December 4th, 2018

Cycling body slams sentence as driver walks free from court

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Cycling Tasmania executive officer Collin Burns outside the Launceston Magistrates Court yesterday with family and supporters of killed cyclist Lewis Hendey in the background. Picture: NEIL RICHARDSON
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CYCLING Tasmania has slammed the wholly suspended sentence handed to the driver who killed cyclist Lewis Hendey as “manifestly inadequate”.

Executive officer Collin Burns on Monday also demanded the state government take action on tougher penalties for negligent drivers who kill other road users.

Magistrate Reg Marron jailed driver Timothy Wayne Yole, 26, for four months, wholly suspended for two years, in the Launceston Magistrates Court on Monday.

Mr Marron also disqualified Yole from driving for 18 months.

Mr Hendey’s family, including his parents, sister, brother-in-law and a grandparent, were too distraught to speak to the media, so Mr Burns spoke on their behalf outside court.

He said the sentence was not justice and he personally believed that Yole should have gone to jail.

“It was an avoidable tragedy,” Mr Burns said.”Cycling Tasmania has been lobbying the government to protect bike riders.

“The government has failed to act so far.

“This is not a one-off; three men have lost their lives in the last three years. Pedestrians have also lost their lives and no one has gone to jail.”

A government spokesman said that the government was unable to comment on individual cases, but referred The Examiner to statements made earlier this month.

Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin previously acknowledged there were several cases where there had been “significant community angst” about the application of suspended sentences.

Dr Goodwin said the Sentencing Advisory Council was investigating alternative sentencing options that would be introduced with the phasing out of suspended sentences.

Mr Burns added that Mr Hendey’s family told him they would like to see a 10-year mandatory minimum disqualification for drivers who kill other road users.

“I will be taking this up personally with the minister,” he said.”Driving a car is a weapon. People are just not being responsible for their actions.”

Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding said on Ride 2 Work Day last week the government had launched the new A Metre Matters campaign which reminded motorists of the importance of passing cyclists safely.

Source: The Examiner, Tasmania

December 4th, 2018

The smoke rings suggest something is afoot at Ten

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Ten chief executive Hamish McLennan sees some small green shoots. Photo: Peter Rae Ten chief executive Hamish McLennan sees some small green shoots. Photo: Peter Rae
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Ten chief executive Hamish McLennan sees some small green shoots. Photo: Peter Rae

Ten chief executive Hamish McLennan sees some small green shoots. Photo: Peter Rae

There is too much smoke around the future ownership of Network Ten for there to be no fire.

The chat around the industry and investment circles is that a deal is brewing and one that will involve Rupert Murdoch’s empire either directly or via Foxtel, in which News Corp has a 50 per cent stake.

Any changes in Ten’s ownership would need to navigate around existing media rules; thus the betting is that News/Foxtel will take a 14.9 per cent stake in Ten and private equity will take out the remaining minority investors but will leave the holdings owned by James Packer, Gina Rinehart and Bruce Gordon.

Packer, Rinehart and Gordon are sitting on such large paper losses on their Ten investments that it is barely worth selling; and as none is financially stretched they are taking the view that they will take any upside that a privatised Ten might provide.

One hedge-fund player. Anchorage, and one private equity group, Providence Equity, have already been outed as having interest in Ten. If they teamed up with Murdoch the risk would be defrayed – particularly as they wouldn’t need to buy out the Packer/Rinehart/Gordon holdings.

Ten chief executive Hamish McLennan is clearly pushing for a relaxation of the media ownership regulations – particularly the two out of three rule – that limits a company having radio, television and print in the same market.

For Foxtel to become involved in the deal it would ultimately require a green light from its other 50 per cent owner, Telstra, which sources said yesterday was being advised by UBS.

It is not surprising that buyers are circling Ten given its shares are now trading at the penny-dreadful end of the market and its losses are predicted to extend into the current financial year. Last week it reported $168 million of red ink for the 2014 financial year.

From its current position Ten’s reversal of fortunes has less to do with luck and much more to do with money. It needs access to funding to vie for big-ticket programming – particularly in sport – that will provide it with ratings.

Support from Foxtel could certainly supply the funds and the two groups could bid for programs that would benefit both.

Recent history has shown that turning around this network is a mammoth task. McLennan is the group’s third chief executive since 2010.

Four years ago when a clutch of billionaires decided to take control of Ten, it had all the hallmarks of an opportunistic vulture-like move. The clapped-out third free-to-air network seemed ripe for management and financial renovation. Had it not been for the established wealth of the then new shareholders, James Packer, Lachlan Murdoch and Gina Rinehart, it would have been a shirt-losing investment. For these three (and fellow investor Bruce Gordon) the 80 per cent-plus fall in Ten’s value since was more akin to losing a sock from a financial perspective.

Roll the calendar forward to Monday and it certainly seems that these investors have lost not just money but interest in running the show.

Industry speculation says that News or Foxtel would take on the management rights of Ten, but whether this would pass the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission smell test remains to be seen.

(Some years back the ACCC blocked Kerry Stokes, who controls the Seven Network, from buying a major interest in Foxtel and FoxSports.)

Reports on Monday that Fairfax boss Greg Hywood had sounded out Ten chief McLennan lit a fire under the network’s share price but Fairfax’s ability to fund Ten would have to be questioned.

The fact that Gina Rinehart has apparently decided to quit her board seat – or at least appoint a representative – is testament to the fact that she seems to have abandoned her flirtation with influencing Ten’s management.

While she wants to retain her 10 per cent stake in Ten the message filtering out from her camp is that her focus has turned to the main game – which is the development and opening of her new $11.4 billion Roy Hill iron ore project.

Even if the network secures an offer, it would take a major turnaround and probably several years for Ten’s share price to improve to the $1.50 levels at which these investors could even recoup the money they put in. But better to roll the dice again than cement the loss now.

Packer achieved his objective in Ten many years ago when he managed to have the network ditch its sports digital channel, One, and relaunch it with a more mainstream offering.

In doing so it took competitive pressure off his investments in Foxtel and Foxsports, both of which he later sold. He is no longer a director of Ten.

Lachlan Murdoch, who was far more active in the running of Ten until last year, has now turned his attention to a bigger role in his father Rupert’s empire at 21st Century Fox and News Corp. Having been chairman and interim chief executive he is no longer on the board of Ten.

For now Ten continues to struggle in a fairly weak free-to-air television market against two strong competitors in Seven and Nine.

Some small green shoots were evident earlier this year with success in Big Bash cricket, the Winter Olympics and the last season of MasterChefcombined with the popular Bachelor.

But there have not been sufficient periods of ratings consistency to attract increasing advertising from the all-important media buyers.

December 4th, 2018

Tony Abbott invites Joko Widodo to G20 as Indonesia’s new President promises to strengthen maritime

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Indonesian President Joko Widodo (right) meets Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott prior to a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta. Photo: Alex EllinghausenJakarta: Tony Abbott met the new Indonesian President Joko Widodo late on Monday night and personally invited him to Brisbane to the G20 meeting next month, but received a non-committal reply.
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As foreshadowed in an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media recently, Mr Joko is waiting for advice before deciding to make the trip to Australia on November 15 and 16.

“He invited us to attend G20. It was the main topic,” Mr Joko told reporters after his bilateral meeting with Mr Abbott at the presidential palace into which he had moved just hours earlier.

“I don’t know [if I will go] because I said we still have not a cabinet who will discuss it.”

Asked when he would appoint his cabinet, he said, “as soon as possible”.

The pair had also talked about two-way investment, which is a thin $15 billion in goods and services, and the number of students who came from Indonesia to study in Australian universities.

“The number is very big, but it’s not the case in reverse,” Mr Joko said.

The Abbott government is attempting to redress this with its so-called “reverse Colombo plan” to encourage Australians to study in Indonesian universities.

Australia regards both the bilateral meeting and Mr Joko’s attendance at the G20 as extremely important as Mr Abbott seeks to get in on the ground floor and build a strong relationship with the new Indonesian president, who was inaugurated earlier in the day.

But in small talk before their meeting, Mr Joko seemed to acknowledge the rocky history between the two countries, saying he hoped the relationship would improve.

He said he wanted Mr Abbott to know that, “if we have a problem, you can talk to my ambassador [Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, who was at the talks] because for me communication is important”.

Mr Nadjib is the same ambassador who was withdrawn from his post for six months by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono over revelations of Australian spying.

Mr Abbott reminded Mr Joko that he was following in the footsteps of his predecessor, John Howard, who attended the inauguration of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2004.

Mr Joko’s meeting with Abbott was bookended by other parts of a crowded schedule; Mr Joko met with the Prime Ministers of Malaysia and Singapore, and the Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry.

Mr Joko was also busy with the public festivities, cutting a ceremonial yellow cone of rice and distributing it to ordinary people: a taxi driver, three women from the poor easternmost province of Papua, and a physics student.

He prayed on stage with leaders of each of Indonesia’s six organised religions: Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist and Confucianism and said he would throw open the presidential palace in an “orderly way” to the people for dialogue.

In his speech to the people, he repeated a sentiment expressed earlier in the day at his inauguration ceremony that Indonesians from all walks of life should work together to manage their “big nation … in the right way”.

“There is no way we will be big and strong if we are lazy,” he said.

Earlier, in his inauguration speech, Mr Joko had emphasised Indonesia’s history as a maritime nation, quoting the motto of the Indonesian navy “Jales Veva Jaya Mahe”, which means “In the water, we are triumphant”, and said that for too long the country had turned its back on the “bays and straits and oceans”.

“The time for us is to return to make Indonesia a maritime nation … to be as great in the oceans as our ancestors were in the past.”

The comment reinforces his intention, expressed in a blunt warning to Mr Abbott in an exclusive Fairfax Media interview, to be “stronger” on maritime sovereignty, and to invoke maritime law against any Australian incursions.

Also yesterday, Mr Kerry met Mr Abbott, and praised him for his contribution to the fight against ISIL, saying the United States “could not have a stronger partner” than Australia.

December 4th, 2018

UFOs, DMT and Q&A: Rare politician-free night gets weird and wacky

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Brian Cox brought a declaration of uncertainty not often found around the emphatically opinionated Q&A. Matt Colwell: “There’s so many racist idiots in this country and they’re everywhere. The Australian flag … I identify that with racism. Anyone else?” Photo: Tim Bauer
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Brian Cox brought a declaration of uncertainty not often found around the emphatically opinionated Q&A. Photo: ABC

Brian Cox brought a declaration of uncertainty not often found around the emphatically opinionated Q&A. Photo: ABC

Matt Colwell: “There’s so many racist idiots in this country and they’re everywhere. The Australian flag … I identify that with racism. Anyone else?” Photo: ABC

Brian Cox brought a declaration of uncertainty not often found around the emphatically opinionated Q&A. Photo: ABC

Brian Cox brought a declaration of uncertainty not often found around the emphatically opinionated Q&A. Photo: ABC

If the aliens among us were watching Q&A on Monday night, chances are they turned to each other and said: “Don’t worry, guys. They’ve got no idea.”

Which is not to say the panellists on a rare politician-free episode of the nation’s weekly fireside venting of spleens didn’t have their brains engaged. It was just that the subject matter lent itself to the whimsical and the fantastic, with questions of life on other planets and the possibility of time-travel among the debates around which Tony Jones had to manoeuvre his guests. In the preceding timeslot, Four Corners was all about ice. Q&A was more your old-fashioned acid trip.

“Have you ever heard of a drug called DMT?” panellist and rapper Matt Colwell asked the host early on, referencing a psychedelic which may or may not have been hidden in the sandwiches in the ABC green room before the broadcast.

Jones apparently hadn’t, but the line drew a big laugh – in contrast to the awkward hush that settled when Colwell, aka 360, later shared his thoughts on the Australian flag, a moment that briefly brought the show down to earth with a thoughtful thud.

“There’s so many racist idiots in this country and they’re everywhere. The Australian flag … I identify that with racism. Anyone else?”

His question was greeted with a little applause, and he continued: “On Australia Day you see a bunch of dudes walking around with their tops off and they’ve got an Australian flag around their neck.”

We were in inflammatory territory now – Colwell described flag-wavers as “these dickheads” – but there was little time to linger. There were other lands – African ones, with Ebola, for instance – and other planets to contemplate. The most interesting guest was the British physicist Brian Cox, whose musings on the known and unknown wonders around us reminded us how much we understand, and how much we still have to learn – a declaration of uncertainty not often found around the emphatically opinionated Q&A desk.

In one of his early responses, Cox showed he was not a guest from the common run. To illustrate a point about the presence or otherwise of invisible spirits, he grabbed Jones’s running sheets and declared: “I’m going to mess these up, mix them around.”

The audience got into that spirit. One questioner expressed an interest in time machines, and wondered: “Why can’t they come back to 2014 and show us how to build it?” And in an answer to a question on the school curriculum, conductor and music educator Richard Gill had us pondering questions of time and space even more deeply with an answer that seemed likely to end in 2027.

But the question of the night – perhaps the most entertaining Q&A question ever – came from a man named Igor, who opened the bowling with this: “I was lucky enough in my youth to witness a UFO so I need no convincing about extra-terrestrial intelligence.”

We learned that it happened in the south of France and involved a cigar-shaped object that hung about for five minutes. Cigars? Finally it seemed we might veer back to familiar territory – politics, the budget – but Jones, dare we say it, was a Q&A girly man in his follow up. No mention of Mathias Cormann or Joe Hockey and their ill-advised public stogies. Instead, Jones asked of Igor: “You weren’t taken up and experimented on?”

No, Igor wasn’t, but for one curious hour the Q&A studio was an interesting enough laboratory without need for that particular kind of probe.

 

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December 4th, 2018

Code of conduct plan a threat to retailers

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A lucrative source of income for Coles and Woolworths could come under threat from a proposed grocery code of conduct and the competition watchdog’s crackdown on profit gouging in the $111 billion food and grocery trade.
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At risk is the $20 billion-plus in rebates, discounts and promotional allowances that food and grocery suppliers pay Coles, Woolworths, Metcash and other retailers in “trade spend” each year.

Trade spend has grown by at least 4 per cent a year over the past four years, from an average 22 per cent of sales in 2010 to 25.6 per cent in 2013, squeezing supplier margins while underpinning profits for the major retailers.

According to a KPMG report on the sustainability and competitiveness of the food and grocery sector, trade spend by 17 major food and grocery industry suppliers rose from $3.8 billion in 2010 to $4.3 billion in 2013.

However, these suppliers accounted for just 16 per cent of the market. Industry players believe total trade spend could be more than $20 billion.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council believes the competition and consumer commission’s latest allegations of unconscionable conduct against Coles could help suppliers resist pressure from retailers to plug profit gaps, pay for better positions on supermarket shelves or fund promotions.

At the same time, the proposed grocery code of conduct signed between Coles, Woolworths and grocery suppliers last year would restrict retailers’ ability to force suppliers to pay 100 per cent of the cost of wastage and theft in stores, as Coles is alleged to have done.

“If you look at the code and look at the ACCC’s actions they’re squarely related to trade spend, (including) demands for additional payments and offsetting claims against remittances, payments to make up profit projections and so forth,” said Australian Food and Grocery Council chief executive Gary Dawson.

“Strengthening the ability of suppliers to push back on these sorts of demands should help to at least moderate the increase in trade spend and hopefully we’ll see it plateau,” Mr Dawson said.

“When you look at the decline in profitability in suppliers and the correlation between that and rising trade spend it suggests a significant profit transfer [to the retailers],” Mr Dawson said.

“There’s only so much profit in the pool and this has to top out at some point.”

KPMG estimated that trade spend now accounted for $1 of every $4 in supplier sales and now exceeded the cost of goods sold for many suppliers.

However, increased trade spending had failed to boost suppliers’ sales, which have fallen 1.2 per cent a year over the past four years while volumes have risen only 0.1 per cent.

For major domestic and multinational suppliers trade spend represented as much as 37.5 per cent of gross sales and trade spend with Woolworths and Coles accounted for 28.7 per cent of gross sales.

Coles and Woolworths previously reported income from rebates, discounts and promotional allowances in their annual accounts. But after a change in accounting standards under IFRS, trade spend is now netted off against their cost of goods sold.

Analysts say income from rebates, discounts and allowances remains a “big pot of money” for the retailers.

However, as the major retailers come under increasing scrutiny over their treatment of suppliers and as suppliers’ profits are squeezed, extracting more trade spend may prove increasingly difficult.

“Trade spend as a source of earnings growth is getting harder for the retailers to extract because of ACCC scrutiny and lower supply profitability,” said Citigroup analyst Craig Woolford.

According to the KPMG report, suppliers’ earnings before interest and tax to sales have fallen from 9.6 per cent in 2010 to 6.9 per cent in 2013 and are now well below those of their international peers, despite retailers’ claims that some multinational suppliers are “over-earning” in Australia.

“Overall, trade spend was the key driver for the declining gross and EBIT margins,” the KPMG report said.

Mr Dawson said the grocery code of conduct, which is expected to be introduced late this year or early next year, was founded on a reasonable sharing of risk and reward between retailers and suppliers.

Under the code retailers would no longer be able to charge suppliers for products stolen from supermarkets or pay 100 per cent of wastage, over which they have little or no control.

Retailers will also be banned from varying supply agreements retrospectively and demanding payments for better shelf space.

‘It’s untenable to think they can transfer 100 per cent of the risk and none of the reward to suppliers,” Mr Dawson said.

Last week the ACCC accused Coles of unconscionable conduct against five grocery suppliers in 2011 by forcing them to plug gaps in its profits, pay for wastage in stores and pay fines for late deliveries.

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

December 4th, 2018

Kevin Andrews says welfare reform a ‘two-term exercise’

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Kevin Andrews sees welfare reform as a “two-term exercise”. Photo: Andrew Meares Kevin Andrews in his ministerial suite in Parliament House on Monday. Photo: Andrew Meares
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Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews has described the Coalition’s welfare reform plans as a “two-term exercise” as he prepares to receive the late-running final report of the federal government’s sweeping review of the $100 billion welfare system.

Mr Andrews, who was a senior minister under the Howard government, has also committed to standing at the 2016 election and made a pitch to keep his portfolio in a second term.

This comes after speculation from within the Liberal Party that Mr Andrews may retire at the next federal election to make way for a new generation of Coalition frontbenchers. But in an interview with Fairfax Media on Monday, Mr Andrews said he will “definitely” stand at the next federal election, due at this stage around 2016.

“I will stand again. And if the Prime Minister is willing, I’d be delighted to stay in this portfolio,” he said. “I see [welfare reform] as a longer-term thing,” he explained, noting that it took “at least two terms” to push through welfare reforms under the Howard government.

Mr Andrews was due to receive the final report of the McClure welfare review in October, but is now not expecting it until November.  “They’re still finishing it,” he said, adding that he did not want the team, headed up by Patrick McClure, rushing to an “artificial deadline”.

While Mr Andrews would not be drawn on any specific recommendations in the final report, he suggested it would stay within the “broad framework” of the interim report, handed down in June.

This report suggested that the welfare system be cut from about 75 payments, supplements and allowances to just four main payments categories: a child payment, disability pension, age pension and tiered working-age payment. It also suggested that only people with a permanent disability receive the disability support pension.

Mr Andrews has long been a supporter of streamlining welfare payments and supplements, but on Monday hinted that four main categories may not be enough. While noting that the government did not have a fixed number about payments, supplements and allowances as yet, he said it would “desirable” to get down to 25 or 30.

“The advantage of more payments is you can be more precise in how you target them,” he said. “But the more payments, then the more complex the system is to navigate.”

The final McClure report will then be considered with Andrew Forrest’s review of indigenous employment and welfare, that was handed down in July. Mr Andrews said the two will eventually be considered in a submission to cabinet.

He said the “complex” nature of the welfare reforms was complicated by the fact that the IT system in the Department of Human Services,  which runs Centrelink,  needed to be replaced.

“There are things we can’t do until we get a new IT system,” he said, noting that some welfare reforms may not be possible until 2017 or 2018,  well after the next federal election, which is also likely to see a different Senate makeup.

This comes as several of the government’s key social services budget measures, including the six-month wait for the dole for the under 30s, changes to the rate of pension indexation and changes to the pension age, remain blocked in the Parliament. Earlier this month, Mr Andrews split the contentious budget bills to try and get them through the Senate.

He had put “material” to the crossbench and “they’re away thinking about it at the present time”. He  had told the crossbench that the government would “ideally” like to achieve the six-month wait, but was open to a “counterproposition”.

He strongly hinted that the government would be open to accepting a one-month wait instead.

“I can’t say [what the government’s final position would be] but one month would be better than what we’ve got now.”

December 4th, 2018

David Jones revamp lifts Country Road’s profile, shakes up executive team

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New David Jones owner Woolworths is heavily promoting the Country Road brand. Photo: Louie Douvis South African retailer Woolworths is keen to lift the profile of its Country Road brand across its David Jones stores. Photo: Louie Douvis
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New David Jones owner Woolworths is heavily promoting the Country Road brand. Photo: Louie Douvis

South African retailer Woolworths is keen to lift the profile of its Country Road brand across its David Jones stores. Photo: Louie Douvis

New David Jones owner Woolworths is heavily promoting the Country Road brand. Photo: Louie Douvis

South African retailer Woolworths is keen to lift the profile of its Country Road brand across its David Jones stores. Photo: Louie Douvis

New David Jones owner Woolworths is heavily promoting the Country Road brand. Photo: Louie Douvis

South African retailer Woolworths is keen to lift the profile of its Country Road brand across its David Jones stores. Photo: Louie Douvis

South African retailer Woolworths is accelerating the transformation of its Australian retail businesses, lifting the profile of Country Road while shaking up executive ranks at David Jones.

Two months after completing a $2.1 billion takeover, Woolworths has made its first noticeable change to David Jones’ offer by heavily promoting Country Road clothing and homewares.

Windows in David Jones’ flagship Sydney store, which normally feature international and domestic designer brands, are swathed in Country Road this week, coinciding with the brand’s 40th birthday celebrations.

Country Road and sister brands Witchery and Mimco are now wholly owned by Woolworths after the retailer completed a $213 million takeover last month, ending a 17-year stand-off with 11.8 per cent shareholder Solomon Lew.

Expanding the Country Road, Witchery and Mimco ranges in David Jones is a key component of Woolworths chief executive Ian Moir’s plan to lift earnings at David Jones by $130 million over the next five years.

Mr Moir has forecast $30 million to $40 million in incremental earnings from growing the Country Road brands and another $70 million to $80 million from increasing private label brands from 4 per cent of sales to 20 per cent.

According to David Jones’ 2014 accounts, sales rose 2.4 per cent to $1.89 billion in the 12 months ending July, but net profit fell 21.2 per cent to $75 million – in line with a 22.6 per cent fall in profits at rival Myer.

Woolworths has also put the broom through David Jones’ executive ranks amid mounting speculation it plans to sell and lease back its four CBD stores.

David Jones chief financial officer Brad Soller will step down this month, following other executives who have departed since Woolworths took control in August. These include head of strategic planning Matthew Durbin and general counsel Susan Leppinus.

Other senior executives have been promoted, including retail services head Tony Karp, who is now head of group transformation for Woolworths and is responsible for driving integration and transformation opportunities across the business.

Mr Soller was opposed to the sale and leaseback of the four CBD properties and his departure – by mutual agreement – clears the way for Woolworths to explore offers from local and international superannuation funds and real-estate investment trusts.

JP Morgan analyst Stephen Carrott believes Woolworths has a “firm intention” to sell and lease back the four stores – two in Sydney and two in Melbourne – by early 2016. The stores are in the books at $612 million but could be worth $900 million, he says.

Mr Moir has previously said he will review the property portfolio when further information is received. “Our view on David Jones’ property portfolio hasn’t changed since we announced the acquisition of the business,” a Woolworths spokesman said on Monday.

“This was a retail acquisition not a property acquisition so our first priority remains the business and ensuring it has the right systems and resources in place. We don’t see property as the priority so no decisions have been made.”

December 4th, 2018

Aged-care proposal for Middle Head under fire

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A two-year battle is fast approaching a climax at Middle Head.A former long-serving board member of the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust has lashed out at plans to build an aged-care facility on a disused defence site at Middle Head, saying if it goes ahead it amounts to “effectively selling off prime Sydney real estate to an entrepreneur”.
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Retired Brigadier Kevin O’Brien,  a member of the trust’s board for 10 years, says it would set a “very unhealthy precedent” and would not have happened if he had still been on the board.

He says a major reason for the Howard government delivering the former defence lands around the harbour into the trust’s  hands was to protect them from residential development.

And he says the proposal to lease the site – a cluster of former defence buildings known as 10 Terminal – to an aged-care provider risks alienating the site in perpetuity because of the capital cost involved in converting it.

“They [the plan’s advocates] will tell you that they are going to do a  … [25]-year lease  but anybody with a business brain would tell you that this is predicated on something much longer. You will never get the people out. The business itself will never leave. I think we are effectively selling off prime Sydney real estate to an entrepreneur, that’s what we are doing.”

The proposal for an 89-bed facility is under active consideration by the trust and has to be approved by both its board and the federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt. Mr Hunt is due to make a decision this week.

A spokesman for the trust rejected Brigadier O’Brien’s broadside, arguing  there was nothing in the trust’s act that conflicted with the site being used as an aged-care facility.

“The Harbour Trust’s sites are unusual parklands because we have adaptively re-used the hundreds of former military buildings on [them] for contemporary uses that fit well in a parkland setting,” the spokesman said. The lease would be “strictly for 25 years and has no right of renewal”, the spokesman insisted.

However, Brigadier O’Brien says the residential aspect of the aged-care proposal makes it different to other uses being made of trust sites around the harbour. He says the 10 Terminal buildings have military historic significance and will be substantially restructured, not adapted.

The chief executive of the trust, Geoff Bailey, has been openly sympathetic to the aged-care proposal, recently telling Mosman Council, which opposes the plan, that the elderly would benefit from the “soothing quality of the natural setting”.

Brigadier O’Brien, a military historian as well as former senior army officer, is the first former or present board member to speak out against the proposal. He said the defence department had historically occupIed the harbour headlands, particularly Middle Head and North Head, to protect Sydney from invaders.

“Of course we never got invaded but the fortuitous by-product was that we protected these lands from developers,” he said. “This will set a very bad precedent.” 

December 4th, 2018

Green Economy Index 2014: Australia ranked last for leadership

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Australia has fallen sharply in international green economy rankings, coming last out of 60 countries for performance on political leadership and climate change, and 37th overall, new research shows.
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Our performance now lags behind developing nations such as Kenya, Zambia, Ethiopia and Rwanda, according to the 2014 Global Green Economy Index. A green economy is one that improves the quality of life while reducing its environmental impact.

“Australia has seen a sharp decline since the change of government,” said Jeremy Tamanini, chief executive of Dual Citizen, the Washington consultancy that produced the research.

“Its head of state [Tony Abbott] has a negative association with the green economy concept.”

 

The 2014 index included more countries and indicators than in 2012 but Australia’s fall in international standing was nonetheless “dramatic”, he said. In the 2012 index, Australia came second out of 27 countries for political leadership, and 10th overall for its green economic performance.

The latest report attributes Australia’s poor result for leadership to “negative [global] media coverage” and “unconstructive behaviour in international forums”.

It said Australia is “a rare case” – along with a handful of countries including Japan, the Netherlands and the US – that gets more credit for its green economic performance than it deserves.

However, it also noted the debate about the carbon tax had “thrust the country into the international spotlight”, which would perhaps bring Australia’s international reputation more into alignment with its actual green economic performance.

Opposition climate change spokesperson Mark Butler said Australia’s rank of “dead last” for leadership and climate change was “not in the least bit surprising, given Tony Abbott’s … refusal to attend the UN Climate Summit in September or include climate change on the G20 agenda”.

Greens leader Christine Milne accused the Prime Minister of “well and truly demolish[ing] Australia’s standing as a world leader in addressing global warming”.

The breakdown of Australia’s score for leadership and climate change showed “Australia fared poorly on performance in every sub-category of this dimension”, Mr Tamanini said. The research ranked Australia last for behaviour in international forums, second-last for climate change performance, fourth-last for head of state and fifth-last for media coverage.

The index uses data from various sources, including the International Energy Agency, Cornell University, Yale University and the international INSEAD business school, to measure each country’s performance and perception. Perception scores are based on an international survey of more than 1000 practitioners in green economy sectors.

Sweden, Norway and Costa Rica topped this year’s performance rankings; Germany, Denmark and Sweden scored highest for international reputation, or perception.

In regard to performance, Australia ranked second for environmental and natural capital; 18th for investment and innovation, and 36th for efficient resource use. In perception assessments, Australia ranked 11th overall; seventh for environment; 10th for efficiency; 12th for investment and 18th for leadership.

The government did not respond to questions about the index, or Australia’s slide in the international rankings. A spokesperson for the Department of the Environment said: “Australia’s 2020 emissions reduction target … compared well to major emitters, including the US, EU, Canada, Japan and NZ.”

December 4th, 2018

Elderly to be forced out of Millers Point as cheap rent deal comes to an end

Comments Off on Elderly to be forced out of Millers Point as cheap rent deal comes to an end, 杭州桑拿, by admin.

Darling House resident Eileen Enslow, who turns 90 this week, is stunned the facility will close. Photo: Nic WalkerNon-profit community groups are being forced to pay hundreds of dollars a week in rent, throwing their viability into doubt, as the NSW government abandons “peppercorn rent” agreements that have been in place for decades.
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In the latest example, the Darling House aged care home at Millers Point has been informed that a $5-a-week rent agreement struck more than 20 years ago will be scrapped, forcing the facility to close and leaving residents “stunned”.

The Department of Family and Community Services rents about 1200 properties to non-profit organisations, many on peppercorn rents. It has confirmed it intends to fulfil a direction by Treasury that “market values …. be realised” on the lease of the assets – a move critics have described as “cruel”.

Darling House’s management was informed in August that the government would charge full market rent after one more year on the lease deal.

Residents were told last week that the rent increase, combined with other factors, meant the facility will close next March. It comprises nine units, catering to elderly residents requiring low-level care.

Board member John McInerney said the rent increase could be up to $200,000 a year, delivering “the final nail in the coffin” to the struggling facility.

He said the community was “under attack” following the government’s public housing sell-off at Millers Point.

Eileen Enslow, who turns 90 later this month, said the announcement left her and other residents “stunned”.

“It’s the last thing we could have expected. I don’t know what they intend doing with the place,” she said.

Millers Point: a community under the hammer

The Council of Social Service of NSW paid $24 a year for the Old Children’s Court in Surry Hills, however that arrangement ends this week. The group will pay market rent at a new premises and has curbed spending and sought new funding to cover costs.

In the Illawarra, the non-profit Warilla Child Care Centre must pay market rent from December next year, bringing to an end a $1-a-year agreement in place since 1976.

The operator, Shellharbour City Council, will close the centre if an alternative operator cannot be found.

“Moving to market rental would increase the operating deficit, which would need to be met by either the council or passed on to families,” a spokeswoman said, estimating that daily childcare rates would increase from $70 to $100.

It is understood the peppercorn rent paid by the Glebe Youth Service is also in doubt.

Greens MP Jamie Parker said the move to market rent was “a cruel ideological attack that will inevitably see these critical services close”.

A departmental spokeswoman said it “understands the value these facilities provide to the community and will do everything it can to implement government’s policy sensitively”.

She said the department would retain the conditions of leases when they expire, “while negotiations take place on a new lease agreement”.