Sarah Snook at the private Parliamentary screening of n film The Dressmaker. Photo: Melissa Adams Sarah Snook (centre) alongside co-stars Judy Davis and Kate Winslet after her character’s “classic ugly duckling to swan” transformation in The Dressmaker. Photo: Supplied
Rosalie Ham’s surreal moment
“The ubiquitous Sarah Snook” was how the actor was introduced at a private parliamentary screening of her latest film The Dressmaker.
And it’s easy to see why.
In recent months it seems like she’s everywhere.
In August there was the film adaption of novel Holding the Man, this month she’ll be seen in ABC TV mini-series The Beautiful Lie and in November will return to the big screen in the much-anticipated biopic Steve Jobs.
The night before the Canberra screening, ahead of the film’s October cinema release, she’d been at the Sydney premiere of family film Oddball alongside one of her co-stars from The Dressmaker, Shane Jacobson.
All the roles seem worlds apart but, despite the genre-hopping, Snook says all have the same thing at their core – great acting ensembles.
“It’s a strange kind of time because it’s 18 months of work that’s all coming out at the same time and usually that doesn’t happen” she says.
In The Dressmaker, Snook shares the screen with Kate Winslet and Judy Davis among a cast that reads like the who’s who of n film and TV including Hugo Weaving and Liam Hemsworth.
While she admits working alongside the screen giants was daunting at times, it was also a valuable learning experience.
“It’s an amazing n cast and working with and meeting Kate was really wonderful,” she says.
Likewise the talent behind the scenes, including writer-director Jocelyn Moorhouse, co-writer P.J. Hogan, and cinematographer Don McAlpine, have had a hand in some of ‘s most iconic films including Muriel’s Wedding and Moulin Rouge!.
Snook believes The Dressmaker has the potential to join them.
Adapted from Rosalie Ham’s 2000 novel, the film follows Tilly Dunnage’s (Winslet) return to the dusty fictional outback town of Dungatar where she spent her childhood, far from the fashion houses of Paris where she has carved out a career as a dressmaker.
She’s there to look after her elderly mother Molly (Davis) and find out the truth about her past, but soon finds herself an in demand fashion designer for the local ladies.
As you would expect from a film with 1950s couture at its heart, the costumes are almost another character in themselves.
Snook likens the unlikely mix of flamboyant frocks in a quintessentially n landscape to The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
“It’s delicious to wear all those gowns … I think my favourite outfit was the wedding dress because I got to throw myself around in it, rolling down hills and jumping out windows and throwing myself off things, it was very fun,” she says.
But wearing a dress, corset, stockings and all the trappings on a shoot in central Victoria had its downside as summer neared.
“Kate [Winslet] was probably more under pressure because she was wearing all of that and also in the middle of a football field having to look glamorous,” Snook says.
“She does make it look easy though.”
Snook says her character Gertrude Pratt undergoes a “classic ugly-duckling-to-swan moment” when with the help of Tilly’s dressmaking transforms from a “dowdy much-overlooked store owner’s daughter” to attract the attention of the most eligible bachelor in town.
But there’s a twist on the old tale.
“What’s great with Gertrude is she doesn’t remain humble or remain true to her previous self, she turns out to be just as bad and greedy and foul as the other townsfolk,” Snook says with a laugh.
While she admits it can be hard to play a book character on screen, mostly she focused on making sure Gertrude fitted in with the ensemble.
“[She] is a little bit crazier in the book than in the screenplay so I tried to infuse a little bit of that into the film,” she says.
After The Dressmaker hits the screen, the Melbourne-based actor will be next seen in Steve Jobs.
She hopes it brings more opportunities in the US.
“I’m not sure about moving [there], but if I need to I will,” she says.
“I’m just trying to balance my time with here and over there at the moment.
“It’s just about building relationships in both countries and challenging myself to take some risks.”
In the meantime she’ll round out the year in a play at the Old Vic Theatre in Britain.
“I haven’t done stage for a couple of years and it’s been something I’ve wanted to get back to for a while,” she says.
“It’s so daunting but that’s part of the excitement as well.”
THE state government has released new plans for the ‘‘missing link’’ extension of the M1 motorway to the Pacific Highway at the same time as the NRMA warns that traffic congestion in the Hunter could soon rival Sydney if governments don’t fund improvements to the region’s road network.
On Wednesday the NRMA released its annual survey of the state’s worst roads, again identifying the Pacific Motorway as the Hunter’s most hated, the fifth year in a row it has received the dubious honour.
Newcastle motorists also identified Newcastle Road, Lookout Road, Minmi Road and Maitland Road as among the Hunter’s worst.
Stretches of the Pacific Highway rated poorly among the more than 7000 respondents who voted in the NRMA survey, and in the Hunter NRMA President Kyle Loades said the federal government to come to the table with funding for the Raymond Terrace bypass.
“The NRMA urges the n Government to fund the missing link between the M1 Pacific Motorway, south of John Renshaw Drive and the Raymond Terrace bypass,” he said.
It comes at the same time as the state roads and maritime service released an updated plan for the extension, part of a $200 million campaign promise made by roads minister Duncan Gay before this year’s state election.
Roads and Maritime have spent $3 million allocated in this year’s budget to revise the original plan for the bypass, with the new plan now including a more northern road alignment and including a bridge across the Hunter River floodplain to ‘‘minimise and avoid environmental impacts to protected wetlands’’.
The changes also include a new interchange at Tarro to improve traffic flow and connectivity, and changes to the Tomago Road interchange design to improve accessibility to and from Tomago Road.
Those changes include a new link road behind Tomago industrial area connecting to Old Punt Road and Tomago Road.
The route for the extension is already reserved in the Port Stephens Local Environmental Plan, and the council’s general manager Wayne Wallis welcomed the revised plan.
‘‘This is a project Council has been advocating for since initial planning and investigations began more than a decade ago because of the potential it has to drive economic development in Port Stephens,’’ he said.
‘‘One of the many advantages of Tomago, Heatherbrae and Raymond Terrace to prospective new industries is their proximity to major transport links, in particular air and road.’’
Mr Loades said a greater proportion of the fuel excise needed to be put back into the building and repair of roads.
“The Hunter is one of the population growth centres of the nation, yet earlier this year the NRMA found that local councils faced a combined $360 million backlog,” he said.
Melbourne City’s Bruno Fornaroli (left) and Robert Koren celebrate a goal. Photo: Getty-ImagesFor Melbourne City skipper Patrick Kisnorbo, it’s the C-words that will determine whether his team can build on its fourth-placed finish from last season and snare a championship and Asian Champions League place, the club’s ultimate aims this A-League campaign.
Consistency and competition are the words that encapsulate City’s future, the centre-back believes: if the club can find the first it has the personnel to deliver on the pitch.
If the squad strengthening that has taken place in the off-season leads to greater competition for places, and thus improved on-field performances, then City will be well placed to improve on its 2014-15 efforts, he says.
“The expectation is always high, but for us it’s about improving the consistency game by game from last year to this year. We did well last year but it left a bit of a bad taste in our mouth the way we finished [a 3-0 semi-final loss to cross-town rivals and eventual champions Melbourne Victory] so we really want to go better.
“We have had another year together, we have been working on our consistency a lot in training and I think with the signings we have brought in it shows which path we want to take this year. It’s a strong pointer to the way Melbourne City wants to go.”
Coach John van ‘t Schip has presided over a huge change and brought in virtually a new team of players, including the likes of Premier League veterans Thomas Sorenson, an experienced Danish international goalkeeper, and Aaron Hughes, a Northern Ireland international who, in the twilight of his career, is close to making the European Championship finals with his country.
Their addition, along with a host of others headed by Uruguayan striker Bruno Fornaroli, will lead to much greater competition for places.
Kisnorbo will have to fight off the challenge from Hughes and youngster Connor Chapman to seal a starting spot, but he argues that while it makes life uncomfortable at times it is to the overall benefit of the team.
“The coach has brought in competition in every place and that makes us work harder as a squad. Individuals want to keep their place in the team and that has to be good for the playing group and the squad as a whole.”
While some have raised eyebrows at the signings of Hughes and Sorenson, Kisnorbo, who spent a decade overseas, much of it in the Scottish Premier League and the English Championship, says such views are wide of the mark.
While players of their ilk can contribute on the pitch they can also offer a huge amount off it as well, something that is essential if City wants to iron out the in-and-out nature of the performances which cost them so dear last season.
“They are natural-born leaders who played in the biggest league in the world. They have vast experience and that definitely improves our squad. We put pressure on ourselves as a playing group, and to set standards for ourselves as a club. We want to bring a winning culture, and we are doing that step by step. These sorts of players come from that background, they are mentally strong and can help the younger boys develop that.”
He is also looking forward to the contribution that can be made by Fornaroli, who has played in his native Uruguay, Argentina, Greece and Italy before moving to .
Last season City used Josh Kennedy as their main target, but the tall Socceroo striker struggled with injury and the demands of the game finally took its toll and he retired.
Fornaroli is an all together different player, smaller, quicker and more mobile.
“We have to adapt to what we have up front. Bruno is not the tallest, but we will be doing our best to accommodate him and play to his strengths. There are others there who he can play off like Aaron Mooy. Mooysy has been great in the past year.
“But we have a squad that allows him to do that. Hopefully that continues. We have got a great work ethic amongst our squad, people like Mooysy and Robbie Koren are given the scope to express themselves and score goals.”
City played Sydney away in their first game last season too – a 1-1 draw in which David Villa scored the equalising goal – so Kisnorbo is well aware of the challenge Graham Arnold’s team offers.
“Sydney have brought in some big signings themselves. It’s always a difficult start when you are away in the first game of the season. Both teams will have hopes and expectations high. We just want to focus on our performance and hopefully the result will then come and we can get off to a good start. We will definitely improve as the season goes on as our injured players get back to fitness.”
No Business in Abuse executive director Shen Narayanasamy speaks at a rally outside Transfield’s head office last month about human rights violations in immigration detention centres. Photo: Eddie JimAnti-corporate activists are much like minor parties, in that they see their role as stirring up the major corporate businesses just as minor parties stir up the major political parties. One recent case of such activism, an adjunct of broader refugee and asylum-seeker politics, has been the campaign against Transfield Services, the company which has the $1 billion contract to manage government detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island.
The activists, led by No Business in Abuse, an offshoot of GetUp!, have had some recent success in pressuring superannuation funds to divest their investment – that is, sell their shares – in Transfield. Some industry super funds, like HESTA, have announced their intention to join the movement to divest.
Now Transfield soon to be known as BroadSpectrum, is fighting back by seeking the support of the wider business community for its position. The newspaper of the business community, The n Financial Review, has thrown its support behind comments by Transfield chief Diane Smith-Gander in asking for “the investment community generally to stand up against this activist warfare”. The military language echoes that of the previous Abbott government, which felt it lacked such business support on many issues, including budget reform.
Smith-Gander’s position is that activist criticism is both unwarranted and misplaced. If activists have concerns and want to change government policy on detention centres, she says, “they should engage directly with the government”. That would be futile of course, as Smith-Gander recognises, because the detention centre policy that Transfield administers has the support of the government and the opposition. The parallel with party politics is clear.
Transfield is interested only in the business case for the management of the detention centres and believes that the business should not be politicised in any way. Furthermore, Smith-Gander says her company has no influence, and apparently wishes to have no influence, over government detention policy. That is a line between politics and business, policy and administration, which is very difficult to draw, especially as Transfield is very close to the government through its previous chairman, Tony Shepherd. However, the Financial Review supports this view by saying politics and the market should not mix.
No Business in Abuse executive director Shen Narayanasamy, a GetUp! staff member, organised a protest against Transfield’s managing director holding a non-executive director position on the board of energy company AGL by having the issue raised at its annual meeting. That shows that this type of politics cannot be narrowly contained.
There have now been decades of activism against companies as part of wider political campaigns. Activists have fought for the right to speak at AGMs of big companies to have their voices heard. Ethical investment has become an industry in itself for individuals who don’t want to be associated with industries, like uranium mining and armaments manufacturing, that run counter to their personal beliefs. Such strategies have led to organisations like universities and orders of nuns taking an interest in work previously left to their accountants and business managers. Those managers had previously just been tasked with getting the best possible financial return on the organisations’ investments. Within many organisations those days have now gone, much to the surprise of the business and investment communities.
The argument often used by business, in this case Transfield, is that its activity is lawful, not just in a legalistic sense but in the active sense of working closely with the government, but this line has lost its persuasiveness. Cigarette and tobacco companies used the same argument for years. It proved to be ineffective. Armaments manufacturers do the same and operate under the protection of governments around the world.
It is also not enough to claim that business is apolitical when it clearly gets involved in politics when it wants to. Businesses winning government tenders have a conflict of interest in the politics of government policy in their field. They can’t wash their hands of the legitimacy of that policy.
Like minor parties, anti-corporate activists have the game stacked against them. They have some leverage and some financial resources. However, in the hyped-up language of warfare used by those who editorialise against them, they are vastly outgunned.
The main problem that these activists face is that the investment industry is a game for big players. That is why activists seek an entree through superannuation funds rather than directly through their own investments. Otherwise the managers of the big superannuation funds are totally removed from all those ordinary citizens whose lifetime savings they manage and whose interests they claim to represent.
The AGMs of big companies are usually as tightly controlled as the annual conferences of the major political parties. Anyone who is trying to inject an alternative view at a company AGM is as unlikely to succeed as someone trying to challenge the big factions from the floor of a party conference. They have next to no hope. Positions on boards in big companies are like safe seats in the major parties. They are all stitched up.
That is why talk of anti-corporate activists misusing corporate democracy is hollow. They are not playing the corporate game as those in control would like it to be played. Rather they have found some loopholes which enable them to make some noise.
Public opinion will be the ultimate guide. The status quo will generally prevail in politics and business because big parties and big business have the passive support of the majority of the community. But it still does them good to be held accountable for “business as usual”.
John Warhurst is an emeritus professor of political science at the n National University. [email protected]