‘You don’t want to mess with us’: AFP raid business in $165m fraud probe

Raid on the offices of Rommark in Double Bay.Federal Police looking through documents. Photo: Fairfax MediaA federal police raid on the eastern suburbs office of property development firm Rommark turned violent on Wednesday when company director Michael Teplitsky crash tackled a photographer and was handcuffed in front of horrified shoppers.
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Australian Federal Police officers raided the company’s Double Bay office on Wednesday morning, as officers conducted raids across Sydney as part of a wider investigation into an alleged $165 million tax fraud syndicate.

Nine people were arrested on Wednesday as part of that investigation, including Adam Cranston, the son of Australian Taxation Office deputy commissioner Michael Cranston. He was arrested in Bondi and is due to face Central Local Court on Thursday.

There is no suggestion Michael Cranston had any involvement in or knowledge of the alleged syndicate.

Mr Teplitsky, 48, was arrested during the dramatic operation after he tackled a photographer who was documenting the raid and had to be subdued by six officers.

His new girlfriend, socialite Olivia Korner, pulled the hair of a Fairfax reporter and screamed at officers outside the mezzanine office, prompting shoppers to flock out of the clothing boutiques downstairs.

However, it’s understood the federal police investigation is not aimed at Rommark’s multimillionaire directors, Mr Teplitsky and Boris Markovsky, 50, but, rather, someone associated with them or their business.

Fairfax Media does not suggest the pair have any knowledge of, or involvement in, the alleged misconduct.

It’s understood Mr Markovsky opened the door to plainclothes police on Wednesday with his morning coffee in hand.

Officers searched the premises late into the evening, sorting through files and reading piles of documents.

While the operation was under way, Mr Teplitsky invited the Fairfax reporter into the office to ask questions. However, police said no one was allowed in.

Mr Teplitsky then said, “If that photographer doesn’t stop taking my photo in one second I’m going to lose it” and “I don’t care if [the police] are here, I will do it.”

He then ran over to the photographer and tackled him to the ground.

About 10 officers ran out of the Rommark premises, with some yelling at Mr Teplitsky to stop resisting arrest.

Mr Teplitsky’s sister, Victoria, and Ms Korner tried to intervene to stop the arrest, screaming “He’s not resisting” and “Get off him.”

Another man threatened Fairfax Media outside the building, grabbing a mobile phone and saying, “You don’t want to mess with us”.

It’s understood Mr Teplitsky was taken away in handcuffs to calm down and was later released without charge.

Police remained tight-lipped about the investigation on Wednesday, but confirmed that “a number of search warrants are being conducted in Sydney as part of an ongoing investigation”.

On Thursday morning, the federal police said it had smashed a $165 million tax fraud syndicate. Nine people had been arrested following a large-scale investigation, the federal police said.

It is due to provide an update on the syndicate and the arrests on Thursday morning.

Ukrainian-born Mr Teplitsky and his wife, Angela, bought “Aussie” John Symond’s Point Piper penthouse for $13.3 million earlier this year.

However, the couple have since initiated divorce proceedings.

Rommark advertises itself as Sydney’s “prestigious boutique developers” behind projects including The Gallery at Double Bay and Genoa of Bondi Junction.

Mr Teplitsky’s vast portfolio of developments includes the forthcoming 19-storey luxury 8Hotel on Wentworth Avenue in Surry Hills, and the century-old 100 Harris Street building in Pyrmont, occupied by Fairfax Media’s real estate site Domain.

Do you know more? Email Rachel Olding.

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Gas surge hits power prices

The demise of Australia’s dirtiest power plant has triggered the greatest use of expensive gas-fired generators in Victoria in a decade, causing a significant jump in wholesale electricity prices.
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The closure of the Hazelwood power station at the end of March has also been a boon for the owners of the Latrobe Valley’s three remaining brown coal-fired generators, which have increased output by about a third.

While a recent fall in electricity use to the lowest level in five years makes it difficult to generalise yet about the impact of Hazelwood shutting, its short-term ramifications have been spelt out by market analysts UBS.

They include:

A dip in brown coal-fired electricity – and carbon dioxide emissions – but a relatively small one due to the Yallourn and Loy Yang A and B coal plants picking up most of the slack.

A 60 per cent drop in the amount of electricity that Victoria exports to NSW.

Wholesale power prices in Victoria rising more than 25 per cent from less than $80 to more than $100 per megawatt hour. This is largely due to a doubling in the amount of natural gas burned to generate electricity. The wholesale price makes up about a quarter of household electricity bills.

UBS analyst Nik Burns said it was likely prices would continue to rise. “We expect potentially up to a 40 per cent increase for consumers over three to four years,” he said.

The price spike may be softened by an unprecedented surge in investment in renewable energy – more than $7.4 billion, according to the Clean Energy Council. When completed, these projects will increase competition in electricity generation, potentially reducing demand for gas plants that are usually only turned on at times of high demand.

Gas prices have surged as most of what is extracted on the east coast is exported to Asia. While the fossil fuel still provides less than 10 per cent of the electricity used in Victoria, the need for it has pushed up the price that all generators can charge.

Mr Burns said it was not clear that a Turnbull government plan to require gas exporters to make more supply available for domestic use would do much to lower prices, and it was possible policymakers would require renewable energy to be backed up by gas or battery arrays to ensure grid stability. Some analysts have found wind and solar power with batteries to be now cheaper than gas.

Environment groups have joined business leaders and the National Farmers Federation in calling for the re-introduction of a national carbon price to end investment uncertainty over what new power plants to build as ageing coal generators shut down.

Many back an emissions intensity scheme, which they say would reduce the cost of clean energy and gas. The government has rejected it.

Environment Victoria chief executive Mark Wakeham said the data also raised a question for the Victorian government – how it planned to meet its target of a 15-20 per cent cut in emissions by 2020.

“It was always going to take some time for renewable energy to substitute for Hazelwood, but what’s disappointing is the degree to which the other three brown coal generators in the Latrobe Valley have increased since Hazelwood’s closure,” he said.

“Without coherent national climate policy, or without a state government plan to limit pollution from remaining generators, we’re not getting the full climate or health benefits of Hazelwood’s closure.” ???

Victoria had previously been spared the rise in wholesale power prices felt in other states due to soaring gas prices and investor uncertainty. Prices in NSW and Queensland last summer were at twice what they were under the abolished carbon price. Nationally, wholesale prices in April were $92 per megawatt hour, 47 per cent higher than a year ago.

Hazelwood was the 10th Australian coal plant to close this decade. Its French majority owner, Engie, began to shift away from coal in the wake of the 2015 Paris climate deal, under which countries agreed to strive to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees.

Engie has not completely exited coal in Australia; it still owns Loy Yang B, which has benefitted from Hazelwood’s closure. It also owns gas assets.

The extent to which investment in clean energy has risen exponentially with government support was underlined on Tuesday when the Australian Renewable Energy Agency announced it would contribute $90 million to 12 large-scale solar projects in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia. Combined, they are expected to triple Australia’s grid-scale solar capacity.

This comes as demand for electricity hit a five-year low in April due to mild weather in NSW and the limited operation of the Alcoa aluminium smelter at Portland after an outage in December damaged potlines.

Adam Morton is on Facebook and Twitter.

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Rape victims face long wait for counselling at some unis

Students who have been raped are having to wait up to four weeks for counselling services at some universities.
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Advocates also claim those who have dropped out of their degrees after suffering a sexual assault have been refused counselling because they are no longer enrolled.

The revelations come in the lead-up to the release of a landmark survey of 39,000 students on sexual assaults at campuses.

The strain on counsellors has pushed caseworkers at universities – including University of Sydney, UNSW, Monash University, UTS, and Deakin University – to join with End Rape on Campus, advocate against sexual assault Nina Funnell and NSW politicians to call for the establishment of a national 1800 hotline for distressed students.

Notices posted online in May from Curtin, Bond and the University of Adelaide show high demand for counselling services, with wait times of up to four weeks.

One rape victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, said she had sought counselling at her university following an alleged assault, and was cut-off from the service after she dropped out of her degree.

“It’s just beyond belief,” she said. “It’s so despicable to say I could access counselling and then block me off.”

In February, universities were accused of “actively covering up sexual assaults” after a submission to the Human Rights Commission alleged there had been just six expulsions in the past five years, despite more than 500 official complaints.

Following community pressure, all of Australia’s universities are now set to simultaneously release data on sexual assaults on their campuses when the final report is released in August.

End Rape on Campus Australia director Sharna Bremner said that in several cases the group had been unable to refer assaults to their own university counselling facilities “because those facilities are already stretched beyond capacity”.

Ms Funnell, a sexual assault survivor, has led the push for a national hotline. She said the survey results would stir up dormant trauma in the community, including for those aged in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s who had been assaulted during their university years.

“These people can’t access university services,” she said. “No one has done any impact planning. No one has provided any additional resourcing to the frontline sexual assault services who are currently expected to deal with the fallout caused by this inquiry.”

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins has urged universities to ensure that they have adequate support services in place in the lead-up to the release of the report.

Sexual assault survivor and NSW Labor MP Jenny Aitchison said: “The release of the report in August means an investment in expert services with capacity to cope with the expected increased demand for counselling services is urgent.

“For too long universities have done the bare minimum in terms of prevention, reporting and responding to sexual assault and violence on campus.”

Ms Aitchison urged peak body Universities Australia to commit to funding the hotline, which has been costed at $1.3 million. The body’s current hotline, 1800 RESPECT, operates on a triage model in which not all calls are answered by trauma counsellors.

Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson said the body was investigating “global best practice as the sector gives careful consideration to a range of options to support students”.

“We recognise that the release of the national report in August is likely to see a rise in the number of students seeking support,” she said.

“We are working closely with our member universities to ensure resources are in place to provide students with support at that time.”

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Canberra’s great public service wage slump

Wages for tens of thousands of Canberra workers have fallen dramatically short of the cost-of-living increases in the past 12 months, new Australian Bureau of Statistics figures reveal.
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The ABS’s new Wage Price Index Data shows the ACT’s vital public sector, which employs 80,000 Canberrans, or nearly 40 per cent of the city’s workforce, shows wages growth in the local public sector at an almost stagnant 1.7 per cent in the past 12 months.

But one local economist said the city’s residents still enjoyed a higher standard of living than much of the rest of the nation despite the end of capital’s “golden period of growth”.

The Canberra Business Chamber was also trying to stay upbeat on Wednesday, saying the worst of federal public service cuts were over, and the resulting improvement in job security would have a positive effect on local consumer sentiment.

With the headline inflation figure at 2.1 per cent, the new ABS figures show many families in the capital are going backwards after years of stalled pay talks in the Commonwealth public service which employees more than a quarter of Canberra’s 215,000-strong workforce.

The shock wage figures come in the wake of recent territory government research showing no new full-time jobs being created, on a net basis, in the territory in 12 months.

While unemployment in the ACT remains low by national standards at 3.7 per cent, the 4,100 jobs created locally over the twelve months to March 2017 were all part time, according to new data from the territory government.

The national wage price index figures of overall growth of 1.9 per cent shocked observers on Wednesday,

Negative real wage growth has occurred only twice since current records began two decades ago: during the global financial crisis, and across nine months in 2013-2014.

Private sector wages in the ACT, at 2.1 per cent, managed to keep pace with inflation in the past 12 months, but it is the vital public sector figure that will be worrying local policy makers.

Associate Professor Ben Phillips, from the Australian National University’s National Centre for Social Research and Methods said he was not surprised to see subdued territory and federal wages growth.

“[it is] probably not surprising given Federal public service wage negotiations are struggling and perhaps that state governments are doing a little better given better shape of their books thanks to property market stamp duty bonanza in NSW and Victoria,” Mr Phillips said.

“Economic growth has been subdued in Canberra for several years which is no doubt heavily influenced by weak employment and wages growth in our heavily public sector dependent economic base.

“We are coming off a golden period of growth though through the last 10 or 15 years and we continue to enjoy a standard of living well above the rest of the nation.”

Canberra Business Chamber chief executive Robyn Hendry said the low wage growth was a concern but at least the ACT economy no longer had to contend with the fear of widespread job losses in the Commonwealth sector.

“While subdued wages growth in both the public and private sector are generally a concern for demand in discretionary spending in the ACT, as for the broader Australian economy, and for the retail sector in particular, what has been more important in recent times for the ACT is increased job security,” Ms Hendry said.

“Increased consumer confidence from an improved ACT employment outlook compared to the major contraction in public sector employment in 2013-2014 has resulted in relatively positive retail sales growth, albeit with some patchiness, in recent times.”

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Bullets dodged during tense eight-hour siege

TENSE: Thick fog blanketed the Laguna property during the eight-hour standoff, allowing two cornered police officers to escape after allegedly being shot at. Picture: 9 News.WHEN the first two police officers were called to reports of shots being fired at a remote Hunter property late on Tuesdaynight, they put on their bullet-proof vests before walking towards the front door to investigate.
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A caretaker had already reported that a couple, with former links to the Laguna property, had arrived unannounced about 10pm and allegedly threatened to shoot him before he was able to escape into bushland and raise the alarm.

And as the two general duties officers neared the front door, they were also allegedly confronted by a gunman and his rifle.

Police will allege the gunman fired several shots towards the police as they attempted to escape, at least one of them tripping over before taking refuge by lying down in wet and cold bushland as they called for reinforcements.

And for the next four hours, as more shots were allegedly fired towards them, they waited until some low lying fog and the help of other heavily-armed police allowed for their escape.

They did not return fire.

The extraordinary tale emerged on Wednesdayfollowing the end of a tense eight-hour siege at the homestead, where heavily armed specialist officers from the tactical operations unit along with an armoured “Bearcat” were called from Sydney to help.

It included the Bearcat being used to drive onto the property –and pushing aside the abandoned police car belonging to the first officer on scene which remained parked in the driveway.

The operation also included scores of police from Central Hunter, Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens commands as well as specialist police.

“It was an extremely dangerous operation for the initial responding officers and they did an exceptional job in assuring their own safety while still securing the premises,’’ Central Hunter crime manager Detective Inspector George Radmore said.

“In cold and difficult circumstances, in an isolated environment and with poor communications they were able to keep themselves safe and lockdown the premises until reinforcements arrived.’’

The alleged gunman, a 46-year-old from nearby Martinsville, was arrested about 6.30am and taken into custody after hours of communication with negotiators.

He was expected to be charged on Wednesdaynight with a range of firearm and violence offences and would face court on Thursday.

His partner, who has close links to the house, was also expected to be charged.

Police allegedly seized two firearms at the Laguna property and had conducted a search warrant at the couple’s property at Martinsville.

‘Even churchmen have a right to a fair go’

Cardinal George Pell maintains he is innocent of historical child sexual assault allegations as police decide whether to charge the senior Catholic figure.
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Victoria Police received advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions about its investigation into Cardinal Pell, days after fresh details of the claims were aired.

Police and the DPP would not comment on the advice, but is understood the brief suggests that there is sufficient evidence to charge Cardinal Pell.

Cardinal Pell, who was a priest in Ballarat before becoming Archbishop of Melbourne, is accused of sexually abusing a number of boys.

Speaking in Rome on Wednesday, Cardinal Pell reiterated his rebuttal of all the allegations of abuse made against him.

Talking to reporters, the Cardinal said he would “just like to restate my innocence”.

“I stand by everything I have said at the royal commission [into institutional responses to child sexual abuse] and in other places,” he said.

“We have to respect due process, wait until it is concluded and obviously I will continue to co-operate fully.”

Meanwhile, one of Australia’s most senior Catholic clerics has defended Cardinal Pell from “relentless character attacks” in relation to the allegations.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher released a strongly worded statement on Wednesday, saying Cardinal Pell was entitled to the presumption of innocence.

“Justice must be left to run its course,” he said.

“It is unfortunate that in the very week this happens, media and authors publish and repeat allegations, some of which have already been thoroughly answered.

“This cannot assist the impartial pursuit of justice. What is clear, however, is that Cardinal Pell has co-operated in every way with multiple police, parliamentary and royal commission investigations.

“Everyone supports just investigation of complaints but the relentless character attacks on Cardinal Pell, by some, stand the principle of innocent-until-proven-guilty on its head.

“Australians have a right to expect better from their legal systems and the media. Even churchmen have a right to ‘a fair go’.”

Andrew Halphen, from the Law Institute of Victoria, said it was “completely inappropriate” that information about the investigation into Cardinal Pell had againbeen leaked to the media.

He said the “lack of regard” for the Cardinal’s rights were “a startling affront” to the cornerstone of the legal system.

“In the event [Cardinal] Pell is charged I hold grave concerns that he will receive a fair trial,” said Mr Halphen, the co-chair of the Criminal Law Section.

“There is a serious risk a stay application could be made should this matter reach the courts owing to the prejudicial material that has been published.

“I can think of no other matter in recent memory where a DPP’s advice to the police in respect of whether or not to charge a person finds its way to the front page of a major news publication before a person is actually charged.”

If the Cardinal was charged, leading Australian extradition expert Professor Donald Rothwell outlined three possible scenarios.

He said Cardinal Pell could refuse to step outside the Vatican walls to avoid prosecution, as there is no extradition treaty in place legally compelling him to return to Australia.

However, Professor Rothwell said that was highly unlikely. He said Cardinal Pell had so far co-operated with police, sought to engage in legal proceedings and vehemently denied any allegations of misconduct.

If the Cardinal did not agree to an extradition, Professor Rothwell conceded it would be difficult for Victoria Police to force him to return.

Yet, Australia could appeal to Italy to make the extradition request on its behalf.

Under this situation, any clergy wanted on charges in Australia could be arrested by Italian authorities if they left the holy city.

“The mere fact there is no extradition treaty does not create an impossible barrier to extradition because Australia has diplomatic relations with the [Vatican],” Professor Rothwell said.

“There are legal relations between the two countries [Australia and Italy], so theoretically, an extradition request could be made.”

It is believed the DPP in Victoria has said that any decision to charge Cardinal Pell would be “an operational one” and should be made by senior police.

Traditionally, the decision to lay charges is based on whether it is “more likely than not” that the charges would result in a successful prosecution.

In historic sex crime investigations, police must consider the severity of the allegations, the credibility of witnesses, potentially corroborating evidence, and a lack of forensic evidence.

Cardinal Pell, Australia’s highest ranking Catholic official, was interviewed by three members of Victoria Police in Rome last October. The 75-year-old took part voluntarily.

Cardinal Pell has always vehemently denied sex abuse allegations made against him.

Fairfax Media last week reported explosive details of child sex abuse allegations levelled against Cardinal Pell that are contained in a new book, Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell, by ABC reporter Louise Milligan.

On the weekend, lawyers for Cardinal Pell strongly denied the allegations, and said they were false, “unjustifiable, scandalous, deliberate and calculated to cause the most shocking damage imaginable to Cardinal Pell”.

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CA, players disagree to agree

The good news is that Cricket Australia and the players’ body, the Australian Cricketers’ Association, are talking again. The bad news is that they’re going round in circles.
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On Wednesday, CA chairman David Peever wrote to counterpart Greg Dyer and all players to reject the ACA’s request for the bodies to try mediation.

“While CA absolutely shares your stated desire for a new agreement … it seems extraordinary to be considering the involvement of a mediator before the ACA has attempted to negotiate,” Peever wrote.

“The approach the ACA has taken in demanding certain preconditions be met before it is prepared to begin negotiations is the fundamental reason why no progress has been made to date.”

But Dyer protested the idea that the ACA had failed to negotiate, saying it had sat across the table for more than 20 hours since last November. “To make inaccurate statements about negotiations not having begun is poor form and clearly not consistent with good faith discussions,” Dyer said.

The two bodies have been at or near loggerheads for more than six months. CA is determined to scrap revenue-sharing after 20 years, saying more funds are needed for the game’s grassroots, and that its offer provides handsomely for players. The ACA is equally resolved to keep revenue-sharing, saying the system is not broken and does not need fixing.

The notional deadline is June 30, when the current memorandum of understanding expires. There was an escalation last week when CA chief executive James Sutherland told players they would become unemployed if they did not agree to a new MOU by the deadline. In response, Test vice-captain David Warner said the players may seek opportunities elsewhere, decimating the Australian team with an Ashes series approaching and tickets selling fast.

At the same time, Dyer proposed mediation. On Wednesday, Peever rejected this. “The preconditions you set out in your letter are unacceptable to CA,” he wrote. “They may be genuine issues of contention from the ACA’s perspective, however they should not be an insurmountable barrier to even commencing good faith negotiations.”

Instead, Peever suggested the two parties resume talks on the formal offer, identifying common ground and isolating items on which they disagree. “I am confident that such an exercise would find much common ground, a way forward on outstanding issues and build momentum,” he wrote.

But Dyer was adamant that mediation was the only logical way forward. “The players have categorically rejected CA’s offer given that it did not include the revenue-sharing model,” he said. “The current successful model has been presented by the ACA with a number of solutions regarding increases in grassroots cricket, flexibility in investment and sharing of risk; yet CA appears unwilling to talk about our approach.

“How does CA expect to get a deal done by June 30?”

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Wesfarmers must face up to retail reality

Wesfarmers must balance its ambitions to reap $1.5 billion from the sale of the Officeworks chain with the reality of retail asset sales in a post Amazon Australia, analysts warn.
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US office supply majors, such as Staples and Office Depot, trade on earnings multiples of less than half that which produced the $1.5 billion pricetag Wesfarmers is believed to have put on Officeworks.

“All you need to do is look at similar companies in the US to get a feel for what this business should trade on in a post-Amazon Australia and it’s something more like five to seven times earnings,” one analyst said.

“I’m not going to say it [Officeworks] should be sold on those multiples, but maybe it should a bit closer to them.”

Retail insiders suggest Wesfarmers was peddling hard to stay ahead of the “Amazon effect” in Australia but its plan to offload Officeworks collided with sliding consumer spending and the top of the housing price cycle.

Wesfarmers blamed “current equity market conditions” for its decision to shelve a potential listing on Wednesday and sources close to the deal suggest it’s still pursuing a trade sale.

Wesfarmers managing director Richard Goyder reiterated the group was “comfortable retaining Officeworks” but analysts fear its decision to abandon an IPO, could crimp any trade sale offers.

A number of private equity players, including KKR are still believed to be interested in Officeworks.

Alphinity Investment Management principal Bruce Smith said Wesfarmers’ decision to pursue a dual track process had already proved problematic.

“Half the problem from my point of view was this dual track process … which had two conflicting objectives,” Mr Smith said.

“With one you want to maximise the price and one you want to leave a bit on the table so you don’t disenfranchise your own shareholders.”

Despite this, Mr Smith said the process had provided some interesting details about Officeworks and proved it was match-fit to take on Amazon with 18 per cent of its sales through its online channel.

“Maybe they can still get a good price [through a trade sale] but having not succeeded on the IPO, perhaps that takes the price pressure off?” Mr Smith said.

Wesfarmers first met with investors in March before the big sell down in Australian retail stocks, which took place about a month ago, according to Ian Carmichael, consumer analyst at Watermark Funds Management.

“I would suggest that a private equity sale of Officeworks is more likely now than a [true] trade sale at this point,” Mr Carmichael said.

However he said fears over how Amazon’s arrival would impact Australian retail would still play into any negotiations, along with concerns over the recent financial performance of US retailers.

“It hasn’t helped that there’s definitely been a consumer slowdown and there is a third factor, which is there’s been these atrocious results from the US retailers over the past couple of weeks,” Mr Carmichael said.

“That’s then feeding sentiment back to the Australian market.” iFrameResize({enablePublicMethods : true, heightCalculationMethod : “lowestElement”,resizedCallback : function(messageData){}, checkOrigin: false},”#pez_iframeA”);

Wesfarmers did not make any comment about the trade sale campaign, except to say any sale would only be completed if it was in the “best interests of shareholders”.

Any decision on the future of Officeworks is not expected to have any impact on Wesfarmers’ turn-around plans for its troubled discount department store chain Target.

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Prepare for commuter chaos as bus drivers hit back over ‘outrageous attack’

A planned strike that would see 1200 bus drivers walk off the job all day on Thursday may not go ahead, after the NSW government applied for an emergency hearing in the Industrial Relations Commission on Wednesday night.
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The NSW Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) announced the strike on Wednesday evening as a protest against the government’s plan to privatise bus services in the city’s south and inner west.

It was due to begin at midnight and last for for 24 hours.

However, Transport for NSW applied for an urgent hearing at the Industrial Relations Commission, which was heard at 8pm on Wednesday. A government spokeswoman said the IRC reviewed the evidence and found the strike to be illegal, ordering the drivers to work as normal.

The union did not immediately respond to questions on whether the strike would still go ahead.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said he welcomed the order from the Industrial Relations Commission and expects the union to comply.

“I hope drivers ignore the union bosses’ reckless behaviour,” Mr Constance said. “Anyone who takes part in an illegal strike will not be paid.

“I implore all STA drivers to come to work tomorrow, because their customers need to get to school and to work on time.”

Mr Constance said contingency measures will still be put in place for Thursday “to ensure our city is not inconvenienced”.

When the industrial action was announced, the RTBU said it was a reaction to Mr Constance’s “betrayal” of commuters and transport workers in privatising bus routes.

A total of 1200 public bus drivers were due to stop work, affecting four depots which would be privatised under Mr Constance’s plan.

The strike would affect bus services that run from the Leichhardt, Burwood, Kingsgrove and Tempe depots, including all school buses in southern Sydney and the inner west.

Transport for NSW said students would be able to travel for free on other forms of public transport when they displayed their Student Opal Card. Parents and students were advised to go to transportnsw.info to see if their route was affected.

A map provided by the union showed the strike would impact a huge chunk of the city, from Sans Souci to Silverwater and from Glebe to Strathfield, encompassing important arterial roads and the Anzac Bridge.

The Transport Management Centre said routes impacted were the 401, 406, 407, 408, 412, 413, 415, 418, 422, 423, 425, 426, 428, 430, 431, 433, 436, 437, 438, 439, 440, 441, 442, 444, 445, 460, 461, 462, 463, 464, 466, 470, 473, 476, 477, 478, 479, 480, 483, 487, 490, 491, 492, 493, 495, 502, 504, 508, 526, L23, L28, L37, L38, L39, M20, M30, M41, X04 and X25.

Routes 438 and 461 would operate a “limited and modified service” along Parramatta Road from 6am to 10am and 3pm to 7pm, in the direction of the peak only.

Those using route 400 from Bondi Junction to Burwood, which is used to travel to Sydney Airport, were advised to catch the train instead.

A Transport Management Centre spokesman said people should catch trains or the light rail, or “make arrangements with employers to work flexibly” to deal with the “significant” disruption.

“Road users and public transport customers across the network are advised to allow plenty of additional travel time during peak periods as traffic is expected to be heavier than usual and patronage on other modes of transport will be increased,” the spokesman said.

Chris Preston, the secretary of the RTBU’s bus division, said the privatisation announcement which spurred the strike was made despite workers being assured in writing in December that their bus routes would remain in public hands.

He said drivers are “deeply apologetic” about inconveniencing commuters, but they felt compelled to respond to the “outrageous attack” on public transport.

“There is one person to blame for this stoppage and that is Minister Constance,” Mr Preston said. “With no warning, no consultation and against explicit undertakings, he has placed the future of 1,200 bus drivers and depot staff in limbo.

“This action is our members’ initial response to this outrageous action.”

Mr Preston said members of the public should make alternative arrangements to get to work and school, and urged Premier Gladys Berejiklian to intervene in the situation immediately.

“Minister Constance needs to understand that you cannot treat the community and public transport workers with such contempt,” he said. “We call on the Premier to intervene as a matter of urgency and put a stop to this attack on our public transport network.”

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Why an oversupply of apartments is a win for Brisbane’s first-time buyers

QM Properties and DevCorp Photo: David MillarSydney-siders don’t think foreign ownership should be allowedMillennials living out of vans in VictoriaEx-Brisbane Lions skipper sells huge Brisbane estate
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It’s no great secret that property in Brisbane is miles cheaper than in Sydney and Melbourne, where young people are increasingly being pushed out of the market by soaring prices and, in Sydney’s case, soaring rents too.

Those already in the property market are quick to offer advice on how first-home buyers can get their financial lives in order, like ditching cafe breakfasts. Not surprisingly, that approach is poorly received.

But in Brisbane, the prospects are much better.

Domain Group chief economist Andrew Wilson previously identified Taigum, Runcorn, Zillmere, Wynnum West, and Acacia Ridge as suburbs within 15 kilometres of the CBD where first-home buyers have a fighting chance.

He places the average first-home buyer’s buying power at roughly $350,000 (with a 20 per cent deposit) ??? and those suburbs all have medians at or near that figure.

In Melbourne, you’d have to go 18 kilometres out to find a median price below $400,000 (Dallas) and Sydney isn’t even worth mentioning.

Dr Wilson said relatively low apartment prices due to the oversupply in the Brisbane market gave first home buyers a brilliant opportunity to get a foot in the door of the property market.

One and two-bedroom apartments in the greater Brisbane area have medians of $310,000 and $387,000 respectively.

“I think it’s interesting when we look at those breakdowns,” he said. “Prospects are good.”

As the number of new apartments entering the market begins to fall, the dive in prices also starts to level out ??? and buyers have taken notice, Dr Wilson said.

“Given there’s some early signs that that market is getting soaked up, value buyers are beginning to get into apartments in Brisbane,” he said.

Just three kilometres from the city, DevCorp development Lincoln on the Park is offering one bedroom apartments for as little as $376,000.

But in order to stand out in a crowded market, they’re also offering an incentive, just for first-home buyers: get the $20,000 government grant and they’ll match it dollar-for-dollar.

“It was a unique opportunity to be able to match the government grant,” DevCorp director Toni Thornton said. “I look at the support we’re offering to first home buyers and if the economy improves I don’t think we’d get an opportunity to do something like that again.”

Dr Wilson said different developers offered different incentives, so it was worth shopping around for the right deal.

Ms Thornton said first-home buyers also had different options available to get a leg up: “There’s mortgage bonds, they used be used a lot on the old days,” she said. “Parents can actually just guarantor your deposit, too.”

House and land on Brisbane’s fringes is selling well and offers an alternative for buyers looking to get into the market Dr Wilson said.

“It’s right around Brisbane, there’s been a lot of development for affordable house and land,” he said. “There’s plenty of choice but the further out, the bigger the properties.”

QM Properties developed several estates in South East Queensland; marketing manager Judi Granic said she’d seen strong interest from first home buyers in all of the developments, particularly the Caboolture house and land packages. 80 per cent of sales in the Central Springs development in Caboolture were to first-home buyers.

House and land was popular enough that it sold without incentives, Ms Granic said.

“I know other developers offer deals, but we’re not doing anything like that,” she said. “We’ve been getting such amazing feedback from first-home buyers that we haven’t felt the need to provide those packages.”

QM Properties’ prices start at $320,000.

Mrs Thornton believed first-home buyers should take any opportunity they can to enter the property market. She said the more time spent in the market, the more you get out of it, but that doesn’t mean rush into buying.

“It’s a critical decision,” she said. “Not only [should you buy] somewhere you’d like to live but something that’s going to stand the test of time.”

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