Archive for September, 2019

September 8th, 2019

Coles, Woolworths profits set to slow as crackdowns kick in

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A crackdown on competition issues could cut into the profits of the big supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths. Photo: Michelle Mossop A crackdown on competition issues could cut into the profits of the big supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths. Photo: Michelle Mossop
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A crackdown on competition issues could cut into the profits of the big supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths. Photo: Michelle Mossop

A crackdown on competition issues could cut into the profits of the big supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths. Photo: Michelle Mossop

A $3 billion profit transfer from food and grocery suppliers and smaller retailers to Coles and Woolworths may be coming to an end as governments and regulators crack down on anti-competitive practices.

Coles and Woolworths have increased their combined share of the food retail profit pool to $4.4 billion from $2.1 billion over the last seven years while the profits of smaller food retailers have fallen to $2.5 billion from $3.2 billion, according to a report by broker Morgan Stanley.

In the last four years, the combined profits of food and grocery suppliers have plunged to $3.7 billion from $6.1 billion, while the combined profits of Coles and Woolworths have climbed to $4.4 billion from $3.1 billion.

At the current run rate, if the total food retail profit pool remained flat, Coles and Woolworths would account for 100 per cent of industry profits by 2020, Morgan Stanley said.

Morgan Stanley analyst Tom Kierath believes profit growth for the major chains is likely to slow as the available profit pool shrinks and as the federal government and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) take a more-active approach to increasing competition, Mr Kierath said.

Last week, the ACCC launched its second major legal action against Coles in five months, accusing the retailer of unconscionable conduct against five grocery suppliers by forcing them to plug gaps in its profits, pay for wastage in stores and pay fines for late deliveries.

In May, the ACCC accused Coles of unconscionable conduct against 200 suppliers, forcing it to repay extra rebates so it could recoup the cost of a supply-chain program, Active Retail Collaboration.

Coles has rejected all allegations, describing its communications with suppliers as “normal topics for business discussions” between grocery suppliers and retailers around the world.

The ACCC has also forced Coles and Woolworths to stop offering excessive fuel discounts subsidised by grocery profits and stepped in to unwind restrictive lease provisions that prevent rivals from opening stores.

“Less favourable regulation will make it more difficult for the majors to expand margins, in our view,” Mr Kierath said.

His view is in line with that of Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) chief executive Gary Dawson, who told Business Day on Monday that the latest allegations against Coles and an incoming grocery code of conduct could help suppliers resist pressure from retailers to plug profit gaps, pay for better ­positions on supermarket shelves or fund promotions.

Food and grocery suppliers are now spending more than 25 per cent of revenue on ‘trade spend’ or rebates, discounts and promotional allowances to retailers, with the bulk of the spending going to Coles and Woolworths.

The AFGC says the trade spend, which could be worth more than $20 billion a year, is crimping margins and curtailing food suppliers’ ability to invest in innovation and new product development.

September 8th, 2019

Gough Whitlam’s legacy: Malcom Fraser, Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard pay tribute

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Former Labor prime ministers Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Gough Whitlam in 1998. Photo: Steven Siewert Former Labor prime ministers Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Gough Whitlam in 1998. Photo: Steven Siewert
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Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam rally against the concentration of media ownership in 1991. Photo: Steven Siewert

Former Labor leaders Kim Beazley, Paul Keating, Bob Hawke, Bill Hayden and Gough Whitlam Photo: Paul Harris

Former Labor prime ministers Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Gough Whitlam in 1998. Photo: Steven Siewert

Former Labor prime ministers Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Gough Whitlam in 1998. Photo: Steven Siewert

The Pulse: Politics as it happensGough Whitlam: full coverageWhitlam: Martyr for a moment, hero for a lifetime

The man who replaced Gough Whitlam in the dramatic events of the 1975 dismissal, former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser, has helped lead the tributes for his former political nemesis.

Mr Fraser has been joined by former Liberal prime minister John Howard, former Labor prime ministers Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, former Labor leader Kim Beazley, union leaders and Liberal Philip Ruddock, the last current MP to serve with Mr Whitlam, in paying tribute to the Labor luminary.

Mr Whitlam was credited by Mr Fraser, his former rival, with opening new doors in Australia and helping “to show the possibility of a new and perhaps better future” in the arts, foreign policy and other areas of Australian life.

He led the ALP out of the political wilderness after 23 years of conservative rule, and was “not only a hero to members of the Labor Party,” Mr Fraser said.

Mr Hawke said Mr Whitlam’s passing was not a time for sadness as at 98, “Gough was ready to go and his family was ready for him to go” and that the simple truth was “Australia is a better country because of the life and work of Gough Whitlam”.

Mr Whitlam would be remembered for everything from civic improvements that put in place sewerage services in Australia’s newer suburbs, through more equitable health and education services, to his vision as an international statesman – best exemplified by this visit to China while opposition leader.

“If you look at the two fundamental issues which determine the welfare of ordinary people, that’s health and education. He was absolutely profoundly important in transforming both those aspects of the lives of ordinary Australians,” he said.

Mr Hawke said his predecessor as Labor prime minister “wouldn’t appreciate it if we were all here in these next few days saying he was a saint without blemish, adding that he learned the importance of “getting the party into shape” and of strength, “if you had a position, you had an obligation to put that position strongly”.

Mr Keating, who served briefly as a junior minister in the final days of the Whitlam government, said the Labor leader had “changed the way Australia thought about itself and gave the country a new destiny”, helping create a more inclusive and compassionate society that was more engaged in the world.

“He snapped Australia out of the Menzian torpor – the orthodoxy that had rocked the country asleep, giving it new vitality and focus. But more than that, bringing Australia to terms with its geography and place in the region,” he said in a statement.

“Along his journey he also renovated the Labor Party, making it useful again as an instrument of reform to Australian society. He will missed by all who identified with his values and determination to see Australia a better place. But no one will miss him more than his family.”

Mr Howard said Mr Whitlam’s high intelligence, commanding presence and strong beliefs had left a lasting impact on Australian politics.

“Gough Whitlam was prime minister when I entered Parliament in 1974. His ready wit, eloquence and prodigious recall gave him an easy mastery of the parliamentary arena,” he said.

“Fundamental to his policy attitudes was Gough Whitlam’s belief that an activist and interventionist national government was always the appropriate response to Australia’s challenges. Whilst there will always be debate on such a proposition, Whitlam’s commitment to it permeated his actions in government.”

Extraordinary statesman

Mr Rudd said Australia’s political history was littered with ordinary politicians but Mr Whitlam had been an extraordinary statesman and an “exemplar for us all”.

“This great man has left an indelible mark on Australia. An indelible mark for the good. And Australia will always be the better for it. In his character lay a deep blend of wide vision, broad intelligence and a boundless heart for the nation,” Mr Rudd said.

The two-time Labor prime minister said that people often forgot Mr Whitlam’s courage in serving with the RAAF during the Pacific War.

“Some also forget his political courage, profound foresight and sheer statesmanship when as leader of the opposition, in the anti-Communist hysteria of the time, he visited China, met Mao and Zhou Enlai, and undertook to recognise China if elected in 1972. Which promptly he did,” he said.

On the domestic front, Mr Whitlam’s “broad vision” had encompassed universal access to education and universal health based on need, not on privilege or the ability to pay.

“Gough’s instinctive embrace of indigenous Australians, and their rights to land, particularly at a time when racism was still alive and well in our country, has made him an unassailable hero in the hearts and minds of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters,” he said.

“Just as his introduction of the Racial Discrimination Act fundamentally reshaped our laws.”

Ms Gillard told Guardian Australia that Mr Whitlam would be remembered for his impact on Australia’s universities, Medicare, family law, land rights for indigenous Australians and improving relations with China.

“As prime minister, I was conscious of walking in Whitlam’s footsteps as our government set about creating a companion to Medicare, the National Disability Insurance Scheme,” she said.

“Every Labor leader and every prime minister who has followed him has wrestled with his legacy. Gough Whitlam transformed so much about Australia and the prime ministership.”

Former Labor leader Kim Beazley, who is now Australia’s ambassador to the United States and whose father Kim Beazley snr served as a minister in the Whitlam government, said the former Labor leader was “without question the most erudite politician we have had lead Australia” and a “timeless figure”.

“He made the modern opposition, through the establishment of shadow cabinet, the creation of comprehensive policy, the willingness not just to pursue the negative but to pursue what people wanted to know – what you would do with the place,” he told Fairfax Media from Washington.

“His government was fraught and struggled but it left many monuments behind it, the changes he made in education, then changes in Aboriginal affairs, the changes he made in health, the changes he made in innovative Commonwealth use of Section 96 grants,” he said.

“While his actual activities ebbed and flowed in the hands of different governments, his approach basically remains as the underpinnings of many of great Australian social initiatives.”

Mr Beazley said he had “millions” of personal memories of Mr Whitlam but the first was when, as a child, he would travel to Canberra with his father in August each year for parliament.

“My father used to be put me in the Speakers’ gallery of parliament, almost as a babysitting service, and Gough would often, if I was sitting there, come across and say hello.”

‘Most connected’

Liberal backbencher Philip Ruddock, the only sitting federal MP to serve with Mr Whitlam, having been elected in 1973, said that after John Howard, the former Labor PM was the former prime minister to whom he had been most connected.

“My election as the member for Paramatta [in 1973], it was a very adversarial by-election, it was when Billy Snedden was making ground and we got a huge swing. But it was primarily because he proposed Galston as the second airport for Sydney and that caused a great deal of anxiety that could be very easily exploited.”

“He forgave me for beating him. In his very magnanimous way he would say ‘comrade, that’s the way it had to be’…I liked Gough Whitlam, he was a gentleman who believed in what he believed but it didn’t interfere with the personal relationships.”

Mr Fraser said that his predecessor as prime minister had a place in Australian history that was “very special to Gough”.

“He is in some ways almost a mythological figure, he is revered, whatever the success or shortfalls of his government, he has played an enormously important part in Australians life and that can’t be taken from him,” he told Fairfax Media.

“In the arts, opera theatre literature, music he opened up possibilities that seemed to be new and exciting”.

“He went to China at a time when the visit took some courage, China was still very much on the outer, [US president Richard] Nixon’s visit hadn’t taken place, but he laid the foundations for a new and more productive relationship.”

Mr Whitlam was larger than life and a tough opponent in and outside of the parliament, who had not born a grudge for the manner of his dismissal, Mr Fraser said.

“He was a formidable parliamentary performer and one of the significant debaters of his time … Gough was one of the leaders. It was a time when there were people who had their own character because of who and what they were. I think the Parliament today has less personalities in it, people who don’t seem to shine – people read speeches rather than making them.

As for the events of 1975, Mr Fraser said he “never had the feeling he carried personal animosity to me as a result of 1975”.

“As we met at different forums, mostly overseas initially, the ice began to break and we established a friendship. We supported the independence of The Age from the back of a truck overlooking Fitzroy Gardens together. We found that we had a number of issues where we had a common view – on refugees, independence of the media, but also we had a common idea of Australia as a country that could play an active and productive role as a middle-ranking power cooperating with others.”

“It was only later we developed a closeness and a friendship, after we left the parliament.”

And in the years after both left politics, Mr Fraser said, the pair had not discussed the events of 1975 as “those events were passed, he knew and I knew what the facts were”.

“There wasn’t a great deal of point really. There were enough things to discuss between us that were relevant and significant and more up to date than 1975.”

“If he had a fault it was trying to do too much too quickly, which made it difficult to implement everything. That’s possibly a product of being out of office for 23 years, which is not healthy for democracy. It’s better that governments change more often than that.”

ACTU president Ged Kearney called Mr Whitlam “a once in a generation leader” who was driven by a vision for a greater Australia.

“Gough Whitlam sensed that Australians wanted something different and he harnessed that and ushered in a period of great social, cultural and economic change in Australia,” Ms Kearney said.

She listed recognition of China and equality for women and the first peoples of Australia among Mr Whitlam’s achievements.

Ms Kearney also paid tribute to the partnership of Gough and Margaret Whitlam.

“Gough and Margaret were a terrific team and together they made an enormous difference to generations of Australians.”

Ms Kearney said while Mr Whitlam was only prime minister for three years, he continued to contribute to the nation over his lifetime.

“Gough Whitlam’s legacy is one of a fairer and more just society and it is our responsibility to instil this in generations of Australians to come,” Ms Kearney said.  Gough Whitlam’s memorable quotesWhitlam’s China masterstrokeWhat others had to sayGrowing up in the Gough eraThe man who reached for the skyHis legacy to educationA life in photos

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September 8th, 2019

Lies, damned lies and health statistics: the patient’s guide to pathological politics

Comments Off on Lies, damned lies and health statistics: the patient’s guide to pathological politics, 杭州桑拿, by admin.

So the doctor says: “I’ve got good news and bad news.”
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And the patient goes: “Can I have the good news first?”

“Sure,” says the doctor. “You’ll only have to wait 49 days for your surgery.”

“That’s the good news?” The patient is aghast. “It sounds like a long wait.”

“Well, I was getting to that: the bad news. Here in NSW we have the longest waiting times in Australia.”

“Oh, so remind me. What was the good news?”

“Well,” says the doctor, “the waiting times haven’t got any longer for the past three years. Your government has slashed the health budget – and so saved you $725 million and made a total of $3 billion in efficiency savings – and you’re none the worse for it. You’d have to be happy about that.”

“Er, I suppose, Doc, now you put it like that.”

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has released the latest of its annual reports, Australian Hospital Statistics 2013-14: Elective Surgery Waiting Times.

It is understood the same report was delivered to NSW’s Baird Government and the Labor opposition. What cannot be understood is their wildly differing diagnoses based on the same evidence.

We are in the incubation period of an election campaign, when the first casualty is typically truth. But we’ll require an MRI to detect which of the following press releases is bull:

“Health Minister Jillian Skinner today congratulated the state’s public hospitals following the release of a report showing NSW was the best performing state for the total combined percentage of surgeries performed on time.”

Versus this from Opposition Leader John Robertson: “[The] statistics show that NSW has the longest elective surgery waiting times in the country.”

The statistics, in fact, do show that … sort of.

NSW tops the pops for the average waiting time for elective surgery – 49 days against 28 for Queensland, 29 for Western Australia, 35 for South Australia and Victoria, and 45 for Tasmania. It gets worse in NSW if you need a knee replacement (290 days against the national average of 194 days); your tonsils removed (233 days plays 99); cataract removal (218 v 79); or hip replacement 191 v 106.

And yet Skinnerreckons: “Today’s report shows NSW is leading the nation when it comes to elective surgery procedures being performed on-time.”

We’re sending that one off to pathology, just to be sure, but it presents as so much bull that there’s steam coming off it. It has to be pathological.

Skinner might resort to the three-kinds-of-lies defence. That is, there are “lies, damned lies and statistics”.

It is true, for instance, that the proportion of people who waited for more than a year for surgery in NSW fell from 2.8 per cent in 2012-13 to 1.8 per cent last year. And it is true that the 49-day average has been sustained for three years while the number of people in surgery has risen.

Skinner: “In 2013-14 there were 216,675 admissions for elective surgery – an increase of 2876 procedures on the previous year. We’re treating more patients than ever before.”

And the Australian Medical Association points out that NSW has the lowest rate of readmission. Better surgery, better care, fewer mistakes.

So we haven’t quite descended to the farce of Yes, Minister, in which patients – per se – were a burden on the efficient running of hospitals; in which a hospital with 500 administrators, but not a single patient, was nominated for the Florence Nightingale award. For hygiene.

But these are early, pre-cancerous days in the toxic election cycle. We’ll need to be vigilant, to subject the press releases to regular scans. If the budget won’t stretch to MRIs, perhaps we could wheel out that trusty old workhorse from Monty Python’s hospital adventures: the “machine that goes bing”.

September 8th, 2019

Australian jihadist warns Tony Abbott ‘we will defeat you’ in Islamic State video

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Abdullah Elmir, from Bankstown in Sydney, has appeared in an Islamic State video under the nom de guerre “Abu Khaled from Australia”.An Australian teenager who ran away from his Bankstown family home in June has surfaced in a chilling Islamic State video threatening Tony Abbott and vowing to fight until the militant group has conquered the West.
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Abdullah Elmir, 17 appeared in the video posted on the internet on Monday night under the nom de guerre “Abu Khaled from Australia”. He is dressed in military gear and holding a rifle, standing among several dozen fellow jihadists.

Speaking for a little under two minutes directly to the camera, Elmir baits the United States, Britain and “especially … Australia” to throw everything they have militarily against the Islamic State group, which has seized large tracts of territory across Syria and Iraq.

He then vows the group will keep fighting until it has raised the black flag of the Islamic State above the White House and beheaded “tyrants” – apparently referring to Western leaders including Mr Abbott.

It is the first time the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, has specifically mentioned the Prime Minister in one of its major propaganda videos and is also the most prominent role so far given to an Australian jihadist.

“This message I deliver to you, the people of America. I deliver this message to you, the people of Britain, and I deliver this message to you, especially, the people of Australia,” he says.

“Bring every nation that you want to come and fight us. It means nothing to us. Whether it’s 50 nations or 50,000 nations, it means nothing to us. Bring your planes. Bring everything you want to us. Because it will not harm us. Why? Because we have Allah, glorious be He.”

He continues: “To the leaders, to Obama, to Tony Abbott, I say this: these weapons that we have, these soldiers, we will not stop fighting.

“We will not put down our weapons until we reach your lands, until we take the head of every tyrant and until the black flag is flying high in every single land, until we put the black flag on top of Buckingham Palace, until we put the black flag on top of the White House.

“We will not stop and we will keep on fighting. And we will fight you and we will defeat you.”

Elmir ran away from his Bankstown home in June shortly after his 17th birthday, accompanied by a 16-year-old friend known only as Feiz.

He told his mother he was going on a fishing trip before he disappeared. His family discovered that he had left the country only after he sent a text message to another family member asking them to tell his mother he had “gone” .

The pair caught flights to Perth then Malaysia, Thailand, and finally on to Turkey.

From there, they contacted family and said they were going over the border. Elmir’s family presumed he meant he was going to Syria or Iraq to fight. They have been calling on the authorities to help bring him home.

Feiz was intercepted by his father while he was en route to Iraq and taken to Lebanon. Feiz returned to Sydney quietly last month.

Elmir’s family have said they are shocked and devastated.  They believe he has been “brainwashed” and they want to know who paid for his air ticket and encouraged him to go.

They have described him as academically bright and caring.

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September 8th, 2019

Southern Cross Austereo hit by poor advertising market

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“National markets remain more challenging with both TV and metro radio being impacted by what is a competitive ratings environment,” chief executive Rhys Holleran said. Photo: Arsineh Houspian
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“National markets remain more challenging with both TV and metro radio being impacted by what is a competitive ratings environment,” chief executive Rhys Holleran said. Photo: Arsineh Houspian

“National markets remain more challenging with both TV and metro radio being impacted by what is a competitive ratings environment,” chief executive Rhys Holleran said. Photo: Arsineh Houspian

Southern Cross Austereo has downgraded its earnings expectations for the first half, as a tough ad market and poor ratings across television and radio weigh on the broadcaster.

Departing chairman Max Moore-Wilton denied that Tuesday’s downgrade was a signal to the market that the company could not compete without a merger with a television network, but said Southern Cross was “hogtied at the moment by the nature of [media ownership] regulation”.

Following a tough start to the 2015 financial year, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization are now expected to be down 18 per cent to 20 per cent in the first half, compared with previous guidance of down by 10 to 15 per cent. During the first half of last year, Southern Cross reported EBITDA of $105.1 million.

The company said it now expects first-half revenue to be down 7 per cent to 8 per cent from the year-earlier period, compared with earlier guidance of down by 5 per cent to 7 per cent. In the six months to December 2013, ­Southern Cross reported revenue of $331.9 million.

Southern Cross Media shares plunged on the downgrade, finishing the day down 6.5 per cent at 86.5¢.

“The business is a tough business, it will go through cycles. We, and our affiliate Channel 10, are going through hard times,” Southern Cross chairman Max Moore-Wilton said at the company’s annual general meeting on Tuesday.

Current media regulations are preventing Southern Cross from adjusting its television business, Mr Moore-Wilton said, and the company is still working on turning around The Today Network radio business, which was mauled by the loss of Kyle and Jackie O to KIIS FM in 2013.

“I think hindsight is a wonderful thing. Would have are preferred to continue as the number one breakfast show in Sydney, unequivocally yes. But, that’s life, we have to move on,” he said.

Management will be putting a lot of time and money into turning around the Today Network, Mr Moore-Wilton said.

On November 1, 2013, Southern Cross announced the departure of Kyle and Jackie O by media release. The announcement pushed shares down 6.4 per cent on the day. The company was then issued with a price query by the Australia Securities Exchange to explain the price movement as the departure of the star breakfast duo was not announced to the sharemarket.

Southern Cross said that the number of stories written about Kyle and Jackie O may have led to the share price drop, but that the media did not take into account the rest of the business and that changes to the radio schedule occurred regularly.

At Tuesday’s AGM, when asked whether the decision to not announce Kyle and Jackie O leaving 2Day FM as market sensitive was wrong, Mr Moore-Wilton stated: “The market is always right.”

“I’m not in the business of holding myself against the market. The market is always right, it makes its judgements. Kyle and Jackie O, we would have preferred not to happen, but it happened.”

Chief executive Rhys Holleran said that the national market remains challenging with both TV and metro radio being impacted by a competitive ratings environment.

“Whilst the Commonwealth Games was successful locally, it has failed to attract much attention from our national clients and we are yet to see a sustained improvement in Channel 10 ratings from the incremental investment in special events and we continue to see year-on-year decline in our television revenues.”

The media company avoided a spill of its board with shareholders overwhelmingly voting down a second strike against the media company.

Close to 98 per cent of Southern Cross shareholders voted in favour of the company’s remuneration report. Last year, 31 per cent of shareholders voted against the remuneration report, deliver Southern Cross its first strike.

Mr Moore-Wilton, who will leave Southern Cross during the current financial year, when asked whether the company would look externally for his successor said the board would be “open minded.”

The company had been lobbying shareholders to get support for the re-election of long-time director Leon Pasternak ahead of its AGM. Mr Pasternak joined the board in 2005. Mr Pasternak was re-elected with more than 82 per cent of votes cast in support of his return.

The election of the newly appointed board members, Robert Murray, Kathy Gramp and Glen Boreham passed with all three receiving more than 99 per cent of votes for their appointment.

In the year ended June 30, Southern Cross Austereo reported a $296 million loss, following $392.5 million non-cash impairment losses – related to goodwill and the value of its regional television licence assets.