The S&P/ASX 200 index on Monday threatened to break below 5700 points, the lower end of a rough 100-point trading range in which the benchmark measure has been trapped for three months, but ended the session off 33 points, or 0.6 per cent, at 5709.

Weighing heaviest were the major banks, as news of a inquiry by the prudential regulator into CBA’s compliance failures around money laundering heaped further pressure on the country’s largest lender. CBA dropped 1.3 per cent, Westpac 1.8 per cent, ANZ 0.5 per cent and NAB 0.7 per cent.

Qantas, too, dragged on the market as a broker downgraded the stock and the airline announced a management reshuffle. The shares fell 5.7 per cent.

The upward momentum in miners stalled on Monday as some of the heat came out of metals markets and the euphoria of recent bumper profit results faded.

Fortescue ended the day down 1.7 per cent, while Rio Tinto lost 1.2 per cent. Energy names powered higher, however, as oil prices advanced, which helped the sector rise 0.7 per cent – the only corner of the ASX to make gains.

Woodside Petroleum moved up 0.5 per cent and Caltex moved up 1.7 per cent.

LendLease was the biggest name to present earnings on Monday, with earnings season winding down this week. The property group advanced 0.6 per cent. Among the day’s best performers in the top 200 were lesser-known names Reliance Worldwide and Nanosonics, which jumped 8.9 per cent and 2.4 per cent, respectively.

As earnings season winds down, strategists are trying to get a handle on overall performance and in two important ways this has been the best reporting season in years.

First off, share prices are moving higher. This fact should be getting a lot more attention, JP Morgan Aussie equity strategist Jason Steed says.

“The improving momentum of results season is reflected in the fact that 123 stocks in the ASX 200 are up so far in August, which is the highest rate for five years,” Mr Steed writes.

Credit Suisse strategist Hasan Tevfik has identified another under-reported but positive signal to emerge this month: top 200 companies have guided to higher capital expenditure for the year ahead for only the third reporting period since 2012, which coincides with the end of the mining boom. Stock watchQantas

Qantas shares suffered a sharp reversal on Monday, dropping 5.7 per cent to $5.68 after JP Morgan analysts cut the stock to “underperform” from “neutral”. The broker’s analysts said they estimate the airline will need domestic fares to rise 10 per cent in perpetuity to justify the current share price, a prospect they said “seems optimistic to us”. Qantas released its results late last week and “segmentally, Qantas domestic was a highlight,” the analysts wrote. They added “the biggest disappointment for investors was likely the 36.1 per cent decline in earnings from Qantas International”. Qantas has been a standout for investors this year – the stock ended 2016 trading at $3.33, making for a gain of 70 per cent in 2017. MoversHurricane Harvey

Gasoline prices hit two-year highs on Monday as massive floods caused by Hurricane Harvey forced refineries across the US Gulf Coast to shut down. In crude oil markets, Brent futures, the global benchmark, were pushed up by pipeline blockades in Libya, but US crude futures eased. Spot prices for US gasoline futures surged 7 per cent to a peak of $US1.7799 per gallon, the highest level since late July 2015. About 22 per cent, or 379,000 barrels per day (bpd), of Gulf production was idled due to the storm, according to the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. Euro

The euro extended its gains on Monday to reach a two-and-a-half-year high against the greenback, after the European Central Bank president over the weekend held back from talking down the currency and as markets worried about the impact of Tropical Storm Harvey on the US economy. The euro was 0.1 per cent higher at $1.1929 after rising to $1.1966, its highest since January 2015.The common currency had already surged about 1 per cent on Friday after ECB boss Mario Draghi did not touch upon the euro’s recent strength at the Jackson Hole conference. Wages trough

Consistently weaker-than-expected wage outcomes have been a “key driver” for the Reserve Bank of ‘s “persistent GDP downgrades and rate cut cycle,” UBS economists say. But this phenomenon may be on the wane, as the UBS economists now see” more substantial reasons to finally ‘call the trough’ of wages growth”. They note that wages growth “bounced” to 2.2 per cent over the June quarter, while better business conditions and a tighter labour market should see expansion in average earnings lift from record lows. Most important is the recent mandated increase in minimum wages, they say. Wanda

Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group has said a report claiming its billionaire chairman, Wang Jianlin, was prevented from leaving the country was “groundless” and that it planned to take legal action. Taiwanese news site Bowen Press reported on the weekend that Mr Wang, who was with his family, was stopped from leaving Tianjin airport on Friday and had been detained for a few hours. Wanda, which has spent billions buying entertainment and sports companies in recent years, has become a target in China’s clampdown on capital outflows.

GIG OF THE WEEK: Grinspoon have been tearing up the country on their 20-year Guide To Better Living tour and it’s the Cambridge Hotel’s turn on Thursday.MUSIC5 SawyersFriday, AK Morris. Saturday, DJ Perry Carter. Sunday, The New Cool.

48 Watt Street Sunday, Melody Moko, Fanny Lumsden.

Adamstown Uniting Church Saturday, Centre For Hope benefit ft. One Voice Mob,John Queripel.

Anna Bay TavernSaturday, Zac and Ben.

Hotel CessnockSaturday, Outerphase.

Bar Petite Friday, Dean Kyrwood. Saturday, GW Freebird Duo.

Battlesticks BarThursday,John Larder.Thursday,Nick Connors.Friday,John Larder.Saturday,Audie Franks.

Bay Hotel Saturday, Project X.

Beach Hotel Friday, Battle of the Bands. Saturday, Trataka.Sunday, The V Dubs.

Bellbird HotelSaturday, Todd Schmoo.Sunday, Ashley Knight.

Belmont 16sFriday, Mr James Band, Greg Bryce. Saturday, Loko, Melody Feder. Sunday, The Blue Water Cowboys.

Belmont HotelSaturday, The Way.

Belmore Hotel Saturday, Evergreen.

Beresfield Bowling Club Friday, Sundays Record. Saturday, The Years. Sunday, Red Dirt Country Band.

The Black Malabar Saturday,ClosetoForever.

Blackbutt Hotel Friday, Tom Quigley. Saturday, Hornet.

The BradfordFriday, Latch Duo.Saturday, The Lineburners.

Cambridge Hotel Thursday, Grinspoon, Hockey Dad. Friday, Waax, Fritz, Voodoo Youth, Belle Badi. Saturday, Dave Stuart, Rinse & Wax, Girl Friday, Jake Small, Ben & Tomek.

Cardiff RSL Club Friday, Frick N Orson.

Catho PubSaturday, Lee Rolfe.Sunday, Viagro.

Central Charlestown Leagues Club Friday, Tom Christie. Saturday, Hayden Johns.

Central HotelStroudSaturday, Darren Rolling Keys Band.

Cessnock Leagues Club Saturday, The Levymen.

Charlestown Bowling Club Friday, Deuce. Saturday, Jackson Halliday.

Clarendon Hotel Friday, Joel Oakhill. Saturday, Kim.

Club KotaraSaturday, Viagro.

Club LemonTree Friday, The Remedy. Saturday, Pistol Pete.

Club Maitland City Friday, Kevin O’Hara.

Colliery InnFriday, Arley Black.

Commercial HotelBoolarooFriday, Junior & Luana.

Commercial Hotel MorpethFriday, Sami.Saturday, Reggie Sinclair.

The Commons Friday, Declan Kelly, Gambirra.

Country Club Hotel Shoal Bay Saturday, Phonic.

Criterion Hotel Carrington Saturday, Roxy. Sunday, Mick Jones.

Criterion Hotel WestonSaturday, Ash Mountain.

Customs HouseFriday,Lauren Arms. Saturday, Glen Harrison. Sunday, Arley Black.

Cypress Lakes Friday, Roxy. Saturday, Anyerin.

D’Albora MarinaSunday, Bonny Rai.

Denman HotelSunday, Tim Usher.

Duke Of WellingtonFriday, Bobby C.Saturday, Redline Duo.

East Maitland Bowling Club Friday, All Access 80s. Saturday, Rock Factor. Sunday, Roxy.

East’s Leisure & Golf ClubSaturday, Matt McLaren.

The Edwards Saturday, Foemen.

Exchange Hotel Friday, Evergreen. Saturday, Sundays Record.

Family Hotel MaitlandFriday, Brett O Malley.

Finnegans Saturday, Steve Zappa.

FogHorn Brewhouse Friday, James Osborn. Saturday, Ryan Daley.

Gallipoli Legion ClubThursday,The Rehab Brass Band.

Gateshead TavernFriday, Allstar.

George Tavern Friday, Jordan Fleming. Saturday, Mardmax.

Grain StoreSaturday,BethGleeson.Sunday,JJ King.

Great Northern Hotel Teralba Saturday, Karen O’Shea.

Greenroof Hotel Friday, Chad Shuttleworth.

Greta Workers ClubFriday, Pat Vs Cat.

Gunyah Hotel Saturday,Shooting Molly.Sunday, The Smarts.

​Hamilton Station HotelFriday, Direct Hit! (US), The Decline, Ebolagoldfish,Hack the Mainframe. Saturday,Young Wolf,Endless,Rage,Brainfreeze,Shut Out.

Harrigan’s Pokolbin Friday, Zane Penn. Saturday, 4 Letter Word. Sunday, Troy Kemp.

Hexham Bowling Club Friday, Tim Harding. Saturday, Blue Water Cowboys.

Honeysuckle Hotel Friday, Phonic. Saturday, Rocket, Hummingbirds.Sunday, Karen O’Shea, CrocQ.

Hotel CessnockFriday, Georgina Grimshaw.Saturday, Gunner.

Hotel Delany Friday, Gen-X. Saturday, Big Night Out.

Hotel Jesmond Friday, Ryan Daley.

Jewells Tavern Saturday, 2GoodReasons.

The Junction Hotel Friday, Jordan Fleming. Saturday, Frets With Benefits.

Kent HotelFriday, State FX. Saturday, X&Y. Sunday, Greg Bryce Band.

Lake Macquarie Tavern Friday, Emily Smith.

Lake Macquarie Yacht ClubFriday, Frets With Benefits.Saturday, Sami.Sunday,Samantha Broadbent.

Lakeside Village TavernSaturday, Loose Bazooka.

Lambton Park HotelFriday,Nicko.Saturday,The Illustrators.

Lass O’GowrieThursday,Scumdrops,Ride For Rain,Govv. Friday,Pornskas,Plan C,The Lockhearts.Saturday,Last Exposures,The Fossicks,Rachel Maria Cox.Sunday,E4444e.

Lizotte’sThursday,Avondale School Showcase. Friday,Girls on the Radio. Saturday, Jeff Martin,Matt Boylan Smith. Sunday,Creedence Clearwater Revival Show. Monday,Kotara High School showcase. Tuesday,Cardiff High School HSC showcase.

Lochinvar HotelSunday, Deborah Sinclair.

Lucky Hotel Friday, KR Duo. Saturday, Bandditts.

Maitland Leagues Club Friday,Triple Zero.

Mark HotelFriday, Anyerin. Saturday, The Rumour. Sunday, Shivoo.

Mary Ellen HotelFriday, Tailgate Drive. Saturday, Misbehave. Sunday, Mark Wells.

Maryland Tavern Friday, The Andy Show. Saturday, Frick N Orson.

Mavericks On The Bay Friday, Mike Vee. Saturday, Kaylah Anne. Sunday, Matt McLaren.

Mavericks On Darby Friday, Kaylah Anne. Saturday, Ashley Knight.

Mayfield Ex-Services Friday, Mardmax. Saturday, The Leadbellies.

Mezz Bar at Wallsend DiggersFriday,The Big Bang.Saturday,Viper Creek Band.Sunday,Steve Edmonds Band.

Morriset Country ClubSunday, Darren Rolling Keys.

Muree Golf ClubFriday, Deborah Sinclair.

Murray’s Brewery Sunday, Brien McVernon.

Nag’s Head Hotel Friday, Brien McVernon. Saturday, Mick Jones.

Neath Hotel Saturday, Witchery.

Nelson Bay Bowling ClubFriday, Layth Gunn.

Nelson Bay Diggers Friday, Snape & Son Duo.Saturday, Katie N Feff.

Nelson Bay Golf Club Sunday, Beth Gleeson.

Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club Sunday, Marissa +1.

Northern Star HotelFriday,Rooney West.Saturday,Ethan Latsinos.

Pedens CessnockFriday, Angie.Saturday, Shivoo.

Pelican RSL ClubSaturday, Vortex.

Pippis At The Point Friday,Matt McLaren, Kim & Mik. Saturday, Chad Shuttleworth. Sunday, Ben Travis.

Potters Brewery Friday, Max Jackson.

The PourhouseSaturday, Duncan Woods.

Premier Hotel Saturday, Phonic. Sunday, The Years.

Prince of Wales HotelFriday,Muto.Saturday,Nicko.

Queens Wharf Hotel Friday, Michael Muchow, Paparazzi. Saturday, Matt Semmens, The Remedy. Sunday, Fish Fry, Wharf Life.

Racecourse HotelSaturday, Phil McKnight.

Railway Hotel CessnockFriday, Pete McCredie.

Raymond Terrace Bowling Club Sunday, Kaylah Anne.

Royal Hotel SingletonSunday, Jackson Broadway.

Royal Motor Yacht Club TorontoSunday, Kelly Hope.

Rutherford Hotel Saturday, Matt Scullion.

Seabreeze HotelFriday, Viagro. Saturday, Triple Zero. Sunday, Melody Feder.

Shenanigans at the ImperialFriday,Ethan Latsinos.Saturday,Codi Kaye.Sunday,John Larder.

Shortland Hotel Friday, Mick Jones. Saturday, Russell Snape.

Small BallroomFriday, Hawthorne Heights,River Oaks,Sienna Skies, Mark Rose. Saturday,Troldhaugen.

Soldiers Point Bowling ClubFriday, Mark Lee. Saturday, Dreams Trio.

South Newcastle Leagues Club Saturday, Jim Overend.

Spinning Wheel Hotel Friday, Beau Hatch.

Stag and Hunter Hotel Friday,The Royal Artillery, Fight Ibis. Saturday, Chase The Sun. Sunday,Slide Milligan,Red City,The Pits,Stone Sun,Thomas Macokatic.

Station Hotel Kurri KurriSaturday, Big Pete.

Stockton RSLClub Saturday, Be Bop A Lula.

Sunnyside Tavern Saturday, Bonny Rai.

Swansea RSLClubSaturday, Dr Love.

Tanilba Bay Golf ClubFriday, Kelly Hope.Sunday, Georgina Grimshaw.

Tea Gardens HotelSaturday, Arley Black.

Tilligerry RSLFriday, The Hitpit.Saturday, David McCredie.

Toronto Diggers Saturday, John Noble.

Toronto Workers Saturday, Wicked. Sunday, Max Jackson.

Town Hall Hotel Saturday, Michael Hawke.

Victoria Hotel Hinton Saturday, Mike Vee.

Wangi Wangi RSLClubSunday, Sami Cooke.

Warners At The Bay Friday, Brendan Murphy. Saturday, Zane Penn.

Warners Bay Hotel Thursday, Bow Wow.

Westfield Kotara Saturday,Marissa,BobbyC,HowardShearman. Sunday, Michael Muchow.​

Wests New Lambton Thursday, Angamus. Friday, Tre Soul Trio.Saturday, Cruzers. Tuesday, Angamus.

West Wallsend Workers Club Friday, Karen O’Shea.

Wickham Park HotelFriday,Milestones.Saturday, Plastic Voyage,Lamplighters. Sunday, Mason Rack Band.

Windale Gateshead Bowling Club Friday, Johnny & The Rockets.

Windsor Castle Hotel Saturday, Gareth Hudson.

MOVIES47 Metres Down(M)Two sisters vacationing in Mexico are trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean. With less than an hour of oxygen left and great white sharks circling nearby, they must fight to survive.

A Dog’s Purpose (PG)A dog looks to discover his purpose in life over the course of several lifetimes and owners. (Lake Cinema)

A Quiet Passion(PG)The story of American poet Emily Dickinson from her early days to her later years as a reclusiveartist. (Regal)

Ali’s Wedding (M)After a reckless lie sets off a catastrophic chain of events, Ali, the son of a Muslim cleric, finds himself caught between his sense of duty to his family and following his heart.

All For One(M)United by their renegade spirit and a determination to win against substantial odds, these riders take on the international circuit.

All Saints (PG) When a group of Burmese refugees join the congregation, the pastor of a failing Anglican church attempts to aid them by planting crops.

Annabelle: Creation(MA)A nun and several girls becomethe target of adollmaker’s possessed creation, Annabelle.

American Made(MA)A pilot lands work for the CIA and as a drug runner in the south during the 1980s.

Cars 3(G)Lightning McQueen sets out to prove to a new generation of racers that he’s still the best race car in the world.

Despicable Me 3(PG) A child star from the 1980s, hatches a scheme for world domination.

Dunkirk(M)Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire, Canada, and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

Gifted (M)Frank, a single man raising his child prodigy niece Mary, is drawn into a custody battle with his mother. (Tower)

Girls Trip (MA)When four lifelong friends travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival, sisterhoods are rekindled, wild sides are rediscovered, and there’s enough dancing, drinking, brawling, and romancing to make the big easy blush.

Hampstead(PG) American widow Emily Walters feels like she is drifting aimlessly through life. Then she meets Donald.

Logan Lucky(M)Two brothers attempt to pull off a heist during a NASCAR race in North Carolina.

Madame (M)Adding a little spice to a waning marriage, Anne and Bob, a wealthy and well-connected American couple, move into a manor house in romantic Paris. (Tower)

Maudie (PG)An arthritic Nova Scotia woman works as a housekeeper while she hones her skills as an artist and eventually becomes a beloved figure in the community. (Tower)

The Dark Tower(M) The last Gunslinger battles the Man In Blackto prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard(MA)The world’s top bodyguard gets a new client, a hit man who must testify at the International Court of Justice. They must put their differences aside and work together to make it to the trial on time.

Wind River (MA)An FBI agent teams with the town’s veteran game tracker to investigate a murder that occurred on a Native American reservation. (Tower)

THEATRE2017: A Law OddityLaw students find themselves attacked by space aliens, and forced toencounter people including Donald Trump and Bill Shorten, in Newcastle University’sannual law revue. University of Newcastle Law Students Association, at the Civic Playhouse,Newcastle. Friday and Saturday, at 7.30pm.

Inherit the WindA legal battle over teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution raisesquestions on freedom of information; comedy-drama by Jerome Lawrence and Robert EdwinLee, based on a United States trial. Newcastle Theatre Company, at the NTC Theatre,Lambton. Wednesday, Friday, Saturday at 8pm, until September 9; plus 2pmSaturday.

The Crucifer of BloodA woman engages detective Sherlock Holmes to investigate thethreats her father and two others face over a stolen treasure chest in India; comedy-drama byPaul Giovanni. DAPA Theatre, Hamilton. Friday at 7.30pm and Saturday at 2pmand 7.30pm, until September 9.

The Game’s AfootAn actor who has played Sherlock Holmes throughout his career sets upan investigation at a Christmas party after someone tries to kill him; lively comedy-drama byKen Ludwig. Theatre on Brunker, at St Stephen’s Anglican Church Hall, Adamstown. Fridayand Saturday, dinner and show at 7pm, show only at 8pm (final dates).

The Merchant of VeniceA money lender demands a pound of flesh from a borrower if theman can’t repay him, with events making the financial return unlikely; darkly humorousShakespeare comedy. Bell Shakespeare, at the Civic Theatre, Newcastle. Friday, at 11am and7.30pm.

Canberra universities provide students with strong job prospects and better starting salaries, according to new analysis.

The Good Universities Guide ranked the n National University and the University of Canberra slightly above the national average for starting salary and full-time employment.

ANU and University of Canberra graduates earned an average starting salary of $58,800 and $58,000 respectively, above the national average of $56,000. Overall, 70 per cent of graduates found full-time employment within four months of graduation.

Both ACT universities were ranked higher than Group of Eight universities University of Western , University of Melbourne and the University of Adelaide.

The ANU received five stars for student demand, staff qualifications, student-staff ratio and student retention, meaning it ranked among the top 20 per cent.

The university also received five stars across four fields of study for full-time employment, including computing and information systems, medicine, psychology, and science and mathematics.

It had the nation’s highest-qualified academic staff with 95 per cent of employees masters or PhD-qualified.

The University of Canberra was recognised as ranking well in starting salaries, achieving five stars in five fields.

Seven fields of study – communications, computing and information systems, creative arts, health services and support, nursing, psychology and rehabilitation – received five stars on measures ranging from teaching quality to starting salary.

Good Education Group’s data and analytics head Ross White said the ACT had emerged as “a bed of entrepreneurial activity”.

“There has been significant investment in technology for the future of work, which is driving the state’s start-up boom,” he said.

‘I only saw him last night’: Devastated mate recalls final beer with Dean Mercer Friends of former Ironman champion Dean Mercer console each other outside Kurrawa Surf Club on the Gold Coast, Monday. Photo: AAP

Friends of former Ironman champion Dean Mercer console each other outside Kurrawa Surf Club on the Gold Coast on Monday. Photo: AAP

Dean Mercer with Reen in 2001.

Dean Mercer with wife Reen in 2005.

TweetFacebookScroll to the bottom of the story to read tributes to DeanLittle did he know at the time but a chance meeting at Sydney Airport on Sunday afternoon was an opportunity for former Ironman Jonathan Crowe to hug his great mate and sporting rival Dean Mercer and say goodbye.

Crowe was about to fly to Melbourne when he bumped into his lifelong mate who he hadn’t seen for several years.

A man is seen putting a screen up at the location where former Ironman champion Dean Mercer died at Markeri Street, Mermaid Waters on the Gold Coast. Photo: AAP

The two sport stars had gone head-to-head in the surf since they were five-year-old Nippers in different Wollongong surf clubs. On Sunday, they enjoyed a couple of beers and shared many memories.

Read more: Dean Mercer dies in Gold Coast crash

Mercer, Crowe and Darren Mercer competed for national and world championships in a golden era for Illawarra and n surf life saving. It was a time when Wollongong competitors were regularly contending for state, national and world championships – often against each other.

But despite never giving a quarter in competition or training, Crowe described Mercer as having a big heart and a great sense of humour.

At the airport Mercer told Crowe he had been in Thirroul on the weekend for a funeral. They bumped into each other just before 5pm and after their conversation Mercer, his wife Reen and their four boys hopped on a plane to fly back to the Gold Coast.

Dean Mercer with wife Reen in 2005.

At 9.30 on Monday morning Crowe was reflecting on how great it had been to catch-up again when he took a call from Phil Clayton, who also lives on the Gold Coast, telling him the news. Crowe couldn’t believe it. Just the night before he had talked to Mercer about another friend who had died recently and how you never know when your time is up.

“I am absolutely devastated. I only saw him last night. We had a few beers and a laugh. He said he had been in Wollongong for the funeral of his grandmother. And that the whole family were there and they spent the weekend together,” Crowe said.

First Darren Mercer, second Dean Mercer and third Jonathon Crowe at a Nutrigrain Ironman Grand Prix.

The two competed against each other for 25 to 30 years and at the elite level during a golden era of the n Ironman competition in the ’90s.

“We competed against each other since we were about five and six. In the Nippers I competed against Darren and Dean,” Crowe said.

“For a long time when we were in the Nutri-Grain competition we trained together and we were in the same swim squad since were were about eight. Probably for 20 years we trained together in the same swim squad with Rick McKeon and Ron McKeon.

‘’We travelled together and trained together on the skis at North Wollongong, and even on the boards. The surf club community in the Illawarra has always been tight-knit and we all trained together a lot of the time. We were in and out of each other’s pockets for a long time.”

They stayed in contact when Dean moved to Queensland although had not seen each other for a while.

“When he came down for the funeral of Rick McKeon I saw him then. But when I walked into the Qantas Club there he was last night with Reen and the boys.

Dean Mercer with his Olympic statue.

‘’I just bumped into him and thought what are the chances of that. We sat there and had a laugh for about an hour. We had a couple of beers and talked about old times and lots of things including how life changes. Then when I got the news this morning it was devastating. I feel so much for Reen and those four beautiful young boys. I had a good chat to them.”

Crowe then gave Mercer a hug and told him how good it was to see him. He described his friend as an amazing person and a tough competitor who never gave an inch.

“He was tenacious. He was an amazing athlete. He wasn’t the biggest guy in the world but he had the biggest ticker and the most determination. I remember even when we were training he wouldn’t let you get in front. I would try and take the lead to share the load even in races when he and I would be up the front. On the surf skis he would be leading and I would be sitting on his wash and I would put in a bit of an effort to move up in front of him so he could sit on my wash and have a bit of a rest. But he would never let me. He always had to have his nose in front.”

Thiroul ironmen Dean and Darren Mercer.

Crowe said behind the scenes way from the racing Mercer got up to a few humorous things and liked to play practical jokes on people.

“He has a great sense of humour and was always laughing in the showers and change rooms where the banter starts after training and after races,” he said.

“He was always funny. He is someone I have known for a long long time and I am just really really shocked that he is gone now. We were always up against one another. He started a little bit earlier than I. And once I finished uni we were competing professionally against each other for a long time.”

Brother Darren Mercer also lives in Queensland as a coach at Noosa. Crowe recalls how the two brothers always had a good rivalry in the surf. They often finished one and two in races and titles with the results going fairly evenly each way. Other n Ironmen knew they had a good race if they beat one or both of the Mercers.

Brothers Dean and Darren Mercer at Thirroul Beach Surf Club in 2007.

“They pushed each other. Their mum and dad are also amazing. I feel for Maureen and John Mercer, his wife Reen and those four beautiful children. When I was younger I used to stay in Thirroul with his mum and dad. And the years we were doing the Nutri-Grain we were spending six to eight hours a day together six to seven days a week,” Crowe said.

It was a time when Wollongong competitors not only raced together but trained together and often finished on the podium together.

“They (Dean and Darren) were the measure for me because they were from the Illawarra and they were the best,” he said.

“Through them surf clubs in the Illawarra became so strong and we had some many champions come out of the area such as Phil Clayton and Rhys Drury and Lilli Miller and so many others such as Wes Berg. The Mercers really started that in the Illawarra and it continued as a result of them for a long long time. We were very dominant at a national and state level.”

Crowe said all those Illawarra competitors have always been rivals in the water but have a bond and a friendship that would never disappear after spending so much time together.

And Dean Mercer was someone everyone looked up to and saw as a benchmark for the level they would need to achieve if they were going to win state, national and world championships.

He said he had known and competed against him for more than 40 years and will always appreciate the influence Mercer had on his own career.

“For six or seven days a week we were in each others pockets and pushing each other. I appreciate what happened during those years so much. It is tragic that he has gone. I feel so sad for his boys. It is so tragic he has died at 47 years of age and with young children that is even more tragic. He was taken way too soon.”

RIP Stumpy Evan Thomas, Bulli

Rest in peace Dean. Sending our condolences to family and friends. Our prayers are with you at this sad time.Bennie family, Balgownie

A true legend and inspiration to so many gone to soonAnthony Newbery, Bridgeman Downs

Dean was my training partner with Ron McKeon in the late 90’s. He was the inspiration for my swimming career which pushed me onto the international scene and a Commonwealth Games Gold medal. Your lessons in motivation and pure determination shaped me into the international athlete I was and the person I am today. Nearly 6hrs on from learning of his passing; I’m still in shock however so thankful of the friendship and the lessons learnt from one of the greatest athletes of our time.Condolences to your Reen, the boys and your extended family. I’ll miss seeing your friendly face at Aussies next year. Rest in peace. You are a true legend!Jason Cram, Woonona

I remember when Darren and Dean were doing laps at Austi pool while John and the Austinmer Otters were having their winter swims. That would have been 35 years ago I guess. My condolences to the family at this tragic time.Alyn Vincent, Thirroul

Christchurch oh my god so sad Shirlette Williams, Christchurch

I grew up seeing the Mercer boys on the back (and front!) page of the Mercury every weekend in summer. They were part of the Wollongong furniture. I remember when Dean came of age, eclipsing Darren, it was history in the making. Dean was the quintessential local hero and will be always. My condolences to all Dean’s family and friends.Claudia, North Wollongong

To the Mercer Family, Deans wife & boys, thinking of you all at this very sad difficult time, how quickly someone can be taken away from us. Amanda, Corrimal

Rip dean your were a great champion and will be sadly missed my sincere condolences to his family fly high mate xDannielle rath, Port Kembla

You will be missed Dean Thinking of your family gone to soonJudeth and Michael Mcdon, Woonona

My deep condolences to Deans family. We have all lost an Illawarra iconGeorge Pastrovic, Mt Warrigal

The elephant in the room: India’s infamous bureaucracy.I’m starting to suspect the federal government – of whatever colour – has lost its ability to control its own spending.

Even if this is, as yet, only partly true, governments are likely to have unending trouble returning the recurrent budget to balance and keeping it there, let alone getting it into surplus so as to pay down debt.

Those of us who worry about such things have given too little thought to the causes of the Abbott-Turnbull government’s abject failure to achieve its oft-stated goal of repairing the budget solely by cutting government spending.

It’s common to blame this on political failure and obstacles. There’s truth in most of those excuses, but they miss the point. Spending restraint will never be easy politically, governments rarely have the number in the Senate and their opponents will always be opportunistic.

That’s why governments need to be a lot clearer about what they’re seeking to achieve on the spending side, and a lot more strategic in how they try to bring it about.

On ultimate objectives, the goal of literally smaller government – smaller than it is today – is a pipedream. Government spending is almost certain to rise over time – don’t you read Treasury’s intergenerational reports? – meaning taxes will have to rise over time.

But there are obvious limits to voters’ appetite for higher taxes, which is why governments need to be able to control the rate at which their spending is growing, and do it not by cost-shifting to other governments or service recipients – as was the approach in the failed 2014 budget – but by ensuring ever-improving value for money through greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Unless governments lose their obsession with welfare spending (most of which goes to the aged) and come to terms with the other two really big items of government spending, health and education – especially when you consolidate federal and state budgets – they won’t get far with controlling the rate of growth in their spending.

What too few people realise is how much of government spending goes not directly into the pockets of voting punters, but indirectly via businesses big and small: medical specialists, chemists, drug companies, private health funds, private schools, universities fixated by their ranking on global league tables, businesses chasing every subsidy they can get, not to mention international arms suppliers.

The budget, in other words, is positively crawling with vested interests lobbying to protect and increase their cut of taxpayers’ money.

A government that can’t control all this potential business rent-seeking – isn’t perpetually demanding better value for taxpayers; perpetually testing for effectiveness – is unlikely to have much success in limiting the growth in its spending.

Which brings me to my fear that government has already lost that ability.

A wrong turn taken early in the term of the Howard government – when the Finance department moved most responsibility for spending control to individual departments and got rid of most of its own experts on particular spending areas – plus many years of “efficiency dividends” (these days a euphemism for annual redundancy rounds) have hollowed out the public service.

The spending departments have lost much of their ability to advise on policy, while the “co-ordinating departments” – Treasury, Finance and Prime Minister’s – have lost much of their understanding of the specifics of major spending programs.

This matters not just because the departments have become increasingly dependent on outside consultants to tell them how to do their job – and to be the for-profit repositories of what was formerly government expertise – which could easily be more expensive than paying your own people.

The big four chartered accounting firms were paid $1 billion in consulting fees over the past three years, thus introducing a whole new stratum of potential rent-seeking.

More importantly, the longstanding practice of having specialised departments – one each for the farmers, miners, manufacturers, greenies etc – makes them hugely susceptible to being “captured” by the industry they’re supposed to be regulating in the public interest.

The departments soon realise their job is to keep the miners or whoever happy and not making trouble for the government.

The Health department, for instance, would see its primary task as dividing the taxpayers’ lolly between the doctors, the chemists, the drug companies and the health funds in a way that keeps political friction to a minimum.

How much incentive do you reckon this gives the spending departments to limit their spending, root out rent-seeking and lift effectiveness?

That’s why, by denuding the co-ordinating departments of people who know where the bodies are buried in department X, government has lost a key competency: the ability to control the growth in its own spending.

Ross Gittins is the Herald’s economics editor. Twitter: @1RossGittins

Peter Sterling wants to stay on as advisor to the NSW State of Origin coach but concedes it will be up to Laurie Daley’s successor to determine whether he retains a place in the Blues’ set-up.

The former Parramatta and NSW halfback was interviewed by the NSWRL board as part of its series review on Friday, the same day Daley was told he would not be offered a new contract after five years at the helm.

Brought on this year to replace Bob Fulton as the coach’s right-hand man, Sterling told directors he was keen to continue but made it clear on Monday he did not endorse Daley’s sacking.

“I’ve spoken to Laurie and he’s particularly disappointed,” Sterling told Channel 9.

“I know that he thought there was unfinished business to still take care of. I said during the course of that Origin campaign that win, lose or draw I thought Laurie was still the best man for the job. Nothing that I saw changed that or has changed that.”

Sterling acted as a sounding board for Daley in the lead-up to and during the Origin series, which was clinched emphatically by Queensland in game three in Brisbane.

Brad Fittler is considered the front runner to replace Daley and while the NSWRL has committed to an organisational overhaul of the Blues backroom structure, it may well be up to the new coach to determine who he wants alongside him in camp.

“[The board] asked me would I be keen to be involved in the future. I said that was the case, yes, but if I’m the new coach coming in the proviso for me is that I bring people that I want. So that’s a decision to be made by other people,” Sterling said.

“I loved every second of my involvement with Origin this year. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the result.”

Daley was axed amid claims about a Blues drinking culture, which reared its head when it was revealed that Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson had spent an afternoon at a Lennox Head pub five days before the deciding match. Bar bills run up by Blues staff during the series were also raised during the board’s review.

“There has been a lot made obviously of two players going down and spending an afternoon on a day off around alcohol,” Sterling said. “I can’t be too critical of that because I don’t know the degree of alcohol that was drunk on that particular day. It’s how I would have spent my day off … going down and sitting and having a bit of a flutter and getting away from Origin camp.”

I GET that indigenous ns are offended by Day and statues representing Captain Cook et al, but we can’t move forward if people are focused on the past and keep looking back in anger. We are not to blame for what our ancestors did, just like we can’t blame modern Germany or Cambodia for Hitler and Pol Pot. Please let’s just all move forward in peace as one nation.

Debra Forbes,WickhamI SINCERELYhope the lecturer and students recover fully from the horrific attack at ANU (“Students praised for actions in bat attack”, Herald 26/8). But I have to say the two years I spent studying statistics for my accountancy degree never incited violence, just total soporific boredom. I’m still coming to terms as to why a statistics course would cause someone to behave in this manner. I can only assume his J curve fell below the accepted median.

Ann Ellis,MerewetherLAW is law. If I for any reason misinformedmyemployer on any grounds on my application it could lead to instant dismissal. But we are talking of constitution, of national security, of this Commonwealth. How do a few peoplechange Commonwealth constitution? Sir John Kerr had to get the head ofstateto sack a Prime Minister. as a whole, in my eyes, is open. I feel for the generations to come.

Michael Casey,MerewetherIF our politicians are required to be n citizens,and rightly so, how come our head of state is a foreigner who lives thousands of miles away and visits once every blue moon? Should there not be a requirement of our head of state to be n?

Michael Maher,EleebanaWith all due respect Tom Edwards (Short Takes 26/8): n marriage laws are made by the Parliament. The last time they were changed was by John Howard and the Parliament at the time. The current debate will still have to be resolved by Parliament regardless what the postal survey reveals . I hope you vote yes the next time this government can’t make a decision.

Andrew Whitbread-Brown, Cardiff HeightsLesField’s letter regarding The Store building was published under the heading “It’sa tragedy, but it’s over” (Letters 24/8). This also applies to the former post office. After years of neglect by former and currentowners is it salvageable?

Lynne Jones,IslingtonThe mayor of Newcastle wants to stop having photos taken with whoever visits and do something about all the rubbish that accumulates at the public bus stops near the University of Newcastle . It is a bloody shame we have to sit in such filth while waiting for a bus that might come.

Kathleen Whyte,Waratah WestTHE POLLSAre ticket resale sites a problem?

Yes, 98.3%, No, 1.7%Should councils weigh in on the same-sex marriage debate?

Yes, 26.7%, No, 73.3%

The universities that are the hardest to get into may not be delivering the best experience or employment outcomes for their students, new research shows.

Students at the University of NSW, Sydney University, the University of Melbourne and the University of Western have some of the highest entrance scores in , according to this year’s Good Universities Guide.

However, none of these universities are in the guide’s top 10 for staff qualifications or overall experience, which measures engagement, resources, skills development, support and teaching quality.

All four scored below the national average for overall experience and nationally, UNSW, Sydney and UWA ranked among the bottom seven in this category.

The guide, which is compiled annually, ranked Bond University at number one for overall experience, followed by Notre Dame and Edith Cowan University.

Among NSW universities, the University of New England was ranked at number seven, followed by the University of Wollongong, n Catholic University and the University of Newcastle.

Only UNSW was ranked in the top 10 for full-time employment outcomes with 76.4 per cent of its students finding jobs within four months of graduating.

Some 70.4 per cent of Sydney graduates find full-time employment within four months. This falls to about 65 per cent at UWA and 63.6 per cent at Melbourne University.

In comparison, about 84 per cent of students at the best university for employment outcomes, Charles Sturt University, find full-time work within four months of leaving. About 55 per cent of students at Flinders University, ranked lowest in this area, find full-time jobs within four months.

The four universities are also falling behind in students’ starting salaries, with only UWA ranked in the top 10 for median graduate incomes. Its graduates earn about $60,900 after leaving university, while UNSW graduates earn $60,000, Sydney University graduates earn $56,000 and University of Melbourne students earn about $53,500.

Chris Lester, chief executive of the Good Universities Group, which compiles the guide, said the most in-demand universities are lagging in these areas partly because of the high proportion of their students who are school leavers, rather than mature-age students.

“Now, people [coming to university] straight out of school are finding it difficult to get a job,” Mr Lester said.

He said starting salaries are also linked to the proportion of mature-age students as well as “the mix of courses that universities are offering and the mix of students they have”.

However, Mr Lester said that a number of the universities delivering the best graduate outcomes also offer specific programs and internships “that are definitely helping students get jobs when they finish”.

“The University of Wollongong is one of the big standouts in the way they’ve moved, and some of the things they say they’re doing is trying to make sure that someone’s not just a number, and having differentiated programs for different students,” Mr Lester said.

Mr Lester said that universities’ high entry scores and high demand are at least partially linked to reputation rather than quality.

“Parents have a big part to play in relation to where students go and when they came out of university 20 or 30 years ago, [things] were very different,” Mr Lester said.

“Parents need to be very mindful of the changing landscape. Younger universities are trying different things now.”

The University of Sydney and UNSW were contacted for comment.

Yes, Houston, you do have a problem, and – as insensitive as it seems to bring it up just now – some of it is your own making.

Let’s be clear upfront. I unreservedly wish that all of your millions of citizens get safely through Tropical Storm Harvey, and the biblical-scale deluge and floods that are forecast to swamp your city in coming days.

But, as the self-styled “world capital of the oil and gas industry”, there’s a connection between rising global greenhouse gas levels and the extreme weather now being inflicted that some of your residents have understood for decades and had a hand in.

Houston and its surrounds are home to some 5000 energy-related firms, 17 of which are counted among the Fortune 500 list of largest US companies.

The nearby Gulf Coast is also one of the biggest oil-refining centres anywhere. Not for nothing, the local football team was named the Houston Oilers before it up-rigged elsewhere to become the Tennessee Titans.

One thing that hasn’t changed for almost 200 years is scientists’ basic understanding humans could alter the chemistry of the atmosphere. By releasing more carbon dioxide, methane (also known as natural gas), and other greenhouse gases, the atmosphere would trap more heat and alter our climate in the process.

The links between fossil fuels and climate change – clear to all but a handful of (often industry-funded) scientists – were hardly promotional talking points oil firms have been keen to trumpet.

In fact, as an important research paper by Harvard University researchers Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes released last week showed, the largest of them – ExxonMobil – deliberately told the public a story at odds with their own research.

By stoking doubts about the climate change consequences of burning fossils, the behemoth misled voters for four decades, successfully stymieing demands for action in the US and abroad, including in .

Although ExxonMobil is headquartered in another Texan city, Dallas, it bases many operations in Houston. The company has picked Houston to host a sprawling new campus north of the city that will reportedly house 8000 employees. So far, two-day rainfall in Houston has nearly doubled the previous all-time record.It even beat the previous *26-day* record. Wow. https://t成都夜生活/GLxuttsCyp??? Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) August 28, 2017Unbelievable Before & After of the flooding on Buffalo Bayou in #Houston from #Harvey. (Via streetreporter on Youtube) pic.twitter成都夜网/a6FXIh0rtq??? Matt Reagan (@ReaganMatt) August 27, 2017Harvey update, 10pm CDT:NHC reiterates 50″ storm-total rainfall fcst for parts of Texas including Houston, center to move back over Gulf. pic.twitter成都夜网/W4ysIbwbbg??? Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) August 28, 2017This event is unprecedented & all impacts are unknown & beyond anything experienced. Follow orders from officials to ensure safety. #Harveypic.twitter成都夜网/IjpWLey1h8??? NWS (@NWS) August 27, 2017