Schapelle Corby ‘deserves her freedom’, says former prison governor

Bali: The former governor of Bali’s Kerobokan jail has said Schapelle Corby has served her three years of parole in Bali well and deserves her freedom.
Nanjing Night Net

Corby, 39, who was convicted in 2005 for attempting to smuggle 4.2 kilograms of marijuana into Bali in a boogie board bag, is just days away from being deported back to Australia on May 27.

Former prison governor Gusti Ngurah Wiratna told Fairfax Media that Corby should use the lessons she had learned in Bali to live the rest of her life.

“She went through her parole time well, now she deserves her freedom,” he said.

In 2012 Mr Wiratna revealed Corby had become reluctant to take part in prison activities or even venture out of the cramped women’s cell-block at Kerobokan, which could have affected her chances of parole.

“When she had a meeting with me, she said that she’s still depressed. She’s afraid in situations when there is a crowd, traumatised … and that’s why she stopped going to church,” he said at the time.

As a result he took the unusual step of ordering church services be conducted in Corby’s cell block, to ensure she continued to receive religious instruction.

Corby has spent more than three years in Bali on parole, after being incarcerated in Kerobokan jail for almost a decade.

Her original sentence of 20 years was cut by five after former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono approved Corby’s clemency plea in 2012.

Meanwhile, Corby’s fiercely protective sister, Mercedes, on Thursday appealed to the media to “stop stalking” Corby and give her some privacy.

“Please leave her alone. Stop stalking outside the house. She’s sick of the media, sick of all you guys stalking her,” Mercedes said outside the Bali Justice Office.

Corby is virtually a prisoner in her own home, a modest villa down a Kuta laneway where she lives with her brother Michael and reported boyfriend Ben Panangian.

The head of Bali Corrections, Surung Pasaribu, said he had heard Corby had confined herself inside the home until she was ill.

“She’s sick a lot because she confines herself, never jogging, never walking, never swimming, because too many are chasing her. That’s the information from her parole officer,” Mr Surung said.

“She’s very afraid, when media came, people came, that’s her complaint. As a human being it’s her right to complain.”

He said a meeting to discuss preparations for Corby’s upcoming release was held on Thursday.

Mr Surung said Corby had not attended because she was not too “fresh” due to the media filming outside her house.

Corby was regularly spotted running along Pantai Jerman, a beach in Bali, swimming, reading and shopping until the paparazzi made her reluctant to leave her home.

In her 2006 memoir My Story, co-written with Kathryn Bonella, Corby documented her “acute phobia” of photographers and cameras.

“It was the endless hounding by people taking sneaky shots of me that affected me the worst,” she wrote. “I was on alert, sharply flinching whenever I saw any type of flash,” she wrote. “Like all phobias, it gave me an irrational terror of them.”

Meanwhile, Bali immigration chief Muhammad Natsir stressed that Corby would not be locked up ahead of her flight back to Australia on May 27.

He said the parole officer would hand Corby over to immigration.

“She will be taken to the immigration area, sterile area, not detained, not locked up,” he said, stressing that he wanted to “straighten the news” and not offend Australia.

“Because in principle she’s free, if she’s free, we can’t lock her up.”

However Mr Natsir said she would be escorted by an immigration officer until her departure because once she was handed over by the parole officer she didn’t have a visa to be in Indonesia.

He asked the media not to create a commotion on “D Day”, because it would confuse the officers.

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Jealousy, bitterness and murder

GRIEF: The family of murder victim Michael Moad read emotional statements in Newcastle Supreme Court on Thursday as his killer sat impassively in the dock.
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EVEN according to his doting mum, Michael Moad was finally happy.

The hardworking Cessnock man, 48, had found love with a local woman, Karen Thompson. The future was looking bright.

“He had found a lovely lady he felt he could be with for a long time. I still can’t get that out of my head, howit was finally his turn to be happy,’’ mother Colleen Moad said on Thursday.

But the gut wrenching tragedy was that Mrs Moad’s words were not part of a massivecelebration like a wedding or birthday, or a loving memory to a dear friend or relative.

They were part of a victimimpact statement, courageously read by her granddaughter,Amy, at the sentencing hearing of Mrs Thompson’s ex-husband, Gregory John Thompson.

Thompson was being sentenced for the brutal murder of Mr Moad –a man he had only discovered existed less than a day before he stabbed him 10 times inside Mr Moad’s home as Mrs Thompson screamed for help.

Newcastle Supreme Court Justice Peter Hamill would later send Thompson to jail for more than 23 years.

The 51-year-old will have to wait until at least 2032 before he can apply for parole.

It ended the journey through the justice system for Mr Moad’s family and friends, many of whom sat through every second of harrowing evidence in a nine-day trial asThompson triedto blame his significant depression for the murder.

“This week justice has been served for the vicious and brutal murder of our loved one, Michael Anthony Moad,’’ his brother-in-law Stephen Scott said outside court.

“We would just like to say a big thanks to our family and friends for all their support, not only these last two and a bit weeks but for the last two and a bit years.

“It has been hard and it will always be hard.

“We would like to pass on a special thanks to the detectives, the police, and also the Crown for all the hard work they have put to bring this case together to give justice to our family.’’

Thompson had fallen into the deep depression after his wife left him and it continued after she filed for divorce on January 27, 2015.

He couldn’t get over the separation, and despite already putting Karen through years ofpsychological abuse, of harrassing phone calls, of intimidation, of blackmail and of nuisance complaints to police, for the next month his behaviour escalated to frightening new levels.

In the days leading up to the murder, Thompson was arrested twice in two days for harassing his ex-wife and then stalking her.

But it was during his second visit to Cessnock police station – for breaching an apprehended violence order that had only been in place a matter of hours – that he learned something.

“Within 24 hours of learning Michael Moad’s name, Michael Moad was dead,’’ Crown prosecutor Brendan Campbell would tell the jury.

JUSTICE: Michael Moad’s mother, Colleen, sister Louise Scott and brother-in-law Stephen Scott outside court after Gregory Thompson was sentenced to more than 23 years’ jail. He will not be eligible for parole until 2032. Picture: Jonathon Carroll.

But first there was the trip to buy some items to assist in Thompson killing himself.

And the trip to the bottle shop for some bourbon.

Thompson flicked through the White Pages and found Michael Moad’s address, and just before midnight on February 28 he parked in a laneway near the Cessnock home and got himself ready, including secreting two knives he had brought with him.

Thompson’s defence team had arguedthat the broken man had just wanted to speak to his ex-wife one lasttime before taking his own life.

Justice Hamill said in sentencing that he was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Thompson arrived at the house with the direct intention to kill his ex-wife or Mr Moad.

It was in the early hours of thatSunday morning when he was confronted by Mr Moad inside the victim’s own bathroom, and after he had been seen to enter to property in a “selfish and obsessive desire to see his ex-wife’’, the judge said.

But he ruled that he was certain that Thompson was prepared to kill Mr Moad as the confrontation got violent to the extreme.

He stabbed him 10 times –the blows so violent that one knife was snapped in two and the second was twisted.

Mr Moad fought hard but succumbed to his injuries, and Thompson then started following his ex-wife around the house before she ran outside to the safety of several neighbours who had heard the commotion.

Thompson made acowardly escape back through the backyardand drove to bushland, where he attempted to commit suicide before returning back to the scene where he was arrested.

Justice Hamill found that Thompson’s motive for the killing was jealousy and bitterness.

ARREST: Gregory Thompson being taken into custody outside Michael Moad’s Cessnock home after he returned to the murder scene.

In several emotional victims impact statements read in Newcastle Supreme Court on Thursday, Colleen Moadconfronted Thompson with the gravity of his actions.

Her granddaughter, Amy, who held a deep connection with her Uncle Michael, read out the statement.

“You’re never supposed to bury your children. The loss of Michael has caused me pain that is unbearable,’’ thestatement read.

“Some days I’mnumb, and some days I ache.

“I wake most nights at 2am. I lay there and I think.

“I try to think of Michael being in a better place but then I’m drawn back to the same thoughtI have every night and most days.

“That’s thethought of my little boy being murdered.

“The pure fear he would have felt as the life slowly drained from his body.

“Then it hits me. Pure and utter despair.’’

Mrs Moad told of Michael’s call every Friday where he would open with “Ha Mum” and how her heart now skips a beat if the phone rings on a Friday.

“I lost my husband of over 60 years last year,’’ the statement said.

“Michael’s death was just too much for him to bear.

“Sometimes I feel so alone now.

“When I wake up of a morning, I have to remind myself to keep breathing, to keep moving, to keep going.’’

Her daughter and Mr Moad’s sister, Louise Scott, said her brother’s death was too much for her father to deal with.

“He never, ever got over having to bury his youngest child,’’ Mrs Scott said.

She said Michael had treated her children like his own.

“Michael was a real person, not just a victim or the deceased,’’ Mrs Scott said.

“He had a name, a face and a family who loved him.

“He was a son, a brother, an uncle, a great uncle, godfather, a friend and a partner.’’

Mrs Scott said her brother was 48 when he was killed and still had “so much life to live.’’

She said his death had impacted on her family “in a way that I’m afraid words may never convey”.

“The murder of my brother has consumed my life and my family’s life,’’ Mrs Scott said.

“It’s all we think about, all we talk about and I’m scared it’s never going to go away.

“Because of this, I find it difficult to socialise with my friends anymore because I don’t know what else to talk about or I’m consciously trying not to talk about Michael’s murder.

“I’ve lost friendships.

“The actions of Gregory Thompson have instilled so many fears in to me I’m scared I’ll never recover. My coping skills, attitudes and behaviours will never be the same.’’

Mrs Scott said she had to change her working conditions as a registered nurse because she could now not work in trauma or at night.

Thompson sat with his chin on his hands as the victims impact statements were read and a photograph of Michael Moad was displayed on court screens.

Justice Hamill would later tell the court: “I can’t see any evidence at all, including his demeanor during the reading of the victim impact statements, to showme he is remorseful at all.’’

Forget the banks, there’s a better way for tax reform

AFR, GENERIC, ATO Australian Taxation Office, tax, taxpayers, money, Government revenue, budget. Wednesday 18th December 2002S photo Louie Douvis / ldz ***AFR FIRST USE ONLY*** Photo: Louie DouvisIf it wasn’t for the massively disproportionate coverage of the “Big New Bank Tax”, early indications are that the nation would barely notice it and we could move on to pursuing genuine tax reform.
Nanjing Night Net

As Jacob Greber has reported, the market has reacted to the budget by reducing the banks’ cost of funds, apparently assuming the tax makes explicit the long implicit “too big to fail” guarantee. Wholesale funding costs for the big banks have fallen by between one and three basis points since the budget. [ A basis point is equivalent to 0.01 per cent.]

Let’s call it two points – that’s a third of the new 0.06 per cent tax. If shareholders have to absorb a third, they’ll barely notice – it would dint profits by about 1 per cent. Even subdued system growth should make up for it. If dividends are frozen at their present high level for a year, no harm will be done and we could all move on. (Disclosure: the Pascoe family super fund is overweight bank stocks.)

Customers wouldn’t feel the remaining third. Remember the tax is not on all the banks’ funding. What would an extra point or two do to loans compared with the banks’ much bigger regular rate movements? Stuff all.

Real estate investors have just worn increases of between 30 and 50 basis points. The banks thought nothing of withholding five points and more when the RBA has cut the cash rate.

And aside from all that, wholesale rates regularly move a few points in one direction or another for their own sweet reasons and capitalism doesn’t crash.

There is much more important business we should be concentrating on instead of being distracted by the government’s piecemeal filling of revenue potholes and the back-and-forth name calling.

Last week this space challenged the Big Five to offer an alternative better, fairer and politically possible way of raising a quick $1.6 billion or so. “Politically possible” is the hard bit, given the way the coalition as wedged itself on reform.

The banks failed to take up that challenge, too busy wiping away crocodile tears about passing on costs to customers. So here’s my answer, a step towards broader necessary reform that would solve the immediate problem and then some: Targeting inequality

Trim the capital gains tax discount a little from the present 50 per cent to a still very handsome 40 per cent.

Yes, some people would whinge, especially in the Liberal heartland, and particularly all those politicians with multiple investment properties. But: 40 per cent is still a very nice discount.It was one of the well-considered Henry Review recommendations.It could be sold as a measure that would reduce growing inequality, or even billed as a superior replacement for the deficit reduction levy.There’s no rational explanation for why it is 50 per cent, especially in such a low inflation environment. (Tell me again why a brickie pays twice as much tax on what he earns breaking his back as he does lazily speculating on the investment unit he’s building. No, don’t bother.)And, perhaps most importantly, it could be part of selling the “fairness” of and paying for further tax reform by broadening the GST.

Cutting to the chase, trimming the CGT discount would raise more money. Working off the budget revenue statement, the 50 per cent CGT discount will save individuals and trusts about $11.1 billion next financial year.

Simplifying things by assuming all CGT payers are in the top tax bracket (they’re not), make that a 40 per cent discount and the ATO would collect about $2.2 billion more. Over the four years of the budget papers, it would be an extra $9.5 billion, about 50 per cent more than the bank tax.

Too bad the coalition wasn’t game to try that change – it looks like the real estate investors/core Liberal voters still call the shots.

According to an Australia Institute study, Liberal electorates gain the most from the capital gains tax discount.

That’s hardly a surprise. Liberal electorates tend to be the wealthiest, the wealthy are much more likely to have the means to make capital gains, which in turn makes them wealthier again while paying lower tax rates on their investment income and so on in the cycle that is steadily increasing inequality.

Remember that for all the IPA/CIS/Murdoch emphasis on the high proportion of total income tax paid by the top decile, there’s little attention to the increasing proportion of wealth nonetheless held by that group. Wentworth benefits

The Australia Institute found that for the 2014-15 year, the electorate that gained the most from the CGT discount was none other than Malcolm Turnbull’s – Wentworth in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs. On average, every Wentworth tax payer received a benefit of $5,387 from the discount.

But of course not every Wentworth citizen had capital gains and paid CGT. Of those who did, the average benefit was $66,798. If the discount was reduced to 40 per cent, the average CGT-paying Wentworth elector would still have received a $53,438 benefit, but would have paid $13,360 more tax. Little wonder the Prime Minister likes the CGT discount just the way it is.

As for real estate, not trimming the CGT discount is one of the budget failures fingered by Professor Miranda Stewart. (Hers was the single highly rational voice on Monday’s Q&A). The ANU Crawford School for Public Policy professor thinks the budget’s many tweaks in the name of housing tax policy are unlikely to have much effect.

“It would be better to reform our income tax base along the lines of the Henry Review,” she writes. “It proposed a lower CGT discount of 40 per cent for investment income and gains (instead of increasing it to 60 per cent for some affordable housing!) and quarantining losses and expenses. This would put a ceiling on negative gearing and provide more consistent tax treatment of savings.”

If we had talented leadership with communication skills and credibility (an extremely big “if”), the way would be open to package a reduced CGT discount as part of making broader tax reform “fair”. And with more CGT, it would be easier to afford the necessary compensation for the poorest Australians when broadening the GST. Cleaning up rorts

At the same time, clean up some of our more obvious rorts, such as the salary packaging industry’s infamous novated lease lurk, and we’d be well on the way.

The CGT discount is one of our many “tax expenditures” – the money the Commonwealth foregoes by giving tax breaks and making exceptions. Excluding food from the GST, for example, will cost $7.2 billion next year. We are neither the highest or lowest taxing developed country, but we are the champions of tax expenditures.

The budget papers’ summary of the larger tax expenditures is lifted from the annual tax expenditures statement published in January. Just the biggest tax expenditure items, those worth more than $1 billion a year, totalled $150 billion for 2017-18, compared with the government’s expectation of actually raising $444 billion.

And by far the biggest “revenue foregone” item? The exemption for the main residence from CGT and the CGT discount are worth a total $63 billion. Ah, the politically sacred family home – also known as a tax haven.

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

Trump uncertainty hits local markets

The ASX suffered a predictably torrid morning of trade after Wall St suffered its worst session of losses in eight months amid rising chatter the US president may face impeachment proceedings. But its far too early too panic, local professional investors and analysts say.
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In mid-morning trade, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index had slumped 85 points, or 1.5 per cent, to 5701, as investors sold almost indiscriminately. The benchmark measure has now shed 150 points over yesterday and this morning, bring the accumulated losses in market capitalisation to close to $40 billion.

Adding to the environment of rising tension, this morning news emerged that the US Justice Department has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign team and Russia, as well as alleged Russian interference in the US election.

The rapidly developing story looked to have finally punctured the air of complacency that has pervaded US stockmarkets, where record highs have been matched with extraordinarily low levels of volatility.

Indeed, Investors had been “sleepwalking” into last night’s sell-off, ANZ analysts said this morning.

Despite the dire headlines emerging from Washington, so far traders are more likely to be treating the market moves as a correction than a true crisis in the making.

“If you look at what our US desk is saying, there’s no sense of panic coming out of them at this stage,” Citi director of equities sales Karen Jorritsma said. “And globally, some of our clients are seeking value and come back in, to add reflation exposure cheaply given the pullback.” ‘The whole reflation trade’

“It’s an opportunity to step back into market that’s been overheated,” she said. “Overall, the guys here are pretty relaxed. It’s too early to say if this’ll last.”

Of key concern to investors is that the Trump controversies will delay the implementation of the US president’s pro-growth policy agenda.

Those policies, in conjunction with a general cyclical upswing in the economy, were supposed to underpin a solid pick-up in growth later this year and into the next.

“The markets are continuing to question, with more urgency, the effectiveness of Trump in getting through his manifesto items,” BT Investment Management’s head of fixed interest Vimal Gor said.

“We had a large run-up on the expectation that Trump would be very good for US business. That might still be the case, but there’s a lot more doubt.

“It really brings into question the whole reflation trade.”

Reflecting this heightened uncertainty, investors piled back into bonds, as yields on US Treasuries, which move inversely to the price, dropping as low 2.21 per cent overnight. Mr Gor labelled it “a material move”.

The pullback in markets had the potential to be healthy, Perpetual Investments head of investment strategy Matthew Sherwood said.

“The one thing we have to remember is that while low volatility is really good, it can really lure investors into a false sense of security, thinking that all the risk is dissipated,” Mr Sherwood said. No dramatic impact – yet

And while investors might be feeling the pain of falling share prices, the fundamental impact on locally listed companies at this stage looks limited.

“In terms of earnings outlook, there’s no dramatic impact from this, other than for a handful of companies which have US economy exposure,” Mr Sherwood said. “It’ll be valuations where the downside is felt.”

“I think for us the situation in North Korea is also front of mind,” Ms Jorritsima said. “It’s never great for the ASX to see a Wall Street pullback, but there are other issues for us as well.”

And falling US bond yields were a positive for local bond holders, Mr Gor said.

“We think [Aussie bonds] offer significant value on their own basis anyway,” Mr Gor said. “While this is a further tailwind, it’s not the only reason we think Australian bonds will perform well in the coming period.”

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It’s ‘game on’ in the battle for control of Fairfax

Generic Fairfax Media mastheads AFR AGE SMH newspapers. Monday 8th May 2017 AFR photo Louie Douvis . Photo: Louie DouvisFairfax Media appears extremely close to being declared ‘on the market’ as a new bidder, Hellman & Friedman, entered the auction room on Wednesday night with an indicative offer that trumped the TPG offer already on the table.
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This could easily mark the start of a bidding war between two US private equity groups, likely to move the 176-year-old media group into foreign hands.

In a strange historic twist, Hellman & Friedman – which lobbed a prospective price of between $1.225 and $1.25 a share – is no ordinary bidder: It was part of Tourang – a consortium of investors including Canadian media baron Conrad Black and the late Kerry Packer, which bought Fairfax out of receivership in 1992.

Hellman’s current Emeritus chairman, Brian Powers, was once the chairman of Fairfax and later became Kerry Packer’s right-hand man.

The private equity firm’s emergence this week is no accident.

Since the board became aware of TPG’s interest in Fairfax, it had been actively canvassing other potential bidders – among them Hellman & Friedman. TPG, which is currently offering $1.20 per share for Fairfax, and Hellman & Friedman have now both been given the green light to undertake a close look at Fairfax’s books.

Both Fairfax chairman, Nick Falloon and its chief executive Greg Hywood are considered close to Powers.

During Powers’ chairmanship of Fairfax, Hywood was editor in chief of the Sydney Morning Herald. Falloon was the head of Kerry Packer’s television group then called PBL, while Powers was head of the Packer’s Consolidated Press.

Back in 2010, Falloon also (but unsuccessfully) approached Hellman & Friedman as a potential buyer for Canwest’s stake in Ten Network.

The Fairfax board had been aware for a while that Hellman & Friedman had been sniffing around, but did not know of its intention to bid until it received notification on Wednesday evening.

While Powers will be taking an active interest in the current bid for Fairfax, the executive running the process for Hellman & Friedman is its deputy chief executive, Patrick Healy.

The private equity firm has plenty of experience in the digital classified property arena as part owners of German e-commerce group Scout24, which is led by Greg Ellis – who himself was instrumental in setting up and running REA Group, the arch competitor to Fairfax’s property website Domain.

TPG, on the other hand, has Domain boss Antony Catalano in its corner. He appears to have tied his fortunes to TPG, having already been nominated to run Fairfax under TPG’s ownership.

If TPG is successful, it plans to keep the major newspaper titles along with Domain and sell off the remaining assets, including radio, Fairfax’s New Zealand newspapers and its 50 per cent stake in video streaming business Stan.

Despite Hellman & Friedman’s connections with Fairfax, the board will need to decide whether either offer will be enough to satisfy its major shareholders, who at this stage have mixed opinions about the price.

For some shareholders, a price of $1.25 a share would be enough to garner support, while others would prefer more and would rather take their chances with Fairfax’s own proposal to spin off 30 per cent of Domain into a separately listed company.

But the Domain spin-off is increasingly looking like a fall-back position. If Falloon can extract a fair offer price, the Foreign Investment Review Board would be the only thing standing in private equity’s way.

With the Fairfax share price punching above $1.23 on Thursday morning, the punters are calling it ‘game on’.

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

Optus has best mobile customer growth in five years

Optus has reported strong growth in revenue and mobile customers for its fourth quarter, but its full-year profits have been hit by the high cost of stealing English soccer rights from Telstra-owned rival Foxtel.
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During the past year Optus added 142,000 customers to take its total customer base to 9.72 million. About half were higher paying post-paid customers, 3.7 million pre-paid and just over 1 million were data-only mobile broadband customers.

Revenues for the final quarter of the year were up 1.6 per cent to $2.1 billion thanks to growth in NBN customers and higher equipment sales, but full-year revenues were 7.6 per cent lower at $8.4 billion due to regulatory changes, leading to a 12 per cent decline in profit to $794 million.

Optus’ share of NBN customers has increased 100 per cent in the past year to 228,000.

Management said earnings were down because Optus had to cut prices to be competitive for enterprise customers, higher credit to customers for handsets bought through contracts, and increased content costs.

Chief executive Allen Lew said the cost of securing the English Premier League rights made up the bulk of the increased content costs. The exclusive rights are reportedly costing Optus about $63 million annually.

Optus is fully owned by SingTel, which is listed on the Singapore sharemarket.

Revenue from enterprise services fell 3 per cent over the year to $1.52 million.

“The enterprise market is a very competitive one, and a lot of competition is coming from the smaller players,” Mr Lew said.

“And the competition in enterprise is mainly in the basic call carriage products, primarily in the fixed business.”

Revenue from supplying fixed phone services to companies dropped 6 per cent.

“It is getting commoditised and competition is based on cost and a minimum service level. We have had to do some level of discounting. We don’t disclose that publicly, but basically to retain the customers we have had to make some price adjustments,” Mr Lew said.

In the mobile space Optus’ average revenue per user [ARPU], a key measuring tool in the mobile industry, is down nearly 20 per cent for both pre-paid and post-paid.

Chief financial officer Murray King said the decline was due to more customers buying SIM-only plans, a trend happening across the industry as Australians hold on to phones for longer or buy them outright rather than through a multi-year contract.

There was also some accounting treatments of handset repayment credits that dragged down the reported ARPU figures.

Meanwhile, sales of Apple iPhones increased following the disastrous release and then recall of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 phone.

But Samsung’s new Galaxy 8 phone has been “getting some traction”, Mr Lew said.

And NBN Co’s slow rollout of its infrastructure in Optus’ HFC areas means Optus has seen only a marginal decline in its HFC customers, from 454,000 to 447,000 over the past year. Nearly all its customers bundle their HFC-delivered internet with other services, making it a valuable customer base.

Mr Lew said most of NBN’s HFC transfers had been on Telstra’s infrastructure so far.

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Virgin Australia’s losses blow out in third quarter

Virgin Australia has blown out to a $69 million loss in the third quarter, with the airline blaming weak passenger demand, freak weather events and other factors.
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The loss is $10 million deeper into the red compared to the same quarter last year.

Virgin said its fleet simplification program, unfavourable movement in the US dollar that had increased debt repayments and costs, Cyclone Debbie disrupting flights in Queensland and its budget arm Tigerair being forced off its Bali routes had all hurt earnings.

However, Virgin said it was continuing to improve debt levels, paying down $200 million in the third quarter.

The group’s net debt has been cut by 33 per cent so far this financial year, after raising more than $850 million in capital from its major airline shareholders last year.

In 2014 Virgin had financial leverage of 7.5 times compared to Qantas’ three times, and has focused on narrowing that gap. It is to be leveraged at between 4 and 4.5 times this year.

Its cash balance has meanwhile grown 50 per cent to $1.3 billion over the past 12 months.

Virgin said it expected its underlying performance in the fourth quarter to be better than the $22 million loss in that period in 2016, but has not given a full-year guidance. iFrameResize({enablePublicMethods : true, heightCalculationMethod : “lowestElement”,resizedCallback : function(messageData){}, checkOrigin: false},”#pez_iframeA”);

Total passenger numbers slipped 1 per cent across Virgin Group in the quarter but load factor, a measure of how many seats were filled, improved by 0.6 per cent as the group continued to cut back on underperforming routes.

J.P Morgan aviation analyst Guy Bunce said the loss was worse he had expected.

“Whilst the estimated increase in domestic fares in March is encouraging, we fear their stickiness could be tested in the face of what remains a very weak demand environment,” he said in a note to clients.

Mr Bunce estimated Virgin’s fares had increased by 6 per cent on average across key domestic routes from a year ago, and said it would be interesting to see how consumers responded to that hike given demand was still very weak.

For the nine months to March 31, Virgin is running at a $90.6 million bottom line loss and a $20.2 million underlying loss.

On an underlying basis, which strips out one-off costs, Virgin ran at a $62.3 million loss in the quarter compared to a $18.6 million loss in 2016.

In its quarterly update a fortnight ago, Qantas said its domestic operations had improved and forecast an underlying profit of between $1.35 billion to $1.40 billion, which would be its second highest result in the company’s history.

Qantas’ positive update earned it a credit ratings upgrade from Moody’s.

The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission on Thursday approved a tie-up between Virgin and Alliance Aviation Services that will let the carriers jointly bid for and operate chater flights on fly-in fly-out routes.

The alliance will let the airlines cut costs and offer better value to customers, which outweighed concerns the deal would reduce competition, the ACCC said.

Virgin’s shares were down 2.7 per cent at 17.5?? at 2.30pm.

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CUB manager planned to ‘shoot the s—‘ out of workers

Beer giant Carlton & United Breweries has been grilled over an entry in a manager’s diary that outlines a strategy to “win the war” against union workers protesting job cuts.
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In a Senate inquiry on Thursday, CUB brewery manager Sebastian Siccita was presented with a page from his diary describing a strategy to overcome a six-month protest line outside the Abbotsford brewery gates, including to “shoot the shit out them” and “cut their supply lines and starve them out – through legal fees and defamation”.

Trade unions said they were “shocked and appalled” at the emergence of notes kept by management during the dispute, which was sparked last year over the termination of the brewery’s entire maintenance workforce.

Mr Siccita was taken by surprise when the Senate committee chairman, Labor’s Gavin Marshall, showed him the copy of the document and began questioning him on what he meant by the comments from September last year.

At one point, Mr Siccita attempted to retain the diary after being handed it, saying, “it’s mine.”

Senator Gavin Marshall told Mr Siccita he had privilege over the document, but thanked him for acknowledging the diary was in fact his.

He took the questions on notice and said he could not recall what the notes were about.

The Senate inquiry was probing CUB’s handling of what became one of Australia’s highest-profile industrial feud in years.

The dispute started after the brewer dumped a long-standing maintenance contract. The decision left 55 workers out of a job after they refused to reapply with a new contractor on vastly lower pay and non-union conditions.

The laid-off workers and their union officials protested outside the gates for six months, prompting sometimes ugly confrontations, while the broader union movement launched a national boycott campaign, urging drinkers to split with some of CUB’s most popular beers, such as VB, Carlton Draught, Melbourne Bitter, Pure Blonde and Fat Yak. Cruel battle tactics

Electrical Trades Union state secretary Troy Gray said he had never seen such a cruel battle plan, from a manager “so focussed on cutting the wages of loyal, skilled workers”.

“What these secret documents reveal is what overly powerful corporations are prepared to do when they think no one’s watching,” he said, “when the system encourages them to go after working people and there aren’t ruled to rein them in.”

Mr Gray said this was a “glimpse into what unions are defending workers from every day”.

The six-month-long dispute ended shortly after CUB was taken over by AB InBev late last year.

CUB vice-president of legal and corporate affairs, Craig Katerberg, said the new company had been “interested in resolving it as soon as possible” and soon hired the workers back on their full pay and conditions.

“We looked at the situation and thought it could have been done better,” Mr Katerberg said.

“It was clear CUB should have taken a more collaborative and consultative approach.”

The company said it had since adopted a “more consultative approach” with workers and their unions at the Abbotsford plant.

“We have had a number of learnings,” Mr Katerberg said. “It’s something we admit mea culpa on and we want to make improvements.”

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said employers had been hiring lawyers to work out ways to “change the balance of power” in Australia’s industrial relations system, and the union movement now believed the “rules are broken”.

“Employers have investigated every way to get around the rules, just like they do with tax laws,” she said.

“It should never be this hard for workers to resolve a dispute … this one took a nationwide consumer boycott [of CUB products].”

Ms McManus, who was elected ACTU secretary earlier this year, said she hoped the Senate committee’s inquiry would “bring out into the open” the unfair practices that had become commonplace, and lay the groundwork for reforms of the Fair Work Act under a future Labor government.

“This is part of the reason we have got record low wage growth; because people don’t have the power to bargain,” she said.

“We are united in our quest to change the rules.” ‘Difficult time’

After the hearing, a company spokesman said the diary entry had been written during a “difficult time in the dispute” and did not reflect the strategy of CUB management.

“While it is disappointing that the manager’s missing notebook has been using in this fashion in a Senate committee, CUB and its new management team is focused on the future and good relations at all its work sites,” the spokesman said.

CUB also said it was pleased that the dispute was able to be resolved within two months of AB InBev sealing its merger with CUB.

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

Canberra-Singapore flights cut for ‘low season’

Singapore Airlines will temporarily reduce the number of flights from Canberra to Singapore and Wellington for three months from August.
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Instead of flying four times a week there will be three flights in one week of August, September and October, resulting in a net loss of three services overall.

Spokesman Karl Schubert said the decision was part of normal operations.

“During low season we regularly make ad hoc changes to our flight schedules to meet market demand and ensure we are optimising the performance of the route during low season,” Mr Schubert said.

“We will work with affected customers to re-accommodate their travel requirements.”

Singapore Airlines introduced the “capital express” service in September last year with four flights a week.

The cancelled flights from Canberra to Singapore were scheduled for Monday, August 14 and Tuesday, September 5 and October 24.

Canberra resident Helen Gladman told Fairfax Media she was notified this week that her Canberra-Wellington flight in September to attend a wedding had been cancelled.

“I got a text yesterday from the airline advising the flight was cancelled and my husband and I were moved to a flight two days later. This wouldn’t work,” she said.

“Thankfully we had booked through an agent who contacted the airline for us.

“We were offered a full refund or two other flights, thankfully on the same day we originally planned, which were via Melbourne or Sydney.

“Not ideal but at least on the day we wanted in the first place.”

Singapore Airlines is currently reviewing its flights to and from Canberra.

In January, Canberra Airport’s head of aviation Matthew Brown said federal government figures showed load rates (the number of passengers per flight) averaged 83 per cent capacity for the Canberra-Singapore flight.

“Based on these figures, the viability of the route shows that it is well established and becoming more popular,” Mr Brown said.

“We are in constant dialogue with Singapore Airlines and are pushing for the addition of the fifth service in the near future, but understand that this will be a commercial decision by the airline.”

The ACT Government has been active in attracting international carriers to Canberra.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr visited Singapore last month and met with Singapore Airlines.

Mr Barr said visitors from Singapore increased by 73.5 per cent in 2016 after regular flights began.

“The ACT Government is looking to encourage more two-way visitation,” he said.

“During this trip, I have met with Singapore Airlines to discuss the success of these flights up to this point and the possibility of increasing the number of flights out of Canberra.”

It’s understood travel agents were advised of the cancelled flights this week.

Singapore Airlines is expected to resume four services every week in November.

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

Sirtex shares dumped on poor research outcome

Shares in chemical treatment outfit Sirtex Medical slumped on Thursday following the release of poor research results that may limit the chances of its key product moving beyond a last-line, or salvage, treatment for liver and colorectal cancers.
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The company has now signalled it will review its existing business and operations, especially following continued sluggish sales abroad even as a key competitor has just disclosed continued robust sales of a similar cancer treatment.

“Sirtex intends to examine all aspects of our business following the data,” interim chief executive, Nigel Lane, said on Thursday.

The poor results from the global clinical studies of its SIR-Spheres cancer therapy follow a disastrous period for the company during which it lost longstanding chief executive Gilman Wong after an investigation into his share trading, and was hit by a class action lawsuit.

Sirtex sought to put a brave face on the research results, with Mr Lane arguing they would have “minimal impact on our current business”. This is because the patients his company currently targeted had already failed all standard chemotherapy treatments.

“In our existing market of salvage … [treatment] there is a market opportunity of 42,000 [colorectal cancer] patients,” he said.

Earlier on Thursday, Sirtex released the results of the clinical studies, which it had hoped would open the door for its SIR-Spheres treatment to potentially replace chemotherapy as the primary treatment for colorectal cancer and also for liver cancer. But with the metatastic colorectal cancer cases, its radiospheres failed to achieve a survival benefit over the existing standard of care.

As a result, investors dumped their holdings, driving the company’s shares down 28.5 per cent to $10.72. Trading had been suspended until earlier in the afternoon, as the company prepared its response to the results. This leaves the company valued at only around $610 million – barely 2.5 times annual revenue. iFrameResize({enablePublicMethods : true, heightCalculationMethod : “lowestElement”,resizedCallback : function(messageData){}, checkOrigin: false},”#pez_iframeA”);

Over the past 12 months, the shares have declined by more than three quarters, after trading above $41 a year ago amid investor optimism that results from earlier research could see its cancer treatment used more widely.

“Our initial conclusion is that this represents a poor outcome for the company,” Bell Potter analyst John Hester said.

“In our view SIR-Spheres are likely to continue to be used in the salvage therapy setting only.”

For its part, Sirtex said the research results would not affect existing regulatory approvals, stating it intends to proceed with an application to the US Food and Drug Administration to broaden the indications its treatment could be used for, although any response would be very late this year, or more likely sometime in 2018.

The company also said the head of its American operations, Kevin Richardson, “has ceased employment with the company, effective immediately”.

“We are conducting a very extensive review of our entire business,” Mr Lane said, “and felt a change was needed in the US.”

Weak sales, particularly in the US, have caused significant unease among investors, particularly since UK drugs group BTG, which has a rival product to the Sirtex treatment, earlier this week disclosed 16 per cent sales growth for its product.

“This is obviously a concern,” Mr Lane said when asked about the success of BTG in boosting sales.

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