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Toyota closure another hit for regional Australia

15/07/2019 | 南京夜网 | Permalink

Source: The Courier
Nanjing Night Net

THE impact of Toyota’s decision to stop producing cars in Australia from 2017 goes far wider than the Japanese company’s plant in Altona.

Ballarat’s once-vibrant car parts manufacturing industry has also taken yet another hit.

Australian Industry Group regional manager Kay Macauley described Toyota’s announcement on Monday as another “dark day” for Ballarat manufacturers with much broader ramifications for the community.

“A few years ago we had a very strong car parts manufacturing and components industry in Ballarat. We’ve probably got only two or three left,” she said.

“It’s not just those companies. They use the local cleaners, local caterers, accountants, lawyers, and bank services. A lot of these (manufacturing) companies outsourced these services so it will obviously affect those suppliers too.

“Manufacturing companies will need to look at how they can use their existing equipment to transition into other areas. In five years time they might be manufacturing parts for another type of industry.

“The government needs to have a role in working with industry to ensure the viability of the manufacturing sector.

“We know going forward, businesses that are going to be sustainable are those which look into new technologies. There will not be a lot of job creation but we will need apprentices but perhaps at a higher skill-level.

“We hear a lot about new industries and new jobs but we don’t know what those are.”

Kay Macauley, Australian Industry Group.The Courier was unable to contact OzPress but, in an interview on goauto南京夜网.au, director Mark Dwyer said the company would go on but would shift away from the automotive sector.

“We are confident of OzPress life post-Toyota,” Mr Dwyer said. “Will it be as big as today? Obviously not. What will be the size of it and what business it will actually be doing? We are not sure, but we are confident of survival.

“We are just beginning to produce some mining products, although most is happening in China because of the cost-base.

“We are building some tools for some mining products here and we just won a small contract with the defence industry so hopefully we can build that.”

Mr Dwyer said Australia had the highest wages in the world, making it one of the most expensive places to manufacture anything.

He also blamed free-trade agreements with other countries that were anything but free.

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Liddell, Bayswater on block for $1.5 billion

15/07/2019 | 南京夜网 | Permalink

THE state government has agreed to sell Macquarie Generation to AGL Energy, raising about $700 million for infrastructure spending provided the national competition watchdog doesn’t block the deal.
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Treasurer Mike Baird said this morning the gross proceeds consisted of $1.505 billion from AGL Energy and cash of $220 million held by Macquarie Generation, which operates the Bayswater and Liddell power stations in the Hunter.

After its debts are settled, the sale would raise $1.165 billion, although further transaction-related costs and superannuation payments would leave about $700 million that the government would place in its Restart NSW infrastructure fund.

However, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has raised concerns that AGL’s acquisition ‘‘is likely to result in a substantial lessening of competition in the market’’ for the retail supply of electricity in NSW, and for the wholesale supply of electricity in NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

It will give a decision on March 4.

Three bids were made for Macquarie Generation, but only AGL’s exceeded the government’s retention value for the generator, Mr Baird said.

He said the government would not proceed with a sale if the ACCC blocked the AGL bid.

‘‘There’s no doubt that would be a blow, but…we’ve heard from AGL through our advisers they remain confident that they can meet the concerns raised by the ACCC,’’ he said.

He rejected suggestions less competition could mean higher electricity prices.

‘‘I believe that having a robust competitor in the market adds to competition which puts downward pressure on prices.’’

If the sale is completed, the $700 million would be spent on infrastructure, with the government having promised about 30 per cent would be spent in regional areas.

It is understood the government has earmarked some of the cash to top up its Resources for Regions program for spending in mining-affected communities, such as Muswellbrook and Singleton.

However, Mr Baird declined to confirm that this morning, but said the sale was ‘‘good news’’ for infrastructure spending.

‘‘In terms of the Hunter Region that is a key consideration,’’ he said.

Four year job guarantees and transfer payments would apply for employees.

Bayswater power station.

Evolve: the natural next step after Left 4 Dead

15/07/2019 | 南京夜网 | Permalink

Guess who’s coming for dinner? Evolve pits a single giant monster against a team of four humans, with all five controlled by players.You know a game preview is going well when a bunch of video game journalists decline a trip to the pub so they can play one more round.
Nanjing Night Net

Evolve is still at least eight months away from release, but it is already astonishingly well-balanced, tightly designed, and just plain fun. I have never before seen a room full of video game journalists turn down a trip to the pub so they could play one more game.

The brainchild of Turtle Rock, the amateur team of Half-Life modders who turned professional on Counter-Strike, and then produced the seminal co-operative shooter in Left 4 Dead, Evolve feels like a hybrid of everything they have done previously, but turned up a notch.

Like Left 4 Dead, it features a team of four human players who have to work together to overcome a monstrous threat, but in Counter-Strike style these four are now distinct classes with extremely diverse skills. The enemy itself is something new: a human-controlled monster that grows and evolves over the course of the game, becoming larger and more dangerous with each new stage. This four-against-one gameplay is the core of Evolve, with all other game design fitting around it.

During the preview event I had the opportunity to speak to Michael J. Boccieri, Senior Producer at publisher 2K Games, who is overseeing the entire project. As we sat down to speak, I joked that there wasn’t much to say; we could just write “from the makers of Left 4 Dead” and millions of gamers would just start throwing money. Boccieri laughed and agreed. “Yeah, it’s an easy product to sell. We really just have to get people to play it, and it just sells itself from there.”

He wasn’t kidding. Rarely have I seen a room full of game journalists, a notoriously picky and hard-to-please bunch, completely engrossed in a game, complete with celebratory fist-pumps and anguished cries of “No!” Considering it won’t be released until late in the year, it already feels remarkably complete.

Evolve’s origins lie back in the days just before Left 4 Dead was released, when Turtle Rock was considering what they might like to do next. “They came up with the initial idea back in 2008, but they put it to bed while they finished off their DLC for Left 4 Dead 2,” Boccieri told me. “There’s been a lot added to it, a lot of polish, but at its core it’s still that same core idea: monster versus hunters.”

The idea would sit on the backburner for several years while Turtle Rock worked on other projects, but in late 2010 they had split amicably from Valve and become an independent studio and they decided that the time was right to make Evolve. At first it was set to be published by THQ, but after the publisher’s bankruptcy the title was picked up by 2K.

Boccieri explained where the core design came from. “They focused on the idea of four classes on the hunter side because of what they’d learned about co-operative play on Left 4 Dead,” he said. “Four is the magic number, the greatest number of allied players that a player can meaningfully keep in their head and still know what everyone is doing. Outside of that becomes a little more broad, and you end up just putting your head down and doing your own thing, like in Call of Duty or Battlefield, and that doesn’t lend itself to co-operative gameplay.”

“On the class side, that was Turtle Rock wanting to build a little more depth into co-operative play. In Left 4 Dead, even though there’s strong characterisation, the four character pretty much play the same,” he said. “In Evolve, we still have the deep characterisation, but each one has a completely different set of abilities.”

The classes seem familiar at a glance, but the longer you look, the more interesting they become. Take the medic, for example. Her core class ability is called the healing burst, a momentary aura that heals all allies within range as well as the medic herself. She also has a healing gun that can only be used on other players, not herself. So far so standard.

Things get odd when you look at her other abilities. Her offensive weapon is a slow-loading but powerful sniper rifle with a long-range zoom and the ability to punch holes in the monster’s armour that become weak points where her teammates can shoot for bonus damage. Her other weapon is a dart gun, which both tranquilises the monster, slowing it down, but also tags it for ten seconds or so, meaning the whole team can see where it is.

The other classes are equally quirky. The support class has a handheld shield gun that he can use to shield teammates from harm. As long as he keeps the beam on them, they cannot be hurt. However, he can also call down a devastating orbital strike that takes several seconds to warm up, so he needs his teammates to hold the monster in position. He can also cloak himself, an ability that also cloaks any teammates standing near him.

The trapper is stranger still, with a wonderfully diverse set of abilities. He can plant sound-detecting spikes in the ground to detect the monster’s movement, harpoon the creature with an electric tether that may hold it in place just long enough for the orbital strike to warm up, and can also drop what’s called the “mobile arena”, a glowing dome that traps the monster in a small area to be shot to pieces.

The most straightforward is the assault class, which Boccieri and I both referred to as the “bullet hose”. He has a powerful lightning gun that only works at short range, and a weaker machine gun for longer range. He can also drop mines all over the battlefield and enable a personal shield that stops him being hurt for a few seconds.

Here’s the kicker, though: in Turtle Rock’s opinion, these four aren’t diverse enough. “Within each class there’ll be different hunters, and while they’ll fit the description of what that class does, they will have completely different abilities from other hunters in the same class,” Boccieri told me. “They’ll be a variation on the idea of an assault class or a medic class. They really get right down to the core of what any one class is supposed to and really pushing the boundaries of how that role can be performed.”

So while every medic will have the healing burst and every trapper the portable arena, every other weapon and tool will be part of a larger pool that can be mixed and matched, completely changing how that class is played. Even the monster is variable, with Boccieri explaining that the development team considers it to be another class. In the time I played, it could choose between a leaping attack, throwing boulders, breathing fire, and a powerful charge, but I am told there will be even more to choose from in the final game.

On top of that there is an advancement scheme for each weapon and tool, with all of them gradually improving as they are used successfully in matches, and also unlockable perks that can be shared across all hunter classes. “We’re still tuning the final numbers, but there’ll probably be about twelve hours of play to completely max out one character, but then you’ll have all the other characters to try,” Boccieri said.

With all this customisation, then, is there any chance that Turtle Rock will be able to make sure the game remains balanced? “Absolutely,” Boccieri assured me. “The Turtle Rock team playtests every day, and in order for Evolve to balance between being co-operative and competitive, the win rates have to net out towards 50/50. That is the design team’s goal, over time. Any time they tune anything, it’s tuning toward that balance.”

“It’s kind of a bold goal, making the game as balanced as possible while also allowing this breadth of experience that allows players to come back to it again and again, but I think that the pedigree of this team , given their background with Counterstrike and left 4 Dead, means they could really pull it off. It helps that they’ve limited the scope in all cases to four versus one, which keeps it refined enough that the design decisions don’t broadly impact the game and throw things way out of kilter.”

There will also be a variety of game modes, though no others have so far been revealed. Even so, Boccieri explained that they will all share a common theme. “Every game mode is a variation of the four versus one gameplay, where the hunters will have to co-operate to win and the monster is always alone. Other than that, the other modes will be variations on that core structure. There’s also a whole lot of different maps, with a variety of different environments, different wildlife.”

Oh yes, the wildlife. The maps are populated with AI-controlled animals, most of which are benign, but some are aggressively territorial or just plain hungry. The monster can kill and eat these creatures to gain armour and work toward evolving to a new level, while the hunters will just have to defend against them. There will also be tougher elite monsters that will drop a temporary upgrade, like regenerating health or faster reload times, and both the monster and the hunters will want to pick those up.

There is little more I need to say other than, “It’s by the Left 4 Dead guys. Get excited.” It really is a great game on its own merits, though. The monster can be tricky to learn, but it’s exhilarating to play such an unusual character – loping through the dense jungle, eating other animals, clambering up cliffs, and then smashing those puny humans. The hunters are more straightforward, but are still a huge amount of fun to play.

Evolve will be launching during Spring 2014, so somewhere between September and October, on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC.

– James “DexX” Dominguez

Screen Play is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez

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

Goodman Fielder foreshadows turnaround after $64.8 million loss

15/07/2019 | 南京夜网 | Permalink

Goodman Fielder chief executive officer Chris Delaney.One-off costs that continue to evaporate savings are ‘‘not good enough’’ Goodman Fielder chief executive Chris Delaney said, with profit expected to improve significantly from the $64.8 million loss in the first half.
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Record milk prices and rising Australian dollar-based wheat prices also heavily impacted the bottom-line in the first half of the 2014 financial year.

The company said further increases in the farmgate milk price in 2014, combined with aggressive competitor pricing, will impact second-half earnings by around $5 million.

In the six months to the end of 2013, farmgate milk prices increased more than 40 per cent, weighing on Goodman Fielder’s dairy arm, as pre-tax earnings fell 39 per cent from the previous corresponding period.

Goodman Fielder increased dairy sales volumes in the first half and Mr Delaney said he was confident that global dairy pricing would be more favourable in the next fiscal year, which would improve margins.

A continuing disparity between US wheat prices and Australian wheat prices in the first half also weighed on earnings. Mr Delaney said the company will be implementing a small price increase in bakeries to mitigate the cost of Australian wheat.

From profit to loss 

The loss entails $94.9 million in significant items after tax, including $15.5 million in restructuring costs and $97.3 million in asset impairments related its biscuits, meats and pizza businesses which have been sold. It will receive $35 million in proceeds from the sale of those assets in the second half.

The loss in the first half of the current financial year is down 287.9 per cent from the period corresponding period, where Goodman Fielder reported a $34.5 million profit.

Goodman Fielder said full-year pre-tax earnings are expected to be broadly in line with the last financial year, around $185.6 million.

Shares in the food processor were down 7.4 per cent to 63 cents in early afternoon trade.

Mr Delaney said it was extremely frustrating to see one-off costs undoing all the hard work that Goodman Fielder has been doing in cost savings. Cost savings within the group remain on target to achieve $100 million by the 2015 financial year, and the company has identified a further $25 million in savings to be achieved by the end of fiscal 2016.

‘‘We understand we need to do more, sooner, better, and create our own luck and not just sit here are say they’re one-offs, that’s not good enough, we understand that,’’ Mr Delaney said.

‘‘I’m absolutely convinced what we’re doing is right for the long term. I’m incredibly disappointed to stand in front of you today with the outlook that I’ve just given. It is not what we wanted and we don’t think that’s what the shareholder deserves.’’

Savings to improve

Goodman Fielder is forecasting around $20 million in savings this year from improvements in distribution and manufacturing in its Australian baking arm, and supply chains savings in its New Zealand baking arm.

‘‘I think they’re going about improving the business the right way, it’s clearly happening at a pace that’s slower than we would have hoped for and certainly they would have indicated,’’ CLSA analyst David Thomas said.

‘‘The issue is you’ve got some relatively tired assets that they’re trying to regenerate, some brands that have been underinvested in and a distribution route to market that’s pretty challenging. Hiccups are coming through but unfortunately a bit bigger and a bit more frequently than we would have hoped.’’

Price increases helped lift pre-tax earnings in its bread business by 22 per cent from the previous year, despite lower volumes, however analysts had been expected better returns from the low base considering the new contracts signed with supermarket Coles to provide private label bread.

The grocery business struggled after failing to convince a major customer to stoke its new MeadowLea HeartPlus products. Volumes, revenue and pre-tax earnings all slipped by single digit percentage points.

Revenue in the first half of the 2014 financial year increased 5 per cent to $1.1 billion, boosted by the pricing in baking and dairy products, and currency benefits from the strong New Zealand dollar.

Goodman Fielder’s debt increased by $115 million to $549 million in the first half, impacted by timing on tax in Papua New Guinea, last year’s final dividend and a revaluation of $NZ debt relative to the Australian dollar.

Goodman will issue an interim dividend of 1¢ with the franked amount per security 30 per cent.

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

Farina defends position with blog post

15/07/2019 | 南京夜网 | Permalink

Embattled Sydney FC coach Frank Farina has responded to public criticism with a post on his blog, What I’m Thinking, entitled “Fans, Sydney FC, decisions and back to fans”.
Nanjing Night Net

Matters game to a head for the Sky Blues during Saturday night’s 3-0 loss to Adelaide United, the club’s third straight home loss.

Coach Frank Farina bore the brunt of the criticism and even the contents of a beer cup from a disgruntled member of the crowd.

“I would have to be living on another planet not to be aware of the ‘noise’ in relation to Sydney FC, me and various incidents on the weekend,” writes Farina, who has come under pressure following Sydney FC’s disappointing run of form.

Members of The Cove held up two banners protesting the leadership of their club, however security moved quickly to confiscate them.

A leader of the fan group was then reportedly ejected, before other fans joined in a protest outside the venue that began while the game was still being played.

“I would have to be living on another planet not to be aware of the ‘noise’ in relation to Sydney FC, me and various incidents on the weekend,” writes Farina, whose position has come under harsh scrutiny.

Farina writes that managing a football club is “not a popularity contest,” and backed the fans’ right to voice their opinions.

“I also don’t have a problem with seeing the sign #FarinaOut” stated the Sydney FC manager.

He reacted to the revelation that the banner in Russian Cyrillic referred to Scott Barlow and Tony Pignata by strongly defending the pair.

“’I’ve worked in many clubs and environments in football, and Sydney FC is one of the more professional organisations I’ve experienced. “

Farina went on to endorse his own decisions at the club, calling notice to his achievements as both a player and coach during his career in the game.

“You might disagree with what I do, but one thing I’m not is “clueless” when it comes to football,” he maintained.

Defending his side’s tactics, Farina wrote: “I’m looking for in the seemingly defensive midfield position is a deep-lying playmaker who can use space and time on the ball to create moves in multiple ways, not just attacks on goals. Think Pirlo, Xavi, Paul Scholes. With Alessandro del Piero in the side as the club’s marquee player, we don’t need a second number 10.”

Farina ended the lengthy post thanking the fans, and insisting that they were “always appreciated and never under-valued.”

Sydney FC face Perth Glory at Allianz Stadium on Saturday.

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