Biometric facial map. The federal government is experimenting with facial recognition for users of its online services. Photo: Science Photo LibraryThe federal government is experimenting with a system that would allow Australians to use selfies to log ontoCentrelink, Medicare and other Commonwealth services.
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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s digital re-invention agency is designing a system that would use “bio-metric” facial recognition technology to allow easylog-ins while protecting accounts from identity thieves.

The Digital Transformation Agency insists that no collection or data base of images would be built, the system would be voluntary and the strictest privacy safeguards would be in place.

But privacy activists are worried the idea is simply a high-tech versionof the unpopular “Australia card” plan, resurrectedmore than 20 years after the national ID schemewas dumped.

The government is determined to improveto access to its services online, to save time and money, and to step-up the automation of many of its core activities, particularly in the expensive health and welfare sectors.

But security and privacy has been a huge issues, with many of the problems associated with the much-maligned myGov portalput down to the complex and glitch-prone log-in protocols.

Improvements have been made to myGov but now the Digital TransformationAgency is working on a next generation online entry point that would ultimatelyallow a user to access about 1500 government entities with a single log-in.

The new project, the “Trusted Digital Identity Framework”, is a huge undertaking, according to an initial PrivacyImpact Statement,produced by consultantsGalexia.

“This is obviously a very significant decision at the Commonwealth level,” the consultants noted.

“TheTDIFis a complex program involving multiple Commonwealth stakeholders, possibly all States and Territories, plus the private sector.”

A user of the proposed new system, after establishing their account, would log-in by scanning their traditional forms of ID and as a fail-safe against hacker and identity thieves, take a selfieand upload it fromtheir mobile, tablet or computer.

Central the the architecture of the scheme would be an online “identity exchange”, a portal that would confirm to a government agency, Centrelink for example,that a user’s identity hadbeen verified and cleared to use their account but would not supply the photoor any other data used to make the confirmation.

Buttalks with”stakeholders” including state and federal privacy authorities as well as online privacycampaigners, have begun to reveal the full complexity of the privacy problems facing the TDIF.

Many of those consulted were surprised they had not already heard of such a game-changing project and questioned the motivation for the decision.

“Stakeholders queried whether due consideration had been given to the failure of previous centralised models in the Commonwealth identity field, such as the Australia Card and the Access Card,” Galexia reported.

There were worries that various parts of the system “wouldobtain, over time, a large and rich source of personal data that will be attractive to third parties for surveillance…or subject to external attack (e.g. hackers), and or subject to accidental breach.”

“The consequences of surveillance or a breach were likely to be significant,” Galexia noted.

“”Some stakeholders predicted that, over time, each [agency]would collect biometric information (photographs) and contribute to the development of a national data set of photographs.

“Although there is no intention to retain photographs in the TDIF, and they are destroyed as soon as a verified match has been made, stakeholders believed that ‘it was only a matter of time’ before the system was changed and photographs were retained and shared.”

A prototype of the TDIF system is expected to be ready for testing in mid-2017.

Canberra Times

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West Coast coach Adam Simpson wants Drew Petrie to play to his “basic” strengths when he lines up against his former club on Sunday. Petrie is one of three new faces the Eagles will unveil when they tackle the Kangaroos at Etihad Stadium.

The Roos also confirmed on Friday they would have six new faces, with Mitchell Hibberd, Marley Williams, Jy Simpkin, Nathan Hrovat, Declan Mountford and Braydon Preuss earning selection.

Petrie said this week the emotion of taking on his former club of 16 years had yet to be felt because he was based out west but that will change now he is in town.

Simpson, also a former Roo, spent many years playing alongside Petrie, and wants him to simply provide a contest when he shares the ruck duties with another new Eagle, Nathan Vardy.

Petrie and Vardy, the former Cat, face a tough afternoon against 2015 All-Australian Todd Goldstein and Preuss, the latter impressing through the pre-season.

“I rucked under Drew (at North) for a little while many years ago, so I know what his capabilities are and I know his strengths and I’m pretty sure North do, too, as a ruckman,” Simpson said on Friday. “They’re pretty basic (strengths). He has a go and he follows up, so as long as he brings that, we’ll be OK.”

Four-time premiership Hawk Sam Mitchell will also line up for the first time as an Eagle.

The Roos will have four debutants in the one game – Mountford, Hibberd, Preuss and Simpkin – for the first time since 2007 while former Bulldog Hrovat and former Magpie Williams will have a point to prove.

Geelong will have three new faces when they run out against Fremantle at Domain Stadium on Sunday.

Former Carlton half-back Zach Tuohy, defender Tom Stewart, who played in the Cats’ VFL affiliate last year, and Brandan Parfitt, a second-round draft selection last year who played senior football in South Australia, will have important roles to fill.

The Dockers will have four recycled players, with former Bulldogs premiership defender Joel Hamling, former premiership Hawk Brad Hill, former Cat Shane Kersten and Cam McCarthy, the one-time Giant who sat out of the AFL last year, ready to help lead what they hope will be a rise up the ladder.

The Crows have named skipper Taylor Walker and deputy Rory Sloane to face Greater Western Sydney despite injury concerns.

Former Blue Troy Menzel, who had fitness issues and did not play a senior game last year in his first season in Adelaide, will finally debut for his second club. iFrameResize({resizedCallback : function(messageData){}},’#pez_iframe_afl_tiles’);

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HERALD, NEWS, HALF MARATHON Pic taken 23rd March 2017 of LtoR, Nathan Johnston and Nathan Shoemark. RE, Nathan and Nathan are running together in the upcoming Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon. Nathan J is legally blind and Nathan S will be running as his guide – they both hold a piece of material and run side by side. Picture: Robert Peet Photo: Robert Peet
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When the starter’s gun fires for the The Sydney Morning Herald half-marathon on May 21, Nathan Johnston and Nathan Shoemark won’t be trying to beat each other.

The pair, from Helensburgh, will be running side by side for the full 21.1 kilometres, holding a small piece of material between them.

Mr Johnston, 31, began to lose his sight at the age of seven and is now legally blind, with about 5 per cent sight left.

As a teenager, he thought sight was a prerequisite for being able to run, however that changed when friends took him to a local oval in St George.

“I said ‘Oh, I’m not going to be able to run, I can’t see much’,” Mr Johnson said. “And they said ‘We’ll help you run’. All the guys and girls down there helped guide me around a running track for four kilometres. That was pretty much the start of it.”

Since then he has competed professionally in ironman races, including the 2015 world championships in Hawaii, and has run the City2Surf and marathons.

He regularly trains with Mr Shoemark, a family friend who lives a few streets away. He has also run with former prime minister Tony Abbott, including at a marathon in 2012, and has a group of four other guides who can run events with him.

“My guide runner holds a tether thing through your hand and your arm, and they run side by side with me, stride by stride,” Mr Johnston said.

“We usually have a couple of other friends. At least one runs ahead, just to help out if it’s a busy crowd. Usually the guide will set the pace, or they’ll tell me to set the pace and they’ll step up.”

The guides will keep an eye on the ground ahead of him, to make sure there aren’t any cracks or uneven pavement, and ensure there is enough room for everyone to run comfortably.

Mr Johnston said he gets “a buzz” out of running and would like to inspire other people to do the same.

“Actually being able to run, as well, I’ve been told by different people that I inspire them as an athlete. It’s sort of humbling from my end, and I wouldn’t be able to do the running if it wasn’t for friends and the guide runner helping out,” he said.

“Just being out there, it doesn’t matter what age you are or what walk of life you’re from. If you sign up to do the half-marathon and take 2?? hours to finish it, it doesn’t matter how long you take, as long as you finish it.”

As well as the 21.1-kilometre event, there is a relay where one runner covers seven kilometres and another covers the final 14.1.

Runners are encouraged to raise money, with half-marathon teams already raising more than $173,000 for organisations including beyondblue, the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and the Royal Hospital for Women Foundation.

Organisers aim to raise more than $1 million by the event’s end.

To register: smhhalfmarathon南京夜网419论坛

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The Australian Rugby Union is set to announce its best financial results in a decade – outside a British and Irish Lions tour – at the same time under-fire Super Rugby clubs continue to be buffeted by uncertainty over the future of the competition.
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Fairfax Media understands the ARU will announce a 2016 surplus of about $3 million at its annual general meeting on April 10. It will be the first time the code has been in the black since the Lions delivered a $19.5 million surplus in 2013 and the best result outside that once-in-12-years tour since at least 2006.

While the news is good for the cash-strapped governing body, which has undertaken a brutal cost-saving drive under the leadership of chief executive Bill Pulver, the figure itself could be seen as well below expectations, given 2016 saw Australia host a sold-out June Test series against England and the first year of revenue from a record $285 million broadcast deal the ARU signed in December 2015. That deal, which was boosted by competitive tension in the British pay television market, delivered a 148 per cent hike in revenue on the previous five-year deal.

The ARU’s bailout of the Western Force, which is understood to have cost the governing body about $3 million, appears to have eaten into the cash windfall, as has an $8 million increase from the previous year in direct cash funding of the five Super Rugby clubs. There is now a worry that a total Super Rugby funding figure of $33 million in 2016 could have put in jeopardy the ARU’s goal of having $10 million ‘future fund’ up and running by 2020.

There is no escaping the fact that the conditions influencing the bottom lines of all five franchises were set when the ARU agreed to the discredited 18-team Super Rugby format now under review. That factor continues to enrage the five club bosses, not least the three who find themselves on the chopping block amid speculation the ARU has agreed to surrender one licence to salvage Super Rugby’s credibility.

Melbourne Rebels owner Andrew Cox blasted the cone of silence brought down on negotiations after the SANZAAR partners Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina agreed a preferred model in London earlier this month. Cox said two weeks of speculation had all but halted the Rebels’ membership drive.

“This whole thing has been a real mess and is massively impacting membership sales, which have certainly dried up for the Rebels at the moment and I understand have also slowed at the Brumbies and Force,” he said.

“That’s not all about team performance. We would normally continue sales momentum right through until May based on last year and previous seasons. We had 6500 members this time last year and pushed through to just under 10,000, whereas this year we have pulled up dead at 5500.

“It is such a sad thing for our game, and so disappointing we’re in this situation when there is also very little by way of counter argument coming out of the ARU to arrest the narrative.”

There was also speculation this week the Victorian government was threatening to back away from its involvement in rugby if the ARU could not guarantee a future for the Rebels, which were the last Australian team added to Super Rugby in 2011.

A proposed joint-rugby league and rugby union centre of excellence, funded by the state government and based at Latrobe University, is reportedly under a cloud, while there was also speculation a suite of Bledisloe Cup fixtures at the MCG could be under threat. It is understood the ARU has no concerns about the commitment of the Victorian Government to any planned Bledisloe Cup Tests.

Cox added his voice to calls for an independent commission to run Super Rugby and warned while there was a healthy appetite for live sport in Australia, teams would fold without more home games.

“People want to connect with sporting clubs. Here in Melbourne, whether it’s the Storm, Melbourne City, Melbourne Victory or all the footy clubs, crowds at games are continuing to grow, year on year. They had 75,000 at the AFL [season opener on Thursday] night,” he said.

“I don’t hold with the excuse that rugby is getting worse and worse. Sport goes through cycles, but we won’t get any better as businesses if we don’t give our fans and members more content. They love derbies? Give them more derbies.”

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Fremantle fans will watch on with more than a hint of pride and passion as their beloved club runs out for the 500th time when it takes on Geelong in round one of the 2017 season.
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It’s fair to say the Dockers have had more pain than pleasure in the previous 499 games, but that’s not to say Fremantle’s AFL journey hasn’t been without highlights.

Particularly in recent years, where the club won its first minor premiership, crowned its first Brownlow medallist and appeared in its first, and so far only, grand final.

In honour of the Dockers’ 500th game in the AFL, proud Fremantle fan Justin Rake looks back at the club’s three best, and three worst, performances. Top 3 best performances

3. Pav’s farewell – Round 22, 2016 v Western Bulldogs

There was an outpouring of emotion at Domain Stadium in the club’s final game of last season when Fremantle fans said goodbye to the best, and most loyal, player in their club’s 20-year history. Six-time Doig Medallist Matthew Pavlich booted his 700th goal in his 353rd and final match for the Dockers to cap a memorable career.

While 2016 was arguably the Dockers worst season, following the biggest fall from grace in AFL history, the players were able to lift one final time for Pavlich – a display made even better by the fact the win was over the eventual premiers.

2. The 2013 Preliminary Final v Sydney

After suffering a disappointing defeat to Sydney in the club’s first ever preliminary final back in 2006, Fremantle’s second appearance on the second-last weekend of the season saw a vastly different result against the same opposition.

Fremantle welcomed the Swans to Perth with a ferocious display of pressure never before seen in the AFL. The Dockers players’ harassment of their opposition was so fierce it’s surprising they didn’t receive a court summons. A packed out purple crowd celebrated with tears of joy when their side won through to their first grand final.

1. The 2013 Qualifying Final v Geelong

No one, not even the most diehard fans in purple haze, thought the Dockers would win this game at Simmonds Stadium against a hot-to-trot Geelong side that finished second on the AFL ladder. Fremantle defied the odds and a 13-point quarter time deficit to dominate the second half of the game to claim an historic victory. Fremantle fans will never forget the Basil Zempilas call as Stephen Hill ran down the wing to kick the sealing goal and send the club into its first home preliminary final.

Honourable mentions

The ‘Demolition Derby’ – Round 21, 2000 v West Coast

Michael Gardiner might have set the tone of this match by hitting an 18-year-old Pavlich behind play before the ball had even been bounced, but it was the Dockers who won the day. Fremantle won a spiteful encounter by a solitary point with Dale Kickett smashing several West Coast players and Clive Waterhouse starring with seven goals.

Round 21, 2005 v St Kilda

Justin Longmuir’s goal after the siren to keep Fremantle’s flickering finals hopes alive, and the crazy crowd celebrations that ensued, will always be remembered as one of the greatest moments in the Dockers’ history. Top 3 worst performances

3. The 2015 preliminary final v Hawthorn

This one was especially painful to watch. Finally, Fremantle had the Hawks on their own home ground and had an extra week off to get themselves right and prepare for battle against the two-time reigning premiers.

Fremantle had had a shaky to end to the 2015 regular season, but had just secured its first ever minor premiership and had a real shot at reaching its second ever decider. However, in the end, pretty much everything that could have gone wrong did and the Hawks edged out the Dockers, and then their cross-town rivals West Coast, to complete an historic three-peat.

2. Round 18, 2014 v St Kilda

As a Fremantle tragic, I can safely say this was the stinkiest performance I’ve ever seen the Dockers dish up. Fremantle was a top four side, in contention for a premiership, and was expected to easily account for the cellar-dwelling Saints with the finals just around the corner.

It should have been a cakewalk, but instead became a stunning upset as Nick Riewoldt ran rampart as St Kilda almost doubled Fremantle’s score, 118-60. To this day, this game remains the only time I have ever changed the channel on a Dockers game.

1. The 2013 Grand Final v Hawthorn

There’s a good reason why I hate Hawthorn as much as I do the Dockers’ cross-town rivals West Coast. It’s because the Hawks are responsible for inflicting the most pain on Fremantle supporters when it matters – in the finals.

It might be a touch unfair to have this game on top of the list, since Fremantle defied the odds to make it all the way to the grand final, but the Dockers kicked themselves out of a premiership with their performance against Hawthorn. It took them till the third quarter to find their feet and get going and when they did the Hawks were able to quickly get things under control again.

Fremantle’s golden opportunity to claim its inaugural premiership and once and for all end the ‘How many flags have you won?’ comments from Eagles’ fans went begging with a disappointing display on the biggest stage of all.

Dishonourable mentions

Round 5, 2016 v Carlton

Owen four became Owen five, and Fremantle lost Nat Fyfe for the season. A real “ugh” moment for the Dockers faithful and the realisation that they were in for an extremely rough season.

Round 19, 2016 v Sydney

Matthew Pavlich’s 350th game didn’t take long to become an embarrassment for the Dockers, as they were flogged to the tune of 90 points at home. The only saving grace was Pavlich himself managing to kick two goals in the midst of the carnage.

What do you think? Is Justin on the money with his best and worst Fremantle performances? What is your favourite Dockers’ memory? Post a comment below.

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Melissa Higgins arrives at court on Friday. Photo: Cole BennettsAn Albury day care ownerwho amasseda multi-million-dollar fortunethrough bogus government benefit claims has maintained her innocence, telling a psychologist she has no idea how or why she was foundguilty.
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IN DENIAL: Melissa Jade Higgins has told a psychologist she has no idea how or why she was found guilty, a court has been told. Picture: FAIRFAX

Melissa Jade Higgins, 29, was last year found guilty by a juryof forging children’sattendancerecords at her Aussie Gigglesfamily day care centre to rake inmore than $3.6 million in taxpayer funding.

Higginswas convicted of 81 offences, including 66 counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception, 14 counts of using a forged documentand one count of dealing with the proceeds of crime in excess of $1 million.

Higgins, who was the sole director of the company,madefake claims for special child carebenefits, which cover thecost of child care for children who areexperiencingor at risk of abuse orneglect.

The court heard thatHigginsclaimed the subsidy at an inflated rate of up to$180 per hour for 14 children who were not at risk and others who did notattend the centre,netting her $225,000 a month over a two-year period between 2013 and 2015.

Prosecutor Chris Taylor

Higgins, who has been on bail since herconviction,now faces imprisonment.

Asentencing hearing in the Downing Centre District Court in Sydney on Friday heard that Higgins had maintained her innocence to a forensic psychologist.

The psychologist told the court that Higgins’ was experiencing “extremely severe”anxiety, depression and stress and would need to be very closely monitored if she was given acustodial sentence.

The court heard that Higgins had at first enjoyed operating the child care centre but whenthe centre startedexpanding she “couldn’t keep up”.

Higgins, who was supported by her family in court, did not give evidence.

Her mother told the court her daughter had become depressed and quiet since her conviction, and she was concerned she might harm herself.

ButCrown prosecutor Chris Taylortold the court that Higgins’evidence could not be relied upon.

“The Crown maintains its submission that this offending appears to a large extent to relate to greed,”Mr Taylor said.“Need would not in the Crown’s submission be made out in the circumstances of this offending and would be an unreasonable interpretation of need.”

The Crown made anapplication to revokeHiggins’ bail which will be heard in court next Friday.

The jury verdict was handed down more than 18 months afterHiggins’bank account was frozen and $2,250,000 was seized along with other property, including a $90,000 car, during an arrest by the Australian Federal Police.

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A man who defaced the NSW Police Wall of Remembrance suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and was under a delusion he was being pursued by the government, a court has heard.
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Hayden Jones, 30, has pleaded guilty to three charges of destroying and damaging police property – two charges relating to the memorial and one relating to a police van – in May last year.

The wall at The Domain displays the names of dozens of officers who have lost their lives while on the job.

It was marked with scratches and abusive messages. Police said they had to remove 28 panels from the memorial as part of the clean-up and the entire wall would have to be replaced.

In the Downing Centre District Court on Friday, Judge Robert Toner said it was “an exquisitely difficult sentencing matter”.

He said he had to weigh up the sensitive nature of the monument with Jones’ profound and chronic mental illness.

“There are few monuments in the community that properly are held in high esteem by the whole community and this is one of them,” Judge Toner said.

“To deface this wall was a dastardly crime.

“It is also irrefutably true is that Mr Jones’ commission of these crimes was largely driven, if not entirely driven, by the delusions he endures as a consequence of [paranoid schizophrenia].

“It’s patently obvious this was a crime generated by his disease.”

Jones, who was on a bond at the time of the offence but had a limited criminal history, has been in custody for 10 months. The court heard he is now on antipsychotic medication.

Judge Toner placed him on a two-year section 9 good behaviour bond under the condition he accepted supervision from community corrections, adhered to a regime of psychiatric treatment and had urine and blood testing. The judge told Jones any use of illicit drugs would have him returned to jail.

Judge Toner took into account a letter from Commissioner Andrew Scipione that said: “The Wall is akin to a sacred space and a place where those who have lost loved ones, and the broader police family, reflect, pay respects and mourns.

“The deliberate and wanton damage of the Wall in May of last year has undoubtedly added to to the deeply felt loss.”

A psychiatric report tendered by the defence said, at the time of the offence, Jones had a delirious belief that the government was after him and that he had been implanted with an electrode. To him, the wall represented a “manifestation of the government”.

The prosecution asked for a term of imprisonment.

But in releasing Jones on a bond, Judge Toner quoted from Winston Churchill’s famous speech about the mark of a “civilised society” being how it treated its weakest members.

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The Turnbull government has hand-balled responsibility for protecting people facing big pay cuts on Sundays and public holidays to the Fair Work Commission, effectively guaranteeing Labor and the union movement will mount a ferocious industrial relations campaign all the way until the next election.
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In its long-awaited response to the commission’s February decision to cut penalty rates for workers in the hospitality, fast food, retail and pharmacy sectors, the government has made no suggestion on how the pay packets of those affected can be protected.

The government’s support for the penalty-rate cut will delight the business community and the Liberal Party base, who have long argued for a cut to Sunday penalty rates but will also hand a potent political weapon to the labour movement.

Labor, in its submission, restated its opposition to the cuts because of the impact on low-paid workers, and suggested the commission had misunderstood the laws it was required to interpret.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said: “These are Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts: he supports them, he could stop them if he wanted. Up to 700,000 Australians will lose up to $77 a week because of Malcolm Turnbull’s cuts.

“Inequality is at a 75-year high and wages growth is at record lows – yet Malcolm Turnbull is doing everything he can to give big business a $50 billion tax cut and doing nothing to stop a pay cut for 700,000 workers.”

But the Turnbull Government made it clear it did not consider it had any responsibility to suggest how low-paid workers’ pay packets could best be protected and rejected the option of legislating to allow take-home pay orders that would compensate those affected.

This was considered potentially the most effective way of protecting pay packets.

Instead, the government noted those orders were not applicable under existing legislation, highlighted the independence of the commission and noted previous cuts to penalty rates had occurred in 2008 and in 2010.

The government also estimated 300,000 to 450,000 people would be hit by the decision – not the 700,000 estimated by the union movement – when the decision is implemented from July 1.

In its February decision, the Fair Work Commission concluded cutting penalty rates immediately would hurt those who earn just enough to cover their weekly expenses and stated that “appropriate transitional arrangements” would be necessary to mitigate the hardship caused to employees who work on Sundays.

The commission asked for submissions on delaying the change for 12 months, issuing take-home pay orders, grandfathering or “red circling” penalty rates for existing employees and applying the lower rate to only new employees and, finally, phasing the cut in over two to five years.

But the government’s submission simply noted that take-home pay orders are not applicable, quotes the commission’s view that it does not support delaying the implementation 12 months or support “red-circling” and says the commission should make its own decision on transitional arrangements.

Labor argued in its submission there was “no transitional process or period that could be devised which would ever restore the real wage rates for all current employees under the relevant award”.

And it argued take-home pay orders would only operate for a limited period and thus have limited effect.

Last week, Prime Minister Mr Turnbull, for the first time, offered explicit government support for a cut to penalty rates.

The commission has recommended cuts in the retail sector, for full-time and part-time workers, which will see their Sunday penalty rates cut from 200 per cent to 150 per cent, while casuals will go from 200 per cent to 175 per cent.

Hospitality employees will face a cut in Sunday pay from 175 per cent to 150 per cent, fast-food workers will see their Sunday rates go from 150 per cent to 125 per cent for full-time and part-time staff and casuals will go from 200 per cent to 175 per cent.

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Medibank has topped the list of health funds that have shed the greatest number of members, according to a new report.
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The Private Health Insurance Ombudsman’s latest State of the Health FundsReport shows that Medibank lost 45,676 customers between June 2015 and June 2016, followed by Westfund, which lost 865, and HCF, which said goodbye to 502.

The biggest winners from the exodus were HBF, which welcomed 49,949 new policyholders, Bupa, which won over 38,235, and NIB, which added 19,501.

The figures confirm Medibank had a tough 2016, with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission accusing it of reducing coverage without notifying policyholders and an IT bungle that delayed the delivery of tax statements.

The Ombudsman received 4416 complaints, an increase of 3.5 per cent on the previous year’s figure.

The report also shows that despite having a market share of 27.6 per cent, Medibank accounted for 40.2 per cent of all complaints.

“Medibank is absolutely committed to delivering improved products and services for our customers and simply doing a better job for them,” its chief customer officer David Koczkar told Fairfax Media.

“Our share of Ombudsman complaints has fallen recently as a result of our investment in customer service and we remain focused on improving our customers’ experience.”

Overall, the industry experienced a growth of 1.35 per cent (86,939 memberships) in 2015-16.

However, confusing policies, annual premium increases of about 5 per cent, and concerns about “junk” policies have led to a declining rate in the take-up of health insurance.

Restricted membership funds, such as CBHS, Defence Health and Teachers Health, enjoyed membership increases of an average 6 per cent.

Gerard Fogarty, chairman of Members Own Health Funds, a group of 17 not-for-profit and mutual health funds, said while affordability was a growing concern, people valued insurance and searched for better deals.

He said Members Own recorded a 66.3 per cent growth in its share of the industry’s net growth in 2015-16, compared with 12 per cent for the big three – Medibank, Bupa, and HCF.

He said the growth was at the expense of the for-profit health funds.

“We know that the member-owned funds give more back to their members than the for-profits, and member-owned funds have much happier and satisfied members, and that’s shown by the amount of complaints compared to the market share,” said Mr Fogarty, also chief executive of Defence Health.

The Ombudsman’s figures have been released at the busiest time of the year for the industry, as people seek to switch funds ahead of the April 1 premium increase.

Premiums have consistently risen on April 1 for the past seven years. Of the big four health funds, NIB’s premiums have increased by 48.7 per cent since 2010, HCF 46.6 per cent, Medibank 45.3 per cent, and Bupa 43.7 per cent.

A survey by comparison website Finder found the average adult sticks with the same health fund for 11.8 years.

“As with other financial products, you should review your cover at least every 12 months because you could be missing out on the savings that typically come from shopping around,” said Finder’s Bessie Hassan. Savvy Consumer – Interact with us on FacebookLatest consumer affairs news

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The multimillion-dollar Hillsong Church does not have a policy of offering financial compensation to people who have allegedly suffered child sexual abuse within the organisation, a royal commission has heard.
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Founder and senior pastor of the global church, Brian Houston, returned to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Friday to show how safety procedures have improved since he first gave evidence to the inquiry in 2014.

The commission heard Hillsong had adopted robust policies that cover improved training and screening of staff, complaints handling and response to alleged victims.

Hillsong has no financial redress policy but Mr Houston told the inquiry: “That doesn’t mean that we’re not open to it.”

Hillsong’s 2015 annual report shows its total revenue was $112,794,565.

The church offers non-monetary support to alleged victims such as counselling and psychological care, the inquiry heard.

Mr Houston told the inquiry Hillsong was waiting on more detail about the federal government’s $4 billion national redress scheme before making a decision about opting in.

“We will consider [it], absolutely,” he said. “It’s a little hard to know what you are signing up for when there is no information about it.”

Hillsong is the best-known organisation among Australian Christian Churches (ACC), the national umbrella body that includes more than 1000 Pentecostal churches.

The commission heard the bulk of the churches were small operations which may not be able to put money towards a national redress scheme.

“Many have very limited, if any, resources,” ACC national president Wayne Alcorn told the inquiry.

“Their capacity to contribute … in the area of finances is one that is in question.

“Our heart is towards the survivors, it’s just a matter of our capacity.”

Mr Alcorn told the commission ACC has improved child protection procedures, including better training, governance and the introduction of a helpline managed by an external specialist organisation.

“We did a lot of soul-searching,” Mr Alcorn said. “We needed to enhance our culture of responsibility.”

Mr Houston told the commission Hillsong had a “no-tolerance policy” banning convicted paedophiles but conceded it was impossible to completely weed out potential offenders.

“There is a degree of safeguard there [but] you never quite know, deep down in someone’s head or mind or heart, what might be going on,” he said.

“I can’t vouch that we would catch every single person who was unhealthy.”

A report released by the commission in 2015 found Mr Houston failed to tell police his father Frank was a self-confessed child abuser. It noted he had a clear conflict of interest in dealing with the case himself.

Hillsong has introduced a conflict of interest policy as part of its improved procedures.

“We’ve been very, very supportive of the goal to make sure our church is as safe as it could possibly be,” Mr Houston said.

The hearing, before Justice Peter McClellan, has adjourned.

Blue Knot Helpline 1300 657 380.

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