Unravelling the ties that connect and direct

Positions endow Lindsay Maxstead, above, with board-level influence over companies valued at more than$182 billion.MEET the man who may be the most influential person in corporate Australia.
Nanjing Night Net

An analysis of public company directorships shows that Lindsay Maxsted, a director with BHP Billiton, Transurban and Westpac, is capable of exercising a more powerful influence over the most common measure of Australia's corporate performance than any other person - and that by a fair whack.

Maxsted's positions give him board-level influence over companies valued at more than $182 billion. He takes part in decisions that change the course of more than 16 per cent of the total weight of the S&P/ASX200, the most-watched index of Australian shares.

The next most-influential person, fellow BHP board member Carolyn Hewson, holds sway over nearly 10 per cent of the index. She is also a board member at the building company Stockland.

The findings are part of a project carried out by the Herald to chart the networks and influences that direct - quite literally - our largest, most important companies. The primary outcome of the project is a map of board-level connections that tie the companies that comprise the 200 to one another. The map includes biographical information collated by Who's Who Australia and can be viewed at http://www.smh南京夜网.au/opinion/blog/the-crunch.

Companies tend to be spoken of as if they were distinct identities, engaged in bitter rivalry and constant battle for a share of consumers' wallets. Our project makes plain that, in the effort to obtain the services of those with enough smarts and experience to engender trust, companies end up sharing personnel to a significant degree.

Of the 1539 directors on our list, 205 hold positions on multiple boards. Qantas director Garry Hounsell alone holds five - Nufarm, Orica, PanAust and DuluxGroup are the others - making him the person with the greatest number of board seats.

And if Hounsell is a hub through which many companies are tied, his influence is extended even further by the connections on his boards - particularly Qantas. Seven of the 15 directors at the notional ''national carrier'' hold additional seats within the top 200 companies.

Maxsted says it is easier than might be imagined for directors to compartmentalise their responsibilities from company to company. ''In each of those three roles there are very clear mandates for what I need to do,'' he said.

All of the connections depicted in our project are public, but that does not make them obvious or easy to track. Many of the most interesting connections that become plain are at one or two degrees of separation from any particular company, and these are connections that would not be explicit from company disclosures unless a reader were to pursue a particular director's associations from company to company, as we have done.

For example, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are the largest and second-largest companies listed on the ASX if measured by the total value of their shares. They are also, perhaps, the exchange's most prominent rivals.

Yet, they are connected at a single degree of separation - Rio director Richard Goodmanson shares the Qantas board with John Schubert, a BHP director.

As the benchmark index of Australian shares, the ASX 200, more than any other financial instrument, influences and describes the way the corporate universe is perceived. In the world's most powerful circles, the index is in effect a proxy for the country itself.

''Power'', according to the shareholders' rights advocate Dean Paatsch, ''is the ability to mobilise capital''. It is that assertion that leads us to conclude that Maxsted may be the most powerful person in Australia's pool of public company directors. He connects BHP to Westpac, where he also sits as a director.

A nexus of power can also be found surrounding the boardroom table at a much smaller corporate player: Tabcorp.

That board boasts a prodigious financial pedigree as it hosts one director from Commonwealth Bank (Jane Hemstritch) and another from ANZ (Paula Dwyer). Tabcorp director Elmer Funke Kupper also sits on the board of ASX Ltd, the company that operates the exchange itself, as that company's chief executive.

Tabcorp's board makes it possible to tie all four of the nation's largest banks within three degrees of separation. Westpac director Elizabeth Bryan sits on the Caltex board with National Australia Bank's John Thorn. NAB's Jillian Segal sits on the board of ASX Ltd with Tabcorp's Mr Kupper. Tabcorp links ANZ and Commonwealth Bank by hosting CBA's Hemstritch and ANZ's Dwyer, both on the one board.

The supermarket industry is similarly cosy. Coles and Woolworths are separated by a single company; infrastructure giant Lend Lease. Colin Carter, a director of Coles's owner, Wesfarmers, shares the Lend Lease board with the Woolworths director Michael Ullmer.

The network can be extended from Coles to Metcash, owner of the supermarket chain IGA, in one step: building materials company Boral. Both Wesfarmers' Bob Every and Metcash's Richard Longes sit on that board.

And to avoid suggestions of bias, it must be said that the board of media company Fairfax, the owner of this newspaper, is directly connected to Ten Network Holdings, with which we compete for online traffic.

Hungry Jack's founder Jack Cowin has been a director of Ten since 1998. He was appointed to Fairfax last month.

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By admin, ago

When ‘big law’ turns to bullying

It took a government to bring down Big Tobacco but there's no bringing down Big Law.
Nanjing Night Net

On the same day the High Court delivered its astounding judgment, tossing out the challenge to plain packaging laws this week, there was another intellectual property stoush afoot.

This one was far smaller; a "David and Goliath" tale and a salutary warning for aspiring business people.

Sara Park, a single mother from Sydney's northern beaches, had set up her company Centurion Deals Pty Ltd last year, and registered the domain name centuriondeals.

com.au. Her business was styled along "Groupon" lines. She offered health and beauty products, special deals and getaways to as large a client list as she could muster. Her hopes and dreams were high, her revenue as yet minuscule.

Out of the blue, American Express bobbed along last week with a menacing legal letter. It claimed she had infringed its intellectual property rights. She was guilty of "passing off" an Amex product.

Amex has a credit card called Centurion, you see. This is its most exclusive credit card: invitation only, $5000 upfront and $2500 in annual fees.

No matter that Sara Park's brand was not Centurion but Centurion Deals. No matter that her font, logo and colours bore no resemblance to the Amex marque. No matter that she was offering another product altogether, the letter wailed on with high indignation about her false, misleading and deceptive conduct.

By the tone of it you could be forgiven for thinking that Amex had just been denuded of its entire suite of brands and forced to sell credit cards in plain brown colours with a logo of a nicotine-stained mouth and a mangled lung.

If she didn't recall all her promotional material, delete the word "Centurion" from her website and "transfer to our client the brand name www.centuriondeals南京夜网.au" by Wednesday 5pm, Sara Park would be dragged through the courts.

The global juggernaut also demanded a cut of her "profits", which was tricky as her entire income would hardly have covered the billings for Minter Ellison's staples and Post-It notes.

We were keen to lend American Express the benefit of the doubt, that it was not merely bullying a tiny start-up, and so inquired as how it was faring with other unscrupulous predators who had been meddling with the Centurion marque.

Had American Express taken action against Centurion Rugby, the supplier of tackle bags and goal-post protectors from Dewsbury?

The Amex spokesperson kindly replied with the good old, "the matter you are referring to is currently subject to legal proceedings and we are unable to provide a comment".

Ahem … the matter was not before a court, it was just subject to an intimidating letter whose origin might well have been a quick-witted paralegal scouring the trademarks register to drum up a bit of business.

What about Centurion Brands, we asked, the supplier of the superlative Winged Weeder? Surely this interloper from South Dakota must be infringing upon Amex's sacred and venerable intellectual property. After all, Centurion Brands' Winged Weeder 800 (with Telescoping Handle) was the Rolls-Royce of gardening instruments, priding itself on high-end deployment.

This was the weeder for the investment bankers of Wall Street. No more kneeling! Just the optimal tool for cultivating, hoeing, seed planting, edging and, of course, raking and circular-tilling.

But no, there was no response from American Express. Sadly the head of country, Lisa Vehrenkamp, was unavailable for an interview either.

That was a pity, for we may never know whether Lisa's legal eagles had brought proceedings against the dastardly Centurion Cage & Aviaries either. Here was another Centurion blithely touting bird cages and boasting of "Centurion Quality".

"Caged Birds can be Happy Birds if they're in a Centurion Cage", said the mission statement, clearly and despicably infringing upon the hallowed IP of American Express.

As its lawyers Minter Ellison had pointed out in their letter of demand to the young businesswoman, Centurion was a highly-valued and exclusive brand, a fact that was soon borne out when we discovered that Centurion had also been the brand name for a range of catheters.

Alas, these cutting-edge Centurion bodily insertion devices, which had been supplied to leading urologists, had also been the subject of a "recall" notice from the US Food & Drug Administration in 1999. It was a "Class 1" recall notice too, which was "the most serious type of recall and involve situations in which there is a reasonable probability that use of these products will cause serious injury or death".

In the course of our probe we also, rather incidentally, found that it was the ancient Syrians who had invented the catheter - from river reeds nonetheless! Had the ancient Syrians been availed of the pleasure of Minter Ellison's services, they might have charged those pesky ancient Greeks for usurping their intellectual property rights.

In any case, the moral of the story for business people is check the trademarks register before you do anything. Even then you're not safe. And the message for everybody else is, transaction levels are down, watch out, pettifogging is on the rise.

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By admin, ago

Splashing cash in new areas

Smart spending … smartphones and other personal accessories remain a hot item for consumers.WESTFIELD and the independently listed Westfield Retail Trust have indicated that consumers are still spending, but habits are changing significantly as to where the cash is spent.
Nanjing Night Net

Both groups reported solid earnings for the first half thanks to new developments, fixed rental charges and having the flexibility to offer shoppers what they want to buy.

This has come in the form of having the space to open flagship stores for the launch of overseas labels such as the fashion group Zara and the niche products of Smiggle.

They have also changed their jointly owned centres to provide an array of food from upmarket to food-court fare.

Although some groups have faltered, such as the highly publicised Becasse group at Westfield Sydney, the landlords have the weight in the market to revamp the space and relet it, almost overnight.

At Westfield Sydney, it is launching a new French patisserie, Laduree, known as the ''King of Macarons'', from Paris, while Moochi's frozen yoghurt from Strathfield has opened at the centre's basement level.

Having the chance to respond quickly to the changing demand of fickle shoppers gives landlords the edge over smaller tenants.

Westfield Retail Trust has displayed resilient earnings in a tough operating environment, a property trust analyst at Commonwealth Bank, David Lloyd, said.

That resilience is shown in a breakdown of where sales are being generated by the centre owners. Consumers don't want as much fashion, but they will pay to see a new movie or buy a smartphone. The landlords are responding by giving more space to those tenants.

The latest retail data for June showed the biggest sales gains in the quarter were for footwear, gym memberships and personal accessories such as smartphones. Sales were up 8.7 per cent, with spending on pharmaceutical cosmetics and toiletries up by 6.8 per cent.

Some spending was due to the cut in interest rates and other tax cuts introduced this new financial year. The chief economist at CommSec, Craig James, said the one-off federal government assistance payments allowed consumers to accelerate planned purchases, with department stores and clothing and footwear retailers the lucky recipients.

''In effect, the one-off payments have provided a short-term leg-up for businesses in a period of tough trading conditions,'' he said.

Westfield Group's results showed that overall sales were up 0.8 per cent in the six months to June.

Across the categories, fashion's moving annual turnover (MAT) was down 1.4 per cent, food retail growth moderated slightly and general retail growth deceleration was more pronounced.

Homewares were down 1.4 per cent in the generally poor housing sector, while leisure, such as smartphones and movies, were up for the six months.

The decline of department store sales revenue has continued to slow, although it was still down by 3.6 per cent. The same went for discount department stores, which were down 5.2 per cent for the half-year.

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The great tax bind: how to get it and not lose investors

As the world's centre of economic gravity shifts towards Asia, the process of globalisation - the breaking down of barriers between countries - is speeding up. This means there's no shortage of challenges looming for our political leaders.
Nanjing Night Net

They'll pop up in many areas, but in a speech earlier this month the boss of Treasury's revenue group, Rob Heferen, outlined those affecting taxation. He says our present tax system, which relies heavily on taxing income - whether of individuals (48 per cent of total federal tax revenue) or companies (22 per cent) - will come under increasing pressure.

Since the introduction of full dividend imputation in the late 1980s - under which Australian shareholders get a tax credit for the company tax already paid on their dividends - the main purpose of company tax has been to tax profits earned by foreign shareholders.

But globalisation is increasing the ''mobility'' of capital (and to a lesser extent, labour), making it easier to shift to countries where tax rates are lower. Heferen says this is particularly true for multinational companies (including Australian multinationals), which now account for about a quarter of global production.

Multinationals have considerable latitude in choosing where to locate their production, making them more sensitive than other businesses to the tax rates that apply to them. Of course, many other factors will also influence such decisions: the quality of the labour force, the adequacy of the infrastructure, the rule of law, access to raw materials and access to markets for their products.

Multinationals also have some latitude in deciding in which country they'll declare their profits, notwithstanding rules that attempt to limit profit-shifting. In the case of profits, tax is likely to be a primary driver, maybe the primary factor.

''So setting tax policy to deal with multinational enterprises is an increasingly difficult task,'' Heferen says. ''Policy should support innovation and attract investment, but also help uphold the integrity of the corporate tax system.''

Because of the greater competition for foreign investment, policy makers must take into account how other countries tax multinationals, as well as the wide range of successful tax planning strategies available for companies to use.

You can see these difficulties in rules about ''transfer pricing''. ''When a firm 'trades' with itself across borders, we want to ensure it is using the prices an independent party would have paid, rather than manipulating prices to gain a tax advantage,'' he says. ''But this principle can be very difficult to enforce in practice. There are many goods which are either proprietary [in house] or rarely traded, so there may be no market price for the asset.''

Then there's the effect of financial innovation. It's now easier than ever to move funds between countries at little cost and to re-characterise financial assets from debt to equity or vice versa. These options place further pressure on the system and help firms seeking to minimise their worldwide tax.

This matters because Australia, like many countries, treats debt and equity differently for tax purposes. The problem is compounded by countries using different definitions of debt and equity.

Another problem arises from the increasing role of intangible assets - such as brands, copyright and other intellectual property, customer lists and internal processes - which are often the result of much spending on research and development or marketing.

Investment in intangible assets is growing faster than investment in tangible assets such as machines and buildings. Since intangibles have no fixed, physical form, it's much easier to relocate them to low-tax countries. Pfizer and Microsoft have moved much of their research and development to Ireland.

Going the other way is the taxation of natural resources. Unlike other resources, these are immobile. You can either develop the site or leave the stuff in the ground. And the profitability of their exploitation often depends on natural factors: the quality of the ore, or how easily it can be got at.

Because world prices are still so high, our largely foreign-owned miners are making profits far in excess of those needed to make these projects a worthwhile investment.

Taxing the gap between profit and the level needed to induce investment won't discourage investment and this is part of the rationale behind the Minerals Resource Rent Tax.

Research suggests other small, open economies like us have configured their tax systems to rely less on income taxes and more on taxes levied on less internationally mobile bases, such as resource rents, land and consumption.

''However, raising taxes on some immobile bases, most notably consumption, may also have implications for the fairness of the system, its social acceptability and the ability of the government to redistribute income,'' Heferen says. On the other hand: ''In the longer term, if we opt to keep relying on mobile bases for a high proportion of revenue, we may see increased risks for tax-base erosion and stronger disincentives for capital investment and for individuals to acquire productivity-enhancing skills.''

So, is there any way around this unpalatable choice? Heferen says one answer may be finding a different base for company tax.

The standard choice is between a ''residence'' base (you tax Australian companies on their world-wide income, but don't tax foreign companies operating in Australia) and a ''source'' base (you tax all companies just on their income from production in Australia, but don't tax Australian companies on their income from foreign production).

Like most countries, we've chosen the source base (though, strangely, not for capital gains). But some leading academics have suggested we move to a ''destination'' base, where we'd tax companies' profits on sales they made to Australian final consumers, regardless of where production occurred.

In practice, this would be a source-based tax, but with adjustments made for exports and imports. It would eliminate the incentive for companies to shift their location or their earnings to other countries.

This seems a strange approach for a country like ours, with our mineral exports being so profitable, but maybe this could be fixed with adequate resource rent taxes.

And Heferen says we shouldn't ''underestimate the power of structural change in the global economy to shape policy in new and unexpected ways''.

Twitter: @1RossGittins

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By admin, ago

The Beat goes on

Sam Riley as Sal Paradise in On The Road. Kristen Stewart as Marylou in Walter Salles' film version.
Nanjing Night Net

"THE only ones for me are the mad ones," runs Jack Kerouac's most famous sentence. "The ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars . . ."

If Jack Kerouac had never written On the Road, Ray Manzarek of the Doors wrote in his autobiography, "the Doors would never have existed". Perhaps a lot of other things wouldn't have existed, either, at least not quite as they subsequently did: new journalism, the counterculture, sex and drugs and rock'n'roll. No Charles Bukowski writing about his low-life high jinks, no Tom Wolfe hanging out with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, no Bruce Springsteen whooping that he was born to run. "It changed my life," Bob Dylan wrote, "like it changed everyone else's."

On the Road is an account of five road trips between New York and San Francisco, up to Chicago and Denver and down to Mexico, taken by Kerouac — renamed Sal Paradise for fictional purposes — alone and with various friends in the late '40s, going to bars and pool halls and living in humpies with seasonal workers. He wrote the first version in three weeks in 1951 on a continuous scroll of drawing paper, glued together and trimmed to fit the typewriter so he need never stop; Kerouac called his method "spontaneous writing". No publisher would have a bar of it. It took six more years, many rewrites and some intrusive editing by unknown hands at Viking before it came out in 1957.

The New York Times gave it a rave review. The long delay, moreover, ensured its appearance was impeccably timed; literary rebels were in the news. Two weeks earlier, the poem Howl by Kerouac's friend and mentor Allen Ginsberg had been the subject of a celebrated obscenity trial that was, at that moment, yet to be decided. In the tight atmosphere of Cold War America, these people were like an explosion of defiance. Kerouac, by nature a silent observer — "the great rememberer", Ginsberg called him — found himself the spokesman for what he had dubbed the Beat Generation.

"BEAT" meant poor, beaten down, scrabbling with the dregs; as so often with Kerouac, it was an expression he had absorbed in conversation, this time from a street hustler, junkie and sometime writer called Herbert Huncke, who told him one day, "I'm beat to my socks."

For Kerouac, it took on an additional meaning derived from "beatific"; the road was part of a quest that was religious, his characters fiery angels. For everyone else, it summoned images of the bebop jazz that infuses his writing. Influential as they were, however, the Beats were less of a movement than a coterie of literary romantics, all of them disaffected or marginalised in some way: gay Allen Ginsberg, drug-addicted William Burroughs, Buddhist poet Gary Snyder and, above all, the thrillingly delinquent Neal Cassady, whose manic personality as the barely fictionalised Dean Moriarty propels On the Road in a rush of speed and words.

Part of the book's power was that, despite the pseudonyms Viking insisted Kerouac use, people knew it was mythologised truth: the drugs, the frenzied sexual adventures, the gleeful poverty, crazy all-night driving and all that passionate reading and writing really were taking place somewhere in what Kerouac called "the holy American night". What ignited it, however, was the fire of language. Nobody else had ever written with such exuberance; the sentences raced across the page, despite being jammed with poetically babbling turns of phrase that often made no ostensible sense. The literary establishment hated it: its lack of discipline, its excess, its cast of "sideshow freaks" with their appalling "outlaw" values. These academicians had no idea how much young readers, recoiling as Kerouac himself had done from the postwar promise of a prosperous life of respectable lawn-mowing, longed for the freakish and the outlawed. On the Road, opined The Village Voice, was "a rallying cry for the elusive spirit of rebellion of these times".

YOU would imagine a film would have soon followed. In fact Kerouac was offered $US20,000 for the rights, a tidy sum in the early '60s, but he refused it; there were about 10 attempts to bring it to the screen, including one by Francis Ford Coppola. But they all collapsed, one way or another; Walter Salles, the Brazilian director best known for The Motorcycle Diaries, is the first to have managed it. His On the Road, to be released in Australia next month, was unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Sam Riley, who played Ian Curtis in Control, plays Jack/Sal; Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame plays Marylou (her real name was Lu Anne Henderson), who was 15 when she married Dean; Kirsten Dunst plays Camille/Carolyn, Cassady's second wife and the author in real life of a memoir called Off the Road.

Cassady, the "hero of the Western night" who turns into Dean Moriarty, is played by a little-known actor called Garrett Hedlund, who took a bus for three days from Minnesota to audition, wrote about the trip and read what he wrote to Salles.

"It seemed like Neal Cassady was writing to us," Salles says. Salles was 18 when he read the book and fell in love with it. "It was the opposite of what we were living in Brazil in 1977. We had a dictatorship. Everything was forbidden. Even inside families, life was very conservative and in this book it was the opposite. I read it many times after that."

I was 17 when I read On the Road, just a couple of years before Salles found it. Did it change my life? It certainly gave voice to things I wanted, given I had thus far spent most of my time in school uniform staring at a square of sky above Elwood between bouts of homework. I can't remember how I knew about the Beat writers, but in those days, the mid-'70s, even fashion mags ran features on cool writers and artists. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the poet who ran City Lights bookshop in San Francisco and published Howl, certainly came to me that way; I also recall an interview with Ginsberg and his lover Peter Orlovsky, talking about being gay. That sounds ordinary now, but we still snickered about our lesbian teachers in the '70s. There was the sudden sense of a cultural world that existed outside ours, but was there for the taking.

Young people always feel like that, of course, which is why On the Road is still a reading rite of passage. Kristen Stewart is 22; she read On the Road only eight years ago. Same thing: "I was like, 'Wow, I've got to meet people like this; otherwise, I'm not going to be as cool as I could be, as smart as I could be, as challenged as I could be, you know what I mean? I kind of identified with Sal's character: I've never been one to lead the way, but I wanted to surround myself with people I want to run after, people who kind of shock me.'' It became her first ''favourite book''. ''I didn't enjoy reading before that but I ripped through it, it … opened so many doors.''

THE funny thing here is that On the Road is often assumed to be a primer for boys. That's certainly what its literary haters say - that it is ''mainly read by young men'', as if it were a book about cars for petrolheads. (Kerouac confesses he hated driving; Dean calls Sal ''fearful of the wheel''.) It is true, admittedly, that a teenage girl reading On the Road in the 1970s had to imagine herself a boy, like one of those brave, disreputable women pirates of an earlier era.

Women were, in fact, central to these men's lives - Kerouac lived with his mother, along with a succession of wives, until he died, at 47, of a massive internal haemorrhage caused by alcoholism - but they were peripheral to the myth they were making of themselves. Worse, they were the brakes in a world where acceleration was everything. At one point, Sal is thinking of marrying a virtually invisible character called Lucille. ''I want to marry a girl,'' he tells Dean and Marylou, ''so I can rest my soul with her till we both get old.'' A few pages later, however, he is reflecting morosely the hopelessness of it. ''She would never understand me because I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you.''

For a woman to hit the road alone would have been unthinkable. There must be a fair number of girl readers who grew up to become feminists not in order to be prime minister but because they wanted to do this, the crazy stuff.

In fact, the original scroll version of On the Road, which was finally published in 2007, included more about the female characters; Kerouac had stripped them out, at the publisher's instruction, to give the story focus. In his new film, Salles says, he lets Sal and Dean drive off and stays with Camille as she struggles to support Dean's children. ''It shows that loneliness is painful and that she has a job; she is probably going to leave the baby with a neighbour and off she goes to work in a hospital,'' he says. ''Yes, this quest is memorable, to amplify all forms of freedom is memorable, but there are consequences.''

Not that these women were all doormats. Stewart met Lu Anne Henderson as preparation for playing Marylou. Unlike the men of her youth, she was thriving in her 80s. ''The difference between the two is that in the book she does seem quite used,'' Stewart says. ''But she is a bottomless pit, you can't waste her and she expects just as much in return; she is so f---ing generous.''

Salles saw Marylou as a real, if unacknowledged, adventurer. ''She makes the decisions to go or to stay and she doesn't have that Catholic sense of sin that is ingrained in Kerouac. She is an explorer just like Dean is an explorer.''

BY THE time On the Road was published, Kerouac was barely recognisable as Sal Paradise. At 35, drink and dysfunction had turned him into a filthy old bigot. He detested the hippies and yippies who claimed On the Road as inspiration and was loud in his support for the Vietnam War and Senator McCarthy's communist witch hunt. McCarthy, he told an interviewer, had ''all the dope on the Jews and the fairies'' who apparently lived at the bottom of his brain's addled garden. Ginsberg, who was pretty much the poster boy for both these categories, was beatifically forgiving; asked in the interview I read whether Jack himself was ''a fairy'', he let his lover and fellow poet Orlovsky answer. ''In a tiny sense of the word,'' Orlovsky said. ''Perfect,'' Ginsberg said.

But for the wider world, it didn't matter how crackers Kerouac had become. He died in 1969; the mercurial Cassady had died of a combination of drink and drugs, aged 41, in the Mexican desert the previous year. Like the readers who had pulled on torn Levis and headed out along the highway for themselves, On the Road had its own life by then. It had left home, hitchhiked across the world via millions of bookshelves and was part of the lives of all the would-be writers and rebels who aspired to join the social movements Kerouac had so vituperatively disowned.

It is 55 years since the book was published. ''Nobody knows what's going to happen to anyone beyond the forlorn rags of growing old,'' Kerouac writes on the last page, as he watches the sun go down in ''the long, long skies over New Jersey'' and contemplates the vast bulk of land between the coasts. As it turns out, the book that was about the man he loved, this ''most fantastic parking-lot attendant in the world'' full of ''a yea-saying overburst of American joy'' is a requiem. ''I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty,'' he says finally.

As I write this, I touch the book on the desk and think of him, too.

■On The Road opens on September 27.

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Acts of faith and doubt

EXILE: THE LIVES AND HOPES OF WERNER PELZBy Roger AverillTransit Lounge, $32.9
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WERNER Pelz, the son of a Jewish entertainment entrepreneur in Berlin impoverished by the Depression and Nazism, travelled twice to Australia. In 1940, aged 18, he was one of 2500 or so enemy aliens, most of them Jewish refugees, transported from Liverpool on the infamous Dunera. He returned to England in 1942.

In 1973, after living in England and Wales for 30 years, he sailed out in comfort to take up a lectureship at La Trobe University, where he taught for 13 years. He died in Melbourne in 2006, aged 84. From Pelz's voluminous writings, from the testimony of family, friends and colleagues, and from his own memories as pupil and close friend, Roger Averill has composed a loving but warts-and-all account of his professional and spiritual odyssey. In each chapter he interweaves the stories of Pelz's life, his relationship with the author, and his dying.

In the all-male world of camps at Hay and Tatura, Pelz had sexual experiences that he wrote about later with a candour unusual among the internees. Also in the camps he began a conversion to Christianity that was completed after he learnt his parents had been murdered in Auschwitz.

Back in England, married to a Viennese, Lotte Hensl, he became a Church of England clergyman - the only German Jew to do so? - and was appointed curate successively to two Lancashire parishes, resigning after conflicts over his commitment to anti-nuclear activism. In the 1960s, he and Lotte co-wrote books contributing to a surge of interest in radical theology, most notably God Is No More, and Werner contributed to The Guardian a regular column of autobiographical reflections and gave radio talks on religious subjects. From these pulpits, he signalled accumulating doubts about Christianity and increasing commitment to a world view in which Jesus was a latter-day Jewish prophet.

Lotte suffered severe neurosis, never fully recovering from the shock of bearing a son, Peter, whose arrival in 1945 had put an end to both parents' utopian hope of serving in the vanguard of a movement to transform postwar Europe. The marriage fell apart slowly, surviving only as an intellectual partnership until Werner and Lotte separated. Werner lived from 1970 with Mary Zobel, the English-born widow of a German Jew and owner of a cottage in Wales occupied by the Pelzes.

Averill writes that Pelz, at the age of 48, ''set about reinventing himself as a sociologist'', enrolling at the University of Bristol to write a PhD thesis revised and published as The Scope of Understanding in Sociology.

Mary and her three children accompanied him to Melbourne when La Trobe appointed him to a lectureship. She was unsettled in Australia, and would eventually be engulfed by depression, while Werner engaged in prolonged conflict with his youngest stepchild, Justin.

He did not talk much about his time as a Dunera boy, but he made a point of visiting Tatura and Hay. The desert-like landscape of Hay evoked, he wrote, powerful memories, which had left their mark on the subconscious.

In his last years, as Averill tenderly records them, he endured professional disappointment and personal anguish. Unable to find a publisher for what he regarded as his magnum opus, The Curse of Abstraction, he wrote hundreds of haiku on the themes of life and death, such as:

''Age was to bring peace,wisdom, respect. Instead itbrought terminal doubt.''

La Trobe, though, brought profound satisfaction. His colleagues in the sociology department he found ''open, cosmopolitan, tolerant''; his course on reason and emotion in society attracted huge numbers, and in and out of class he stirred many students to think for themselves. Averill writes eloquently about his Socratic capacity as a teacher. He is a sure-footed guide to the intricacies of Pelz's thought and to its connections with his protean life. Like his subject, Averill is a truly creative writer.

■Ken Inglis is the author of many books, including Sacred Places: War Memorials in the Australian Landscape, which won the 1999 Age Book of the Year Award.

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Gongs in the north
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ON MONDAY, the shortlists will be announced for the new Queensland Literary Awards, which replace the premier's awards that were scrapped by new Premier Campbell Newman in April. The literary community reacted with more speed than a Lee Childs thriller to establish the new prizes. A public appeal to raise $20,000 has brought in close to $30,000. The winners of the 15 categories will be announced on September 4. Committee chairman Stuart Glover, who was the founding director of the Brisbane Writers Festival, says the future of the awards beyond this year depends on community, corporate and government support. ''There is a sense that there is support potentially from all those sources,'' he says, and adds that Arts Minister Ros Bates isn't averse to the idea of Queensland literary awards. Everyone is waiting to see what will be in next month's state budget to gauge the direction of the government's arts funding policy.

The storm continues

MANY of you will remember Dave Eggers' book Zeitoun, which told the bizarre and terrifying story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. He is the Syrian-born American builder and decorator who helped people by paddling his canoe through the flooded city. The book focused on Zeitoun's wrongful arrest by the authorities, who not only kept him in detention for three weeks but also wouldn't inform his family of his whereabouts and inflicted on him a fair amount of physical and mental abuse. This week, Zeitoun was behind bars again, charged with trying to have his former wife, Kathy, her son and an unnamed man murdered. It's a sad fall from grace for a man who became a hero as a result of his behaviour in 2005 and subsequently set up a charitable foundation to which profits from the book go. Zeitoun and Kathy divorced last year. Last month, he was jailed for assaulting her and it is alleged he asked a fellow prisoner to commit the murders. An animated film based on Eggers' book is due for release in 2014.

A false climax

IT SEEMS as though the crowning of Fifty Shades of Grey as Britain's best-selling book ever has been a fraction premature. With e-books, it probably is, but Nielsen BookScan figures show that Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code remains - for a while, at least - top of the pile (and also the reject pile, according to Oxfam op shops), having sold 5.1 million copies. Fifty Shades of Grey has sold 3.8 million copies (in book form), with the other places in the top 10 consisting of seven Harry Potter titles and another Brown book. The other two erotic books by E.L. James have each sold more than 2 million copies. Writers such as Stieg Larsson and Stephenie Meyer also feature strongly in the top 20, with the only ''literary title'', Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, featuring at No.19 with sales of slightly more than 2 million. The only Australian in the top 100 is Markus Zusak, whose The Book Thief has sold 800,000 copies since 2007.

Remembering Claire

IT WAS sad to hear that Claire Kearney died a couple of weeks ago at her home in Tewantin, Queensland. She was 79. Most people would know her from her many years at the Hill of Content bookshop. The formidable Kearney started there in 1966, became manager in the early '80s and retired in 1995. She was instrumental in making the Hill of Content one of Melbourne's finest bookshops.

When crime pays

THE next couple of weeks is awards season for Australia's crime writers. The Ned Kellys will be dished out on August 29 and a few days later the Davitt Awards for women crime writers will be presented at the Celtic Club by Swedish crime writer Asa Larsson (no relation of Stieg, before you ask). The shortlists for the Davitts are, for fiction: Jaye Ford (Beyond Fear), Sulari Gentill (A Decline in Prophets), Carolyn Morwood (Death and the Spanish Lady), Jennifer Rowe (Love, Honour & O'Brien), Kim Westwood (The Courier's New Bicycle) and Helene Young (Shattered Sky); children's/young adult: Ursula Dubosarsky (The Golden Day), Nansi Kunze (Dangerously Placed) and Meg McKinlay (Surface Tension); true crime: Wendy Lewis (The Australian Book of Family Murders) and Liz Porter (Cold Case Files). sistersincrime南京夜网.au

Getting Ziggy with it

DAVID Bowie didn't make it to the closing ceremony of the Olympics in London but he is coming to the Melbourne Writers Festival. Just kidding. He is, however, getting a tribute at Liner Notes, the annual session in which a motley crew of talent delivers spoken-word tributes to the tracks of a chosen album. Among the guests are former Australian of the Year Tim Flannery and Lebanese poet and journalist Joumana Haddad. This year, the album is Ziggy Stardust and will feature Five Years, Yana Alana; Soul Love, Omar Musa; Moonage Daydream, Sean M. Whelan; Starman, Flannery; It Ain't Easy, First Dog on the Moon; Lady Stardust, Benjamin Law; Star, Alicia Sometimes; Hang on to Yourself, Ben Pobjie; Ziggy Stardust, Deborah Conway; Suffragette City, Haddad; and Rock'n'Roll Suicide, Emilie Zoey Baker. It's at 8pm next Saturday at the Regal Ballroom. For bookings, see mwf南京夜网.au

The worst of times

POOR old Edward ''It was a dark and stormy night'' Bulwer-Lytton. He gets an awful lot of flak about that opening to his novel Paul Clifford. The annual competition named after him is for the worst piece of writing. Here's this year's winner, by Cathy Bryant from Britain: ''As he told her that he loved her she gazed into his eyes, wondering, as she noted the infestation of eyelash mites, the tiny deodicids [sic] burrowing into his follicles to eat the greasy sebum therein, each female laying up to 25 eggs in a single follicle, causing inflammation, whether the eyes are truly the windows of the soul; and, if so, his soul needed regrouting.''


Graphology Cambridge Psychedelia 3

How much space we can't fit in,

Curlicue into Simenon terror,

Ennui of garden restaurants

And garden paths, an error

Of judgment deciduous as sin.

And in the name of the heaven- sent,

And the bravado of capital, refuse

To name the name on everyone's lips.

Base stations styled into the ruse

Of old buildings, so intransigent.

Ice on the grass as everyone slips,

A gecko in the Mekong issues a warning:

Sparkling colours array an alert,

And play on our Mobius rambling.

The passion is a nativity of trips.

God bless!

John Kinsella



TRUDI Canavan signs copies of The Traitor Queen. 1.30pm. Dymocks Knox, 425 Burwood Highway, Wantirna South.

JOHN Jenkins launches Karen Throssell's Chain of Hearts. 2pm. Collected Works, Nicholas Building, 37 Swanston Street, city.


CO-DIRECTOR of Dickens 2012, Adrian Wootton, discusses screen adaptations of Dickens' novels. 4.30pm. Village Roadshow Theatrette, State Library, 328 Swanston Street, city. Tomorrow: Dickens and crime. Bookings: wheelercentre南京夜网


FILMMAKER Paul Cox discusses Tales from the Cancer Ward. 11.15am. Emerald Hill Library, 195 Bank Street, South Melbourne. Info: 0417 556 143.


ANDY Griffiths unveils The 26-Storey Treehouse. 4.30pm. Sun Theatre, 8 Ballarat Street, Yarraville. Bookings: 9689 0661


BARRY Jones launches David Day's Antarctica. 6.30pm. The Barn, Montsalvat, Hillcrest Avenue, Eltham. $10. Bookings: elthambook [email protected]南京夜网; 9439 8700

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A perfect protagonist

R.J. Ellory pips Mark Billingham to the post of better crime read, with A Dark and Broken Heart.RUSH OF BLOODBy Mark BillinghamLittle, Brown, $29.99
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A DARK AND BROKEN HEARTBy R.J. ElloryOrion, $29.99

IT BEGINS with a beating, escalates to armed robbery, climaxes in a massacre and then we get to page 24. British crime writer R.J. Ellory has never been one to shy away from fast and furious violence. If that sounds like too much excitement too soon, rest assured that once he has your attention, Ellory slows the pace to work through the moral consequences of these acts and their implications for the man responsible, Vincent Madigan.

Vincent is a typical Ellory hero, the contradictory man whom we have met before in a series of remarkable stand-alone novels set in various locations and epochs in the kind of US where people live lives of mostly quiet desperation.

''Things happen,'' Vincent tells us. ''Most of them bad.'' Despite his resignation, there comes a moment when Vincent wants to make them turn out right. Ellory's skill as a writer is to make us want this too, even when we know Vincent to be the cause of so many of those bad things in the first place.

This is what Ellory does so well: humanising the face of violence, taking us into the centre of the maelstrom where there is stillness and a kind of understanding. As usual, this process is cathartic and moving. Page 24 is also the location of a major revelation that curtails further analysis or commentary. This may be a reviewer-proof book. Just read it.

Fellow Brit Mark Billingham also begins in the US, in Florida at the Pelican Palms Motel, which offers ''paradise on a budget'' to sun-starved tourists.

Three British couples - Barry the builder and the overweight Angie, mixed-race Marina and the computer nerd Dave, would-be lothario Ed and long-suffering wife Sue - meet up on their sun-seeker holiday and are all present when an intellectually disabled teenager disappears. Back in Blighty, they exchange emails and meet for the first of three dinners that punctuate the book: ''I do a mean bread and butter pud!'' Angie promises in her invitation to the first.

The staging of these dinners is nicely done. What each couple chooses to cook and how their homes are organised and presented constitute an effective study in British manners, suburban aspiration and inevitable frustration.

Angie wants to cook something ''Floridian'' and almost chooses the organic chicken, opting instead for the cheaper version. Barry thinks it all sounds too ''poncey'' anyway and is embarrassed by her desire to impress these former ''best friends for six days'', including the elegant Sue, the kind of woman who puts a lot of effort into looking as if she made no effort whatsoever. Angie has even had table mats made featuring a holiday snap of them all on their last day in ''paradise''.

Needless to say, the topic of conversation returns to the missing girl. After her badly decayed body is found in a mangrove-choked inlet and another girl of similar age and handicap vanishes in England, trainee Detective Constable Quinlan pays each of the couples a visit before reporting back to the senior officer on the case in Florida. While necessary to the plot, these procedural sections receive short shrift and don't go anywhere useful.

The creator of Inspector Tom Thorne, most recently translated to television as actor David Morrissey, Mark Billingham's usual beat is the police procedural with detective hero. Rush of Blood is his first stand-alone thriller and not altogether successful.

Part of the problem has to do with voice and point of view. There are simply too many perspectives (including that of the killer). The main drawback has to do with affect, since there is not one character about whom we might care. Billingham's characters are closely observed, mercilessly dissected, but there is no emotional hook pulling us through to the final revelation.

And that's where Ellory has the edge. Even though his hero is a ''bad man'', it's impossible not to care what happens to Vincent Madigan.

While Billingham may have written a clever crime novel, it is Ellory who has written a great one.

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From a Freudian palette

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THE late Lucian Freud had a four-word manifesto, URGENT SUBTLE CONCISE ROBUST, scrawled upon his studio wall, but most people's impressions of him are less exact and combine a challenging stare, thickly painted, confronting nudes, and some vague gossip about how many children he may have fathered.

Not entirely the wrong impression, but not the whole picture, which as Barry Hill shows in this marvellous book, you won't see unless you look.

Naked Clay is art history, autobiography, existential struggle, all woven through 60 years of Freud's paintings from 1944 onwards. What does it mean to be naked, to look at, to be looked at, possessed? Can art justify the severity, or tenderness, of such a gaze? These are the questions Hill asks, as the paintings do.

Naked Clay is on one level a classically proportioned art book: a precise and perceptive examination of one man's oeuvre. The fact that it is conducted entirely through poetry almost escapes notice, even when Hill is working small lyrical wonders on almost every page.

And yet there is only one painting to be seen, on the cover of the book: Girl with White Dog from 1950. ''The girl with the white dog/as still as the door closed behind her/is daydreaming of mice/in a drawer of socks.'' Or is she? You can look at the image and decide - if you think it important.

Inside the book it's all text: readers well acquainted with Freud's work will read the poems in one way, as will those who choose to go and find the images for each poem on the way through. Reading the paintings as I did without seeing them, with only vague memories and a kind of texture in mind, the poems were nearly always enough.

But then there was Large Interior W9, with Freud's ailing, depressed mother in a chair, a woman naked in bed behind her: ''If one has been quietly weeping/the other will not have seen./The lover has made a grandmother/of Mother, and Mother might not know./And there, under the chair/is a pestle and mortar/its weight like the spirit of a woman/set down after pounding.'' Surely no painting could match that poem, but it did, even on a laptop.

True, Hill says, a little later, with the long central poem In Sight of Death but remember those questions. Have you really thought them through? And he then does exactly that, allowing neither Freud, nor himself, nor us, to avoid the issue or displace it with mere aesthetics.

Hill wrestles for 20 pages with the body, real and painted, with art and with poetry's presumption to interrogate and explain it, and with his mortal self. There's a kind of exhaustion at the end, and while the answers aren't any closer, the parties somehow agree to differ.

After this the book relents, seems almost to sigh, ending with a tribute to the poet's parents that is half mea culpa, half love song. After a long journey to London and back and through the years, the poetry settles, is somehow more accepting and resigned: ''the body becomes subject to fact/or settles into being/a constellation of resentment, grief, memories struck dumb … The best a poem can do/is keep scrubbing itself clean/withstand the furnace, refuse the insipid.''

Hill has honoured Freud's scrawled manifesto to the letter in this urgent, subtle, concise and robust book.

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Ladies and gentlemen, polish your poodles

No ruff stuff ... groomer Kazoo Hirae prepares three-year-old white poodle Remi for Purina groomQuest 2012. The competition is held at Castle Hill Showground.AXL ROSE is swaddled in blankets and shivering damply. It's a big week for this poodle.
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He is one of 120 dogs competing in today's Purina groomQuest 2012, Australia's biggest and richest dog grooming championships.The groomers will fight for glory, $40,000 in prizes and a spot on Groom Team Australia for the 2013 world championships in Barcelona. Judges are from Japan, Serbia and America.

''It's just like the Olympic Games,'' says Jenny Kent, the owner of Pet Design, a salon with six groomers in this weekend's championship.

For the past two months, Mrs Kent's Lane Cove grooming salon has been busy after hours with preparations for groomQuest 2012 - the room is lined with bins brimming with poodle curls.

''We have over 40 entries in the poodle category,'' says Les Speerin, the contest organiser. ''It's the outstanding look and polish you can put on a poodle.''

Mrs Kent praises the championships for giving professional groomers an ambition to aspire to.

Kazoo Hirae studied for three years at Sunshine Dog Grooming in Fukuoka before taking a job at Mrs Kent's salon. This year he is entering Remi, a gargantuan three-year-old white poodle.

Remi is being groomed in the famous continental style, in which the back half of the dog is shaved in strips. Remi submits to this with dignity.

The groomer's job, Mr Hirae says, while plucking at Remi's considerable mane, is to shape over nature's irregularities and present a dog that lives up to an ideal shape.

Groomers have been known to compete like terriers. ''Very nasty,'' Mrs Kent says of the competitive atmosphere at its worst. ''I personally haven't seen any sabotage … ''

But they are driven by a deep affection for their animals.

''That's my foundation bitch,'' Mrs Kent says, tapping a portrait of the 13-year-old black poodle she bought around the time she quit her job as a primary school teacher to turn pro.

Joelene Turnbull, 30, is one of Mrs Kent's most promising young groomers and is entering Axl and three other dogs.

She will rise at four this morning in a bid to improve upon last year's second placing: ''I'm having lots of dreams about poodles.''

Purina groomQuest 2012 is at Castle Hill Showground.

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