Hastie asset sale hopes dim, creditors told

The administrator of the collapsed Hastie Group engineering empire has dashed lingering hopes of substantial returns for creditors, signalling that few businesses will find new owners following the company’s collapse.
Nanjing Night Net

Speaking after a creditors’ meeting in Melbourne, Ian Carson of PPB Advisory said Hastie’s enormous debt bill included $100 million owed to “many thousands of creditors”, with rural and regional suppliers particularly hard hit. This amount is in addition to the half a billion dollars owed to banks that funded Hastie’s acquisition binge.

Many creditors had travelled from regional Australia for the “sombre” meeting, Mr Carson said. These included labour hire firms, and suppliers of plastic fittings and guns for fastening.

“They’re really normal, ordinary businesses…and a lot of them are locals. You know, Albury and Shepparton, regional areas,” Mr Carson told a media conference after the meeting.

Mr Carson said of the 44 businesses under its control, just five had been sold for a combined sum of less than $30 million, and another one or two might be sold for modest amounts.

Receivers and managers McGrathNicol, appointed by Hastie’s banks, have taken charge of Hastie’s better-performing assets, but Mr Carson was downbeat on the prospect of substantial returns from the sale of those companies.

“It’s hard to imagine there’ll be a material return even after McGrathNicol,” Mr Carson told BusinessDay.

Asked whether he had greater insight into the cause of Hastie’s collapse, Mr Carson said: “There have obviously been some failures. Whether it’s corporate governance or other things.”

He estimated that about 1,200 jobs had been saved across Hastie’s local workforce now under PPB’s remit, of the 2700 stood down at its collapse. This tally excludes the 1800-odd workers employed by companies taken over by McGrathNichol.

The stood-down workers are being urged to apply for the federal government’s GEERS program, which provides payments to people who are owed entitlements by their bankrupt or insolvent employer.

Mr Carson said it was difficult to determine exact numbers of job losses as some workers had simply taken on work with rival contractors.

Collapse

Hastie had about 7,000 workers across the globe when it collapsed in late May, after the discovery of a long-standing accounting “irregularity” scared off a recapitalisation plan.

Its investors included Lazard Private Equity and Thorney Holdings, the Pratt family’s investment fund, which had supported an equity raising for the Sydney-based company last year.

Hastie’s chief executive Bill Wild said after the collapse that Hastie had a culture of “no bad news” and told staff members they had been let down by management. The collapse has also been blamed on overpriced acquisitions before the financial crisis that the company had failed to integrate.

On the prospect of legal action related to the collapse, Mr Carson said this course had not been his focus so far but he would be meeting with directors and shareholders in the months ahead.

Listed litigation funder IMF (Australia) and law firm Slater & Gordon have confirmed they are following developments closely.

There’s also been a 150-day extension period sought for the convening period before the second creditors meeting, Mr Carson said.

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

Marine reserve compensation ‘a drop in the ocean’

Commercial fishermen are set to receive compensation of about $100 million to help them adjust to the establishment of the world’s largest network of marine reserves around Australia, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said this morning.
Nanjing Night Net

But the industry has swiftly poured scorn on the figure. Brian Jeffriess of the Commonwealth Fisheries Association told the National Times the government ”were kidding themselves” if they though that was enough.

Ms Gillard told ABC radio that the 44 marine reserves, covering more than 3 million square kilometres of Australian waters, would affect only about 1 per cent of commercial fishing.

She added: ”There will be assistance available in the vicinity of $100 million.”

Environment Minister Tony Burke announced the massive expansion of marine protection – the world’s most comprehensive – in Sydney this morning, ahead of next week’s Rio+20 summit on global sustainability.

The plan offers differing levels of protection, ranging from full-blown national parks that prohibit mining and most types of fishing, to multi-use zones, which will still allow oil and gas exploration as well as some types of commercial fishing.

Conservationists welcomed the announcement, though many expressed concern that more of the areas should have been marked as national parks.

But the plan puts the Gillard government on a collision course with the fishing industry.

Mr Jeffriess said the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – a relatively small area compared with today’s announcement – alone had cost $250 million and rising in adjustment assistance.

While praising Mr Burke’s lengthy and close consultation with the industry, he criticised the fact the government had revealed the plan without announcing compensation at the same time.

”If you’re sitting there as a small business in a regional area dependent on the fishing industry, what are you supposed to do? For those who don’t know whether they can stay in business at all, their staff will desert in droves. We’re bitterly disappointed.”

Imogen Zethoven, a Coral Sea campaigner from the Pew Environment Group, said the announcement was a ”historic moment” in protecting the unique tropic waters beyond the Great Barrier Reef, which are home to sharks, tunas, and marlin, as well as healthy coral reefs, atolls, cays and islands.

Wilderness Society marine campaign manager Felicity Wishart said the announcement was a ”welcome first step” but included ”some major omissions that undermine the effectiveness of the overall system”.

Mr Burke said the plan would take the success of Australia’s national parks on land and apply them to the sea.

”Our oceans have been such a missing piece of that jigsaw and this now allows us to fill that in,” he said.

”For generations, Australians have understood the need to preserve precious areas on land as national parks. Our oceans contain unique marine life which needs protection too.”

 

Follow Environment on Twitter

NormalfalsefalseEN-AUX-NONEX-NONE20bof.html

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

MPs call on Fairfax to abandon NZ plan

The NSW upper house has passed a motion calling on Fairfax management to abandon plans to outsource local production jobs to New Zealand.
Nanjing Night Net

Fairfax – the publisher of this website – on Tuesday confirmed plans to move regional editorial production jobs, including page design, layout and sub-editing roles, to Fairfax Editorial Services in New Zealand.

On Thursday, the NSW upper house unanimously backed a motion of support for Fairfax workers.

“Fairfax’s proposed changes will undermine the quality of news and current affairs reporting in the Hunter, the Illawarra and the rest of NSW,” Greens MP John Kaye said in a statement.

Mr Kaye, who moved the motion, accused Fairfax of “stubbornly pushing ahead with these changes”.

“The NSW upper house calls on Fairfax management to put quality news and current affairs reporting in this state ahead of budget considerations and to abandon its outsourcing plans,” he said in a statement.

Paul Murphy, director of media at the journalists’ union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), will meet Fairfax representatives at 1pm (AEST) on Thursday.

The meeting has been described as a fact-finding mission.

It follows the passing of a no-confidence motion in Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood on Wednesday by staff at The Newcastle Herald and The Illawarra Mercury.

Mr Hywood has maintained the New Zealand plans won’t have any negative impact on the quality of the affected dailies or associated community titles.

Comment is being sought from Fairfax on the NSW upper house motion.

– AAP

Follow WAtoday on Twitter @WAtoday

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

Spanish yields hit new record high

Spain’s 10-year borrowing costs rose to a euro-era record after the nation’s credit rating was cut to one step above junk by Moody’s.
Nanjing Night Net

Italy’s yields reached the highest in almost five months as it prepared to auction 4.5 billion euros ($5.7 billion) of three-, seven- and eight-year bonds after borrowing costs climbed at a sale of 12-month bills yesterday.

German bunds rose before a report that economists said will confirm European inflation eased to the slowest pace since February 2011.

Moody’s downgraded Cyprus and lowered Spain’s rating three steps to Baa3 after the nation asked for aid to support its lenders.

‘‘The debt markets are telling us that they’re unconvinced by the bank bailout and that the next step is that the government will have to concede, capitulate, and go for a sovereign loan,’’ James Stewart, head of macro research at AX Markets, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s ‘‘Countdown.’’

‘‘That seems to me quite likely, and even now I think it’s moving on from Spain to Italy.’’

Spain’s 10-year yield climbed 10 basis points to 6.86 per cent in early trade and reached 6.89 per cent, the highest since before the euro was introduced in 1999. The 5.85 per cent security maturing in January 2022 fell 0.68, or 6.80 euros per 1000-euro face amount, to 93.09.

Italy’s 10-year yield rose 8 basis points to 6.29 per cent, after advancing to 6.34 per cent, the most since January 20.

German 10-year yields dropped three basis points to 1.46 per cent. The rate has climbed from a record-low 1.127 per cent on June 1.

Spanish securities have lost 5.6 per cent this year, according to indexes compiled by Bloomberg and the European Federation of Financial Analysts Societies. German debt has returned 2.5 per cent and Italian bonds rose 5.4 per cent.

Bloomberg

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

European shares wane after Spain’s rating cut

Europe’s top shares edged lower in early trade, with caution prevailing among investors as Moody’s became the latest rating agency to downgrade Spain, ahead of an Italian bond auction later in the session and the Greek election over the weekend.
Nanjing Night Net

The FTSEurofirst 300 was down 2.27 points, or 0.2 percent, at 984.89, having closed 0.3 per cent lower on Wednesday in nervous trade as worries over global growth in the wake of the eurozone debt crisis crimped appetite for risk.

In London, the FTSE 100 index was down 13.52 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 5470.29, having gained 0.2 per cent on Wednesday. Frankfurt’s DAX 30 dipped 0.1 per cent to 6146.92 points and in Paris the CAC 40 shed 0.2 per cent to 3022.40. Madrid’s IBEX 35 index opened 0.6 per cent lower.

Moody’s action, ahead of an Italian bond auction at which borrowing costs are seen sharply rising, saw Spain’s rating cut by three notches to ‘Baa3’ from ‘A3’, while Cyprus was also knocked down, by two notches.

“Until there is more calm around Greece and Spain, one should just stay a bit on the sidelines and watch what will happen,” Heinz-Gerd Sonnenschein, equity markets strategist at Deutsche Postbank, in Germany, said.

He said stocks are attractive on price-to-book and price-to-earnings levels but until a clearer picture is formed of what will happen in Greece and Spain investors are better off adopting a wait-and-see approach to investing.

With uncertainty swirling around equity markets, riskier banking and mining shares were among the top falling sectors on the index.

BSkyB was the biggest blue-chip faller on the London bourse, dropping 6.9 per cent after the satellite broadcaster paid 2.28 billion pounds ($3.55 billion) to broadcast 116 English Premier League soccer matches per season in a new three-year deal that will start from 2013-14.

Reuters

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

Aussie invasion: why we took over ‘Whistralia’

Spot the Aussie? It’s not hard in Whistler, Canada.The Canadian village of Whistler is home to so many Australians that it has been dubbed ‘Whistralia”. Ben Groundwater finds out what they’re doing there.
Nanjing Night Net

The Australians have taken over. In fact, they took over long ago. Everywhere you go in Whistler, Canada, there’s an Australian. You couldn’t throw a snowball without hitting an Australian.

Wake up in the morning and go for breakfast – you’re being served by an Australian. Grab your ski gear from the hotel – the girl behind the desk is Australian. Smile at the cleaner – he’s Australian.

Head to the chairlift – the operator is Australian. Maybe take a lesson – your instructor is Australian. Eat lunch – served by an Australian. Grab a beer once the lifts closed – cracked open, of course, by an Australian. Time for dinner – guess where your waiter’s from? Australia.

You’re starting to get the idea now. There’s a reason this place, North America’s largest ski resort, has been nicknamed “Whistralia”: because it really is chock full of Australians.

It’s difficult to get your head around the sheer scale of the invasion until you actually arrive and take in the number of Australian accents at Whistler Blackcomb. There are others, too – plenty of English accents, even the odd Canadian one – but the massive majority are speaking genuine Strine.

So what’s the attraction? Why do some many young Australian travellers wind up living and working in Whistler when Canada and the USA offer so many alternatives? Why are we taking over en masse?

Dylan Stewart is the Marketing and Communications Editor at IEP, an organisation that helps travellers get over to North America with the appropriate working visas. He says Whistler has plenty of attractions, not least of which is that huge bulk of other Australians.

“Many Aussies end up at Whistler because they know that there’ll be countless other Australians there as well,” Stewart says. “The benefit for Aussies is that with all the Australian accents, they never seem too far away from home.”

Then there’s the not-insignificant lure of the Whistler nightlife. Unlike some of the more family-oriented resorts, once the sun goes down in Whistler the nation’s biggest ski area becomes the nation’s biggest party. And for some reason that seems to appeal to young Australians.

“Whistler has always had the connotations of being a huge party town,” says Stewart, “and you don’t need to spend long there to realise that the reputation is warranted. Apres-ski activities are as big a drawcard as the mountain itself, and it means that even if you aren’t a great skier or boarder – or if you break your arm on the first run of the winter – there’s still plenty to do.”

More than anything else, however, Whistler is just well known. You could probably find better terrain at Revelstoke, or nightlife in Banff, or beauty in Lake Louise. But ask anyone which ski resorts they know in Canada and Whistler will inevitably be top of the list. So where else are you going to go?

There’s also a certain ease for Australians in taking a working holiday in Whistler, or Canada as a whole. It’s not just the familiar accents, the similarities in culture between Canada and Australia and the many opportunities for employment on the mountain, but the lack of issues in getting there in the first place.

If you’re under 31 it’s relatively straightforward to get hold of a working holiday visa for Canada through the International Experience program. The visa lasts for two years, but get talking to a few people around the mountain and you soon realise that plenty of Aussies have figured out ways to extend the fun. And given Whistler is a year-round resort, with the ski area morphing into a mountain-biking park in the warmer months, most people never feel the need to go anywhere else.

Plus, the ski terrain is long and varied. If you’ve got two mates, one of whom fancies himself as the next Shaun White and the other who’s never strapped into a binding, Whistler is the sort of place that’s going to please them both. And there’s always the Tube Park if you want to hang out together.

The jobs Australians are doing in Whistler range from the predictable to the bizarre, the well-paid to the… well, not very well paid. There are the traditional ski-bum jobs like lift operator, cleaner, chalet all-rounder (a nice way of saying that you have to do everything), and barmen.

(There’s an Australian guy called Dave working at a hotel there, and his sole job seems to be to replace broken doors. “You wouldn’t believe how many people manage to kick their doors in here,” he says with a sigh. “Mostly drunk Czechs for some reason.”)

But there are other employment options in Whistler as well.

Right now there are Aussies driving shuttle buses for hotels, as well as cooking the food in the restaurants. Some wind up spending their nights behind the wheel of the huge snow groomers, while others with experience nab a coveted position as a ski or snowboard instructor. And there’s more.

“Some manage to use their trade to carve out a living, which often keeps them employed once the season has finished, too,” says Stewart. “HR and hotel guest staff are other positions that many of our participants find themselves working in both at Whistler and other resorts throughout Canada, as well as in shops, takeaway restaurants, car parks and tourist info places.”

Of course, it doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you’re doing something to keep the cash flowing in and the dream alive. What you’re really there for is that huge mountain, those metres of snow, those pumping bars – and the fact that you’re a long, long way from home.

For more on working holidays in Canada, visit https://www.whpcanada南京夜网.au/

The writer travelled as a guest of the Canadian Tourism Commission and Tourism British Columbia.

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

Gloomy June and wet Saturday ahead

June is traditionally our gloomiest and wettest month of the year, but this June has been much gloomier and wetter than normal.
Nanjing Night Net

We have been short-changed more than 20 hours of sunshine already, which is an hour a day less sunshine than average, Weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke said.

It has been so wet that some sport has had to be cancelled due to sodden ovals. There is a chance of this happening again this weekend.

Cloud will roll in from western New South Wales early tomorrow night as another low and pool of cold air develop.

Rain will not take long to reach Sydney, starting on Saturday morning and it may last all day. Some sport will again have to be cancelled.

Thankfully for most, the whole weekend won’t be a washout. Sunday is looking brighter with temperatures reaching the high teens.

In the past few weeks, low pressure systems have been a regular feature off the New South Wales coast. The lows have driven cloud and rain over much of the east of the state, Mr Dutschke said.

With 100-150mm of rain in the past few days, it has already become Sydney’s wettest June in five years.

The city has gained 200mm so far, 70mm more than the monthly average.

Eastern suburbs have been particularly wet. Dover Heights has been drenched by 280mm this month and Rose Bay and Randwick 240mm, all doubling their monthly average only halfway through the month.

Some northern and western suburbs have also put up with a wet few weeks. Homebush and Marrickville have had about 200mm each.

Unfortunately for outdoor types, much of this rain has fallen on the weekends.

It is also the wettest start to a year in 11 years.

After heavy downpours earlier in the year, this has now become the city’s wettest start to a year since 2001, recording 900mm, compared with the January-to-June average of 728mm.

Looking ahead to the rest of winter, overall temperatures and rainfall should be near average as we continue with a neutral climate phase.

As we head into spring there is increased chance of sunnier, drier and warmer days due to the likely onset of El Nino.

smh南京夜网.au

Weatherzone南京夜网.au is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.

Follow Environment on Twitter

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

‘Hello, hello’: birdnappers steal talking macaws

Worth about $7000 each … a blue and gold macaw. Stolen and returned last year … Lisa Barrett with her macaw Lotto.
Nanjing Night Net

Thieves left a trail of feathers across a car park when they stole two birds each worth $7000 from a pet store in north-west Sydney.

The blue and gold macaws, Zazu and Kiaria, were taken from the Kellyville Pets store about 9.30pm yesterday.

The birds can laugh – and say “hello” and “step up” – but their theft is no laughing matter.

Jes Jonkmans, Kellyville Pets’ marketing manager, said CCTV footage showed the silhouettes of two men entering the store’s aviary and taking the young macaws. The thieves were believed to have used bolt cutters to break into the aviary, Hills News reported.

“Birds are really fragile so if they are stressed or traumatised that can cause really serious health issues. Particularly the way they were taken. There was a trail of feathers through the car park so … they would have been struggling,” Ms Jonkmans said.

Ms Jonkmans said the store had been burgled before and there was an online black market for exotic birds.

Last year, blue and gold macaw Lotto, worth $7500, was returned to its Cessnock pet shop owners two months after it was taken.

“There has been a lot of theft in this local year in recent years. Generally the birds are taken interstate and sold online,” Ms Jonkmans said.

“There was a couple of customers and people that we know through the store had their birds stolen just out of their backyards. They can’t even have their bird out in the aviary in the backyard because people will jump the fence to steal them.”

The blue and gold macaws originate from Central and South America, Ms Jonkmans said.

“Over and above the value of the birds, we just want to make sure that they are safe and sound. Our staff are just devastated that they are gone.”

with Hills News

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

Lies, love and money: Shelley Zimmerman perjury charge

George and Shellie Zimmerman …. both sued for failing to pay credit car bills. Killed … Trayvon Martin.
Nanjing Night Net

George and Shellie Zimmerman struggled with money problems.

The year they married, he was sued, accused of failing to pay a credit card bill. Three years later, she was sued for the same thing.

Both were in and out of community college, records show, and spent their first years together in a home owned by her parents.

Then their lives were turned upside down – George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, in Florida in February – and the money began pouring in.

Now what Shellie Zimmerman told a judge about family finances has made her a focus of national attention.

It is the reason her husband is back behind bars and the basis for her arrest this week on a charge of perjury.

What is known about her?

She is a 25-year-old who wants to be a nurse and, when pressed, aggressively defends her husband.

Although George Zimmerman has been vilified, especially on the internet, for killing Martin, she testified at his bond hearing in April that she had never seen him angry.

“Do you believe he’s a danger to the community?” asked his attorney, Mark O’Mara.

“No, I do not,” she said.

She and family members did not respond to phone calls and email, but acquaintances described her as respectful, polite and a good match for Zimmerman.

George Michael Zimmerman married Shellie Nicole Dean in November 2007 in Daytona Beach, according to public records. He was 24. She was 20 and a cosmetologist who specialised in facials.

She enrolled at Seminole State College – formerly Seminole Community College – in the fall of 2008 and left the school in the fall of 2010, their records show.

Olivia Bertalan, a neighbour the couple helped after a burglary, described Shellie Zimmerman as a “stay-at-home student.”

“We had common interests,” Bertalan said. Both wanted to become nurses.

The couple had moved into Sanford’s Retreat at Twin Lakes in 2009, records show.

Frank Taaffe, one of George Zimmerman’s most visible friends and early defenders, said he met Shellie Zimmerman once or twice at homeowners association meetings.

She was much less active in that group than her husband, he said.

Together the Zimmermans mentored two black middle-school students, a brother and sister, according to family members.

Leanne Benjamin, a longtime friend of George Zimmerman’s, met the children in December, she said.

“They did this because of their love of education and a desire to help people,” she said of the couple, adding that she was aware they struggled with money.

“I know they didn’t have anything before this all happened,” she said.

That began to change in April when TheRealGeorgeZimmerman南京夜网 was created. It was a website dedicated to George Zimmerman that allowed supporters to make donations via PayPal.

On February 26, George Zimmerman shot and killed Martin after calling authorities to report a suspicious person in his gated community.

Sanford police did not arrest Zimmerman, saying they didn’t have enough evidence to contradict his self-defence claim.

The shooting set off a storm of controversy.

Zimmerman went into hiding. Civil rights leaders travelled to Sanford, and thousands of protesters took to the streets.

Zimmerman and his family received death threats, and a growing chorus demanded his arrest.

Donations began to roll into the PayPal account, according to O’Mara and court records.

They kept coming after a special prosecutor filed a second-degree-murder charge against Zimmerman on April 11, and he was locked up in the Seminole County Jail.

At a bond hearing April 20, Shellie Zimmerman testified that she and her husband were broke.

In truth, they had access to more than $US130,000 in the PayPal account, according to prosecution paperwork.

George and Shellie Zimmerman talked about the money several times on a recorded phone line at the Seminole County Jail, according to court records.

He talked her through how to transfer it and directed her to pay off their bills, records show.

She moved $US74,000 into her account during one four-day period while he was in jail, records show, and George Zimmerman’s sister transferred an additional $US47,000 into hers.

On Tuesday, Special Prosecutor Angela Corey charged Shellie Zimmerman with perjury. She was released from a short stay in the Seminole County Jail after posting $US1000 bail.

What will happen now?

The charge is a felony and could carry a five-year prison term.

But Bill Sheaffer, an Orlando defence attorney and legal analyst for WFTV, predicted that if she enters a plea, she would likely wind up on probation.

Shellie Zimmerman has no record of prior arrests, and the lies she’s charged with telling did not send an innocent man to prison or allow a guilty one to go free, he said.

Still, “if the criminal justice system is to seek the truth, nothing sabotages that more than a liar,” Sheaffer said.

Shellie Zimmerman is not a key witness in her husband’s case, and the lies she’s accused of telling probably won’t impact his prosecution, he said, but they did him no good.

Sheaffer said she has “significantly tarnished, at least in the court of public opinion, her husband’s credibility.”

Orlando Sentinel/MCT

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

Brown predicts more Greens in Canberra after next election

Tomorrow Senator Brown – who resigned as Greens leader in April – will formally resign from the Senate.Former Greens leader Bob Brown says he has no regrets about quitting Federal Parliament and predicts there will be three more Greens senators after the next federal election.
Nanjing Night Net

Senator Brown said that if the Greens kept up poll results similar to their current 14 per cent primary vote, they will boost their numbers in federal parliament.

”There will be three more senators for a start, but there will be more Greens in the parliament,” he told reporters in Canberra today.

The Greens had a 11.8 per cent primary vote in the 2010 election and have nine Greens senators and one lower house MP (deputy leader Adam Bandt) in Canberra.

”Look at those polls for the Greens, they’ve gone up since I got out. Quite clearly I should have done it earlier,” he joked.

Tomorrow Senator Brown – who resigned as Greens leader in April – will formally resign from the Senate.

”And that’s that,” he said.

Senator Brown joined the Senate in 1996 and had been leader of the Australian Greens since 1992.

He insisted that in hindsight, he had no regrets about his decision to go: ”I’m very happy”.

It’s not all smooth sailing for the Greens, however. Senator Brown said the party needed more donations and called for more financial support.

”We’re short of funds and we’d like a lot more,” he said, encouraging any large donors to get in contact via his post office box.

”I’d be very happy to go as a middle person.”

Former foreign minister Gareth Evans famously complained of ”relevance deprivation syndrome” after leaving Parliament but Senator Brown said he had no fears he would suffer the same plight.

”I’m a more casual, easygoing guy,” Senator Brown said.

Senator Brown will also continue to campaign for the Greens and other environmental causes.

His parting gift to his parliamentary colleagues was a poster of James Price Point in Western Australia, in a bid to save the area from a gas plant.

He also pledged to continue supporting Greens candidates at both state and federal elections.

”I’ll be campaigning with the Greens candidates to the very day they put me in a box,” he said.

Follow the National Times on Twitter: @NationalTimesAU

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

Marginal seats in sights as Lib team takes shape

The Liberal Party’s plan to seize marginal Victorian seats off Labor is heating up, with a former federal MP and a successful Vietnamese migrant among those heading the team.
Nanjing Night Net

The party is confident it can win the Victorian seats of La Trobe, Deakin, Corangamite and Chisholm at the next election.

John Nguyen, who lost to acting Speaker Anna Burke in 2010, is running again in Chisholm.

A bitter preselection battle in Corangamite — the country’s most marginal seat — will be resolved on Sunday, while the vote for Deakin will be decided on Saturday.

Mr Nguyen fled Vietnam in 1979, arriving in Australia nine months later with nothing. He is now a partner at Ernst & Young.

”I want to make a contribution. It’s about what I can do for others,”  Mr Nguyen told the National Times.

His parents live in Kensington, an area home to thousands of new migrants particularly from Africa, and Mr Nguyen says his frequent trips to the suburb solidify his desire to create opportunity for others to succeed in Australia.

”I spent five years in New York and saw everyone working towards the American dream. It’s about opportunity for others.”

Mr Nguyen is a firm believer in the Liberal Party’s values of free markets and enterprise, and freedom and responsibility to choose.

He fled Vietnam with his grandparents and siblings when he was five, making a boat trip to a United Nations refugee camp in Malaysia, where he spent nine months before coming to Australia though policies championed by the Fraser government.

But he backs the party’s stance on border security, saying Australia has and always will welcome refugees.

”At some point in time we need to protect our borders,” Mr Nguyen said.

”I get a bit uncomfortable when people say that by supporting these policy I’m against refugees, but it’s not like that.”

Mr Nguyen said hearing a talk from opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison, who said people did not appreciate the moral dilemmas of shaping border protection policy and dealing with refugees, firmed his views.

He said  the party was not  polling as strongly in Victoria  because of the state’s history as a moderate state, citing how multiculturalism was much more vibrant and successful in Melbourne than Sydney.

Running against the high-profile Ms Burke would be a challenge, he said, paying tribute to Ms Burke as a decent person who stood up for him at a hostile question and answer session last election.

”I want to run as a Liberal candidate not as an Asian candidate,” said Mr Nguyen. ”I want people to vote for me on my values, not because where I come from.”

Ms Burke  – who has held the seat since 1998 – said: “I’ll be working hard, as I always have, to look after the interests of the people of Chisholm and to see that Labor is returned to government.

“The major issues which locals are talking to me about are higher education, aged care, open space and urban amenity and the services which affect them everyday.”

Former Liberal MP for La Trobe Jason Wood has also been preselected for the seat, which he held from 2004 until 2010 when he lost by 1600 votes to Laura Smyth.

Nick McGowan, a former peacekeeper and Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu’s 2006 campaign media director, has been preselected unopposed to contest Jaga Jaga.

The seat is held by Families Minister Jenny Macklin, who won in the last election on a two-party preferred vote of 62-38.

Mr McGowan works for Victorian Employment and Industrial Relations Minister Richard Dalla-Riva.

Follow the National Times on Twitter: @NationalTimesAU

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

Reverse mortgages on the rise

Demand for reverse mortgages is increasing as poor investment markets leave older retirees strapped for cash.
Nanjing Night Net

Superannuation funds are said to be weighing up whether they should offer reverse mortgages to their retiree members. If the talk comes to something, the market for reverse mortgages would be greatly expanded.

Super funds are about providing retirement income for their members and for many of those people, their retirement savings will not buy much more than a new car and some maintenance on the house. Cash-poor retirees are increasingly going to look favourably upon unlocking some of the equity in their homes.

Also known as ”equity-release” products, reverse mortgages are available to home-owning over-65s or over-60s (depending on the provider), who borrow against their homes and make repayments on the loan. But as the interest and fees are capitalised, the outstanding loan amount grows quickly. The loan is repaid when the owner goes into a retirement home or an aged-care facility, or dies.

In its latest survey of the reverse-mortgage market, Deloitte says there was about $3.3 billion in funding at the end of last year, a 22.5 per cent increase over the past two years. About 5000 new borrowers accessed equity in their homes last year, with more than 42,000 reverse mortgages in total.

Many retirees’ investment portfolios have been hit hard by the dreadful investment returns of the past five years, which makes the attraction of reverse mortgages understandable.

Retirees may not be generating enough money from their savings and the age pension to provide for their living expenses or to maintain their home. They want to keep their financial independence without being a burden on others. A reverse mortgage could also be used to help pay for home-based care, even if it means less left in equity in the house for the children.

The average age of new borrowers last year was 75, and borrowers told Deloitte they used the money to make home improvements (18 per cent), repay debts (16 per cent) and supplement retirement income (15 per cent).

Reverse mortgages can be a good solution for some people as long as they are careful and borrow only relatively small amounts.

With interest rates low and likely to go lower, not many people are interested in taking out a reverse mortgage with an interest rate that is fixed for a period of time, and providers are generally not offering fixed-interest loans. While a variable interest rate may go lower in the near term, it’s bound to rise over the period of the loan, which is likely to be least a decade for most people. Higher interest rates will make the debt grow even more quickly.

The single-biggest potential danger is where the debt blows out to be worth more than the house.

Reverse-mortgage providers who are members of industry body SEQUAL (Senior Australians Equity Release Association of Lenders), and the better providers, have ”no negative-equity guarantees” whereby, if there is a shortfall in covering the debt on the sale of the house, the lender wears the loss.

There are conditions in reverse-mortgage contracts, such as maintaining the property to the standard required by the lender. If the borrowers fail to maintain the house, the ”no negative-equity guarantee” may be rendered void.

It is essential to obtain independent legal advice on the contract, as well as advice on whether a reverse mortgage will affect social security entitlements.

Many people would prefer to have a reverse mortgage provided by their super fund.

Big super funds have buying power, which can mean lower prices for members. The big super funds offer good deals to members on life insurance, for example. If reverse mortgages were to be offered by super funds, they could be on better terms, such as lower interest rates and more consumer-favourable contracts, than from established players.

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

Drawing the line around our city

Melbourne’s urban development is all wrong.FOR more than 10 years – December 1999 to February 2012 – I led the Committee for Melbourne. Decreasing density was seen by the committee as one of Melbourne’s greatest threats. Now we see the urban growth boundary extended again.
Nanjing Night Net

Over the past few months I have spent significant time in two cities that take a very different approach to density and public transport: London and Salt Lake City.

London is a low-rise city. It has an urban density more than three times that of Melbourne, but without skyscrapers. It does so by having consistent four-storey (or thereabouts) development across the entire city.

Those who object to the ”Manhattanisation” of our CBD and Docklands, may like this concept.

The fairly consistent density across the city is one of the reasons that public transport has less impact on the public purse. On the downside, thin roads and four-storey heights along most streets restrict the amount of light that gets to the ground, adding to a compressed feel in many parts of the city.

I don’t like the feel of compression, but there are pros and cons to the London option of medium to high density everywhere.

Salt Lake City in Utah has a population of around 900,000 and an average density almost equal to Melbourne’s, but very little public transport.

With much higher vehicle usage, and a particular weather-related inversion effect in winter, the city suffers from days of poor air quality. Public transport provision may help clear the air, but the retrofitting of public transport into low density areas is extremely expensive.

So the residents of Salt Lake City have little choice but to use cars. As fuel prices become more expensive there will be an adverse impact on the community and the environment.

What lessons then can we learn for Melbourne? Firstly, quality of life is improved with good public transport. Secondly, retrofitting public transport into low density cities is extremely expensive. Far better to build public transport as one builds a city. Thirdly, while there can be too much density – as in Mumbai – there can also be too little density as in our outer suburbs.

Why is Melbourne allowing the government to extend the urban growth boundary rather than looking for better urban density designs? Is it because we fear the voices of the anti-development set? And if we do opt to extend the city, why are we doing so without provision of decent public transport – particularly light rail, trains and trams – to these new areas?

In effect, Melbourne is becoming like Salt Lake City – with ultra low densities and poor public transport. The cost of this is not felt just by those living on the urban fringe. Food prices for all may go up as market gardens get gobbled up. Poorer air quality – as more car journeys take place in the outer urban areas – impacts everybody and inner urban congestion increases.

So should we go for the London option – four to five storeys everywhere?

In my opinion, variety is better. Areas of high density in places such as the CBD, Docklands and Fishermans Bend make sense and provide high density options for people who prefer it.

Four-storey medium density design around public transport nodes also makes sense. Likewise, having suburban streets with lower density makes sense to give people different living options – provided that public transport and service provision are as readily available as they are in established suburbs. We must demand and be prepared to pay for these provisions in outer suburbs too.

What we should not do is extend the urban boundary. It may give a perception of doing something, but without thinking about public transport and services and what such lack of foresight may bring, it impacts on all residents of Melbourne.

Rather than taking the hard solution to consult with the community and determine where our density mixes are going, we are again simply extending our boundary and again falling into the trap of decreasing density – and that is dangerous.

Andrew MacLeod is the former CEO of the Committee for Melbourne.

Comment at The National Times.

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