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One of Asia’s most powerful women used to get confused for the ‘secretary’

by admin on 05/02/2019

Singtel group CEO Chua Sock Koong: ” The larger the company, the less likely the head will be a woman.” Photo: Nicolas WalkerWhen she first started in business, Singtel’s chief executive Chua Sock Koong used to get mistaken for the ­secretary.

“When I was younger, I remember stepping into many meetings, particularly in Asia, where people would immediately assume I was the secretary standing by to serve the tea,” said Ms Chua, who today is group chief executive of global telecommunications giant Singtel.

“But you learn to laugh these things off.”

As head of Singapore’s largest listed company – Singtel has 600 million subscribers across 25 countries, a market capitalisation of over $64 billion and 23,000 employees – she’s often asked how she’s managed to make it this far as a woman, but that “as most women in business will tell you, you get used to this line of questioning.”

Ms Chua told her story at the Chief Executive Women’s annual ball in Sydney on Wednesday night before some of the nation’s top chief executives including Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, ANZ boss Shayne Elliott and Broadspectrum chair Diane Smith-Gander.

Ms Chua joined Singtel – what was then Telecommunications Authority of Singapore – in 1989 as its treasurer and worked her way up the chain. Today she’s accredited for driving the company’s digital transformation including the group’s move to take a stake in Optus in 2001.

Singtel Optus is the second-largest telco in Australia after Telstra, and is fiercely competing to take over the number one spot.

Ms Chua said at 18 she had no burning ambition to be a CEO but she learned that the best way to overcome gender stereotypes was to deliver. She also said that in her life she had to make hard choices about how much time she devoted to work and family. “No one can tell you what’s best for you or your family – whether you should ‘lean in’ or ‘lean away’… you have to decide what work/life balance you want to strike.”

She was disappointed that globally there were not more women in leadership or CEO positions. “The reality is that while the number of women in senior and middle management around the world has increased over the last two decades, women are still under-represented in top management,” she said.

Only 5 per cent or less of the CEOs of the world’s largest corporations were women. “And the larger the company, the less likely the head will be a woman. The telecoms industry is no exception,” she said.

Ms Chua wants Singtel to be a “gender-neutral employer” where equal opportunities are given to women and men.

“We conduct periodic health checks to ensure healthy gender diversity ratios,” she said. “But we know it is still a work in progess.”

She noted 31 per cent of the company’s top management was female compared to the Singaporean average of 25 per cent, and one-third of its board was female compared to 9.5 per cent representation on boards in Singapore generally.

Ms Chua said that the Singtel group does better than its Australian subsidiary Optus when it comes to diversity. “In Optus, the figure [of women in top management] is lower at 16 per cent… We know more work needs to be done at Optus to improve representation of female leaders, and we have said as much in our annual sustainability report.”

She said Singtel had set up diversity committees to combat gender bias and “educate leaders on inclusive leadership” and was also running mentoring programs.

The reporter was a guest of Sydney Airport at the Chief Executive Women annual ball.

Two boys charged with sexually assaulting girl at primary school on Sydney’s northern beaches

by admin on 05/02/2019

Two 12-year-old boys have been charged with the aggravated sexual assault of a female student at a primary school on Sydney’s northern beaches.

The six-year-old girl reported the incidents herself, Fairfax Media has been told.

It is understood she was raped on two separate days at school in mid-August.

Both boys were allegedly present during both incidents but only one of the boys raped her in the second incident, police allege.

The primary school immediately notified the Department of Education, which immediately notified the NSW Police’s Child Abuse Squad.

After a two-week investigation, the two boys were arrested at Chatswood police station on Tuesday.

One boy has been charged with four counts of aggravated sexual assault and two counts of sexual intercourse with a child under 10.

The second boy was charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault and sexual intercourse with a child under 10.

Both have been granted bail and will appear in a children’s court over the next two months.

“Parents and carers of students at the school are in the process of being notified, and police request the community respect the privacy of the young people involved,” police said in a statement on Thursday.

It is understood a letter has been sent to parents.

“NSW Police Force works closely with the Dept of Education and Family and Community Services to ensure the safety of all students, and additional support has been made available at the school,” the police statement said.

“The Child Abuse Squad is comprised of detectives who are specially trained to investigate crimes against children, including sexual assault, physical abuse and serious cases of neglect.”

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Novelist Barry Maitland wraps up Belltree Trilogy with Slaughter Park

by admin on 05/02/2019

THRILLER: Maitland novelist Barry Maitland with his new book, Slaughter Park, which will be released next month. Picture: Jonathan CarrollHarry Belltree’s quest for justice will take some final twists next month, when Maitland novelist Barry Maitland releases Slaughter Park –the much anticipated thirdinstalment of The Belltree Trilogy.

It follows the story of Sydney homicide detective Harry Belltree, whose wife and father–the state’s first Aboriginal Supreme Court Judge –are run off the road at Thunderbolt’s Way, between Gloucester and Armidale, with devastating consequences.

Despite police and the coroner dismissing the crash as an accident, Harry is determined to prove his family was targeted and expose those responsible.

Mr Maitland, a celebrated crime author who was born in Scotland and raised in London, setthe trilogyin Sydney, the Hunter and regional NSW.

He said he used published sources, including articles from Fairfax Media investigative journalist Kate McClymont, to delve into Australia’s underbellyand had extensive help from detectives in Newcastle and Sydney who spoke to him about their work.

“It’s been kind of like a romp through the underworld of NSW,” he said.

“All the corrupt politicians, property developers, bikie gangs –all the usual suspects.”

Next, he plans to write another installment of the popularBrock and Kolla series. Then he hopes to bring his characters back to an Australian setting.

“I’ve really enjoyed writing the Australian books,” Mr Maitland said.

“I’ve been here for 30 years –it seems much more relevant to me now.”

Slaughter Park will be released on October 3 and McDonald’s Booksellers in The Levee will host a book signing on October 8.

Anthony Albanese’s very personal reason for opposing a gay marriage plebiscite

by admin on 05/02/2019

Anthony Albanese explains why he opposes plans for a same-sex marriage plebiscite. Anthony Albanese with former prime minister Bob Hawke at Parliament House on Thursday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Anthony Albanese, the knock-about politician who lists his life-shaping faiths as the Catholic Church, the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Labor Party – not necessarily in that order – has no time for those who might judge the worth of a family by the number or gender of the parents in it.

He was raised by a single mother at a time – the 1960s – when a woman who had a child out of wedlock was socially unacceptable in Australia.

The memory of his mother’s sacrifice and her unconditional love has led Albanese to scorn those who would denigrate a family because it has only one parent, or two fathers, or two mothers.

Love is all that’s needed, he says.

All of which, he revealed on Thursday, adds up to his reasons for rejecting the idea of a plebiscite on marriage equality.

“We shouldn’t be having a public vote where we get to judge other families,” he said at the launch of a biography that traces his own search for identity and family.

Albanese, Telling it Straight by Canberra journalist Karen Middleton, was launched by former prime minister Bob Hawke.

“You are,” said Mr Albanese of Mr Hawke, 86 now, “Without doubt the father of modern Labor. You are a giant of the movement.”

The quest for another father – Albanese’s own, who he had believed for his first 14 years to have died in a car accident overseas – sits at the heart of the book.

Even deeper in its heart is Albanese’s mother, Maryanne, who wove the fiction of the death overseas of a man she had married and who was Albanese’s father.

The fiction was necessary if Maryanne was to be able to keep her son Anthony from being taken from her and adopted in those far-away years.

Maryanne waited until her son was a teenager before revealing she had not married his father, an Italian steward aboard a cruise ship with whom she had a brief fling, and that he had not died.

A child born outside marriage in the 1960s – Albanese was born in 1963 – was declared illegitimate.

“Illegitimate. Not real,” Albanese marvelled.

He could not let go of the idea he might have a father still living somewhere. And finally, years after his mother had died and he had become a father himself, Albanese found his father in southern Italy, allowing a relationship to build before the old man died in January, 2014.

The biography ranges much further than that, of course.

Albanese has been a highly influential Labor politician for decades, and was deputy prime minister during 2013. He stood against Bill Shorten for the Labor leadership, and is considered to still harbour leadership ambitions. Shorten did not attend the launch of the Albanese biography, citing other duties.

But those searching the book for leaks about political intrigue will be disappointed, Albanese said.

“I believe if you have a private conversation it stays private.”

Former Newcastle bishop Michael Malone admits church ‘cover-up’

by admin on 05/02/2019

THE Royal Commission has heard that bishop Michael Malone intervened to stopa priest later convicted for paedophilia being appointed as principal of St Francis Xavier College in 1997.

Although he did this, he told the commission he did not report the priest, Brother Dominic, to the police, and left it to others to deal with.

He also defended alerting his colleague Brother Michael Hill about two other suspect priests, brother Patrick and brother Romuald, and describing their conduct as unlikely to be “criminal”.

He told the commission he said this because he thought their actions were more “touchy feely” than “penetration or masturbation publicly or anything of that nature”.

Romuald was later jailed and Patrick, although deceased, was accepted by the church as a paedophile.

The Thursday afternoon session of the commission also heard more about bishop Malone’s handling of notorious paedophile Vince Ryan.

Resuming after lunch,Bishop Malone told the commission that once Ryan was arrested, bishop Leo Clarke asked him to take over the running of the case from the church’s perspective.

Bishop Clarke had told him that Ryan had offended many times and that Ryan had been sent to Melbourne for therapy but that no therapy had taken place and that Ryan was returned to the ministry about a year after he left in 1976 without any checks and balances.

Bishop Malone said how much the church had known about Ryan at the time of his arrest was not “an immediate concern” of his because most of his effort had gone into handling the fallout “from a priest’s arrest”.

He said he had been given the name of a Melbourne psychologist, Shane Wall, who had told him his first priority had to be the victims of sexual abuse.

Bishop Malone said Dr Wall told him: “There’s going to be an enormous fallout around the whole diocese with tregard to this matter, but your first priorities must be to the victims.”

Counsel assisting, Stephen Free, took Bishop Malone to a media statement the diocese had put out about Ryan, which said priestly abuse had previously been treated as a “moral problem”.

Soon after, the commission’s chair, Justice Peter McClellan, asked about the phrase “moral problem”, asking whether the anal penetration of a 10-year-old boy had previously been thought of as “a moral problem”.

“I would think not, but . . .” bishop Malone said.

Asked how paedophilia could ever be seen as a moral problem rather than a criminal act, bishop Malone said the church was “a bit of a strange beast” that had operated its structures outside of wider society so that “civil law somehow was not seen as impinging on the life of the church, in the past”.

He said the church had changed since then, giving the second Vatican Council as an example.

When Justice McClellan asked him if there had been “a retreat” among the clergy from Vatican II, bishop Malone said it might be the case with some conservative people but the majority “would see the value of it”.

Questioned again by Mr Free, he was asked about the steps he took in 1996 to get to the bottom of what had happened with Ryan in 1975.

He did not recall talking to Sister Evelyn Woodward about Ryan but she was someone he relied on as a psychologist and as someone who had “knowledge in the dealings with these sorts of issues”.

He said he spoke with bishop Clarke but “as I mentioned earlier, he didn’t reveal a great deal”.

Justice McClellan then asked bishop Malone about a second 1996 media statement that contained a timeline detailing the church’s response to abuse by clergy.

Justice McClellan said the church knew a lot more than it had revealed in that document, to which bishop Malone said: “Yes.”

The chair: “And you didn’t tell the public that you knew that.”

Bishop Malone: “I didn’t tell them, no.”

He was also shown the transcript of a radio interview he gave in 1996 in which he admitted that:“In retrospect, with the knowledge we have now, no we didn’t act with integrity.”

Justice McClellan asked if bishop Malone now accepted there had been a cover up but the bishop said that wasn’t a word he would use.

Asked again, he said there had been a sense of needing to look after the church but after more priests were charged during his time he said he had an epiphany and that he could no longer sit on the fence.

“You either had to try to defend the church or you had to try to serve the needs of survivors and I chose the latter, so . . . ,” bishop Malone said.

Questioned again by Mr Free, he said he understood by mid-1996 that there was a deep sense of concern in the community that things had been covered up in the past.

He agreed he did not get to the bottom of what church figures including Monsignor Patrick Cotter and bishop Clarke –who were there in the 1970s –knew about Ryan.

“Look, yes, but I’m very fresh in the job by this time and I’m just sort of running by the seat of my pants,” bishop Malone said.

Asked if he wished he’d done more, he said: “Definitely. I often wish I had been more decisive and more aware of a forward plan than I was.”

Bishop Malone was then taken to an independent report commissioned after Ryan’s arrest that said although the church had stood Ryan down in 1976 and sent him for treatment, “the fact that there was no followup up, whilst regrettable, could well by explained by lack of understanding of paedophilia and the change in diocesan leadership during the period Ryan was in Melbourne”.

He was also asked about a statement of his from 1997, in which he had describedRyan’s crimes as “misdemeanors”.

That statement also said that: “It was not until 1995 that a tragic scenario of sexual abuse emerged.”

Questioned by Justice McClellan he agreed that this was incorrect, because church leaders had known back in the 1970s.

Justice McClellan: “And to say, as you have done, it was not until 1995 that a tragic scenario of sexual abuse emerged, that’s not right, is it?”

Bishop Malone: “Well, it’s not right. I know I can speak personally, I didn’t know anything about it until later in 1995.”

He was then taken to some letters he had written in response to the Newcastle Herald’s coverage of the Ryan matter, in which he criticised journalistJeff Corbett for accusing the church of a cover-up.

Questioned repeatedly by Justice McClellan he eventually accepted that there had been a cover-up.

Where bishop Ryan had written: “For Mr Corbett to accuse church authorities of covering up is both incorrect and a sluron the integrity of those authorities.”

Justice McClellan said: “That statement by you is not correct, is it?”

He said: “No, it is not correct, your honour.”

Bishop Malone was also forced to concede that church officials had known what was happening with Ryan in 1975 and that to tell parishioners otherwise was “not true”.

Taken to a 2007 letter from aparish priest, Maurice Cahill, bishop Malone said he had “a sense” thatbishop Clarke had known more about Ryan than he had let on.

Bishop Malone defended not defrocking Ryan because to do so would have simply “released a paedophile into . . . the midst of the community”.

Justice McClellan said the church still could have laicised or defrocked Ryan, but bishop Malone said if they did that, the church would have no further call on him.

Commissioner Andrew Murray asked bishop Malone whether he was concerned that some people might think the church was giving Ryan a “safe haven”.

He said some people “still think that, yes” and it was a dilemma whether to “keep him in or cut him loose”.

Ryan has not been defrocked but he is not allowed to act as a priest and has a range of conditions on him. He came of jail in 2010 but was sentenced again last month for the assault of a boy he had previously “forgotten” about.

Why September could be huge for markets all around the world

by admin on 05/01/2019

Are we facing the storm after the calm? Wall Street strategists are warning clients to expect rising volatility in sharemarkets. Photo: Michael NagleThe first debate of the US presidential campaign. A Group of 20 (G20) central bank interest rate announcement nearly every other trading day. And a key meeting among commodity nations around the world.

With a jam-packed calendar in September, no asset class is immune from potential event risk.

That’s not to mention that the month has typically been the worst one for stocks – the only one in which the median return for Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 has been negative going back to 1928, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch Head of US Equity and Quantitative Strategy, Savita Subramanian.

Now, Wall Street strategists are warning of an end to the unusual calm that’s characterised markets in August, advising clients to expect one thing – volatility.

Of course, there’s no guarantee this volatility will ever materialise: strategists were also warning of a swoon in US stocks and uptick in market swings right before they proceeded to march to all-time highs.

The first major headline event to kick off the month’s festivities is the US non-farm payrolls report for August, slated to be released on Friday. A strong number would potentially set the scene for a rate hike when Federal Reserve officials next meet on September 21.

Investors have been repricing the odds of an increase in interest rates in the run-up to Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s speech at the Jackson Hole Symposium and Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer’s comment that Yellen’s remarks were consistent with the possibility of two rate hikes in 2016, though the implied probability of a hike in September has eased in recent sessions.

This argument may be put to rest last Friday, as US job growth in August has come in below analysts’ expectations for five consecutive years. Central banks set the pace

Central bank decisions will drive global markets in September, given the potential for a rate hike from the Fed and the impact of large asset-purchasing schemes in the UK, Japan, and the euro area, for foreign exchange and credit markets, in particular.

The ECB Governing Council meets on 8 September and it faces a make-or-break bid to save its quantitative-easing strategy in the face of self-imposed limits on what it can buy. Analysts say the ECB might extend the horizon of its asset purchase program from March to September 2017.

The next Bank of England meeting is on September 15 – analysts, surveyed by Bloomberg, only see a 6.3 per cent probability of a rate cut at that meeting – and attention will focus on the implementation challenges of the monetary authority’s bond-purchase scheme after a challenging start for the program.

Similarly, fears are growing the Bank of Japan (BOJ) is exhausting its policy arsenal amid weak GDP, stubborn deflationary pressures, and a declining stock of government bonds available for purchase. The BOJ will announce the results of its comprehensive review of its monetary policy on September 21 – the same day as the Fed decision – amid rising expectations it will cut rates further into negative territory.

The G20 Summit will also take place on September 4-5, with China, the host, seeking to focus on global growth and financial-sector issues. There has been a rhetorical shift in recent months among advanced-economy policy makers in favour of looser fiscal policy, given the declining returns from monetary stimulus. Reviewing fiscal tools

Although analysts don’t foresee a coordinated plan at the G20 level for a large fiscal stimulus plan, markets will be keenly focused on the extent to which policy makers talk up the growth-boosting efficiency of fiscal policy, in general, a development that could reshape trading investments over financial assets, particularly high-grade bonds.

And while the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) could be renamed the Organisation Who Cried Production Freeze, analysts at Barclays see cause to believe the threat to maintain output at current levels is more credible this time around, with officials from OPEC member countries scheduled to meet in Algeria from September 26 – 28.

“Non-OPEC countries that many analysts thought could not produce more (Russia for example), as well as some OPEC countries have continued to raise their production,” writes Kevin Norrish, managing director of commodities research. “So a freeze this time could help stem some potential further supply growth.”

September is also the start of the school year in global primary capital markets such as the US and Europe, meaning increased trading volumes as many investors return from their summer break. Analysts expect a busy pace of US investment-grade bond sales despite unusually strong supply in August. Analysts at Bank of America, for example, expect $US120 billion in new high-grade bonds. The ease in which credit markets absorb the supply will serve as an indicator of corporate dealmaking and share buy-back volumes in the second half of year, given the bond market’s outsize role in such corporate financing activities, say analysts.

In sum: Holiday’s over for the big global markets. Report back to your terminal immediately.


The NSW Firefighters Calendar for 2017 includes Vaughn Hicks

by admin on 05/01/2019

Hot Stuff: The axe-wielding Vaughn Hicks in the NSW Firefighters Calendar for 2017.

Yesterday we brought you the story about the Hunter having the sexiest firefighters in NSW.

This was because we had six firefighters in the NSW Firefighters Calendar for 2017.

The story included a photo of the buff beefcake Breece Whittaker, of Cameron Park.

We also put the story on the Herald’s website and Facebook page and it attracted quite a bit of attention.

There wereplenty of comments,including these:Stephanie Holmes:Might have to set our houses on fire;John Ralph:Doesn’t do a thing for me… lol; Shane Richardson:What a sexist post!!;Paula Turner:I do not agree with objectifying the male body but…wow!

We did notice that many women were understandably drawn to the photos of these strapping young firefighters.

Of course, political correctness being what it is these days, these types of stories and photos can sometimes ruffle feathers.

We noticed a few blokes suggested on Facebook that the story was sexist.

We’re not sure if they were being ironic.

But it did make us think about what the reaction would have been if, for example, female nurses put out a similar calendar.

But we’ll leave that particular hornet’s nest to someone else.

We shouldn’t forget that the Firefighters Calendar is for a good cause.

It raises money for the Children’s Hospital Foundation, Westmead Children’s Hospital Burns Unit, Mates4Mates and the RSPCA.

As Christine Smith said on Facebook: “Supports great causes – children and animals”.

Topics is glad to bring readers something a bit lighter.

One might say that muscular, good-looking firefighters are a welcome distraction from paedophile priests and ICAC scandals, if only for a fleeting moment or two.

So this is why we’ve decided to run another photo of a half-naked Newcastle-based firefighter, who also features in the calendar.

And if any type ofgender likes to have a gander at some eye candy once in a while, who are we to judge?

Sometimes you just have to give the people what they want.

Spoilt ForChoiceWe all face tough choices in life. Croudace Bay’s Eric Roach knows this. He’s facing a real curly one.

Four of his grandsons and son-in-law are playing in soccer grand finals on Saturday.

“Our dilemma is choosing which one to go and see,” Eric said.

What makes matters worseis they are playing at different grounds and similar times across the Hunter.

“They’re scattered all over the place,” he said.

The matches are being played at Broadmeadow, Tilligerry, Thornton and Nelson Bay.

Eric would have had another grandson in a grand final, but his team was knocked out last weekend in a penalty shootout.

Had his team won the match, he would have played one of Eric’s other grandsons in the grand final.

“That would have been difficult, knowing who to barrack for,” he said.

Eric reckons he should be able to catch two of the grand finals.

Topics can solve this one for you quite easily, Eric.

Just pick the ones you love the most and go and watch them play.

Swooping Season It’s magpie-swooping season. But what can be done to avoid being swooped?

Topics loves magpies. They are quite simply a magnificent Aussie bird. But around this time of year they tend to get a bit of a bad name because of swooping.

Terry Phick hadthis to offer on the Newcastle Herald’s Facebook page about how to deal with the problem: “If you get swooped by magpies, carry a little ziplock bag of some kind of meat cut up in small pieces. As you walk through magpie territory throw the meat out on the ground. The magpies will come and get it, after you have walked through. After three or four days of this you will never be swooped again.

Of course, you may have the magpies follow you around hoping for a free feed, but they’ll be singing at you in their beautiful voices.

Up close and personal with a magpie.

Joke of the DayThe shovel was a ground-breaking invention.

Former prime minister Julia Gillard named visiting professor at London’s King’s College

by admin on 05/01/2019

Former prime minister Julia Gillard at the Labor Party’s election launch in June. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Julia Gillard discusses girls’ education with Charlize Theron and Michelle Obama in September 2015. Photo: Supplied

Former prime minister Julia Gillard has been appointed visiting professor at London’s prestigious King’s College.

The former Labor leader and education minister will join King’s Policy Institute and the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, adding to her international work with the Centre for Universal Education at Washington DC’s Brookings Institution and as chair of the Global Partnership for Education.

“I am very honoured to be appointed by King’s College as a visiting professor in 2016,” Ms Gillard said in a statement.

“I look forward with great enthusiasm to substantive academic engagement with the students and faculty at King’s, and to contributing to meaningful discussion of issues of importance to society and the world.”

Serving as prime minister between 2010 and 2013, Ms Gillard was appointed chancellor of the Australian-based online education provider Dūcere in February 2015 and serves as an honorary professor at the University of Adelaide and patron of Perth’s John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library.

King’s College president and principal Professor Ed Byrne said he was delighted by Ms Gillard’s appointment.

“On a more personal note it’s a pleasure to see a fellow British-born Australian – Julia was born in Wales – join us here at this world leading university,” Professor Byrne said in a statement.

“Julia brings the most incredible wealth of experience, as well as important insights of the education systems both here and in Australia.

“She is a great champion for equal opportunity and excellent education, an ethos we share here at King’s.”

Among her other educational work, Ms Gillard serves as a director of mental health advocacy group Beyond Blue, and on the Board of Governors of the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia.

She is patron of Camfed, the Campaign for Female Education, which works for the advancement of female education in Africa.

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Berry Park action group calls for State intervention on seniors’ living development

by admin on 05/01/2019

KEEP IT RURAL: Berry Park turf farmer Jeff Fetterplace on his Berry Park farm. PICTURE: Jonathan Carroll.

A small rural lobby group has called on the State Government to intervene in the development application process for aseniors’ living development at Berry Park that it believes should have gone before the Joint Regional Planning Panel.

The Primary Agricultural Land Survival Group, which comprisesBerry Park residents,is protesting the development proposed by Hunter businessman Hilton Grugeon.

The group is trying to determine if Mr Grugeon’s actions to have the development approved in two stages by Maitland City Council (each stage just under the JRPP $20 million cap)is legal.

Mr Grugeon told Fairfax Media his development is above board, legal and something that should be determined at a local level.

He saidhe did lodge his initial application with the JRPP but withdrewit because the panel was already scrutinising another proposal he had before it.

“We played by the rules and foreshadowed there would be further DAs,” Mr Grugeon said.

“Councilmakes its decisions not just on what’s best for20 or 30 objectors but on what’sbest for the 7000 people in Morpeth and the 80,000 people who live in Maitland. It needs to be kept in balance.”

Mr Grugeon’s originalapplication, lodged two yearsago,comprised 178 homes. This resulted in strong community backlash. The development was scaled back to 74 homes and approved by councilin May.

This weekcouncil called for public comment on an application for an additional 88 lots aspart of the same development.

“I understand these residentshave a point of view, which I respect, but at the end of the day the decision is made on what’s best for the city,” Mr Grugeon said.

A spokesperson for the Berry Park group said 74 homes (stage one) approved by council in May should have gone before the JRPPbecause of the scale and cost of the development.

They have called on the Stateto intervene until it is determined whether the development application process has been carried out correctly.

“Most of us own businesses and we support development but this is in the wrong location,” the spokesperson said. “Our key concerns arewater run-off, contamination and the over-development of the site.This is an urban plan for rural land which we are trying to retain in Berry Park and this goes against every policy the council has got.”

Resident Linda Fenton, whose husband Jeff Fetterplace operates a turffarm,is waiting for a reply from the Environmental Defender’s Office to see what options are available to residents who wish to fight the plan.

“Both stages have come in under the $20million cap,” Ms Fenton said.“This is actually one proposaland the developer has put it into two.We’re disappointed but not surprised by the application which isa conflict of land use.” Ms Fenton and the group will lodge submissions onthe latest DA.

Telcos fight attempts to independently monitor broadband speeds

by admin on 05/01/2019

Consumers don’t know if slow speeds are due to their equipment, old infrastructure, or their telco being stingy with capacity. Photo: Nic Walker Slow internet speeds may be due to modems, not infrastructure, telcos often claim. Photo: AVM GmbH

The telco industry is fighting attempts by the competition watchdog to independently monitor broadband data speeds, claiming the program will be costly, ineffective, and drive up prices. Instead it wants to write its own guidelines and is launching a education package on what households should do to improve speeds.

However, consumer groups argue Australians have a right to know what kind of data speeds each provider actually delivers, particularly on the national broadband network.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission [ACCC] wants $6 million in next year’s budget to roll out a monitoring scheme that collects daily data samples of every internet provider on different technologies. Chairman Rod Sims has previously called it “a really important consumer issue that we are currently getting a number of complaints about”.

At the moment consumers on standard copper-based ADSL connections cannot choose their speed and have to rely on best-endeavours by their telco. But on the NBN consumers can pay more for faster speeds, but only receive those speeds if telcos buy enough capacity.  An ACCC pilot program found some telcos were not purchasing enough capacity and speeds dropped dramatically during busy periods.

Chief executive of industry peak body group Communications Alliance, John Stanton, said the ACCC is “putting forward a flawed proposal that cannot produce rigorous, publishable, comparative information”.

There were many factors outside a telco’s control for companies to predict speeds, he said, such as the number of customers using the network, the number of people in a household and whether they use a cable or WiFi connection, distance from the exchange, and capacity on undersea cables.

Chief executive of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network [ACCAN], Teresa Corbin, said Australians were sick of being sold internet services that did not meet their expectations.

“The thing is that people are being sold products by being told ‘this is going to be better than any thing you have ever had before’,” she said.

But consumers often found speeds did not improve by changing providers. Only telcos know when they – not the consumers – are responsible for slow speeds, Ms Corbin added.

“We would prefer that the ACCC do [the monitoring] because it would be linked to their compliance and enforcement approach,” she added.

The CommsAlliance submission said describing “attainable” internet speeds was as difficult as predicting car travel times on a busy road. It also argued consumers were more concerned with price and download limits than speed, and that prices would increase if telcos had to deliver the speeds they advertised.

CommsAlliance, which represents companies like Telstra, Optus, AAPT, and Vocus, also blamed video streaming services like Netflix for an increase in complaints about data speeds to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

“…An ADSL service that the user has long perceived to be performing satisfactorily may become perceived to suffer from slow speeds because of nothing other than the greater demands being placed on it by the consumer – prompting a complaint to the TIO”.

Chief executive of Internet Australia, Laurie Patton, said sign up rates on the NBN may be slow because people have heard speeds were slower than ADSL. The monitoring scheme would help work out if the slower speeds were due to the customer’s equipment, NBN Co’s network, or the telco’s stinginess with capacity.

He supports an independent scheme that would monitor speeds on fibre-to-the-node connections.

A program similar to what the ACCC proposes is currently being rolled out in Canada, with the communications regulator set to publish company-specific results later this year. A preliminary report found all the telcos met or exceeded their advertised speeds.