Monthly Archives: February 2019

Share market recovers some ground

The Australian share market ended the financial year with a seventh straight daily loss due to weaker than expected economic data from China and the United States.

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The major indices hit their lowest points since early August last year in early trade but managed to recover some ground.

At 1615 AEST, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 44.2 points, or 1.02 per cent, at 4,301.5 points, after hitting a low of 4,249.5.

The broader All Ordinaries index was down 45.8 points, or 1.05 per cent, at 4,324.8, after a low of 4,273.2.

On the Sydney Futures Exchange, the September futures contract was 54 points lower at 4,284 points, on volume of 35,185 contracts.

The falls came after a negative lead from Wall Street and European markets, which dropped due to a downwards revision of China’s economic activity and the steepest fall in US consumer confidence since February.

Macquarie Private Wealth division director Lucinda Chan said it was encouraging to see the market come off its lows through the day.

“We had a bit of a dip yesterday afternoon off the back of the Chinese growth numbers, so given that we had a bit of an early start and probably didn’t have as much of a fall today,” she said.

“The market is extremely sensitive with these concerns, and today is the last day of the financial year so we probably have received a little bit of an extra belting,” Ms Chan said.

She said a turnaround in sentiment would only occur after more positive economic data and that investors were awaiting US non-farm payroll data due on Friday.

“What we need to see is a lot more positive economic data in the US, that is probably going to be the key for strength to come back into the market,” she said.

Stock prices

Resources stocks suffered as base metal prices fell.

Smaller miners may also have been affected by ongoing speculation the federal government would agree to concessions for its proposed resources super profits tax, Ms Chan said.

Among the major miners, Rio Tinto lost $1.76, or 2.57 per cent, to $66.66, BHP Billiton dropped 45 cents, or 1.18 per cent, to $37.65, Fortescue Metals shed 19 cents to $4.12 and Mount Gibson Iron fell by 6.5 cents to $1.55.

The major banks regained most of their early losses but still finished weaker.

National Australia Bank lost 12 cents to $23.28, Westpac shed two cents to $21.23, ANZ dropped 26 cents to $21.61 and Commonwealth ended 74 cents lower at $48.64.

One sector to buck the trend was utilities.

Origin Energy gained 18 cents to $14.94, AGL Energy added 33 cents to $14.70 and gas distributor APA Group put on four cents to $3.60.

The gains may be linked to speculation the coal seam gas sector would be a winner out of a compromise on the Resource Super Profits Tax, CMC Markets analyst David Taylor said.

“That’s more of an energy play rather than a utilities play, but there could be some companies under that utilities sector that have coal seam gas exposure which would obviously be affected by that,” he said.

Energy stocks were mixed, with Woodside Petroleum down 73 cents at $41.84, Oil Search off six cents to $5.53 and Santos up one cent at $12.60.

Gold price up

At 1635 AEST, the spot price of gold in Sydney was $US1,241.50, up US$4.45 from $US1,237.05 per fine ounce on Tuesday.

Gold stocks closed marginally lower, with Newcrest Mining down 19 cents at $35.10 and Lihir Gold down one cent lower at $4.31.

The highest traded stock by volume was Monitor Energy & Gas, with 102.7 million shares traded for $308,030.

Monitor shares were steady at 0.3 cent.

Preliminary market turnover was 2.53 billion shares worth $5.49 billion with 331 up, 878 down and 371 unchanged.

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Youngsters lag behind on green issues

Young Australians might be more likely to rank climate change as a concern, but they lag behind their parents and grandparents in taking everyday steps to help the environment.

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The trend emerged in the quarterly Australian Social Trends report, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Using data collected in 2007/08, it found 73 per cent of adults were concerned about climate change, but only 60 per cent of those aged 65 and over were concerned.

There was also a link with education – with concern about the issue rising with the level of education attained – and people who were unemployed also were less likely to care about the issue.

The vast majority of Australians, 94 per cent, were recycling their waste, but only one-third were composting their food scraps.

Young adults aged 18 to 24 were the least likely to recycle, with only 74 per cent bothering to sort their garbage.

Of the Aussies who do the grocery shopping, 43 per cent said they took ‘green’ bags all or most of the time, and again it was young adults least likely to bother – with only 34 per cent taking their own bags to the shops.

Young Australians were least likely to cut their electricity use, and most likely to report that they didn’t care how much power they used.

People’s concerns

Australian Social Trends reports aim to cover social issues of current and ongoing concern.

The latest report also found a rise in the number of underemployed people from 5.9 per cent to 7.8 per cent of the labour force.

In the past decade, as more women entered the workforce, the proportion of children who attended formal child care had increased from 17 per cent to 22 per cent.

Life expectancy for Australian men has increased to above 79 years, yet remains about four years less than the life expectancy for women.

One in four adults avoids using public transport at night or walking after dark in their neighbourhood because they feel unsafe in those situations alone.

Australia had 22.2 million people in December 2009, with 432,600 people added in the year to December 2009.

Nearly two-thirds of the gain was from net overseas migration.

In the year to June 2008, there was a doubling in the net gain of people on student visas, to 109,000.

The ABS projects Australia’s population to be between 34-40 million in 2051.

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Patel saga ‘should never happen again’

The former surgeon, dubbed Dr Death, was convicted by a Brisbane jury on Tuesday of killing three patients and permanently injuring another.

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He will be sentenced on Thursday.

Mr Lucas on Wednesday said Queensland Health (QH) had “significantly changed” now, compared to when allegations against Patel first surfaced in 2005.

“It should never happen again,” he said.

“… You do acknowledge that there may be mistakes but they need to be acted on immediately.

“What happened with Patel is that people raised issues and they weren’t acted on and that is the real concern.”

He said the state government had eliminated the chance of such mistakes “as far as possible”.

Premier Anna Bligh said a new, strict national accreditation and registration system for doctors would begin on Thursday, thanks to lessons learned from the Patel experience.

There were also new mandatory reporting of malpractice and a new commission to investigate complaints.

The government’s comments came after Tony Morris QC, who oversaw the original commission of inquiry into Patel, said QH remained in danger of a similar scandal.

“Some small positive steps” had been taken to prevent a repeat of the failings that allowed Patel to be employed, he said.

“But we’re nowhere near having Queensland Health in a situation where one can feel absolute confidence that a Patel scandal isn’t going to happen again,” Mr Morris told the ABC.

Mr Morris chaired the original commission of inquiry into the scandal at Bundaberg Base Hospital that was axed after the Supreme Court ruled Mr Morris showed ostensible bias.

Bligh pays tribute to whistleblowers

Meanwhile, Ms Bligh paid tribute to the whistleblowers, patients and families who were instrumental in bringing Patel to justice.

She singled out Toni Hoffman – the nurse who first raised her concerns about Patel – and the now independent Burnett MP Rob Messenger, who first raised the issue in state parliament.

Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek also paid tribute to those at the centre of the case he said exposed the worst forms of medical and government malpractice.

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Utility price hike to raise cost of living

The annual cost of living for the average NSW household will rise by up to $330 from today, as utility prices lift across the board.

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Residential customers in city and regional areas will pay more for electricity, gas and water, and also face higher registration fees for most on-road vehicles in the new financial year.

On the plus side, home buyers in Australia’s most populous state won’t have to pay stamp duty on new dwellings bought off the plan worth up to $600,000, businesses will get payroll tax concessions and all taxpayers will get national income tax cuts.

In dollar terms the greatest impact on household budgets will be electricity bills, which are set to increase by up to 13 per cent across the state.

The NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has allowed the rises, saying service providers need to increase investment in infrastructure to improve network security and reliability of supply.

Customers of Country Energy will see the biggest hike, with the annual average bill to increase by $183 from July 1.

Gas bills will also jump by up to 13 per cent, with regional customers expected to be hit hardest.

Customers of Origin Energy will pay about 13 per cent more, or an extra $49 a year on average, while those with NSW’s major gas supplier, AGL, will see hikes of about five per cent, or $33 a year on average.

“We consider that these increases are required if customers are to pay the independently assessed, efficient costs of providing them with gas,” IPART acting chairman Jim Cox said when the rises were announced last week.

The average household water bill will also increase by seven per cent, including inflation.

Sydney Water customers in Sydney, the Blue Mountains and Illawarra, on average annual water usage of 200,000 litres, will pay $68 more a year from July 1.

Meanwhile, vehicle owners face a new NSW government motor vehicle weight charge, which will cost between $5 and $30 extra a year for cars weighing more than 975kg.

The charge is being introduced as part of Premier Kristina Keneally’s $50.2 billion Metropolitan Transport Plan and has been slammed by regional drivers using larger vehicles for long-distance driving.

As well, the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) is expected to increase the cost of vehicle fees – including registration, licensing and fines – in the new financial year although details are still to be announced.

In the property sector, buying a home worth more than $500,000 will attract a new fee from July 1, with the introduction of the NSW government’s ad valorem tax.

Properties sold for between $500,000 and $1 million will cost an extra 0.2 per cent in fees, while $1 million-plus properties will attract a levy of 0.25 per cent.

But the state government will abolish stamp duty for new homes bought off the plan up to the value of $600,000, as part of a two-year scheme to stimulate new home construction – a saving of up to $22,490.

New homes worth up to $600,000 bought while under construction and newly completed will pay 25 per cent less stamp duty – a saving of up to $5,623.

Business payroll tax cuts also come into effect, down to 5.5 per cent, from 5.65 per cent, from July 1, before falling to 5.45 per cent by January 1, 2011.

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FFA boss defends Cup bid

Football Federation Australia boss Ben Buckley says any suggestion his organisation’s bid for the 2022 World Cup hasn’t been in accordance with FIFA guidelines is “mischievous and unhelpful”.

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The FFA went into defence mode following a Sydney Morning Herald report which suggested the Federal Government had not been given specific details on the money being spent on their appointed lobbyists.

The story also said the FFA had not been given precise details about grants to overseas football organisations, led by influential FIFA officials.

The report said secret FFA files revealed lobbyists Peter Hargitay and Fedor Radmann could make $11.37 million in fees and bonuses between them, if Australia’s World Cup bid was successful.

SBS has been unable to verify such claims.

FFA rejects Fairfax claims

Secret FFA files also suggested the government wasn’t informed about intentions to give $6.5 million to Asian, African and Oceania football organisations, Fairfax reported.

FFA chief executive Buckley wasn’t available for media interviews, but released a brief statement late in the day, rejecting any suggestion his organisation hadn’t complied with FIFA guidelines.

“Football Federation Australia has acted in accordance with FIFA guidelines in respect to it’s bid for 2022 FIFA World Cup,” he said.

“Furthermore, our financial records and reporting for the World Cup Bid are in accordance with our World Cup Bid funding agreement and independently audited.

“Our regular progress reports under this agreement have been transparent and any suggestion otherwise is mischievous and unhelpful.”

Federal Sports Minister Kate Ellis says any payments made by the FFA to lobbyists involved in Australia’s 2022 World Cup bid would be scrutinised by the government.

“Obviously the way the FFA spends government money is subject to the usual reporting and scrutiny requirements,” Ms Ellis told AAP through a sportswoman.

“Any evidence to the contrary would be thoroughly investigated by the government, as would any alleged breach of the funding agreement.”

Ellis said a bid taskforce was already working alongside the FFA and had been assured by that body the money has been spent appropriately.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott said he thought Australia had to try and win the bid on their own merits and shouldn’t be “greasing palms” to assist their cause.

The executive committee will in December determine which nations hosts the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments.

The report also outlined details of a paid trip to Australia for South American FIFA executive committee member and his wife and a payment for a Trinidad and Tobago under-20 team to travel to Cyprus.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Jack Warner is FIFA’s vice president and is considered one of the more influential officials in world football.

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‘Don’t judge us over Patel’: overseas doctors

The former Bundaberg-based surgeon was convicted this week of the manslaughter of three patients and causing permanent injury to a fourth.

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His sentencing hearing begins on Thursday.

The Australian Doctors Trained Overseas Association says if proper checks had been carried out on Patel, who had a troubled record with US medical authorities, he would never have been able to practice in Queensland.

It warned overseas-trained doctors (OTDs), who often work in locations where Australian-trained doctors refuse to go, could be driven out of Australia by any “inappropriate negative backlash”.

“The public must be reassured that the Bundaberg tragedy arose from the failure of a dysfunctional health and registration

system,” the association said in a statement.

“(It) is not related to the quality of care provided by overseas-trained doctors.”

It said effective system checks must be in place to ensure professional competence in all doctors, regardless of where they are trained.

“If the government does not address the system failures that led to this tragedy, particularly those relating to the registration and credentialing of all doctors, then the public will continue to be at risk of the impact of rogue doctors.”

The association said overseas trained doctors were often the ones caring for Australians under difficult conditions.

“Not only do they often work where their Australian counterparts refuse to, they are often paid less for the same services,” the association said.

“Overseas trained doctors are already unfairly discriminated against in Australia.

“An inappropriate negative backlash against OTDs in the wake of the Patel case will make a bad situation worse and is likely to drive critically needed OTDs away from Australia.

“This is particularly the case when similar cases involving alleged negligence and criminal acts by Australian-trained doctors have not received nearly the same degree of media coverage and have not resulted in any criminal charges being laid.”

The association called on the Queensland government to show support for overseas-trained doctors, acknowledge the system failures that led to the Patel scandal and fix the problems.

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Patel gets seven years

Former surgeon Jayant Patel has been sentenced to seven years over the deaths of three patients.

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Reaction at the length of the sentencing has been mixed.

He was convicted on Tuesday of the manslaughter of Mervyn Morris, Gerardus Kemps and James Phillips, and of causing grievous bodily harm to Ian Vowles.

A former patient says a seven-year jail term for the killer surgeon is the icing on the cake.

Beryl Crosby, who is also an advocate for patients who suffered at the hands of the former Bundaberg surgeon, said she was thrilled to know he had been sentenced to seven years in jail for his crimes.

“I’m glad he got something. I’m glad he got at least seven years,” Ms Crosby told AAP.

“When we got the guilty verdict it was enough for a lot of people. The fact that he’s going to do time, that will help a lot.” In sentencing Patel, Justice John Byrne said he took into account the “overall criminality involved in all the offending”.

The judge sentenced Patel to seven years’ jail for each of the manslaughter charges, and three years for grievous bodily harm.

The charges all relate to Patel’s time as director of surgery at Bundaberg Base Hospital in Queensland between 2003 and 2005.

The sentences are to be served concurrently, and Patel will be eligible for parole after serving three-and-a-half years.

Victims dismayed

But Ian Vowles, who lost a healthy bowel and a normal life when he went under Jayant Patel’s scalpel in 2004, can’t fathom that the man responsible might walk free from jail in as little as three and a half years.

“I would have liked to have seen him put away for life,” he told AAP.

“The amount of pain he has caused to the people. These four cases that were in court were only a fraction of the people that he’s affected here in Bundaberg.”

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Mundine beats Jerez on points

Mundine, who is the No.

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2 contender for the WBA title, had superior reach and firepower and landed some heavy blows during the 12 round contest last night.

But to Jerez’s credit he withstood the barrages and kept moving to avoid making himself an easy target for Mundine’s strong jabs and right hooks.

Two judges scored the fight 118-110 while one scored it 120-109.

“I really feel good,” Mundine said.

“He was cagey and could counter so it was a good work out for me tonight.

“I thought I was getting stronger (at the end) and I was glad it went twelve rounds although I tried to finish sooner.”

No sooner had Mundine finished his post bout speech when Sydney-based pugilist Ryan Waters jumped into the ring to challenge “The Man”.

The pair stood face to face and Mundine then pushed Waters before they were separated.

“Lace `em up now out the back. I am ready for another 12 rounds,” Mundine said.

Mundine may have been forced to go the distance in a lower weight division but he was so in control by the eighth round he was able to adjust his shorts in between a series or right and left jabs.

In the seventh round Mundine went after Jerez, forcing the Argentinian on the back foot with a series of jabs and rights.

As he did in round one and two when he pointed to his kidneys, Jerez, complained of illegal blows, this time pointing to the back of his head and then his side.

Mundine said he would consider taking on Waters but only after he’d consulted with his management.

He said Wednesday night’s bout reinforced his belief that he could fight at the lower weight division.

“I felt this keeps me in good stead … knowing I had gas in the tank towards the end against a cagey veteran who came to win,” Mundine said.”Maybe Ryan Waters would be the next step.

“He’s ranked seven (WBA) and five (WBO) in the world.”

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Tax cuts, super to offset RSPT deal

The government has warned it may have to forego company tax cuts and higher superannuation contributions to offset any loss of revenue from a likely deal with mining companies over the resource super profits tax.

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The government is sticking firm to its commitment of returning the budget to surplus within three years, with plans to use some of the revenue from the tax to help pay down the current deficit of $57.1 billion.

“We won’t compromise the budget moving back into surplus in three years,” Assistant Treasurer Nick Sherry told ABC Radio on Thursday.

He warned there be may “an adjustment” to other elements of the government’s tax package, of which the super profits tax was part.

Those other elements include cutting the company tax rate from 30 per cent to 28 per cent, and lifting compulsory superannuation contributions from nine to 12 per cent.

Business is concerned company tax cuts will be a casualty of any deal, while the superannuation component is retained.

The prospects for a modified version of the tax strengthened on Thursday with Treasurer Wayne Swan again indicating the government’s willingness to negotiate with miners.

“I don’t intend to put any boundaries around those discussions,” he told Fairfax Radio Network.

The opposition has no intention of supporting a deal, saying it will rescind the tax if it wins power at the next election.

“It will be a deal done with the government holding a gun to the miners’ head,” opposition resources spokesman Ian Macfarlane said.

It was “almost impossible” to imagine any sort of deal which did not leave the mining industry less competitive internationally.

“On that basis alone we would rescind the tax.”

Mr Macfarlane rejected claims by mining magnate Andrew Forrest that ousted prime minister Kevin Rudd Rudd was ready to announce an acceptable compromise on Friday, the day after he was toppled by Julia Gillard.

The terms of the compromise were “completely unacceptable” to junior and mid-cap miners.

“While Andrew may have one view, it’s not the view of the industry,” Mr Macfarlane said.

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Recovery teams near Sundance crash site

Recovery experts are expected to soon gain access to the site where a plane carrying all of an Australian mining company’s board members crashed in west Africa several days ago.

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Sundance Resources chairman Geoff Wedlock, chief executive Don Lewis, company secretary John Carr-Gregg and non-executive directors Ken Talbot, John Jones and Craig Oliver were among 11 people who died when the twin-engine CASA 212 crashed on Saturday on the western ridge of Congo’s Avima Range, near the Gabonese border.

The plane was flying from Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, to the site of the Perth based Sundance’s Mbalam iron ore project near Yangadou in northwest Congo-Brazzaville.

The company said in a statement that it expected to gain access to the site by Thursday morning local time, which is seven hours behind AEST.

“Sundance has deployed a second team of specialist recovery experts from South Africa and they are en route to the crash site to assist in the recovery operation,” Sundance said in a statement on Thursday.

“Sundance expects that they will have access to the crash site on Thursday morning (local time), subject to weather conditions.

“Concurrently, work by Australian contractors to clear vegetation for site access from Avima has continued however progress was slowed due to the dense jungle and the steep terrain.

“Given the difficult location of the crash site, the timing of repatriation to Brazzaville is not yet known.

“At this time the bodies have not been removed from the site and the company cannot predict when this will take place,” the company said.

“Sundance reaffirms that all efforts are directed at completing the safe removal and repatriation of all personnel on board the charter flight as soon as possible.”

Shares in Sundance remain suspended from trading while the company rearranges its corporate governance.

Perth mining identity George Jones on Tuesday resumed the role of Sundance’s chairman after joining an advisory group including lawyer Michael Blackiston and venture capital expert Adam Rankine-Wilson.

The group will in coming weeks ask Sundance shareholders for permission to act as de facto directors and begin rebuilding the board.

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