‘Underquote the sh– out of it’: Agency cops record $880k fine

A Balwyn-based real estate agency has been fined a record $880,000 for underquoting 22 properties in some of Melbourne’s blue chip suburbs, the strongest penalty for the practice in Victoria.
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In handing down the fine on Thursday, Justice Bernard Murphy said the size of the punishment would deter other agencies from similar behaviour, given several recent Consumer Affairs prosecutions, “and common experience” pointed to “a widespread problem of underquoting by residential real estate agencies”.

Fletcher and Parker (Balwyn) Pty Ltd was fined $40,000 for each of the 22 properties that was underquoted by sales representatives in its Canterbury and Blackburn offices in 2015.

The agency had a cavalier attitude to its responsibilities, Justice Murphy said. The evidence included: The quote of the week in one 2015 sales meeting was: “market the f— out of it and then underquote the shit out of it – good vendor management”;Sales staff were at least once provided training which focused on cases where underquoting had seemingly led to a high sales price and a significant spike in interest;One agent telling a vendor the best way to get “a record price” was to advertise a property with a low price, and later remove the price guide altogether;Sales agents describing Consumer Affairs as “a toothless tiger”;Agents in the Canterbury and Blackburn office were warned by the chief executive to ensure their price quotes aligned with price estimates.

Justice Murphy highlighted one example where the seller of a Balwyn North property asked her agent why her house was marketed between $1.1 million and $1.2 million when the agency estimated it would sell for between $1.5 million and $1.65 million.

She was told the quote was low because “it brings in a broader market range” and ‘people with a low budget will often come up, and it will also catch the people with bigger budgets as well”.

The $880,000 penalty is more than double the commission it made from the 22 properties and constitutes more than one third of the company’s profit for the last financial year.

Thursday’s case was the latest in a string of prosections for underquoting, the biggest of which was last year when the Richmond office of Hocking Stuart was fined $330,000 for underquoting on 11 properties listed for sale in Richmond and Kew.

Fletcher and Parker Balwyn chief executive Bradley Brown apologised to those affected.

“I want to apologise to all the homebuyers whose valuable time we wasted as a result of this unacceptable conduct by a few members of our team,” he said.

“This type of behaviour went completely against everything we stand for as a business and how we treat our customers, which is why we have taken significant steps since the incidents were uncovered in 2015 to ensure they never happen again.”

Mr Brown acknowledged that homebuyers faced enough challenges in the market.

“They don’t need underquoting, and we don’t tolerate it either, which is why we have put strict compliance measures in place to stamp it out for good,” he said.

Justice Murphy ordered Fletcher and Parker publish notices about its misleading and deceptive conduct in full-page newspaper ads and on its website, and to pay $40,000 to Consumer Affairs, the prosecuting agency.

Consumer affairs minister Marlene Kairouz said: “Underquoting is dishonest, misleading and against the law – and today’s decision shows that if you do it, you’ll pay the price.”

With AAP

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The Trip: Borneo wildcat safari

NAME Margarita Steinhardt, Sydney, NSW
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THE TRIP Wildlife watching safari in Deramakot Forest Reserve, Borneo

THE ITINERARY Over the past three years, Deramakot Forest Reserve in the Malaysian state of Sabah in Borneo has been gaining a reputation as the go-to place to see Borneo’s wild cats.

Urged by the desire to see a clouded leopard in the wild, I teamed up with three other wildlife watchers and we booked a 10-night safari with Adventure Alternative Borneo. We all flew to Sandakan, and from there on AA Borneo took care of everything else: transfers, permits to enter Deramakot, all food and drink and accommodation. They also provided us with an unstoppable support team: Mike our eagle-eyed guide, Caleb – the fearless driver and Giddi – a talented cook, who wasn’t opposed to cooking some of our meals out in the field.

For the next 10 days, our activities alternated between long night drives in search of wildlife and lazy days around the living quarters. After searching the jungle for seven nights, we finally found our main quarry – the notoriously elusive clouded leopard. The following night, we found an equally elusive marbled cat camped up on a tree branch about 40 metres above our heads. While looking for cats, we had close encounters with Borneo pygmy elephants, watched flying squirrels soar across the sky, saw orangutans, colugos and a plethora of other wildlife.

The accommodation in Deramakot is not flash, but comfortable. We had a three-bedroom chalet to ourselves that came equipped with airconditioning and en suite bathrooms.

BEST BITS Apart from the unique and rarely-seen wildlife, it was the magic of the jungle at night. On clear nights, we could see the bright band of the Milky Way arching over the treetops.

WORST BITS Borneo is one of the wettest places on earth, so be prepared to get caught in a tropical downpour at least once during your stay.

BEST TIP Visit between March and November to have the highest chance of dry weather.

WHERE TO NEXT Argentina and Brazil for jaguars and ocelots.

Community spirit shines

FAMILY FIRST: Meryl Swanson MP, Member for Paterson pictured with her family.As the year draws to a close I find myself reflecting on thepeople who’ve touched my life during the year. The trials and triumphs they’ve faced. And, ultimately, the courageous spirit that defines our community and lifts us through every adversity. I’d like to thank every individual, school, community,business group, and sporting association that has invited me along to functionsand meetings during the past year. I’ve been grateful for your warm welcome. I also thank my team, who have helped many, many people with issues such as NDIS, NBN, Centrelink and so much more. They make my role so much easier and I couldn’t do it without them.
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It has been an absolute delight to meet volunteers and advocates who give so much to our region, and to help allocate hundreds of thousands of dollars in Stronger Communities and Sporting grants to support great work in our electorate.

I’m proud that I have been able to bring our plights and our achievements to the halls of federal Parliament. I’ve had the opportunity to advocate for our veterans; fight for the rights of those affected by PFAS contamination; and demand that the Government come up with an energy policy that ensures fairer prices for individuals and reliable electricity for industries. The chambers of Parliament House have rung with my praises for a multitude of people and projects that have helped make our community the wonderful place it is to live, work and play.

The Parliamentary record reflects my gratitude to the firefighters who battled the devastating bushfires that struck the Coalfields in January and again in September, and the pages of Hansard convey the colour and atmosphere of the Kurri Kurri Nostalgia Festival and the eucalypt scents of Port Stephens Koalas.

On a personal note, my family has this year supported my eldest daughter Lara through her HSC and this month welcomed a new foal to our farm. She was born the day the Marriage Equality bill passed Parliament, and we named her Aequitas in honour of thehistoric occasion. From my family to yours, we hope you have a safe and happy festive season. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.Meryl Swanson MP, Member for Paterson

Salim Mehajer accused of breaching strict bail conditions

Controversial property developer Salim Mehajer has denied he contacted his estranged wife Aysha in breach of strict bail conditions, as he fights charges of dangerous driving and breaching an apprehended violence order.
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Mr Mehajer, the former deputy mayor of the now-defunct Auburn Council, appeared in Burwood Local Court on Thursday in a bid to vary his bail conditions to remove a 10pm curfew and a requirement he report three times a week to Rose Bay police station.

He was also seeking to travel interstate for work.

On November 20 Magistrate Joy Boulos imposed “very stringent” bail conditions on the 31-year-old, which she said would ensure he was kept “virtually under house arrest” at a residence in Vaucluse.

He had been arrested at 1am that morning over alleged breaches of an AVO protecting his estranged wife and an incident of alleged dangerous driving following a crash near her home in Kingsgrove.

One of the bail conditions imposed by Magistrate Boulos was that he should not contact his estranged wife on social media site Instagram or elsewhere, including via third parties.

The prosecution opposed any variation to the bail conditions and grilled Mr Mehajer in the witness box on Thursday about his compliance with existing conditions.

He denied he had emailed his estranged wife from an email address that he had also used to correspond with police, saying the email was sent by his sister Aisha and was a “company email address”.

“Aisha is my sister and also the company director,” he said.

“I just became aware of it [the email] minutes ago, or about an hour ago.”

Asked why he was 1?? hours late reporting to Rose Bay police station on December 1, Mr Mehajer said there was “an issue” with opening the gates at his Vaucluse residence.

“You couldn’t jump over the fence and get a cab?” the police prosecutor asked.

Mr Mehajer said the gate was three metres high.

His lawyer objected when Mr Mehajer was asked whether he was “a prisoner” inside his own home.

The court heard police have visited Mr Mehajer at his home virtually every night to ensure he is complying with his 10pm to 5am curfew.

Asked why he did not answer the door at 10.25pm on December 2, Mr Mehajer said “of course I was home” and speculated he may have been “in the shower”.

The court heard he made a series of 000 calls on the evening of November 20, the day the bail conditions were imposed, about a dispute over his car.

He denied he admitted in the calls that he was not home by his curfew and said “at all times I have been home before 10pm”.

Mr Mehajer had previously told the court he needed changes to his bail conditions so he could attend late-night callouts from residents at Skypoint Towers, the Lidcombe apartment block he developed and manages.

He said in his affidavit he was appointed to the building manager role on September 15.

Magistrate Boulos said she found it “difficult to understand” why Mr Mehajer would not have a strata manager to oversee the site.

She also said Mr Mehajer would have been aware of this information when he applied for bail on November 20 and should have told his lawyers.

Mr Mehajer’s sister Zenah Osman, a solicitor, had offered to provide $50,000 surety in support of varying the bail conditions.

But Magistrate Boulos said that, “having had regard to the serious allegations that were before me … no amount of money will satisfy the court and will be sufficient in the circumstances to vary the bail that I set back on the 20th of November”.

“I see no reason whatsoever to depart from the original bail,” she said.

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Innovation in the Hunter

Ashleigh Tikolevu, a Health Promotion Officer at NSW Family Panning in Hunter. The Family Planning NSW Hunter clinic is the community’s most trusted source for reproductive and sexual health care. The local services on offer continue to expand and cater to the diverse and changing needs of the Newcastle community.
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“Our clinics welcome everyone and as the state’s leading provider of reproductive and sexual health services, our staff is dedicated to providing high quality health care and expert advice,” said Ms Jodie Duggan, Director of Clinical Operations, Family Planning NSW.

The clinic’s Sexuality and Disability Service supports the sexuality needs of people with disability, and those who support them, with tailored individual and group-based programs. Family Planning NSW is a registered provider of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) so all sessions are included in a person’s NDIS plan.

“We won a NSW Disability Industry Innovation Award this year for our ‘Sexuality and Relationships Forum’ for parents and carers of people with disability. The forum was hosted in Newcastle in March to great success,”

A longstanding Youth Drop-in Clinic, open every Tuesday and Wednesday 12pm- 5:30pm, was set up specially to suit the needs of young people living in the Hunter region. People aged 12-24 years are able come to the Hunter clinic without any appointment, and with bulk billing available to people under 18 years, full-time students and concession card holders.

“Whether it is for an STI check, contraception, pregnancy testing and options, or any other concerns, our expert clinicians are able to help with all reproductive and sexual health care needs in an easy, non-judgmental way.

“We even have free condoms, confidentially available for people under 25 years, through our Condom Credit Card (CCC) program. Participating service providers can be located through the CCC app,” said Ms Duggan.

With changes to the National Cervical Screening Program coming into effect 1 December 2017, Family Planning NSW is inviting all women who are due, or overdue, for their regular cervical screening to come in and get up-to-date.

“The new Cervical Screening Test is more accurate than the traditional Pap test meaning you’ll now only need it every five years. Having it regularly is still very important as we know that 8 out of 10 women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer have not had regular screening,” said Ms Duggan.

The light rail construction has affected access to the clinic with Hunter Street now closed to vehicles but the clinic is still open as normal. Pedestrian access is available and buses are still running to drop you off close by.

Check 梧桐夜网newcastletransport.infoforup-to-date information or give the clinic a call on (02) 4929-4485.

Five ways under $50 to get your home ready for 2018

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A new year always brings with it the feeling of a fresh start and it’s a great time to set some better intentions for all areas of life – including the home.

While it may not be possible to have a stylish and spotlessly clean home 365 days of the year, there are small changes we can make that have a lasting impact in the home.

Canberra Outlet Centre is a beacon of inspiration for all things home style, and here’s five quick and affordable ways to get your home ready for the new year.


It’s the oldest trick in the stylist’s book, but it works!

Sofas are a large investment piece that cannot be changed easily but a few new cushions is a great way to improve the look of an older sofa or simply add more style to our living rooms.

With so many homeware stores at Canberra Outlet Centre, you’ll be sure to find a handful of new cushions to introduce a fresh colour palette or more on-trend prints into your home. Cushions start from $5 at Cotton On, or Freedom at $40 each (pictured).


We often hear about the benefits of indoor plants and for good reason – they have a range of health benefits, such as improving air quality, and are seriously stylish!

There’s a huge range of affordable pots, hanging planters and smaller vessels at Canberra Outlet Centre so you’ll be able to find just the right piece to display your favourite plant, such as this large matte black pot from Adairs used to hold this aloe vera plant.

For greater visual impact, consider creating a mini urban jungle in your home by clustering several plants together. The trick to doing this well is ”contrast” so don’t be shy to mix plant types (different foliage, plant shapes and height) or vessels.


Trying to decide what to wear each day is difficult enough so let’s not add a disorganised wardrobe to the equation.

If you have piles of clothes at the floor of your wardrobe, shirts falling off hangers or nowhere to store your accessories, take the time and small expense to get organised.

A few ways to organise wardrobes are: using storage bags to compactly store clothes that won’t be worn next season; placing accessories and smaller items in storage baskets; buying hanging shelves to organise shirts or other folded clothing; using quality hangers.

We’ve used just a few items of clothing to show these concepts in action using wardrobe solutions from Freedom and Howards Storage.


You know what they say – a decluttered workspace is a decluttered mind. Increasingly many of us are working from home or taking work home with us, so why not make a few small changes here to create a more productive workspace.

A functional and organised workspace comes down to storage and stationery. We love the range of blush pink diaries and notepads from Typo, which come with matching pens and other accessories. A marble tumbler keeps pens together, while a stylish desk lamp from Freedom provides functional lighting. All of the desk items shown are available from Canberra Outlet Centre.


If there’s one thing we could all have more of in the home, it’s storage! But there are ways we can maximise the space we already have, such as using storage containers like these from Howards Storage. It’s an easy way of keeping similar items together and to take better advantage of the depth of the space.

You can find a range of storage containers, including with or without lids, in all different sizes so you can configure these to fit whatever drawer size you have.

Why not try a few of these ideas to get your home ready for the new year?

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Public opinion on the rail corridor rezoning

The former Newcastle railway station, the area between platforms filled in, with Customs House Hotel in the background. Picture Simone De PeakGAUGING public opinion on any issue, let alone something as complicated as the planning decisions being made for the former Newcastle heavy rail corridor, will always be a matter of approximation, if not guesswork.
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At its meeting on Tuesday night, Newcastle City Council voted to rezone the bulk of the corridor between Worth Place and Newcastle station, in order to allow a program of re-use to commence.

Only two councillors spoke before the vote was taken. Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes wasin favour of the rezoning.

Greens councillor John MacKenzie criticised the way material had been presented to councillors, saying a 60-page reportby un-named council staffwas open to accusations of bias, and left the council’s decision open to legal challenge.

In her contribution, the lord mayor raised the results of a telephone survey of 955 residents living within the Newcastle council area, which was conducted on the evening of November 20.

This survey, the councillors were told, showed that 57.5 per cent of respondents supported “renewal” on the land, while 37.5 per cent wanted it maintained as a corridor.

As the Newcastle Herald reported before the meeting, these findings werein stark contrast to the outcomes generated when the council put the rezoning proposal on display for 40 days during September and October. In this process, submissions opposing the proposal substantially outweighed those in favour.

Explaining why the council had embarked on the November 20 telephone poll, council chief executive Jeremy Bath said it was to seek feedback to an August 22 notice of motion by then-Greens councillor Therese Doyle, who wanted the idea of light rail on the corridor –with buildings over the top –included in the community consultation.

If that was the case, it should be noted that the telephoned questions made no mention of theconcept of light rail running through buildings, giving weight to Cr MacKenzie’s description of the exercise as “push polling”designed to elicit a particular response.

Mr Bath is correct when he says the construction on Hunter Street means the argument over the heavy rail line has been “fought and lost”.

Much of the responsibility lies with the state government, rather than the council.But if there is one thing that all these years of rail line debate have taught us, it’s that opinion is still sharply divided when it comes to this grand re-imagining of the city.

ISSUE: 38,675.

Delhi accident victims a windfall for Good Samaritans

Delhi: Anyone in the Indian capital who takes a road accident victim to the nearest private hospital within the “golden hour”, when medical treatment is most likely to succeed, will now receive a cash bonus of 2000 rupees ($41) for being a Good Samaritan.
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Victims of a fire or an acid attack will also be covered by the scheme.

The Delhi government is offering the incentive to reduce the carnage on the roads – four people die every day in accidents caused by insanely reckless or drunken driving (or both).

Mostly, passers-by do not stop to help, primarily because they fear getting entangled with the police and suffering harassment. The fear of having to appear in court as an eye-witness in the case, involving taking time off work for trials that can last years, is also another deterrent.

From now, though, the government has promised that passers-by who rush victims to a hospital will not suffer any police harassment and will be rewarded with both the cash bonus and a certificate of “good character”.

Moreover, the government has promised to pay in full for the treatment of the victims in private hospitals. It’s not yet clear how the funding will be arranged between the government and the private hospitals.

Currently if passers-by do help, they invariably take road accident victims to a government hospital where treatment is free. The problem is that this is often not the nearest hospital to the accident site and precious time is lost. Helpers also know that a public hospital will treat the victim, whereas they may be refuse treatment or not have adequate medical insurance for a private hospital.

Piyush Tewari, founder of the Save Life Foundation which trains Delhi police in life-saving care for crash victims, said the new policy of full payment for medical treatment and the financial reward could be a game-changer in reducing road deaths.

“It could be abused if, say, the Good Samaritan and the hospital are in cahoots but I’m sure they will have checks in place – such as the rewards being paid by cheque and asking the hospital to provide an undertaking that the victim is not related to the Good Samaritan etc – that should help prevent abuse,” Tewari said.

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Keneally leaves door open to filling Dastyari’s senate seat

Labor’s star candidate for the NSW seat of Bennelong, Kristina Keneally, has repeatedly ducked questions about whether she would take Sam Dastyari’s Senate seat if she loses Saturday’s byelection.
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A Fairfax Media-ReachTEL published on Thursday revealed Ms Keneally trails Liberal candidate and former MP John Alexander in the all-important two-party preferred vote 47 per cent to 53 per cent.

Mr Alexander’s primary vote has dipped slightly, from 41.6 per cent on November 17 to 40.4 per cent on December 12, while Ms Keneally’s has climbed from 34.5 per cent to 35.7 per cent; just 2.4 per cent of voters now say they are undecided, a drop from 8.3 per cent.

If Ms Keneally were to defy expectations and win Bennelong for Labor, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would lose his majority in the Parliament, placing his government in a more precarious position.

In addition, Labor and the crossbench would have the numbers to team up and refer government MPs to the High Court, as they attempted to do in the last sitting week of the year.

But in an interview on Sky News, the network she worked for until recently, Ms Keneally was asked three times if she was prepared to rule out taking the NSW senate seat that will soon be vacated by Senator Dastyari, who resigned following revelations in Fairfax Media over his links to Chinese Communist Party-linked political donor Huang Xiangmo.

She repeatedly declined to do so to rule out the move. Labor insiders in NSW believe she is the front runner to take the seat if she wants it, though a number of candidates such as United Voice union leader Tara Moriarty and the Lowy Institute’s Michael Fullilove have also been mentioned as possible candidates.

“I’m only here to fight for Bennelong, that is all I’m doing, the only job I have been offered is the opportunity to be Labor’s candidate for Bennelong,” she said.

“And as I’ve said before, I’ve been offered Senate seats before and turned them down. This is all I’m focused on, Bennelong, no one has offered me the job and I haven’t had any conversations about it.”

“You can ask me any way you want, I’m not ruling anything in or out after the polls come in on Saturday night. I gave up my my job at Macquarie university to run for this position, I’ve gone on leave without pay at Sky News, I’m not even contemplating what happens after this byelection.”

The battle for Bennelong has become a bare-knuckle fight, with the major parties trading blows and making claims and counter-claims about health care funding cuts, damage being done to the China-Australia relationship by proposed foreign interference laws and Ms Keneally’s links to disgraced Labor figures such as Eddie Obeid.

Ms Keneally claimed voters in the seat, which has large Chinese-Australian population, were alarmed by the Prime Minister’s rhetoric about China and suggested it was “not conducive to a harmonious Australia”.

He had, she added, “decided to score political points in this Bennelong byelection, to put at risk the good harmony that exists here in Bennelong, to put at risk our economic trading relationships with China, to put at risk the important flow of students that come to our universities” with his political attacks on Labor and on Senator Dastyari.

Mr Turnbull dismissed Labor’s claims of his “China-phobia” as “desperate and absurd”.

“To suggest that somebody whose granddaughter is one of those one million Australians of Chinese ancestry, is anything other than a friend of Chinese people is absurd, completely absurd,” the Prime Minister said earlier this week.

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

It’s pedal to the metal

Holiday mood: Justin Hales with his dog Storm in a retro camper. Picture: Simone De Peak
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Your startup Camplify, which links caravan owners to caravan renters, now has the biggest rental fleet of caravans and camper trailers and motorhomes in Australia. How big a lead do you have over your competitors?

The closest rental fleet to us in Apollo Toursim and Leisure with approximately 1700 RVs on the road. In terms of a direct competitor it, the closest is at approximately 300 RVs. So we have a healthy margin, but we are not slowing. We currently add on average 60-80 new RVs every month. We want to help more owners get their RVs out of the drive way and earning them money.

How do intend to keep ahead?

Through innovation and partnerships. We have a great team of innovators who are always working hard at improving our product based on our customers needs. We also work with some great companies in partnerships to help our owners and hirers with new and improved product offerings.

Remind us how Camplify began?

We began with an idea on how to get the caravans off the streets and driveways of Newcastle and out earning money, by allowing families to not have to buy an RV just to experience it. We pitched that idea to the NRMA Slingshot program. From there we built out our product, and work hard at growth.

What made you think the startup had traction?

Really the first couple of customers on both sides of our market. They both had such excitement for the product we knew we had something and just needed a way to scale it.

How important was your participation in Slingshot as far as building a minimum viable product?

It was critical. When we started the program we had no product, no customers, just a concept. Slingshot gave us the tools to build all this out.

What did you learn from working with a corporate in the NRMA?

Startups and corporates can be fundamentally opposed in their thinking and goals. Startups want a roller coaster of growth, with a ‘build-on-the-fly’ mentality. Where as corporates want sustainable development with fully developed products that meet their customers needs. The trick is to engage with corporates who understand how startups work, and are willing to engage on an agreeable project to test the waters. Otherwise you end up with lots of cups of coffee and no action.

Justin HalesIf money wasn’t an object, where would you spend it on your business?

Product development, and expansion. We have an amazing concept and product that we want to share with the world, all from our base here in Newcastle.

Any advice from a startup founder done good to other startups struggling to make a MVP?

I hear from lots of founders who are working on their product to build a platform, some software etc, for a long time, in ‘stealth mode’.

The best way to see if your startup is going to be successful is to give it to customers.

That doesn’t mean it has to be completely finished in concept, or in feature set. Your customers can help you build a product that they want.

This meansyou spend less time building, more time discovering, and create the product your customers truly want to use. This type of approach can be used from a web platform, right through to a restaurant running a popup market stall to build an audience before investing thousands.

Church leaders told to put aside ‘resentment’ to address abuse

Church leaders told to put aside ‘resentment’ to address abuse Joy: A survivor hugs an emotional shadow social services minister Jenny Macklin.
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Healing: Abuse survivor and former Newcastle Anglican Bishop Greg Thompson outside the royal commission final sitting with Audrey Nash, whose son Andrew committed suicide, aged 13, after sexual abuse at a Hunter Marist Catholic school.

Renewal: Bill Shorten and Audrey Nash take part in a smoking ceremony outside the royal commission final sitting.

Relief: Abuse survivor and lawyer for many Hunter victims, John Ellis, outside the royal commission.

Questions: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull arriving at the royal commission.

Bipartisan: Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull arrive at the royal commission.

TweetFacebook Sexual abuse of children a “national tragedy”: commission Calls for change across Australian institutionsTHE Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has called for church and other institutional leaders to put aside their resentment and support necessary changes to address the “national tragedy” of child sexual abuse, duringan emotional final sitting.

In a speech on Thursday in front of a packed gallery, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and shadow social services minister Jenny Macklin, commission chair Justice Peter McClellan said children were abused over decades because society failed.

“Some of our most important state instrumentalities have failed. Police often refused to believe children. Child protection agencies did not listen to children. Investigation processes were inadequate and criminal procedures were inappropriate. Our civil law placed impossible barriers on survivors bringing claims against individual abusers and institutions,” Justice McClellan said.

“In some cases the aggressive hand of the lawyer was engaged, ensuring that an appropriate and just response to a survivor was not possible.”

The final sitting in Sydney was held a day before the royal commission hands a final report and recommendations to Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove in Canberra, ending the landmark five-year inquiry.

Justice McClellan said the more than 8000 survivors who had given evidence in private sessions and the many more who gave evidence at more than 50 public hearings had had “a profound impact on the commissioners”.

While many churches had referred to institutional child sexual abuse as a problem in the past, Justice McClellan told the final sitting that “child sexual abuse in institutions continues today”.

“We heard in private sessions from children as young as seven years of age who told us they had been recently abused,” he said.

While many thousands of children had been sexually abused in institutions, it was important to remember that the number of children sexually abused in home settings “far exceeds” those sexually abused in institutions, he said.

“The sexual abuse of any child is intolerable in a civilised society. It is the responsibility of our entire community to acknowledge that children are being abused. We must each resolve that we should do what we can to protect them,” Justice McClellan said.

The royal commission final sitting included many people who had campaigned for a commissionor had given evidence during public hearings.

They included Chrissie Foster, whose two daughters were sexually abused by a Catholic priest and whose husband Anthony died in June before the royal commission completed its work. They also included Hunter royal commission campaigners Bob O’Toole, Audrey Nash and Steve Smith, lawyer for many Hunter survivors John Ellis,advocate for children abused in homes, Leonie Sheedy and retired Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox.

Abuse survivor and former Newcastle Anglican Bishop Greg Thompson, whose apology to survivors in 2015 and vow to stop a culture of “mates looking after mates” within the church led to extraordinary scenes during a Newcastle Anglican diocese hearing in late 2016.

Outside the commission Mr Shorten committed to supporting the royal commission recommendations, saying: “I don’t believe Australians will accept excuses from the parliament if we don’t fully embrace the royal commission, and that starts with a redress scheme, a proper national compensation scheme.”

The decades of institutional child sexual abuse were “a national shame, a national tragedy”.

“Now is not the time to use legal tactics or insurance company practises to somehow discredit or demolish the royal commission report. Australians of good conscience should get behind this royal commission report,” Mr Shorten said.

Mr O’Toole said the final sitting was a fitting end to a royal commission that validated the lives of many thousands of Australians, where survivors and political leaders sat together to acknowledge the work of the commission.

Audrey Nash, whose son Andrew took his own life at the age of 13 while a student at Marist Hamilton school, said the final sitting “brought it all back – all the pain and misery”.

“But it took five years with the commission and Ifinally found out what happened to my boy.”

Bishop Thompson said the final sitting was “an important affirmation”.

“Institutions have to continue to listen and be truthful about what they’ve had to confront and they have to have the courage, leaders have tohave the courage, to stand up for survivors.”

He said he would “give it a 50:50 chance” that that would happen.

“It depends on who they appoint in the leadership in the future.”

Hunter survivors including Steve Smith will stand outside Government House in Canberra on Friday to wave the commissioners as they present the report and recommendations to Sir Peter Cosgrove.

At least some part of the report is expected to be released on Friday.

The Herald, Newcastle

‘Very serious’: Fresh allegations in explosive CBA case

Supplied. New AUSTRAC CEO Nicole Rose. 3rd of November 2017. .The financial watchdog, Austrac, is alleging a further 100 breaches of anti-money laundering and terrorism finance laws by the Commonwealth Bank as part of its explosive case against the lender.
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Austrac on Thursday filed the new allegations, on top of the breaches it claimed in August, saying they had been uncovered as part of its ongoing investigation into the country’s biggest bank.

Among the new claims, Austrac alleges there were two instances where CBA failed to inform the regulator of its suspicions relating to the financing of terrorism within the required 24 hours.

The bank also allegedly failed to report a further 54 suspicious matters properly, or at all, relating to police operations, including a NSW investigation into a drug and firearms syndicate.

“These allegations are very serious and reflect systemic non-compliance over approximately six years,” Austrac’s chief executive, Nicole Rose.

In total, Austrac is now alleging more than 53,800 breaches of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act by CBA, the vast majority of which CBA has admitted to.

Earlier, CBA said the Federal Court should treat more than 53,506 instances where it failed to lodge reports on time as one breach of anti-money laundering laws when determining an “appropriate” penalty for the bank.

It also argues the court should take into account reports about suspicious transactions that were lodged appropriately with regulators, alongside those that were not, when determining the harm caused by the bank’s actions.

CBA on Wednesday night filed its defence in response to Austrac’s allegations of repeated and serious breaches of Australia’s anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws.

Austrac, the financial intelligence regulator, has alleged drug gangs laundered millions of dollars through CBA’s intelligent deposit machines, which were capable of accepting up to $20,000 in a single deposit.

The bank’s defence admitted to some of the allegations, while contesting others, and said it would be “appropriate” for the court to impose a penalty on CBA.

It also flagged some of the arguments it would make in court, where it is likely to be slapped with a hefty fine.

As it had previously hinted, CBA will argue that 53,506 failures to lodge “threshold transaction reports” (TTRs) – which are required for cash deposits of more than $10,000 – should be treated as one breach, because they stemmed from one system error.

“CBA will submit that, for the purposes of penalty, ceratin of the admitted contraventions, including but not limited to the 53,506 late TTRs, should be treated as single courses of conduct,” it said.

Another key point of contention in the case is likely to be CBA’s approach to filing “suspicious matter reports” (SMRs). These are reports made for transactions below the $10,000 threshold for mandatory reporting, but which Austrac says should still have raised suspicions within the bank.

While CBA admitted that some of these were not properly filed, if at all, the bank also said it had filed a total of 140 SMRs relating to the five criminal syndicates identified in Austrac’s initial statement of claim.

The bank said it accepted that in failing to lodge reports on time or at all, it deprived law enforcement of “additional intelligence”, but it also said the reports that were properly filed should be taken into account by the court.

“CBA accepts that the failure to issue TTRs and SMRs in accordance with the act has deprived law enforcement agencies of some additional intelligence,” it said.

“CBA will submit that the extent of that harm should be assessed in the context of the significant number of SMRs issued in respect of the customers in question above and the fact that a number of the SMR contraventions relate to information itself derived from law enforcement.”

CBA’s defence admitted it had failed to carry out an adequate risk assessment before rolling out its intelligent ATMs in 2012, and it had been too slow in cutting the $20,000 limit.

CBA said that by no later than January last year, given all it knew about money laundering occurring through its ATMs, the bank should have introduced daily deposit limits.

These limits were introduced only last month, when CBA started limiting daily deposits to $20,000.

The statement also says that because of a data error, there was a “deficiency” in its automatic transaction monitoring covering 778,370 bank accounts, which constitutes a breach of the law.

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

Origin aims to halve emissions by 2032

Origin is aiming to slash its emissions in half by 2032, in line with the Paris climate agreement, through the closure of the Eraring coal-fired power station in NSW.
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This is the first time Origin has set a definitive timeline for its emissions reduction target.

“We want to be leading the transition to a cleaner and smarter energy future and we are proud to now have a tangible commitment for emissions reduction across our business,” Origin chief executive Frank Calabria said.

An Origin spokeswoman confirmed that the closure of the 2880 megawatt Eraring power station, near Dora Creek, Origin’s only coal-fired generator and the largest in the country, would be a material driver of its emissions reduction.

Eraring, which supplies about a quarter of NSW’s total power, has had a historical emissions intensity of 0.92 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per megawatt hour. Origin claims it’s one of the lowest greenhouse gas emission intensive coal-fired power stations in NSW.

Brown coal-fired power stations, such as Loy Yang and the now-closed Hazelwood facilities, typically have emission intensity levels of between 1.2 and 1.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per megawatt hour.

Origin also gave a more concise closure date for the company’s only coal-fired power station.

Previously, Eraring was slated for closure in the “early 2030s”; this emissions reduction target has now set a definitive date of 2032 at the latest.

The shutdown of Eraring would leave AGL’s Bayswater power station – which is coupled with the soon to be closed Liddell power station – as one of the last coal-fired power stations in NSW.

Mr Calabria said the focus would now shift to growing Origin’s renewable energy base and working with the government to finesse national energy policy to reduce emissions.

Environmental groups had a mixed reaction the announcement.

While some applauded Origin for setting targets above the National Energy Guarantee’s (NEG) energy sector emission reduction levels, others dismissed it as “greenwashing” linked to Origin’s announced closure of Eraring.

“Origin’s 50 per cent sits awkwardly with the NEG goal of a 26 per cent reduction in electricity emissions,” The Australia Institute Research Director Rod Campbell said.

“This shows that the NEG is not sufficient and the electricity sector can do a lot more.”

This was echoed by Mr Calabria, who said “more can and should be done and we have also stated our belief that a long-term goal of net zero emissions for the electricity sector by 2050 is achievable”.

Market Forces was more cynical about Origin’s reduction target.

“Origin is doing no more than closing Eraring on its 50-year use-by date,” Market Forces analyst Dan Gocher said.

“Given that Eraring makes up approximately 70 per cent of Origin’s overall emissions, the company is committing to increase its carbon pollution across the rest of the portfolio.”

Greenpeace Australia Pacific agreed, saying Origin’s target still fell short of achieving the lower end of the 1.5 to 2 degree Paris climate change goal.

“Origin Energy’s targets are far too weak to meet the 1.5 degree ambition in the Paris climate commitments and rely on closing a single power station whose business model is now outdated and would have closed anyway,” Greenpeace spokesman Jonathon Moylan said.

Origin’s announcement came as the National Australia Bank announced its intention to drop thermal coal from its investment portfolio.

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