Monthly Archives: April 2020

Harriet Wran met boyfriend ‘two weeks ago’

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How Harriet Wran came undoneThe daughter of the late NSW premier Neville Wran, Harriet Wran, told police she never thought her boyfriend and a man she had only just met would “do what they did” when they allegedly murdered a small-time dealer over a $70 drug hit.

In a typed statement, which the 26-year-old gave policesoon after her arrest, it is understood Ms Wran claims she was “numb on ice” when a fatal fight broke out in the living room of a Redfern unit on Sunday night.

Police will allege that Ms Wran had gone to the high-rise Housing NSW block on Walker Street with her boyfriend of two weeks, Michael Lee, 35, and a man she had just met, Lloyd Haines, 29, intending to score ice from small-time dealer Daniel John McNulty.

But after Ms Wran knocked on the door, it is alleged Haines, in a balaclava, and Lee, in a beanie, entered the unit armed with knives and a hammer and demanded: “Where is it?”

A fight broke out during which police allege Mr McNulty, a father and keen fisherman who had battled his addictions for years, was stabbed once in the leg and once in the back. The second strike punctured his right lung and was fatal.

Mr McNulty’s roommate, Brett Fitzgerald, went to his aid. But as he, too, was also allegedly attacked, he found himself trying to fend off blows from the hammer with a shoe rack.

Ms Wran, Mr Lee and Mr Haines then allegedly ran from the apartment.

Mr Fitzgerald was taken to hospital and underwent surgery, later giving police descriptions of his attackers: “A male Aboriginal, a male of Asian decent and an attractive female.”

Police were allegedly then able to identify their three suspects using security footage from the towering Housing NSW complex.

Mr Haines was arrested when he attended Parramatta police station on Tuesday. Ms Wran and Mr Lee were found by police at the Liverpool train station at 5:10pm on Wednesday still dressed in the clothes the CCTV footage showed them wearingon Sunday night.

Harriet Wran is led to Liverpool Local Court. Picture: ABC NEWS

Ms Wran had no money, identification or belongings. She declined an interview with police, instead providing a statement prepared with her legal team. This includes high-profile criminal defence barrister Winston Terracini, SC.

In it, the former University of Sydney student is believed to detail how she had met Mr Lee, who is known as “Asia”, two weeks earlier. She allegedly met Mr Hainesonly that Sunday night.

She says she had taken $70 to the Redfern apartment and her intent was to buy drugs. Ms Wran is believed to have told detectives she “froze” after she knocked on the door but then did what she was told because she feared the consequences if she did not.

But police will allege that Mr Hainessaid Mr Lee, who allegedly told police he was a regular drug user who took several types of illicit substances a day, had gone to the apartment armed.

All three have been charged withmurder, attempted murder and aggravated break and enter.

During a brief mention at Liverpool Local Court on Thursday, Mr Terracini said Ms Wran would would plead not guilty to the charges.

She did not appear or apply for bail, which was formally refused.

The case against all three returns to court in October.


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Eleven questions for EPL season

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Back, but this time in blue … Cesc Fabregas during the pre-season match between Chelsea and Real Sociedad.EPL preview: Costa gives Mourinho’s Chelsea the edge

1. Can Van Gaal rejuvenate Manchester United?

The biggest issue facing the Red Devils delves deeper than just the man in charge but questions the quality of the squad itself. Louis van Gaal’s activity in the transfer window tells us the roster is no longer strong enough to compete with the club’s rivals. Marouane Fellaini and Javier Hernandez were told they were surplus to requirements, and Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra chose to walk before they were pushed. The club’s aggressive approach for players such as Arturo Vidal, Angel Di Maria and Daley Blind showswith a willingness to break transfer records. Van Gaal may struggle at first but expect a strong finish if he signs his targets.

2. Will Fabregas, now back in London, prove the difference at Chelsea?

The diminutive Spaniard is already a proven success in English football and returns a better player after two seasons in La Liga. He is not afraid to work hard off the ball – a must for coach Jose Mourinho – and his end product matches his creativity. He will do well in South London, but it is his partnership with striker Diego Costa that will be the most crucial aspect of his role. Chelsea lacked consistent firepower last season, in part due to their forwards and also the service from midfield. Fabregas will forge a link between both roles and is as much a signing for Costa as he is for Mourinho. If he combines with his Spanish teammate, Chelsea will challenge for the title.

3. Can Jedinak keep the Eagles flying?

Second year blues looks the most likely outcome for Crystal Palace, who have been dealt a blow on the eve of the new season with manager Tony Pulis parting ways by mutual consent. Disagreement over the club’s transfer deals led to the departure and has destabilised its season before it began. The onus on Jedinak to unite the players has never been greater and the combative midfielder has been there before. He will find solace in the turnaround last season but it won’t be easy to repeat.

4. Is Pochettino the man to finally fulfil Spurs’ potential?

Tottenham have been quiet in the transfer window, which suggests the signing of coach Mauricio Pochettino is an attempt to bring the potential out of last year’s failed investments. Argentine Erik Lamela and Spanish striker Roberto Soldado did little to live up to their reputation in their first year and it is hoped Pochettino’s experience of bringing out the best in minnows such as Southampton and Espanyol will change that.

5. Have Manchester City done enough in the off season to go back-to-back?

The champions were dealt a blow with the introduction of the financial fair play laws that restricted their activity in the transfer window. Nevertheless, they found the cash for defenders Bacary Sagna and Eliaquim Mangala. Titles are built on the back line so it makes sense to bolster the defence.Their transfer activity can be seen as a show of faith in the already impressive artillery up front and a five-year contract renewal for Sergio Aguero gives him a stable platform for a stellar season.

6. Is Alexis Sanchez the man to get the Gunners firing?

Few players arrive in the EPL carrying the weight of so much expectation as the Chilean forward. If there is such a thing as an “Arsenal player”, Sanchez is that. He is agile, small and best with the ball at his feet but not the most reliable in front of goal. He had a great return last year at Barcelona but his rotation from the wing to striker hasn’t aided his consistency over the years, especially at Udinese. Arsene Wenger though has a good track record of converting wingers into goal scorers and can cite Thierry Henry as his best project. Sanchez has all the capabilities of being the weapon the Gunners have long needed.

7. Have Liverpool invested wisely enough to mount another title run?

Luis Suarez is gone, leaving Liverpool’s attack far less menacing but more stable and diverse. The Reds brought in Rickie Lambert to add another dimension to their forward line, and strengthened their width with Adam Lallana and former Benfica star, Lazar Markovic. Another Saint, Dejan Lovren, steadies their back line and one more striker is on their shopping list. If they don’t sign a star forward, however, this squad looks very much like a challenger for the top four rather than the title.

8. Who will fall into the relegation battle?

As experienced last season, the EPL has balanced out in the mid to lower table to such an extent that the trap door can remain open for many teams come round 38. The three promoted teams, QPR, Leicester and Burnley will probably struggle to break free from the bottom, and West Ham, Swansea, West Brom and Southampton might experience difficult campaigns.

9. Who will provide the outside challenge? 

The best from the pack look to be Everton, Newcastle and Tottenham. Everton have retained two of their stars from last year who were on loan, Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku, but keeping them at Goodison drained the bulk of their funds. By contrast, Tottenham have had a quiet transfer market but the appointment of Pochettino is clearly aimed at bringing out the best of what is already at their disposal. Newcastle struggled after the sale of Yohan Cabaye and believe they have found a replacement in Remy Cabella. One final dark horse may be Stoke City, who have gone under the radar.

10. Which of the promoted teams will fare the best?

It has been 10 years since Leicester were in the EPL and although they return as winners of the championship, that counts for little at the top level. The Foxes will look to David Nugent to again spearhead their attack. Burnley have kept hold of goal-scoring partners Sam Vokes and Danny Ings but again neither have much experience in the EPL. The best chance of survival is presented by QPR, who have a wealth of experience. Coached by Harry Redknapp and with a squad including Rio Ferdinand, Mauricio Isla, Loic Remy and rising star Charlie Austin, the Rangers will fancy their chances of avoiding the relegation fight.

11. What next for Southampton?

The Saints look set to experience the curse of rapid success, compounded by no clear strategy in the transfer market. Their impressive strides back into the EPL resulted in the sale of five first-team players. Gone are the likes of Luke Shaw, Lallana, Lambert and Lovren along with Pochettino. In their place come a host of personnel untested in England. Ronald Koeman is the new man in the dugout and unless he can use his massive budget to bring in some late quality additions, he will oversee a significant slide down the table.

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Lend Lease baulking at providing affordable homes in Barangaroo

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Lend Lease is wavering on its commitment to provide affordable housing in Barangaroo. Photo: Nic Walker An artist’s impression of apartments at Barangaroo. Photo: Lend Lease

Millers Point: a community under the hammerHeritage rules scrapped for Millers Point buyersPacker’s casino approval one of the fastest in history

The prospect that lower-income earners could enjoy a pad at Barangaroo is in doubt after it emerged Lend Lease is wavering on a commitment to build affordable housing next to James Packer’s luxury casino.

The change in stance follows an admission by the state government that a taskforce set up to help solve Sydney’s housing affordability crisis has not met for more than a year, or delivered the housing policy it promised, despite previously saying “doing nothing” was not an option.

Fairfax Media has learnt that Lend Lease has been eyeing off locations away from Barangaroo on which to build the affordable housing component it pledged in return for developing public harbourside land.

Under current approvals for Barangaroo south, 2.3 per cent of 100,000 square metres of residential floor area must be “key worker housing” – homes rented to lower-income public sector workers such as police, nurses, teachers and paramedics.

However it has emerged Lend Lease has been in talks with not-for-profit housing groups about building the homes off-site – potentially allowing it to reap a greater profit from the Barangaroo residential floorspace.

It is understood the developer has considered nearby Millers Point as a potential site. The government is controversially relocating 465 public housing tenants from that suburb as part of a property sell-off.

A source at one community housing provider confirmed the organisation had met with Lend Lease, but questioned whether heritage restrictions at Millers Point would allow affordable housing development.

The source said there had always been questions over how affordable housing, which is often set as a percentage of market rent, would be provided at Barangaroo.

“If market rent is $1000 for a one-bedroom unit, 80 per cent of [that] is still not affordable,” the source said, adding “you’d have to have very small units”.

A Lend Lease spokesman confirmed it had held discussions with government agencies and community housing groups about off-site housing at Barangaroo, but no “deal” had been reached at Millers Point.

University of Sydney urban planning professor Peter Phibbs said the affordable housing commitment at Barangaroo was very low by international standards. If low-cost homes were to be built off-site, they should remain in the inner city, he said.

Professor Phibbs, a member of the affordable housing taskforce established in 2011, said the government had “basically given up on it”, adding “I wouldn’t describe it as active”.

A report by the taskforce in 2012 said Sydney faced an “acute” housing affordability issue and “doing nothing” was not an option.

A Planning Department spokesman did not explain why the taskforce had not met since June last year, nor why it had not delivered the policy it promised. He said affordable housing was being delivered under existing policies.

Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich said Lend Lease would enjoy a “huge windfall” if it was allowed to dodge its affordable housing provision at Barangaroo. If the government “is going to let them get away with” building low-cost homes at Millers Point, the rent should be cheap enough to allow existing public housing tenants to live there, he said.

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What’s on in Ballarat this weekend: August 16-17

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Creswick Market

When:Saturday, 9am-1pm.

Where:19 – 21 Victoria Street, Creswick.

Details:A much-loved monthly event with the true relaxed feel of a regional craft market, it’s a must-see with free live music and more than 80 specialist boutique sites, offering a variety of unique handmade goods ranging from arts and crafts to freshly made delicacies, something for everyone. Talk directly to producers and designers, learn about the ingredients and processes that brought the item to you. For more details, go to www.creswickmarket老域名出售.au

Bray Raceway Breeders Crown Finals, Soccer Shoot Out To Win and Ballarat’s Got Talent

When: Saturday, gates open 5pm.

Where: Ballarat Trotting Club, 703 Bell Street, Redan.

Details: Bray Raceway is hosting three big events including the highly anticipated semi-finals for the Breeders crown. The Breeders Crown semi-finals are the premier juvenile harness racing series in the Southern hemisphere showcasing the best two, three and four year-old pacers and trotters. On the night, players from local soccer clubs will be shoot goals for a chance to win great prizes. In addition, the best local entertainers will be performing in Ballarat’s Got Talent. See 40 fabulous acts from Ballarat and beyond competing for a share in $5000 cash and prizes. Gold coin donation or $35 entry which includes race book and a three-course dinner. For more details, phone 5334 1744 or visit www.ballarattrottingclub老域名出售.au

Talbot Farmers’ Market

When: Sunday, 9am-1pm.

Where: Heritage precinct – Scandinavian Crescent and Camp Street, Talbot.

Details: There will be lots of winter warmers to look forward to with more than 100 stallholders, including Kathy of Bliss Blends with hot organic tea available by the cup or in loose leaf packs to take home. Bakeries will be selling yummy sourdough bread, ideal for dipping in a hearty winter soup,Zed & Co will have their free-range pork with packaged pork cuts and Dunluce Lamb will have local lamb available, perfect for a slow cooked winter braise. Pud for All Seasons will be at the market with their range of tasty puddings. As always, the barrow will be making its way around the market filling up with goodies for the Barrow Raffle. Proceeds from raffle ticket sales go towards the running costs of the farmers’ market. For more details, phone 5463 2001 or go to

Art & Australia Collection 2003- 2013

When: Saturday, 10am – 5pm.

Where: Ian Potter Foundation Gallery, Art Gallery of Ballarat, 40 Lydiard Street North, Ballarat.

Details: The Art & Australia Contemporary Art Award was established by the respected art journal of the same name, to promote the work of artists from Australia and New Zealand. This touring exhibition represents not only a diversity of art practice but also cultural perspectives within Australian Art today. Free entry. For more details, phone 5320 5858 or visit www.artgalleryofballarat老域名出售.au

Royal South Street Victorian Brass and Concert Band Championships

When: Saturday and Sunday, various times.

Where: Her Majesty’s Theatre, 17 Lydiard Street South, Ballarat.

Details: Enjoy an entertaining weekend at Her Majesty’s Theatre listening to the top brass bands from across Victoria. The Sunday afternoon will feature a fantastic program of the A Grade brass bands. Cost varies, refer to website. For more details, phone 5333 5888 or visit www.hermaj老域名出售

More Party Pieces

When: Sunday, 2.30pm-3.30pm.

Where: McCain Annexe, Art Gallery of Ballarat, 40 Lydiard Street North, Ballarat.

Details: Following the success of Ballarat National Theatre’s ‘Party Pieces’ last year, BNT performers will present a selection of light and entertaining performances. Cost is by donation. For more details, phone 5320 5858 or visit www.artgalleryofballarat老域名出售.au



The Grapes Hotel, Ballarat:JJ Swampy, 9pm, free

The Eastern:Underground Hound & Hipster Kill Team from 8.30pm

Peter Lalor Hotel:Swamp Monkey in The Stables & karaoke in The Bar, $5 (Lalor VIPs free), 8.30pm

Karova Lounge:Alison Wonderland, $20+bf

The George Hotel, The Lane:Live music from Shaun McKeegan 9.30pm-late, free

The George Hotel, The Lounge:DJs in The Lounge 11pm-3am, free

The Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine:Dead with support from Pissbolt and BJ Morriszonkle, $10, 8.30pm

The Main Bar, 28 Main Road:Alannah & Alicia, $10, doors 7.30pm

Old Hepburn Hotel:Untapped, 9pm, $5

Babushka Bar:The Savages, $6


The Western:Cameron Oates, 4pm-7pm, free

Battlers Inn:Sally and the Drunken Uncles, 4pm, gold coin donation

Ballarat Mechanics’ Institute (Humffray Room):The Saint Cecilia Singers present Broadway Babies of the ’80s, 2pm, $20, Conc/pre-paid $15, children free

The Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine:Bellwethers, two sets, free entry, 4pm-6pmStolen Violin, $12 (pre-sales) $15 at the door, doors 8.30pm

The Eastern:A minor (Mark Oswin) from 3pm, free

Old Hepburn Hotel:Alanna & Alicia, 4pm, $10


Peter Lalor Hotel:Karaoke, free, 9pm

To have your entertainment event included in the Gig Guide call Alicia Thomas on 5320 1631 or email [email protected]老域名出售.au before 4pm on Monday.

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Blood stocks desperately low

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Please help: The Red Cross’ Greg French with blood donor Daniel Hill earlier in the winter. The flu season has hit stocks hard, and the blood service is about to run out of some blood types.The blood signal will be activated on Monday as the Red Cross says blood stocks are running desperately low.

It will be the first time in two years the digital signal and appeal has been activated, after a debilitating winter flu season.

There are less than two days’ supply of O Negative and less than three days left ofO Positive, Red Cross spokesman Greg French said.

“O Negative is the universal blood type that can be given to anyone in an emergency, and O Positive is the most common blood type in the country: more than 40 percent of Australians would need O Positive blood in the event of a transfusion,” Mr French said.

“The problem is that up to 1000 donors a week are cancelling their donations due to cold and flu symptoms, and to make matters worsewe’ve had a recent spike in demand for blood.”

Mr Frenchsaid the organisation would now activate its Blood Signal on social media, which has become one ofthe quickest and most effective ways of reaching new donors.

“We hope Australian donors will see it as a call-to-action to rise to the occasion,” he said.

“Even if you can’t donate, you can share the blood signal online to encourage friends to give in your place.

“Every donation you make or help encourage can help save three lives, including those of cancer patients, unborn babies, mothers giving birth, road trauma victims, burns victims, and people who need kidney dialysis.”

To learn more about the Blood Signal, visit bloodsignal老域名出售.au, and to makean appointment to give bloodcall 13 14 95 or visit donateblood老域名出售.au

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Batehaven Progress Group makes great progress

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TheBatehaven Progress Group has hit the ground running, with 21 businesses joining up and two successful meetings held.

UNITED FRONT: Batehaven Progress Group’s Belinda Shalders (Batehaven Garden Centre), Cameron Keen (Keen Dentures), Ron Dunne (Haven Quality Meats), Neil Mackay (Batehaven Pharmacy), Teresa Howarth (Batehaven Fruit and Veg), Ben Crane (IGA), Vivienne Stevens (Batehaven Bakehouse), Wayne Shalders (Batehaven Hardware), Greg Buttriss (Batehaven Dry Cleaning and Laundry), Bob Carver (Clyde View Holiday Park) and Jack Downes (Delicious).

“The numbers and support are really good,” founder Belinda Shalders said.

The group held its first monthly meeting in July and the enthusiasm for it hasn’t waned.

“We wanted to be united and show the people of Batehaven that we do care. We also wanted a talking platform to talk about issues, and to have everyone on the same page. We are looking for a better deal for Batehaven, not just individual businesses. “We want it to be a place that locals and visitors to the area can come and enjoy.”

The group has discussed marketing issues, improving the streetscape and park, signage and organising special days.

“We had these days years ago, and we want to get new ones happening,” Mrs Shalders said.

Mrs Shalders said Eurobodalla Shire Council had been very supportive.

“We have given them a list of improvements we would like to make and they will be sitting down with us going through them,” Mrs Shalders.

The group already knows the value of getting to together to sort out an issue, having got together this year with the police to discuss juvenile anti-social behaviour in the Batehaven CBD.

“The PCYC (Police Citizens Youth Club) did a lot of work with the kids, and while the problem hasn’t completely gone away, it’s nothing compared to what it used to be; the kids are hardly ever around any more,” Mrs Shalders said.

The group’s next meeting is on Thursday September 11.

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Wage gap between men and women grows closer, but only just

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Stats show that WA’s gender wage gap, while narrowing, remains the largest in the country.Despite a drop of about one per cent, the disparity in wages between men and women in WA is still the highest in the nation, according to statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Thursday.

While Western Australian men are the highest earning in the nation and WA women are the second highest paid in Australia, behind the ACT, WA leads the nation in the gender gap.

According to ABS statistics, women in WA earn 25.3 per cent less than their male counterparts.

Queensland is the next highest at 23.2 per cent, followed by South Australia and New South Wales (both on 16.6 per cent), while Victoria sits on 13.9 per cent and Tasmania 11.7 per cent.

Canberra, with an abnormally high percentage of workers in the public sector, holds the lowest gender disparity of about nine per cent.

The national average gender gap is 18.3 per cent.

Unions WA secretary Meredith Hammat it was disappointing to see WA with the biggest gap.

Ms Hammat said the likely drivers were the high percentage of men working in the resources industry and the fields women predominantly worked in.

“It’s a function of the fact that the workplaces women tend to work in, the industry women tend to work in, are less likely to be recognised and properly paid for their skills,” she said.

“We’re talking human services, childcare workers, aged care workers, those in the caring profession typically don’t receive, in my view, the pay that reflects the very important role they play in the community and the very high level of skill required to do those jobs.

“On the other end of the scale you have the mining sector in WA. There are men in that industry on very high salaries, so that is also working to extend the gap.”

Ms Hammat also used the statistics to criticise ths state government’s wages policy, which caps public servants’ pay increases in line with inflation.

“This government’s wages policy capping pay increases for public sector workers, also contributes to that gap,” she said.

However Ms Hammat did concede the gender gap was down from last year’s figures.

Department of Commerce figures show that compared to last year, male average earnings have decreased, possibly due to a softening of demand for labour in high earning, male-dominated industries. Female earnings continued to increase.

While this helps to account for the reduction of the gap, Ms Hammat said it was not nearly enough.

“It is down by about one per cent but if women are only getting paid about 75 per cent of men’s wages, that’s still not right,” she said.

WAtoday老域名出售.au has attempted to contact Commerce Minister Michael Mischin but he is out of the state on business The Chamber of Commerce and Industry has also been contacted for comment. Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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Corruption’s stench pervades both sides of politics

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Systemic corruption and corrupted processes are hardly a problem confined to the Liberals. Lord Mayor Jeff McCloy Photo: Ben Rushton

Clive Palmer this week accused Tony Abbott of “deserting Australia” on an unwarranted overseas trip, and of abandoning Joe Hockey in his struggle to produce any sort of a budget that can get through the senate. Perhaps instead Abbott and Hockey were putting on an act to distract attention from the systemic mess that is now the Liberal Party of NSW.

It’s a mess that has, so far, enveloped only state ministers, but can it be long before the whiff is discernible in Canberra?

It’s pretty difficult to imagine either Abbott or Hockey as mere political hacks, up for sale to the highest bidder, prepared to accept brown paper envelopes stuffed with cash, or willing to do anything to go behind both the letter and the spirit of the law, so long as it benefited their party or themselves, or both.

Like them or not, each is a conviction politician of character. Yet each is also an inveterate player in party factions (different ones), and party rulemaking and governance, whose political power and reputation has turned, at least in part, on their capacity to mix it in the bruising struggles for control of different branches of the party, and the organisational leadership of the party.

The same applies to a good number of other members of the Abbott ministry and government. Some have friends, relations or factional colleagues in arms among whose conduct is coming into question before the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, whether from elected positions in state politics, or in positions of power, or as bagmen for the organisational side of the party, or providers of illegal and improper donations.

Sooner or later, one might think, people are going to wonder whether the NSW disease affects Sydney politicians sent to Canberra in much the same way that it seems to affect Sydney folk elected to Macquarie Street.

Just as important a question – one that applies equally to essentially honest men and women in NSW Labor – is whether they have the guts and the patience to tackle the cancer that is killing their party, their country, trust in the honesty and integrity of politicians and the political process, and even their own reputations.

It is a measure of the size of that task that there has not been a senior political leader, even an honest one, in either the Labor or Liberal parties who has been up to the task since the 1960s. Even great names – in NSW, Wran and Carr, Keating and Latham, Greiner and O’Farrell, Howard and Abbott – have been conspicuously missing when they had a chance to do something about it.

Systemic corruption and corrupted processes are hardly a problem confined to the Liberals. Only a year ago, ICAC was conducting an inquiry that was uncovering (revealing would be too kind a word) systemic corruption in NSW Labor, affecting unions, factions, and the organisational side of the party as much as elected members.

By then, NSW voters had tired of blatant NSW rorting and the rapacity of Eddie Obeid in particular, and had thrown Labor, long the natural party of government in the state, out. The intention was that they would be gone for at least a decade or so, until all the old rorters had been worked out of the system.

It has taken epic and spectacular mismanagement by the NSW Liberals, including some now in Canberra, to show themselves as equally unworthy of the public trust in so short a time. Indeed, there is a good chance, likely to be magnified by a host of corruption-caused by-elections caused by resignations from the NSW Parliament this week, that Labor could return to office at the next election.

If so, it would be essentially unreformed, and subject to the same sort of crooked influences, secret deals and studious ignorance, as at the height of the era of Obeid. And here in Canberra, those whose careers came from those days will have their power increased, if only from the capacity to raid the NSW cookie jar.

Those considering this would do well to remember that ICAC has no remit whatever to look at the structures of the NSW political party system, how power is exercised within it, or the merits or demerits of any of its players. It certainly has no remit over federal politicians, or what they do, why they do particular things, or with what money and resources.

ICAC can never substitute for a royal commission, or standing inquiry, into the mechanics of politics as such. What it is about is safeguarding the government of NSW, at municipal as well as state level from improper decision-making of a sort that can be called, under a wide but not unlimited definition, “corrupt”.

If the activities of a federal minister, say Arthur Sinodinos, have come under the ICAC purview, it is not for anything he has done as a federal minister, nor, strictly about his stewardship roles in the NSW Liberal organisation, first as treasurer, later as president.

He has been before it over allegations that a company with which he was associated attempted to exercise improper influence over ministers in NSW governments, as it happens ministers of both Labor and Liberal persuasion. The real question that ICAC is considering is whether the cause, and the means used to promote the cause, could be said to have been corrupt.

A good many people who have listened to the evidence have already made up their minds about that in advance of formal ICAC findings, but it is perfectly possible that the behaviour of some of those promoting the cause will be found to fall shorty of being corrupt.

One of the things underlined by the inquiry was the number of NSW Liberal Party power players who were actually in the business of being lobbyists, boasting about their access to ministers, about their power in the councils of the organisation, and, implicitly, of their power to affect preselections, to organise rewards and punishments.

In that cosy world it seemed that power in Macquarie Street also extended into power over appointments, and disappointments, in the public service, in a way one would hope was never possible in Canberra. (If it were possible, we would probably never know, because there is no Commonwealth-level ICAC, and most of the watchdogs and guardians do not regard themselves as publicly accountable about senior public service dispositions).

The danger of this had been obvious and much commented upon. Indeed, Abbott, fairly soon after being elected, declared that Liberals could be party office bearers or lobbyists, but not both. A number of people grumpily stood aside from elected posts, though it was not obvious that any – experienced players in the factional systems, and numbers men above all – had surrendered any power within the Liberal Party. Instead, in the manner that happens so often with political “reforms”, the smarties simply worked their way around it, not least with proxies, third parties and technicalities.

This is, of course, the method long used on both sides of the street, and at federal level as much as state level, with political donations. Whenever some would-be reformer makes changes to the donations system, one can be sure that organisational people will have worked out, in advance, how it can be rorted.

Periodic changes designed to raise the level before which donations must be publicly declared are designed to make it a bit of a free-for-all at the bottom, but the big money is generally washed, with the knowing complicity of scores of people.

A sure sign of rorting is the prevalence of donations at the $9900 level if the reporting threshhold is $10,000. So, on models adopted largely from the US, is the multiplication of donations from individuals and companies, sometimes public ones, closely associated with them. Australia, of course, also plays the US rort of regarding corporations as citizens, entitled to the same free speech and right to make political donations as anyone else.

Most likely, the first signs that the hand grenade has reached Canberra will be with individual and organisational rorts over donations. Alas, absent a Commonwealth-level ICAC or royal commision, the public will be looking only through a keyhole: the Australian Electoral Commission has neither the resources nor the inclination to police the integrity of a system that politicians have deliberately made weak and difficult to enforce.

The peddling of influence, and the corruption of political donation laws, goes hand in hand with branch-stacking, winner-takes-all approaches to the exercise of power, and the “whatever-it-takes” mentality that has some political players lionised as hard men, in much the same way (and for much the same reason) that prominent crooks, standover men and wide boys are.

There are people who get into politics conscious of a good deal of dirty business going on in the background, but thinking themselves rather untouched or unaffected by it. Yet, as a straight federal ALP secretary once observed to me glumly, how long can it be before the public realises how much the hard men (they are nearly always men) have their knees across the throats of even the principled and naive politicians.

There is not a winnable seat – Labor or Liberal – in NSW that cannot be stacked. There are not many that are not. Factional chiefs, including supposedly virtuous ones such as Anthony Albanese, have no compunction whatever in overriding local party members if it suits some higher interest of a faction.

Those who want preselections must generally be beholden to one faction or another, and, if they stray, they will be punished. Among the fierce punishers will be parliamentary colleagues, many of whom are ruthless players even as they parade their virtue, churchgoing habits and idealism.

Periodically, some celebrity will be given a seat, or some player – an ex-party secretary such as a Sam Dastyari or a Sinodinos – will gouge out a winnable place in the Senate without having to do much to actually face voters, or the critical scrutiny of any but the faction that has put them up.

But few beneficiaries of this sort are naive about what happens; indeed, many have played the game far harder than most, with the safe seat as a reward.

Disraeli (or Twain, or Bismarck) once observed that people who like sausages and respect the law should never see either being made. In NSW, by contrast, a good many modern politicians have grown up in a system they had to understand pretty well, by experience, before they could hope to win out in a dirty no-holds-barred preselection battle.

Perhaps it hardens the soul, and shuts the eyes and the ears to what follows after. Baby kissing is a doddle compared with the kissing and kicking of arses.

From time to time a politician emerges for whom it is all too much, or who has reached the stage where he, or she, no longer has anything to fear or to hope for. John Faulkner, for example, has been preaching fundamental reform of Labor for quite some time.

John Howard, as a grand statesman of the party (albeit a hammer-and-tongs player all of his life) may have a similar instinct for the need for NSW reform – although the cynic can observe (and has) that the direction of the reforms he is promoting have the no-doubt accidental benefit that they would serve the interests of the presently-out-of-power faction with which Howard has been associated.

Real reform is necessarily hard work because real power is involved. Those who have that power (and who fought long and hard for it) will not lightly give it up, nor readily forgive anything among those who benefit from their power who desert them.

For a good many NSW federal politicians, there is no immediate upside to being with those who want a reasonably pure and transparent party system, and plenty of obvious downside. But that is serious short-term thinking, because the public is getting sick of all of the sleaze. And, every now and again, unpredictable things occur, and careers and reputations, and, probably, positions and pensions are suddenly out the door.

It’s hardly a surprise that an Abbott, or any other politician, will claim to have been looking the other way at the time, or away on urgent national business thanking hearse drivers in Holland.

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BHP: breaking up isn’t hard to do

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BHP’s alumina-aluminium, nickel and manganese operations could be in for a change.BHP Billiton’s announcement that it is now actively considering a demerger of ”a selection” of its smaller resources suggests that one way or another BHP’s alumina-aluminium, nickel and manganese operations will go.

BHP is not saying that they will all be placed out to its shareholders in a demerger, however. If it does choose the demerger path, it will want to create a new vehicle for its shareholders that makes sense as a business, and has strong prospects. Weaker assets or ones that are not a good fit might be dealt with separately.

BHP’s board will meet next Tuesday to sign off on the group’s June 30-year profit result. It is likely to announce its demerger plan at that time, and reveal what assets will be included.

BHP would tighten its focus on its biggest and most competitive operations – iron ore, copper, coal and petroleum. Uniquely in the resources sector, petroleum profits would continue to smooth out the mining commodity price cycle, and BHP would have its potash play in Canada in the wings as a potential fifth pillar.

Shareholders would get ownership of a separately listed new company that owned the smaller assets BHP hived off. It would be separately run and separately financed: similar spinoffs in the past have prospered.

Orica announced a week ago that it had decided to spin off its chemicals business, and said a demerger was its preferred option. Orica also said that its chemicals business could be sold, however, and it is known to have been contacted by potential buyers. It may run a dual process that develops the demerger, but also leaves the way open for other companies to bid for the assets.

BHP, on the other hand, said only that a demerger is its preferred course, and that it will meet again next week. The demerger is the default, and there’s next to no time for alternatives to emerge.


Bank shares are priced for financial alchemy these days. They need to keep delivering positive surprises to turn leaden loan growth into earnings and share price gold. If they don’t, sellers emerge.

CBA’s profit result was solid on Wednesday, but its shares fell almost 1 per cent on the day. On Friday, ANZ’s third-quarter report revealed slightly softer revenue than expected but better cost control and the same profit guidance. Its shares also fell by almost 1 per cent.

The banks are operating in markets that are patchy and difficult to read. After slumping to a two-year low of 92.9 points soon after Joe Hockey’s budget in May, the Westpac-Melbourne Institute index of consumer sentiment has rebounded, but at 98.5 points is still well below a high of 110.6 points reached last September after the Coalition’s election win, for example.

NAB’s business survey for July portrayed a more confident business mood. Business confidence rose from plus eight points to plus 11 points, only one point short of the confidence business bosses were displaying after the September election (confidence and pessimism are in balance when the index is zero).

Business conditions were also strong in in July, according to the survey, rising from plus two points to plus eight points. Trading conditions rose from plus seven to plus 14, and business profitability rose from plus three to plus 10.

The strength was mainly in two sectors, construction and retail, but a survey as strong as the NAB was in July would in the past have quickly led to lengthening queues for business loans.

Business loan demand and personal  loan demand continue to be missing links for the banks, however.

A 5.1 per cent rise in credit in the year to June 30 was driven by a 6.4 per cent rise in housing credit. As ANZ noted on Friday, business loan demand has been also rising, but it’s off a low base. Business credit rose by only 3.5 per cent in the year to June. Personal credit growth was even worse: 0.7 per cent.

Wage growth is low, unemployment is still above 6 per cent and the banks all report similar conditions at street level. Consumers aren’t running scared, but they are spending carefully, on services mainly. They are also still keen to build their savings.

Business sales and earnings are OK, and better than OK in some sectors, including recreational services and construction. Bosses are, however, still intent on reducing their debt exposure. The banks as a result are all working overtime to stop their business loan books shrinking.

The street level feedback and NAB’s business survey appear to be in conflict, but they are not. Business people feel reasonably secure in their outlook. They just don’t want to hire, and they don’t want to borrow. It is the new normal, and it might last for years.

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Earnings spark fireworks on local sharemarket

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Strong earnings from some of Australia’s largest and most widely owned companies have helped the Australian sharemarket post its best week since February.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 surged 131.3 points, or 2.4 per cent to 5566.5 for the week, while the All Ordinaries gained 130 points, or 2.4 per cent to 5559.6.

On Friday, the ASX200 added 18 points, or 0.3 per cent, while the All Ordinaries rose 16.7 points, or 0.3 per cent.

Overall, results have been pretty good, thus far, abating some investors concerns that valuations are stretched.

“Despite some negative global economic news, with weak economic results in Europe and Japan, and to a lesser extent the US, the Australia market has put on a solid advance this week,” Perpetual head of equities Matt Sherwood said.

“That’s occurred in the wake of some of the more major companies delivering earnings results which have come in not only high, but also higher than market expectations.”

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia delivered yet another record profit of $8.68 billion, up 12 per cent, as well as increasing its dividend by 10 per cent.

Despite being sold off on the day the bank posted its earnings, CBA shares pushed 1.3 per cent higher for the week to $81.20.

Suncorp, which owns insurance brands GIO and AAMI, reported a $730 million full-year profit, beating analyst expectations. While it also delivered another special dividend, the bank warned of increased competition in the insurance space. Suncorp shares ended the week 7.3 per cent higher at $14.88.

ANZ delivered a quarterly update on Friday, reporting an 8 per cent rise in cash earnings to $5.2 billion in the first nine months of its financial year. The bank said it is on target to hit its full-year target of 4-5 per cent revenue growth. ANZ shares rose just 0.4 per cent to $32.39..

“Valuations had come up over the last couple of years and I think the key was it was time for corporate Australia to deliver on those expectations and I think overall they’ve done quite well. The results and have mostly in line or above expectations,” Mr Sherwood said.

Telstra was also among the companies giving back to shareholders. The telecommunications provider increased its dividend for the second time this year and will enact a $1 billion share buyback. Telstra shares hit a 12-year high following the result, finishing up 3.5 per cent for the week at $5.58.

Fairfax Media reported a turnaround in full-year profit to $224.4 million, following a loss in the previous year. Strong growth from the media company’s real estate website Domain helped earnings. Fairfax shares finished the week up 2.8 per cent at 90.5¢.

“I think it’s giving investors confidence that the underlying level of corporate profitability and corporate activity is there to justify at least where share prices are, whether it’s enough to catapult them further forward remains to be seen,” JBWere executive director Mike Kendall said.

However, Mr Kendall warned that investors still need to focus on individual company fundamentals as the story is different for everyone.

Early in the week, JB Hi-Fi reported a 10.3 per cent profit jump to $128.4 million, but investors were not impressed by the 5.5 per cent fall in organic sales. Shares in the electronics retailer finished the week down 8.8 per cent at $17.66.

Goodman Fielder reported a heavy loss of $405.1 million, however chief executive Chris Delaney said he was not concerned that the loss would derail a $1.34 billion takeover offer from an Asian consortium. Goodman Fielder shares ended the week 0.7 per cent higher at 63.5¢.

After being contacted by Fairfax Media on Friday, BHP Billiton released statement stating that it would prefer to push ahead with a demerger of its non-core assets, which could be unveiled as early as next week. The demerged entity could be worth close to $14 billion. For the week BHP shares shot up 3.5 per cent to $39.05, with the biggest part of the gains coming in Friday afternoon.

“They’ve probably spent the last year, year and a half, reducing costs, reducing capex, there’s talk about buybacks, demerger. It’s quite a shift that’s been occurring under new management away from grow at all costs and more about delivering shareholder value,” Dalton Nicol Reid portfolio manager Jamie Nicol.

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