

Hakim provoked quite a controversy when she said: “Anyone rejecting a fresh approach to marriage and adultery, with a new set of rules to go with it, fails to recognise the benefits of a revitalised sex life outside the home”. But unlike Savage, she believes that being honest and truthful about an affair can be hurtful and is not necessary. “Total discretion is the absolute rule – the other party should never find out.”

I am from The Netherlands and probably a bit more open-minded about infidelity than most, and believe that truly monogamous relationships are the exception, not the rule. What has changed over the years is that many people now wait to marry or settle down in their late twenties or early thirties. By then they will have had lots of sex through many relationships, flings or one-night stands. Suddenly they are expected never to have sex again with anybody else!

Statistics tell us that in Australia between 40 and 60 per cent of women and men will cheat at some time in their lives and I wouldn’t be surprised if the percentage was higher. What has changed in the past decade is the way we are cheating; it has become easier than ever.

The typical affair we used to have started at work or within our circle of friends or acquaintances – now we have the internet. We can have steamy chat-room conversations with strangers and have cybersex with anybody who is keen. Internet affairs can involve sexually stimulating conversations or cybersex, which may include filming mutual masturbation with a web camera.

I have several clients who are taking part in this, especially women at home with young children and partners who work long hours. They tell me there is no physical sexual contact, it is exciting, it isn’t cheating and nobody will find out. But some studies suggest that online affairs can trigger emotional infidelity, and when found out can also trigger feelings of anger, jealousy and insecurity in the other partner.

In 2010 an internet dating site called Ashley Madison Australia was launched, which proved to be enormously popular. More than 500,000 people have joined, 40 per cent of them female. It was created especially for partnered people who want to have an affair with no strings attached. The slogan is Life is short – Have an affair!

One of my clients joined the site because he definitely doesn’t want to leave his wife and children, but their sex life had become non-existent. He met a woman who has no intention of leaving her husband either and they meet once a week.

However, there are so many shades of infidelity!

Is flirting with a colleague at work cheating? Is having a massage with a happy ending? Is masturbating looking at porn? Having sex with your partner and fantasising about Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie? What about texting or sexting? What about sending naked pictures to friends who are not your partner?

Is it possible to be monogamous, what do you think?

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Labor set to bury carbon tax

Labor is considering supporting the scrapping of the carbon tax to allow for a wider argument for action against climate change. Photo: Paul JonesAustralian politics: full coverage

Labor is expected to support axing the carbon tax, with senior figures – including leader Bill Shorten – now convinced that its case for action on climate change will be more easily sold if the politically toxic tax is abolished.

The opposition has been wrestling with what to do on the repeal of the tax, with some saying it must hold the line to show voters and demoralised supporters that it still stands for something.

But party leaders have progressed in their thinking to consider what the party should put to voters in the lead-up to the next election.

They argue that Labor proposed to ”terminate” the tax at the last election and to simply block its repeal would allow the government to continue to punish it politically.

Mr Shorten is also worried that continual focus on the tax will distract from serious flaws in the government’s $3.2 billion ”direct action” policy, which Labor will oppose.

Under direct action, taxpayer dollars are used to pay polluters to reduce emissions and to fund other initiatives in forestry, carbon capture and recycling.

A survey of economists by Fairfax Media found only two of 35 supported direct action over an emissions trading scheme, which uses a floating carbon price driven by the global market.

Labor will continue to back some form of carbon pricing but reserves the right to deliver its policy closer to the election. Meanwhile, it will scrutinise direct action.

Independent analysis of direct action suggests it will not be able to reduce emissions by the bipartisan target of 5 per cent by 2020 without more funding – which has been ruled out by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

A senior Labor source said the party would not countenance weakening the target, amid concern that the legislation to repeal the carbon tax will change the status of the 5 per cent target from a legally enforceable cap to merely an aspiration.

”We are happy to get rid of the tax but we do think there should be a cap on pollution,” said one Labor insider.

Mr Abbott has made the repeal of the tax his legislative priority when Parliament resumes in two weeks. He has urged Labor to ”repent” and support the government.

A number of Labor sources acknowledge there has been a shift in sentiment since the election. Even so, the shadow cabinet is yet to finalise Labor’s position and wants to see the final shape of the government’s legislation before making any commitment.

Labor’s climate change spokesman, Mark Butler, hinted strongly at the weekend that the option of backing the repeal bills was being considered, saying that the final policy ”will be informed by the fact that we took to the last election a commitment ourselves to terminate the carbon tax”.

John Scales of JWS Research said polling showed that the carbon tax had dominated the climate change debate in recent years and undermined support for action.

He said the tax was widely seen through the prism of former prime minister Julia Gillard’s broken promise when she introduced the impost, and through its impact on electricity and other prices.

Mr Abbott has already begun to call Mr Shorten ”Electricity Bill” as he goads him to support the repeal of the tax. With it gone, Mr Scales said Labor would have clear air to make direct action its target and to develop its alternative.

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Planning ‘U-turn’ risky, say building certifiers

Fast-track building approvals have been made more neighbour-friendly under legislation now before Parliament but private building certifiers are not happy.

Under the new planning bills, neighbours must be notified of a complying development application 14 days before approval, although they will still have no right to object. There is no such notification at present. This will extend the time in which applications must be approved by a council or private certifier, currently 10 days.

There will also be a mandatory notification to neighbours seven days before construction actually starts, up from two days.

Another amendment allows councils to amend the statewide complying development code to reflect the local character of their areas on issues such as placement of windows, privacy and light.

Complying development now accounts for more than 25 per cent of all development approvals in NSW and the government is aiming for a much higher target.

The Association of Accredited Certifiers has criticised the ”U-turn” on complying development, saying the changes will cause confusion.

”We cannot understand how the changes can possibly improve efficiency or streamline the processes,” said Jill Brookfield, the association’s executive officer.

There is a shortage of private certifiers and some are leaving the profession, citing too much risk and complexity in the system. According to one report, six certifiers handed back their accreditations last week.

”Certifiers are now saying to clients to get planning approval from the council and we will handle the construction certificate and certifying work. This reduces their liability,” said one certifier who did not wish to be named. ”Many are very nervous about issuing complying development certificates, especially in wealthy areas where neighbours have the resources to challenge their validity.”

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No victory but a job well done: Abbott

Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten laying wreaths during the Recognition Ceremony in Tarin Kowt. Photo: Andrew Meares Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten on the flight. Photo: Andrew Meares

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten meet with Afghan leaders after attending the Recognition Ceremony in Tarin Kowt. Photo: Andrew Meares

Abbott meets with troops. Photo: Andrew Meares

Tony Abbott came to Afghanistan on Monday to signal the end of the 12-year mission there and declare Australia’s longest war had failed to secure victory.

But he said it was a job well done and that it was time for the troops to come home.

Accompanied by Labor leader Bill Shorten, in what is the only bipartisan visit since Australia sent first sent troops 12 years ago, the Prime Minister did not believe victory could be claimed but that a positive difference was made.

“Australia’s longest war is ending, not with victory, not with defeat, but with, we hope, an Afghanistan that is better for our presence here,” he told assembled troops at the Tarin Kowt base.

“Our armed forces and our officials have done their duty. That duty never ends, although our duty here has.”

The Abbott government is also likely to adopt a hard line towards aid for Afghanistan after the last Australians leave next month.

While the previous Labor government declared Australia would maintain a strong aid presence beyond the withdrawal, Fairfax Media understands the Abbott government is not so keen.

There will be some assistance but a portion of the more than $4billion in cuts to the aid budget the Coalition promised before the election would be at the expense of Afghanistan. It is in recognition that with the Western forces gone, the country will resort to its centuries-old practice of being controlled by warlords.

One condition the government is keen to place on the spending of aid money is that the government has at least some say in its disbursement. In post-occupation Afghanistan, where the Taliban are expected to assume a dominant role, that is not considered a reality.

Mr Abbott visited Afghanistan three times as opposition leader, the most of any in that position. This visit, conducted with the now customary surprise and secrecy, will be his last and the last of any Australian prime minister, ending a tradition that began in 2005.

Australia’s commitment to Afghanistan has lasted four prime ministers and six opposition leaders, and has come at a price: 40 men killed, more than 200 wounded, and close to $8 billion spent.

More than 26 thousand service personnel have rotated through the country.

Mr Abbott told the troops the withdrawal would be “bitter sweet”.

“Sweet because hundreds of soldiers will be home for Christmas, bitter because not all Australian families have had their sons, and fathers and partners return”.

One claim of success from the visiting delegation was that the Australians had overseen the construction of more than 200 schools in Oruzgan, of which 26 were for girls, but questions remained as to how many were still functioning.

Afghan Interior Minister Mohammed Omer Daudzai told the ceremony the Australians “have been the best” of all who had served in the country.

“What ever they have been doing here … they have always put the Afghan people first.”

Oruzgan governor Amir Mohammad Akhundzada said security had improved a lot but ”some threats still exist”.

Australia still has about 1000 personnel at Tarin Kowt, the base in the Oruzgan province. All are due to be home by Christmas. Beyond that, an undefined number of Special Forces will remain. They will relocate to Kandahar and Kabul and act as “trainers”.

On Monday’s visit, Mr Abbott and Mr Shorten laid wreaths during a ceremony to mark the imminent withdrawal and the lead role Australia has had since 2010 in looking after Oruzgan province.

Present at the ceremony were representatives from the nations that had variously served alongside Australian troops – the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United States, Slovenia, France and Singapore.

Mr Shorten also addressed the troops.

“The troops have taken the vow of absence and risk and of distance from families,” he said.

“There are no words to thank you for the sacrifice and the ordinariness of the life we take for granted.

“It will be a great homecoming for a tremendous job.”

The ceremony was held around the Camp Holland memorial wall, which features the names of the 40 Australians who died, along with another 74 US, Dutch and French troops who died in Oruzgan.

Controversially, the withdrawal plans included painting over the names of the fallen soldiers and the three large concrete panels on which they are inscribed will be broken up and buried.

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Eating for health: the Mediterranean diet

The good oil: capsicums stuffed with egg and feta. Greek salad.

Greek salad.

None of the ingredients featured in Dr Catherine Itsiopoulos’s The Mediterranean Diet have scary chemical names or need numeric identification.

Instead, the core components of the Mediterranean diet are olive oil, leafy greens, eggs, fruit and nuts, legumes, fermented dairy products, seafood, a small amount of red meat and a minuscule amount of sugar.

As head of the department and associate professor in dietetics and human nutrition at LaTrobe University, Itsiopoulos’s book, published in August, is a happy nod to both her Greek heritage and more than two decades of dedicated research into the Mediterranean diet.

“Most of the recipes used in the book were provided by either my mum or my mum-in-law,” says Itsiopoulos, who, as well as being a passionate home cook, has more than 25 years of clinical and academic nutrition experience.

“I’ve grown up on this diet but it wasn’t until I graduated from dietetics that I looked at this way of eating from a research perspective. Research conducted over the past 60 years has proven the diet can promote weight loss, aid cancer recovery, slow Alzheimer’s, prevent diabetes, heart disease and promote longevity,” says Itsiopoulos, whose parents migrated to Australia from Greece in the 1960s.

Itsiopoulos who, at 170cm, has weighed between 58 and 62 kilograms all her adult life and has a BMI of 21, is a walking advertisement for the diet.

The 50-year-old believes it’s the ubiquitous olive oil that makes the Mediterranean diet more satisfying than a low-fat diet and therefore easier to adhere to. As well as a traditional menu, there is a weight-loss menu with a daily kilojoule intake of 7000 kilojoules (which includes dishes high in fibre, vitamin C and folate and low in kilojoules) and a healthy menu for chronic disease prevention.

“People do not eat excess calories on this diet because that drizzle of extra virgin olive oil makes it so satisfying. It’s a lifestyle diet. Yes, it works because it’s palatable but it also works because it encourages you to slow down and eat in a social environment. It’s not a quick fix. It’s a way of life,” she says.

A review article published this year, in the highly respected New England Journal of Medicine, entitled ”Prevencion con Dieta Mediterranea” (PREDIMED) ranked a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra virgin olive oil or nuts as the model most likely to provide protection against coronary heart disease.

The April edition reported the results of the study, which surveyed 7447 people aged 55 to 80 – some of whom were at high cardiovascular risk – over 4.8 years:

“Salient components of the Mediterranean diet reportedly associated with better survival include moderate consumption of ethanol [mostly from wine], low consumption of meat and high consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, fish, and olive oil.”

While Itsiopoulos concedes many people living in the countries that surround the Mediterranean have moved away from healthy eating patterns, her own research was based on the traditional timeworn peasant-style diet. Her major research interest lies in the positive effects of this diet in a society that faces a rising incidence of lifestyle-related diseases.

“The diet that is the most-often prescribed diet in the world and the one that is most often quoted in scientific studies is the Cretan-Mediterranean diet that originated from the island of Crete following World War II. Research has found that people eating this diet had almost no traces of heart disease,” says Itsiopoulos, who lives in the Melbourne suburb of Moonee Ponds with her Greek-Australian husband Savvas Koutsis and teenage daughters Tiana and Vivienne.

Itsiopoulos says research backed by science has also shown that, despite being high in fat, the Mediterranean diet – which was heritage-listed by UNESCO in 2010 – uses olive oil rather than butter, which does not necessarily lead to weight gain.

“The one key ingredient that binds all the diets of the Mediterranean is olive oil, which is well known for its role in the prevention of heart disease.

”There’s also less meat, more veg,” says Itsiopoulos, whose findings have been published in journals such as Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases and the Journal of Hepatology.

“Although the diet is high in fat, it’s also high in fibre, with almost a kilogram of fresh fruit and vegetables per day, small portions of lean meat, a regular intake of fish and snacks of dried fruit, nuts and yoghurt,” she says.

Traditional Greek-Mediterranean recipes featured in the book include: favas santorinis (split pea dip), keftedakia (little meatballs), dolmathakia (vegetarian-stuffed vineleaves) and fassoulada (white bean soup). Itsiopoulous has also modified many of the heavier mains, such as moussaka, to feature grilled vegetables over meat as the “heroes of the dish”.

“Making eating a pleasure is one of the cornerstones of the diet. You don’t feel like you are missing out,” she says.

The Mediterranean Diet (published by Pan Macmillan Australia, RRP $34.99).Mini vine capsicums stuffed with egg and feta (Piperies gemistes)

These impressive little morsels of brightly coloured capsicums filled with feta cheese and egg make great mezze for parties or nibbles.

They can be pre-cooked and eaten at room temperature or warmed in oven/microwave. Great in a lunchbox the following day.

200 g feta cheese, crumbled¼  tsp white pepper, or to taste1 egg¼ cup (60 ml) milk1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley12 mini vine capsicums, slit on one side lengthways, seeds removed50 ml olive oilSide salad, to servePreheat oven to 180C (160C fan-forced).

1. Combine feta, pepper, egg, milk and parsley in a bowl and stir well.2. Arrange capsicum in an oiled baking dish with open side facing up,stuff with egg and cheese mixture and pour half a cup of boiling water in bottom of baking dish. Cover baking dish with foil.3. Bake for 30-40 minutes checking if the capsicum are cooked through and lightly browned on top.4. Serve with a salad or as finger food.Serves 4 as light meal.

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