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Australia Medibank makes stock debut

Outside a Medibank branchMedibank is the biggest listing of a state-owned asset in Australia since Telstra in 1997

Australian health insurer Medibank made its stock market debut after raising A$5.679bn (£3.1bn; $4.9bn) in Asia’s biggest public offering in two years.

Tuesday’s listing on the Australian Securities Exchange was the biggest of a state-owned asset in 18 years.

Shares first traded at a premium of A$2.22, compared to A$2.15 that institutional investors had paid and A$2 that retail investors paid.

The move was part of the government’s plan to sell A$130bn in assets.

Traders had said shares would sell 13% higher than the price that 440,000 retail investors, who own 60% of the firm, paid to subscribe to the listing.

Medibank’s shares are appealing for investors keen to gain exposure to Australia’s booming health industry, which benefits from generous state subsidies and is boosted by a wealthy ageing population.

The debut was the largest share offer of a state firm since the government sold Telstra in 1997.

The country’s largest private health insurer was set up in 1975 by Australia’s Health Insurance Commission, now known as Medicare Australia.

Analysis: Phil Mercer, BBC Sydney Correspondent

It’s Australia’s most anticipated share offer of the year.

Experts predict that shares will soar when trading begins at midday Sydney time (0100 GMT), and there is an expectation their value will climb to A$2.50 by the end of the year.

Another big winner is Australia’s federal government. The privatisation of such a valuable and well-known asset has raised A$5.67bn.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann says the cash will be ploughed into infrastructure and would generate a wealth of jobs.

Medibank was set up in the mid-1970s to compete in Australia’s private insurance market.

It has been a lucrative enterprise, although net profits slipped from A$232.7m in 2012/13 to A$130.8m in the year to June.


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Clarke named in Australia squad

Captain Michael Clarke has been named in the Australia squad for the first Test against India, subject to proving his fitness after a hamstring injury.

The 33-year-old batsman

suffered the problem

in the first one-day international against South Africa earlier this month.

Pace bowler Ryan Harris is also included for the first time since March after knee surgery.

The first of four Tests begins in Brisbane on 4 December.

The third instance of Clarke injuring his left hamstring in the space of six weeks caused him to miss the remaining four ODIs against South Africa

in a series that Australia won 4-1.

Clarke, who has scored 8,297 runs in 107 Tests, will play for a Cricket Australia XI against the tourists in a two-day match beginning on 28 November if he continues to respond to daily treatment.

Ten of the 12-man squad played in every match of Australia’s 5-0 Ashes whitewash last winter, with batsman Mitchell Marsh and uncapped seamer Josh Hazlewood also included.

In the absence of regular captain MS Dhoni, India will be led by batsman Virat Kohli at the Gabba.

Australia squad:

Michael Clarke (captain), Chris Rogers, David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin (wicketkeeper), Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris.

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Australia top ODI rankings after win

Australia beat South Africa by two wickets in Sydney to win the one-day international series 4-1 and return to the top of the world ODI rankings.

The hosts were set a Duckworth/Lewis target of 275 from 48 overs after the Proteas made 280-6 from their 50 overs as opener Quinton de Kock hit 107.

The Aussies appeared to be coasting at 264-4 but lost four wickets for three runs to set up a tense finish.

However, James Faulkner hit the winning runs with five balls to spare.

It means that in the International Cricket Council’s new rankings table, Australia are only 0.2 ranking points ahead of India, with South Africa third.

With Australia having

already taken an unassailable 3-1 lead in the series,

South Africa – missing injured skipper AB de Villiers – looked to have set a competitive total as man of the match De Kock anchored the innings, adding 107 for the second wicket with Rilee Rossouw (51).

Farhaan Behardien then did his World Cup chances no harm with a blistering career-best 63 from 41 balls before he fell in the last over.

However, the tourists’ bowling lacked bite without rested paceman Dale Steyn, and half-centuries from opener Aaron Finch (76 from 67 balls), Shane Watson (82) and Steve Smith (67) put Australia in the driving seat, despite a brief rain interruption.

But when man of the series Smith fell to spinner Robin Peterson (4-32) with 11 runs still needed from 25 balls, it sparked a mini-collapse as Peterson bowled a double-wicket maiden, leaving eight runs required off the last 13 deliveries.

But Faulkner held his nerve to hit the first ball of the last over, bowled by Peterson, for four to make sure of victory.

Australia now host

a four-Test series against India,


a triangular one-day series

in January which also features India and England – before

the World Cup,

co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, begins on 14 February.

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Wales 16-34 New Zealand

Wales’ 61-year wait for a victory over the All Blacks goes on after a blitz of three late tries snatched what had been a see-saw contest away from them.

A try from Rhys Webb and 11 points from the boot of Leigh Halfpenny had given Warren Gatland’s men a one-point lead with 11 minutes left.

But with characteristic ruthlessness, New Zealand accelerated away.

Two tries from Beauden Barrett and one from Kieran Read meant they ended the match in complete control.

It means Wales have now lost 26 games in a row against the men in black.

New Zealand have lost just two Tests in the last three years

New Zealand have lost just two Tests in the last three years

And, while the performance was an improvement on the dire display

a week ago against Fiji,

this was a wonderful chance to end that horrible run.

Wales had begun well, winning three penalties at the breakdown in the first five minutes and converting the sole kickable one as the All Blacks coughed up a series of uncharacteristic knock-ons, forward passes and kicks put out on the full.

Barrett missed a simple penalty to compound the sluggish start but he levelled from halfway midway through the half.

And, as the Welsh scrum began to creak, the visitors muscled their way into a fierce contest. The home defence was ferocious, though, holding off a series of drives off a New Zealand scrum 20 metres out.

But within moments of the re-start much of that hard work was undone.

Wales did well to turn over New Zealand ball on their own try-line but Halfpenny then opted to go back into contact rather than kick clear and was stripped of the ball.

The All Blacks went left, Conrad Smith flipped a pass out of the back of his hand as Jamie Roberts thundered into him and Savea wriggled free of Biggar’s tackle to score in the corner.

Julian Savea

Julian Savea had never previously scored a try against Wales

Barrett’s conversion made it 3-10 but Wales’ response was as impressive as it was instant.

Webb darted off a scrum 10m out, fed the on-rushing Faletau and seized the return inside pass to dive across the line.

A tight game had sprung open. New Zealand went again at pace only for their subsequent driving maul to be held up short, Dane Coles lucky not to be sin-binned for grabbing Webb by the throat.

Halfpenny struck a penalty after Sam Whitelock was caught on the wrong side to edge Wales back into the lead at 13-10 and only a Webb knock-on a few metres out denied another mighty red surge.

Rhys Webb

Rhys Webb scored to bring Wales back into the game, moments after Savea’s try for New Zealand

It was furious, frantic stuff, both sides hammering deep into opposition territory only to cede momentum and control with handling errors.

Wales threw on Mike Phillips, Luke Charteris and Justin Tipuric, yet that old ruthless streak of New Zealand resurfaced just as history appeared to be beckoning.

Coles escaped down the left and fed Richie McCaw and, although the skipper was held up, Barrett found Smith free on the left wing with a beautifully judged cross-kick and the centre popped the ball back inside for Kaino to run in unopposed.

However, Barrett missed the conversion and Wales would seize back a 16-15 lead through Halfpenny’s second penalty, only to themselves be rocked backwards once more.

Barrett chipped over the covering defence on the right and gathered his own kick as the bounce beat Halfpenny before going under the posts.

Slade’s conversion made it 16-22 and, seconds later, Read silenced the stunned Millennium Stadium crowd as he charged down Phillips’ kick to score in the corner.

Inside three minutes, Wales had seen their lead turn into a 13-point deficit.

And when Barrett gathered Smith’s dab back inside from another sweetly angled kick to wriggle clear for his second, the coup de grace was complete.

Wales v New Zealand

Wales have not beaten New Zealand since 1953

Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw was captaining New Zealand for the 100th time

Beauden Barrett

Beauden Barrett’s two tries were key to New Zealand’s late comeback

Kieran Read

Kieran Read went over to give New Zealand a 13-point lead, before Barrett scored again



: Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, George North, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Paul James, Richard Hibbard, Samson Lee, Jake Ball, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (captain), Taulupe Faletau.

Scott Baldwin, Nicky Smith, Rhodri Jones, Luke Charteris, Justin Tipuric, Mike Phillips, James Hook, Liam Williams.

New Zealand

: Ben Smith, Charles Piutau, Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Wyatt Crockett., Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Kieran Read.

Keven Mealamu, Joe Moody, Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Liam Messam, TJ Perenara, Colin Slade, Ryan Crotty.

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VIDEO: Dogs keep Australian farm working

Cameron Douglas and his wife Danielle work a 20,000-acre farm in rural New South Wales, where they work cattle and sheep and breed working dogs.

Cameron says there are no incentives for young people like him to go into farming these days with high paying jobs like mining on offer but he has grown up farming and would not do anything different.

In order to subsidise their chosen profession Cameron and his wife have started breeding dogs both to use in their work and to sell.

They spoke to BBC News about the importance of keeping the tradition of the working dog going.

Video journalist: Katie Beck

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Giant robot trucks rise in Australia

The seven metre high mining truck driven by computer

Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play.

WATCH: Computers direct the huge trucks around Rio Tinto’s mine

Robots may hold the key to preventing an industrial crisis in a country whose geography makes many key jobs undesirable.

I knew Australia was big, but it didn’t really hit me till I stood on a viewing platform hanging over a valley in the Blue Mountains.

As I watched the land fall away below me, giving way to a valley of forest that stretched to the horizon, I could feel thousands of miles of silence sucking me in like a vacuum.

Part of Australia’s beauty is also its problem. Its untamed, uninhabited interior contains rich pickings, but there are few who want to go and get them.

“We have a labour shortage in the areas we want them, in agriculture, mining, and other primary industries,” Sydney University’s professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems Salah Sukkarieh told me.

“Most of the population likes living along the coastline, along the beach,” he says.

Rio Tinto truckRio Tinto says the self-drive fleet have superior fuel usage, tyre life and maintenance costs

It is for this reason, he adds, that Australia is at the forefront of field robotics.

In a country where wages and living standards are high, there is a genuine need to put machines into jobs few humans want to do.

Milk machines

Farmers are struggling to find people who want to work on their crops.

Cue Prof Sukkarieh’s giant robotic weed-remover Ladybird, the farmer’s new best friend, which wheels itself up and down rows of crops, analysing the vegetation, and pulling out anything that should not be there.

Ladybird robotSpencer Kelly encountered Ladybird at the University of Sydney

And here comes Mantis, an upright robot which uses similar image recognition techniques to count the blossoms in an orchard in spring.

Come autumn, it returns to count the apples to see if the local bee-hives need to be moved to improve pollination.

Some bots have already made it out of the lab and into the mud. The Scenic Rim Robotic Dairy near Tamrookum, Queensland, is impressive for two reasons.

First, the cows have been taught to take themselves off to be milked whenever they feel like it. They queue up, walk in, wait patiently while the deed is done, and then exit back to the field.

The second is the thing that is milking them. As the cow chews the straw in the basket, an industrial-looking robotic arm shines red laser light on to the teats, which guides the cups into position.

Lely Astronaut Robotic machinery called the Lely Astronaut uses lasers to place its apparatus on cows’ teats

This one is at least partly an expensive tourist attraction, with visitors lining up to watch the spectacle, but farmer Greg Dennis thinks he can get a return on his investment in six to eight years.

If the milk bots are gentle enough to milk a cow without a moo, the giant robots of the Four Hope Iron Ore Mine in Australia’s north-west are something else.


The ground explodes, and the rubble is loaded on to computer-controlled, self-driving trucks as high as a house, which trundle their way to the crusher.

This mine is 1,000km (621 miles) from anywhere, so far that the miners and engineers live the Fifo (Fly-In-Fly-Out) lifestyle. They arrive on specially chartered planes and stay for two weeks at a time in special camps and mining towns.

Australian mineAustralia is one of the richest sources of iron ore in the world

It is a lifestyle suited to a very few.

John McGagh, head of innovation at mining leviathan Rio Tinto, assures me that there will always be people employed by mining, but they will move “up the chain”.

The company is working to automate its drilling and crushing as well as the dozens of mile-long trains that ship nearly a million tonnes of iron ore to the coast each day.

However, it will still need remote operators, maintenance staff and experts in mechatronics – a word I heard more than once in Australia.

Rio Tinto control roomEquipment controllers include ex-truck drivers, who are now based closer to their families

Whether they will be needed in the same numbers as the miners themselves is doubtful.

Continue reading the main story

What is mechatronics?

Coined by Japanese engineer Tetsuro Mori in 1969

Combines mechanics, electronics and computing

Used to design and maintain industrial robots, machine vision systems

Cheaper bills

Automation here is partly about letting machines do the dirty, dangerous work, but also about being ever more precise about how and where they drill, how much fuel they use, what specific combination of chemicals they use to get the most copper out of the mix.

Every fraction of per cent of efficiency that Rio Tinto can squeeze out of its machines translates to millions of dollars extra profit, in higher quality extractions and lower energy bills.

The latter is a particular focus, John McGagh tells me, considering that 5% of the world’s energy is used in crushing and grinding rocks.

Rio Tinto truckThe self-driving trucks involved in the scheme are more than 7m (23ft) tall

So what of those future mechatronics experts, and the next generation of employees, trained not in manual labour, but in remote control and computer learning?

I got to meet some of them too, although fittingly only remotely.

In one of the strangest schools I have ever visited, teachers sit in cubicles, armed with webcam, headset, microphone and two computer screens each, as they group-video-chat to classes of a dozen or so children scattered across the country.

Robot teacher

Australia has a long history of teaching children whose parents have actually chosen to live in the back of beyond, in tiny communities which don’t have adequate schooling.

And it is at Brisbane’s self-styled School of the Future that I meet mechatronics teacher Megan Hastie, a fizzing ball of energy who encourages each of her students in turn to run their own computer code to remote-control a small robot round a maze.

Maze robotSchoolchildren control this robot via the internet as part of computer coding classes

And in Hayley Yates’s geography class, I spoke to 10-year-old Ellen, who loves the peace and quiet of her home 100km (60 miles) outside the small town of Warwick, itself a remote settlement in Queensland.

She tells me she has never lived in the city, so can’t imagine what it would be like. Although she does say she might like to have friends and neighbours who were close enough to see on a regular basis.

Australia’s robots, then, may provide an insight into how we might all choose to live and work in the future. No matter where the work is, we can live anywhere – in the bush, or on the coast, and let the machines take the strain.

Watch more clips on the Click website. If you are in the UK, you can watch the whole programme on BBC iPlayer.

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Australian dies in Cambodia fire


Five people have been killed in a nightclub fire in Cambodia, including an Australian tourist, local police have confirmed.

Tom Ricketson, 32 and from Sydney, suffocated in blaze at the Hip Hop club in north-western city of Siem Reap. He had arrived in Cambodia last week.

The four other victims – three women and a man – are believed to be locals.

The fire – which started overnight – was caused by an electrical fault, the police said.

The club in the popular tourist resort had no windows and only one door, the police said.

An investigation into the blaze is now under way.

Co-operative housing dream

Mr Ricketson is believed to have worked with the disabled community in Sydney, according to The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

In a statement, Mr Ricketson’s family said he was “a warm and wonderful human being who has been taken from us far too soon”.

“Tom had fallen in love with the people of Cambodia and had spent 10 days with families who live in a tip in Phnom Penh.

“He was deeply moved by the hardship they faced on a daily basis and had decided to devote the next year to raising funds to build co-operative housing for these 20 families. Our family will now work to ensure that this becomes a reality.”

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Extreme commute: From New Zealand to rural Iceland

Picture of the SAH Products factory in Blondous, IcelandShawn Parkinson and other Kiwi butchers work for two months for SAH Products in Blondous, Iceland

Every year, several dozen butchers make an epic commute – from provincial New Zealand to rural Iceland – for just two months’ work. It’s at the extreme end of the trend for fly-in fly-out workers.

As work commutes go, Shawn Parkinson’s journey takes some beating.

Dannevirke to Auckland – six-hour drive. Auckland to Sydney – three-hour flight. Sydney to Dubai – 14 and a half hours in the air. Dubai to London – seven-hour flight. London to Reykjavik – almost three hours’ flying time. Reykjavik to Blonduos, north-west Iceland – three-hour drive.

Two months later, he repeats all 22,300km (about 13,850 miles) on the return leg.

Every September, he and 30 other New Zealand butchers travel to Iceland for its lamb processing season. It’s an annual trek Mr Parkinson has made for the past seven years.

“My friends say ‘Iceland? What do you kill there – seals?’ Nah, they’ve got their own breed of sheep.”

‘Experience of a lifetime’

For him, this far-flung short-term contract is a no-brainer.


“We’d be out of work if we stayed in New Zealand at this time of year. It’s off-season. We’re laid off,” he tells me during his morning break at the SAH Products slaughterhouse near Blonduos.

“This is the experience of a lifetime. It’s the other side of the world and you can still get a bit of work.”

Flights and accommodation are paid by their Icelandic bosses – who struggle to find trained locals for just eight weeks’ work – and the wages are similar to those found in New Zealand.

The chain – as a production line is called in the meat industry – runs from 07:30 in the morning until 18:00, five days a week with a few half-Saturdays.

“Of the nine fellas here [at SAH], seven have been before and two are new,” says Mr Parkinson. “There are other Kiwis in Saudarkrokur, Selfoss and other places I can’t pronounce.”

“New Zealanders normally sound words out, say it how it’s spelt, but nah – here it’s totally different.”

He feels a kinship with Icelanders. “They’re descended from the Vikings and we are mostly Maori, so we share a warrior history and a similar attitude.”

Picture of Shawn Parkinson and other Shawn Parkinson (far right) and other Kiwis make the extreme commute every year

Picture of sheep in IcelandIcelandic sheep meat is becoming increasingly popular, say butchers

His Icelandic boss, Gunnar Halldorsson, says the expense of flying in slaughterhouse specialists is worth it.

The season is too short – and the factories too remote – for Iceland’s butchers to be prepared to relocate. And to train locals from scratch takes too long.

“So it’s better for us to have butchers who do this all day so we can get up to full speed quick. Also it is a quality issue to have professional butchers,” he says.

The New Zealanders do the skilled butchery jobs on the chain, with labourers from Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic assigned to tasks involving heavy lifting and offal.

“The Kiwis are reliable workers – never sick, always do a 100% job,” says Mr Halldorsson.

“It is expensive for us to fly them over and fly them back home and they know it. They appreciate it. You can feel that they are doing their best.”

Foreigners preferred

It’s now the norm for Icelandic meat companies to employ seasonal foreign workers.

The online application form to work at Nordlenska asks prospective employees to rate their English language – not Icelandic – skills.

“Skilled slaughtermen are hard to find in Iceland so we get people from Britain, Poland and Slovakia. Some of them come year after year to work for us,” says Nordlenska’s HR manager Jona Jonsdottir.

“The unemployment rate is rather low in Iceland compared to the rest of Europe so it is sometimes difficult to get Icelandic workers for seasonal work.”

Slaturfelag Suourlands, which has factories in the south and west of Iceland, employs Kiwi butchers and has done so for many years.

“They are professionals and nice people, bringing a lot of know-how and ideas to our production,” says production manager Gudmundur Svavarsson.

Butcher Joseph McWilliam at work in IcelandButcher Joseph McWilliam at work in Iceland

Picture of Mark Cavanagh (C) with meatworks colleagues in 2004 in IcelandMark Cavanagh (C) matches up other Kiwi butchers to Icelandic companies

Good match

The work comes via Mark Cavanagh, himself a former fly-in fly-out butcher.

He matches Kiwi workers to Icelandic jobs when he’s not manning the chain at a meatworks in the South Island of New Zealand.

He organises flights, visas and acts as a go-between for the five Icelandic companies that employ New Zealanders on a seasonal basis.

“It started in 2003 with a couple of guys and grew from there. They realised they needed more trained Kiwis as it was hard to work and train people up at the same time.”

“It takes four weeks to train someone – that’s half the season.”

He hopes the long-distance relationship between Icelandic factories and New Zealand meat workers continues.

“Iceland’s a special place to me. So long as they need my help to find workers, I’ll help them.”

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Ireland’s Henry set for long lay-off

Ulster and Ireland flanker Chris Henry will be out of rugby for some time after tests revealed that he has a blocked blood vessel in his brain.

Henry, 30, missed

Ireland’s game against South Africa

on 8 November because of an unspecified illness.

Following further tests, the Irish Rugby Football Union revealed the extent of Henry’s condition on Monday.

“Tests have shown he suffered a temporary blockage of a small blood vessel in his brain,” said the IRFU.

Henry is facing a lengthy lay-off following the diagnosis, although Ulster and Ireland officials are confident he will be able to resume his rugby career in a matter of months.

“He is at home now and is well but needs further investigation and specialist opinion,” added the IRFU statement.

Medical opinion last week was that Henry was suffering from a severe migraine but a more serious diagnosis has now been arrived at.

The back-rower started in all of Ireland’s Six Nations matches this year as they clinched the title and brought his caps haul up to 16 by playing in both summer Tests against Argentina.

With Sean O’Brien currently out of action, Henry looked to have a strong chance of holding onto his Ireland starting role next spring.

The flanker’s lengthy absence will be an even bigger blow for Ulster as they attempt to regroup after their

poor start to the European


Henry earned his first Ireland cap against Australia in June 2010, by which time he was already regularly captaining Ulster and had just been named as the province’s player of the year.

He helped Ulster reach the 2012 Heineken Cup final but while he was a regular member of the Ireland squad, he was unable to hold down a regular place because of the form of O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony.

He missed the final three matches of the 2013 Six Nations because of a

knee injury

after coming on as a replacement in the opening two games against Wales and England but started in all five games in 2014, helping set up crucial try in the

championship-clinching victory over France

in Paris.

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VIDEO: China and Australia sign trade deal

Australia and China have signed a landmark free trade agreement, after almost a decade of negotiations.

The agreement will gradually open up markets to billions of dollars of new business between the two nations.

Just before it was signed, Xi Jinping made an unprecedented address to both houses of the Australian parliament.

The BBC’s Rico Hizon reports from Singapore on what both sides stand to gain from the deal.

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