The secret world of anorexics

Eating Disorders Foundation of NSW estimates that there are more than one million pro- anorexia web sites. Advocate for a ban on pro anasites … Federal Labor MP Anna Burke.
Nanjing Night Net

Woman standing with her arms crossed

Ana can be highly emotional and empathetic. She craves attention, although she often hides behind others. And she can be a complete bitch.

”Get back on track, you ignorant f—.

Lose it, Chub. Lose it. Now.

Cut and starve and drink.

This is who you are now.”

– Ana

”Ana” is not a real person but an identity, adopted as self, friend and foe, the embodiment of anorexia. Her speech is the self-talk and self-hate that typifies a condition that is all about internalising how you look – or think you look – on the outside, and clinging to the conviction that salvation lies in getting ever thinner.

Ana (short for ”pro ana” – pro anorexia) and her lesser known sibling Mia (or ”pro mia” – pro bulimia) are the subjects of countless posts on social media and dedicated websites, blogs and forums. In 2008, the Eating Disorders Foundation of NSW (now Butterfly Foundation) estimated there were more than a million such sites.

Pro ana is dedicated to encouraging and supporting those who identify with the community. There are tips on grim topics such as how to make yourself vomit (known as ”purging”, one involves dental floss and a lifesaver). There are images of skinny models, celebrities and users’ own ”selfies” (called ”thinspiration” or ”thinspo”). And there are heartfelt posts describing good days and bad, and real-time messaging from Ana ”buddies”.

Those who participate in the subculture appear to be overwhelmingly teenage girls and young women – although online it is impossible to be sure – using handles such as ”anything2bethin” and ”beautifulbones”. The tone of the sites combines the language of support groups and their cycles of hope, commitment, breach, despair and recommitment, with a slightly childish emo folksiness (poetry in scratchy fonts, artwork of waifs wearing knee socks) and a rather more grown-up pride in their perversity.

Coffee and smokes

and cold Diet Cokes,

That’s what pretty girls are made of.

Its manifest catharsis is profoundly shocking.

Emma, 21, has struggled with an eating disorder for five years (her surname has been omitted to protect her privacy). She has starved herself (”restricted”) for up to eight days at a time (”No food whatsoever and zero-calorie drinks. And I end up a mess after it. I do really want to stop it.”). She has seen a range of psychologists, counsellors, dietitians and support groups to help her break a cycle of fasting and bingeing, and deal with her related anxiety and self-harming.

While still at school, Emma told her friends about her messed up behaviours, but, after that one tearful night, they were never mentioned again. She feels lonely and isolated. She has to force herself to leave the house other than to go to work, and she avoids talking on the phone.

Having always done a lot of research online, Emma stumbled into the pro ana community at the beginning of the year.

”It’s actually nice to read,” she says. ”It makes me feel like I’m not alone, like other people are going through these things and people understand.”

Intelligent and articulate, Emma is ambivalent about the subculture. ”I go through stages where I think pro ana is a fantastic idea, and I get right into it, I read about it and I look for buddies. Then all of a sudden I’ll binge and then I’ll be, like, obviously, restricting isn’t a realistic plan for me.”

Her life is dominated by the disorder, she says, every day an exhausting struggle with whether she will try to eat normally or fast.

”Even if I try and eat normally, because I’ve developed a habit of bingeing, I’ll still binge. If [that] happens many times, I feel like I can’t do it any more, I need a break. And so I’ll go back to restricting. Pro ana is sort of there for when I can’t fight any more,” she says.

Yet she is clear-eyed about pro ana’s hazards. ”It does scare me too,” she says. ”I [was] talking to someone on there once … and she was 13 or 14, and that just breaks my heart. I feel like saying stop, don’t get into this mess, get out of it while you’ve got the chance.”

Most eating disorder specialists and support groups are unequivocal about the sites’ dangers.

”I absolutely hate them,” says Christine Morgan, the chief executive of the Butterfly Foundation, the national support group for sufferers and carers. Those with long-term eating disorders don’t want to get well, she says. ”That’s one of the most horrific aspects of the illness.

”The sites say that [people] have chosen this as a lifestyle. We know that’s not true, that it’s a very serious psychiatric illness. Then they encourage them to remain true to behaviours that are doing them harm. I can’t see anything positive in that from any perspective.”

Two million people in Australia will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime, the foundation estimates. Disorders last an average of 15 years, and about 20 per cent of sufferers never recover. It estimates the health costs at about $100 million last year, with an effect on national productivity of about $15.1 billion.

Physical damage can include anaemia, osteoporosis, an increased risk of infertility and kidney failure. The foundation estimates last year about 1828 sufferers died. Beyond the mortality rate and physical impairment, experts in eating disorders argue the behaviours must be understood as a mental illness because of the huge distress they cause.

Chairwoman of mental health at the University of Western Sydney, Professor Phillippa Hay, likens eating disorders to depression. ”In the course of human experience, it will be normal to feel low in the same way as someone with depression feels low. But for someone with a mental illness, [it] becomes overwhelming and prevents them from living full and happy lives and relating to other people. It’s the disability from the behaviour and emotion that constitutes an illness.”

Many sufferers are unable to work, have a relationship or live independently.

Internationally, there has been momentum in several countries to ban or attach warnings to pro ana sites, including France, Britain and the Netherlands. In Australia, the federal Labor MP, Anna Burke, called for legislation banning pro ana sites in 2008.

But how much harm do they cause? Emma says pro ana’s virtual solidarity is something she hasn’t been able to find in real-world support groups: She likes not being seen, and the ability to have text conversations when she needs them.

She prefers their support to that of professionals she has consulted. ”I’ve never liked the idea of paying to have someone to talk to. It feels like they’re only doing it because they have to.” Pro ana, on balance, has been more good than bad, she says.

Last year, a ground-breaking study of the personal experience of pro ana bloggers was published in the journal Health Communications. It found bloggers experienced positive effects of self-expression, catharsis and social support in coping with a stigmatised disease. They also experienced negative consequences: fear of disclosure and of encouraging disorders.

Researchers Daphna Yeshua-Katz and Nicole Martins concluded that, in light of the poor results of conventional treatments for eating disorders – those treated for anorexia have less than 50 per cent chance of recovering within 10 years – further investigation of the prevailing treatment protocols were warranted.

”Instead, the young [pro ana] women themselves are blamed for sabotaging their own recovery,” they argue. ”Our results suggest … the moral panic about the websites might not be appropriate.”

Parallels with pro ana can be found in the fat acceptance movement, which aims to change social and medical prejudices about those with large bodies. Both are trying to break down stereotypes that looking a certain way makes people bad, moral or aesthetic failures.

Like Gay Rights, Women’s Lib or Deaf Culture, these are arguably all identity movements that aim to recast as diversity those traits condemned as disease or disability and used as the basis for discrimination. If fat acceptance rightly seeks to de-stigmatise the large bodied, why couldn’t the same be true of pro ana? Because unlike obesity, the experts say, anorexia is a mental illness. The categorisations of mental illnesses, however, are not like the laws of physics. ”Disordered” behaviours can move in and out of the medical/psychological spectrum over time: homosexuality, notoriously, was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1986.

Ethicist Stacy Carter, who works at the University of Sydney’s school of public health, says if anorexic behaviour has its roots in damaging experiences, it is legitimate to question ”whether that person is in a position to make good judgments about how to live a flourishing life.

”If the very nature of being anorexic is the state of being constantly miserable, then it would make more sense to do whatever you could to [intervene],” she says.

But if young women are attracted to pro ana websites, that immediately suggests they need a community they can identify with, she says. ”So shouting at them about it being bad to be anorexic and trying to shut down the sites seems to miss the very purpose of their engagement with the sites in the first place. Maybe a better way to think about it is, how can we provide that?”

Hay says a ”counter culture” of therapeutic applications that seek to do just that are emerging, including chat rooms and ”therapies that can be delivered ethically over the internet”.

But it is not just the technology that enables pro ana. It is also its uncensored, unsupervised nature.

In the weeks after interviewing Emma, I regularly check her activity on her favoured pro ana site. She’s back there most days but hasn’t posted a comment asking for, or offering, support since I first contacted her via the site.

I feel my anxiety about her is well intentioned. But I suspect she feels she’s being watched.

For help and support call 1800 334 673 or email support@ thebutterflyfoundation.org.au

For 24-hour help call Lifeline 13 11 14

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Don’t give cyber punks a free pass

”Qwertyuiop” spells trouble… avoid lazy, predictable passwords.Hackers constantly think up new and creative ways to break into people’s online banking, email and Facebook accounts, but their latest scams are usually based on the same old tricks. Sometimes they’ll use high-tech hacks to break into a website and steal passwords, or sneak malicious software onto your computer to spy on you. But often it’s easier to bluff their way past security or to simply trick you into handing over important information.
Nanjing Night Net

A healthy paranoia is one of your best defences. Never trust emails or phone calls claiming to be from your bank or phone company, especially if they request personal information. Remember, they contacted you – they could be anyone. Also avoid clicking links in emails to visit their sites, as it could be a bogus site designed to steal your password. It’s safer to type in the address yourself.

Another important security precaution is to create strong passwords. Use more than eight characters with a mix of upper- and lower-case letters as well as numbers and symbols. Avoid dictionary words and simple number substitutions such as ”p4ssw0rd”. Hackers are awake to such tricks.

A password needs to be easy to remember, but using ”123456” or ”qwertyuiop” is asking for trouble and most services won’t let you use them. Don’t use your birthday, or the names of your pets or children. Hackers know they’re popular passwords and such details are often easy to find online, perhaps from your Facebook page.

The trick to creating a strong password is to choose something that looks like gibberish but isn’t hard for you to remember. One handy method is to use the first letters of a phrase or lyric. For example, the first lines of Advance Australia Fair could become ”AaLuR-fWaYaF*1788” – easy for you to remember but difficult for a person to guess or a computer to crack.

It’s also important to choose difficult security questions, which are used if you forget your password and need to reset it. Hacking into your email and then resetting your other passwords is a common trick used to break into Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon accounts. Your mother’s maiden name or the name of your primary school are poor choices because such information can often be found online.

It’s best to make up your own security questions if possible, or to use difficult questions that can’t be easily guessed or found online. For an extra layer of security, you might send your password reset details to a separate email address, making it harder for hackers to access them.

A strong password is a great first line of defence, but don’t use the same password for everything. The more sensitive the service, such as your online banking, the more important it is to use a unique password.

To make life easier you might devise a pattern for remembering your various passwords, such as using different lines from the same song. Or you might break your passwords into several parts, using a base password along with a unique suffix. Whatever pattern you use, make sure it’s not so obvious that if someone discovers one password they can easily guess the others. If you’re still struggling to remember your passwords, consider password-locker services such as Lastpass and 1Password, which can generate strong passwords for you.

Many online services use your email address as your login, which makes life easier for hackers because they now have the first piece of the puzzle. For an extra layer of protection, consider creating unique logins or email addresses for your different services. Many email services let you create aliases such as bob.amazon@bobjones南京夜网 and bob.apple@bobjones南京夜网, which can forward to your main bob@bobjones南京夜网 inbox. This trick ensures hackers can’t break into Bob’s Apple account using bob@bobjones南京夜网, even if they know his password.

Two-factor authentication is another security precaution that can foil hackers.

It relies on something you know, such as your password, and something you have, such as a key chain that generates seemingly random numbers. Key chains are used by some online banking services.

But that something you have could also be your mobile phone.

If you enable Google and Facebook’s two-factor authentication, when you try to log in from a new device for the first time you’re also required to enter a code that is sent to your phone via SMS.

Facebook calls two-factor authentication ”login approvals”. Once you’ve entered the code, it’s possible to tick ”remember this device” so you don’t need to go through this process every time you log in using your own computer. The beauty of two-factor authentication is that even if hackers know your login and password, they still can’t break into your accounts unless they have your phone.

Even two-factor authentication isn’t a magic bullet for online security, but if you take a few simple precautions you can make things much harder for those trying to hack into your digital life.

How to play it safe  Use passwords that look like gibberishDon’t use the same password for everythingChoose difficult security questionsDon’t trust people who call, or links in emailsDon’t use the same email address for everythingTurn on two-factor authentication

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Henderson homes in on shot at national title

It’s a far cry from racing in front of 20,000 at an Olympic Games, but Canberra mountain biker Bec Henderson is still excited about competing at the national championships at Stromlo this weekend.
Nanjing Night Net

Henderson is looking to defend her national women’s under-23 cross country mountain bike title on her home track, in front of family and friends.

It is her final year as an under 23 before she steps up to open class.

She was hoping the nationals would kick-start a big year, which will culminate at the world championships in Austria in September.

But first she wants to add another national title to her resumé´ on Saturday.

”I’m really happy to have a nationals back here at Stromlo because it’s my home town and all your friends and family are here to watch,” Henderson said.

”It’s not going to be the 20,000 spectators that we experienced in London, but it’s home ground and we know the course really well.

”It’s still good vibes and a really good atmosphere.”

Six months ago, Henderson and boyfriend-coach Dan McConnell were Australia’s sole mountain bike representatives at the London Olympics.

Henderson is not the only member of the couple defending a title on Saturday. McConnell is also the reigning Australian champion, but he broke his hand in October which forced him off the bike for three months. He’s only been back in training for 3½ weeks.

He’s hopeful it has been long enough to get his form back.

But he admits the Oceania Championships in Tasmania in March might be a more realistic goal – especially since he wants to peak for the world cups in Europe in May.

”I haven’t done a lot of racing lately … it’s not ideal, but I’m probably in the best shape I can be for the preparation I’ve had,” McConnell said.

”I’m not in great form, but I’m hoping it will be enough to get me through. I’m trying not to get too worked up about it. It’s not ideal and I’m far from my best.

”I’ve just got to try and have the best race that I can, and if that’s the win great, if not I can still look forward to a big year.”

In contrast, Henderson said she ”couldn’t complain” about her preparation, which included winning the elite women’s national series event at Thredbo two weeks ago.

”January was a bit up and down with organising a race and illness, but nothing serious and I’ve had consistent training,” she said.

”Thredbo, the last national round, went better than I could have imagined so it was a surprise to have better form than I thought.”

MOUNTAIN BIKE CHAMPIONSHIPS

At Stromlo Forest Park

Saturday: 9.30am: Cross country – Elite and under-23 women; 12:30pm: Cross country – Elite and under-23 men; 5pm: Downhill seeding runs – Men and women

Sunday: 10am: Cross country eliminator – Men and women; 4pm: Downhill – Men and women.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Labouring under old ideas as the ‘great divide’ disappears

Changing trend …. professionals have outnumbered labourers since the 1980’s.THE language of class lives on in Australia’s political debate thanks to cliches such as ”class warfare” and ”middle-class welfare”.
Nanjing Night Net

But terms such as ”middle class and ”working class” emerged when the economy was very different.

Over the past 50 years Australia’s industrial base – a big employer for those traditionally labelled working class – has gradually declined as a share of gross domestic product and of employment.

In the Australia of 1933 labourers, farm workers and miners outnumbered professionals and managers by more than two to one. But by the early 1980s that had reversed.

The last census underscored this trend with the ”professional” employment category growing more quickly than other occupations. One in four workers in Sydney are now professionals. The city’s proportion of technicians and tradesmen fell from 12.7 per cent to 12.2 per cent between 2006 and 2011. Only about one in 12 Sydney workers are now in manufacturing.

Global economic forces, including a reduction of trade barriers and the rise of new manufacturing powers such as China, have contributed to these changes in the complexion of the workforce.

Consumer preferences and technical innovations have also played a part. Consumers and businesses now demand far more services in areas such as recreation, travel, education, finance and health. A raft of new services, such as communications and IT, has burst into being.

A relative decline in low-skilled jobs has been accompanied by a shift towards a better educated workforce and more high-skilled occupations. This has coincided with a dramatic increase in educational attainment. Retention rates to Year 12, for example, more than trebled between 1968 and 2010, from 23 per cent to 78 per cent.

The flood of married women into the workforce has also shifted the distribution of wealth and perceptions of economic status.

IBISWorld’s Phil Ruthven says the growth in workforce participation of married women – noticeable from the late 1960s – created a dynamic new cohort of double- income households. Many families vaulted from average incomes into what Ruthven calls the “well-off”.

The proportion of income accruing to the richest 40 per cent of Australian households grew markedly thanks to the influx of women.

“Its just silly to call that group middle-income,” he says. For him “middle income” households are those in the middle 20 per cent on the income distribution – that is, below the richest 40 per cent but above the poorest 40 per cent. However, that grouping accounts for only one sixth of household income in 2010, and an eighth of household wealth.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Henderson homes in on shot at national title

It’s a far cry from racing in front of 20,000 at an Olympic Games, but Canberra mountain biker Bec Henderson is still excited about competing at the national championships at Stromlo this weekend.
Nanjing Night Net

Henderson is looking to defend her national women’s under-23 cross country mountain bike title on her home track, in front of family and friends.

It is her final year as an under 23 before she steps up to open class.

She was hoping the nationals would kick-start a big year, which will culminate at the world championships in Austria in September.

But first she wants to add another national title to her resumé´ on Saturday.

”I’m really happy to have a nationals back here at Stromlo because it’s my home town and all your friends and family are here to watch,” Henderson said.

”It’s not going to be the 20,000 spectators that we experienced in London, but it’s home ground and we know the course really well.

”It’s still good vibes and a really good atmosphere.”

Six months ago, Henderson and boyfriend-coach Dan McConnell were Australia’s sole mountain bike representatives at the London Olympics.

Henderson is not the only member of the couple defending a title on Saturday. McConnell is also the reigning Australian champion, but he broke his hand in October which forced him off the bike for three months. He’s only been back in training for 3½ weeks.

He’s hopeful it has been long enough to get his form back.

But he admits the Oceania Championships in Tasmania in March might be a more realistic goal – especially since he wants to peak for the world cups in Europe in May.

”I haven’t done a lot of racing lately … it’s not ideal, but I’m probably in the best shape I can be for the preparation I’ve had,” McConnell said.

”I’m not in great form, but I’m hoping it will be enough to get me through. I’m trying not to get too worked up about it. It’s not ideal and I’m far from my best.

”I’ve just got to try and have the best race that I can, and if that’s the win great, if not I can still look forward to a big year.”

In contrast, Henderson said she ”couldn’t complain” about her preparation, which included winning the elite women’s national series event at Thredbo two weeks ago.

”January was a bit up and down with organising a race and illness, but nothing serious and I’ve had consistent training,” she said.

”Thredbo, the last national round, went better than I could have imagined so it was a surprise to have better form than I thought.”

MOUNTAIN BIKE CHAMPIONSHIPS

At Stromlo Forest Park

Saturday: 9.30am: Cross country – Elite and under-23 women; 12:30pm: Cross country – Elite and under-23 men; 5pm: Downhill seeding runs – Men and women

Sunday: 10am: Cross country eliminator – Men and women; 4pm: Downhill – Men and women.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Toss-up: Microsoft Office 2013

Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium.Microsoft is all but forcing you to rent the latest version of Microsoft Office, rather than buy it.
Nanjing Night Net

For $12 a month or $119 a year, Office 365 lets you install Microsoft Office 2013 on up to five home computers, which can be a combination of PCs and Macs. As well as productivity stalwarts Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, Office 365 subscribers get Outlook for checking email, Publisher for desktop publishing and Access for working with databases. Keep paying your subscription and you can upgrade to each new version of Office for nothing. Stop paying and the applications revert to read-only so you can’t create or edit documents.

Home users still have the option to buy a retail copy of Office Home & Student 2013, which works out cheaper than Office 365 if you only need one copy that you will replace every three years (assuming Office isn’t subscription-only by 2016). Microsoft has ditched the three-user family pack, so if you need more than two copies of Office at home, then Office 365 Home Premium probably makes sense.

While you save money opting for a single copy Office Home & Student 2013, you miss out on Outlook, Publisher and Access. You might not care about these business-focused applications, but it’s also worth reading the fine print. Unlike previous versions, your copy of Office Home & Student 2013 is locked to the first computer you install it on. If you upgrade to a new computer in 2014, or your old computer dies and needs replacing, you can’t transfer your copy of Office Home & Student 2013 to your new computer; you need to buy a new copy of Office. If you’re using Office 365, you can transfer one of your five licences to your new computer.

The verdict

Microsoft’s harsh licensing conditions make Office 365 the most sensible option for people who need more than one copy of Office 2013. If you don’t like the subscription model, it presents a good excuse to evaluate free open-source alternatives such as Apache OpenOffice.

Office 365 Home Premium$119 a yearmicrosoft南京夜网.au

Office Home & Student 2013$169microsoft南京夜网.au

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Test ump back to roots

Queanbeyan Cricket Club veterans Col Berry, Mel Johnson and Steve Bailey ahead of the club’s 150th birthday celebrations.He’s stared down Dennis Lillee and always has a laugh with West Indies legend Clive Lloyd.
Nanjing Night Net

But the Queanbeyan cricket club holds a special place in the heart of former Test umpire Mel Johnson.

A who’s who of past players and officials will reunite for the club’s 150th anniversary celebrations this weekend.

Before he officiated in 21 Test matches from 1980-87, Johnson was the captain-coach of Queanbeyan from 1967 to 1970.

It would be the final club he would play for before a freak back injury provided the catalyst to enter the umpiring ranks.

”I bent over to pick up a packet of cigarettes and couldn’t feel anything from my waist down,” Johnson recalled.

”When I got out of hospital the doctors said you can bat, but can’t bowl, can’t move quickly and can’t field, so there wasn’t a lot left.”

After two years out of the game, he quickly rose up the pecking order and became one of the leading umpires in the country during a golden period of Australian cricket featuring Ian and Greg Chappell, Rod Marsh and Dennis Lillee. Johnson said his favourite memories involved mingling with players in a more casual setting to the more sterile environment of the modern game.

”Everyone sat around and had a beer and you got to know the players,” he said.

”The Chappells, Marshes, Lillees … I still have a drink with them whenever they’re in town.

”I think the players these days will leave the game not having any friends.”

More than 230 guests, including former Australian batsman Doug Walters, are expected for Saturday night’s gala dinner at the Queanbeyan cricket club.

That will be followed by a Twenty20 match between the Mark Thornton XI and the Peter Solway XI on Sunday.

But before that, players of the past will be on hand to see if the current crop can defeat Wests/UC in the second day of their Douglas Cup match at Freebody Oval on Saturday.

Queanbeyan will resume at 4-84 in reply to Wests/UC’s 178.

Games in all grades this weekend will support Pink Stumps Day, an initiative of the McGrath Foundation.

SATURDAY

Douglas Cup: Queanbeyan v West’s UC at Freebody No 1, 10am; Eastlake v ANU at Kingston, 11am; Ginninderra v Tuggeranong at Kippax 2, 11am; North Canberra Gungahlin v Weston Creek at Keith Tournier Memorial, 11am.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Small generators in power struggle

Momentum Energy managing director Nigel Clark is driving the push into the mainland electricity market.ONE of the biggest beneficiaries of the price on carbon, Hydro Tasmania, has dramatically scaled back its ambitions. This follows the federal government’s decision to pave the way for the local carbon market to be integrated with Europe’s, while cutting the floor price.
Nanjing Night Net

This has put it under greater pressure to carve out a large presence in the national electricity market as it seeks to expand beyond its home base.

The national electricity market is steadily moving towards a structure similar to banking, aviation and retail – a couple of dominant players and a rump of small operators fighting over the balance.

Last year, AGL bought the Loy Yang A power station and is a keen bidder for a big part of the New South Wales government’s generation assets that are up for sale. If it succeeds, this will leave energy retailing and generation dominated by Origin Energy, EnergyAustralia (the former TRUenergy) and AGL.

Smaller groups such as Hydro Tasmania, which has about 5 per cent of the national electricity market, will be increasingly exposed to the market power of the bigger companies.

To protect its position, Hydro Tasmania bought retailer Momentum Energy a few years ago for more than $40 million. Other generators such as ERM are also pushing to expand sales.

Momentum generated revenue of more than $500 million in the year to June. This is expected to rise by as much as 50 per cent this financial year, as the company attempts to lift annual revenue to $1 billion by 2014-15.

Mainland sales already make up half of Hydro Tasmania’s revenue, helped by Momentum, as well as sales into the national market via the undersea Basslink cable.

The government’s carbon pricing decision put Hydro Tasmania in the strongest position of any generator nationally, giving it an immediate lift in wholesale prices while – unlike all other generators, barring Snowy Hydro – it does not have to pay a carbon tax.

The shift in market economics has been evidenced by Victoria’s brown coal generators cutting capacity because of weak electricity demand and a poor competitive position.

Hydroelectricity apart, Hydro Tasmania has boosted its exposure to wind energy, which gives it flexibility in supplies if mainland sales exceed its hydro-generation capacity.

As critics lament the reduction in competition, the concentration of the power industry – as generators and retailers merge into so-called ”gentailers” – has helped revive margins, which had fallen steadily in the national electricity market.

”It de-risks our core business – it gives us vertical integration,” says the Hydro Tasmania managing director, Roy Adair, who has previously ran large power groups in Britain, Victoria and Singapore.

”If you’re going to cover your risk, you can’t be long on generation with no retail capability, and similarly you can’t afford, if you’re a retailer, to be always looking for generation to back your load. It is absolutely imperative to have that ‘gentailer’ capability, which does de-risk the business.”

That risk was underscored by AGL when its New Zealand operations collapsed a decade ago after inadequate risk controls left it with hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, forcing it to close shop after just four days of market movements.

Similarly, poor risk assessment on the part of Fred Hilmer effectively destroyed Pacific Power, the former NSW government entity that held all the state’s generation assets.

And putting a price on carbon has fundamentally changed the industry’s dynamics, giving Tasmania the lowest wholesale electricity costs in the national market.

”It enables us to get a degree of certainty for the sales we make across Basslink,” Adair says. ”Once Basslink was constructed in 2006, we naturally had a significant risk [from imports], and [Momentum] has enabled us to address that, and also provide us with the opportunity to establish a brand image for Hydro Tasmania.

”There is no cap on Momentum’s growth. We are Australia’s largest clean energy producer, in terms of the number of gigawatts of energy produced with zero emissions.”

This gives the company flexibility if it needs to cover any part of its electricity market exposure by buying output from thermal generators given that generators using gas have a carbon intensity of 0.45. This is half that of black coal generators in Queensland and NSW, which at 0.9 is still much lower than brown coal at 1.3.

It will be some time before the [zero emissions] position is emulated, Adair says.

The strong dollar has wiped out the cheap energy advantage of local industry, forcing shutdowns that have led to falling power demand. In Tasmania, a few large industrial users account for as much as 40 per cent of Hydro Tasmania’s output, leaving it vulnerable to shutdowns. ”If we lost a major industrial customer, that would be more load to go across the link” to the mainland, Adair says.

But while a price on carbon has handed Hydro Tasmania a clear competitive advantage, the move to link Australia’s carbon price with that of Europe is a threat. Consequently, Hydro Tasmania has slashed forward profit estimates, and the chances of a second link to the mainland have dimmed.

”There is significant uncertainty … as to what will happen to a future carbon price,” Adair says. ”There is certainly significant potential for renewable energy capability in Tasmania. It is a question of whether you can economically transfer that across to the mainland so that you can compete with the prices that pertain in that marketplace to renewable energy sources.”

The greatest uncertainty may come from any change in government, given the Coalition intends to abolish the price on carbon.

Before that, the national electricity market is to be reshaped again with the looming sale of generation assets in NSW and talk of Queensland following suit, and with the pending reorganisation of the Tasmanian power sector.

”The concentration of the market with a limited number of players is one we are keeping a very close eye on because we need the ability to back our load and, in addition to Basslink, we need the ability of other generators apart from those that belong to the big three to be able to do that,” Adair says.

”We’re looking for a liquid market, so obviously our strategy will always look to ensure we have certainty of supply.”

The push into the mainland electricity market is being driven by Momentum’s managing director, Nigel Clark, a former commodity trader, who spent time with TRUenergy before joining Momentum.

”We’ve built a very competitive retail model, ensuring our cost to serve is low, that we are very responsive to the marketplace, that we have a very strong brand image and we’re able to capitalise on the brand value that we have here, particularly the clean energy of our electricity,” he says.

”Some retailers have gone to the wall because they didn’t manage the issue of billing customers promptly. Cash is king and you need to ensure your liquidity is well served, because you have to pay on a regular basis on terms clearly agreed within the national electricity market for generation. And therefore you need to ensure you’ve got

your money coming in to pay those bills.”

The other potential addition to Hydro Tasmania’s armoury is access to gas-fired generation from the Tamar Valley power station near Launceston in northern Tasmania, and in particular any gas supply contracts.

”Dual fuel is an issue we are keeping under review,” Clark says.

For electricity retailers, an offering of gas and electricity is a handy marketing pitch while sustaining margins.

”The issue of dual fuel could be addressed as part of the market review process, and if Tamar Valley came to us there would be appropriate contracts,” Clark says.

The reform process also involves privatising power retailing in Tasmania.

Caution over the carbon price outlook has prompted the Tasmanian government to cut its forecast receipts from Hydro Tasmania to $200.8 million in 2015-16, well below the $257 million it expects to receive in 2014-15.

The company, which generates all its electricity from renewable energy sources – hydro and wind – is one of the prime beneficiaries of putting a price on carbon, which has helped push up wholesale electricity prices and boosted its bottom line.

The carbon price is expected to push Hydro Tasmania’s profit to as high as $289 million in 2013-14, before dropping to $169 million two years later, which makes the push by the group to carve out a significant slice of the mainland electricity market even more imperative.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Bust of the boom won’t stop sector from growing

‘This boom is actually as much structural as cyclical.’THE biggest thing that worries many people about the resources boom is that word ”boom”. Booms are cyclical, and thus temporary. So it’s not surprising so many people worry about what we’ll be left with when the boom’s over.
Nanjing Night Net

This week, two economists at the Reserve Bank, Vanessa Rayner and James Bishop, published a research paper neatly answering that concern. In short, what we’ll be left with is a very much bigger mining sector.

The trick is that this boom is actually as much structural (lasting) as cyclical. Australia has had commodity booms in the past, and almost all of those were transitory.

From about 2004, the prices of coal and iron ore began rising strongly until they’d taken Australia’s terms of trade – the prices we receive for our exports relative to the prices we pay for our imports – to their most favourable level in 200 years.

The main thing making this price boom so different (apart from it lasting a lot longer) is that it precipitated a second boom: investment in the expansion of existing mines and the building of new mines and natural gas facilities.

Now, the boom in prices ended more than a year ago and it seems the boom in mining investment is close to its peak. That is, the amount of money being spent on expanding our mining production capacity will stop growing each quarter and start declining.

Even so, we’ll still be investing a lot more on mining each quarter than we usually do. So we’re far from reaching the point where our mining production capacity stops expanding.

And that still leaves this play with a third act that’s only just started: a huge increase in our production and export of minerals and energy as we take up the newly expanded capacity.

Thus you see why this ”boom” is as much structural as cyclical. It represents a historic and lasting change in the industry structure of our economy, achieved over a relatively short period.

But just how big is mining after all this expansion? The miners’ critics – particularly the Greens – make it seem the industry is pathetically small, whereas the industry itself tries to exaggerate its size and importance.

The Reserve Bank researchers adopt a wider definition of mining than that used by the Bureau of Statistics, partly because they’re trying to get a more realistic estimate of the size of the part of the economy that’s been the primary beneficiary of the boom and the size of the ”fast lane” of the two-speed economy.

They establish the size of the ”resource extraction sector”, starting with the standard six components: coal, oil and gas, iron ore, non-ferrous metals, non-metallic minerals, and exploration and mining services.

But then they add those industries involved in smelting and refining the minerals before export – iron smelting, oil refining and liquefying of natural gas, and the refining of bauxite to form alumina and the smelting of other non-ferrous metals, including copper, lead and zinc – which the bureau class as part of manufacturing.

According to the researchers’ estimates, in the eight years between 2003-04 and 2011-12, the resource extraction sector’s share of nominal ”gross value-added” (essentially, gross domestic product) grew from less than 7 per cent to 11.5 per cent. Of this 11.5 percentage points, the narrowly defined mining industry accounts for 9.75 points, with the processing and refining part of manufacturing accounting for 1.75 points.

Most of this growth is explained by the higher export prices being received. That’s mainly because the strong growth in the volume of iron ore production to date has been offset by a fall in the production of some other minerals, particularly oil.

Next the researchers estimate the size of ”resource-related activity”. This includes the investment spending on expanding the future production of minerals, as well as the provision of ”intermediate inputs” used in the present production of minerals.

”In other words,” they say, ”it captures activities that are directly connected to resource extraction, such as constructing mines and associated infrastructure, and transporting inputs to, and taking extracted resources away from, mines. It also captures some activities less obviously connected to resource extraction, such as engineering and other professional services (legal and accounting work, for example).”

Over the eight years to 2011-12, this resource-related activity has more than doubled as a share of GDP, from less than 3 per cent to 6.5 per cent. Within that 6.5 percentage points, business services account for 2.25 points, construction for 1.25 points, manufacturing for 1 point and transport for 0.75 points.

Note, this inclusion of the inputs provided to the mining industry isn’t the same thing as the usual shonky attempts to put a figure on an industry’s ”multiplier effect”. For one thing, it takes no account of the effect on other industries of the spending of income earned by mining employees or shareholders. For another, the researchers take care that the inclusion of inputs provided by other industries involves no double counting.

Put the resource extraction sector together with the resource-related activity and you find the size of the ”resource economy” doubled to 18 per cent of GDP over the eight years to 2011-12.

According to the researchers’ estimates, this 18 per cent of total production of goods and services includes well over 16 per cent of manufacturing’s output, 16 per cent of construction activity and 15 per cent of transport activity.

Since 2004-05, this fast-lane ”resource economy” has grown in real terms at an average rate of 7.5 per cent a year, whereas the rest of the economy has grown 2.25 per cent a year – a smaller gap than some imagine.

Because mining is so capital intensive, one way to denigrate it and minimise the significance of its expansion is to note that its share of total employment (as opposed to total production) is a mere 2.3 per cent. But according to the researchers’ estimates, when you include minerals processing with mining proper, its share of total employment rises to 3.25 per cent. And when you add the more labour-intensive resource-related sector, it accounts for about 6.75 per cent of total employment, taking the share of the ”resource economy” to just less than 10 per cent of total employment.

Don’t let anyone tell you the resources boom is no big deal.

Twitter: @1RossGittins

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Murdoch leads turnover tally

RUPERT Murdoch topped the turnovers table this week when he disposed of $39 million of News Corp stock.
Nanjing Night Net

That was the bulk of the $57 million selling tally, which compared with about $2 million spent by directors doing a bit of buying.

Elsewhere, Andrew Abercrombie took some petty change off the table when he sold FlexiGroup shares at near-record levels.

FlexiGroup – a retail point-of-sale finance provider – went public in 2006 at $2 a share and saw its scrip hit $3.21 shortly thereafter.

It was panic stations in 2008 when punters sold the stock down to around 22¢. Those who gritted their teeth and bought are now looking at a share price of $4.10 – a near 20-bagger. Chairman Margaret Jackson collected $810,000 when she also sold.

Elsewhere on the money-lending front, Michael Smith, the ANZ chief, raised $2.9 million, selling shares at $28.41 apiece. The jolly Englishman said he had sold to pay tax.

John Dawkins, a former Labor federal treasurer, more than doubled his stake in Australian Bauxite, where he is chairman.

The company this week completed a $1.6 million placement and says it has the potential to create significant bauxite developments in three states.

John Bevan, chief of Alumina, made a rare appearance on the table, increasing his stake by 70 per cent. Last week, China’s state-owned Citic bought 13 per cent of Alumina and late this week Bevan bought some shares, as did Peter Wasow.

Alumina this week reported a $51 million loss compared with earnings of $124 million previously.

Elsewhere on the results front, Oakton, an IT services group, reported a 30 per cent earnings decline and the shares promptly fell from $1.45 to $1.26. Non-executive director Martin Adams promptly bought about 60,000 shares at $1.27 and is already ahead of the game as the scrip closed the week at $1.34.

The reporter owns AWC shares.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.