Exclusive Henley startup club launches in Sydney with broadside for tech hubs

Full Socceroos coverage
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ASX set for strong recovery, Deutsche's top stock picks include Harvey Norman

Full Socceroos coverage
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Sydney weather: Mild start to spring ahead of warm burst

Full Socceroos coverage
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Trade Union Royal Commission: Dyson Heydon stays on as Commissioner

Full Socceroos coverage
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Prime Minister Tony Abbott says Treasurer Joe Hockey has his 'full confidence'

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Socceroos: Milicic has fond memories of WA and backs Perth match

Full Socceroos coverage
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To truly be Australia’s team, a team has to play all over the country.

The Baggy Greens play in all mainland states during a five Test series in their own backyard, but their travel diary is matched by few others.

The Socceroos are arguably the only team aside from the cricketers that really can claim to be representing a sport that is popular throughout the entire nation. But they are acutely aware that they need to appear more often outside of their eastern seaboard strongholds in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

Hence their first trip to Western Australia in a decade this week when they take on Bangladesh in a World Cup qualifier at Perth Glory’s neat, trim, 20,000 capacity nib Stadium on Thursday evenng.

Its a good move; the Western Australians, along with fans in Adelaide, missed out during the Asian Cup, and, according to FFA officials, have responded well. Over 17,000 tickets have been sold and the remainder are expected to go in the next few days, ensuring a sell out and a hostile environment for the visiting Bangladeshis.

Socceroo assistant coach Ante Milicic has fond memories of Perth from his time as a player. Although the ex international striker spent the bulk of his career in his native Sydney, along with spells in Brisbane and Newcastle as well as in Europe,  Milicic made quite a splash in WA on his brief visits there.

He scored the only goal of the game _ and won the Marston Medal for best on ground _ when Sydney Olympic defeated Perth Glory in the 2002 NSL Grand Final, and recalls a match seven years before that when the nascent Glory took on Italian side Sampdoria in an exhibition game.

“Myself and Kimon Taliadoros (ex Socceroo frontman and now Football Federation Victoria  president)  got called up as guest players for that match. I was staying in the same hotel as Sampdoria, and got all kitted out with the gear after, ” he reminisced at a training session the national team coaches hosted with several WA youngsters at the match venue on Sunday afternoon.

“Its a great opportunity for the Perth public to come out. We really want to get around the whole country. We didn’t have the chance during the Asian Cup, but the opportutnity now is for  the whole country to see the squad, the way its developing and coming forward with the young players.

“The pitch and the surface is great. This is what you need at international level. The pitch and the facilities, the grandstand here is great and the crowd will be close to the pitch. These are the kind of venues that the Socceroos enjoy playing at.”

Milicic said there had been no overnight reports of injuries, and that while Austalia would go into the game against Bangladesh as hot favourites, they certainly would not underestimate their opponents.

“We respect every opponent and Bangladesh is no different. We have chosen a full strength side from everyone who is available. We have done our homework, we know what to expect. “

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Tony Abbott to sack ministers for backgrounding? Not bloody likely!

Liberal senator Arthur Sinodinos. Photo: Cole BennettsSinodinos slams ‘political sabotage’
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The call from a respected senior Liberal, Arthur Sinodinos, ostensibly for Tony Abbott to sack cabinet ministers for backgrounding against Joe Hockey and Abbott himself, seems extraordinarily decisive, as far as it goes. But let’s be honest, it is not going anywhere.

Plainly, this a rhetorical rather than a literal call for the Prime Minister to use his most severe rebuke.

The call by press release is in fact a symptom masquerading as a remedy, and is itself, part of the gathering symphony of dysfunction now drowning out the government’s official message of “jobs, growth, and community safety”.

It barely requires stating. The very essence of backgrounding is that it is anonymous. It is both unnamed, and unprovable. A minister suspected of backgrounding would never admit to it, and a journalist/beneficiary of said leaks would never give up their source. The wiley Sinodinos knows this, and thus knows that no ministers could or will be sacked. Even more, the ex-chief of staff for John Howard knows that in the fractious condition the government and its leadership now find themselves, the percussive dismissal of a senior minister or ministers for alleged “disloyalty” would almost certainly prompt a crisis of its own resulting in internal collapse.

Frankly put, Sinodinos knows Abbott is in no position to sack anyone.

Which is not to say there isn’t some frustration evident in Sinodinos’s words, given his Liberal Party is fighting a do-or-die byelection in the WA seat of Canning.

Party loyalists are concerned that talk of losing, or, of the serious ramifications of a violent anti-government swing, increases the danger of self-fulifilling prophesies.

Yet politics being what it is, Canberra watchers are caught somewhere between bemused and befuddled by the Sinodinos snipe.

No blind adherent of the current leadership, nor particularly of Abbott’s uber-powerful chief of staff Peta Credlin, Sinodinos is widely thought to be a supporter of the popular alternative to Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull.

Turnbull in turn would be the big winner of a change of leadership – a change that is more likely, not less, if Canning goes bad.

All of which has some conspiracy-minded theorists wondering what Sinodinos is doing. On the face of it, he is strafing leakers. Yet he knows they will not be identified and then ejected.

Which leaves us contemplating the sub-surface meanings. First, that any public attack on “backgrounding” inevitably draws attention to that backgrounding and thus kicks the story along for another day at least. Even assuming this was not his primary purpose, it is an outcome of which the experienced Sinodinos would have been well aware.

Second, that pro-Turnbull forces are worried that in a final desperate play, Credlin might advocate throwing Hockey overboard, to forestall her own removal, and they want to expose that option and thus kill it off.

Or third, that previous assumptions of allegiances within the NSW Liberal caucus, are out of date and that Turnbull may have lost supporters, such as Sinodinos himself, to the up-and-coming Scott Morrison.

Either way, it is a curious contribution.

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China stockmarket: why fears of a collapse are overblown

A total collapse of the Chinese property market is unlikely, says Gavekal’s China research director Andrew Baston.China’s allegedly imminent recession has become a popular topic recently after the plunges of its equity markets and the devaluation of the renminbi currency sent tremors through the international investor community, but a leading economic researcher says most of these fears are overblown.
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While there are many legitimate concerns about China’s inevitable slowdown, Gavekal’s China research director Andrew Baston says, fears China is teetering on the verge economic collapse are misguided.

“Such fears are exaggerated; China’s economy is not collapsing. But it is slowing,” Mr Baston said in a research note.

The note details how investors are rightfully concerned about the rising domestic debt, the government’s recent failures to steer the economy coupled with the slow down in investment as well as in heavy industry and commodity sectors, but ultimately concluded an economic collapse was unlikely.

With construction stagnating and investment at its weakest in 10 years, Mr Baston said Beijing deploying looser monetary policies would have limited impact so the slowdown was inevitable.

But this looser monetary policy will be hard to implement because the level of domestic debt is so high.

“With total debt at 250% of GDP, China today is far more leveraged than in 2009 when Beijing last launched a major monetary expansion. Today, such a debt-fueled stimulus program is out of the question, given the high starting point. As things stand, the combination of very high total debt plus deteriorating economic growth will push up the level of bad debt,” Mr Baston said.

However there were four commonly discussed issues where Mr Baston said fears of economic fragility are excessive. 1. Renminbi devaluation is not part of a currency war

The incident that caused the tides of concern to begin to rise was the devaluation of the renminbi in early August.

The renminbi fell 3 per cent after the People’s Bank of China lowered its trading midpoint and investors are concerned it could have another 5 per cent or so to fall.

This sparked concerns the PBoC was not just preparing for lower domestic growth but potentially positioning for a currency war that would slash billions from global budgets, particularly throughout Asia and commodity driven economies such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

However, Mr Baston said the fear the devaluation would launch a foreign debt crisis were overblown.

“China is well insulated from the sort of foreign currency debt crisis that has struck other emerging markets in recent decades,” Mr Baston said. 2. Market volatility won’t trigger a broader meltdown

The Shanghai stock market experienced significant plunges last week that brought the total value lost since the volatility began in June to almost 45 per cent.

While investors and economics remain riveted by the market’s tumultuous trading, Mr Baston said the sell-offs impact on the broader economy would be limited, as equities make up no more than 5 per cent of household wealth.

“Although a continued slump from current levels would generate plenty of hyperbolic headlines about a crashing China, even a further sell-off would have a limited spillover effect on the real economy,” Mr Baston said, adding the Chinese banking system had little exposure to the stock market volatility.

“So, although wealth management products linked to the stock market may sustain big losses, and while it is possible some brokers could fail, it is highly unlikely that a further slump in equities will trigger a systemic crisis.” 3. Deep collapse of property prices unlikely

While Chinese household equity exposure may be low, property investment is far more common and the local appetite for property has pushed prices to dizzying heights.

Mr Baston said the widely held view that the Chinese property market would collapse under the weight of an enormous speculative bubble fuelling high prices was out of step with the two key drivers of the housing price rise: expanding urban population and rising incomes, both of which are set to continue.

“That does not mean everything in the garden is rosey: these fundamentals indicate that housing demand is close to its peak, and that the sector has gone from being a growth driver to a drag on growth, a shift with huge knock-on effects for the rest of the economy,” Mr Baston said.

“But the maturation and decline of housing demand is a very different thing from the unwinding of a massive speculative bubble.”

In the last six months, the Chinese government have lowered interest rates and relaxing regulations that operated as restrictions to property purchasing to support continued buying and still has plenty of room for further cuts or policy changes. 4. Unemployment surge to be limited

A slowing economy is rarely good news for unemployment numbers and there are widespread concerns unemployment in China could trigger tranches of newly unemployed workers, which would cause a significant blow to already weak consumer demand.

But Mr Baston said the fact the major slowdowns had occurred in state-owned enterprises, such as heavy industrial and commodity management sectors, meant a record waves of redundancies were unlikely as these companies had far less flexibility to cut jobs.

“Even in the private sector, firms have balked at making mass lay-offs, with mining companies choosing instead to reduce working hours and award employees more holiday.”

Mr Baston said while work hours and wages had declined, unemployment would remain relatively stable.

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Exclusive Henley startup club launches in Sydney with broadside for tech hubs

Trimantium Capital founder and Henley Club president Phillip Kingston. Photo: Ben PedrochiOne of Australia’s leading social impact investors will launch a new social club saying the rise of innovation hubs and coworking spaces do not fix real problems and can ultimately have a negative impact on their members.
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Trimantium Capital founder Phillip Kingston is heading up the targeted social movement known as the Henley Club, which will open in Sydney this week.

Henly Club differs from recently launched startup hubs such as Stone & Chalk, by operating as a private members social club, running events and offering its members networking opportunities. Mr Kingston questioned the value of startup hubs and accelerators to the community they purport to serve.

“Coworking spaces and incubators are systemically broken. They are often marred by a commercial imperative but fundamentally they do not solve a real problem,” Mr Kingston said.

“There is a definitional bias in which companies that take off will leave, so members are exposed to people who not moving out, and there are negative consequences to this. There is also no perverse incentive [with Henley Club] where a big investor wants first dibs on any emerging ideas.” Melbourne success

The Henley Club runs events and workshops for its members. Sydney will be the second chapter of the club, which has been running in Melbourne since 2012.

It has hundreds of members, many of whom have become investors, board members or mentors for each other. Its main focus is on innovation and technology entrepreneurs, social enterprise and young professionals.

One example of the network benefits of the club can be seen in the rise of the New Palm Court Orchestra, which combines jazz, classical and improvising musicians and was launched by pianist, composer and Henley member Gemma Turvey.

Mr Kingston said most existing technology co-working spaces and accelerator programs had very narrow focus, and curtailed the creativity and connections required to launch genuinely progressive organisations and businesses.

“There are a lot of people working in innovation and progress. A wider community solution is going to drive more meaningful and robust change that people actually want and need than political solutions.”

The club requires referrals to join and has a series of quotas including an equal split of male and female members, as well as racial and religious diversity quotas.

“Connectivity and building social capital have clear short and long term benefits,” Mr Kingston said.

“There is a massive fragmentation of capital networks. This is about bringing groups of people with answers to problems together with people with connections and money to support them.”

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ASX set for strong recovery, Deutsche’s top stock picks include Harvey Norman

Deutsche says Harvey Norman and a string of other stocks are strong buys. Photo: Scott Barbour
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History suggests the ASX 200 index is on track for gains of about 10 per cent over the next six to 12 months – as long as Australia avoids a recession, according to Deutsche Bank.

In addition to the big four banks, financial market plays and healthcare stocks, Harvey Norman, Echo Entertainment, Flight Centre, Boral, Fletcher Building, Stockland, REA Group, QBE and AMP were strong buys, Deutsche said, while resource stocks still looked too expensive.

Deutsche’s report, Corrections, Current Valuations and What to Buy, noted that the ASX200 had fallen 15 per cent over the past six months. Since 1960, there had been 13 such corrections.

“There are some 20 per cent-plus rebounds over the ensuing 6 to 12 months, but also some 20 per cent-plus falls,” Deutsche said. “The average is flat performance.”

However, the picture was rosier if corrections that preceded recessions were excluded.

“The market tends to rally following a 15 per cent fall provided no recession develops,” Deutsche said.

“Given our view that a recession is not imminent, we expect the market to rise in a similar fashion to historical precedents. Indeed, the market is already up 5 per cent since last Monday’s trough.” Resources expensive 

The ASX 200 was trading around 5202 at Monday noon, AEST, down more than 1 per cent for the day but 5.5 per cent higher than last Monday’s nadir of 4929.7.

Deutsche’s paper used a variety of price-earnings ratios to determine the value of the market: forward P/E ratio; trailing P/E ratio; modified trailing P/E ratio; cyclically adjusted P/E ratio; and Deutsche’s own “fair-value” model, which takes into account inflation, real interest rates, the Australian dollar and recent earnings per share revisions.

According to Deutsche’s analysis, both the forward and trailing P/E ratios were still 7 per cent above the historical average, suggesting the market was overvalued.

But other P/E ratios told a different story. The cyclically adjusted P/E ratio was 12 per cent below the historical average, the fair-value model was 2 per cent below the historical average and the modified trailing P/E ratio – considering return on equity minus cost of equity – was 17 per cent below the historical average, suggesting a cheap market.

Amid major sectors, “resources still look expensive, banks seem cheap and industrials are in the middle,” Deutsche said.

Among industrials, cyclicals are trading at a 5 per cent discount to defensives.

“This is not especially large, but does suggest that cyclicals offer marginally more value.” On path to 6000

Deutsche also slashed its ASX 200 predictions, tipping 5600 by the end of 2015 (previously 6200) and 5800 by mid-2016 (previously 6350).

It tipped 6000 by the end of 2016.

UBS, like Deutsche, was not enthusiastic about prospects for the market.

“Valuation does not appear overly compelling in absolute terms, but we believe relative values versus low interest rates is the key positive support.

“Given headwinds from banks and resources, as well as a subdued outlook for the domestic economy, medium-term market prospects beyond a short-term bounce appear constrained by mediocre earnings growth.

“We believe the positive earnings impact from further falls in the Australian dollar … remains the key potential positive in the earnings cycle,” UBS said.

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Sydney weather: Mild start to spring ahead of warm burst

If it doesn’t feel like spring yet – it should do soon. German tourist, Vincet enjoying the sunshine in the Royal Botanic Gardens. Photo: Louie Douvis
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South-eastern Australia had its coolest winter for decades in some regions but seasonal temperatures for most of the country were above average and the mercury will soon start to climb, meteorologists said.

With winter officially ending on Monday, Sydney will have had its coldest winter by mean temperatures since 2010. For Melbourne, it was the most chilly since 1989, according to Weatherzone.

The Bureau of Meteorology said that final day figures could affect the comparisons for Sydney with the latest temperatures matching those of the 2012 winter. Maximums for the city are running at 0.8 degrees above the 1961-90 average and minimums 0.1 degrees below.

For Melbourne, the mean temperatures were just 0.1 degree below 1997’s level so Monday’s result “could conceivably push it level” with that year, making it only the coldest in eight years, Blair Trewin, senior climatologist with the bureau, said.

“The last couple of winters have been quite mild across south-eastern Australia, so this year was more typical of what we used to get,” Ben McBurney, a meteorologist with Weatherzone, said. “It has certainly come as quite a shock for some.”

Sydney, for instance, will come in about 1 degree above the long-term average for temperatures across the winter. Although the early mornings felt cold, only July among the three months of winter was below average for minimums – and only just, by about 0.1 degree, said Rob Sharpe, also a Weatherzone meteorologist.

Australia as a whole will post a warmer-than-average winter, particularly for the north and west, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. See chart below:

September will get off to a mostly sunny start in Sydney and Melbourne on Tuesday before rain arrives later in the week, particularly Thursday.

The low pressure trough, though, is unlikely to develop into an east coast low and will instead head “straight out to sea”, Mr Sharpe said.

Conditions, though, should warm up early next week, particularly for Sydney where a string of days with tops of 22-23 degrees can be expected, he said.

“It will feel like we’re getting into spring,” he said.

Nationally, the most notable warmth was in WA and Queensland, Dr Trewin said. Below-normal temperatures were largely confined to the south-east regions of the country, particularly for Victoria, Tasmania, southern NSW and southern SA.

“NSW hasn’t had a below-average winter for mean temperatures since 1997, a record which will not be spoilt in 2015,” Dr Trewin said.

Spring outlook

The bureau last week released its three-month weather outlook for the country, predicting a wetter-than-average spring for central and western parts of the country and more average conditions for the rest.

The additional cloud expected will likely mean day-time temperatures will be mild for spring, the bureau said:

The odds, though, strongly favour milder than average overnight temperatures during the September-November period, according to the bureau:

Rainfall and climate influences

Rainfall during the winter months was on the low side for both Sydney and Melbourne.

Sydney received about 229 millimetres of rain over the June-August period, or about 74 per cent of its long-run average, Weatherzone said.

Melbourne’s 124 millimetres was about 84 per cent of its usual for winter.

The sub-par rain came as a strong El Nino event developed in the Pacific. Such events tend to see rainfall shift away from Australia as easterly trade winds stall or reverse.

The winter, though, would have been drier across much of southern Australia if not for the countering influence of exceptionally warm waters in the Indian Ocean. (See chart of temperature anomalies below:)

“Generally speaking, [the Indian Ocean warmth] is going to moderate the effects of the El Nino, particularly during the late winter and into spring,” Mr Sharpe said.

The record El Nino year of 1997-98 was characterised by close to average rainfall across much of Australia in large part because of moisture still reaching much of the country because of favourable Indian Ocean conditions leading to more convection.

“It looks like [the El Nino] might not be all that bad for Australia,” Mr Sharpe said, adding that its impacts globally may still be large.

Weatherzone is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.

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Trade Union Royal Commission: Dyson Heydon stays on as Commissioner

Dyson Heydon arrives at the royal commission on Monday morning ahead of delivering his decision. Photo: Ben Rushton Australian Council of Trade Unions president Dave Oliver speaks to the media after the decision. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer
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Heydon shows why judges really are a breed apartAttending Liberal event does not mean I back Liberals: Heydon

Dyson Heydon has ruled he will continue as the head of the royal commission into trade unions despite being accused of bias for agreeing to appear at a Liberal Party fundraiser.

In a short hearing on Monday, Mr Heydon dismissed an application by unions to have him removed as commission chair after he accepted an invitation to speak at the Sir Garfield Barwick Address.

“I have considered all the submissions. In my opinion, the applications must be dismissed. I publish my reasons,” Mr Heydon said at the end of the five minute hearing.

In the 67-page judgement of his reasons, Mr Heydon ruled “it is not the case that a fair-minded lay observer might apprehend that I might not bring an impartial mind” to the inquiry.

He rejected the unions’ submission that the Sir Garfield Barwick address was a “Liberal Party event”, saying the “mere fact that  a person agrees to deliver a speech at a forum does not rationally establish that the person is sympathetic to, or endorses the views of, the organiser of the forum”.

The government welcomed the decision but unions said they would be reading the judgment carefully before announcing whether they would appeal.

Mr Heydon was forced to consider his position after Fairfax Media revealed he was listed as a guest speaker at the Sir Garfield Barwick Address, a Liberal Party fundraiser.

The commissioner withdrew from the event but unions said his acceptance of the invitation gave the appearance of a political allegiance – with the commissioner himself left to make the ruling on whether it was a case of apprehended bias.

He had first been due to make a ruling last Tuesday, which he delayed until last Friday.

That date was again pushed back to Monday after fresh claims emerged Mr Heydon only withdrew from the event after he was alerted to possible media interest by counsel assisting the royal commission, Jeremy Stoljar SC.

Mr Heydon told the commission on Monday he had received three sets of written submissions on Friday afternoon – one from the CFMEU, one from the ACTU and one from the AWU.

But he had determined the application should be dismissed.

In his reasons, Mr Heydon noted he only read emails printed out by his personal assistant and in this case, he did not read attachments about Sir Garfield Barwick address.

Responding to the decision, Attorney-General George Brandis said the government was pleased.

“I’m not at all surprised by this decision, it’s a decision that I was privately expecting because the case for apprehended bias, applying the appropriate legal tests is so thin,” Senator Brandis told Sky News.

He said it would difficult “for anyone reasonably to conclude that he was biased to the Liberal Party” when Mr Heydon said he had withdrawn from the event as soon as he was aware it was a fundraiser.

“One of the reasons I recommended to the Prime Minister that we appoint Dyson Heydon to conduct this royal commission is that you could always foresee that the Labor Party and the union movement would throw everything at this person because they had so much to lose by the corruption in the union movement being exposed,” Senator Brandis said.

“Therefore I wanted someone whose reputation was so strong, whose integrity was so beyond question that he would withstand all the mud that has been flung at him by the Labor Party, the union movement and its surrogates in the parliamentary Labor Party.”

But ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said the royal commission’s reputation was now “terminally tarnished” as a result of Monday’s ruling.

“Despite the decision today of Dyson Heydon, the reality is that this royal commission is now terminally tarnished,” Mr Oliver said.

“Any recommendation out of this can’t be taken seriously in respect of looking at it for the political nature of this commission.”

He said unions would consider and read the judgment before deciding whether to appeal the decision in the Federal Court but renewed calls for Mr Abbott to shut the commission down.

“We have only just received it. We will need to talk to our legal counsel and we will engage with our affiliates and make an announcement in due course.”

“Look, the fact is he [Mr Heydon] has had to sit in judgment of himself. I am sure there are many people sitting in pubs at the moment or sitting at home watching this [thinking] “How does that work? Does that pass the sniff test?”. Speaker invite

New documents were released on Thursday after a fresh request by unions, with an email showing Mr Stoljar was asked on August 12 by Chris Winslow, the publications manager for the NSW Bar Association, if Mr Heydon was aware the Sir Garfield Barwick Address was a Liberal Party fundraiser.

The commission also released a note from Mr Stoljar’s diary which showed that he had raised this with Mr Heydon on August 13 and Mr Heydon had shown him an email from the event organiser Greg Burton in which he said the lecture was not a fundraiser.

Unions have demanded to know why the documents were not released two weeks ago when they made their first application for information.

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott says Treasurer Joe Hockey has his ‘full confidence’

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says Treasurer Joe Hockey is doing a fine job. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer Mr Abbott said no one had raised with him the question of Mr Hockey’s future. Photo: Louie Douvis
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Abbott urged to consider dumping Hockey

Tony Abbott says Joe Hockey is “doing an excellent job” and enjoys the full confidence of the Prime Minister and cabinet, a day after two cabinet ministers told Fairfax Media that discussions were taking place about whether to move against the Treasurer if the Canning byelection goes badly for the Coalition government.

Mr Abbott has insisted that no one had raised with him the future of his under-fire Treasurer.

His comments came as respected NSW senator Arthur Sinodinos launched an attack on his former ministerial colleagues for leaking against Mr Hockey and called on Mr Abbott to sack anyone found guilty of destabilising the government.

In a sign of the gallows humour taking hold in the Coalition, despondent Liberals joked to Fairfax Media, “that was close — we almost stayed on message today” and “another week going well; didn’t even make it to 9am Monday without another self-inflicted wound”.

But Mr Abbott said talk of a switch to Social Services Minister Scott Morrison was “a matter of almost no account whatsoever, no one has even raised it with me. The Treasurer is doing an excellent job, he has my full confidence and he has the full confidence of the cabinet,” he said.

“Not a single person has raised this issue with me; it’s a matter of so little moment that not a single person has raised it with me. He has my full confidence, he has the full confidence of the cabinet, he is doing a fine job.”

Asked about the call to sack  leakers made by Senator Sinodinos, Mr Abbott said that “this government is focused every day on jobs and growth. The best thing we can do for jobs and growth right now is get the China free trade agreement through the Parliament”.

Labor Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen made an extraordinary plea for his opposite number to be kept in the job because “getting rid of a treasurer, even as bad as this one, would have a blow on consumer confidence and business confidence”.

“We have cabinet ministers backgrounding and leaking against their Treasurer. We have the spectacle of a government senator, Senator Sinodinos, releasing a statement about the internal workings of the Liberal Party and attacking his own colleagues. What is very clear is that this is a government focussed on themselves,” he said.

Meanwhile, a leak to Fairfax Media about Monday’s talking points, which are sent to ministerial offices, revealed that no ministers were offered any instructions on how to respond to questions about the future of the Treasurer.

On the Canning byelection, which cabinet ministers believe could trigger a frontbench switch to Mr Morrison if the swing is larger than 6 per cent, the talking points emphasise the local nature of the contest.

They  state that voters in Canning are being asked to choose someone to follow in late MP Don Randall’s footsteps and represent their interests in Canberra.

“It’s about choosing someone who has the experience, compassion, leadership ability and dedication to listen to local people and deliver what they need,” the note states.

“[Liberal candidate] Andrew Hastie served his country and has the experience and training to deliver for the people of Canning.”​

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Dyson Heydon says addressing Liberal Party fundraiser does not mean he supports the Liberal Party

Dyson Heydon arrives at the royal commission on Monday. Photo: Ben Rushton
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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 31: Dyson Heydon arrives at the Royal Commission into Trade Unions on August 31, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ben Rushton/Fairfax Media) Photo: Ben Rushton

Dyson Heydon arrives at the royal commission on Monday. Photo: Ben Rushton

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 31: Dyson Heydon arrives at the Royal Commission into Trade Unions on August 31, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ben Rushton/Fairfax Media) Photo: Ben Rushton

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 31: Dyson Heydon arrives at the Royal Commission into Trade Unions on August 31, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ben Rushton/Fairfax Media) Photo: Ben Rushton

Dyson Heydon arrives at the royal commission on Monday. Photo: Ben Rushton

Unions weigh appeal as Labor shifts attack to ParliamentComment: Heydon saves his own skinAnalysis: Heydon finds ‘fatal’ flaw in unions’ argumentAnalysis: Heydon shows why judges are a breed apart

Dyson Heydon has refused to step down as head of the royal commission into trade union corruption because the Liberal Party event he agreed to address was a “legal event” in nature.

The former High Court judge, who was hand-picked by Prime Minister Tony Abbott to run the commission, said that “in my opinion the applications” for his recusal “must be dismissed”.

Mr Heydon said the  Sir Garfield Barwick Address was a legal event in memory of Australia’s longest serving High Court chief justice.

He said it could not be rationally argued that a person giving a legal address at such an event believes in or supports Liberal Party politics.

“The mere fact that a person agrees to deliver a speech at a particular forum does not rationally establish that the person is sympathetic to, or endorses the views of, the organiser of that forum,” Mr Heydon said in his decision.

Unions had not  “demonstrated, as distinct from merely asserting, how any such predisposition, even if it might be apparent to the fair-minded observer, was logically connected to the actual issues for determination in the commission”.

The unions had also “failed to establish that the fair-minded observer might reasonably conclude that I could not deal with the issues for resolution on their merits”.

Mr Heydon said a reasonable bystander would be likely to think that a person with a legal background would have the capacity to go to the point of an email and be “scrupulous” in reading emails.

But because the email did not relate to commission business but to a possible outside activity, “there was no point in my looking at it”.

The contention that he had read the email containing the invitation to the Liberal Party event was “fanciful”.

“Having glanced through the email on the front page, noting the time, date and place of the dinner, and noting that I was to be the guest of the organisers, it was not necessary for me to read the attachments explaining how those who were to pay would pay,” Mr Heydon said.

“That subject was of no concern to me. Further, the fair-minded observer would recognise that I was busily engaged in [royal commission] work.

“Indeed, it is notorious among the legal profession that I am incapable of sending or receiving emails. The consequence is that I read emails only after they have been printed out for me.”

A resolution of the question as to whether he should step aside as commissioner had been delayed twice since unions lodged an application 10 days ago for Mr Heydon to disqualify himself from the politically charged inquiry.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions argued that he should recuse himself because of a perception of bias after he agreed in April last year to give the keynote address at a Liberal Party event.

Unions said Mr Heydon’s acceptance of the invitation to speak at the Sir Garfield Barwick Address  suggested an appearance of bias in presiding over the  royal commission. The unions claim he only withdrew from the event after being warned of possible media interest by counsel assisting the royal commission Jeremy Stoljar, SC.

Sir Garfield was also a Liberal MP.

Mr Heydon said the unions had not established that he knew the event was associated with the Liberal Party or that it was a Liberal Party fundraiser.

References in the email headers that the event was associated with the Liberal Party were also dismissed because they did not establish the nature of the address as a Liberal event or a fundraiser.

Mr Heydon’s final decision to cancel his appearance at the event did not necessarily suggest that his attendance would have given rise to an apprehension of bias.

“Sometimes a decision-maker chooses not to do something, not because to do it will give rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias, but because the decision-maker for sensible reasons of risk management and self-preservation wishes to avoid the attacks of the suspicious and the malicious,” he said.

“That is the construction a fair-minded observer would put on the matter.”

Federal Attorney-General George Brandis described the reasoning in Mr Heydon’s decision as “a tour de force in its explanation”.

The ACTU will now consult with its affiliates to decide whether it will try to challenge Mr Heydon’s decision in the Federal Court.

But ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said he did not yet know what its next step would be. Unions would likely wait for the outcome of a push within the Senate to remove Mr Heydon.

Mr Oliver said Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s royal commission was now “terminally tarnished and Commissioner Heydon’s decision to dig in and stay despite the overwhelming perception of bias confirms this.

“What we are left with now is a multimillion-dollar royal commission that is tainted – everything that has happened until now and everything that will happen in the future is stained by these events,” he said.

“Deciding to speak at a Liberal Party fundraiser demonstrates a serious lack of judgement and the way in which the commission has secretively handled this entire process has raised more questions than it has provided answers.

“It doesn’t pass the sniff test. The simple fact is that you do not attend a political party event if you do not support, or are not sympathetic to, the cause”.

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Napthine’s swansong- Denis did it his way

RELATED: Denis Napthine resigns as South West Coast MPRELATED: FarewellTerry Mulder as veteran MP calls timeRELATED: Dan Tehan’s tribute to Napthine Former premier Denis Napthine shakes hands with reporters prior to his resignation speech at State Parliament on Monday morning.
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REGRETS? Denis Napthine has a few but, as Frank Sinatra famously warbled, too few to mention.

The former premier fronted the television cameras in Spring Street on Monday morning, announcing he would vacate his spot on the leather green benches and trigger a by-election in his South West Coast electorate.

Unlike the early-evening drama of his ascendancy to the premier’s office and the subdued defeat that was 2014 election night, the veteran MP was in a cheery yet reflective mood as he faced the final curtain in the opposition rooms at Parliament House.

In his swansong press conference, Dr Napthine singled out the South West Cancer Care Centre, the region’s air ambulance, expansion at the Port of Portland and Princes Highway passing lanes as his local achievements.

Signing the National Disability Insurance Scheme for Victoria was one of his key achievements as premier, he said, while the controversial East West Link was noted down as unfinished business.

“It was a very hard decision,” he told The Standard prior to his official announcement. “I love what I do. I loved every day of being a local member.

“I love constituents coming in with issues – whether it be a housing issue, whether it be an issue in terms of their local business.

“(For instance, I was) out at the Macarthur Bowling Club to talk about toilet facilities at the bowling club. You can’t get more down-to-earth than that. I still remember when I was a young member, getting to officially open the new indoor toilets at the Macarthur school. So early in my career I was involved in toilets at Macarthur and towards the end of my career, I’m still involved in toilets at Macarthur.”

Denis Vincent Napthine is no stranger to the slings and arrows of outrageous political fortune.

After graduating from the University of Melbourne, he worked for the State Agriculture Department as a veterinarian. The Winchelsea boy was interested in politics from his school days but started to make waves in the Liberal Party when he was working in Hamilton.

Elected as Member for Portland at the 1988 state election, he became Community Services Minister following the 1996 re-election of the Kennett government.

On his 61st birthday he was elevated to the pinnacle of Victorian power. By his 63rd birthday, he was evidently contemplating life beyond Spring Street.

“If I was premier, I would have stayed through,” he said. “I would have stayed the full four years if I was re-elected premier. I probably would have served three years as (leader) then stepped down (as premier) and (then) stepped down as (local member) at the 2018 state election.

“In the circumstances, when you go into opposition, it’s always a time to rebuild, to re-energise, to redevelop your policies. I think it’s in the best interests of south-west Victoria to have someone as a local member who is part of the future rather than someone who is part of the past.”

Clear to all was how much Dr Napthine enjoyed being premier. It was a career aspiration he thought had passed him by following his turbulent period as opposition leader, picking up the pieces following Jeff Kennett’s departure at the 1999 state election.

The South West Coast MP was satisfied serving as Regional Cities Minister under his mate Ted Baillieu. However, renegade Frankston MP Geoff Shaw precipitated a series of events which resulted in Mr Baillieu tendering his resignation and Dr Napthine heading to Government House for a meeting with Governor Alex Chernov.

“After question time, Ted asked me around to his office,” Dr Napthine said. “Now Ted and I are close friends. He said to me that he felt that he had lost the support of the party and that he was going to step down as premier.

“I remember being in his office for several hours that afternoon, urging him to stay on, to talk him out of that position. But Ted was determined. He wasn’t demonstrative, but when he made his mind up, he made his mind up. Towards the end of that discussion he said, ‘who should take over?’ and then he virtually said ‘would you put your name forward’?”

It was with those few words to his old mate that cemented Dr Napthine’s spectacular comeback to the Liberal Party leadership – this time in government.

“And I hadn’t even thought about it because I’d expected Ted to continue,” he said. “(Ted) said it would be better for him, he would feel comfortable if I took over. At 7 o’clock that night I was elected as leader.”

The former vet’s appointment resulted in an immediate boost in opinion polls. The flagging Baillieu government was reinvigorated under Dr Napthine’s leadership. However, Mr Shaw remained a constant irritant with controversy over the East-West Link and ongoing industrial disputes eroding support ahead of the 2014 state election.

“I firmly believe we were a good government,” he said. “I, as premier, gave it my very best shot. I’m particularly proud of what we achieved in that time – whether that be signing the NDIS agreement and getting its headquarters in Geelong, whether it be saving SPC Ardmona (or) the biggest tax change in Victoria’s history with the Fire Services Levy, a fair and more equitable property based system, (and) at the same time maintaining a triple-A credit rating.”

Dr Napthine has called Port Fairy home in recent times after many years living in Portland. He said he would remain within the region during his retirement.

Many former premiers have been appointed as ambassadors or to other plum roles over the years but Dr Napthine said he had no such ambitions at this time.

“It was an honour and privilege to become premier – one I never thought possible,” he said. “I mean, I grew up as one of 10 children on a family farm at Winchelsea and went to the local Winchelsea state school. For somebody from a very humble background, on a farm in country Victoria, to become premier of the state says a lot about our democracy and our political system.”

RELATED: Old foe Andrews bids a fond farewellRELATED: Neoh seeks to replace Napthine as MP

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Sydney-based entity eyes off Redbank Station

HUNTER MP Joel Fitzgibbon says there appears to be nobarriers to a Sydney-basedentity acquiring, andre-opening, the controversial Redbank Power Station.
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Redbank Power Station pic Newcatle Herald.

Operated by Redbank Energy and fuelled by beneficiated dewatered tailings (BDT), or waste coal, from the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine, the plant closed in October last year leaving 39 full-time employees out of work, and its future was placed in the hands of Receivers Korda Mentha.

From being taken to the Land and Environment Court in 2001 by environmentalists who claimed it did not meet its own standards, to a ruptured ash slurry line which led to theleaking of industrial pollutant onto the Golden Highway, the project has failed to deliver the outcomes promised in relation to efficiency and environmental benefits.

But now this new proposal to restart the power station is anticipated to deliver base load biomass power generation to NSW and, according to Redbank Energy Limited (REL),“it will be one of thefirst large-scale non-hydro renewable electrify generation sources in the state”.

The acquisition is proposed to occur through a subsidiary of REL and the directors say the consortium has been selected by the receivers as the preferred bidders and will now proceed on an exclusive basis to negotiate final sale documentation.

Mr Fitzgibbon says he has been in talks with a number of interested parties in recent months, including the preferred bidders, and says this is “very good news”.

He says the consortium is involved in providing waste services in Western Sydney and has some quarrying interests.

At this stage, REL estimate re-opening the will seeapproximately 40 full-time positions re-instated and in turn this will lead to 150indirect jobs.

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Canning byelection: Teresa van Lieshout’s dancing her way into politics

Canning candidate Teresa van Lieshout gets her message across with the help of AC/DC and BodyRockers. Photo: YouTubePerennial political candidate Teresa van Lieshout has released a bizarre and hilarious YouTube clip of herself grooving around her lounge room to announce her candidacy for the Canning byelection.
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Ms van Lieshout, who will run as an independent in the upcoming byelection on September 19, starts the video saying she is contesting the “Canning byelection following Don Randall’s death”.

She then cranks up AC/DC’s Thunderstruck before flashing cardboard signs ­- reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s classic video clip Subterranean Homesick Blues – with words stating her election policies.

Ms van Lieshout then jumps, gyrates and poorly mimes the songs of the BodyRockers (I Like The Way You Move) and ABBA’s (Voulez-Vous) during her almost 12 minute video.

The Hilton resident’s video is one of the most awkward clips to watch since former Family First candidate Henry Hengcame up with the YouTube video idea, inspired by South Korean popstar PSY’sGangnam Style.

It’s not the first time Ms van Lieshout has taken to YouTube to announce her political campaign.

Prior to the Vasse byelection in 2014, she released a clip ofherselfin a black bikini fishing on a beach.

Ms van Lieshout was famously dumped by the Palmer United Party for not toeing the party line, 12 days after she endorsed by PUP for the seat of Fremantle in the 2013 federal election.

She went onto represent the Australian Protectionist Party in the election and polled just 0.24 per cent of the vote (205 votes).

Ms van Lieshouthas previously run unsuccessfully in several elections including the 2013 state election in the seat of Willagee, where she polled 1.8 per cent of the vote (361 votes) as an independent.

WATCH: See the full Youtube video below.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame University political expertMartin Drumsays despite the Melbourne Cup-sized field for the Canning byelection (12 candidates are running) it’s just a two horse race between Labor and the Liberal Party.

Dr Drum doesn’t think either of the major parties would benefit from the dozen candidates running.

“You will get a slightly bigger informal vote, given the potential for errors in voting is greater,” he said.

“You get a bit more leakage from the major parties but not a lot more. It’s more about the quality of a third party candidate/s, not the number.

“A high-profile independent, particularly one with strong local credentials could have had an impact, but there’s no such person in this field. Nevertheless the preferences in byelections often don’t favour the government, so a slightly higher vote for minor parties and independents could assist Labor.”

Dr Drum said the Liberal Party could lose the seatdespite Labor needing a 12per cent swing to win.

“It’s at the upper end of expectations, but definitely possible,” he said.

“Byelections can produce large swings, particularly if the government is on the nose.”

He also expects Prime Minister Tony Abbott to face serious challenges from within his party, if the Liberals lose the byelection.

“A loss in Canning would make it extremely difficult for him to see the year out,” he said.

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In Phuketwan case, Reuters supports media freedom – but from a distance

Bangkok: Reuters won a Pulitzer, the world’s top journalistic award, for its coverage of Rohingya boat people from Myanmar with the help of Thai journalist Chutima Sidasathian.
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The international news agency hired Ms Chutima to open her contact book and arrange interviews for Reuters journalists doing the research that won the 2014 award.

For years Ms Chutima and Australian journalist Alan Morison had led coverage in Asia of the plight of Rohingya in their small on-line news site called Phuketwan that they produced on the Thai resort island of Phuket.

But Reuters has played down Ms Chutima’s role in the award-winning series since she and Mr Morison were sued by the Royal Thai Navy for re-publishing one paragraph from the Reuters series.

The company that employs 60,000 people world-wide has also distanced itself from the court proceedings that could see Ms Chutima and Mr Morison jailed for up to seven years when a court delivers its verdict in the case on Tuesday.

Reuters did not send a reporter or company representative to the three-day trial in July despite that its paragraph was at the centre of the case.

Mr Morison, 67, a former senior editor on The Age, said Reuters has “let the little guys take the rap.”

The verdict to be delivered in a Phuket court has ramifications for media freedom and focuses attention on the role of so-called “fixers” and interpreters hired by foreign correspondents, often in conflict and disaster zones.

They are usually local journalists who often receive no credit and little payment for their often dangerous and stressful work and are often left to deal with the ramifications of contentious reporting after correspondents that hired them have flown home.

Mr Morison said by “ignoring our case Reuters has acted like a US marine walking past a mugging.”

“Chutima’s intimate knowledge of the Rohingya story saved the Reuters journalists years of work,” he said.

A Reuters spokesman acknowledged the role that local journalists like Ms Chutima play “in assisting international news organisations like ourselves in accessing information” but claimed her role was limited in preparation of the series.

“As part of writing out story, we asked Chutima to assist in arranging appointments for our journalists as part of our news gathering,” the Reuters spokesman said.

“She did not act as a Reuters journalist or stringer and her contribution to the story was limited to arranging these appointments,” he said.

The spokesman said Reuters stands by the “fairness and accuracy of our Rohingya coverage, support the principles of a free press everywhere in the world – and the rights of journalists to go about their jobs without fear or hindrance in reporting the truth.”

A Royal Thai navy captain initially filed a criminal complaint against Reuters and two of its journalists over its Rohingya coverage.

But the navy has not pursued the case against Reuters as Ms Chutima and Mr Morison were left to defend the Reuters paragraph that quoted a people smuggler saying “Thai naval forces” usually earn money for spotting Rohingya boats or turning a blind eye to them.

A key defence argued by Ms Chutima and Mr Morison is that the indictment was erroneously translated from “Thai naval forces” to “Royal Thai Navy.

They argued there are multiple naval forces in Thailand.

Mr Morison said he doubts he would survive in Thailand’s chronically overcrowded jails if he is convicted but decided to stay in Thailand to fight the case with Ms Chutima in the interests of press freedom.

“We remain extremely concerned about the outcome but hopeful that we’ll be found not guilty,” Mr Morison said.

“Anything less than a not guilty verdict would be bad for freedom of the media both in Thailand and internationally,” he said.

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