Worleyparsons said it had received a “confidential, highly conditional” proposal for all its shares in November. Photo: James AlcockShares in WorleyParsons surged to a two-year high after a Dubai-based consulting group emerged with a 13.35 per cent holding and confirmed it had made an indicative bid for the engineering contractor last year but was knocked back.
WorleyParsons confirmed on Tuesday it had received a “confidential, highly conditional indicative proposal” on November 14 from Dar Al-Handasah Consultants Shair and Partners (Dar Group) to buy all its shares for $11.80 each.
But after reviewing the proposed scheme of arrangement with its advisors, the board came to the view that it materially undervalued the company and wasn’t in the best interests of shareholders.
“The proposal was highly conditional in relation to financing, due diligence, process, regulatory and other conditions, which created significant execution risk and uncertainty for the company,” WorleyParsons said in a statement.
“The board’s view on value took into account the quality and global platform of the WorleyParsons business, the current low point in oil industry activity, the historical trajectory of previous cyclical recoveries, the cost reduction program that had not yet been fully reflected in earnings and the low operating risk profile of thr WorleyParsons business.”
Dar Group, a privately owned global network of architecture and engineering firms, said its exposure to WorleyParsons comprised of physical shares of 8.61 per cent and a cash-settled equity swap exposure of 4.74 per cent.
WorleyParsons’ shares closed 31.97 per cent higher at $10.65 on Tuesday.
It had bought the stake with a “long-term strategic perspective” and looked forward to being a “supportive shareholder”.
There had been no further discussions between Dar Group and WorleyParsons since the latter rebuffed its proposal in November and Dar Group had “no present intention of initiating discussions with WorleyParsons [over] a change of control transaction”.
The company last week posted a $2.4 million interim net loss – its first ever – due to declining sales, restructuring charges and late-paying government clients, sending its shares on their biggest decline in nine months.
Revenue fell to $2.7 billion from $4.2 billion, a result chief executive Andrew Wood said was “in line with market conditions and comparable with our peers in our market sectors”. It said the full impact of cost reductions and improving market conditions were not reflected in current earnings.
‘s mining contractors have been hit by a downturn in the prices of iron ore and other major commodities which has seen major resources firms curb spending.
A VISITING British planning expert and the state’s chief planner have both described Newcastle as a place on the verge of great things at a planning workshop at Fort Scratchley on Tuesday.
London-based Professor Greg Clark and NSW chief planner Gary White spoke at length about the opportunities and challenges facing Newcastle and the broader Hunter Region at the workshop, hosted by Department of Planning and Environment deputy secretary Brendan Nelson and attended by about 80 people.
On his first visitto Newcastle, Professor Clark said he was surprised by what he’d seen, compared withwhat he’d heard beforehand.
“I thought I was coming to see a city in decline, full of challenges, but when you look at all of the things that are happening right now, it’s already full of opportunities,” Professor Clark said.
Brendan Nelson, NSW Planning and Environment
Mr White, who took the top planning job in NSW after a long career in local government in Queensland, said Newcastle was in effect the opposite of Canberra. Whereas Canberra had been “planned to death, Newcastle had no metropolitan plan”.
Both men talked about a need to develop long-term plans that could be broken down into phases, and which took notice of change as it happened.
Mr White said planners had done quite well until about 10 years ago in managing cycles of change, but the big “structural disruptions” caused by digital technology were creating “change on a scale we have never seen before”.
IMPRESSED: British planning expert Greg Clark and NSW chief planner Gary White extolling Newcastle’s virtues at a workshop on the Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan at Fort Scratchley on Tuesday.
Both men said the old method of planning, where industry, residential, health, education and retail were each concentrated in their own zones was no longer working.
There were limits to what planning could achieve but a Greater Newcastle Metropolitan plan –together with a single regional voice to backit – was a necessary first step in promoting the region to governments and employers, as well as potential residents and visitors.
The workshop heardProfessor Clark would return to Newcastle later in the year as work on the metropolitan plan continued.
Asked about better rail links to Sydney, he said there was a risk they might initially suck jobs out of Newcastlebut the benefits would eventually work in both directions.
Light rail and theCBD university campus meantNewcastle was already on the path to renewal.
WAIT OVER: Rocky Jerkic at Steel City Boxing in Hamilton North. Picture: Michael Parris n champion Rocky Jerkic will end a long and frustrating wait when he fights for the vacant Commonwealth super-welterweight title in Melbourne on Friday night.
The Newcastle-trained boxer from Brisbane will have the chance to “open doors” to bigger fights if he overcomes unbeaten Victorian Anthony Buttigieg at The Melbourne Pavilion.
The 28-year-old mandatory challenger won a purse bid last year to host a Commonwealth title bout againstLiam Williams, but the Welshman relinquished his belt instead of travelling to .
Jerkic has a 15-0 record, including 12 knockouts, and scored a celebrated comeback win over Shannon King to win the national title in late 2015.
He has struggled to find willing opponents in since then, but trainer Rob Fogarty said a win on Friday would help establish him in the international arena.
“I don’t think Williams wanted to take the risk on an undefeated kid,” the Steel City Boxing trainer said on Tuesday before flying to Melbourne with his charge.
“No one else in wants to fight him.
“We’ve put the challenge out to Mundine, everyone, and they’ve all knocked it back.
“At least Buttigieg, you’ve got to give him props for stepping up.
“I know for a fact he’s primed, ready to go.
“This is the first guy in well over 12 months who has even put his hand up to fight Rocky.”
Fogarty said he had watched Jarrett Hurd score a ninth-round technical knockout of fellow American Tony Harrison to win the IBF super-welterweight world title last weekend at the Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama, and said Jerkic was “definitely on a par” with both fighters.
He said Jerkic would challenge Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation champion Yutaka Oishi if he beat Buttigieg.
“Without a doubt this is the biggest fight of Rocky’s career. This will open some doors for him,” he said.
“Within 30 days we’ll know if we fight the guy in Japan or we can bring it back here.
“After that, that should put him in the top 15 in the world in the WBC.”
Buttigieg, at 171cm, is giving away 12cm in height to Jerkicbut has won all 12 of his fights, three by knockout.
He has won four of those fights by split decision, but Fogarty said Buttigieg had taken two months off work to prepare for the 12-round fight.
“He’s short, nuggety, got a walk-up style. Good defensively,” Fogarty said. “I’ve watched plenty of tape on this kid. He is strong.”
Back to back Country Championships would be the ultimate swan song for veteran trainer Greg Bennett.
The day after the $400,000 race is run, he is shutting down his Scone stables to take up a role at Queensland-based breeding facility, Aquis Farm, and he’s keen to go out with a bang.
Bennett has three strong changes for the Hunter and North West Country Championships qualifier at Scone on Sunday – a race he won last year with Clearly Innocent who then went on to claim victory in the final.
Leading the charge is All Summer Long who is back for a second tilt at the title.
The Snippetson gelding qualified for the final after finishing second behind Clearly Innocent last year, but was scratched.
“We decided straight away we’d like to target this race again so he has been held back on purpose,” Bennett said.
“We gave him a good long spell after his last preparation and I am very happy with where he is at now.”
Tommy Berry Greg Bennett and – Bradleys
He ran a strong race for second in the Country Championships Prelude at Scone on February 17.
He lumped 62kgs in that race and won’t know himself when he drops down to 56kgs as a class three horse in a set weights race.
“He gets in good at the weights and with a trial and two races under his belt, he is cherry ripe,” Bennett said.
“All we need now is a soft surface and a barrier inside eight to give him the best chance.”
Invienna is also back for round two after finishing fourth in the Scone qualifier and fifth in the wildcard.
“She was really unlucky not to get into the final last year,” Bennett said.
“Obviously she had Clearly Innocent and All Summer Long to contend with at Scone and was caught wide at Muswellbrook.”
Invienna was only a length behind the winner in the Country Championships Prelude while carrying 61kgs. In the start before that she recorded an impressive win in a Class 3 1100m race at Scone while carrying 62kgs.
She too will appreciate a turnaround in the weights, dropping to 57.5kg in the Country Championships.
“She’s race fit and is deserving of a spot in the final,” Bennett said.
“She needs a good surface and will try and settle midfield but that plan might have to change when the barrier draw comes out.”
Sassaby rounds out the Bennett trio and while his last run yielded a disappointing result, he says it should be forgotten.
“He’s stripped fitter for the run and I’m happy with him.
“It’ll be a good strong race though. There are more than a few smart horses in the mix,” Bennett said.
Things are pretty great … as long as this is where you work. Photo: UnknownThree Sydney districts contributed nearly one-quarter of all the growth in ‘s economy last financial year as inner-city job hubs power ahead of the rest of the nation.
New analysis of district-level economic performance has revealed huge variations across the country.
Sydney’s CBD area, the inner northern suburbs and the Ryde district together delivered 24 per cent of gross domestic product growth in 2015-16, research by consultancy group SGS Economics and Planning shows.
All three districts are within Sydney’s “global economic corridor” which arcs from Macquarie Park through the CBD to Kingsford Smith airport. Many high value, knowledge-intensive industries have clustered in that corridor including finance, IT, professional services, engineering, research, healthcare, marketing and media. The Baulkham Hills and Hawkesbury district also registered very strong growth.
Terry Rawnsley, an economist at SGS Economics and Planning and the report’s author, said the city’s booming construction and finance industries underpinned the strong performance.
“Inner Sydney is not only driving the Sydney economy but also the national economy,” he said.
Inner Melbourne also stood out – it contributed 11.4 per cent of ‘s GDP growth last financial year.
But the report warned that the disparity in growth rates across the country was now greater than at any time during the mining boom.
The economies of five statistical districts in regional NSW contracted in 2015-16 including Riverina (-0.6 per cent), Murray (-0.5 per cent) and the Central West (-0.3 per cent)
While there were patches of strong economic growth in Western Sydney, it was hampered by the ongoing decline in manufacturing, one of the region’s major employers. Manufacturing’s share of Sydney’s economy hit a record low of 5.7 per cent in 2015-16.
Mayfield nurse Alison Wright . . . ‘Within the first two or three treatments I was starting to feel better already.’ Picture: Jonathan CarrollI can sense Greg Cleveland’s burden, his 51 years of suffering, when I meet him at a Newcastle cafe. He is tall and thickset, but his every word, every laugh and gesture, is careful, muted, as though he is secretly deactivating a bomb while he talks.
The Adamstown Heights man is a long-term migraine sufferer. He was first diagnosed and hospitalised in Scone at age seven, 12 months after being involved in a car accident. By the time he wasa teenager, they became severe enough to make him throw up. Sometimes they literally leave him tearing his hair out. Not surprisingly, he has sufferedfrom depression.
Somehow he found the strength to complete an engineering degree at the University of Newcastleand workaround as a consultant and project manager. Wherever he went, the headaches went with him.
“I remember my wife came home one day and thought I’d had a heart attack,” he says. “I was on the floor. I couldn’t move, and it was because my headache was that bad.”
Now 58, Cleveland has tried “everything you can think of” to find relief: neurology, chiropractic medicine, brain scans, X-rays, massage, acupuncture, medication.
“I’ve been suffering basically on and off for 51 years. There’s heaps of people that claim to be able to cure headaches.”
His is a harrowing story. It doesn’t have the happy Hollywood ending: there is no miracle cure. But Greg has found a good deal of relief in the past two months – enough to make his life “manageable” – since his GP referred him to Damien Cummins, one of a handful of physiotherapists in who specialise in treating headaches using manual therapy on theupper neck.
“I was getting two to three bad migraines a week, to the point where they were debilitating,” Clevelandsays.“So I had an appointment with him, and basically right from the very first treatment there was a marked improvement in my migraines.”
Greg Cleveland has been living with migraine headaches for 51 years. Picture: Michael Parris
He says he still gets headaches – “he never promised to cure me” – but they are less frequent and far less severe.
“I suffer from depression. I went to my doctor and said, ‘Do you know what’s going on? I have a good job, good house, good family. I have nothing to be depressed about.’ And she said it was just from putting up with pain for so long.
“If I woke up with a headache previously, by the end of the day I’d be that crook that I wouldn’t be able to drive or do anything. Now I can do a few exercises and by lunchtime or mid-afternoon it’s faded.
“I was a bit sceptical when I went because I’ve been to that many people. You just grin and bear it. You get to the point where no one’s going to help and this is just the way it is and there’s people who are a lot worse off than I am.But it’s improved my life to the point where I can start doing more stuff in my time off.In the old days it would be get home, take more than the prescribed dose of tablets and then go to bed and not move. Now I can go home and still function.”
Cummins has been focusing on headache treatment for the past five years and set up the Newcastle Headache Clinic as an offshoot of his Mayfield physio practice.
A fit, angular 47-year-old with an enviable sweep of dark hair, he talks excitedly about his work, leaning forward, imploring you to share his enthusiasm.He is quick to point out that he is no miracle worker, that his clinic is one of several treatments available to patients, and that he can’t help everyone, but even Newcastle pain specialist Dr Anthony Schwarzer says his colleague has a “specialability” for diagnosing and treating headaches through manual therapy.
“We see amazing results with some people who are struggling,” Cummins says. “The person often doesn’t realise their neck is such a big part of the problem. And it doesn’t seem to matter how chronic the condition is.”
He and Dr Schwarzer presented a talk to Hunter doctors on Tuesday about establishing a pathway for treatment starting with GPs, via physiotherapy assessment and therapy and then on to pain specialists if the manual therapy does not work.
Cummins, who is undertaking his own research through the University of Newcastle, says there is “slowly mounting evidence” suggesting a link between neck stiffness or tenderness and many headaches, and that manual therapy can help.
He says research has showed that about 20 per cent of headaches are cervicogenic, or neck-related, and that manual therapy can offer clear benefits in these cases.But clinical practice is indicating that such treatment can also help migraine sufferers if their neck is one of the triggers for their pain.
“What we think is going on is the brain stem is sensitised, so the brain stem gets signals from the upper three neck joints, as well as signals from lots of other places.
“There’s some early research that’s coming out that we can use neck mobilisation – we can normalise the neck movement – and it can have a desensitising effect on the brain stem. We don’t know how it works yet.
Damien Cummins at his Mayfield physio practice . . . ‘You just change their lives. It’s unbelievable. It’s great. It’s fun.’ Picture: Jonathan Carroll
“Neurologists treat this sensitisation with the use of medications to desensitise the brain stem. That’s established. We know migraine is to do with this sensitisation issue, but we didn’t know that the neck treatment can have a desensitising effect. There’s reallystrong evidence to suggest we’re having an effect on the nervous system. We just don’t know why.”
DrSchwarzer, who trained as a rheumatologist and pain specialist, has a PhD in spine medicine and a masters degree in pain management from Sydney University. He is aformer senior lecturer in anatomy at Newcastle University and has fellowships with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the Faculty of Pain Medicine in then and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists and the Australasian Faculty of Musculoskeletal Medicine. He is also an original member and former president of the US-basedSpineIntervention Society. It’s fair to say he knows what he’s talking about.
He says Cummins has developed a special interest in the management of neck pain and headaches and is seekingto add a scientific foundation to his work.
Dr Schwarzer, whose research on spinal pain has built on the work of celebrated Newcastle spinal pain specialist and anatomist Dr Nikolai Bogduk,regards Cummins’ treatmentas a valuable option for some of his patients.
“He’s helped in the management ofpatients with neck pain and headaches,” Dr Schwarzer says. “He sorts out whether the patient is mechanically responsive. If he gives them relief long-term, they stay with him. If it’s short-term, then he can actually identify a source of pain we can do something more with using injections and other treatments.”
“Likewise, if I do the nerve blocks and radiofrequency treatment, which we offer for neck pain, they’ll come back to Damien for further treatment.It was probably not mainstream 20 years ago, but it’s probably more sophisticated and accepted now.
“Damien is enthusiastic about ensuring what he does is backed up and validated by my diagnostic work.”
Dr Schwarzer says most specialists in the field are keen to avoid long-term medication and invasive procedures when possible.
“They would all be supportive of what he [Cummins] does. I don’t know how many of them know he exists, to be honest. Again, they would have the view that anything to avoid surgery would be the way to go.”
Another of Cummins’ patients, Katerina Mudd, a 54-year-old legal assistant from Maryland, says her headaches had turned her into a “cranky pants”, avoiding family events, movies, restaurants and her musician sons’ concerts. She was taking Voltaren every few days to alleviate her symptoms, but the pain would cycle back. Her doctor referred her to a neurosurgeon, who in turn suggested physiotherapy as a first alternative to desensitising injections in her neck.
“I left his office that morning and I rang Damien’s office as soon as I got out the door. I was desperate. I really needed something that day. I was disappointed I didn’t get a jab, but I know you have to try other things.
“I still had a headache when I went and saw him the next day. The day after that I woke up and there was no headache. I couldn’t believe it. I thought, ‘Oh my god. I’m so onto a good thing here.’
“And then the first eight days I went four times. Each time I went it felt better and better and he gave me exercises to do, which I did religiously.I’m over the moon. I haven’t had a headache since.”
Mudd, who has arthritis in her fingers, feet, shoulder and neck, says the treatment has transformed her life.
“I can look over my left shoulder now when I’m driving. Just the little things that bring joy to my psyche now, whereas before it was like, ‘I can’t–I’ve got a headache. I can’t do this and I don’t want to do that and I don’t want to go there, and I don’t want to go to the movies because it’s too loud.’
“It’s unbelievable, and I said to my husband, ‘I wonder how many people out there are suffering?’ We need to get it out there.”
Cummins has trained under n physiotherapist Dean Watson, the founder of the Watson Headache Approach and a researcher at Perth’s Murdoch University.
He says he is far from a saviour, despite the messianic way some of his patients talk about him.
“I’m not. There’s other people who can do this, and the goal is to train other physios. I’m training other people at work, and they’re gettingbetter at it.I’m treating 40 necks a week, and that’s all I’m doing.”
Charlestown neurosurgeon Dr Richard Ferch says he often sends patients to Cummins due to his specialisation and expertise.
“Headaches are commonly associated with neck problems, and treatment of the neck problem can improve the headaches, and surgery doesn’t generally improve them,” Dr Ferch says.
Mayfield nurse Alison Wrightsays it did not occur to her there could be a link between her neck pain and headaches until a GP colleague suggested she see Cummins.
The 38-year-old had an operation two years ago on a shoulder she injured playing rugby, then began to feel increasing pain in her neck. About the same time she started to suffer regular headaches, from behind her left ear to her left temple.
“I was probably taking at least a day off work a month. I was having them a couple of times a week. I thinkwithin probably the first two or three treatments I was starting to feel better already, hadn’t had a headache for probably a couple of days. He’s able to manipulate a spot and replicate a headache. He’ll push a spot and I’ll go, ‘Yep, that’s it.’
“I even get the occasional migraine which is actually completely on the other side of my head, and I must say I’ve had nowhere near the occurrence that I’ve had since we started doing this.”
Wright, whodoes her daily neck exercises sitting at traffic lights on the way to work,says she is down to monthly visits to the clinic and Cummins is “weaning me off him”.
Cummins says he can tell within four or five visits if his treatment is working.
“You can’t help everyone, either. It’s not like a cure-all.If we can’t change anything in four or five goes, you’re wasting your time. I usually say, ‘I’ll sack myself from treating you.’But with many patients certainly there is a clear effect. You just change their lives. It’s unbelievable. It’s great. It’s fun.”
“He’s able to manipulate a spot and replicate a headache. He’ll push a spot and I’ll go, ‘Yep, that’s it.’
“It was all related to that musculoskeletal positioning. He had me doing strengthening exercises and realignment, and it’s just been amazing.
“I even do get the occasional migraine which is actually completely on the other side of my head, and I must say I’ve had nowhere near the occurrence that I’ve had since we started doing this.”
Alison, whodoes her daily neck exercises while sitting at traffic lights on the way to work,says she is down to monthly visits to the clinic and Cummins was “weaning me off him”.
Cummins says he can tell within four or five visits if his treatment is working.
“You can’t help everyone, either. It’s not like a cure-all.If we can’t change anything in four or five goes, you’re wasting your time. I usually say, ‘I’ll sack myself from treating you.’
“But with many patients certainly there is a clear effect. You just change their lives. It’s unbelievable. It’s great. It’s fun.”
Winning return: Ben Looker returns to the winner’s stall with Art D’Amour after the gelding produced a stunning run to win Friday’s Country Championship Preview at Scone.Unbeaten four-year-old Art D’amour will be chasing his fifth win in a row when he lines up in the $150,000 Hunter and North West Country Championships qualifier at Scone this Sunday.
The Cody Morgan-trained gelding is coming off a strong first-up win in the 1300m Country Championships Prelude at the same track on 17 February.
He missed the start and sat third last for most of the race but flashed home to snatch the win from All Summer Long who was runner-up in the 2016 Scone Qualifier.
“That run exceed my expectations,” Morgan said.
“I thought 1300m would be too far, especially first up, and I would have been happy with a top five finish.
“He’d had enough by the time he hit the line but he has this incredible will to win.”
Distance is the only query for Art D’amour heading into the 1400m Country Championships qualifier.
He is a small horse who prefers 1200m or shorter but for Morgan, a shot at the Country Championships was too good to pass up.
“It’s a $150,000 restricted race and there have been plenty of 1000m and 1200m horses who have given it a go and performed well,” he said.
“He has his whole career to drop back if this doesn’t work.
“I’m hoping natural improvement will help him find the line strongly.”
Morgan decided to aim Art D’amour at the Country Championships after his hard-fought win over 1150m at Newcastle last November.
“I’d always thought he would be a 1000m horse but when he won sitting outside the leader I thought we could have a chance,” he said.
“I had a runner in a maiden on Country Championships day last year and I stuck around all day to watch the qualifier. I’m a big fan of Clearly Innocent and he had a huge win. It was a great atmosphere.”
Morgan concedes Greg Bennett’s horses will be hard to overcome but remains upbeat about his chances.
“For Art D’amour to win I think he will need to be in the second half of the field,” he said. “He isn’t strong enough to sit in the first few and kick away against good horses.”
“Missing the kick last start actually helped him by enabling a soft run.”
A former jockey, Morgan rode more than 150 winners during his four-year apprenticeship but like many, was forced to give it away when he was unable to keep his weight under control.
Shortly after that, he applied for his trainer’s license and has being doing that from his Tamworth base for the best part of the last decade.
He stills rides a lot of his own trackwork though and says it’s a great advantage.
“It’s handy to ride every day because it gives me a better understanding of the horse and allows me to notice any changes or issues,” he said.
He also broke Art D’amour in.
Owners, P & L Moore, took the horse to Morgan’s stables after they purchased him from the Scone Inglis Yearling Sales for $14,000.
“They’re great people,” Morgan said.
“I’ve done a lot of breaking in for them but this is the first time they’ve entrusted me with a horse to train.
“They’ve been very patient with Art D’amour and allowed him to flourish in his own time.
“He is very small but he is very fast and tries very hard.
“He is constantly surprising us and maybe he will again in the Country Championships.”
The Xperia XZ Premium has a lot going on. Photo: SonyAt Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Sony has unveiled the Xperia XZ Premium, a monster of a phone that seems designed purely to fit as many high-end specs as possible into a single handset.
The Premium is a bigger, bolder version of last year’s XZ flagship, adding a 5.5-inch screen that can display 4K and HDR content and covering the whole thing in a mirrored chrome finish (not unlike 2015’s Z5 Premium, which was the first phone to pack a 4K screen).
Driving the huge number of pixels is the brand new Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (which should also make it compatible with the new generation of super-fast mobile internet) and an Adreno 540 graphics processor, backed by 4GB of RAM and a big 3230mAh battery, but Sony spent most of its energy promoting the device’s new camera.
Dubbed ‘Motion Eye’, the system behind the 19MP Exmor RS sensor can capture video in a ridiculous 960 frames per second, making it the first mobile phone capable of producing super slow-mo. For context, most phones can shoot as fast as 240fps.
The camera also has ‘predictive capture’, which apparently starts capturing images before you’ve even hit the shutter button to make sure you get the shot. It also has the same triple sensor array and hybrid autofocus first seen on the standard XZ.
The Premium is plated front and back with Gorilla Glass 5, and on top of the new screen, internals and camera it packs many the same features as the standard XZ, including the rounded-edge ‘loop’ design, Hi-Res audio, water resistance and adaptive charging.
While it remains to be seen if consumers need or even want the level of screen resolution or cinematic fidelity offered by the XZ Premium, Sony hedged its bets by also introducing updates to its mid-range line. The two Xperia XA1 phones — one with a 5-inch screen and one with a 6-inch — keep the XZ aesthetic but feature considerable lower specs.
Local pricing and availability is yet to be confirmed.
Dom Calabria owner of Aussie’s Cafe at Parliament House. Photo: Andrew MearesParliamentary bean counters have proposed hiking the lease of a popular coffee shop after negotiations with the owner stalled.
Described by the Department of Parliamentary Services secretary Rob Stefanic as “an institution”, the rent for Aussies Cafe at parliament is due to rise from $87,000 a year to $150,000.
Speaking at estimates on Monday, Mr Stefanic denied reports the owner Dom Calabria had been told to ditch the name Aussies.
He also fended questions the department runs a competitive operation and should not have access to Mr Calabria’s financials.
“The reason the amount is so significant is that the proprietor of Aussies has refused to share his turnover information,” Mr Stefanic said.
“In doing so, it became very hard for the valuer to make an assessment of the true, fair market value of the rent.
“The independent valuer had to make an estimate based on a complex formula to establish a licence fee value. He had to make an estimate of the turnover that Aussies achieves in a year.”
The formula included comparisons with the Coffee Club in Civic, with allowance made for non-sitting days.
This drew the ire of Liberal senator Eric Abetz who said: “So the worse he runs the show, the less the parliament or the taxpayer would get. The better he runs the show, the more you want to fleece him. Is that the idea? If his figures were very bad and he were running at a loss, would you be paying him to be there?”
Mr Stefanic said Mr Calabria could challenge the assumptions and the valuation, based on his turnover value, and the proposed licence fee would be adjusted accordingly.
He said the lease and key performance indicators were open for negotiation.
“If he is concerned with any elements of that, it is subject to negotiation and he has been given ample opportunity to do that,” Mr Stefanic said.
“There is no take it or leave it here. He can discuss it with us. He has made no attempt other than, very apparently, making representations to senators and also to the media.”
Senator Abetz questioned if the department was in competition with Aussies and suggested a conflict in officials seeking Mr Calabria’s turnover.
The Financial Review reported earlier this week the Small Business Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, was examining the matter.
“While they’re not bound to do so, I call on all government departments to lead by example and ensure their contractual agreements with small businesses aren’t at odds with legislation outlawing unfair ‘take it or leave it’ contract terms,” she said.
“The reason the government set up the ombudsman’s office is to act on behalf of small businesses who become involved in exactly these sorts of situations.”
Mr Stefanic assured the committee there would be no repercussions for Mr Calabria from the coffee stoush being made public, despite the publicity being “less than desirable”.
Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan told the inquiry that multinational oil and gas companies were a particularly high-risk category. Photo: Christopher Pearce The ATO has another audit underway relating to a $35 billion loan for the Gorgon gas project. Photo: Supplied
An appeal against a multimillion dollar tax bill owed by multinational oil giant Chevron is taking place, and will have global implications for the way tax paid by large companies is assessed.
Chevron recently lost a landmark profit-shifting case in the Federal Court that left it with a tax bill of about $300 million.
Monday marked the first day of hearings of Chevron’s appeal to the Full Federal Court.
The ATO has been fiercely battling Chevron in court over unpaid taxes between 2004 and 2008.
In October the ATO won its case, arguing Chevron used a series of loans and related-party payments worth billions of dollars to slash its tax bill by about $300 million.
The decision was a big win for the ATO, which has spent about $10 million on legal costs to date.
The tax and business community are closely watching what happens with Chevron’s appeal.
“This court case is of major significance in and internationally,” said International Transport Workers Federation senior researcher Jason Ward. The union, which represents workers on the offshore LNG projects of WA, has been a vocal critic of Chevron.
“Chevron has been using related party loans – sending profits to low-tax jurisdictions such as Delaware – to reduce the tax that they pay in ,” Mr Ward said.
He said people around the world were also watching this case closely as it would impact what other multinationals are doing in low-tax jurisdictions.
The case is unravelling as the ATO has another audit underway relating to a $35 billion loan that Chevron has used in relation to the Gorgon gas project.
“The implications on the current loan, not subject to this case, are huge,” Mr Ward said. “Upwards of $15 billion in tax revenue in by Chevron’s own admission.”
The long-running Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance will resume hearings this year, with a special focus on oil and gas companies. The inquiry has broadened the scope of the hearings to include the complex structures that such companies use.
At earlier hearings held in November 2015, Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan and one of his lieutenants told the inquiry that multinational oil and gas companies were a particularly high-risk category and that the use of so-called marketing hubs, which allow sales and profits of n resources to be booked overseas, were an “emerging concern” for the ATO.
Chevron is one of several multinationals facing a showdown with the tax man. The ATO in December confirmed that apart from Chevron, Crown and BHP Billiton are among seven large companies that have been hit with tax bills amounting to $2 billion.
But that revenue could take time to flow through, if at all. While in recent years most companies have opted to settle with the ATO, the agency is expecting some other companies will head to court.
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CHAMBER DEBATE: A file photo of the Port Stephens Council chambers, 2014.Queuing upon polling day could become a chore of the past if Port Stephens councillor John Nell has his way.
Cr Nell said Port Stephens resident clearly don’t like to turn out at polling booths for council elections as it is, if recent trends are any indication.
“The amount of pre-polling is increasing 10 per cent at every election,” he claimed.
“You don’t even need an excuse anymore as to why you can’t vote on the day.”
The matter was expected to ignite heated debate in the council chambers on Tuesday night.
The mayor, Cr Bruce MacKenzie, heeded Cr Nell’s call to bring it to council for discussion if nothing more.
The mayoral minute askedcouncillors to support a resolution to write the Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton for permission to conductthe September 9 polls bypostal voting exclusively.
This would require a special exemption on the minister’s behalf since such matters must usually be resolved 18 months out from an election.
Cr Nell noted the council had not had that opportunity since the election date has only just been announced.
“If this [request] was approved no one would need to turn up at a polling booth on September 9,” he said.
The measure has its supporters and detractors.
Cr Peter Kafer said postal votes tended to support the incumbents.
“I’ve spoken to people in [state] parliament and they’re saying it usually favours the incumbents and people with deep pockets who are able to get their name out there,” he said.
“I’m an incumbent andI’m seeking reelection, so Ishould be for it but it’s not fair for others who want to represent their community.”
Cr Nell disagreed.
“You can make arguments for and against most things,” he said.
For him, there was one clear advantage for independents.
“It’s a hell of a job for any candidate to man the pre-poll centres for two weeks,” he said.
“Really, it’s no longer pre-polling, it’s a furphy, it’s just two weeks of polling.”
Cr MacKenzie said it was “really Nell’s idea”.
“People get really worked up on election day…it even gets physical. It’s a civil war sometimes with people handing out how to vote cards,” Cr MacKenzie said.
Fresh faces: Portia Graham, Jake Rexter and Holly Blackham chose to stay in Newcastle for the affordability and lifestyle, while Harry Webster moved for the university’s reputation and the beach. Picture: Jonathan CarrollFOR Holly Blackham,the magnitude of her first day at university – and the start ofthe rest of her life – only hit over theweekend.
“I thought ‘Why did I do this?’,” Holly, 18,said.
“I was so nervous I thought ‘I should have waited a year’, I did not want to go. But once I got here today it was all goodand I’mfine now– it’s the start of meeting new people and starting a new chapter.”
Holly is one of thousands of students who have chosen to start their undergraduate degree at the University of Newcastle.
She is studying pharmacy to combine her interest in science and the body with a long-held desire to work in a medical setting.
Holly was joined in her “surprisingly fun” maths lecture by her friend from Bishop Tyrrell Anglican College Portia Graham, 17, who is studying environmental science and management.
“It wasgood but eye opening–I know I have to work hard and I’m open to that,” she said of the lecture.
Portia is already considering a masters degree in marine biology and combining further study with research.
“I’ve always been passionate about the environment,” she said.“The way we’re treating the planet we’re going to need some environmental scientists to figure out some issues.”
Portia’s joined a number of mostly sporting clubs includingscuba diving, tae kwon do, water polo, rugby and snow sports.
“Social life at university is what it’s all about,” she said.“School now feels like a long time ago. I was ready for a change and university is what I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”
Harry Webster, 19, moved from Dubbo into the university’s Evatt House –originally known as the ‘country kid’s college’ –to study architecture and plans to join the rugby team. “I’ve always liked design and being creative,” he said. “I’m pretty excited about starting and all the doors that are opening.
“I’d been to Newcastle a few times before with family and friends and found it to be a nice city with some pretty rural connections. It’s exciting that it’s diversifying what it’s known for.”
Jake Rexter, 18, is studying for a double degree in communication and law.
“I’ve always been interested in journalism, reading and writing and want to be a writer when I finish,” he said. “I enjoyed Legal Studies at school and while I don’t think I want to be a lawyer, I think it’s good for general education and really interesting.” He said his first lecture was “like eating sand it was so dry” but he was already feeling “more liberated”.
“It’s freedom –there’s so much more happening and the energy burns so much brighter than it did at school.
“I’m not going in with any expectations other than to have a good time and meet lots of new people.”
Merewether surfer Jackson Baker will take up a wildcard into the Central Coast Pro at Avoca from March 8 after a frustrating round-one exit at the n Open at Manly on Tuesday.
NEXT STOP: Jackson Baker competing in round one at Surfest’s 6000-point World Surf League qualifying series contest last week at Merewether. Picture: Marina Neil
Baker led his four-man heat early with scores of 6.17 and 5.6 but was thenthird needing a 7.18 to progress with just over four minutes left.He put together a ride of four turns and thought he had done enough but a 6.5 lefthim third on 12.67 behind Brazilian Marcos Correa (13.67) and Kiwi Billy Stairmand (13.34).
“I thought that wave I got near the end when I needed a seven, I thought I 100 per cent had the score. I wouldn’t have claimed it if Ididn’t,” Baker said. “I guess that’s how it goes sometimes.I think they pulled my score down a bit because my last turn wasn’t super big, but I thought I already had the job done out the back.”
On Wednesday, fellow Merewether surfer Philippa Anderson will start her campaign against Brazilian star Silvana Lima,Kobie Enright andTanika Hoffman in the women’s round three.
Clubmate Ryan Callinan was set for a tough start in round two of the men’sevent on Thursday against Brazilian Michael Rodrigues, Hawaiian Koa Smith and n Jacob Willcox.
Baker’s loss followed around-two defeat at home in Surfest, another 6000-point qualifying series event, last week.
He said it wasfrustrating not to progress at Manly after a strong heat where he felt he madeno mistakes.
Baker was set to bypass the 1000-point Avoca contest to join Merewether at the Kirra Teams event but said he would now accept a wildcard in the hunt for QS points.
He hoped a change to “a more relaxed approach” and a “nothing to lose” attitude at Avoca would help change his fortunes.