Tag Archives: Business

My great prediction


In a few days time, if it passes into law or not, we will pay GST on any goods we order that come from overseas.

Apparently this will be a big boost to our local retail sector. Unfortunately my prediction is that it will not be anywhere near as big a boost as they are hoping for.

For decades we have all had to pay the Australia Tax. This is the massive differences in price to, say, a notebook for sale in the US and the price the exact same notebook sells for here. You can find even worse examples in everyday painkillers (we pay around $8 for 24 ibuprofen tablets and in the US you pay $10-15 for 500 tablets!

Other examples are DVDs, CDs, books, food…. basically anything.

And when the companies that sell these products at vastly different prices are asked why, the excuse they always offer is the distance to Australia and our smaller market.

So either the suppliers are making a fortune because no-one in Australia has the guts to ask the tough questions or our local retailers are terrible at negotiating.

Maybe a bit of both. Personally I am staggered by the number of people here who will pay nearly double for the latest smartphone or Apple product, as they sell for in the US. Go ahead, check it for yourself.

So, my prediction is that on the 1st of July the people of Australia will have finally had enough of governments introducing new taxes seemingly every week. (A sugar tax? What a laugh. Apparently we can’t be relied on to make our own decision on what we should drink, so of course we need a tax to help us out. To paraphrase The Beatles, they’ll be taxing air next).

We will have had enough, finally, and we will revolt. Personally those items I purchased from overseas – because of this thing that is meant to be free, called the internet – I simply will not buy again.

Why not? Because every time I go to do so online there will be a stark reminder in my shopping cart, GST of 10%. I will get angry and log out.

And I will not buy it locally because unfortunately local retailers, big and small, are lacking when it comes to understanding buying on the internet. Ask them what a Google rating is and they will ask what movie are you referring to. Seriously, key into Mr Google the item you want to buy and stipulate Australia. The first items listed will be Ads for overseas sites, followed by some articles or reviews (from overseas of course) followed by something completely unrelated. Unless you include a store name in your search you will not even get close.

So until the local retailers discover Google search, it will make me so angry trying to find the item I want that I’ll end up not wanting it anymore. Shopping online should be easy and fun, and only a dozen or so Aussie retailers get it.

So, our local retailers will see a much smaller increase in online sales than they hoped for. My prediction is that less than 50% of what was spent overseas up until June 30 this year, will be spent locally in the next financial year.

If I see a news article stating how local retail has boomed I will know it is false, and was probably influenced by government press releases. How do I know this? Because every year, about two weeks before Christmas, every news outlet predicts the biggest spending Christmas ever of $X billion dollars. Then in February or March, on page 27, will be a small article saying the figures are in and it was actually a very disappointing Christmas for retailers. It happens every single year, like clockwork.

I am especially a fan of TV newsreaders proclaiming that in the last weekend before Christmas shoppers went crazy and spent $X billion dollars. Hello? How could you know that? Did you ring every shop in the State and ask them for their sales figures? No? Would the shops even know what their figures were for those two days, and get them to you within just 24 hours so you can run your news item? Somehow I doubt it.

Wet your finger and proudly hold it up high. There, now you have as much chance as getting your prediction right as 80% of our so-called economic ‘experts’.

As Steve Jobs said on many occasions, do not listen to anyone who says they are an ‘expert’ or worse, a ‘guru’, because no-one is, it’s impossible.

So buy big and buy now, the clock is ticking. At least this is one tax you can choose not to pay. And just think of all the money you will save!

Rebel Wilson’s defamation payout from magazine publisher Bauer Media reduced on appeal…???


If our learned judges can disagree so significantly, no wonder our whole world is upside down! Seriously, how can one judge award $4.5m and another, on the same facts, $600,000??

How the hell are we meant to know what is real and what is not when the System itself is full of lies, manipulation, inaccuracy, deceit and completely false reporting which is somehow our fault for shortening the news cycle? I for one certainly do not remember contacting the news media and asking them to broadcast any old crap because I want to read it quickly them get on with my life.

Did I miss a memo??

They also tell us there is no inflation, yet we get far less for the same money than we ever used to. Fewer crisps in packets pumped full of air, packs of four becoming packs of three for the same price, and our taxes such as car registration, ESL, Land Tax, speeding fines (which you cannot convince me is not a tax and a barely legal one at that) all tripling in price, or more.

Our cost of living has risen significantly and yet inflation is somehow measured as being between 1.5 and 2% here in Australia??

But we are wrong, of course, they couldn’t possibly be calculating the inflation rate incorrectly…heaven forbid!

We are being kept in the dark and lied to consistently, and far more often than we were ten years ago. It is all since the GFC and the consequences of which that still affect our economy today.

If we taxed everyone 100% of their salary it would still take many years to pay off our country’s debt. The poor USA has around $2 trillion in debt! I feel a default coming on, and not just in the US of good old A.

All our so-called Leaders and ‘Experts’ can do is disagree violently with each other, making fools of themselves when they don’t think we see right through them. How many of these expert’s predictions have actually come true? So please don’t call them experts in the media before you have asked how accurate they have been!

Any moron can be an Expert, just ask me.

We have been completely rooted by the powers that be, by major banks and other companies who can only see dollar signs and act on greed. And yes we know it is happening, you have not fooled us, as evidenced by the last few elections which have been massive messages of ‘we don’t trust you’ with a very large middle finger extended for emphasis.

And which dickhead made the rule that if you work just one day a fortnight then you are not counted as unemployed?? Give me a break and at least be somewhat realistic and make it 5 or 6 hours a week. One?? Really?? So our unemployment rate, the real rate we feel in real life and not those that live in fantasy land in their lofty offices who make these moronic decisions. Our unemployment is probably 2-3 times higher than reported, and we all know it and yet no one says it because it would be too awful to hear.

Sometimes the truth is the bitterest of all pills to swallow.

Sorry, when I saw this article I just had to vent. It blows me away that a judge can award $4.5 million then another judge hearing the same evidence awards just $600K….???

Unbelievable. That is how I describe our lives today.

No privacy because it’s for our own good, fighting wars because of WMD’s that were never there, the greed and corruption that brought on the GFC and still no one has gone to jail for it.

Dairy farmers going broke but supermarkets saying that it’s not their fault they started a price war of $1 per litre.

Large businesses making record profits and bonuses when our wages have hardly moved in ten years?

Just how stupid do these idiots think we are?

Don’t answer that, please, it will only make me angrier!

Is there too much white collar crime or are we lucky there isn’t more of it?


We live in a society where white collar crime has never been higher, or more well protected.

Just read any book on the GFC or High Frequency Trading. You will quickly learn how so many became so rich at the expense of the hard working lower and middle class. Like you and me.

And no-one has been charged with committing any crime.

In the GFC companies (driven by individuals within them) made junk loans to people they knew were never going to pay them back. They then packaged them up and called them A+ secure, sold them to other investors for huge commissions then bet on those same junk loans defaulting.

And yet we still listen to those corrupt ratings agencies, Standard and Poor and Moodys, and the ratings they put on investments today. Why? Because the corrupr at the top welcomed them back with open arms as being fellow greedy and unlawful money makers, just like them.

They made millions, some billions, and yet no-one was held accountable.

Indeed the senior ezexutives of companies they knew were going to collapse, sold their company for a bargain price but not before they votes themselves huge bonuses. These bonuses were then paid by the US government bailout funds. Tax dollars of individuals put to good use…NOT.

As soon as the GFC was exploding around them the same firms started high frequency trading. I will not attempt to explain it in detail here, because not even some of those who participated do not know how it works. Suffice it to say that the big end of town were making stock trades that made them hundreds of millions while the average investor, often their own clients (people like you and me) lost everything.

Given these are only two situations that we actually know about, there must be many, many more. The current Royal Commission into the finance sector here in Australia has revealed much, but only because the Australian Government was forced kicking and screaming to agree to setup this investigation. They were trying to protect their mates.

Is it a coincidence that our Prime Minister made a fortune as a merchant banker and therefore would have countless contacts, friends, amongst the senior executives now being investigated?

As disgusting as all these examples are, I now believe that the ease that people and businesses can make themselves richer and the poor (us) poorer, we are actually fortunate it doesn’t happen more often.

If you read enough books, and get a pool of money together through friends, family and a few acquaintances you too can rip people off to your benefit.

So as bad as it is, and it is pretty damn bad, I actually believe we are lucky more people do not succumb to this temptation.

Corruption in our society starts at the top with heads of big business and political parties, and as proven many times over the fish rots from the head. So they are setting us all an example that we could easily follow. That example is greed.

Yet approximately only the top 5% do so. It should be more widespread but I do not believe it is. Why? Because the majority of people have ethics and morals that prevent them from acting as decedantly and greedily.

Yes, we live in bad times like never before as the gap between rich and poor grows by the hour.

However I like to believe that it could be a lot, lot worse and will stand with those trying desperately to shine light into dark corners.

Because greed is not hard wired into our system, helping others is.

I just hope there are enough of us to stem the growing tide.

GST payable on all items purchased overseas – WTF!!


From the 1st of July, courtesy of the Federal Government who has once again bowed to big busines, lobbyists and those who provide large donations (to both political parties) another tax will be forced upon us.

This new tax will apply to all online purchases under $1,000, where the items come from overseas.

This is the result of extensive lobbying from big business (Harvey Norman, Myer, David Jones et al) who claim their declining sales have been caused by these types of purchases.

Basically they are saying it is not fair for an overseas retail business to provide the same goods they sell but at a better price and with better service.

If you believe that, then you are a big business wearing blinkers to stop you from seeing reality. The reality is that in Australia we receive poor customer service and are ripped off by their suppliers pricing models.

Allow me to explain. But first a quote from an Australia Post study published in 2017*;

Online retailers are a blessing for many Australians – especially those living remotely, or in areas with limited access to conventional bricks-and-mortar stores. Increasingly, customers are heading online to find their everyday essentials at better prices, with buyers in remote
regional locations and tourist towns shopping online the most.

So if shopping online to get the best deal is so important to us, why are they going to tax it?

The answer is in the question, as Governments are always looking to increase taxes. Or, in this case, impose a brand new one. It pays for their perks and helps to fill holes in their budget created by overspending on shiny new infrastructure in marginal electorates.

This new tax goes against the findings of the report quoted above and is weak, pathetic and completely unjustified. Do local businesses really believe that an increase of 10-15% on the price we pay for an item overseas is going to somehow force us to buy local instead? Maybe, if they offered free shipping instead of charging $10-25.

I can buy one book a day for a week (or a month!) from the UK and have free shipping on each one. I can also buy almost anything from China with free shipping. And yet Australia Post would charge me around $20 for me to send one book interstate (including packaging).

I would hate to get a quote from Australia Post as to what they would charge me to send just one book back to the UK!

Local businesses need to be better negotiators with Australia Post, or use someone else (Startrack).

And then there is the ‘Australia tax’.

The ‘Australia tax’ is another way of saying suppliers (Apple, Samsung, HP, Sony, LG and many, many more) rip us off because we are “just a small market” so their costs are higher. Since all their products come from the same factory I find this argument hard to swallow. Again, local businesses need to lessons on negotiation.

So overseas companies sell their products to Australian retailers at up to 30% more than their very same goods sell for overseas. Books, DVDs, medicines and computers to name but a few.

On a visit to the US in December of 2015 my family saw bottles of 500 ibuprofen tablets (yes, 500!), possibly the biggest selling painkiller in Australia, on sale for $10 each. Here $10 buys you about 48 tablets, or ten times the price of the same product you can buy in the US! The same whopping price differential can be found on many everyday medications and vitamins.

A pair of Rockport shoes is half the price if ordered from overseas compared to my local shoe store. The exact same product from the same supplier from the same factory.

I think you get the point.

In addition there are some products you cannot buy here at all, so you have to purchase them from overseas. This includes many excellent vitamin supplements and other health care items. Why should we be punished because we have to buy these from overseas?

There are many, many more examples, especially if you do a quick search for technology, clothing and health products. Many of these overseas sites have free shipping (as per the above examples) and arrive within days. This is mainly because they do not use Australian Post, who take longer to deliver everything and charge you three times the amount for the privelidge.

So because Australia Post cannot get its act together (except when paying their CEOs very large bonuses despite losing money, in which case they are extremely efficient) and large businesses cannot negotiate properly they blame overseas purchases for their declining sales.

Actually we buy online simply because we want the best price and the best service, and unfortunately businesses in Australia cannot compete in most cases.

So we will be paying the government a brand new tax of around 15% of the value of the items we now buy online.

Fifteen percent? Yes, because GST will not only apply to the price of the item you purchase online from overseas, but also on any overseas taxes (such as the VAT in the UK, their version of our GST) and shipping. So you will soon be paying up to 15% more for those items you buy online today from Amazon, Book Depository, iHerb, Alibaba and many, many more.

The same Australia Post report quoted above says most of our purchases online are with largely domestic businesses, not overseas ones;

“Despite international access, domestic purchases still make up the majority of online spending in Australia. At the end of 2016, domestic spend represented 79% of the online market, showing a growth rate of 11% compared to 7.3% for international spend.”

So why did businesses here complain so much about it being unfair? Because that is easier than competing or trying to negotiate better pricing from their overseas suppliers.

The report also states that overseas spending accounted for 21% of purchases. The vast majority, 79%, being purchases from Australian online sites, so they can get it right if they want to. The only unknown factor is how many of those overseas online purchases were under $1,000, the target of this new tax. My guess is around 70%, but we will use 50% to be conservative.

Given that Australian households in 2016 spent $21.65 billion (according to Australia Post whom I don not believe as I shall explain shortly) in online purchases, collectively we will be paying an additional $341 million in tax each year.

It gets worse if you believe Roy Morgan Research over Australia Post (I would) as their study states that we spent $37.8 billion online during the 2014-2015 financial year”**. If we use their figures, we will be paying a total of nearly $834 million a year (using the same numbers as above) on this new tax.

No wonder the Government chose to listen to big business over common sense. However doesn’t the Federal Government keep saying they should let market forces decide pricing because competition is a good thing? At least that is what they say about the electricity market.

So not only are we currently paying far more locally for many hundreds, maybe thousands of items because of the Australia tax, we will soon be paying 15% more for those same items.

My suggestion is that local businesses lift their game and then we would gladly buy from them, as many studies show we want to buy Australian. To do this they need to significantly improve their customer service, have far better web pages, make it easier for people to buy online (have you seen the David Jones and Myer websites? Complete rubbish) and improve their Google search score.

Much easier to blame someone else, and it’s free too.

However, within this rant of mine I do concede that some big businesses here are viewed as quite minor in sales by their global suppliers. Therefore they cannot negotiate lower pricing (Samsung, Sony, Apple to name a few). I suggest they make this fact publicly known so we can decide what to buy with all information on the table. A nationwide boycott of certain brands might even get them to lower their prices.

Oh, and also go to war with Australia Post over their rediculous delivery charges.

When an overseas online book retailer in the UK can send me a $12 book with NO delivery fee, and I can buy a product from China that is worth $5 and get it delivered FREE, we are being ripped off by local freight charges.

In summary GET RID OF THIS STUPID TAX! Businesses have to learn to be more competitive, improve their customer service, maximise profits, make sure they can be found by Google and have great websites that look good on a phone. Pull your socks up folks, do some targeted marketing and stop blaming everyone else.

The retail market has always been tough, so learn what works for your business, keep experimenting.

You must keep up with technology and react quickly by constantly making changes to your product or service.

Or we could all just pay hundreds of millions of dollars in a lovely new tax.

* Inside Australian online shopping, Australia Post and Startrack, 2017

** According to Wikipedia there were 9 million households in Australia in 2016

*** The state of Australia’s $37.8b online shopping landscape, Roy Morgan Research, 2nd December 2015

The Business of Governing


The common statement “the business of governing” is detrimental, as the focus should be upon providing government with the best efficiencies private business experience, and expertise, has to offer.

The statement should read “business within government”, providing a completely different mindset.

This involves implementing within government the best efficiencies of business by identifying process improvements, removing duplication of effort, improving inter-departmental coordination, reviewing and assessing key personnel (always with the goal of ‘best fit’) with positions allocated by merit, and producing budget savings through operational efficiencies, all with a focus on customer (public) outcomes and improved service.

Quantifiable achievements would include;

  1. Designate and decide on all areas of Departmental and Ministerial responsibility so no-one can “pass the buck”.
  2. Allocate responsibilities and targets to ensure the desired and clearly stated outcomes are achieved within set time-frames.
  3. Ensure all cost savings achieved are ongoing, no one-off savings included in targets, by implementing guidelines, overseeing their implementation and educating management.
  4. Allocation of necessary resources (from those existing within government), setting applicable Key Performance Levels (KPL) and managing staff to complete set objectives and achieve all desired outcomes.
  5. All reports produced to be concise and written in plain English, with detailed analysis provided only when requested.
  6. The emphasis will be on outcomes, results, savings, improved service and efficiency not on unnecessary documentation, sub-committees or meetings.

This proposal would require minimal personnel for it would allocate additional resources from other Departments (not exceeding an agreed limit), and investigate and set goals, priorities and outcomes in simple terms.

Initial targets would be;

  1. Documented ongoing budgetary savings through reduced red tape via improved coordination, demarcation and processes.
  2. Improved accountability within government departments creating efficiencies and gains in timelines and processes.
  3. Improved ‘connection’ between wants and needs of the public and what government provides.
  4. Improved public service in all areas, with all agreed objectives (including time-frames) being met.
  5. Overall improved perception of government efficiency, thereby attracting a higher class of personnel and additional budget savings through their specialist knowledge and experience.
  6. Improved performance measurement and ongoing guidance to ensure operational efficiencies are maintained.

Is the above business-like approach really outside the capabilities of our elected officials? When every vote counts, decisions can be compromised.

This is an unfortunate fact since Democracy (or what we now know as Democracy) began.

It would therefore be prudent to appoint a successful business person to head such a Department with powers level with that of a Minister, to ensure success.

The saving of hundreds of thousands of dollars would result, if expedited correctly, an amount equal to hundreds of people not having to pay tax for a year. As the appointee would be on a contract they would have no fear of losing votes, leading to decisive and correct decisions being made.

Surely a winner for everyone, especially as the above savings figure is extremely conservative. In fact, savings of millions of dollars would be the set target, anything less being regarded as a failure, over the term of implementation (years).

But would politicians have the courage to give someone the power and authority to achieve this? Unfortunately I fear not, for once again they would wonder if introducing such a system might anger some minority groups and lose them votes. Or potentially cause disgruntled public servants to voice discontent. The right person for this role would take note of any such discontent and target them for removal.

Change is far easier to implement when you have new employees, who are unaware of ‘old’ procedures and are more willing to accept new ways of thinking.

The Decaying Morality of Big Business in Australia


Once upon a time…yes I am using a fairytale opening, because big business and morals in this country has now become a fairytale concept.

With the Royal Commission into Banks, who would be naive enough to think that all the other big publicly listed businesses actually do the right thing?

Why would they?

Their advertising says that you, the customer, are the most important thing to them when in fact it is hitting targets to gain bonuses. They couldn’t care less how they achieve their bonuses just as long as they receive them.

When was the last time you heard of a major Australian public company contributing to a crowdfunding campaign for someone in desperate need? I cannot remember one.

Small businesses have, however, and enjoy a far better image as a result.

The four major banks should have an ‘Humanitarian Budget’ which is allocated to the worthiest causes as judged by senior, or even middle management (remember them?). They can, and should, by any moral or ethical argument put some of the Billions of dollars in profit they make each year towards dozens, perhaps hundreds, of worthy causes. Their bottom line would barely be affected.

The one stupid, contrary argument (and unfortunately it is law) is that as publicly listed companies they must put shareholders interests first. In other words they must maximise shareholders’ dividend payments.

As mentioned they could easily give away $10M each and split it up into hundreds of worthy causes. However their shareholders would rightly ask “Hey, by law you have to put us first and by giving that money away I got $10 less in dividend income!”

With the law on their side unfortunately it is a circular argument, a Catch 22.

As long as that law remains as it stands, profits will always be put before helping people where public companies are concerned. Perhaps a ‘tweaking’ of the law is required?

Many large private companies (but still too few) are well known for their generosity. I argue it is because they decide what to spend their profits on, not a horde of needy shareholders.

At this stage I must put my own hand up, and reveal that I have owned shares and as a shareholder I lived for those dividends. Yes, I am two faced but at least I admit it and am ready to discuss badly needed change.

The big four banks might point to a number of charitable donations, but they seem to only contribute if they can place a huge logo on it, in order to achieve a return on investment for their marketing dollars. Yes, they call helping people in need “Marketing”.

Westpac used to have a lovely rescue helicopter flying around but only because it was saturated with their logo. Then they did some analysis and ROI (return on investment) calculations and ceased funding this rescue helicopter. Not because they couldn’t afford it, but because they need to put shareholders first followed closely by their bonuses (or is it the other way around?).

Putting bonuses ahead of helping people is disgusting and definitely unAustralian. Which is ironic because had they helped more families they would have received more favourable media coverage and may not be facing a damaging Royal Commission right now. It would definitely would change our perception of them.

But there is one final problem, and this is the biggest and by far the most difficult to understand. Almost everyone hates the big four banks, and will complain about them ad nauseum but they will not close their accounts and take their business elsewhere! The big four easily have 85% of the total market, so there is no incentive on them, at all, to change their ways. In fact it encourages them to behave badly because their customers do not leave them.

So, in the end, it is your own apathy and unwillingness to follow through on your complaints that makes them so comfortable. It also creates the perfect environment for corruption, because they know that no matter what they do their customers, by and large, will stay with them. So up go fees, down goes quality of service and contributing to the community.

Well done Australians, you reep what you sow.

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Build it…and they will NOT come


Before 2003 when Steve Blank wrote his now famous best seller, The Four Steps to the Epiphany, the dot com bust need not have happened.

His book became the basis of Lean Startups with his Customer Focused model. Before then it was all Product Focused, in that startups planned their product or service to the nth degree and ignored customers because “If you build it they would come.”

They didn’t.

Unfortunately their budgets went into developing and producing the best, shiniest widget they could possibly make.

There was just one problem – no customers. Their product was either too expensive, or didn’t have enough features or had too many.

It wasn’t their fault, this is the way they, and every other startup, were taught.

A precious few identified the one great but simple flaw in this way of thinking, in that the customer had not been consulted before the product had been produced. Until this ‘epiphany’ no-one had thought to ask the potential customer whether what they were building actually solved a problem for them, at a price they would be willing to pay.

One of the notable exceptions is Steve Jobs, who produced products we didn’t know we wanted until we saw them, and then we had to have them!

Until Steve Blank wrote his book pointing out this simple error, hundreds of millions of dollars had been wasted. True, some of them had successful IPO’s where the clever investors took their profit and ran before debtors came calling, but it was only a matter of time before the bust came after the emotionally charged boom finished.

Ignore potential customers at your peril.

And they did…and closed their doors.

Eric Reis wrote an excellent book nearly ten years later when the term ‘Lean Startup’ was born. He directly credits Steve Blank’s book as having been the catalyst for this.

Today one of the very first questions asked by potential investors, and on shows such as ‘Shark Tank’ is, “How many have you sold?” and “Have you researched the market to see if people want this and will buy it?”.

Strange as it may seem, but these questions are relatively new concepts to startups… except for the successful ones.

The idea of living on baked beans for six months to a year validating that your market exists, finding out what your customers want your widget to look like and how much they were prepared to pay for one (hopefully at a price point sufficient to make a profit), had only occasionally been considered.

Until Steve Blank wrote his book and out of it came the term ‘Lean Startup’.

It may seem obvious now that you must obtain customer validation before spending a fortune on manufacturing your goods and marketing them, but at the time of the dot com boom all investors wanted to know was; do you have a website and does it have ecommerce? That is, can customers buy online.

If the answers to both questions was yes then you received a rather large mountain of cash.

And ran out of it a year or so later.

So, if you are a budding entrepreneur, talk to potential customers before you build anything. Preferably, obtain contracts from one or three saying that if you make this product, and it does what they want it too at their acceptable price point, they would buy it. This way your first customer/s are already ‘in the bag’ and they can provide you with essential feedback as you make changes, fine tuning your product.

Knowing who your customers are, where they are and how you can reach them is critical these days. The dot com bust hurt a lot of people, thankfully most have learned from their mistakes and will not give you one cent if you cannot answer those simple questions regarding your customers. It also helps if you are already working with several customers, so you can receive their feedback and fine tune your product to make sure that when it is released it is successful.

Listen more than you talk, and do not spend copious amounts of money on your product until you know everything about your target customers.

Now we call this a Lean Startup, however I call it common sense.

Good luck to entrepreneurs everywhere, may your customers be eternally happy and grateful that you solved a real headache and seemingly insurmountable problem for them.

Or if you are Steve Jobs, or know where his crystal ball is, please ignore me entirely.

Craig Pickering, 31st March 2018

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