With an unsurprising mixture of action sequences, action figures and lingering one-liners loaded with possibility, the trailer for what will inevitably be the most anticipated film of the year – Star Wars: The Last Jedi – has landed.
Though each Star Wars film has a proclaimed significance of its own, Star Wars: The Last Jedi hints at a brush with the dark side of the Force for its hero Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and a heart-crushing final scene for its heroine General, nee Princess, Leia (Carrie Fisher).
For those reasons the film – the eighth, penultimate story in a nine-story that now spans four decades of filmmaking – has a particular significance for fans of the franchise who have been there since Star Wars rewrote the rulebook on cinema in 1977.
Make no mistake, however, this is a commercial enterprise: the trailer bowed online as ticketing for the first screenings in December went on sale.
And it included glimpses not just of familiar faces such as Rey, Kylo Ren and Finn, but a handful of new, colourful aliens who will no doubt populate the action figure playsets and LEGO kits that will will this year’s Christmas stockings.
They include a noisy new co-pilot for the Millennium Falcon, seen in a scene with the ship’s much-loved first mate Chewbacca. And a white dog-like alien with what appears to be crystalline fur in a sequence outside the rebel base.
Among the trailer’s key moments were sequences revealing a new design for the iconic AT-AT “walker”, first seen in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, and a confrontation between the new trilogy’s heroine, Rey (Daisy Ridley), and its sinister villain, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).
“When I found you, I saw war, untamed power and and beyond that, something truly special,” Snoke says in one of the sequences.
That confrontation may be intentionally reminiscent of the encounter between Luke Skywalker and Emperor Palpatine, which concluded the original trilogy of films.
Though the story of Star Wars is ostensibly about the rise and fall of the Empire and the rebellion against it, on a more thematic level it has always been a story of fathers, sons and inescapable destiny, notably Anakin Skywalker, his son Luke Skywalker, and from Luke a possible next generation of Jedi.
Much of the trailer’s action is focused on the ancient Jedi temple on Ahch-To where – in the final scenes of the last film – Rey delivered to Luke Skywalker the lightsaber that was cut from his hand in a duel with his father, Darth Vader.
“Something inside me has always been there,” Rey says ominously.
“I’ve seen this raw strength once before,” Luke tells her. “It didn’t scare me enough then. It does now.”
Some of the film’s key artwork and its over-use of red shadow around Luke Skywalker has fuelled speculation that Luke himself may “fall” to the “dark side” of the Force in the film.
Within the Star Wars canon, the “Force” is a mystical energy force which binds the galaxy together; those trained to use its power were known as Jedi knights, and they can manipulate it’s light (good) and dark (evil) sides.
In past Star Wars films, the colour blue has been used to represent the light side of the force, and red its opposite “dark” side.
The film also includes a sequence which suggests that Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is at the controls of a starfighter which fires a lethal shot at the Resistance command ship led by his mother, General Leia.
That sequence in the trailer, however, may have been edited for such a specific implication.
Ren – real name Ben Solo – is the son of General Leia and the late Han Solo.
What is known is that the character of General Leia will be killed off in the film; actress Carrie Fisher died earlier this year.
The trailer ends with Rey in a scene with Kylo Ren in which she asks him to “show me my place in all of this”, to which he offers her his outstretched hand.
On the internet, theories are already abound that it is a sign she too will be seduced by the dark side of the Force, or the opposite, that in fact she will bring Kylo back to the “light” side of the Force.
Whatever it means, it is likely to translate to bums on seats come December 15 this year when “episode eight” – Star Wars: The Last Jedi – is released. The ninth and final chapter in the Star Wars “saga” will be released in December, 2019.
If you’re undertaking a DIY project, chances are you’re going to learn a couple of lessons the hard way. For renovator Therese King, that lesson only took a couple of seconds but ended up adding a week to her project timeline.
“I painted the kitchen, was very proud of my efforts, it looked fabulous,” she says.
Thinking the walls and ceiling were done, she was working on installing the floating floorboards next, which required some floor leveller. “It looks like powdered concrete so you need to mix it up with water,” she says. With her drill mixer in the bucket, she switched it on.
“It spread the leveller so that it splattered all the walls and the roof and my hair. I learnt something through that experience – if you’re going to use your drill to mix your paint or whatever, do it outside! Which I’ve done ever since.”
King lives in a 100-year-old double-brick farmer’s cottage in South Albury. Being a convenient three hours between both Melbourne and Canberra and also a good stopover for those travelling south from Sydney, she saw the Airbnb potential in her duplex and spent every weekend for eight months renovating the fully self-contained one-bedroom unit next door.
“With the painting, that’s something I know I can do,” she says. “I got builders in and tradesman in for the big jobs, but when it came to restoring doors and painting that’s something that anyone can do really well.”
Cherie Barber agrees. As the renovating for profit expert on Channel Ten’s The Living Room, she is a big advocate of DIY painting. However, before a lick of paint can touch a wall, there’s a checklist of equipment and supplies you need to get the job done properly.
Whether you are like King and painting a whole property “from front door to back door” or tackling a single room, a quick cheat to help get you started is the Haymes Painters’ Pack. Free with any purchase of eight litres or more of Haymes Ultra Premium Paint, the pack contains a 230-millimetre heavy-duty roller frame, a microfibre roller cover, roller tray, premium canvas drop sheet, a paint can opener and a flat wooden paint stirrer.
“It has the key items you’ll need for starting your project,” Haymes Paint’s product training manager Scott Cattell says.
While rollers and drop sheets are obvious in the job they do, Cattell says flat stirrers are preferred to something round, like say a screwdriver.
“It’s always important to make sure your paint is thoroughly stirred, even though they do stir it at the shop when your colour is mixed. If paint has been sitting around for a while, it’s always a good idea to make sure you stir it thoroughly. So the flat stirrer actually agitates the paint properly.”
The Painters’ Pack provides “incentive to start the project”, Cattell says, adding there are other things you need outside of that as well. A Haymes instructional video suggests using Unikleen sugar soap to wash the walls, and Uni-Fill gap filler to prepare the wall surface, which will also require sponges, hand sanders and scrapers.
Masking tape is also required but Barber warns against using the traditional tan-coloured one. “You can only leave them on for a maximum of 24 hours before the adhesive starts bonding to the surface,” she says.
While renovators may be well-intentioned, Barber says laziness or distractions can kick in and if you let a week lapse, that tape will sliver into tiny pieces and leave adhesive residue. Opt for professional painters tapes instead. “Blue painters tapes can stay on for six months,” she says.
Barber advises DIYers to get mineral turps if their paint is oil based, as well as cling film for keeping rollers moist between coats, disposable latex gloves and “if you’re strictly going by the book, a respirator” for health and safety reasons.
Barber also cautions against buying “cheap and nasty” brushes because the bristles end up in the paint and then all over your walls. “You spend more time picking them out with your fingernails than painting,” she says.
For King, the painting of Olive Tree Cottage is now a memory and she’s become an Airbnb super-host.
“I’ve had so much positive feedback about how the house is decorated,” she says. “People have really responded to [its] artwork and I think that’s why the white walls have been so successful, because they let the artwork speak.”
Doing all the painting herself “saved thousands” but also gave King that feeling familiar to anyone who has completed a DIY project.
“The preparation is always the most tedious but once you get the room set up for painting it can be incredibly satisfying, that feeling of rolling that fresh paint onto your empty walls and you start to feel that the transformation has begun. It’s definitely a feeling of achievement, the feeling of ‘I did this’.”
George Frazis, head consumer bank, Westpac at the Sydney office 11th August 2017 Photo by Louise kennerley AFRWestpac is scrapping “outdated” charges on some transactions and capping account-keeping fees, as part of a bank-wide review in response to the erosion of public trust in banks.
The chief executive of the bank’s consumer arm, George Frazis, on Tuesday said the bank would remove rules that limited the number of free monthly transactions, which applied to some “old” accounts created before the rise of mobile banking.
After Westpac’s move, Commonwealth Bank and ANZ Bank said they would address the same issue, with both lenders moving customers out of accounts that included a limited number of “free” monthly transactions onto newer products.
The moves match a change that National Bank made some years ago to provide unlimited monthly transactions to customers. NAB has also not charged monthly account keeping fees since 2010.
Westpac is also capping monthly account-keeping fees for personal banking customers at $5 a month – compared with some accounts that charge as much as $15 a month.
The changes follow the major banks’ move last month to scrap ATM fees for customers of other banks, and it is being announced the day before Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer appears before the federal government’s banking inquiry in Canberra.
The changes were announced by Mr Frazis in a speech in Sydney, in which he also acknowledged ‘s banks had lost the trust of many members of the community.
Mr Frazis said the changes would benefit 1.3 million customers, and were “just the start” of the lender’s attempt to boost simplicity and transparency.
He said the limits on transactions were included in some accounts that had been created before the rise of mobile banking, when consumers typically visited a branch once a week.
“Products like these are the banking equivalent of the horse-and-buggy. That’s why we’re taking away those old fees and limits,” he said at a Trans-Tasman Business Circle lunch in Sydney.
Westpac did not disclose how much revenue it would lose as a result of the changes, but Mr Frazis said “it is not an insignificant decision on our part”.
A CBA spokeswoman said the bank was migrating its customers who still faced a monthly transaction limit to accounts with unlimited transactions, a process expected to finish by early next year. Its maximum account keeping fee is $6.
Some ANZ Bank customers also have a limit on the number of free transactions they can make every month, and the bank is seeking to move these people onto accounts with unlimited transactions. Most of ANZ’s accounts have a $5 monthly fee, but it has one with a $6 fee and one with a $10 monthly fee.
A spokeswoman for comparison website Mozo, Kirsty Lamont, said more than half the accounts in its database did not charge an account-keeping fee, and it was not clear why Westpac, ANZ and CBA still included such charges.
“If their smaller competitors can afford to have accounts out there with no account keeping fees then why can’t these big banks do that?” she said.
Mr Frazis revealed the changes in a speech that also dealt with the technological upheaval rocking retail banking, in which he also noted Westpac’s stoush with Apple over access to the iPhone’s hardware for making payments.
Westpac, National Bank and Commonwealth Bank do not offer Apple Pay because of the dispute, but Mr Frazis said Wesptac expected to reach a deal with the tech giant “eventually.”
“I have actually no doubt at some stage we will come up with an agreement with Apple Pay for Westpac customers,” he said. NAB’s fully owned Bank of New Zealand this week started offering Apple Pay, but said this did not signal a change of approach in .
Mr Frazis also touched on what he called the “fractious relationship” between banks and the community, saying banks had become an “easy target” and it was “critical to confidence, investment and our international standing” that the industry improved its relationship with the government and regulators.
He explained the decline in public trust by saying banks had lost a “sincere connection” with their customers, which was fuelling resentment among some consumers, and action from the government.
“We lost that connection because some bankers and some banks forgot that trust is a two-way street,” he said.
“There has clearly been a divergence between our customers’ interests and the bank’s interests.”
The clean energy target is needed to attract investment and provide clarity for business, and is not all about subsidies, says Origin Energy chief executive Frank Calabria.
“Generally the message around the [clean energy target] CET is being called from a point of certainty, not a subsidy, that’s what people are calling for,” Mr Calabria said at The n Financial Review’s National Energy Summit on Tuesday.
The federal government has signalled it will not implement the CET, the key recommendation from the Finkel Review. Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg argues it is not needed because of the declining costs of renewables and storage, greater efficiencies in thermal generation and an increasing focus on dispatchable power in the system.
“We are considering the Finkel Review’s 50th recommendation – to which we’ll respond before the end of the year,” Mr Frydenberg said on Monday.
Mr Calabria said a clean energy target – or a similar process – provides companies with certainty and a clear path for investors.
“It gives us the trajectory upon which we can hit an emissions reduction,” Mr Calabria said.
“We think there are workable solutions, we just want to get on with it now.
He argued that the lack of a price signal ends up hurting customers and delays or even stops investment decisions.
“The key thing for me is that people want to invest up front earlier so you don’t get yourself into the situation that we’ve seen ourselves in over the last six months with the rapidly escalating price.
“We’ve got to think to 2030 and beyond if we are going to continue to transform our energy system,” he said.
South ‘s Premier Jay Weatherill proposal to “go it alone” on setting clean energy targets was rejected by Mr Calabria, who said “we’d prefer a national coordinated mechanism”.
He added that while Origin would be open to the idea if states were to put it forward, “it’s not our first preference”.
OFFERS for In Her Time have hit $1.5 million but owner Peter Brownis backing the Newcastle-trained star to keep increasingher value on the track, potentially in Saturday’s The Everest consolation, the $500,000 Sydney Stakes,at Randwick.
In Her Time, right, winning the Premiere Stakes ahead of Everest runners English and Clearly Innocent, left. Picture: AAP
The Ben Smith-trained five-year-old maremissed a place in The Everest (1200m) despite a last-start win in the group 2 Premiere Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on September 30 over a host of starters in this Saturday’s$10 million feature. She was named on Tuesday as one of four Everest emergencies.
The win took In Her Time’s earnings past $1 million from just 15 starts and increased her worth as a broodmare prospect.
TheHeraldwas told Brown had fielded an offer of $1.75 million for In Her Time, which he bought after shewas passed in atthe 2014 Inglis Classic Yearling when failingto make a$40,000 reserve.The mare isleased, at least until early next year, to a widerownership group.
Brown said the $1.75 millionfigure had been“mooted” but offers for In Her Time were nothing new.
“There’s been several offers for her, all the way through,” Brown said.“They started at $150,000 a year and a half ago, and they are now at $1.5 million.”
The 67-year-old Bar Beach owner-breeder, though, said he had no intention to sell in the shortterm.
“We’ll wait until she finishes her racing career before we consider selling her, because the way she’s going, she may earn another million and a half in prizemoney,” he said.
“Why would you sell when on Saturday she’srunning for $500,000, then for a million and then she might come back and run in theTJ Smith, which is $3 million, and she might go again to Queensland for races like the Stradbroke and Tatt’s Tiara.
“While she’s OK, she can stay where she is, because at the end of her racing careershe’ll still be worth $1.5 million as a broodmare.”
In Her Time was set for a Melbourne campaign taking in the group 1 Manikato Stakes (October 27) andDarley Classic (November 11) but could now race next in the Sydney Stakes. Brown said they will accept for the race, which will keep her in contention for the Everest if a runner isscratched.
In Her Time drew nine of 14 for the Sydney Stakes, which will become gate eight with emergencies out. Brownsaid the prizemoney, In Her Time’s record as a multiple group 2 winnerat Randwick over 1200m and the weight-for-age conditions made the Sydney Stakes a tempting proposition but the decision to run would be left to Smith, who had done “an amazing job” with the horse.
Smith said he would make a call later in the week but “the way she’s going, there’s every chance we will run on Saturday then head to Melbourne for the Manikato, then we may miss the Darley”.
“It’s probably a good draw for her with all the main chances drawn awkward, but we’ll play it by ear. It depends on her more than the rest of the field. We’ve got to consider whether she can get through a run on Saturday and race again in a fortnight because the Manikato is probably the main one.”
Smith said his stable star was“going enormous and has put on 10 kilos since her last run”.
“She just keeps developing and getting better and now she’s a bit older and a bit more mature, maybe she can handle a tougher workload,” he said.
Returning Canberra Raiders halfback Sam Williams says a stint in the UK Super League has made him a better player as he prepares to renew his selection battle with Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin.
Williams finalised a two-year deal on Tuesday and will join the Raiders for a third time when pre-season training begins in the coming weeks.
The 26-year-old’s arrival will add crucial playmaker depth to the Raiders after the departure of Lachlan Croker. Former North Queensland halfback Cooper Bambling is also set to move to the capital.
Sezer and Austin have been Canberra’s first-choice halves for the past two years, but Williams says he is ready to mount a challenge after helping Wakefield into the Super 8 stage of the Super League.
“I really enjoyed my 12 months in the Super League, but the chance to come back to the Raiders was always going to be too hard to say no to,” Williams said.
“The opportunity to come back isn’t always going to be there, so I’m excited about what’s to come.
“Sometimes you’ve got to go outside of your comfort zone a little bit and there’s no doubt I’ve grown as a player in the last 12 months.
“You’re learning off different people and different styles. No doubt it’s helped my game. Now it’s about coming back, training hard and giving yourself the best opportunity to be ready to go.”
Williams is part of the Raiders’ off-season plan to reinvigorate the roster after failing to make the finals last season.
Melbourne Storm premiership-winner Brett White has joined the coaching staff, while Dean Pay is now the Canterbury Bulldogs head coach.
Clay Priest looks set to follow Pay to the Bulldogs, while fullback Brad Abbey could link with the Raiders as part of a player swap.
But the club could be searching for more forwards to improve depth after losing Dave Taylor and Scott Sorensen.
Williams, a former under-20s captain, is returning to Canberra for his third stint after making his NRL debut in 2011.
He joined the St George Illawarra Dragons in 2014 followed by a season with the Catalans Dragons in France before returning to the Green Machine.
Williams had the choice of staying in England or joining rival NRL clubs, but decided on returning to Canberra to restart his halves mission.
“I know the opportunity to wear the green jumper isn’t always going to be there,” Williams said.
“Training every day with Aidan and Blake, we’ve got a healthy competition. Those boys have worked on their combination for the past two years and are great players.
“But I enjoy that challenge and testing myself at training. We try to help each other as much as possible and push each other. That probably lifts the enjoyment factor.
“I’m hoping being back here and push me that little bit further.”
The Raiders are also working on contract extensions for rookie of the year Nick Cotric and hooker Josh Hodgson, who was named in the England World Cup side on Monday night.
Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead will play for England as part of Canberra’s international contingent at the World Cup.
TIMELESS: Hunter Drama actors in rehearsal for Rent, which will be staged at Civic Playhouse from October 20. Picture: Jo Roberts.DIRECTOR and actor Daniel Stoddart made what he smilingly calls “a throwaway comment” while conversing with fellow performer Daniel Wilson when they were seeing a show at Newcastle’s Civic Theatre last year.
“What show would you like to do again,” he asked. Wilson, without hesitating, said “Rent”.
Given the popularity Rent has had with Newcastle theatregoers, it didn’t take long for Stoddart to decide to stage the musical this year as part of his Hunter Drama company’s program, with a season at the Civic Playhouse from October 20.
This will be the second or third time in Rent for four of the principals – Amy Vee, Daniel Wilson, Marissa Saroca and Marty Worrall – and ensemble member Allison Van Gaal. The musical has had five productions in Newcastle, with the first, in 2006, so popular that it was restaged in 2007. There was a sold-out concert-style staging in 2011, and another Newcastle company, Pantseat Performing Arts, presented it in April this year.
Rent has been popular with young people who aren’t regular theatregoers. Writer and composer Jonathan Larson gave a catchy rock style to all the songs. And the story, which covers a year in the early 1990s in a down-market part of New York, has university students and would-be musicians and actors meeting and romancing, and finding themselves facing eviction.
The musical likewise has appeal for older people. Larson based the plotline and characters on those of the Puccini opera La Boheme, which is set in Paris in the mid-19th century. The adaptation shows the timelessness of the people and their situations. The opera’s debilitating tuberculosis, which was affecting people at the time of its writing, is replaced by HIV-AIDS, which was prevalent at the time of the musical’s writing in the late 1980s. (Jonathan Larson sadly died from an undiagnosed aortic aneurism just before the show’s Broadway opening in 1996.)
Daniel Wilson plays Mark, a filmmaker and the narrator of the story; Marissa Saroca is his former girlfriend, Maureen, a performance artist; Bec Fitzsimmons is Maureen’s lover, Joanne, a public interest lawyer; Marty Worrall is Mark’s roommate Roger, a musician; Amy Vee is Mimi, an exotic dancer, with whom Roger falls in love; David Giese is Tom Collins, a computer genius; Luke Baker is Collins’ lover, Angel, a street musician and drag queen; and Nicholas Stabler is Benny, a former member of the group who, after marrying into a wealthy family, has become their landlord.
Rent has performances from October 20 to November 4, on Friday and Saturday at 8pm, plus 2pm shows on October 21 and November 4 and an 8pm show on October 26.
Legal representatives arrive at the High Court in Canberra on Tuesday 10 October 2017. The court will consider the eligibility of seven politicians in a three day hearing. Fedpol. Photo: Andrew Meares ???”Exorbitant” foreign laws that impose citizenship on ns “willy nilly” and without their knowledge should not disqualify them from Parliament, lawyers for Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce have argued in the High Court.
On the first day of hearings into the “citizenship seven”, Bret Walker SC – who is also representing deputy Nationals leader Fiona Nash – said section 44 of the constitution was aimed at avoiding split allegiance among MPs.
“There’s no split allegiance where you’re not aware of one of them,” Mr Walker said. “You cannot heed a call you cannot hear.”
Mr Walker said “exorbitant” foreign laws that imposed citizenship by descent – often without the knowledge of those affected – could not be seen to create any split allegiance. He maintained that Mr Joyce and Senator Nash did not know about their dual citizenship.
Mr Joyce discovered in August he was a dual citizen of New Zealand because his father was born there. Senator Nash later realised she was a British dual national.
“It is highly significant that no one suggests section 44 – in its historical provenance – had as its aim the prevention of people having willy nilly or unwittingly been given citizenship by descent,” Mr Walker told the court.
Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue, appearing on behalf of the Turnbull government, said that to disqualify Mr Joyce, Senator Nash and three others – Nationals senator Matt Canavan, former Greens senator Larissa Waters and crossbencher Nick Xenophon – would go against the “operational purpose” of section 44, because none of them knew about their foreign ties.
All five were born in , except for Ms Waters who was born in Canada to n parents. Mr Donaghue argued there should be a distinction between these sorts of “natural-born” ns and overseas-born “naturalised” ns.
One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts and former Greens senator Scott Ludlam – who were born in India and New Zealand respectively, to at least one foreign parent – were in the latter category.
The government believes Senator Roberts and Mr Ludlam – who along with Ms Waters has already quit Parliament due to dual-citizenship – should be ruled ineligible because they were born overseas, came to later in life and should have been aware of the real prospect of foreign citizenship.
Mr Donaghue argued that if any parliamentarian had – or should have had – knowledge of their status “and they shut their eyes to it” then they should be found in breach. This is the test he said applied to Senator Roberts and Mr Ludlam.
Tracing the history of section 44 back to British and colonial law, Mr Donaghue argued there had always been a distinction made between natural-born and naturalised citizens in the past.
Only parliamentarians who have “voluntarily obtained or retained” should fall foul of section 44, he said.
The Solicitor-General conceded the Commonwealth was asking the court to take a “narrower” view of section 44 than it had previously, most notably in the 1992 case of Sykes v Cleary.
However lawyers for Ms Waters and Mr Ludlam will call for a more literal reading of section 44, arguing ignorance is no defence.
The hearings are expected to continue until Thursday.
The pool at Spicers Hidden Vale also has a magnificent view of the surrounding countryside. Ash Martin, the Head Chef at Spicers Hidden Vale, tucked into the hillsto the west of the historic Brisbane satellite city of Ipswich, is a purist.
You only have to wander for a few minutes around the extensive garden he and his staff maintain on the classy resort’s 12,000 acres — and chat with him — to realise just how passionate he is about using local, seasonal produce.
Ash Martin … passionate about using local, seasonal produce.
He doesn’t much like doing weddings, and strictly limits the number that he caters for, simply because they tend to impose restrictions on his otherwise free hand in the kitchen.
Instead, he relies on that garden, which now has nearly 90 beds, and a veritable tribe of chickens, geese, dorper lambs and Wessex saddleback pigs that have a pretty free reign of the paddock and sheds between his home and the old homestead which houses the restaurant.
The bounty includes a bevy of fresh vegetables and herbs. Some are pickled and otherwise preserved for the seasons when fresh output is limited.
The market garden at Spicers Hidden Vale … its bounty includes a bevy of fresh vegetables and herbs.
The larder is supplemented by the produce of local farmers, gardeners and other providores, who are delivering outstanding culinary treats to the kitchen at Spicers Hidden Vale.
This includes delicious local freshwater cray raised at nearby Tarome Fresh Crayfish, Murray cod and selected beef and lamb cuts.
It’s difficult to describe the feeling of staying at Spicers Hidden Vale, though the term “laid-back rural elegance” comes very close to the mark.
Lockyer Valley magnificence … the outlook from the veranda of one of the cottages.
You’re certainly unlikely to stay or dine there as a walk-in off the street. The property’s location on an isolated country road virtually guarantees that there’ll be no customers passing by chance.
You have to know about the place, book in, and set out to go there.
Comfortable elegance … one of Spicers Hidden Vale’s sumptuous bedrooms.
Accommodation is mainly in a series of cottages scattered around the main homestead, which contains reception and the restaurant.
Many of the suites have a spa bath, fireplace and wide veranda with outdoor seating that offers simply stunning views of the countryside.
Spicers is a small group featuring luxury accommodation in south-east Queensland (Spicers Tamarind Retreat at Maleny on the Sunshine Coast, Spicers Clovelly Estate at Montville on the Sunshine Coast, Spicers Peak Lodge on Queensland’s Scenic Rim, Spicers Hidden Vale at Grandchester in the Lockyer Valley, and Spicers Balfour Lodge in Brisbane), Sydney (Spicers Potts Point in the Eastern Suburbs), the Hunter Valley (Spicers Vineyards Estate at Pokolbin) and the Blue Mountains (Spicers Sangoma Retreat at Bowen Mountain).
IF YOU GOSpicers Hidden Vale
617 Grandchester Mt Mort Road, Grandchester QLD 4340
Phone 1300 179 340
There’s an image floating around cyberspace that resurfaces every year or so. It’s a page from a 1991 Radio Shack catalogue. Radio Shack is the US version of the old Tandy, for those who remember the latter.
On it are a range of products for sale. And the capabilities of the products on that page can now be found in a single place: inside your smartphone.
The list includes a “VHS Camcorder” (remember those?), “mobile cellular telephone” (that just made calls), a 20-memory speed dial phone (with a cord), a tape recorder, scanner and CD player. Oh, and a desktop computer.
The total value of that page, in 1991 dollars, was $3239. If you bought a smartphone at any time in the past couple of years, you paid less than a quarter of that price – in 2017 dollars, no less. For far, far, superior technology.
(Remember that next time someone complains that things aren’t getting better, or that everything is so expensive these days.)
Sticking with the theme, Radio Shack filed for bankruptcy in 2015. And again in 2017.
That catalogue page, though, is both a metaphor and an all-too-real example of something every investor should be alert to: the potential disaster around the corner. It’s exemplified in a simple phrase: “When your product becomes someone else’s feature.”
Sure, some people still buy portable CD players that clip to their belts. Or bulky VHS camcorders.
When was the last time you saw more than two people at the same spot using an old-style photographic camera? And even if you did, they were likely swamped 50 to one by smartphones taking snaps, right?
The miniaturisation of technology, which means we each carry around more computing power in our pockets than was in the first few generations of spacecraft, is largely responsible for this shift. But not entirely.
Email, free with any internet connection, has devastated traditional post. Improved vehicle security and in-car audio systems have all but destroyed the car alarm and after-market stereo businesses. The international linking of debit and credit card systems has meant you no longer need traveller’s cheques in your wallet next to your Bankcard (also gone). There are many, many additional examples.
And, back to computing, Amazon, Apple and Google are trying to take it to the next level. Amazon’s new Prime “club” includes free streaming of a host of movies and music. Apple and Google’s music subscription programs make albums – either physical or digital – an endangered species.
Then there’s the smartphone app stores. Apps, though you do have to pay for some of them, have replaced GPS units (which themselves replaced physical maps), stream television shows and sport, allow you to buy goods online, play games – oh, and make phone calls.
One of the newer inventions to really take hold recently, though, is the ability to use your phone to pay. I’ve just been away for a week, and all but one transaction was done by tapping my phone against the payment terminal. For now, I’m linking it to my credit cards. But how long before the likes of Visa and American Express face disruption of their own?
That product, the credit or debit card, is quickly becoming a feature. And not only of the smartphone but of the operating system.
Even better (or worse, if you face disruption): the operating system itself is becoming part of a bigger ecosystem. If you’re part of Team Google, for example, your phone, computer files, payments, email and a whole lot more are inside one ecosystem. Ditto for Apple. So when one of them releases a new feature ???
Innovation is happening at a greater rate than ever before. Products are becoming features at a rate of knots. Businesses that once seemed impervious to the march of technology are increasingly under threat by digitisation. And with it, by globalisation.
How will our local banks tackle the deluge of online payment options such as PayPal, Apple Pay or Android Pay? Will Amazon’s arrival spell trouble for not only discretionary retailers such as Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi, but also Woolies and Coles?
Because here’s the rub: companies don’t fall over when the last customer walks out the door.
They face trouble when 10 per cent of customers leave. Because they have massive infrastructure – store footprint, inventory, administrative staff, marketing and other costs – that doesn’t deal well with declining sales.
Just ask Radio Shack. It did more than $US4 billion in sales in the last year it made a profit. It fell to a loss when revenue hit $US3.8 billion. And it never recovered.
The old rules of market dominance no longer apply. Not every company faces Radio Shack’s fate, but every investor – not just in the technology arena – should be vigilant to their company’s product becoming someone else’s feature. It could be the beginning of the end..
Scott Phillips is the Motley Fool’s director of research. He owns shares in Amazon苏州夜总会招聘.