There’s a point to taking control of costs

En garde … you, too, should be on your guard that you are not paying too much in super fees.Want to get a better return on your investments? You could always try guessing which investments will outperform over the coming months and put your money into them, but unless you have a crystal ball, that’s a pretty tricky exercise.

Or you could take a good hard look at what you are paying for your investments and switch to something cheaper if you are paying too much.

Fees – unlike investment markets – are something that we can all control. They are set out for us in black and white, and unlike published investment returns, published fees are a good indicator of what will happen in the future.

Yet far too many investors turn a blind eye to high fees when monitoring their investments.

The table is from a survey by Rice Warner Actuaries for the Financial Services Council, which represents the retail fund managers. It shows the average fees charged by different types of super funds over the 12 months to June 30 last year.

The council is keen to promote an overall reduction in fees since the survey was originally done in 2002. The report found industry-wide average fees have declined 1.37 per cent to 1.2 per cent over the past decade – a reduction of about 12 per cent. Between 2010 and 2011, it found average fees fell by 5 per cent.

Let’s give credit where it is due.

This is a good thing for super fund members, especially those with personal super accounts, where fees have fallen from 2.41 per cent to 1.87 per cent.

Factors driving fees down include the unbundling of advice costs from funds (though you may still pay for advice separately), economies of scale with larger funds, lower investment costs due to increased use of indexed or passive investments, and increased average account balances as markets begin to recover from the global financial crisis.

But averages can present a misleadingly comfortable picture.

As the table shows, there are still big differences in fees, depending on what sort of fund you are in. And if you drill down further to what individual funds charge, while some charge less than the average, a small number charge much more.

Rice Warner did an interesting analysis of the range of fees within each sector and the mean fees charged. It shows some industry funds and corporate super master trusts still charge more than 3 per cent, and the more expensive personal super funds charge more than 3.5 per cent.

That is too much, no matter how good these funds might claim to be.

On the other hand, there are corporate and public-sector super funds that cost less than 0.5 per cent, and some corporate master trusts charging about 0.5 per cent.

As the report points out, the averages fall quite low within the range for each fund type, which indicates the number of very expensive funds in each category is quite low.

But you can’t just assume that because you have, for example, an industry fund that doesn’t charge you for advice you’ll be paying less than you would in a retail fund that does. It comes down to what your particular fund charges. The averages do, however, provide a useful benchmark.

As the industry fund ads have told us ad nauseam, even one percentage point difference in fees can make a difference of tens of thousands of dollars to your retirement benefit. If you are paying 2 per cent or more, when the average industry fund is charging 1.3 per cent, you would have to ask why.

Numerous surveys over the years have shown that higher fees don’t buy you higher performance, though they may buy you a larger number of investment options from which to choose. Nor do they buy you better insurance or service. (Note that insurance costs are excluded from the survey.)

Indeed, many larger, cheaper funds have the buying clout to negotiate better deals from fund managers, insurers and other service providers. While cheap is not necessarily best, many lower-cost products stand up well compared with more expensive competitors.

It is also disappointing that in some segments of the market where competition is less intense, fees have barely moved at all.

Remember retirement savings accounts? They are a bank-account-style product introduced for people who want that simplicity.

But the report shows members are paying through the nose to keep their super simple, with the average fee remaining at 2.3 per cent over the past decade.

If you have money in an eligible rollover fund, you are also likely to have missed much of the fee cuts, with average fees over the decade falling from just 2.53 per cent to 2.4 per cent.

With super fund annual returns due to be mailed out, this is a good time to do a stocktake of the fees you are paying. While you can’t do much to change what’s happening in Europe or the US, you can certainly take charge of what your retirement savings are costing you.

Twitter: @sampsonsmh

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All that glitters is gold – if you can dig it

Imagine my disappointment when I learnt that Olympic gold medals aren’t made of gold. I mean, why bother?

They’re made mostly of silver, in case you’re interested, but the whole affair did get me wondering whether the gold price might be running out of puff.

Buying bullion would have been about the best investment you could have made last year, at least if you’d bought early on, yet goldmining shares were the worst.

You can never accuse the market of predictability. It seems the higher gold goes, the less the sharemarket believes it will stay there.

But gold stocks are also being dragged down with everything else, not that they’ve helped their cause in a market desperate for income – or for anything, really – due to an unfortunate tendency to pay as little in dividends as possible, and preferably not at all.

The three-year rush into gold has been founded on the fear of inflation taking off, despite there being neither hide nor hair of it.

On the contrary, if you want a good fright, try deflation. That’s what’s keeping central banks up at night. Take the US, which has been pumping money into an economy where the official interest rate is almost zero, so it’s just about giving it away.

The reason there’s no inflation is that the big banks are just hoarding the money. Well, it’s really the central bank crediting their balance sheets – a sort of Bpay in reverse – due to having nobody to lend it to.

Those central bank credits, by the way, can be just as quickly reversed when the time comes. Mind you, printing money devalues the US dollar, so naturally anything priced in it rises, along with other currencies. Since the price of gold rising in US dollars but falling locally cancels out, the currency shouldn’t be a problem for gold stocks. Rather, it all boils down to how much they can dig up.

But they sure are helped by the fact that the price has about doubled in three years, which puts it way above the average cost of mining it.

That’s why the goldminers should be among the first to take off when the market comes to its senses.

But hang on. Wouldn’t a market recovery mean that confidence has broken out, in which case the panic run into gold would stop or, indeed, reverse? Surely, then, the gold price would fall.

Maybe, though the shaky state of the euro and Europe’s banks suggests its price will stay elevated for years.

Don’t forget the US dollar would also recover when money flowed into Wall Street and the country’s interest rates rose, in which case our dollar would drop and the Australian gold price would rise.

Besides, the miners are already priced for a substantial drop in the gold price.

That’s why I figure digging for gold will be better than holding it.

Twitter @moneypotts

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Secrets of the rich: frugality, property, resilience

”You can achieve maximum leverage by utilising other people’s money, time, knowledge, ideas and labour”.Of the billionaires I know, admittedly a small sample, what stands out is that you’d never know looking at them.

If there’s some genetic key to being rich, it’s well hidden.

Except for this one clue.

They’re tight. In my experience, the more money that’s splashed around, the more likely it is to have been borrowed, or worse, and the more likely the person isn’t rich at all. Or won’t be for much longer.

The one occasion I’ve had dinner with a billionaire was no feast. You probably had it for dinner at home last night, except without the staff chef, I daresay.

Rupert Murdoch (no, a different billionaire) once told me he got all his suits made on the cheap in Hong Kong and I’ll bet he’s never spent more than $20 on a tie. Lately he’s taken to not wearing one that often. Guess why?

These instances of, let’s say, frugality, or what Thomas Stanley and William Danko in their book The Millionaire Next Door based on interviews with 500 millionaires call, approvingly, ”living below your means”, are a telltale sign of wealth. Incidentally, a focus group of millionaires who they invited to a swish function for their book just nibbled on crackers and ”it turned out the only gourmets on the scene were among the non-millionaire research staff”.


Frugality doesn’t appear on Melbourne-based life coach Shannah Kennedy’s list of characteristics on this page because she calls it ”respect for their money”.

Whatever. ”Successful people respect their money and know their cost of living and will spend half a day a month on their own finances making sure they’re up to date,” she says, adding that at her seminars for accountants and financial planners, when she asks, ”Who knows their cost of living?”, if five put up their hands she’s lucky.

The point is the rich will always drive a hard bargain; they know how much every dollar earns and where it’s gone. They never pay retail if they can help it and always ask for discounts. Also, like the Queen, they probably don’t hold a lot of cash: everything is tied up in the business or investments.

Which brings me to something all the rich have in common. They started or ran their own business, and that means hard work.

”I don’t know anyone who’s achieved success who didn’t have a strong work ethic,” says John Symond, who took on the banks when he founded Aussie Home Loans 20 years ago.

Not only are they prepared to have a go, they revel in the risk.


They also did well out of property. The rich buy their own place early on and from there speculate on both commercial and residential property.

That’s another thing. Few seem to have built their wealth from the sharemarket, except for stock in their own company if it is listed.

Not even Kerry Packer, no slouch in making money out of the sharemarket, was a big trader or investor. He had a couple of spectacular successes and that was it.

But he had substantial property holdings, including what must have been half of the Northern Territory.

”I promised myself 20 years ago I wouldn’t be distracted until the business was well up and running,” Symond says. ”I’ve never played the equities market.”

Even the legendary US share fund manager, Peter Lynch, says: ”You should have first invested in a house,” according to Tom Butler-Bowdon’s 50 Prosperity Classics (published by Nicholas Brealey).

That way you can build up equity and go on to gear.


Using other people’s money is essential for building wealth, and forgive me if I’m being presumptuous, but I’m assuming you don’t have much of your own. And why stop there?

”You can achieve maximum leverage by utilising other people’s money, time, knowledge, ideas and labour,” Butler-Bowdon says.

That also includes knowing the right people. If there’s one thing millionaires are constantly doing, it’s networking and mixing with other millionaires.

They also know how to bounce back from misfortune. It’s amazing how many of the self-made rich failed at some point only to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and go on to make a fortune.

Resilience must surely top the list of characteristics of the successful.

Have you noticed how many get-rich-quick books there are, mostly based on property investing? The funny thing is that usually the author has gone broke once or twice and it’s sales of the book that proved the turning point. My book is imminent.

One last thing, in case you hadn’t noticed. The rich pay as little tax as they can get away with.

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Safety first options that will help fix your future


EVEN in times of falling interest rates, investors can discover fixed-interest products that can add to their portfolio.

Managed bond funds and term deposits provide security and reasonable returns at a time when sharemarket volatility has frightened away many people from investing in the share market.

But Morningstar analyst Tim Wong says with fixed-interest investment, investors still have to decide on their objectives and risk tolerance.

”If you’re seeking a defensive strategy that can perform when the equities portion of your portfolio is struggling, then a high credit quality Australian or global fixed-interest-rate fund may serve you best,” he says.

Morningstar rates the Tyndall Australian Bond Fund highly. It has a strong investment team and is a competitively priced option.

Wong says Pimco EQT’s Wholesale Australian Bond Fund is another well worth considering.

Pimco EQT also has an impressive Wholesale Global Bond Fund, he says. Its investment strategy is overseen by one of the legends of fixed-interest investing, Bill Gross. ”That fund has the foremost strategy for investors looking for a core defensive global-fixed-interest option,” he says.

”The Macquarie Master Diversified Fixed Interest Fund is another fine strategy with some global exposure, delivering impressive results while maintaining a clear defensive philosophy.”

There are potentially higher-return managed bond funds in the market grouped in the credit or high-yield category. But Wong says an investor has to have a higher tolerance for risk before investing in them.

”These strategies normally have higher credit risks than high-quality Australian global-fixed-interest funds. In simple terms, higher credit risk means a greater risk of default and, increasingly, equity-like performance and risk,” he says.

So a bond fund that invests in overseas corporate debt should pay more, but you can face greater risk of that company not being able to meets its commitments to bondholders.

There could be currency risk as well with some overseas bond funds. If you are looking to protect your capital, it may make sense to make a more defence-oriented fund the core of your fixed-interest portfolio and allocate less to the high-risk, high-return options.

Financial comparison website ratecity苏州美甲培训学校’s Michelle Hutchison says term deposits are another good possibility for investors. ”Like all investments, there are pros and cons, due to the level of risk, features and services,” she says.

For instance, term-deposit accounts are a secure investment with minimal risk to investors because the interest rate is fixed and the government guarantees the deposit up to $250,000.

Also, many term-deposit rates are well above the Reserve Bank’s official cash rate, despite a decline in line with the cash rate falls in May and June.

”That’s great news for those looking to secure a term-deposit account. Longer terms are offering better deals on average than the shorter terms, with the average five-year term deposit recently at 5.01 per cent, compared with the average 90-day rate of 4.65 per cent on a nominal of $50,000.

”There is also a significant difference between financial institutions. Rates can also vary depending on the term and deposit size. There can be a 2.5 per cent difference [between] the lowest and highest three-year term deposits, which means a difference of $3750 in interest earnings on $50,000,” says Hutchison.

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Left to our own devices, we still need experts

I USED to run a mortgage company and, along with other non-bank lenders, we made inroads into the banks’ mortgage oligopoly.

The success of that company was attributed to lower interest rates – however, we weren’t always the lowest rate in the mortgage market.

What our customers tuned into was the fact we were building branches. While the banks were shutting thousands of them in the 1990s, we opened them and people liked that. When it comes to money, not everyone wants to use a call centre. The same thing is happening again. There’s a new wave of financial services migrating beyond the computer and to phones and tablets; and banking is no longer just on websites – it’s moving into social media such as Facebook. But as these services migrate to devices that fit in the pocket, people still need something more.

The key, in my opinion, lies in the difference between the financial services you can turn into a ”product” and those you cannot. And it’s becoming obvious to me that while most Australians are happy to get a CTP green slip or a credit card or a car loan over the phone or internet, most are looking for more when they get a mortgage, arrange life insurance or allocate their retirement investments.

People are happy to use financial products but they really want advice to cap it off.

The Nielsen Pacific organisation released the results of its global survey of investment attitudes a few weeks ago and it made for interesting reading. For instance, 70 per cent of Australians used the internet for banking and investment transactions in the previous three months, suggesting we’re all shifting onto the internet. But the survey also found 54 per cent of Australians had visited a bank branch in the previous three months.

In my opinion, this shows a nation that is using the products presented to them for convenience. But they still need to talk about these things and especially the larger, more complex matters such as mortgages, life insurance and super.

It’s a quaint picture of a technology-driven country with a traditional heart. But the problems this might create for us in the near future are far from quaint.

An example of this could include our superannuation system, which is compulsory but which puts the onus for retirement investment on the individual.

The first port of call for most people with super is not an adviser but a product. The super-fund member is mailed a brochure that describes the various products and the member ticks the boxes and sends it back.

The Nielsen survey shows just 16 per cent of Australians rely on a financial planner or adviser, while 57 per cent prefer to be in charge of their investment decisions. Now have a look at the fact that 70 per cent of investment-focused Australians currently maintain a shareholding of stocks. This is slightly higher than the global average of 67 per cent.

Look at the correlation: 57 per cent of Australians are in charge of their own investments, which leads to 70 per cent of investment-focused Aussies investing in the worst-performing assets.

I don’t blame Australians for their scepticism about advice and therefore muddling by with their own strategies. I believe there have been many forces that have pushed Australians away from being advised on their investments and their retirements. Most banks don’t offer advice unless the customer is a ”high net worth” client; stockbrokers don’t give you the full service unless you have a certain amount to invest; and the superannuation funds find it difficult to give advice because they have, in effect, become the product.

That leaves the independent advisers and planners, who many Australians avoid because there is either a trust problem or the costs are perceived to be too great.

It is my belief that financial security and retirement planning are crucial things about which Australians with no financial acumen should be seeking expert advice.

More should be done by the super industry, the Australian Stock Exchange, the government and regulators to encourage people to seek advice and have a tailored plan around the complex financial arrangements that make up their lives.

However, people have to show initiative in these matters and decide what’s really important. Besides, most people who seek expert advice get something out of it: an insurance broker increasing your cover and reducing your premiums; an adviser finding a lower-fee/higher-yield super fund; a mortgage broker finding you a better loan or an accountant getting you a better tax result by changing your structure.

Mostly, I believe that when Australians know they can do complex bank transactions on an iPhone, it’s probably time for the convenience argument to be balanced by old-fashioned expert advice.

Mark Bouris is the executive chairman of Yellow Brick Road Wealth Management, ybr苏州美甲培训学校.au. Follow Mark on Twitter at @markbouris.

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Could your finances survive these disasters?

I love a good sitcom. Whatever transpires in any given episode – foul or fair – is resolved and the shiny characters have forgotten all about it by the next one.

Oh, if it were so in reality. In the high-stakes Monopoly game of life, a ”chance” card carrying good fortune probably means basking in it for a while. But a metaphorical “go to jail” shocker can mean the consequences linger indefinitely. So let’s look at the most common ”holy sh*t!” situations and how best to contain their damage.


There’s a bit of this going around, although I realise the swingeing cuts are in industries that need desperately to adapt – think manufacturing, retail and – gulp – media. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate ticked up just 10 basis points to 5.2 per cent in June.

How to protect yourself? Beyond doing all you can to be indispensable, this requires a cash stash. Three months’ salary is recommended, but safer still is six months. That way you have half a year’s grace before you get worried about new employment.

The best place to keep this is an instant-access offset account attached to your mortgage. Savings rates are lower than home loan rates so you’ll make less than you’ll save in mortgage interest – and you’ll pay no tax on the latter.

There used to be a big market in redundancy protection insurance but as the incidence increased through the decades, this shrunk. What’s out there is often designed to cover specific bills, mortgage or credit cards, for 12 or fewer months.

Top tip Don’t be fooled by the name – income-protection insurance pays out only on accident or illness.


This is where you do want income-protection insurance. It replaces up to 75 per cent of your salary if you are physically unable to work, potentially up to age 65.

Predictably, this is extra expensive, so consider cutting costs by opting for a longer waiting period before payments begin. If you have that six-month salary buffer, you could wait six months. IP premiums are also tax deductible (payments are taxable), which reduces the cost.

Don’t forget to ensure your partner is covered, as, should you have to stay home to look after them, your own earning power would be curtailed.

Top tip It’s now possible to insure a person doing the unpaid, unrelenting job of parenting. Replacing this role would be costly indeed.


It’s all getting a little grim, but life insurance is also a must. The last thing you want is financial trauma on top of emotional.

Life insurance pays a tax-free lump sum, which needs to be large enough not just to pay out debts, but to also replace income and cover the forecast cost of raising kids. You need a lot more than you might think.

Life policies are often sold with total and permanent disability insurance, which pays a lump sum in the event of just that. This is worth having too, but check it wouldn’t offset against any income-protection payments.

Top tip Look for a life policy that pays out early on diagnosis of a terminal illness. The money could be crucial to meeting medical costs.


What do you reckon is the replacement value of your house today? How much is it insured for? If you’re like about 80 per cent of Aussies, it won’t be enough. Check you have a total replacement policy or jump on ASIC’s website,, to see if you are exposed.

Also make sure your contents policy is up to date and you’ve listed and documented all valuables so you might get a claim paid.

Top tip It’s vital contents covers liability outside your home, say in case you’re in a costly incident on a golf course.


Termites feasting on your home, an enormous special levy from your strata – such financial face slaps can sabotage the best laid plans. Insurance won’t help you here, but diligent saving and investing throughout life will.

You need to keep a decent chunk accessible (a mortgage offset account is once again gold).

It’s also not bad to retain access to some form of borrowing, just in case. The cheapest way is by never quite discharging your home loan – leave a bit owing so you could up the debt if absolutely necessary.

Top tip Money is both for enjoying AND for emergencies. Far from lamenting the wealth depletion one might inflict, the ability to financially cope is the mark of successful management.

Correction In my July 1 tax changes column, I mistakenly implied you get a $500 government co-contribution for a $500 personal one. The rate has halved, so $1000 will produce $500. My apologies.

Follow Nicole on Twitter @NicolePedMcK.

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Why the key to success is simple

Keep it simple and you too could be rich. Shannah Kennedy is a life coach whose clients include some very wealthy chief executives, as well as Olympic athletes.

”I’ve got a great job and meet all kinds,” says Shannah, whose book, Simplify Structure Succeed ($39.95 at shannahkennedy苏州美甲培训学校), extols the virtues of keeping it simple, where even commas in the title become redundant.

In fact, billionaires keep it so simple, all they do is work, which is why they occasionally end up consulting her to get some balance back.

”They work 18-hour days and live and breathe their work. That’s all they do,” Shannah says.

You could say that of a lot of millionaires too, but the difference is that billionaires ”are willing to take a lot more risks”.

Unfortunately, simplicity requires some hard work in itself. To be financially successful, you must de-clutter your life – and mind – so you can focus on your goals.

Don’t have a goal? Ah, that proves you’re all over the place.

Shannah says it’s surprising ”how much satisfaction can be derived from small, seemingly inconsequential, tasks, such as putting all your gadget chargers in one place, booking a check-up with the dentist, or filing all your documents in their correct folders”.

That’s because ”they can absorb mental space and chip away at your everyday focus,” she says.

Once that’s done, you’ll be able to concentrate on setting some goals.

Write down where you want to be and when, and keep a diary of how you’re going. You should also have a monthly planner and update it weekly.

”Not having a diary is an act of self-sabotage,” Shannah says.

”When you set simple, achievable goals with a time frame, accountability and support, you’ll succeed,” she says.

”The world’s most effective leaders understand that forward planning is essential for success. By loosely planning your month and year in advance, you’ll not only be prepared for the busy times, but also incorporate regular milestones to look forward to.”

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Changing face of a suburb

Enterprise … above from left, Carmen Cheung, 17, Dion Li, 12 and Joanna Wang, 15, and at the Lucy Dancing School. Burwood property developer Justin Wang.

In a bustling Sydney suburb just a few kilometres south-west of Sydney Airport, the sounds of Chinese dialects ring along the narrow, main shopping street.

Just 20 years ago the shops near Hurstville railway station in Forest Road were owned by people with names such as Smith, Politis or Scardilli. Now the names Lee, Chen and Wu dominate the streetscape.

Figures from the 2011 census show that Hurstville is the most Chinese suburb in Sydney. In a population of 26,000, close to 8900 people were born in mainland China. Another 1200 have arrived from Hong Kong. Hurstville has just 8200 Australian-born residents.

Twenty years ago a language teacher from southern China landed alone in Sydney carrying one piece of luggage and the germ of an idea to make his fortune. Justin Wang, now a wealthy property developer, sells more than 100 apartments a month in the area – most of them off the plan and most of them to local Chinese.

The recent surge in Chinese migration is a boon for entrepreneurs like Mr Wang, the founder of the Property Investors Alliance in Burwood.

Mr Wang, who advises about 3000 clients – 95 per cent of whom are local Chinese – said the rapid increase of the middle-class in China in the last decade has added to the bonanza for property developers here as the Chinese search out offshore investment opportunities.

He said most of his clients are Chinese couples, aged 25 to 35, who originally came to Australia to study but decided to stay and make a life here. About a quarter of them get a financial helping hand from their parents back in China to get into their first home.

”The first priority for the Chinese is to settle down and buy their first home. In the Chinese culture you should have these things sorted out by the time [you] are 30.

”They don’t want to invest in stocks and bonds, they want to put their money into a safe asset that gives them a good return. They want something tangible and don’t care if it’s a long term 10- or 15-year prospect.”

If the Chinese did not invest their money in property, Mr Wang said, many of the smaller to medium-sized complexes he helps develop would never get past the planning stage. ”The banks would never have lent the developers the money without Chinese buyers purchasing off the plan.”

China is now our second largest source of immigrants, behind New Zealand. Last financial year more than 14,600 Chinese settlers arrived on our shores, many of them opting to live in Sydney communities including Hurstville, Burwood, Eastwood, Epping and Chatswood that are are already dominated by their countrymen.

Last year the Prime Minister commissioned the Asian Century white paper to examine likely economic, political and strategic changes in the region and what more can be done to position Australia to take advantage of those changes.

A recent forum on the white paper at the Australian National University was told by Treasury official David Gruen there is ”almost certainty” China’s economy will outpace developed countries in the years to come due to a ”changing of the guard between the advanced world and Asia” as economic output shifts to emerging markets.

The white paper was scheduled to be released mid-2012.

Hurstville chamber of commerce president Matthew Matthews said that decades ago the suburb was populated predominantly by Australians with a large mix of European migrants from Greece, Italy and Yugoslavia.

Mr Matthews, a local real estate agent, said the commercial properties in Forest Road were owned by Australians. The Jewish people had the clothing outlets.

”Shop ownership now is swinging completely to the Chinese,” he said.

”And they like to buy apartments near the shopping centre and the railway station. If the suburb doesn’t have a train station, you don’t have the Chinese. It helps them get their children to high school or university.”

One of the state’s top ranked public high schools, St George Girls High – it was ranked 12th in NSW in the NAPLAN results for year 7 and 9 – is just two rail stops away, at Kogarah. About 88 per cent of the students come from homes where English is a second language. Of those, 58 per cent are of Chinese background. The school’s annual report said of the 180 students who sat the HSC in 2011, all received offers to university. Close to 30 per cent chose business, commerce or economics courses.

Mr Matthews said the Chinese like to buy or build homes with four or five bedrooms to encourage their children to remain at home while they attend university.

Lucy Lu, was a ballerina with the Shanghai Ballet Company before she emigrated alone to Australia 14 years ago after touring here in 1996. Soon after arriving she opened The Lucy Dancing School at Carlton, a suburb just east of Hurstville.

As well as teaching classical ballet and contemporary dance Ms Lu, now married with two sons, has classes in Chinese folk dancing. Parents want to see their children keep in touch with their Chinese roots, she said. ”When I arrived in Sydney I studied at the Royal Academy of Dance here and I wanted to open my school before I turned 30. I also studied English and a small business management course at TAFE. The Chinese work hard at the beginning. My mother told me when I was young that you have to have things settled before you turn 30, otherwise too late.”

Nancy Liu was elected on to Hurstville Council in 2008 eight years after arriving in Sydney as part of the ”skilled migrant” scheme with her husband and a daughter from Guangzhou. She had an economics degree and studied English before decided to emigrate ”while we were still young”.

After the couple set up a business consultancy and travel agency in Hurstville, Councillor Liu noticed the local Chinese were hampered by language barriers when it came to having a community voice. She ran for council on the Unity Party ticket.

”They found it hard to deal with the different layers of government,” she said. ”While I represent all the ratepayers in Hurstville the Chinese come to me for help.

”Most Chinese people are humble, they work so hard and sometimes don’t care what government is doing.”

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French flair in antipodean outpost

Sue Carroll loves mixing and matching old pieces to create a unified effect in her own home.You won’t find anything new in Sue Carroll’s Glen Iris home. Apart from food items and some clothing, everything is old.

Ms Carroll only buys new when she has to. ”I love imperfections,” she says. ”I’m a perfectionist about imperfections. I love the patina of old things, things that tell a story and I wonder what their past is. But it’s not just any old stuff. It has to have a soul.”

So she’s not keen on well-meaning acquaintances buying another old cigar box to add to her collection, attractively piled in an ancient wire container. ”I’ve always loved old stuff and, even as a young teenager, I bought it for my room.

”I love that it’s not mass produced and the look is so individual. I appreciate reproductions but I never buy them because they are disposable.”

The only ones she’ll have in the house are old enough to be antiques in their own right.

The two-storey Glen Iris house Ms Carroll shares with husband Richard and daughters Steph, 25, and Alex, 23, is full of old – but stylish – furniture and accessories with a European flavour.

The house looks so effortlessly and timelessly French that a French neighbour living nearby knocked on the door to say that, every time he goes past, he feels homesick.

The family lived across the road in a Victorian house they sold about 15 years ago. They couldn’t find anything they wanted to buy – they wanted a nondescript style so they could renovate on a budget – so they rented a ’70s house on the present site. ”One day I measured the house on my hands and knees and thought we could renovate it,” Ms Carroll says.

The owners agreed to sell so they called in their builder friend, David Keaney, who said it was cheaper to rebuild. With the aid of a draftsman, they devised a plan to use the existing concrete slab to feature three bedrooms, a retreat, a study upstairs and formal and informal living downstairs. They reused the old terracotta roof tiles for the European look they wanted.

Like so many families, Ms Carroll says they spend most of their time in the family room, which overlooks an outdoor area with an ornamental grapevine. The family recently decided they will get more use out of the split level, open-plan formal living and dining area if it’s made into two rooms. So a wall with a rounded window in it will go between them to make the dining room a sitting room/ office.

Ms Carroll has parlayed her love of the old into a thriving business with two shops: Montreux, with fashion and home wares; and Trove Trading, mostly European vintage, a couple of doors apart in High Street, Prahran.

The house reflects the look Ms Carroll loves. The bones are simple with no architraves or skirtings and a grey/mustard polished concrete floor designed to look like stone, which was also used on the kitchen bench.

The double front doors came from a city builder via a demolition site and the simple front garden, mostly gravel, has an area outlined by ornamental French iron fencing.

The back family room has a charming European country feel with an old fire surround from a second-hand yard in Mansfield, armoires and what was previously a tall metal-topped table from Camberwell market, until Richard cut the legs off to make it coffee-table height.

A rusty trolley on wheels sits beside the kitchen bench.

”I love things ‘as is’,” Ms Carroll says. ”I live in auction rooms, I go to Camberwell market on Sundays and I buy from people who bring containers in from France.”

Design tipsBuy from the heart. Live by Sue Carroll’s mantra: If you buy what you love, you will always find a place for it.Be confident. Don’t always rely on a professional but have faith in your own judgment and instincts.Be brave. Don’t worry about the age or the wood, go by your eye.Don’t be afraid to mix old and new in clothes and jewellery, as well as furniture and accessories.Think laterally to find an alternative use for an object. An old mixing bowl might double as a rustic fruit bowl. Interestingly now that some big stores are selling shabby chic, Mandy Mitchell, a member of Ms Carroll’s staff, says that they are finding their stock is more popular among devotees. ”They want the real thing. They like a story and a piece with its own marks and chips.” Ms Mitchell says interesting old pieces are getting harder to find. ”But Sue’s customers are an incredibly loyal and wonderful group and many have been with her for years.” Ms Mitchell and staff member Trina Carter have also been working in the business for years – 12 in Ms Mitchell’s case.


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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲培训学校.

A new light on the hill

Duncan Chew had an epiphany, at his local park in Hawthorn East, at the most unexpected moment: while watching people try to jam dog poo into two overflowing bins.

”People were putting the bags next to the bins or on top of them. It was ridiculous – we have all this biodegradable waste that ends up in landfill. I thought, ‘There has to be a different way’.”

Mr Chew owns two boxers, Sally and Diesel. He could relate to his fellow dog owners’ predicament. ”They’re quite large dogs and, to put it bluntly, they poo a lot,” he says. He recalled a presentation he’d seen about composting toilets, and figured it must be possible to do something similar with dog poo.

With further research, he found that Australians have a high rate of dog ownership and that, every day, we have to dispose of about 1350 tonnes of dog shit.

Now, courtesy of a federal government grant, he is knee-deep in planning to build a methane digester in Edinburgh Gardens, in Fitzroy, together with the Yarra Energy Foundation.

The technology isn’t new – it has been in use for thousands of years. In general terms, a biogas digester is a system where biodegradable material, such as manure or food waste, breaks down without oxygen to produce methane.

In Mr Chew’s scheme, called Poo Power, the methane will provide the energy for a light in the park, or possibly for heat or a small amount of electricity. He hopes to have it running by summer, together with an education program.

”It’s a conversation starter,” he says.

”It will get people talking about science and renewable energy, and about waste and waste sanitation. I think it will bring some much-needed fun and levity to the public debate about sustainability.”

It’s true: the topic doesn’t seem substantial (its pun-to-weight ratio is off the chart). But the matter of manure is actually a heavy one. The American farmer and writer Gene Logsdon argues that we’ve ”lost touch with the animal digestive system, including our own”.

In his book Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind he writes about using manure to boost soil fertility in the manner of agricultural traditions. He says the practice will become increasingly important as the price of chemical fertilisers and mined phosphorous rise.

Similarly, Mr Chew’s project is motivated by his belief that for city-dwellers, dogs are our closest link with the rhythms and cycles of the natural world.

Mr Logsdon says pet scat is not without its virtues. ”Dogs like to gnaw on bones and bones are rich in phosphorus, so dog dung is actually one of the more valuable manures as fertiliser,” he writes. ”And since cats like to eat meat and fish, this manure would have a full complement of nitrogen in addition to its above-average phosphorous content.”

He advocates composting pet poo, rather than putting it in rubbish bins and into landfill. To do it well, add a mix of materials, both brown (dried leaves, straw, cardboard) and green (grass cuttings, manure). It’s probably most convenient to slowly add to a pile and make sure you ”let the compost age for a year or two without heat to get rid of pathogens and worm eggs”.






This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲培训学校.