Signs Kevin Rudd, Peter Garrett may be called before insulation inquiry as counsel emphasises its powers

Sunday, 16. December 2018

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd: could be due a stint in the witness box. Photo: Wayne TaylorAustralian politics: full coverage
Nanjing Night Net

To those listening closely enough, it might have sounded like a thinly-veiled threat.

As the royal commission into the first Rudd government’s home insulation program began on Monday, its counsel assisting noted there was an ”armoury of coercive powers” available to force reluctant witnesses to give evidence.

But Keith Wilson, QC, added he was hopeful such force would not be necessary.

It may have been the biggest clue yet that former prime minister Kevin Rudd and then environment minister Peter Garrett are due for a stint in the witness box, willingly or not.

Since the $25 million royal commission into the $2 billion-plus scheme was announced by the federal government last month, speculation has been rife about who would be called, but neither Commissioner Ian Hanger, QC, nor Mr Wilson would name any parties issued notices to appear.

The names on the list will not be publicly available until closer to the hearing dates, which are expected to be in March and April.

The royal commission can summon a witness to appear before it and there are very few grounds on which a person can refuse. Failure to comply could result in either a fine or imprisonment.

Mr Rudd launched the scheme in 2009 as a way of staving off the global financial crisis.

Three Queenslanders and one man from NSW were killed while installing insulation during the life of the program and many more were injured. Up to 220 house fires have been blamed on poorly trained installers operating while the scheme was in place and established insulation businesses suffered financial losses.

Mr Rudd apologised for the deaths in July this year, following findings from the Queensland state coroner that the rushed implementation of the program had contributed to the deaths of Matthew Fuller, 25, Rueben Barnes, 16, and Mitchell Sweeney, 22, between October 2009 and February 2010. Marcus Wilson, 22, was also killed.

The government has asked Commissioner Hanger to ”focus on how the actions of the [Rudd] Australian government may have contributed to those deaths, injuries and financial loss and damage to businesses”.

Mr Hanger opened the commission in Brisbane, acknowledging a ”number of inquiries” had previously been held into ”various aspects of the home insulation program”, which ranged from ”administrative reviews of government processes, to coronial inquests into the deaths of four young men”.

”My present intention is not to repeat the examination and findings of those inquiries … I will undertake a thorough inquiry, to collate and examine the existing evidence and to fill in the many gaps in that evidence,” he said.

Matthew’s father, Kevin Fuller, said he was only interested in answers the commission could provide, not political finger pointing.

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

Rodrigo’s guitar concerto melts mum’s heart

Sunday, 16. December 2018

Reunion: Rodrigo Siqueira’s children greet their grandmother. Photo: Wolter PeetersThere are few charms surer to animate an already emotional airport scene than a Brazilian with a guitar.
Nanjing Night Net

Surfacing from crowds at the international arrivals hall eager to greet their loved ones in time for Christmas, Rodrigo Siqueira serenaded his mother Joseli who was visiting from Rio de Janeiro.

”I haven’t seen her for three years,” said the Collaroy resident, who moved to Australia 14 years ago. ”I only started learning guitar recently and she hasn’t seen me play yet so it’s a special surprise.”

He was flanked by his eight-year-old twins, Isabela and Eric, who brought signs to welcome their vovo, which is Portuguese for grandmother.

Also waiting on Monday afternoon were Mercedes and Eddie Zapata, who had balloons for their Argentinian nephews who were arriving in Australia for the first time with their parents.

Mrs Zapata, who had a tough time holding back tears, said it was a particularly special visit because her own children were both  overseas this Christmas.

‘‘It is very, very important. I am going to be very emotional.’’ she said. ‘‘It is just the second time in 23 years that we have had family here [from Argentina] for Christmas.’’

The capacity of flights in and out of Sydney Airport climbs about 5 per cent between November and December, peaking on Christmas Day.

There are about 164,000 seats available on flights in and out of Sydney Airport on Christmas Day, which is about twice the capacity of ANZ Stadium at Homebush. The daily average number of seats in and out of Sydney in December is about 145,000, according to a spokeswoman for the airport.

The main arterial roads out of Sydney are also certain to be bustling at times over the coming days, though may not be as bad as in previous years.

“We’re hoping because of the way Christmas has landed in the middle of the week, traffic volumes might be a bit more spread out. Some people would have left over the weekend,” a spokesman for the NRMA, Peter Khoury, said on Monday. “But we still expect there to be delays tomorrow, tomorrow night, particularly on the major routes leading out of Sydney.”

The NRMA is advising motorists not to try to beat the traffic by leaving at irregular times. “If people are normally asleep at 3am, we would discourage people from leaving at that time. Your body clock is telling you you’re meant to be asleep,” Mr Khoury said.

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

Terrible toothsome: Justin Theroux and Jennifer Aniston stall nuptials

Sunday, 16. December 2018

OK has revealed the reason for Justin Theroux and Jennifer Aniston’s stalled engagement.
Nanjing Night Net

”While Jen’s very straight-laced and traditional, Justin has a thing for the edgy and eccentric – the star loves to collect human teeth and his favourite piece of art is a photo of a man being impaled.”

Magwatch wonders just how passionate Theroux’s art habits are to have ruffled his relationship. Is Aniston unnerved by him eyeing her molars when they eat? Was the wedding ”postponed indefinitely” because Theroux proposed with a ring mounted with a tooth? Both are keeping their mouths shut.

Bruce Jenner, former husband of Kris Jenner – matriarch of the Kardashian clan – has caused excitement with reports he is undergoing a laryngeal shave.

Who reports this procedure – a flattening of the Adam’s apple – is often part of gender reassignment. But, after the news was leaked, Jenner opted out. ”I just never liked my trachea,” he says, in a somewhat sad riposte.

A twerking scandal has emerged after Australian rapper Iggy Azalea claimed she started the trend before Miley Cyrus. ”I’ve been doing that on stage for 2½ years,” she says in OK. ”She probably f—ing watched my videos online and decided to try it.”

Putting to one side the image of Cyrus seeing Azalea’s video and leaping up to practice on the sofa arm, we are wondering about the fuss behind twerking.

It stems from the act – rubbing one’s parts against objects – but also from a suggestive-sounding name. Like a cross between a word meaning private pleasuring and a word meaning private pleasuring. For the new year, Magwatch would like to offer another suggestive word for Azalea and Cyrus to tackle on stage: Fracking.

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

Newcrest facing class action over market disclosure scandal

Sunday, 16. December 2018

Newcrest Mining’s difficult year is not over, with law firm Slater & Gordon informing the goldminer that a class action is likely to arise from its investigations into this year’s market disclosure scandal.
Nanjing Night Net

More than six months after Newcrest was rocked by a market sell-down that correctly anticipated a gloomy corporate restructure, Slater & Gordon said it had been instructed to start proceedings in the Federal Court.

The case will represent shareholders who lost money during the first week of June, when the Newcrest share price fell by more than 12 per cent without official explanation from the company.

That silence was broken with the restructure on June 7, but by that time numerous investment banks had downgraded the stock.

The Slater & Gordon action is based on the belief that Newcrest may have engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct, and breached its continuous disclosure obligations.

A spokeswoman for the law firm said institutional shareholders were among those in the class action.

”Slater & Gordon has been retained by a large number of institutional and retail shareholders,” she said.

Newcrest’s share register is dominated by big institutional investors, including BlackRock, Vanguard, First Eagle and Commonwealth Bank, but it is unclear whether any of those are involved in the action.

US litigation funder Comprehensive Legal Funding is helping fund the action, after working with Slater & Gordon this year on the GPT Management Holdings class action.

Newcrest has been invited to ”confidential” discussions on a ”without prejudice” basis, meaning the goldminer will have the option of settling outside of court.

But Newcrest has insisted it did not do anything wrong in the June 7 incident, and there was no indication the goldminer would weaken that stance in Monday’s statement.

”Newcrest is considering its position in relation to this approach. Newcrest intends to defend any proceedings if they are commenced,” the company said.

The class action is not the only investigation threatening to drag Newcrest’s 2013 troubles into 2014.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has also been investigating the market disclosure scandal.

A second class action appears to have been nullified, after law firm Maurice Blackburn confirmed it would not be pursuing an action.

Newcrest shares fell 16¢ to $7.54.

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

Class action threat more pain for Newcrest shareholders

Sunday, 16. December 2018

As Newcrest Mining prepares to close its financial accounts in the next few days, taking into account the impact of a fall in the gold price on its cash flow and revenue assumptions, it will also need to consider a looming class action that could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Nanjing Night Net

In a letter sent on December 23, Slater & Gordon invited the controversial goldminer to enter confidential discussions or face a lawsuit in the Federal Court in relation to alleged deceptive and misleading conduct.

It is the sort of headache chairman-elect Peter Hay and the rest of the board don’t want or need as it puts the spotlight directly on the company’s corporate governance standards, its continuous disclosure obligations and the trouble that has gone on since the board agreed to pay way over the odds – $9.5 billion – for the Lihir gold mine in 2010.

The allegations followed Newcrest’s shocking news on June 7 that it would downgrade its 2014 gold production, write off up to $6 billion on the value of its assets and rub out its final dividend for 2013.

The disclosure caused a commotion, including an investigation by corporate regulator ASIC, as several analysts had downgraded their earnings days earlier after being given a selective and private briefing. When the broader market was eventually told, Newcrest’s share price dived almost 20 per cent, prompting a witch-hunt that a select few had been put in a privileged position.

If a settlement can’t be reached between Slater & Gordon and Newcrest, a class action will be filed and with it the opening of wounds among the many shareholders who have lost faith in the company after having watched it lose billions of dollars in market value.

To put it into context, three years ago Newcrest’s shares hit a high of $43, before slumping to $23 a year ago, and are now trading about $7.52.

Newcrest is a company knee-deep in credibility issues. While its chairman Don Mercer will step down at the end of the month and its chief executive has flagged he will leave next year, it will take a lot of work to restore shareholder confidence.

Its problems aren’t being helped by the gold price, which has fallen to $US1202 an ounce following the US tapering talk. If gold prices continue to fall, Newcrest’s guided assumptions may need to be revisited, which will raise speculation of an equity issue, asset sales and deeper cuts to its exploration and corporate overheads.

Newcrest isn’t the only company facing a shareholder class action, or the threat of one. Others include Leighton Holdings, Treasury Wine Estates and WorleyParsons. It is believed Insurance giant QBE is also being assessed as a possible candidate.

Shareholder class actions have long been a topic of heated debate. The companies most susceptible to them are those that suffer a downgrade without a proper announcement. While companies should be punished for inadequate disclosure, the question remains whether it should be left to the regulators to do the punishing or a handful of shareholders, with the risk that it may leave the other shareholders the poorer. Some believe class actions give one set of shareholders preference over another set, which effectively means shareholders are suing themselves.

However, others argue that class actions give shareholders a chance to claw back some of the money lost due to egregious behaviour by a company. This school of thought would argue that the class action fills a regulatory void when the corporate regulator decides not to proceed with an investigation due to lack of resources, or lack of will.

It is a debate that has come to the fore in the latest Productivity Commission inquiry into access to justice, which has attracted a number of submissions from various players who discuss the role of class actions, litigation funders and their impact on the economy and companies.

Attention was also drawn to this space when Attorney-General George Brandis said he was reviewing litigation funding and whether law firms should be allowed to own litigation funders.

It’s a message that has clipped Maurice Blackburn’s wings, as Andrew Watson, the group’s class action boss, said the law firm had decided to withdraw an application with the Federal Court to allow Claims Funding Australia – a discretionary trust that had been set up and whose beneficiaries are principals of Maurice Blackburn – to part-fund a class action.

For all the criticism from companies, including the histrionics from Treasury Wine Estates boss Warwick Every-Burns that they are ”manufactured by self-interested litigators” and are ”usurping the role of regulatory authorities”, the easiest way to stop them is to run a company well.

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