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Danny Buderus Field to be named at Taree Recreation Centre

THE official naming of the Danny Buderus Field will be held as part of the Manning in Motion’s celebrity league tag challenge on Saturday January 24.
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Taree Panthers Junior Rugby League Club made the suggestion to council to name the field opposite the canteen at Taree Recreation Centre in Buderus’s honour. Buderus started his rugby league career at a junior playing at the recreation centre. He is also a patron of the Taree Panthers.

Buderus is Taree’s most decorated footballer. He played for Australia 25 times and represented NSW in 21 State of Origin matches. While playing in England with Leeds he captained the Exiles team against England – a team made up of overseas players involved in the English Super League.

A hooker, Buderus played a record number of matches with the Newcastle Knights while he was a member of the club’s premiership winning side in 2001. He was the Dally M player of the year in 2004. Buderus was inducted into the Greater Taree City Council Sporting Hall of Fame in 2010.

He retired after the 2013 season but remains involved with the Knights in a coaching capacity.

His last game in this area was in 1994 when he played five-eighth for Taree United’s premiership winning under 18 side.

“It is very fitting that this field be named in his honour to recognise his achievements,” mayor Paul Hogan said.

“His sporting achievements are something that many young Manning athletes can aspire to.”

Buderus will join the mayor, the executive of the Taree Panthers and Manning in Motion organisers at noon on Saturday January 24 to officially name the field. The community are invited to attend.

Danny Buderus makes a break for NSW in a State of Origin clash in 2005. A field will be named in his honour at Taree Recreation Centre on Saturday January 24.

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Taree footballer off to high performance camp

Clive Bloomfield from Iguana with the first sportstar of the week for 2015, footballer Sam Modderno.TAREE’S Sam Modderno has been selected for the Northern NSW Football’s Telstra High Performance Camp.
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Sam has been named in the 12 years division. The camp will be attended by selected country and Emerging Jets players.

Sam is the only Manning-based player named.

The camp will be held at the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility in Spears Point this weekend.

Newcastle Jets coaching staff will attend. Sam will be hoping to be named in the Northern NSW team to contest the Australian championships later this year.

Sam is the first Manning River Times Iguana Sportstar of the Week for 2015. He wins a $50 open order at Iguana.

He started playng football when he was five. He says it’s the number one in his life.

“I played school basketball, but that’s it,” Sam said.

During football season Sam’s weekends are spent travelling to Port Macquarie and Newcastle to play in the Football Mid North Coast team in the under 13s National Premier League.

The team has been in training with their coach Daryl Pascoe since September, with their season starting in March.

Sam’s inspiration comes from his favourite players Tim Cahill and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Sam is looking forward to the Telstra High Performance Camp, although another football event is on his mind.

“My uncle got me tickets to the semi-finals of the Asian Cup in Newcastle,” he said.

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Great nominations for upcoming race meet

TAREE Wingham Race Club has again received great nominations from city, provincial and country trainers for its seven-race TAB meeting at Taree on Tuesday.
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A feature race, the Manning In Motion Raceday Benchmark 60 Handicap over 1267m, has attracted runners from Hawkesbury, Muswellbrook, Broadmeadow, Scone, Taree and Port Macquarie, many of them placed or recent winners in what should be a very competitive event.

Four-year-old gelding Showmaster is a last start winner at Bathurst for Hawkesbury trainer Garry Frazer, that being its first start back from a spell over 1200m on December 19.

Broadmeadow trainer Grant Marshall has had plenty of success with Slots and Miss Tripod at this track and he has a handy one in four-year-old mare Gods Gift To Women which has run third at Port when resuming and then was only beaten a half-length over 1200m at Gosford on December 31.

Port five-year-old gelding Friendsinlowplaces resumed from a spell with a solid win over 1100m on its home track on December 15 and wasn’t disgraced when 2.6 lengths back in fifth behind Youwaitandsee over 1206m at the same track on January 8.

Placed in the same race was five-year-old gelding Delagos, trained at Port by Neil Godbolt, it being capable on its day.

Taree seven-year-old mare Ruling Class had strung four thirds together at its past four starts at Port, Scone and Taree before a 3.4 lengths seventh to Youwaitandsee and has placed five times at Taree.

Broadmeadow trainer Paul Perry had a frustrating run with his gallopers at Taree’s five previous meetings, but grabbed the feature Wingham Beef Exports Cup over 1400m at the club’s last meeting with six-year-old gelding Pesaro.

He has a live chance in four-year-old gelding Salerton which was beaten less than two lengths by Dream Habit over 1100m at Scone and should be suited here.

Another exciting race will be the Winning Post Function Centre Benchmark 55 Handicap over 2018m where three last start winners in Just Atina, trained at Coffs Harbour by Brett Dodson, Dubai Dusk, trained at Broadmeadow by Mick Dwyer and Kempsey’s Brasileiro Macho, from the in-form stable of Julie Lynch, are engaged.

Just Atina and Dubai Dusk won races around the distance at Port whereas Brasileiro scored at Kempsey after being a close second in the Woop Woop Cup at Wauchope on Boxing Day.

The track should be in perfect order despite a few showers, it gaining widespread acceptance from visiting trainers who scooped all seven races at Taree’s last meeting.

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School’s out: Junior Country Music academy kids graduatePHOTOS

School’s out: Junior Country Music academy kids graduate | PHOTOS Jessikah Baillie, Siobhan Cotchin and Ella Radbone. Photo:Gareth Gardner 15011GGE04
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Darren Galea shooting may have been a case of mistaken identity, police say

Darren Galea was shot in the head at close range. Photo: Kate Geraghty Darren Galea was shot in the head at close range. Photo: Kate Geraghty
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Police believe Galea may have been shot in a case of mistaken identity. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Darren Galea was shot in the head at close range. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Darren Galea was shot in the head at close range. Photo: Kate Geraghty

A car similar to the white Toyota Corolla seen in the South Wentworthville area on January 16. Photo: Police Media

Darren Galea’s Toyota Corolla that was found burnt out two hours after he was murdered. Photo: Police Media

Darren Galea, 34, murdered at Auburn in 2014 in what police believe may have been a case of mistaken identity. Photo: Police Media

Darren Galea, 34, murdered at Auburn in 2014 in what police believe may have been a case of mistaken identity. Photo: Police Media

Darren Galea’s Toyota Corolla that was found burnt out two hours after he was murdered. Photo: Police Media

A car similar to the white Toyota Corolla seen in the South Wentworthville area on January 16. Photo: Police Media

A car similar to the white Toyota Corolla seen in the South Wentworthville area on January 16. Photo: Police Media

Darren Galea’s Toyota Corolla that was found burnt out two hours after he was murdered. Photo: Police Media

Darren Galea, 34, murdered at Auburn in 2014 in what police believe may have been a case of mistaken identity. Photo: Police Media

A car similar to the white Toyota Corolla seen in the South Wentworthville area on January 16. Photo: Police Media

Darren Galea’s Toyota Corolla that was found burnt out two hours after he was murdered. Photo: Police Media

Darren Galea, 34, murdered at Auburn in 2014 in what police believe may have been a case of mistaken identity. Photo: Police Media

He was a quiet family man, a hard working restaurant manager and an upstanding citizen that “mostly kept to himself”.

But Darren Galea’s body was found under the Duck River Bridge in Auburn last year, shot in the head at close range and dumped in muddy parkland with his hands bound.

One year after his death on January 16, police have made the shock revelation that Mr Galea, 34, was most likely the victim of a case of mistaken identity in a crime that has links to the Ibrahim family.

Ballistics testing on the single bullet that killed Mr Galea was able to establish links to two other shootings in Sydney – the shooting of a man in Auburn in 2012 and a drive-by shooting in Merrylands in 2011 targeting notorious cousins of the Ibrahim family.

The first was related to a drug activity and the second was related to a Nomads bikie gang dispute however Mr Galea had nothing to do with either.

“There is nothing in Mr Galea’s past to suggest any links with organised crime or drug activity, which is why we believe it could have been a case of mistaken identity,” said Detective Inspector Mark Henney from the Homicide Squad.

“By all accounts, Mr Galea was close to his family, worked hard at his job as a manager of a fast food restaurant, and kept mostly to himself. There is certainly nothing in his past to indicate why he would be targeted in this fashion.”

Police will use the anniversary of Mr Galea’s death on Friday to appeal for information that may help their hunt for his killer.

Mr Galea was kidnapped, taken to the reserve beneath the Duck River Bridge and shot in the head just after midnight on January 16. His hands were bound and his body was dumped

His white Corolla hatchback was set alight hear his home in South Wentworthville two hours later. A second white Toyota Corolla with two men was seen in the area and detectives believe it is linked to the murder.

At 6am, a 62 year-old man discovered the body while on his morning walk and initially thought it was headless.

Early information suggested that Mr Galea may have been murdered because he was involved in the reported sexual assault of a six-year-old girl in a toilet block at Guildford just a week earlier.

However, Detective Inspector Henney said they have conclusively ruled out any involvement by Mr Galea.

He had no known enemies and no links with organised crime, he said.

Police are hopeful someone may have seen the white Toyota Corolla with two men in the Wentworthville area in the early hours of January 16.

They are also hoping someone can shed light on Mr Galea’s movements the night before. They know he drove from Merrylands to his home about 4pm and that he was seen by a friend at a service station on Merrylands Road at 8.20pm.

The next four hours before his execution are a mystery.

In a frightening coincidence, the gunman in the Merrylands shooting also appears to have got the wrong target.

Shots were fired at a house in Eddy Street where the Tajjour family, cousins of the Ibrahims, used to live but they had moved out.

An innocent family-of-three were inside and missed being hit by about a metre.

In the days after, police said Sydney’s gun crime had gone beyond stupid and it was only a matter of time before an innocent member of the public would be killed.

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Ideas for Crowdy Head Public School site

CROWDY Head Public School will not open its doors to students this year.
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Last year the tiny school community lost its fight with the Department of Education to keep it operational. The school closed quietly, without fanfare, but now a not-so-quiet campaign is beginning to try to prevent the site from being sold by the Department of Crown Lands.

Member for Port Macquarie, Leslie Williams will be at Crowdy Head Surf Life Saving Club on January 29 at 10.30am to listen to community opinion and ideas for future use of the site.

One idea that is gaining momentum within the community is the proposal that the site be used for an Aboriginal and environmental education centre. Late last year Wingham Brush Environmental Education Centre officer and National Parks and Wildlife Service discovery ranger, Keith Davy stepped forward with the proposal.

It was not a new idea, as the foundation work for the concept began in 2010 when funding from the federal government and the Hunter Central Rivers Catchment Authority resulted in the production of a DVD and an information kit to promote the Aboriginal heritage of Crowdy Bay National Park and its environmental diversity.

The project was a group initiative, fuelled strongly by the passion of Manning Coastcare Group members, former Crowdy Head Public School principal, Chris Tsembis and Mr Davy. At that time it was proposed that the centre would run out of the school, that the school would be the main contact point for photos, maps and historical information on Crowdy Bay National Park and physical displays. Four years on, Mr Davy is now keen for the Manning community to rally to try to ensure the site is retained for community use and claim the opportunity to push for a valuable education resource.

Harrington Community Action Group (HCAG) learned of Mr Davy’s idea after he was featured in a front page story in the Times and decided to lend its support to the campaign. The group sought the meeting with Mrs Williams. It also wrote to Mrs Williams requesting representations be made to the minister for crown lands and the minister for education with regard to the future use of the site.

At the time of going to print no response had been received by Mrs Williams from either minister. Mr Davy hopes the government will see the value of retaining the land for community use and education.

“The Crowdy Gap is a significant Aboriginal place and it would be great for them (indigenous community) to be involved and have some degree of ownership,” Mr Davy said.

“I would like to train an indigenous National Parks and Wildlife Service discovery ranger and I think this would be the perfect place for that to come on board. I really think that this could be a wonderful opportunity.”

Mr Davy contends it is critical that school students aged from preschool through to senior biology and geology students be given the opportunity to learn in an area that boasts unique cultural and environmental features.

“You’ve got to get out to experience nature and you can’t do that through a computer,” Mr Davy said.

“Computers are great for gathering information but you’ve got to get out there and have a hands-on experience to really get a feel for it, to learn.”

Mr Davy paints a remarkable picture of the potential for hands-on learning.

“The location is remarkable. You can stand on the headland and imagine Captain Cook sailing past and naming the Three Brothers, which is the same name the indigenous had,” he said.

“You’ve got easy access to the quarry from where the rocks were shipped to make it possible to get in and out of the Manning River, you’ve got the indigenous history with The Big Swamp, the history of sand mining, you’ve got a marine rock platform, the sand dunes, Crowdy Gap with its natural, rather rare kind of local rainforest.

“You’ve got all of those remarkable things within a panoramic view standing on the headland,” Mr Davy said.

Harrington Community Action Group is urging the community attend the meeting with Mrs Williams.

For further information or to RSVP contact Joan Hall 6556 1521 or Margaret Ward 6556 1019.

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Manning Hospital’s infrastructure crisis

Manning Health Committee chair Don Macinnis says there is urgent need for action to counter what he claims is an infrastructure crisis at Manning Hospital. DON Macinnis is looking for a cure for the “festering sore” that is the infrastructure crisis at Manning Hospital in Taree.
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Millions of dollars is needed and this week he decided to speak to the issue of State government funding of Manning Hospital and the frustrations of Manning Health Committee as it seeks to press home the urgent need for action.

Mr Macinnis is the committee chair and says the “biggest challenge to be addressed is to get our local member who specialises in sound bites, press releases and photo opportunities to get off his backside and do something.”

The reference to member for Myall Lakes, Stephen Bromhead stems from the committee’s frustration at being repeatedly told “that money is coming.”

“Supposedly in the last budget there was $50 million to be shared between four or five hospitals. We were told that there would be $10 million for us – we’ve heard nothing and $10 million will go nowhere,” Mr Mcinnis said.

Mr Bromhead this week issued a media release stating that, “it is very pleasing that the NSW 2014/2015 Budget contained $50 million in the Restart NSW program for six regional hospitals from which Manning Base will receive $5 – $10 million to kick start the project.”

The release did not provide the exact funding figure or details of when monies would be provided to enable works to begin. However, further questions to Mr Bromhead revealed that “the amount will be determined by the treasurer, the health minister and cabinet.”

“This decision will be made available when treasury advises my office. I am currently fighting to have those amounts determined as soon as possible.”

Mr Bromhead said the NSW health minister Jillian Skinner was “very aware of the terrific ‘bang for the buck’ this project will deliver” but cited “the main issue to contend with is the pressure on the State budget and competing needs across the State.”

Mr Macinnis cites motivating Mr Bromhead to act for Manning Hospital as being “the first step that is probably going to be the hardest.”

“We just need to say righto, we just need to start planning and get things moving – I mean, with the time that it’s going to take means that we need to act,” he said.

“Having spent all the time drawing up plans and ideas we want to know how they are going to go about it, and when they are going to start.

“We want Mr Bromhead to put his hand up for a new hospital. It is as simple as that.

“The front portion of the hospital was completed 57 years ago. That’s the front wing – the other wing is older and inside that time, it has been gutted and rebuilt four or five times.

“It’s just a festering sore, I prefer to call it, and it’s not just us, Forster is just as much involved when you think about the issues.”

On paper, Manning Hospital looks good. This week Mr Bromhead revealed that “over the past two years, targets set by NSW Health under the National Emergency Access Target (NEAT) scheme, have been exceeded.”

Mr Macinnis acknowledges this fact.

“It is. It is meeting all of the targets and that makes it hard to say that there is a problem, but there is a problem,” he said.

Today Manning Hospital general manager Tricia Bulic will leave the role. At the time of going to print, Hunter New England Health had not advised who would act in the role of general manager.

Mr Macinnis identifies the new year and the appointment of a new general manager as an opportunity for positive change.

“We want to be involved with the next appointment,” Mr Macinnis said.

“This local health committee was set up as an advisory group about five or six years ago and we sort of sat on the sidelines, not too sure of where our role fitted in and it’s developed over recent time.

“Because of frustrations and all sorts of issues, we have started to campaign to be more than advisory, to be more hands-on with decsion making.

“We want a stronger voice,” he added.

Expansion of outpatient clinics and oncology services, paediatric ward and special care nursery ward improvements, the removal and replacement of several buildings – there is a list and it is long of the infrastructure improvements needed at Manning Hospital in Taree.

The detail is outlined in the Hunter New England Health (HNE Health) ‘Manning Rural Referral Hospital Master Development Plan’ and it is repeatedly cited as the ‘go-to’ document by Manning Hospital Medical Council and Manning Health Staff Service Committee when discussing the hospital infrastructure funding crisis.

A team from Suters in Newcastle developed the plan in 2013 under the direction of HNE Health facility planner, Claire Groombridge. According to the plan, the project objective was to “carry out a high-level master development planning study for the hospital that will assist planning and development linked to future funding opportunities as they arise. Underlying the study is the understanding that a major redevelopment of the hospital through extensive rebuilding as a single project will not occur and that future development will be through smaller focused projects addressing particular services delivery requirements.”

HNE Health and Suters began work on the plan in February 2013 and it was released in June 2013. Since that time is has secured no funding from the State or federal government to implement any of the recommended infrastructure improvements.

Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead revealed at the launch of the plan that stage one of the redevelopment would cost around $20 million and require federal government funding assistance. He also flagged that “all funding mentioned in the 2013/14 NSW State Budget for hospitals had their Clinical Service Plans and applications for funding completed prior to 2011.”

A summary of the key recommendations is as follows:

o Buildings for short term removal: pathology buildings, mortuary building, pharmacy building and the dental building.

o Buildings for long to medium term removal: building 1, building 2 and the clinical service building.

Buildings for retention:

o Emergency department: requires improved access to intensive care unit, theatres, imaging, to the main entry and car parking and public internal after hours access required to imaging.

o Clinical service building: requires expansion of outpatient clinics and oncology services, improvement of paediatric ward and special care nursery and requires improved theatres flow restructuring.

o Community health centre: requires improved access and integration to main hospital.

o Mental health building: requires improved access and integration to main hospital.

o The High Street heritage building and the original primary building of the Victoria Fever Ward will be retained due to heritage significance.

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‘Man has gone too far’: Pope Francis says we are primarily responsible for climate change

Pope Francis has flown to the Philippines, an island nation frequently hit by natural disasters, declaring that man is primarily responsible for climate change.
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Wading into the climate change debate on board the papal plane, the Pope told journalists he hoped negotiators at the next round of climate change talks in Paris in November would take a courageous stand to protect the environment.

“I don’t know if it is all (man’s fault) but the majority is, for the most part, it is man who continuously slaps down nature,” he said.

“We have in a sense taken over nature. I think we have exploited nature too much.”

The comments were Pope Francis’ clearest on the environment since he pledged to make the issue a priority on the day of his installation as Pope in 2013.

“We have, in a sense, lorded it over nature, over Sister Earth, over Mother Earth,” said the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, who has in the past spoken about the need to protect the environment.

“I think man has gone too far,” he said.

“Thank God that today there are voices that are speaking about this.”

Greeted in Manila by ecstatic crowds on Thursday evening, Pope Francis will on Saturday travel to Leyte, the island hardest hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and meet with survivors.

The Philippine government has said the typhoon was an example of extreme weather conditions caused by global warming.

An average of more than 20 typhoons hit the Philippines a year and the country suffers from frequent floods, mudslides and earthquakes.

The 78 year-old Pope said he hoped his long awaited encyclical on the environment will encourage Paris negotiators to make decisions that protect God’s creation.

He said he wanted it out in plenty of time to be read and absorbed before the Paris meeting after the last round of negotiations failed in Peru last month.

About 190 nations attending the Peru meeting agreed that governments submit national plans for reining in greenhouse gas emissions by an informal deadline of March 31 2015 to form the basis of a global agreement due at the Paris meeting.

“The meetings in Peru were nothing much, I was disappointed,” Pope Francis said.

“There was a lack of courage. They stopped at a certain point. We hope that in Paris the representatives have more courage to go forward,” he said.

The Pope also told journalists on the plane there are limits to freedom of expression, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith.

Referring to the terror attacks in Paris, he said defending freedom of speech was not only a fundamental human right but a duty to speak one’s mind for the sake of the common good.

But he said there were limits.

“You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of others,” he said.

Referring to past religious wars, such as the Crusades sanctioned by the Catholic Church against Islam, the Pope said “let’s consider our own history. How many wars of religion have we had? Even we were sinners but you can’t kill in the name of God. That’s an aberration.”

Pope Francis played down fears he may be the target of terrorists as he arrived in the Philippines where 40,000 police, soldiers and volunteers have been deployed to protect him.

He said he was primarily concerned for the faithful and said he had spoken to Vatican security officials who are taking “prudent and secure measures.”

“I’m in God’s hands,” he said.

A plot by al-Qaeda terrorists to assassinate Pope John Paul 11 in Manila 1995 was foiled days before he arrived in the Philippines.

Pope Francis said his visit to the Philippines, Asia’s largest Catholic nation, will focus on the plight of the poor, the exploited and victims of injustice – themes that will resonate in a country where poverty afflicts a fourth of the 100 million people.

Church bells tolled as he stepped from his plane at Manila airport to be welcomed by well wishers led by President Benigno Aquino.

A sudden gust of wind blew off his cap seconds after he appeared but he smiled when he failed to grab it and began his four day visit to the country where there are 75 million Catholics.

With AP, Reuters and agencies

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Start-ups look to hire new talent off back of tax change

Dean Ramler of furniture retailer Milan Direct thinks the changes will result in more hiring. Photo: Wayne TaylorAustralian start-ups say they will consider hiring more staff and will have greater ability to compete with the likes of United States tech giants Google and Apple after the government moved to introduce changes to employee share schemes.
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Draft laws released by the government on Thursday, if implemented, will remove an upfront tax on employee share schemes and provide a further tax concession for budding tech firms.

Tech start-ups said on Thursday the tax concession would allow them to take on more staff who would otherwise be attracted to the higher salaries of their Silicon Valley competitors.

“Younger start-ups like ours have less cash available, so this allows us to attract high-value talent and more of it,” Stuart Stoyan, chief executive of peer-to-peer money lender MoneyPlace, said.

“We will definitely be hiring more staff off the back of this, because it will enable us to substitute equity for salary and therefore recruit a larger team.”

Dean Ramler, founder of online furniture retailer Milan Direct, agreed the changes would result in more hiring.

“We would be able to utilise more cash for new staff, as opposed to directing that cash to senior managers.”

The government announced plans to introduce the changes in October as part of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s National Industry and Innovation Agenda. The plan reverses a 2009 decision by Labor to tax the share schemes up front. The Abbott government’s proposed scheme gives a $200 million boost for businesses over four years.

Share schemes, popular among start-ups, allow employees to acquire shares in their company, often at a discount, as part of their pay package.

The idea is that workers have more of an interest in improving the company over time if they also have a stake in the business.

But experts say the proposed changes could be used as a way for employers to reduce wages, not hire more staff.

David Peetz, professor of employment relations at Griffith Business School, said evidence that employee share schemes drove growth was “less than convincing”.

“If you do see benefits from share ownership on employee behaviour, it tends to be where those employees have also had some role in decision making,” he said.

“If managers see this as an employment cost, they’re going to be containing their costs and you would expect employees would be getting lower wages.”

Despite intense lobbying by industry for the changes, Professor Peetz said claims that smaller and younger organisations were more innovative were sometimes exaggerated.

“You get a lot of stories in the press … saying new organisations are doing things differently, they’re more innovative, but actually there’s an awful lot of new workplaces that flounder around,” he said.

Under the new laws, companies considered start-ups will be eligible to receive a tax concession if they meet certain criteria. These criteria include being less than 10 years old and having an annual turnover of $50 million or less.

Once a company qualifies, its employees will be able to defer paying tax on share options until they sell the underlying shares, for up to 15 years.

Employees of most other companies will also be able to defer tax on options until they are exercised and converted into shares, rather than paying upfront.

Share options are often used by tech firms instead of higher salaries during the early development phase of a business, with the promise of a greater return when the company lists on the sharemarket or sells to another company.

Chris Koch, founder and chief executive of mobile data tracker Pop, said the Silicon Valley employee share scheme model was central to attracting entrepreneurs.

“The great employees out there are looking for that,” he said.

Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson said the changes, if adopted, would help small Australian companies be more competitive in the global labour market.

“We have designed these changes to increase the international competitiveness of our tax system and allow innovative Australian firms to attract and retain high-quality employees,” he said.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said on Thursday he supported the draft laws but would consult certain stakeholders.

“We will be talking to the start-up and other sectors to get their feedback on the government’s draft legislation,” he said.

The government said the draft laws reflected international research that showed companies with share schemes were more productive and retained high-quality staff better than companies that did not have the schemes.

Xero Australia managing director Chris Ridd acknowledged there were risks involved for employees who took on a share scheme, but said the schemes had obvious benefits.

“It doesn’t necessarily suit everyone to have more of their remuneration based in shares, but having shares in the company is highly motivating,” he said.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which was among business groups that lobbied for the 2009 changes to be reversed, said the new laws would benefit start-ups and entrepreneurs.

“Allowing options to be taxed when they are converted to shares and not when an employee receives them will help smaller, innovative businesses use them to attract top talent and accelerate growth,” John Osborn, ACCI’s director of economics and industry policy, said.

The 2009 tax changes by the former Labor government were aimed at executives who try to reduce tax by channelling income into share options.

Start-ups regarded the changes as detrimental to their business model, which uses the options to attract talent instead of paying high salaries in their early years.

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More scope for reducing power prices

The IPO market may be looking tricky for the first half of the year, but with privatisation of government-owned enterprises on the agenda in both Queensland and NSW once their state elections are out of the way, the prospects through the latter part of the year may have a significant impact on the sale prices.
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Queensland is moving to sell off its power assets, while in NSW, the Baird government is expected to win electoral backing to sell its poles and wires at state election in March.

Robust financial markets later in the year could give the publicly owned infrastructure investors such as Spark and Duet the prospect of some additional firepower if they decide to participate, which may ensure greater competitive tension beyond just the likes of potential foreign bidders such as China Grid, which has already bought into the sector locally, or some of Canada’s pension fund managers.

But before the sales get under way, more fundamental is determining the value of the assets. And with the industry regulator finalising the latest price determination for the NSW network businesses, the outcome will have a clear impact on the prices offered for the assets to be sold.

In its draft determination for the NSW network businesses, the AER has slashed around $8 billion off the $24 billion sought in revenue for the regulatory period 2015-19, drawing howls of protest from the network companies Ausgrid, Essential and Endeavour Energy.

For the privately run network operators in Victoria, the pricing decision is of more than passing interest. Even though they are more efficient by most yardsticks than their NSW counterparts, they will be keenly focused on some aspects of the outcome – specifically interest rate assumptions along with issues surrounding forward demand and measures to cut future demand that will reduce future spending.

The NSW networks have taken aim at the headline cuts since, like any large organisation, it is difficult to quickly slash costs deeply, especially since a large part of the changes involve tackling outdated work practices of public sector unions that have had the upper hand in keeping management at bay.

Putting those issues to one side, one of the fundamental changes in the AER determination is the assumption about interest rates. The downturn in global financial markets with the collapse of Lehman Bros in 2008 kept the so-called weighted average cost of capital at a high 10 per cent in the last determination period; the world has changed significantly since, with interest rates now at record lows.

Even so, the regulator has opted for 7.15 per cent as the rate of return this time around, down from 10.02 per cent in the previous determination, which was fixed in 2008 and ran from 2009 to 2014.

However, in the UK, electricity sector regulator Ofgem, in its most recent pricing decision for its network operators, has chosen just 3.6 per cent. But given a gearing ratio of 65 per cent, this raises the figure to 4.8 per cent.

Clearly interest rates in the UK, and also Europe, are lower than in Australia. Still, with the prospect that rates will be lower for longer in Australia given the economic slowdown under way as the economy changes, moving on from the China-fired resources boom, the AER does appear to be unduly generous to the power companies in its interest rate assumption.

Some groups are lobbying for the AER to take a tougher stance here, since a lower interest rate assumption would slice electricity bills, while also hitting the value of the businesses.

A lower interest rate assumption here would also roll through to Victoria’s network companies when their prices are determined over the next few years, and would squeeze margins further at a time when the tougher regulatory approach now being adopted will weigh on their earnings outlook.

The NSW network businesses are already holding price rises at less than the rate of inflation, and the heavy cuts to spending that will result from the AER price determination will push charges down another notch.

It is easy to forget that just a few years back, the network companies were carrying out billion-dollar upgrades to ensure supplies could be met during the surge in “peak demand”, which ran for just a few hours in the middle of summer when, with industry in full swing, any hot weather would push up airconditioner demand, threatening to overwhelm supply systems.

The heavy – and sustained – subsidy received by the renewables industry has removed the need for much of this spending for now.

Even though the network companies are willing to pursue further operating efficiencies by seeking to reduce demand further at these peak times, the AER has ruled out including incentives to hasten the process as it awaits a deeper review of policy in this area by the industry’s overseer, the Australian Energy Markets Commission.

This is a missed opportunity, since it will mean it will not be until well into the next decade before policies are implemented in this area.

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