Monthly Archives:March 2019

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Taxpayers taken on a long car ride

March 29th, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网419 /

THE first thing to notice about Australia’s three car makers is how jealously they guard their accounts.
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It’s no wonder. Notwithstanding some $3 billion in government handouts in the past 10 years, you won’t find the financial statements for Ford, Holden and Toyota on the company websites.

You won’t find them at all unless you pay a tidy fee to the corporate regulator for access to these supposedly public documents.

Even cutting through the car makers’ public relations and ”communications” thickets to ask a basic question is tough.

It’s the same deal with government. The Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education did not even bother returning calls last week.

The department is paranoid, mired in a court battle with The Australian Financial Review over some emails sent mistakenly after a freedom of information request. Holden has joined the government’s case against the newspaper.

The fact is, the government should not be hiding this stuff, nor chewing through taxpayer dollars trying to suppress information in the courts, information which should be public.

It’s in the public interest for people to know what deals are being struck with their tax dollars, especially if they are propping up purportedly unprofitable businesses.

In a self-interested aside, it is not as if we battlers here in the traditional media business – a sector in worse financial shape but whose survival is arguably more critical to the nation – have our hands out for taxpayer dollars.

Greater transparency is clearly warranted in the light of the findings of this BusinessDay investigation of the Holden, Ford and Toyota accounts.

Once again, in a pattern replicated year in, year out, as much profit as appears possible has been sent offshore.

The car industry, it seems, has been taking the taxpayer for a ride, an epic ride. And now it has hit a bump. That bump takes the form of a challenge to the sweetheart deals between the car makers and the government.

In a nutshell, this is the debate: the Fin Review has been running its doctrinaire and increasingly determined anti-protectionist line. The government has countered by talking up the benefit of a heavy manufacturing base and protecting thousands of jobs.

Holden chief Mike Devereux weighed in last week, telling the Murdoch press the benefit of this latest round of ”co-investment” – a euphemism for government subsidy – was a ”multiplier effect”.

That is, beyond the direct investment by General Motors and the government, there is job creation and rising demand for other goods and services. Devereux puts the value of this latest $1 billion ”co-investment” at $4 billion.

The car makers have been less enthusiastic when it comes to multiplier effects elsewhere, even hypocritical some may contend, by objecting to the government’s move to protect steel makers against cheap imports.

For their part, the anti-protection crusaders see dark forces at work, shadowy deals between the unions and the Labor government. They point to a $53 million bailout for Ford in January that shortly preceded Ford’s commitment to 3 per cent wage rises for the next three years.

Holden, they say, struck a similar agreement last year.

The reality is that cosy deals have carried on for decades, and have sprung from governments of both hues. In the past 10 years, more has been forked out in subsidies than has been recorded in bottom-line profits.

Herein lies the rub. To what extent are the accounts of the car makers financially engineered to shift profits offshore?

The sheer size of the ”cost of sales” line in the accounts of the three car makers and the alarmingly high proportion of related party transactions in these figures leads to the inescapable conclusion that the companies’ offshore parents are benefiting at the expense of their local subsidiaries.

Whether this accounting charade is reason enough to jettison every last protection initiative and throw the car makers to the laissez-faire wolves is another matter. We defer to others on the old multiplier effect.

Suffice to say that the fervent cries of the anti-protection brigade do not extend to indignation about the free ride that has been afforded the big banks, to nominate another mollycoddled sector.

Above all, there is undeniable public interest in having this all out in the plain light of day.

No suppression of information, and far greater transparency on the part of government and the manufacturers has to be a good thing.

Joining the dots in the Holden accounts, it would appear that the Tax Office became a little fed up with the some of the aggressive tax minimisation tactics a few years ago.

There has been an unravelling of deferred tax assets, which explains a small tax benefit last year although there was also a profit.

The ATO has reduced GM’s entitlement to royalties paid by $51 million in 2005, $46 million in 2006, $43 million in 2007 and $37 million in 2008.

It then increased taxable income by up to $22 million in the same years.

From a global perspective the auto bosses in the US and Japan would be loath to see a lurk like this come to an end, one in which foreign governments help to fund demand for their spare parts.

With SU-LIN TAN

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JUST last month former QBE boss Frank O’Halloran was pressing the flesh at the AFL grand final on behalf of the insurance group as the team the company has sponsored for 25 years, the Sydney Swans, took home the cup in a nail-biter.
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By the end of this month, he’ll be helping to run a competitor as chairman of Steadfast Group, which is basically a buyers’ group for insurance brokers, as it prepares for a listing on the ASX.

Not bad after leaving QBE with shares and benefits worth up to $37 million in August.

What’s more, QBE seems fairly relaxed about the move, giving O’Halloran an early release from a non-compete agreement that could have kyboshed the deal.

Because QBE underwrites about 17 per cent of Steadfast’s business, plans for O’Halloran to rejoin the QBE board next year as a non-executive director have been ditched.

CBD ventures to suggest new QBE CEO John Neal might find life a little easier without the man who used a series of ambitious acquisitions to build the company into what it is today looking over his shoulder.

Indeed, the company seems to have been so relaxed about the move it didn’t get around to putting out an announcement until after 5pm on Friday.

A QBE spokesman insists the timing wasn’t the company’s choice, but rather due to the National Insurance Brokers Association shindig over the weekend, at which QBE won general insurer of the year.

While Steadfast is happy to have O’Halloran, and QBE is happy to let him go, there is one drawback to the otherwise satisfactory arrangement.

O’Halloran won’t be lending his skills at any more company functions, including an upcoming overseas trip QBE has organised for analysts.

CBD doesn’t know where the tour is going, but suggests Bermuda, where QBE has recently expanded the operations of its captive reinsurer, Equator Re, moving eight people from its Dublin office.

For his part, it is understood O’Halloran jetted out for South America yesterday morning.

‘Big’ Jim’s hiring

IT SOUNDS like a great job, even if the grammar and spelling is a little shaky. Corporate development manager for a small, private, Swiss investment firm that’s on the prowl for underperforming Australian minnows it can snap up and turn around.

Sure, there’s some random capitalisation in the ad and ”implement” is spelt ”impalement”, which sounds a bit uncomfortable, but hey, with a name like Swissco Asia Pacific Investment Fund, English is not going to be their first language, right?

So, why is it that the phone number of twice-banned, baseball-bat-wielding, former used car salesman ”Big” Jim Byrnes appears at the bottom of the ad Swissco placed on Seek南京夜网.au on Friday?

CBD recognised the number because it’s the same one used to sell the ”0” number plates that used to adorn the Sydney property developer and former bankrupt’s Mercedes.

”Big” Jim told CBD he was ”just an employee” and ”not in a position to disclose anything. I’m not in a position legally to disclose where the funds come from.”

However, Switzerland’s freely available corporate database shows the company, originally named Rollercom, was set up in late 2010 by a Dr Martin Grossmann as an insurance and finance outfit and changed its purpose to investment in the Asia Pacific region in August.

CBD hopes Jim’s latest Swiss connection fares better than his last effort, ALF Group Holdings.

The company, formerly in the knickers trade under the moniker Can Can Lingerie Holding, was connected to his litigation funder Australian Litigation Funders.

Can Can couldn’t couldn’t, was de-listed by the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in June and went into liquidation by order of a Swiss court the following month.

Company documents show that Jim, his wife Catherine and business associate Michael Pakula were directors when the ship went down, although Jim told CBD that his family had bought the Australian assets back before that happened.

The documents also show one of ALF’s previous directors was Dr Martin Grossmann, of Zurich.

Clearly relations between Jim and the doctor are still good.

”They were the ones who sought me out, not the other way around,” he said.

The Village elders

WITH Australia’s population rapidly ageing, the push is on to keep older workers on the job for longer.

The Australian Law Reform Commission has released a paper chock full of proposals that remove the barriers to keeping a rapidly graying workforce at the coalface – things like lifting the retirement age for judges and soldiers, allowing over-75s to top up their super, and encouraging employers to take on older workers.

None of those things would seem to be needed at cinema and theme park operator Village Roadshow, at least at executive and board level.

The company has just extended chief executive Graham Burke’s contract through to 2017, by which time he will be a sprightly 75.

As a mark of gratitude for his ”outstanding contribution to the company over many years”, Burke is also to be granted 4.5 million Village Roadshow shares, at a cost of about $2.7 million.

The decision was made by an equally youthful board whose average age is 65.2.

It would be older but for a couple of teenagers, in the shape of 46-year-old Timothy Antonie, who also sits on the board of Solomon Lew’s Premier Investments, and 50-year-old Julie Raffe, dragging the average towards the cradle.

Luckily Austereo Group executive chairman Peter Harvie, 73, and Hollywood veteran Barry Reardon, 81, are there to bring a bit of wisdom to bear.

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Consider offering a commission package where your employees get a cut of the jobs they book.Q: MY BIGGEST challenge is staffing. I can’t afford to have someone on board full-time but need someone who can stay with the business about 30 hours a week. This condition doesn’t attract many removalists, so I have to get involved in a lot of jobs myself. Hence I lose some of our future business as I am too busy in the labour side of the job. Have you any advice on where a small business is trying to grow their business but has not enough jobs to cover necessary costs?
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A: THIRTY hours a week is close to full time, and it will likely take up enough of a person’s week to impede them from getting a second job. I’d suggest that if you are offering work that is flexible, you might want to consider getting some university students or recent graduates to help out. They are often happy to get some experience in the working world and can do jobs in between classes. But getting a student to commit to 30 hours a week during exam time and school holidays could prove difficult.

If you’re keen on getting people with experience on board, I’d consider offering a commission package where your employees get a cut of the jobs they book. That way you’ll start bringing in more business that will enable you to grow and give you the ability to offer full-time work to the most qualified candidates.

Q: WHAT are the best ways to defend the first-mover advantage that I might have when I launch a new e-product online? The idea behind the product is very simple, and while its application and market will potentially be extremely broad (and hopefully quite profitable), the barrier to entry for any potential competitors is extremely low. People will be able to copy the idea and create their own products very easily, meaning we will have first-mover advantage for a very short period. While I accept that reality, I’d like to make the most of the opportunity while it’s there. Are there any generic defence strategies you can recommend without knowing the details of the product?

A: IT’S tough to give you concrete advice without knowing what the product is, but here are some ideas. First I’d look into obtaining a patent. There are patent lawyers who specialise in this and they can tell you what elements of your product you might be able to get a patent on, which could help protect you from copycat competitors.

If that is not possible, you might look into copyrighting part of the product or the business process to give you some level of defence.

If neither of these is possible and if your e-product will open up a unique new category, you might want to try creating a unique name for your product with the goal of effectively inventing the name of the category in and of itself.

As an example, how many times have you left someone a “Post-It” or have had to “Hoover” the lounge room. These brand names have become common phrases to refer to a product category. If you have something unique, creating a bespoke product name is a good way to make it stick with consumers.

I’m not sure if you have current competitors, but if you think copycat products will follow very quickly, you might want to think about ways to work with category rivals instead of against them.

Can you license out part of the product or service? A lot of ”inventors” get precious about their product, but if you know your idea is going to be copied, you’re better off finding ways to work with your competitors instead of against them. Good luck.

Mark Bouris is executive chairman of wealth management company Yellow Brick Road. His advice here is intended as guidance only.

Email questions for Mark Bouris to Larissa Ham at [email protected]南京夜网.au

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Jones’ show to air ad-free

March 29th, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网419 /

Ad-free: radio personality Alan Jones.ALAN Jones is joining the ABC – in that he is offering a radio show entirely free of advertising.
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Jones’ employer, the Macquarie Radio Network, has taken the unprecedented step of indefinitely suspending all advertising on his 2GB breakfast show after a week of sustained pressure following his comments about the death of Julia Gillard’s father.

The show lost more than 70 sponsors and advertisers and the suspension will likely cost the network more than $80,000 a day in lost revenue. MRN executive chairman Russell Tate said money would not determine how long Jones’ show would be without advertising.

”The decision obviously comes at a very significant short-term cost to MRN,” Mr Tate said. ” The breaking point will not be determined by financial costs.”

The move comes in response to a sustained campaign via social media and email targeting businesses that support the Jones program, prompted by outrage over Jones’ comment to a Young Liberals function last month that the Prime Minister’s father had ”died of shame” over her ”lies”.

That outrage was only exacerbated by a fudged apology Jones offered last Sunday, in which he spent the majority of a 40-plus minute news conference berating Ms Gillard and her government.

Last Monday, a trickle of businesses announced they were withdrawing their advertising from 2GB. By the middle of last week it was a flood, leaving Jones with only with a loyal core of local advertisers.

Yesterday’s suspension of advertising will likely quarantine the rest of 2GB’s line-up from the effects of the social media campaign. Many ads are booked across the network as a whole, so the only way to guarantee they won’t appear on the Jones show is to withdraw from the network entirely.

Mr Tate said the station’s clients had been inundated with correspondence from protesters. ”One client received 6000 emails in a day,” he said. ”It’s causing a significant interruption in our clients’ businesses, so we’ve called time-out.”

Mr Tate said the company had not discussed removing Jones, who is a part-owner of the station via a complicated options structure.

One-third of Jones’ options – 1.3 million, both issued and redeemable at no cost to him – are redeemable at the end of this month, dependent on his show having increased revenue by 5 per cent year-on-year. The final tranche is due next year on the same proviso – a target that may now be beyond Jones.

Last week, branding experts told Fairfax it was likely that many advertisers would return within a month or so of pulling their ads.

It was even likely, said some, that MRN would suffer no lasting financial damage, as many major advertisers were on 12-month contracts that would be still be fulfilled once the scandal had died down.

However, the organisers of the anti-Jones campaign, which has attracted more than 108,000 supporters on change南京夜网 and spawned a host of Facebook pages and twitter streams – have vowed to continue their fight.

The comments by Mr Tate were ”a distraction”, campaign founder Nic Lochner said.

”They don’t address the two issues at play here – that Alan Jones is a serial offender when it comes to hate speech, and that the response from the Australian public has been a genuine groundswell of disgust to this appalling kind of behaviour.

”Mr Tate has said nothing that indicates Macquarie is going to take any action to address the pattern of hate and vitriol that has been a feature of Alan Jones’ program.”

MRN has taken the threat of an ongoing campaign seriously enough to host on its website a questionnaire asking regular listeners: ”During the last week, has your opinion of 2GB changed?” and ”During the last week, has your attitude towards companies that advertise on The Alan Jones Breakfast Show changed?”

The response, Mr Tate claimed in a lengthy statement issued yesterday, was overwhelmingly in the negative.

Though many listeners had shared the outrage over Jones’ initial comments, Mr Tate claimed: “The great majority acknowledge his apology and have not significantly changed their attitude.”

Nor, he added, did they appear to think any less of his advertisers.

”Since we now know these things to be fact, we have to conclude that the avalanche of telephone, email and Facebook demands to our advertisers to ‘boycott’ the Alan Jones Breakfast Show, and the threats to destroy their businesses if they don’t comply, are coming almost entirely from people who do not listen to Alan Jones or 2GB at all – probably never have done and never will,” he continued.

Attempting to frame the issue as a free-speech matter, Mr Tate accused campaigners of ”21st century censorship, via cyber-bullying”.

The revenue lost due to the suspension of advertising on the Jones show was ”an insignificant price to pay for our audience to be able to listen to what they choose to listen to, and for Australian companies to advertise where they choose to advertise,” Mr Tate said.

Campaigners saw it differently. ”This is not about cyber-bullying. It is about customers exercising their right to call companies to account about the kind of behaviour they want to see in Australian society,” Mr Lochner said.

”This campaign has been about calling for civility and decency in public debate.”

With JONATHAN SWAN

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Young slow on online protection

March 29th, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网419 /

Younger people are least likely to protect themselves online, according to new research.AUSTRALIANS overall are second only to Singaporeans in their concern for online privacy in the Asia-Pacific region, a study says.
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Click here to see previous The Privacy Question articles.

But younger people are least likely to protect themselves online, according to market research firm IBI Partners’ study – Online consumer behaviour throughout the Asia Pacific.

The study – which interviewed more than 20,000 people in 12 countries – found only 39 per cent of Australians aged between 18 and 30 took active measures to prevent online security breaches.

David Gorodyansky, the chief executive of AnchorFree – a US company that sells software to encrypt users’ online data in public wifi zones – said many still took online communication for granted.

”If you walk into my house you’ll know a lot less about me than if you look in my browsing data,” he said. ”People have a lock on their door at home but they don’t have a lock on their door online.”

Mr Gorodyansky said it was easier to compromise online data as more of it – and the technologies used to hack it – was accessible, with more people using the internet to communicate in daily life as a matter of course.

”If you go around to every Starbucks, or airport you can see everything people do on their wifi networks. Their bank accounts, their browsers, their email passwords – everything they’re doing. Firefox extension Firesheep, which demonstrates internet hijacking, takes five minutes to install and it’s open-source and it’s free.

”So I think the bad guys are advancing a lot faster than consumers are reacting.”

David Freer, the Asia-Pacific vice-president of anti-virus company Norton by Symantec, agreed, saying people were too comfortable sharing and storing their passwords and banking details on their mobile phone, which could be stolen or lost, and social media networks, which could be interfered with.

He said Norton research this year showed 40 per cent of Australian mobile phone owners did not have passwords on their phones.

Mr Freer said the perception of anonymity had made mobile phones and social media networks the newest risk areas for privacy breaches. 

The Age has launched a series on privacy and wants to hear from you.

 Email [email protected]南京夜网.au, visit us on Facebook at facebook南京夜网.au/theprivacyquestion or use the Twitter hashtag #ageprivacy.

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Assange set to sue PM

March 1st, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网419 /

JULIAN Assange has hired lawyers to find a way of suing Prime Minister Julia Gillard for defamation over the claim that WikiLeaks acted illegally in releasing a quarter of a million US diplomatic cables.
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In an interview from Ecuador’s embassy in London, Assange said Ms Gillard’s comment, made in late 2010, influenced MasterCard Australia to join an online financial blockade of the organisation.

Since November 2010, WikiLeaks has released more than 250,000 classified US diplomatic cables.

The White House and the Gillard government denounced the release.

”I absolutely condemn the placement of this information on the WikiLeaks website,” Ms Gillard said several days after WikiLeaks began releasing the cables.

”It’s a grossly irresponsible thing to do, and an illegal thing to do.”

Australian activist group GetUp! recently interviewed Assange in his makeshift home inside Ecuador’s embassy. He has been sheltering at the embassy since June 19 as part of a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over sexual assault allegations.

Assange said he would be vulnerable to arrest in Sweden by the United States Justice Department, which is examining the possibility of charging people associated with WikiLeaks with espionage over the online publication of the classified cables.

He told GetUp! that WikiLeaks’ work had been stymied by Ms Gillard’s comments.

”MasterCard Australia, in justifying why it has made a blockade preventing any Australian MasterCard holder from donating to WikiLeaks, used that statement by Julia Gillard as justification,” he said.

”So the effects of the statement are ongoing and they directly affect the financial viability of WikiLeaks. We are considering suing for defamation. So I have hired lawyers in Sydney and they are investigating the different ways in which we can sue Gillard over that statement.”

Assange said the comments were particularly damaging because they ”licensed” other forms of attack on him and WikiLeaks.

During the interview, he also spoke of the impact of the past two years on his family, saying his children – a boy and a girl, of whom no details are known- have had to move homes and change their names.

The Age reported last month that declassified US counter-espionage reports revealed the US military considers Assange and WikiLeaks to be enemies of the United States under the terms of American military law.

GetUp! national director Sam McLean said the interview was the first step in a campaign calling on the Australian government to seek a commitment from American authorities that they will not attempt to extradite Assange over WikiLeaks.

”For too long the Prime Minister and the foreign ministers have put the interests of the US government ahead of Australian citizens. That is not good enough,” Mr McLean said.

”Our government must demand a binding agreement from the US that they will not seek the extradition of this Australian citizen for his work as a journalist and publisher.”

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Slipper believed he was spied upon

March 1st, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网419 /

Peter Slipper arrives at the Federal Court in Sydney.
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THE man who introduced Peter Slipper to former aide and accuser James Ashby was told by the stood-aside Speaker that he believed he was being spied on.

The Age has obtained 200 pages of court documents detailing every SMS sent between Mr Slipper and Mr Ashby – who is suing the Speaker and former employer for sexual harassment – over a nine-month period.

The text messages – which reveal a one-time close and ribald relationship between the politician and the former staffer – were filed by Mr Ashby’s legal team in the Federal Court on Friday but are not public.

Rhys Reynolds, who briefly worked in Mr Slipper’s office in 2011, took Mr Ashby with him to a cocktail function at Mr Slipper’s Buderim home about the middle of last year, several months before the independent MP hired Mr Ashby as his media adviser in December.

The new evidence tendered to court by Mr Ashby’s defence team reveals Mr Reynolds – Mr Ashby’s one-time school friend – visited Canberra in November last year and met with Mr Slipper.

Mr Reynolds then advised Mr Ashby by text that Mr Slipper had asked if Mr Reynolds was gay and that he thought he was visiting him ”to spy on him” in order to feed information to the local Sunshine Coast media. Mr Slipper also inquired as to whether Mr Reynolds was homosexual and if he and Mr Ashby were ”still together”.

”Lol that’s Peter. He is very intrigued by the whole gay thing,” Mr Ashby replied in a text message after Mr Reynolds recounted the conversation. ”Wtf? That’s very bizarre to think about the spy thing!!!”

As part of his defence to Mr Ashby’s sexual harassment claim, Mr Slipper told the Federal Court this week he believes Mr Ashby ”was placed” in his office or ”contrived a situation where he was able to come to my office” as part of an elaborate political conspiracy driven by the Liberal National Party as payback for leaving the LNP to accept the Speaker’s position in November last year.

But Mr Ashby’s barrister, Michael Lee, SC, tendered to court 200 pages of documents as part of his client’s defence against claims made by Mr Slipper that the aide was ”grooming” the Speaker, not the other way around.

The 200 pages of new evidence also reveal Mr Slipper asked his aide in December, ”Want to go to kings cross/taylor sq in syd?”

Mr Ashby told a friend he had been advised against taking the position in the Speaker’s office by the wife of Queensland cabinet minister Mark McArdle, Judy, who had worked in Mr Slipper’s office previously. In October last year, Mr Ashby suggested Mr Slipper aim for the speakership. Mr Slipper appeared surprised at the suggestion, sending Mr Ashby an SMS that read: ”Range of options open … Where did you get the idea I could become Speaker?”

The documents also reveal Mr Slipper distrusted the local media in his electorate as he believed his LNP rivals – including Mal Brough, now the preselected candidate in the seat of Fisher – were involved in a co-ordinated campaign to smear his reputation.

The affidavit includes every text message – notated with the words ”read” or ”sent” accompanied by editorialised explanatory remarks by Mr Ashby’s legal team. The hearings continue this week.

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Washer calls for wheat bill deal

March 1st, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网419 /

West Australian Liberal backbencher Mal Washer.WEST Australian Liberal backbencher Mal Washer has condemned the ”agrarian socialists” in the Nationals for making life difficult for the Liberals on the controversial issue of wheat deregulation.
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As the Coalition deals with its internal fracture over the government’s bill to complete deregulation of the export industry, due to be debated this week, Dr Washer said: ”I would have thought the Liberal Party would have supported more deregulation. But we are dealing with agrarian socialists”.

He hoped for a compromise before there was a vote on the bill. Most wheat farmers in WA wanted deregulation, he said.

The Coalition is committed to opposing the bill, saying there should be a transition to deregulation, but WA Liberals are unhappy about this. If the bill passes the lower house, WA Liberal senator Dean Smith said he would cross the floor to support it in the Senate.

But the Nationals are split too. WA National Tony Crook said he, too, would cross the floor to support it. The eastern states’ Liberals are also divided – New South Wales Liberal Alby Schultz plans to abstain.

Dr Washer said he would consider crossing the floor only if there was a majority in both houses in favour of the bill. Its fate will depend on the crossbenchers in the lower house, who have different positions.

Former Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey, who lost his seat to Mr Crook in 2010, yesterday called for Tony Abbott to give Liberals a free vote. A strong backer of deregulation when he was in Parliament, Mr Tuckey said: ”In political terms, do you feed a boil, or do you lance it?”

WA Liberal senator Alan Eggleston called for a compromise – federal deregulation but state control for those who wanted regulation.

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JOHN Watson, owner of the Copper Lantern Motel in Rosebud, expected his power bills to rise by about 10 per cent under the carbon price, which was the amount forecast by the government for household increases.
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Last month he discovered the figure was considerably more than that. His provider has put a 2¢ carbon charge per kilowatt hour on top of his electricity charges. Because he is on a bargain tariff and his guests consume a lot of cheap, off-peak electricity, Mr Watson’s latest bill rose about 24 per cent.

”That’s $320 a month I no longer have, and it’s meant I’ve had to cut the hours of my casual cleaner,” he said after expressing his frustration in writing to his local MP, the federal Coalition’s Greg Hunt.

One hundred days since the Gillard government introduced its carbon price, power bill rises are a visible and indubitable impact.

As for the rest of the dire predictions, from Barnaby Joyce’s $100 roasts to Tony Abbott’s forecast that the steel town of Whyalla would be ”wiped off the map” – they are refusing to come true.

The prices of beef and lamb have fallen since June, according to Meat & Livestock Australia. A 1.7-kilogram leg of lamb from Woolworths online was last week going for just over $18.

Meanwhile, Whyalla’s main employer, Arrium, previously OneSteel, has been the target of an Asian takeover bid – a vote of confidence in Australia’s steel industry. The town, according to independent mayor Jim Pollock, is ”kicking goals”.

Countrywide, the economic data is solid. The Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment index climbed from 95.6 points in June to 98.2 in September. Unemployment has fallen from 5.3 per cent in June to 5.1 per cent in August. There are 2900 more Australians employed now than there were before the carbon price.

Finance firm TD Securities and the Melbourne Institute said last week they had ”still not noticed any broad-based impact of the 1 July introduction of carbon pricing spilling over into prices”.

Even the power price rises aren’t always so bad. Another small business owner in Mr Hunt’s electorate, Michael Carroll, who runs an injection moulding firm on the Mornington Peninsula, got a better result.

Told he faced a 47 per cent rise, he shopped around using a price comparison website. A different retailer offered him a favourable deal – his current rate locked in for three years. Though he is still wary, describing the carbon price as ”another nail in the coffin” for the manufacturing sector, he says he’s ”feeling a bit more confident” about his own power costs.

The Gillard government is growing in its confidence that the electoral albatross around its neck just might shrink to a bearable weight.

But is it crowing too early when it says the hip-pocket pain Tony Abbott forecast has proved a mirage? There are probably still some price rises to come. Bill Lang, head of Small Business Australia, and Innes Willox, head of the Australian Industry Group, both say it will take a few power bill cycles for companies to be able to figure out what to pass on to their customers.

Mr Willox acknowledges many businesses ”had expectations they would be impacted harder than perhaps they have been”. But he adds: ”People are still feeling their way.”

That said, Michael Chua of the Melbourne Institute said he would have expected to see more price rises by now.

”We are into the third month of the carbon price. We should see this happening already.”

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Shutdown … instead of a second harbour crossing, the Infrastructure NSW strategy recommends upgrading track, stations and signalling.TRAIN services into central Sydney would be shut for months and restricted for years under plans by Infrastructure NSW to avoid building a second rail crossing over Sydney Harbour.
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That is according to analysis by Transport for NSW which, for half a decade, has been trying to avoid the cost of the crossing estimated at $10 billion.

The shutdown, which would affect the daily commute of tens of thousands of workers, would be needed under plans to upgrade stations in the central business district and track infrastructure. The objective would be to run up to 30 single-deck trains an hour instead of the 20 double-deckers it can run now.

The department and the Transport Minister, Gladys Berejiklian, rejected this idea only in May after deciding the disruption would not be worth the benefit.

Train commuters to the CBD would need to be dropped off on either side of the city – at Redfern, Chatswood or North Sydney – and taken by bus to the city. A limited service would remain for years.

The idea was revived last week as part of Infrastructure NSW’s 20-year strategy. Infrastructure NSW, set up as an independent adviser to the government, disputes the analysis. It says its job is to challenge a bias in Transport for NSW towards new infrastructure such as another harbour crossing.

”The general focus of the NSW transport bureaucracy over a very long time has been about building stuff,” the chairman of Infrastructure NSW, Nick Greiner, said last week. He wants to eke more out of the existing network. ”No matter where you come out you cannot believe that the existing thing is run anywhere near capacity,” he said.

Mr Greiner’s plan rejected the idea of adding to the city’s train system in the next two decades, beyond the north-west and south-west rail links.

Instead of a second harbour crossing, which Transport for NSW now says is necessary, the strategy recommends spending $5 billion in the next 20 years upgrading track, stations and signalling between the city and the lower north shore to allow more single-deck trains to cross the Harbour Bridge. It says the work could be carried out largely while trains were still running.

But the proposal echoes those being developed within Transport for NSW since at least 2008, which it has ruled out because of the disruption they would cause.

Analysis the Herald has obtained shows Transport for NSW concluded that for about ”four years there will be significant changes to the network operation in the CBD, with major disruption to operations, including no City Circle services from Central to Wynyard for three to four years (option dependent)”.

In fact, the disruption could be more intensive under the proposal by Infrastructure NSW.

The Transport for NSW proposal assumed the construction of a ”city relief line” or extra tracks between Redfern and Wynyard. These would help mitigate the impact on services while the existing tracks were overhauled and rerouted. But Infrastructure NSW proposes no spending on new CBD tracks for the next 20 years.

Switching to single-deck trains may sound simple but getting any extra capacity out of smaller trains with more doors would require rebuilding Wynyard and Town Hall station platforms.

It would also require closing lines so the complicated criss-cross of tracks between Redfern and Central could be rebuilt. Infrastructure NSW acknowledges that ”junction remodelling” would be needed to link the inner west and north shore lines south of Central.

Internal Transport for NSW documents say the work would cause a big disruption on all lines for three to four years.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.