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Droids, stormtroopers, stars at The Force Awakens premiere

Stormtroopers marched and droids rolled down the red carpet at The Force Awakens world premiere in Los Angeles, heralding the return of Star Wars after a decade-long absence from the big screen.

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A giant opaque tent shrouded the red carpet that was lined with Stormtrooper mannequins and neon lights that resembled giant lightsabers.

Before some of the film’s human stars arrived, the droid BB-8 rolled by the cameras. The soccer ball-esque droid has been a popular fixture in trailers for the seventh Star Wars film, and it was soon joined by series mainstays C-3PO and R2-D2.

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Early arrivals mixed stars from the original trilogy, Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), with newcomers Gwendolyn Christie and Daisy Ridley.

The women portray the evil Captain Phasma and Rey, two new characters who will be expected to carry the Star Wars film franchise as it is introduced to a new generation.

Disney took over a half-mile section of Hollywood Boulevard for the premiere for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, complete with fan bleachers and spotlights everywhere.

The film will screen at three theatres, allowing more than 5000 invited guests the chance to see the characters Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa and Han Solo reunite for the first time on the big screen since 1983’s Return of the Jedi.

John Williams’ soaring score played as stars walked the red carpet and did interviews.

Harrison Ford reflected on the impact of the film and the role that catapulted him to superstardom.

“Well, in the ’70s nobody knew what to anticipate,” Ford said in an interview with Starwars杭州桑拿会所,. “Nobody had ever seen anything like it. Now we have to live up to what the first films delivered.”

In bleachers set up on the boulevard, some fans dressed as X-Wing pilots while others held up helmets resembling those worn by bounty hunters in the film.

Security around the site was high, with metal detectors screening pedestrians and police dogs checking the area.

Carrie Fisher almost didn’t make it to the premiere because of the tight security.

Long after the film’s new stars Ridley, Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac, and fellow original co-star Ford turned up, Fisher arrived on the red carpet with her daughter, actress Billie Catherine Lourd.

Fisher, who is reprising her role as Princess Leia from the original Star Wars movies, tweeted from her car that she was stuck in traffic and blamed it on the sniffer dogs who had been called in for the event.

“We probably’ll (sic) be stuck in traffic thru first hour of film… bomb dogs currently sniffing the car-almost there,” Fisher tweeted.

Star Wars creator George Lucas was spotted laughing and chatting with director and co-writer JJ Abrams on the red carpet.

Lucas has already seen the movie and has reportedly given it his seal of approval.

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Dressed in a navy jacket and checked shirt, Lucas said: “It’s a film about families and what one generation leaves behind, another generation has to deal with.”

He added: “I started off wanting to do a film for young people who were going through adolescence, with mythological themes and spiritual themes. That is what resonated with people.”

Actors Chadwick Boseman and Sarah Hyland and director Steven Spielberg were among the Hollywood celebrities who attended what could be the largest Hollywood premiere ever.

One of the participating theatres – the iconic TCL Chinese – hosted the premiere of the original Star Wars in 1977.

Spielberg praised the franchise, saying he knew when the first film was released that it would be an enduring hit. “It was a slow burn, but I knew it would never go away,” Spielberg told Starwars杭州桑拿会所,.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens will premiere in Australia on Wednesday ahead of its general release on Thursday, December 17.

Oscar winner Cate Blanchett and Rachel Taylor have been listed among the stars to appear at the Aussie premiere in Sydney.

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Celebs, security at Star Wars premiere

Stormtroopers marched and droids rolled down the red carpet at The Force Awakens world premiere in Los Angeles, heralding the return of Star Wars after a decade-long absence from the big screen.

杭州桑拿

A giant opaque tent shrouded the red carpet that was lined with Stormtrooper mannequins and neon lights that resembled giant lightsabers.

Before some of the film’s human stars arrived, the droid BB-8 rolled by the cameras. The soccer ball-esque droid has been a popular fixture in trailers for the seventh Star Wars film, and it was soon joined by series mainstays C-3PO and R2-D2.

Early arrivals mixed stars from the original trilogy, Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), with newcomers Gwendolyn Christie and Daisy Ridley.

Disney took over a half-mile section of Hollywood Boulevard for the premiere for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, complete with fan bleachers and spotlights everywhere.

The film will screen at three theatres, allowing more than 5000 invited guests the chance to see the characters Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa and Han Solo reunite for the first time on the big screen since 1983’s Return of the Jedi.

John Williams’ soaring score played as stars walked the red carpet and did interviews.

Harrison Ford reflected on the impact of the film and the role that catapulted him to superstardom.

“Well, in the ’70s nobody knew what to anticipate,” Ford said in an interview with Starwars杭州桑拿会所,. “Nobody had ever seen anything like it. Now we have to live up to what the first films delivered.”

Security around the site was high, with metal detectors screening pedestrians and police dogs checking the area.

Carrie Fisher almost didn’t make it to the premiere because of the tight security.

Long after the film’s new stars Ridley, Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac, and Ford turned up, Fisher arrived on the red carpet with her daughter, actress Billie Catherine Lourd.

Fisher, who is reprising her role as Princess Leia from the original Star Wars movies, tweeted from her car that she was stuck in traffic and blamed it on the sniffer dogs who had been called in for the event.

Star Wars creator George Lucas was spotted laughing and chatting with director and co-writer JJ Abrams on the red carpet.

Lucas has already seen the movie and has reportedly given it his seal of approval.

“It’s a film about families and what one generation leaves behind, another generation has to deal with,” Lucas said.

He added: “I started off wanting to do a film for young people who were going through adolescence, with mythological themes and spiritual themes. That is what resonated with people.”

Director Steven Spielberg was among the Hollywood celebrities who attended what could be the largest Hollywood premiere ever.

Spielberg praised the franchise, saying he knew when the first film was released that it would be an enduring hit.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens will premiere in Australia on Wednesday ahead of its general release on Thursday, December 17.

Oscar winner Cate Blanchett and Rachel Taylor have been listed among the stars to appear at the Aussie premiere in Sydney.

RBA rate cut chances remain slim

The Reserve Bank has painted a rosier picture of the economy and seems in no rush to deliver an interest rate cut.

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But it is keeping a close eye on how the non-mining sector evolves and left the door open for a rate cut if growth slows, according to minutes from its December 1 board meeting.

During the meeting, board members left the cash rate at a record low of two per cent for the seventh consecutive month.

JP Morgan economist Tom Kennedy said the minutes contained no material changes to the bank’s core narrative or policy guidance.

“We view (this) as officials not wanting to rock the boat ahead of their summer hiatus,” he said.

RBA board members believe the Australian economy will improve in the next two years, but noted that sluggish inflation would be no obstacle to rate cuts beyond 2015.

They also noted strength in the jobs market, saying business conditions were improving.

The falling Australian dollar was adjusting to plummeting commodity prices and boosting demand for domestic production, they added.

“There had been an improvement in conditions in the non-mining sectors over the past year, which had been accompanied by stronger growth in employment and a steady rate of unemployment,” the minutes said.

“Measures of job vacancies and advertisements pointed to continued growth in employment over the coming months.”

The meeting was held ahead of the release of solid economic growth figures for the September quarter and surprisingly healthy jobs figures, although commodity prices have come under further pressure.

RBC Capital Markets senior economist Su-Lin Ong said the firmer domestic data coupled with a likely US interest rate rise later this week could mean the RBA holds its cash rate for a while longer.

Commonwealth Bank economist Gareth Aird also noted board members appeared pleased with the recent lift in credit growth being driven by demand from businesses.

“This is exactly the shift in credit growth drivers that the RBA has been looking for – a lift in business credit growth is a precursor to capital investment,” he said.

Woolies backflips on Qantas flyer points

Woolworths has performed a major backflip and reintroduced Qantas frequent flyer reward points for shoppers, two months after it angered many loyal customers by dumping them.

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Disappointed shoppers were outraged when Woolies dropped Qantas from its loyalty program in favour of food discounts in October.

But analysts and consumer rights group Choice say the supermarket giant has missed the point by retaining aspects of its much-criticised revamp.

The struggling retailer has reworked the Qantas scheme into its new Woolworths Dollars program, which allows customers to earn money off their shopping bill.

Woolworths says that, under the six-year Qantas deal announced on Tuesday, customers will still earn Woolworths Dollars when they buy selected “orange tag” items but can choose to convert them into Qantas points.

“It doesn’t address the major complaint people had on social media, which was not the fact they didn’t have frequent flyer points, but the fact they weren’t getting enough savings out of the new scheme,” CMC Markets chief market strategist Michael McCarthy said.

Yet Woolworths said independent analysis by Monash University found Woolworths’ new rewards program was twice as generous as that offered by rival Coles.

Woolies denied it had backflipped and said it had always been clear that it was still in negotiations with Qantas.

Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey said the group’s recent grocery basket survey of leading brand equivalents found Woolworths was about 50 per cent dearer than Aldi.

Shoppers had also found the rewards scheme to be complicated and unrewarding.

“People have been quick to realise that it is not delivering much value at the checkout as they go around trying to collect these orange-tagged items,” he said.

“It is a complicated rewards program – whether it is Coles or Woolies – they make you jump through hoops before you get some benefit.

“Meanwhile, you can go to a genuine discount retailer like Aldi, where everyone makes savings and no one has to hand over personal information to do so.”

Some shoppers on the Australian Business Traveller website said they were happy with the new deal, but others said it was hard to find discounted items they wanted.

“Last week I spent $150 on a wide range of products and earned zero reward dollars – there weren’t many orange ticketed products and those around weren’t the products I’d buy,” one shopper said.

Another said: “This seems to be more program on the run (but) glad the backlash was sufficient to force them back to QF’s table.”

Woolies has yet to give a launch date for the amended scheme, saying that it needed to make IT and systems changes before implementing it some time in the first half of 2016.

Defence head admits Darwin port oversight

The head of the Defence Department has taken personal responsibility for not telling the US in advance about the decision to lease Darwin’s port to a Chinese company.

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But secretary Dennis Richardson has dismissed as “alarmist” and “absurd” some of the national security concerns around the 99-year, $506 million deal.

Mr Richardson told a Senate inquiry on Tuesday the US was aware the port was being privatised but it was “fair criticism” to say Washington should have been notified that Landbridge was the winning bidder.

President Barack Obama raised the issue with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the sidelines of the APEC summit in the Philippines last month.

“That was an oversight for which I take responsibility, no-one else,” Mr Richardson said in Canberra.

He argued, however, it was also up to the US ambassador John Berry and embassy to keep on top of such issues that were in the public domain.

Defence was consulted about the proposed privatisation and signed a comprehensive access agreement.

It considered the deal on the basis it would be assessed by the Foreign Investment Review Board.

But it wasn’t, because it related to the privatisation of a state asset.

Mr Richardson said the prime minister ordered a review of current legislation after being told about the exemption a week before the deal was announced.

In its consideration, Defence dismissed the risk of sabotage, cyber attacks and the potential for the lease to be used for foreign intelligence gathering.

Mr Richardson said it was absurd to claim the port could be used to eavesdrop on the electronic emissions of Australian and US warships, as was suggested earlier by Australian Strategic Policy Institute executive director Peter Jennings.

Warships just didn’t enter commercial ports without turning off key emitters, he said.

Similarly, it was “alarmist nonsense” to claim the deal opened up the port to use by the Chinese Navy.

Any such visits were only approved by the federal government at the highest levels.

“We did our due diligence very carefully over an extended period,” Mr Richardson said.

“Nothing that has occurred since the announcement has given us pause for thought.”

The NT government maintains it is comfortable with its “reasonably extensive” due diligence investigations and that there was no reason to be concerned.

But Mr Jennings told the hearing he believed a lack of due diligence was carried out and has called for a more robust and transparent process around the future sale of critical infrastructure.

He believes the national security committee of cabinet, not the federal treasurer, should be responsible for signing-off on Australia’s more complex foreign investment proposals.

“Ultimately, there will be a stronger sense of public confidence in government decision-making if the national security committee of cabinet is the entity that ticks off on those approvals … not just the treasurer,” he said.

Landbridge’s most senior representative in Australia, Michael Hughes, said Landbridge was well known to the Australian government, given it had been through two full FIRB reviews before the Darwin deal.

He was surprised and disappointed by the controversy around the company’s alleged links to Chinese militia, reiterating it was privately owned and commercially driven.

Chairman Ye Cheng is not a member of the People’s Liberation Army nor the Communist Party, although is part of an advisory committee to the country’s parliament.

“Any of my discussions with Mr Ye have certainly not indicated any influence or direction that seems to come from anything other than a commercial driver,” he said.

Mr Hughes also denied the company had any armed militia or personnel.