Abbott’s boulevard of broken promises

A post-election advertisement from the Coalition.Australian politics: full coverageMark Kenny: Pyne’s broken promise set to haunt AbbottBackdown means $2b less for NSW educationPyne pledges $230 as government goes into damage controlBetrayal angers school principals
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They promised before the election to be a “no-surprises” government.

But since winning power the Abbott government has lengthened its list of broken promises and policy surprises by more than one a week.

Just two days ago, the Federal Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, performed a brazen policy back-flip on school funding, saying he would no longer accept Labor’s funding and overall model despite Tony Abbott making this pre-election promise: ”We will honour the agreements that Labor has entered into. We will match the offers that Labor has made. We will make sure that no school is worse off.”

A few weeks ago, the Coalition’s pre-election commitment to ”turn back the boats” was broken after Immigration Minister Scott Morrison ended a tense standoff with Jakarta – which was refusing to accept a boatload of asylum seekers – by ordering the boat to be taken to Christmas Island.

Last month, Treasurer Joe Hockey said he wanted to increase the debt ceiling from $300 billion to $500 billion. That was after the Coalition attacked the then Labor government’s decision in May last year to raise Australia’s debt ceiling from $250 billion to $300 billion, which Tony Abbott described at the time as ”really extraordinary”.

”What Joe Hockey is now doing on both the commission of cuts and on the issue of the debt ceiling is a million miles away from the expectations he gave the Australian people before the election,” Labor finance spokesman Tony Burke said about the Coalition’s recent decision to raise the debt limit.

Mr Abbott also promised before the election to have a government ”which is transparent and open”, saying ”the last thing we want to do is to hide anything from the Australian people”.

Since then, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has implemented a highly restrictive regime regarding information on border protection.

The Coalition has also surprised voters by abolishing the portfolio of minister for science, sending no minister to climate talks in Poland, and deciding to only have one female cabinet minister.

These things appear to fly in the face of Mr Abbott’s campaign launch pledge:

”We will be a no-surprises, no-excuses government, because you are sick of nasty surprises and lame excuses from people that you have trusted with your future.”

More chin music in Adelaide: Johnson

Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson addresses the media at the WACA. Photo: Paul KaneIf England’s batsmen struggled with the short-pitched bowling in the First Ashes Test at the Gabba, then they’re going to hate batting in Adelaide.
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Resurrected fast bowler Mitchell Johnson warns that there is more of the same to come in the Second Test and believes that the “bouncer” is more difficult to play there.

And he also expects the verbal jousting that has become such a talking point since the end of the First Test to continue between the two sides throughout the series, despite captain Michael Clarke copping a fine for comments made to England tail-ender Jimmy Anderson during play on the fourth and final day in Brisbane.

Johnson said that while he had not heard that the English camp had voiced concerns that Australia’s bowling may have been dangerous during the home side’s dominant 381-run victory, he found the idea of it amusing.

“I didn’t hear that, it’s quite funny though,” he said on Wednesday in Perth.

“I was just playing the game and by the rules – you get two short balls an over – over the head, or shoulders and I definitely used them – used the wicket to its potential.

“The fast bouncy Gabba wicket is a perfect time to use it – I don’t think it was dangerous at all.

“We went really hard at their tail. That was a plan to use the wicket at the Gabba to go really hard at them.

“Look, I don’t like facing bouncers. No one does. When the ball’s coming past your nose on a fast wicket, it’s never nice. I’m not sure if it’s fear; it’s just part of the game.

“And I still come in [to Adelaide] with the short ball because it is up and down there – it makes it even harder I think – where at the Gabba it’s true bounce.

“I think that makes it a lot more difficult to play the short ball. But I’ll definitely continue to use it, because it definitely worked.”

Johnson starred in the Aussie win and was declared the Man of the Match with combined figures of 9-103 as the tourists were dismissed for 136 in their first innings and 179 in the second.

Several of his wickets came from deliveries that had bounced in his own half of the pitch.

Those who love numbers will be titillated by the fact that Johnson scored the same amount of runs with the bat that he gave away with the ball – 103 – while being dismissed only once.

His 64 in the first innings and 114-run partnership with Brad Haddin came at a particularly good time, as the Aussies were, seemingly, struggling at 6-132 when they came together.

And while centuries were scored and hauls of wickets taken, it’s the sledging controversy that has created headlines since Australia claimed victory to go 1-0 up in the series.

Not that it bothers Johnson, nor the Australian team; the fast bowler declaring that the players are ‘stoked’ with the victory and are concentrating on being able to go 2-0 up in Adelaide.

The verbal battle that occurred on the pitch that has been so widely covered seems to be continuing long after the bails and wickets have been removed from the middle of the Gabba though.

Johnson is the latest Australian player to suggest that England would be rattled after such a big first up loss.

“They’ll definitely be thinking about it. To be beaten in four days, and they would have probably been expecting to probably win at the Gabba after the last time they were there,” he said.

“They were obviously pretty confident. They’re going to fight hard, but we’ve definitely made an impact on them.

“Obviously with [England number-three] Jonathan Trott going home [because of a stress-related illness] as well is a huge impact.

“They’ll be thinking of a lot of things now.

“We’ve just got to keep focusing on our game, keep sticking to our plans and hopefully win in Adelaide and come here [to the WACA] and win here as well.”

He said that the bowling team of himself, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and spinner Nathan Lyon were focussed on the team goal of being number-one in the world again.

And that it was easy to do with the knowledge that he had the full support of his captain, Clarke.

He made a point of recognising Clarke for standing up for his players and copping a fine of 20 per cent of his match fee from the First Test.

And while he didn’t believe the Channel 9 microphone picked up the worst of the sledging from the play, he didn’t think the verbal exchanges were anything out of the ordinary for an Ashes Test.

The West Australian, as he now classes himself, added that he would hate for the governing bodies to clamp down too hard on sledging to a point where it was taken out of the game.

“Definitely [want to see it remain in the game],” he said. “And I think it’s worked for us. I definitely think they’re rattled by it. They don’t like it at all.

“Obviously their coach has come out and wanted a truce from what I’ve heard. That’s not going to change from our end.

“We all know as professional players where that line is and you stick by it; always tread it, but like I said, it’s an Ashes series and it’s a back to back series as well, so there is definitely tension flying. But as long as it stays below that line.

“We know there is definitely tension there – there always has been.

“I thought it was really good what Michael did, as a captain. That’s what you want your captain to do – stand up for the players and that’s what he did.

“It was really exciting to see.

“It just happened to be that the stump mic was up at that time. There were obviously other things that were said and not heard. So it’s nothing unusual, but I was really happy with how he stood up for the team.”

The Second Test starts in Adelaide on December 5.

Mitchell Johnson’s fundraising ‘mo’ to stay for Second Ashes Test

Mitchell Johnson warns England to expect more pain in Adelaide
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Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson will keep his handlebar moustache for the Second Ashes Test.

But it’s nothing to do with any superstition he may have after he demolished England in the Gabba Test, taking nine wickets and making 103 runs, to earn Man of the Match honours.

He’s hoping to raise $50,000 for men’s health through the Movember initiative.

Men’s mental health became a talking point after the First Test, with England number-three batsman Jonathan Trott heading home because of stress-related issues.

Johnson got a good look at Trott in the First Test, taking his wicket in both innings (for a combined total of 19 runs) and said he had no idea that the Englishman was struggling with internal demons.

But he did empathise with him, admitting that the life of a Test cricketer does have its challenges.

The speedster has had to deal with form slumps, injury and a tough schedule and still keep a clear mind when he gets to the top of his bowling mark with the ball in his hand.

When he injured his toe and had to sit out of the game recently, he said the timing was perfect; and perhaps he wouldn’t have been in Brisbane last week if he had not had the chance to freshen up.

“It has been a huge booster for me; it was a great time for me to step away from the game – and freshen up, physically and moreso mentally as well,” he said.

“At the time I was playing three forms of the game and it’s flat out, the scheduling that we have; it was perfect timing as much as you don’t want to get injured.

“I had two and half months at homes through the last Ashes series, which was really good for me as well.

“I feel strong and I feel fit and bowling well at the moment.”

And he is aware now of how quickly it can turn if he doesn’t keep on top of it.

“The media conferences; if you read the papers and are copping it; the crowds when you play away from home and sometimes at home you cop a fair bit. It all comes into it. As a professional, you have to find a way to deal with all that,” he said.

“Each and every individual who plays the game has their way of managing how they deal with it. It can be tough at times when it’s not going so well; you start to think about everything. You think about every little thing that’s going on in your life when you should be focusing on one thing.

“It seems maybe a bit the way he’s [Trott] thinking at the moment, and needs to just get away from the game.”

Although Movember officially finishes a week before the first ball of the Adelaide Test is bowled, Mitchell has decided to keep the whiskers for a while longer in a bid to raise $50,000 for men’s health.

“I spoke to my wife [Jessica] about it actually and she made a suggestion that we try and raise some more money for charity and we’ll try to keep it for the whole series,” he said.

“So that’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m going to try to raise $50,000 before December 3. That’s the plan. I’ll keep the mo throughout the whole Ashes series if I get to the 50.

To donate, visit http://mobro爱上海同城论坛/mitchjohnson25

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CEO Malcolm Jackman leaving Elders but not retiring

Working man: Departing Elders CEO Malcolm Jackman. Photo: David Mariuz Photo: David MariuzOutgoing Elders chief executive Malcolm Jackman says his sudden exit from the troubled rural services group was not a ”retirement”, comments that appear at odds with a statement from the board.
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Mr Jackman stood down from Elders with immediate effect on Wednesday, ending a five-year tenure, much of which was aimed at keeping the company’s bankers at bay.

In a statement to the ASX, Elders said Mr Jackman and the board had ”previously held incomplete discussions about his retirement”, which was set for some time in the first half of next year.

”Mr Jackman’s retirement from the business has been reached after further discussions,” it said.

But Mr Jackman told BusinessDay he had not retired and after Christmas would start job hunting. ”We just decided that today’s the day to do it and off we go from there, rather than say it’s an early retirement,” Mr Jackman said.

”I like to think that the knowledge I’ve built up over the past 10 years running a couple of public companies can be used elsewhere, and so we’ll work on doing that.”

Mr Jackman said he had talked with the board for most of this year about his looming departure from the company, which posted a $505 million loss for the year to September. He said he had been commuting to Elders’ head office in Adelaide for the past eight weeks after he moved back to Sydney.

He was philosophical about leaving the company, saying: ”I’m always a great believer that the CEO’s role is somewhere between four and seven years … and this falls in line with that”.

Investors reacted mutely, with Elders shares ending flat at 11.5¢.

Mr Jackman took over from Les Wozniczka in September 2008, when Elders had a $1.4 billion debt. A recapitalisation in 2009 failed to lift the company’s fortunes. Over the past five years Elders has lost $1.59 billion, which has left it with a shareholder equity of $46.2 million and a market capitalisation of about $50.1 million.

Mr Jackman said when announcing this year’s loss that it stemmed from significant write-downs as the company moved from being a conglomerate to focusing solely on rural services.

Asked if he had achieved what he had aimed to at Elders, he said the company had deviated from its original course.

”I’ve achieved a lot but I’m not sure what I set out to achieve is what we are actually doing. We set out to do one set of things and we ended up doing another set.”

Mr Jackman said his greatest achievement was ensuring the survival of Elders, which has seen its share price crash 99.5 per cent since January 2008 when it was trading at $23.30. ”The thing I’m most proud of is we actually survived. There were … times when I didn’t think we’d actually do that.”

Mr Jackman is leaving at a time when the company’s live cattle division is under pressure. Victoria’s Supreme Court heard earlier this month that Elders had been ”hampered by the sudden and unexpected loss of its entire [live cattle] trading team”, which defected to rival Ruralco in October.

On top of that, Indonesia is threatening to source live cattle from countries other than Australia, which Mr Jackman told BusinessDay on Sunday would have a similar effect to the Gillard government’s live export ban in 2011.

Takeover bid for GrainCorp beefed up further

ADM says it has had ‘substantive discussions with growers, policymakers and other stakeholders’ over its bid. Photo: Tamara VoninskiFaced with deep-seated resistance to its planned $3.4 billion takeover of GrainCorp, US grains trader Archer Daniels Midland has upped the ante.
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It has put forward some additional measures to overcome the opposition as it waits to see if the government will allow it or not.

ADM is offering $12.20 in cash for each GrainCorp share, as well as allowing up to $1 in dividends to be paid to shareholders.

Treasurer Joe Hockey is to decide by December 17 whether to block the bid on national interest grounds.

On Wednesday, ADM said it would commit itself to spending a further $200 million on agriculture infrastructure, with a focus on upgrades to the railway network, implement price caps on handling charges at silos and ports, and ensure open access to the grain handling and port facilities.

”It’s a bit of a sugar coating, really,” a spokeswoman for the New South Wales Farmers Federation said of ADM’s sweetened terms. ”We don’t see that these moves will create a level playing field for the other marketers.”

ADM said the spending was in addition to an earlier commitment to spend $50 million on infrastructure, which is on top of GrainCorp’s planned spending here of $250 million, taking to $500 million the total spending planned on the rail network.

ADM also said it would establish an advisory board with representatives from NSW, Victoria and Queensland, as well as hold regular public grower consultations.

”We have had substantive discussions with growers, policymakers and other stakeholders, and we’ve been committed to finding common ground and developing solutions that address issues and opportunities that have been raised,” ADM Grain’s president, Ian Pinner, said.

”Taking into account the feedback we received, we are committing to a further package of investments and initiatives.”

ADM’s original bid for GrainCorp was rejected by the target, with a sweetened offer finally winning board support.

But farm lobby groups remain wary of the bid, concerned about access to its grain receivals and handling network, both up-country and at ports, even though much of this network is subject to government controls.

The proposed price cap is to limit price rises to the rate of inflation for the first three years. ADM also said it would maintain a local grain marketing team, while maintaining GrainCorp’s head office in Sydney.

News of the upgraded measures pushed up GrainCorp shares to close at $1.33, up 15¢.

The shares weakened after the release in mid-November of its year-to-September earnings, amid concern about the forecast of a profit fall on the expected decline in the grains crop in the year ahead.

Super industry fights plan to scrap low income concession

The powerful $1.75 trillion superannuation industry says it will continue to fight the federal government’s plans to scrap payments to the super accounts of millions of low-paid people.
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The Coalition has long promised to get rid of the low-income super concession, a payment of up to $500 a year for people earning up to $37,000, due to its links with the former government’s mining tax.

The concession is designed to compensate low-income earners for contributions tax paid on their super, and the industry argues that scrapping it hurts the low-paid, especially women and casual or part-time workers.

Four industry groups – Women in Super, the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees, Industry Super Australia and the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia – argued to retain the concession in Canberra on Wednesday.

Alissa Harnath, of Women in Super, said holding on to the payment would be the group’s ”main focus for the next six months, absolutely”.

”The Greens and Labor are behind it,” she said. ”We will continue to lobby on it.”

The push comes as the superannuation industry waits on a consultation paper to be released on Thursday by Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos. The paper will cover fund governance and the opening up of default funds in the modern award system.

It follows calls by the Productivity Commission and think tank the Grattan Institute for the government to increase the age at which people can access the age pension to 70.

The Grattan Institute also suggested the government lift the age at which people can access their super – called the preservation age – to 70.

The Financial Services Council, the lobby group for retail super funds such as AMP, has also backed a phased increase in the preservation age, to 62. The council does not support the abolition of the super concession.

Saputo ‘misinformed’ Warrnambool shareholders over bid, claims Murray Goulburn

Murray Goulburn attacked WCB’s abandonment of two special dividends of 46¢ and 85¢ if Saputo’s holding reached between 50 and 90 per cent. Photo: Rob GunstoneMurray Goulburn is urging the Abbott government to halt Saputo’s bid to control Warrnambool Cheese & Butter, saying the Canadian dairy company has ”misinformed” shareholders.
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As Saputo’s stake in WCB increased to 4.8 per cent on Wednesday, Murray Goulburn protested to the Takeovers Panel, asking it to stop the Montreal-based company from accepting any more shares. Murray Goulburn and Saputo are locked in a three-way battle to control Australia’s oldest listed milk processor, which has made it the world’s most expensive dairy company.

But while Saputo, which has the support of WCB’s board, can start accepting shares, Murray Goulburn has to wait up to six months to see if the competition regulator approves its bid.

In its application to the panel, Murray Goulburn attacked WCB’s abandonment of two special dividends of 46¢ and 85¢ if Saputo’s holding reached between 50 and 90 per cent.

Instead, Saputo will pay shareholders an extra 20¢ if it hits 50 per cent, valuing its bid at $9.20 a WCB share, or $515 million.

Murray Goulburn, which has offered $9 cash, or $505 million, argued that WCB shares traded from November 15 to 25 on the basis of ”misinformation as to the terms of the Saputo bid”.

”Murray Goulburn seeks interim orders, including that Saputo be restrained from processing acceptances and acquiring Warrnambool shares on market,” Murray Goulburn said in its submission.

”The Warrnambool board should advise shareholders to wait until the bid is in its final stages, or bidders have declared their bids final.”

The biggest dairy company also asked the Takeovers Panel to reinstate WCB’s proposed payment of special dividends and stop Saputo from tinkering with its bid to include the conditional payment of an extra 20¢ a share.

”And Warrnambool should release the bid implementation agreement between Warrnambool and Saputo to the market.”

NSW-based Bega Cheese is the only suitor to declare its offer final. Its bid of $2 cash plus 1.5 Bega shares was worth about $8.99.

Takeovers Panel counsel Alan Shaw said no sitting panel had been appointed, nor had a decision been made about whether to proceed further.

Decision over ADM’s $3.4b GrainCorp bid hinges on Hockey

Illustration: John Shakespeare.Archer Daniels Midland wants to take everything but politics off the table as the deadline for a foreign investment decision on its $3.4 billion takeover offer for GrainCorp approaches, and it made a good fist of it on Wednesday.
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The American agribusiness group’s takeover proposal has already been reviewed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and cleared.

The Foreign Investment Review Board was about to give its verdict on the takeover when the election was called, and it, too, was expected to be a green light.

Treasurer Joe Hockey must also approve it, however, and there has been palpable tension in the new Coalition government about the takeover – tension that ADM tackled with its announcement on Wednesday.

It offered an additional $200 million of capital expenditure for GrainCorp, and three-year price caps on grain handling and storage charges at GrainCorp’s silos and ports.

Commitments to run open-access regimes at silos and ports and maintain GrainCorp’s head office and management in Sydney were renewed, and ADM said it would also maintain a local grain marketing team, and consult twice a year with grower organisations about the way GrainCorp was operating.

Those commitments make it harder for the government to block the takeover and cite commercial or economic ”national interest” reasons.

They also create an opportunity for the government to approve the deal and show that it is not internally divided, of course, and it’s an opportunity that needs to be taken: the risk if it isn’t is that international investors will believe the new Treasurer got rolled, and that a government that says it is open for business has blocked one very big business deal mainly to ease political pressure within its own ranks.

ADM’s bid was backed by GrainCorp’s board in late April after the US group boosted it a second time, from $12.20 a share to $13.20 a share – 50 per cent above GrainCorp’s price in October last year before ADM turned up.

Concerns that the bid would be blocked had however pushed GrainCorp’s share price down from a high of $12.78 a share when the sweetened offer was recommended to $11.13 ahead of Wednesday’s announcement. The shares closed at $11.33 and traded as high as $11.85 after ADM’s announcement, on the theory that approval is now more likely.

Hockey announced in early October that he was extending the deadline for a decision until December 17 because of its ”size and complexity”, but it is the politics of the Coalition that are the main complication for him.

Liberal ”dries” see no good reason for the Treasurer to intervene, but the Nationals are opposed to the sale, with Barnaby Joyce and Nationals leader Warren Truss leading the charge. According to some, Joyce has gone as far as putting his position in the Coalition on the line. Country Liberal MPs including Bill Heffernan and Sharman Stone are also opposed.

On the other side of the house, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and shadow treasurer Chris Bowen have both supported the deal, reinforcing a view that the takeover would not have been a political problem for a Labor government. The Coalition was ”at war with itself”, Bowen observed earlier this month after Hockey declared that he would not be ”bullied” over the decision.

Foreign takeovers of Australian grain handlers have swallowed two local groups in recent years. GrainCorp would be the third, and by volume would double foreign ownership of the industry to about 70 per cent.

As I have written before, this is an opportunity lost. Like mining, the grain industry is a core competence in this country. The mining sector has produced global players including BHP, and the grain sector has not.

Saying that is one thing. Blocking foreign takeovers on national interest grounds when Australia is an open economy and needs foreign investment is another, however. ADM’s bid for GrainCorp does not appear to raise national interest concerns of the magnitude that led Wayne Swan to block Singapore Exchange’s takeover of the ASX in 2011.

The decision is finally Joe Hockey’s to make, and he is in a corner. If he lets the deal go through, the Coalition will be carrying some very unhappy country-based members. If he blocks it, the government risks being sanctioned by the markets, and its claim that it is ”open for business” will be seriously compromised.

The only way through that I can see is for both sides in the Coalition to agree that ADM has actually done the government a favour, by serving up undertakings that everyone can acknowledge make the takeover acceptable, perhaps with a few final tweaks.

It might happen, and hopefully will – but you certainly wouldn’t say at this stage that it is guaranteed.

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Treasury Wine Estates seeks Supreme Court injunction to stop Mark Elliott accessing its shareholder register

Treasury Wine Estates, the world’s biggest winemaker, has sought an injunction in the Supreme Court of Victoria against lawyer turned class-action specialist Mark Elliott to stop him accessing its shareholder register.
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Treasury Wine believes Mr Elliott, a former partner with Minter Ellison who has set up his own business pitching shareholder class actions, will use its register for improper purposes and to communicate with its shareholders to help build his lawsuit.

Treasury Wine has taken action against Mr Elliott personally, rather than his class-action investment vehicle, Melbourne City Investments, which is also engaged in actions against Leighton Holdings and collapsed financial services group Banksia.

A Treasury Wine spokesman said the group wanted to ensure any private information regarding its shareholders was only provided for an appropriate and lawful purpose.

Treasury Wine is facing two class actions flowing from the surprise $160 million write-down and profit warning in July linked to its troubled US wine business. Mr Elliott is running his own action, while litigation funder IMF and its partner law firm Maurice Blackburn are erecting their own shareholder class action. Both will argue Treasury Wine failed to meet its continuous disclosure obligations on the write-down.

Mr Elliott hit back at Treasury Wine’s injunction, telling BusinessDay the action was an attempt by the company to frustrate his lawful access to the register.

”Treasury Wine are doing everything they can to frustrate me, to obfuscate, and at the outset they sent silly letters and their lawyers are working around the clock thinking attrition is going to stop me – they haven’t done their homework,” he said. ”My access is innocuous and hypothetical, because all I said was I’d like to have access to the register just to look at it in case I want to do something with it in the future within the prescribed purpose.

”My primary purpose 鈥?is to look at it because I want to understand how many shareholders there are, where they are 鈥?are they rural, overseas, domestic.”

Mr Elliott’s lawsuit is an ”open” class action and he said because all shareholders were automatically covered by his class action there was no real need for him to immediately communicate with investors.

Mr Elliott also lashed out at Treasury Wine chief Warwick Every-Burns who last week in BusinessDay complained about out-of-control shareholder class actions that he said were distracting companies and usurping the role of regulators.

”Mr Every-Burns has been complaining about how unfair class actions are and I was surprised because I thought it’s very unusual for a CEO to be complaining about somebody who is trying to ensure compliance with the law and I think to suggest ASX and ASIC have got that job and everybody else should just sit idle didn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

Money dries up for resources projects after record $30b spend

Falling commodity prices and rising costs have resulted in the lowest spending on new resource projects in more than a decade, with many projects either stalled or shelved.
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Rather, after the resources boom, the transition to production is under way, the latest review by the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics has found. But declining prices amid a surge in output has weighed on proposed new spending.

”This trend appears to be continuing,” the bureau said in its latest report on Wednesday, adding ”the latest cycle of investment in the resources and energy sector therefore appears to have peaked”.

”The latest commodity price cycle has reached its apex and the decline in the price of most commodities over the past 12-18 months has created more challenging investment conditions,” the agency warned. ”Many (but not all) commodity markets are either already or soon [will] be oversupplied.”

So, with a record $30 billion of project spending completed in recent months, new projects worth just $1.7 billion have been sanctioned, a decade low.

And, with two of these projects – Yancoal’s Ashton South East mine and Whitehaven’s Maules Creek mine – subject to outstanding legal appeals, both could be blocked.

Rising caution amid weakening commodity prices has also resulted in a downturn in exploration outlays, particularly in the mining sector.

Overall spending here in 2012-13 declined by 8 per cent to $8 billion, which masked steep falls by coal (36 per cent), minerals (31 per cent), gold (16 per cent and iron ore (13 per cent). In contrast, exploration for petroleum surged 61 per cent, limiting the overall decline.

Iron ore is an area where there is a rising risk of projects not proceeding, which the bureau says may be due in part to a lack of access to rail and port facilities.

”There is increasing risk that a number of iron ore projects may not progress beyond planning stages,” the agency said, pointing to Aquila and AMCI’s $7.4 billion West Pilbara project and Grange Resources’ $2.9 billion Southdown magnetite project which have stalled.

”While iron ore prices currently support investment, access to export infrastructure remains a challenge for emerging developers of iron ore projects,” the bureau noted.

Iron ore projects remain one of the largest sources of potential investment in Australia and at the end of October there were 19 projects mooted, worth a total of between $35.8 billion and $55.8 billion.

Big banks too big to fail concept should be investigated says BOQ chief

Bank of Queensland chief executive Stuart Grimshaw. Photo: Glenn HuntBank of Queensland has called on the government to consider whether Australia’s big four banks are ”too big to fail”, as part of its inquiry into the financial system.
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It marks another attack on the big banks’ dominance by regional lenders, who say regulation favours the majors.

Chief executive Stuart Grimshaw told shareholders at the annual meeting on Wednesday that as the need for regulatory compliance increased, the costs were falling disproportionately on smaller players.

”A related issue that is increasingly occupying the minds of regulators here in Australia and overseas is that the inquiry must address the issue of banks being too big to fail,” he said.

”In Australia, the reality is that the funding advantage that the banks currently enjoy creates incentives to become bigger and more complex.”

Last week, the government released draft terms of reference and a proposed timetable of the inquiry.

Mr Grimshaw said the inquiry should tackle the differing capital requirements for big and small banks.

”As the banking system becomes more concentrated and complex, that further increases the financial stability risks,” he said.

BOQ has been forced to reassure the owner-managers of its branches that it is committed to honouring franchise agreements after revelations it used police and security guards to block owner-managers from entering a Geelong West branch.

A Victorian Supreme Court judge criticised the decision, calling it a ”retrograde step”.

”The issues are specific to this particular branch and its owners,” a BOQ spokesman told BusinessDay.

”We remain absolutely committed to our owner-manager network.”

On Wednesday, BoQ warned of slower economic growth in 2014. It returned to profitability last financial year after being the first bank to make a loss in 20 years in 2012.

BOQ reported cash earnings to $119.9 million in 2013.

Member of MacKenzie team reveals strategy

SOME independent candidates who stood for election to Port Stephens Council in 2012 were really a ‘‘team ticket’’, designed to deliver control of the council to supporters of multi-millionaire mayor Bruce MacKenzie, one member of the ‘‘team’’ has revealed.
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Cr Steve Tucker, a Liberal Party member who stood as an independent, took credit for coming up with the idea some months before the election, prompted by his belief the council could achieve nothing without a majority voting group in control.

Cr Tucker said some other candidates who ran as independents were members of the Liberal Party, but were not endorsed by the party for the purposes of the election. He said he was the president of the Liberals at Port Stephens, and knew ‘‘who was who’’.

‘‘If you want to accomplish anything on council you need to know how to count,’’ Cr Tucker said yesterday.

He said he, Cr Ken Jordan and Cr MacKenzie had sat down months before the poll ‘‘and worked out the nuts and bolts’’ of gaining a council majority, ‘‘then gathered around us a bit of a team’’.

Cr Tucker was commenting on the revelation in yesterday’s Newcastle Herald that Cr MacKenzie had contributed to the election campaigns of several independent candidates.

Cr MacKenzie said he supported the other councillors’ campaigns because he wanted ‘‘civic-minded’’ people on the council.

He paid one-third of the cost of printing how-to-vote sheets for the participating candidates.

Cr Tucker said that, in his own case, this amounted to about $250, which he had declared as a donation in his returns to the NSW Electoral Funding Authority.

‘‘It had to be shown as a donation, I had to give the MacKenzies a receipt.

‘‘I was really conscious of the Electoral Funding Act, I wanted to comply and I’m pretty sure we have,’’ he said.

Cr MacKenzie had arranged for the how-to-votes to be printed ‘‘because he wanted them all to look pretty much the same,’’ Cr Tucker said.

‘‘It’s what we decided to do.’’

The how-to-vote sheets were about two-thirds devoted to the councillor candidate in question, with the remaining one-third given over to promoting Cr MacKenzie’s bid to be elected mayor.

Meanwhile, Cr MacKenzie’s official campaign agent and daughter-in-law, Angela MacKenzie, contacted the Herald yesterday to ‘‘apologise for Bruce not giving you accurate information regarding the electoral funding’’.

‘‘Bruce did not pay for anything to do with any other candidate other than purchase one third of their how-to-vote form to display his mayoral how-to-vote,’’ Ms MacKenzie wrote.

‘‘Candidates were approached and asked if they would support Bruce as mayor if they were elected and if so would they be interested in Bruce purchasing advertising space on their how-to-vote.

‘‘Not all candidates accepted, but those who did used the same design for their how-to-votes in order to simplify the attachment of the mayoral how-to-vote and paid for their own part.

‘‘Unfortunately Bruce didn’t make this clear on the day.

‘‘All other interviews regarding this subject will reflect the facts of this matter.

‘‘Again, sorry you were not given the correct information which has caused you to print inaccuracies,’’ she wrote.

Another independent councillor and Liberal Party member, Paul Le Mottee, agreed with the revised version of facts issued by the mayor’s campaign team.

He said Cr MacKenzie had paid for a third of the cost of his how-to-vote sheets, but he didn’t accept this was a contribution to his election campaign.

‘‘As far as I’m concerned, I contributed to HIS campaign and NOT the other way around,’’ Cr Le Mottee wrote.

‘‘It was obviously no secret that I supported Bruce MacKenzie for mayor because it was actively being promoted on the how-to-vote. Bruce MacKenzie became mayor by a modest majority whereas I topped the poll.

‘‘Accordingly, I contributed to Bruce MacKenzie’s campaign in terms of both money and votes.’’

Contacted on holiday in Phuket, Thailand, independent Cr Jordan also disagreed Cr MacKenzie’s payment of a third of the printing costs of his how-to-vote sheets amounted to a campaign contribution.

‘‘He paid for his own election material on my how-to-vote card,’’ Cr Jordan said.

Asked about Cr Tucker’s description of the plan to gain control of the council, Cr Jordan said that had ‘‘nothing to do with election funding’’.

The Herald was unable to obtain a comment from Cr John Morello, who was also named as a recipient of a printing contribution from Cr MacKenzie.

Cr Chris Doohan, who openly ran for council as a member of Cr MacKenzie’s team, said his financial returns were extremely straightforward.

As he and Cr MacKenzie ran in the same ward, when Cr MacKenzie became mayor, Cr Doohan stepped straight into a council seat.

ALLIANCE: Bruce MacKenzie won the Port Stephens mayoralty last year.

Four WA youngsters make AFL Rookie Draft

West Coast Eagles stuck to their deal to pick up troubled Murray Newman in the Rookie Draft after delisting him.Swan Districts speedster Charlie Cameron was one of four West Australian youngsters picked up in Wednesday’s AFL Rookie Draft, with three others given second chances at the next level.
Shanghai night field

Cameron, who impressed in 15 league games last season, kicking 17 goals, will head to Adelaide after the Crows nabbed him with their first pick, number six overall.

He was the only WAFL player to be taken in the Rookie Draft who will be packing his bags and heading interstate to continue his football career.

Meanwhile, West Coast kept its promise of sticking by troubled youngster Murray Newman; the Eagles using their third and final pick, number 38 to re-select him after delisting him before the National Draft.

Newman faces a trial and possible stint in prison after being charged with assault after an incident last year.

The Eagles used their first pick, number five overall, to nab Will Maginness from the Oakleigh Charges. Maginness is known to be a smart player and a hard runner, who plays mainly through the midfield, but can also run forward.

West Coast’s second pick, number 22 overall, was used to list Claremont Colts’ premiership defender Rowen Powell.

Fremantle used its first two selections in the Rookie Draft on local West Australians, with Subiaco forward Micahel Wood taken at number 16.

Wood played 10 league games with the Lions in 2013 and kicked 18.15 and also booted 29.13 in 10 Colts outings.

The Dockers used its second pick and third picks (number 32 and 47) on defender, adding South Fremantle tall defender Thomas Vandeleur and Jacob Ballard from the Northern Blues, to their list.

Like Newman, Neville Jetta, from Carey Park in Bunbury, was reselected by Melbourne, giving the 23 year old a chance to add to his 41 AFL games. He played only five in 2013.

Former Swan Districts and Brisbane player Todd Bandfield was offered a lifeline by Richmond. The Tigers used their first pick (number 11 overall) to grab the 53-gamer.

GWS used the first pick of the Rookie Draft to re-list Sam Schulz, who has played just one game, in 2012.

Only one player was picked up in the AFL’s Pre-season Draft, with GWS electing to add former Sydney Swan Jed Lamb to its list.

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