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Bosses give ‘lip service’ to flexibility

When it comes to flexible working arrangements, most small businesses appear to be all talk and no action.

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That’s the finding of research conducted by Galaxy for business solutions provider Citrix, suggesting the Australian economy is missing out on productivity gains worth billions of dollars each year.

The survey of 1024 office workers across the country found that 56 per cent of people are not able to work from home, while 72 per cent want the opportunity.

“The harsh reality is the majority of organisations do not trust their employees to be as productive at home as they do in the office, even though the economic and social benefits offers a compelling argument that we can no longer ignore,” Citrix regional director Lindsay Brown says.

The report released on Tuesday also found two in three workers say that working from home would make a significant difference to their quality of life.

The research finds that 82 million hours a week are spent commuting, suggesting that small and medium sized businesses that embrace flexible working stand to gain a significant boost in productivity and performance.

Workers, too, could save nearly $109 million per week in travelling costs.

Businesses that continue to pay “lip service” to flexible working could also find themselves hit by a higher turnover of staff and new employee training costs with three-quarters of employees saying they would consider changing to another job that offers flexible hours.

At the same time, nearly three-quarters of people aged 55 to 69 said they would work more hours and stay in the workforce longer if flexible options were available.

This could add a staggering $135 billion of productivity gains to the economy.

“Continuing to eschew flexible working in favour of ways of working familiar to our parents and grandparents presents serious consequences for Australia’s future,” Mr Brown said.

Wallabies hopeful injured players will be ready for final

The Wallabies went into the match with two key players, David Pocock and Israel Folau, still nursing injuries and loosehead prop Scott Sio missing because of a swollen elbow and had to use all seven substitutes to make it through the match, which they won 29-15.

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But on Monday, Australian coach Michael Cheika said the early signs were encouraging that everyone would be available for the final at Twickenham.

“We’re not too bad. We’ve just had recovery now and spoke to the doc and the physios,” Cheika told reporters from the team’s leafy training base in Teddington, south-west London.

“The players who went into the match with some injury are looking pretty good the way they came out of it, probably much better than we expected so we’ll see how that progresses.

“There are some sore bodies but no more than normal for a World Cup semi-final.

“Once we get today out of the way we can start seeing everyone running on the field and we’ll get a better opinion of how everyone is running for next week.”

Pocock, who missed the quarter-final win over Scotland with a calf injury, completed the entire match and had a very strong game, especially in defence and at the breakdown.

Folau, who also missed the quarter-final with an ankle problem, was not at his absolute best and was taken off after about an hour after being hurt in a tackle, though Cheika said that was always the plan for him to go off early.

“Israel Folau pulled up pretty good, he was always going to tire a bit at the end with his injury,” Cheika said.

“He got caught under tackle, but we were taking him off anyway because 60 was about his duration with that ankle injury. It was just the fatigue of it.”

Cheika said he had no major concerns about inside centre Matt Giteau, who left the field with a groin injury, saying he felt much better when he woke up on Monday.

The Wallabies coach was optimistic about Sio’s prospects of returning, which would be a major boost after the Australian scrum struggled in his absence against Argentina.

“Scott Sio will be back on the training paddock this week. We’ll see how he goes,” Cheika said.

“He’s been running already and he’s got movement back in his elbow. We’ll see how that applies to some of his specialities such as scrummaging and mauling and we’ll take it from there.”

(Editing by Rex Gowar)

Pakistan beat England in nail-biting finish

Victory put Pakistan 1-0 up in the three-game series and maintains their record of never having lost a series in their adopted home of the United Arab Emirates.

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Starting the final day on 130 for three and chasing an unlikely 491 for victory, England slumped to 193 for seven after lunch.

Adil Rashid (61) and Stuart Broad (30) then added 60 in 90 balls before the latter was bowled by an inswinging Wahab Riaz yorker.

Undeterred, Rashid and Mark Wood (29) were adroit in defence as Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq switched between pace and spin to try to end their resistance.

His team’s appeals grew more desperate as the overs ticked by and the game entered the final hour with two wickets remaining.

Seven fielders crowded the batsmen and the pressure told when Wood edged Zulfiqar Babar’s turning ball to Mohammad Hafeez in the gully.

Five overs later Rashid was last man out, caught attempting a drive through the covers off Yasir Shah.

WAHAB THREAT

Earlier, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow extended their overnight partnership, repelling the threat of paceman Wahab who had engineered England’s match-defining collapse in the first innings.

However, the England pair proved less able to deal with the spin of Zulfiqar (3-53) and Yasir (4-87).

Root (71) was first to fall after edging Zulfiqar to Younus Khan. The slip snaffled the ball a fraction above the turf to reduce England to 157 for four.

Misbah turned up the heat by positioning helmet-clad fielders at silly point and short-leg to accompany two slips.

Bairstow initially read the spin well, lurching forward to pad the ball away and getting on his heels to defend, before he was clean bowled for 22 by a Yasir googly.

Jos Buttler continued his poor form, edging Yasir to Younus at slip on seven, and Ben Stokes was removed for 13 when his wayward drive off paceman Imran Khan went to Misbah at slip.

That brought Rashid and Broad together and they scored freely.

Rashid brought up his maiden test half-century with a scrambled single but ultimately it proved in vain.

Sharjah will host the final test from Nov. 1.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

Wallabies not satisfied just by making World Cup final

The Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has been branded a saviour for taking a team that was in disarray 12 months ago to the final, but he insists that’s no cause for celebration.

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As his team begin their final preparations for Saturday’s showdown against New Zealand at Twickenham, Cheika told reporters his players faced a simple question.

“If you want to be happy with just (making the final), yeah okay that’s good, and we can go home and everyone will pat you on the back and say ‘well done’. Or do you want to something different?”

“Do you want to go and have something you’ve got for the rest of your life? They’re the choices to be made and I know what choice this team will make.”

Cheika, the only coach to have won the major club or provincial tournaments in the northern and southern hemispheres, is acutely aware of the hype surrounding the match.

Australia and New Zealand might be friendly neighbours but when it comes to sport, they are the fiercest of rivals.

“That’s what you play the game for, to sit in the dressing room and have that feeling of satisfaction that you all put in a massive shift for one another,” he said.

“Whatever you play, you’re not going out there to lose. That’s the joy of the game. There are going to be 46 fairly pig-headed players out there on Saturday, trying to get the outcome they want.”

Cheika did however warn his players not to get too caught up in the hype over the teams’ rivalry, sticking to the coach’s mantra of taking things one day at a time and focussing on their own performance.

“I’m still very new to the international coaching thing so I don’t know if the rivalry is going to make any difference. It’s the World Cup,” he said.

“Any match you play and you are playing for your country, you are going to be doing your best. It’s nice for all the supporters and everything but for us, its about getting our own stuff right.

“We’ve stayed relatively introverted throughout the whole tournament in what we are doing. Getting caught up in all the other things just takes the impetus away from what we are trying to build up for ourselves.”

The Wallabies are likely to go into the final as underdogs, having beaten the All Blacks just once in the 11 matches they have played since the last World Cup in 2011, which New Zealand won after defeating Australia in the semi-finals.

Apart from Saturday’s semi-final where they beat South Africa 20-18 in a tense encounter, they have cruised through the tournament while the Wallabies have done it the hard way after being drawn in the same pool as England and Wales then battling past Scotland and Argentina in the knockout stage.

“We’ve been pretty much going knockout every week since we got here,” Cheika said. “We understand we’ve got to play better, that’s part of it.

“What we need to do is make sure when we talk about improving we know how to make that happen.”

(Editing by Rex Gowar)

NRL’s Canberra welcome Sezer

Even rival Canberra halfback Sam Williams admits Gold Coast recruit Aidan Sezer can add another dimension to the Raiders’ attack in 2016.

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But Williams is determined not to be relegated to the Canberra outer by the ex-Titans pivot.

Williams got to size up his opposition early when Canberra became the first team to return from the off-season on Monday.

He quickly focused on Sezer who is tipped to leapfrog Williams and partner Dally M Five-eighth of the Year Blake Austin in the halves in the 2016 NRL first round.

Williams admitted Sezer was an exciting option for the Raiders.

“He’s got a really good left boot. Blake and I are right footers so it adds a different dynamic to our game,” he said.

“I am sure his long left boot will come into play a little bit throughout the year.

“It (Sezer’s signing) really puts the pressure on everyone to perform.

“We come here early in the pre-season to try and prove why we should be in the team.”

Williams was knocked back when he asked to be released to the Titans with a year left on his contract after the Raiders signed Sezer.

Now he’s bracing himself for an off-season of Raiders halves pairing speculation thanks to Sezer’s arrival.

“I just said to someone ‘we’ve got another few months of these questions’ but we are lucky to have him here at the club,” he said.

“I am excited about the chance to challenge myself, learn about Aidan and his game and try and push each other so we can be in the best position we can be come round one.”

Williams shrugged when asked if it was weird returning to training in October.

They had seven weeks off after their 28-24 NRL win over Parramatta on September 6.

NRL champions North Queensland are still holding their tour of regional areas celebrating their 2015 premiership success.

“To be successful next year we have to be back this time of the year,” Williams said.

“We’ve got a few months to work with Aidan.

“There’s no reason why we can’t start the season really strong, hit the ground running.”

Cuba hits 2.6m tourist arrivals for 2015

Tourist arrivals in Cuba totalled more than 2.

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6 million as of September 30, the National Statistics and Information Office (ONEI), reports.

There were 2.62 million arrivals during the first nine months of this year, up by some 400,000, or 18 per cent, from the same period in 2014.

Canada was the top source of visitors, with more than one million, the ONEI said.

In September alone, historically one of the slowest months for arrivals, Cuba welcomed nearly 200,000 tourists, a figure that was up 27.4 per cent from the same month last year.

Germany, Britain, France, Spain and Mexico were the other top sources of visitors, while Haiti, Costa Rica, Japan, Israel, Ireland, Poland, Australia and Venezuela posted strong gains, the ONEI said.

The government has implemented a plan to build several hotels and renovate existing properties to meet growing demand for accommodation in Havana and other cities, Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero said.

The plan calls for adding more than 13,600 rooms in “sun and beach destinations” in 2016, the official Agencia Prensa Latina reported.

The tourism boom coincides with the restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States in July after more than a half century of hostilities.

In the first seven months after President Barack Obama eased travel restrictions, about 88,900 Americans arrived in Cuba, a figure that was up 54 per cent from 2014 and is expected to grow further by the end of the year.

Tourism is the second-largest source of income for the island, generating $US1.7 billion ($A2.36 billion) in revenues in the first half of 2015.

All Blacks have plans to nullify Pocock

David Pocock’s influence in the Rugby World Cup final can be countered if the All Blacks get their breakdown execution right, says flanker Sam Cane.

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Wallabies No.8 Pocock looms as an enormous threat at Twickenham on Saturday, boasting an unmatched ability to turn over possession at the tackle.

In conjunction with openside flanker Michael Hooper, Pocock was destructive in Australia’s 29-15 semi-final win over Argentina.

It was a similar story when the Wallabies strangled the All Blacks at the breakdown in their 27-19 win in Sydney in August.

Pocock was unexpectedly left on the reserves bench a week later as New Zealand reigned supreme in the collisions in a 41-13 win at Auckland’s Eden Park to retain the Bledisloe Cup.

All Blacks reserve openside Cane wasn’t surprised by the 27-year-old’s formidable display against Argentina.

“He had another very strong game,” Cane sad.

“For us it’s pretty simple. We have to get our ball carries right and focus on the urgency of our cleaners, that’s what we have to do to the best of our ability.

“If we get that right hopefully we can nullify the amount of times he gets on the ball.”

Assistant coach Ian Foster didn’t want to single out Pocock and Hooper, believing numerous Wallabies are proficient at the breakdown and that they work as a team as an effective defensive outfit.

“The lessons we have learned from Sydney and Eden Park we’ve already applied in our game and put into practice,” Foster said.

“They have got some areas of strength that they’ll try to attack us with and we have got some areas of strength we’ll try and attack them.”

Finance News Update, what you need to know

WORLD FINANCE UPDATE:

The Australian dollar is treading water as the market pauses ahead of a busy week of international economic data.

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At 0630 AEDT on Tuesday, the currency was trading at 72.50 US cents, down from 72.53 cents on Monday.

And the Australian share market looks set to open flat after US and European stocks mainly fell as investors booked gains ahead of the Federal Reserve’s two-day policy meeting.

At 0645 AEDT on Tuesday, the share price index futures contract was up two points at 5,334.

ELSEWHERE:

FRANKFURT – German businesses are confident about the outlook for Europe’s biggest economy, despite China’s slowdown and the Volkswagen scandal, a top survey shows, as the Bundesbank also insisted economic growth was still on track.

WASHINGTON – New-home sales in the United States tumbled to a 10-month low in September, stirring concerns about the economy, but analysts said the overall housing market continues to grow steadily.

NEW YORK – Tyre and car service company Bridgestone is buying automobile parts and repair company Pep Boys for $US835 million ($A1.16 billion) in a deal that will help Bridgestone gain a more dominant position.

NEW YORK – Global markets operator Intercontinental Exchange says it is buying Interactive Data Corporation in a $US5.2 billion ($A7.22 billion) cash-and-stock deal to expand its financial data services.

NEW YORK – US energy giant Duke Energy is buying Piedmont Natural Gas, its partner in a regional natural gas pipeline, for about $US4.9 billion ($A6.8 billion) in cash, the companies say.

TOKYO – Embattled Japanese electronics giant Sharp has warned it is on track to lose nearly $US700 million ($A971.28 million) in the half-year to September because of a slump in demand for its smartphone screens.

‘IELTS for sale’: Whistleblowers reveal scam

Education is Australia’s fourth biggest export industry, worth billions of dollars each year.

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And international students see education here as one of the best in the world.

For some, it’s also viewed as an opportunity to then remain in Australia as a permanent resident.

So much so, some are allegedly prepared to illegally pay their way into the system.

Migration agent at ‘Australia Connect Group’, Ha Nguyen, said she has heard there are dodgy operators offering to fake IELTS certificates, at a price.

“The minimum is $5,000 and if you want a higher score, it’d be like $10,000, or $12,000,” said Ms Nguyen.

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is used in more than 100 countries around the world and the minimum score for a student or skilled migrant visa applicant in Australia is generally around five.

To become a permanent resident, though, the score increases to about seven, and can sometimes by beyond a person’s capability.

RELATED STORY:

A Vietnamese university student who spoke to SBS News on condition of anonymity, said her friend made several unsuccessful attempts to pass the permanent residency test, and became desperate.

“So that’s why she contact someone in Vietnam and they told her that if she pay the money, he can help her to get the “seven”.”

“She [made] contact with one man, and they do the contract for her, and she signed the contract.”

The woman allegedly paid about $5000, but then withdrew out of fear.

“She was scared that [if] … immigration find out that it’s fake, then she need to go back to Vietnam forever and she doesn’t want that.”

But there are claims others are paying a lot more.

A migration agent, who didn’t want to be identified, told SBS News the company she works for, which operates in Vietnam and Australia, offers a middle-man service for those willing to pay.

“If the client wants to work and migrate to Australia, we offer them the fake IELTS, yes,” she said.

“The price gets higher every day. And right now, I know it’s about $12,000.”

SBS Vietnamese journalist Olivia Nguyen said some foreigners see fake IELTS as their only option.

It is claimed students and workers were using the service.

“They find, fake certificates as the way to get the visa in Australia,” said Ms Nguyen.

“If you pay money, your results will appear online, on the global IELTS website.”

Ms Nguyen spoke to one student who confirmed the rort.

“Don’t waste time on study,” the student told SBS.  “Instead of spending money on education, save money and time by buying a fake certificate.”

“The fake IELTS result report is made so carefully and delicately,” she claimed. “Even a normal IELTS teacher could not tell the difference.”

The student claimed it wasn’t hard to find an unscrupulous provider: several websites advertise fake IELTS.

Migration agent Ha Nguyen said it could be lucrative.

“If you get an “eight”, it’s like 20 points already, so it’s already a third of your application.”

But she warned a good score doesn’t always guarantee an applicant will get a visa, as there are other requirements too.

Institutions, such as Melbourne University, have strict online verification methods.

In a statement, the university said it “requires all agents to supply certified documentation, particularly with regards to academic transcripts, completion statements and English results”.

Service provider to 140 countries, IDP Education, said in a statement, “Given the high-stakes nature of the IELTS test, there will always be a small minority of people who seek to attain results they haven’t earned”.

Ms Ha Nguyen said there was still a way to verify someone’s English proficiency.

“You can ask for a test interview; you can actually tell whether their English ability is compatible with their score or not,” she said.

“We did have some cases in the past when we interact with students and they give us a certificate but we don’t think that it’s quite compatible with their English skill.”

Official IELTS teacher, Minh Nguyen, said many of her international students, including those from China and India, struggled with English.

She said she had heard of fake providers, but said it was not worth the risk.

“At the end of the day, if you decided to come in here and study, you have to use the language, you have to merge with the environment, and that’s what you can’t fake,” she said.

The Immigration Department said an applicant’s visa could be rejected or cancelled and it could impose a 10-year ban on future visa applications. 

World News Update, What you need to know

Nearly 280 people were killed when a powerful 7.

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5-magnitude earthquake centred in the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan ripped across South Asia, toppling buildings, triggering stampedes and knocking out communication lines.

ELSEWHERE

VANCOUVER – Five Britons are confirmed to have died and one person remains missing after a whale-watching boat carrying 27 capsized near Vancouver Island, off Canada’s Pacific coast.

LONDON – The Australian Federal Police has been brought into the Chris Cairns trial in London, with the cricketer’s defence suggesting an officer authorised a deal for an alleged match fixer in exchange for information.

JERUSALEM – Efforts to douse Israeli-Palestinian tensions over Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound by installing cameras at the site have run into trouble, as more knife attacks against Israelis saw two Palestinians shot dead.

MOSCOW – Russian jets struck 94 targets in war-torn Syria over a 24-hour period, the highest one-day tally since the Kremlin began its month-old bombing campaign, the Russian defence ministry says.

LJUBLJANA – Countries in southeastern Europe facing an unprecedented influx of migrants have reacted cautiously to new EU plans to help stem the crisis, following an emergency mini-summit at the weekend.

PARIS – Global warming could create peaks of humid heat in the Persian Gulf beyond human tolerance by century’s end, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

BERLIN – Chinese artist Ai Weiwei says his plan to create a Lego artwork can go ahead as donations of the toy poured in from fans after the Danish company refused his bulk order on political grounds.

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