Monthly Archives: August 2019

Newcastle port sale adds to Libs’ election war chest

The NSW government will tip more than $1 billion into its infrastructure fund Restart NSW from the privatisation of the Port of Newcastle, leaving it with a potential $2 billion war chest before next year’s election. Premier Mike Baird and Treasurer Andrew Constance announced the 98-year lease of the port on Wednesday to Port of Newcastle Investments, a joint venture between Hastings Funds Management and China Merchants. The gross proceeds of the sale are $1.75 billion, of which $340 million will be spent on revitalisation of the Newcastle CBD, including a new light rail project. This is in addition to $120 million already set aside for the project from previous privatisations including the sale of Port Kembla, Port Botany, electricity generators and the desalination plant. After transaction costs and debt are repaid, about $1.2 billion will go into Restart NSW. Mr Baird said the government was “surprised by the final result” having initially estimated sale proceeds of about $700 million in last year’s budget. The sale price was 27 times earnings, which Mr Baird said exceeded the result for Port Botany and was “an amazing result”. The sale brings the total amount of funds in Restart NSW to more than $6 billion, however much of this has been allocated to projects. They include $1.8 billion towards the WestConnex motorway, $403 million for the Pacific Highway, $170 million for the Princes Highway, $135 million for Bridges for the Bush and $130 million for Resources for Regions and $100 million for the Illawarra infrastructure fund. A spokesman for Mr Constance said the Port of Newcastle sale meant there was more than $2 billion in unallocated funds in Restart NSW. He noted that under the legislation governing Restart NSW, projects may only be funded by the Treasurer on the recommendation of Infrastructure NSW. Mr Baird would not nominate specific projects the remainder of the money would fund, but indicated it would allow the government to “bring forward” some of its priority projects. These are likely to include a second Sydney harbour rail crossing. Nor would he be drawn on whether announcements would be made in the June 17 state budget. “There’s obviously more announcements to come, but the firepower of NSW just got stronger,” he said. Mr Constance said the sale was “an enormous vote of confidence on the part of business in what we’re doing as a government”. He said the Port of Newcastle is the world’s largest coal port, handling about 40 per cent of Australia’s coal exports. The NSW government will retain regulatory oversight of the Port of Newcastle and responsibility for maritime and safety and security functions. But opposition leader John Robertson said the announcement was an “insult” to the Hunter region, given just 20 per cent of the proceeds would be directed there. Shadow Treasurer Michael Daley accused Mr Baird of deliberately talking down the potential proceeds “to make himself look like a genius when it turned out to be worth more”.    

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Cadel Evans is still our greatest, says Simon Gerrans

Cadel Evans remains the greatest cyclist Australia has ever produced, says Simon Gerrans whose historic victory in the hilly Liege-Bastogne-Liege one-day classic in Belgium on Sunday has boosted his growing reputation as one of the very best riders in the world.

Gerrans’ win in the 100th edition of Liege-Bastogne-Liege – which is one of cycling’s five one-day ”monuments” – was the first by an Australian in the race and, with his increasing list of successes, enhanced his place as one of the best riders in Australian cycling history.

There are some who believe Gerrans, 33 and a rider on the Australian Orica-GreenEDGE team, has it in him to become Australia’s greatest ever rider in a country rich with champions.

Gerrans’ career is an illustrious one. It includes wins in the 2012 Milan-San Remo, stages of the 2013 Tour de France (when he also wore the yellow jersey for two days), 2009 Giro d’Italia and 2009 Vuelta a Espana (making him the first Australian to win stages in all three grand tours), the 2012 and 2014 national road title, the 2006, 2012 and 2014 Tour Down Under, and the 2005 and 2006 Herald Sun Tour.

But Gerrans says the standalone best Australian rider is still Evans, 37.  In 2011 Evans became the first Australian to win the Tour de France. On Friday week he will start in the Giro d’Italia off an impressive overall victory and stage win in the Giro del Trentino last week.

Evans’ other top results include wins in the 2009 world road title, the 2010 Fleche Wallonne classic, the 2006 and 2009 Tour de Romandie, the 2011 Tirreno-Adriatico and 1998 mountain bike World Cup series; and second place finishes in the 2008 and 2007 Tour, and thirds in the 2013 Giro d’Italia and 2009 Vuelta a Espana (making him the first Australian to podium overall in all three grand tours).

And judging by how well Evans won the Giro del Trentino last week, the BMC rider is intent on adding more gloss to that already polished record before his nearing retirement – starting at the Giro d’Italia, which no Australian has won.

”I’ve had some fantastic achievements over the past few seasons, mixing it with the very best in the world in the biggest races,” Gerrans  said after returning from Liege to his European home in Monaco.

”I’m obviously very proud of those results, but where that puts me in a ranking is very hard to say in relation to the other Australian cyclists.

”Cadel always has that top spot, purely from winning the Tour de France. It’s the pinnacle of the sport and the one race everybody around the entire world knows.

”The fact he has won [the Tour], that gives him a special place in Australian cycling history.”

Meanwhile, Gerrans is enjoying a break before his return to racing in the Bayern Rundfahrt stage race in Germany from May 28 to June 1.

For Gerrans, the German event will signal the start to his build-up for the Tour which this year begins in Leeds, on July 5.

But Gerrans admits it will be a tall order for Orica-GreenEDGE to repeat their success of last year, when he won stage three, the team took out the stage four team time trial and then he and South African Daryl Impey wore the yellow jersey for a total of four days.

”We haven’t worked out too specifically what the plan will be, but I think the real goal will be to win a stage again,” Gerrans said.

”Obviously, it will be very, very difficult to match what we achieved last year. That was above and beyond everybody’s wildest dreams.”

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Bulldogs defend handling of Andrew Fifita fiasco

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Canterbury chief executive Raelene Castle has defended her handling of the Andrew Fifita contract saga, revealing the NRL has cleared the club of any wrongdoing.

Fifita has signed a lucrative four-year contract with Cronulla but the fallout from the deal which fell over with the Bulldogs continues to make headlines.

Details of the memorandum of understanding – which would have made him the highest-paid Bulldog in history – and sections of the contract he signed with the Bulldogs have been leaked.

While the MOU outlined a deal worth $800,000 a year and $3.2 million in total, the Nine Network aired parts of that and the contract proper, which stipulated he would earn $375,000 next year, $425,000 in 2016, $650,000 in 2017 and $675,000 in the final year. That amounts to more than $1 million less than the agreed amount.

Castle, whose signature was on the contract, is comfortable with how the matter has been handled at her end.

“The NRL are comfortable with the documentation we have provided and will not be taking any further investigations,” Castle said.

“We won’t play out our commercial discussions in the media. We always work to handle everything professionally at every level.

“I continue to point to the joint press release in which they were comfortable with the situation, it was approved by them and included a quote from them when it was sent.”

Castle’s last remark refers to a joint statement issued late last month which revealed the transfer wouldn’t happen, despite both parties previously trumpeting the ”signing” news.

In that statement, Castle said: “After signing a memorandum of understanding with Andrew we’ve not been able to agree on the final terms of his NRL playing contract and have ceased negotiations with his management.

“We wish Andrew all the best for the future. Andrew’s now free to go and look at rugby union if that’s what he wants to do.’’

Fifita’s management group, Athlete management, added: “Andrew is disappointed that we could not finalise terms with the Bulldogs but we still have several options to explore.”

Since then, it’s been suggested Fifita’s legal team would sue the Bulldogs for lost earnings.

“They are not suing us, we have not received any formal legal advice from Fifita’s management,” Castle said.

High-level playing contracts such as the one offered to Fifita usually include three elements – the portion paid under the salary cap, the marquee player allowance and the third-party agreements. Under salary cap rules the latter cannot be guaranteed by clubs. However, it’s understood all Bulldogs players promised TPAs have received those entitlements over the past five years and the club was confident Fifita would receive all monies promised in the MOU.

The club will now channel its energies on other recruitment and retention priorities, including skipper Michael Ennis and promising prop Lloyd Perrett, who are both off contract at the end of the year. The latter will be representing Queensland in the NYC State of Origin clash on Saturday despite the fact his brother, Bulldogs fullback Sam, represents New Zealand.

“I put a bit of pressure on myself, I knew what people would think of me if I chose Australia when my brother plays for New Zealand,” Perrett said.

“At the end of the day, my mentors at the Bulldogs and my dad said the only person I need to answer for myself is me. I’m happy with the decision I made so I can represent where I grew up.”

Asked about the prospect of one day opposing Sam in a Test match, Perrett said: “That would be crazy. It would be pretty cool, I’m not sure if it’s ever been done before. That would be an awesome experience.”

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Gillon McLachlan promises a more female-friendly AFL

Gillon McLachlan, the AFL’s incoming chief executive, has promised to lead a more diverse, female-friendly organisation than his predecessors. He has also vowed that pioneering female coach, Peta Searle, is not lost to the game due to a lack of opportunity.

Acknowledging the disproportionate number of men in senior positions at league headquarters, McLachlan pledged that women would be promoted to help rectify a glaring imbalance.

In VFL/AFL history, only one woman has sat on the league’s executive at any one time. While women have acted as general managers temporarily, the first was not appointed to a permanent role until human resources manager Christina Ogg joined the league in 2008.

After Ogg resigned in 2012, Dorothy Hisgrove won a new executive position, general manager of people, customer and community, in early 2013.

Two women sit on the AFL Commission – Sam Mostyn was the first appointed in 2005, and has for years championed the promotion of women in the game – but Hisgrove remains the sole woman executive at league headquarters.

“We need greater diversity in our industry generally,” McLachlan said on Wednesday. “I think to do that it has to start at the top, and I’m committed to a more diverse looking industry, and a more diverse looking AFL.”

Asked what had held the AFL back on that front, McLachlan said: “I don’t think it’s been anything specific. I think in the end you just have to make bold decisions and make stuff happen.”

When Andrew Demetriou announced his resignation from the AFL’s top job in March, he said it was a shortcoming of the code that more women had not been promoted to more posts of influence.

Richmond Football Club has since announced an affirmative action initiative, in conjunction with the AFL and Australian Institute of Sport, and will undertake a study to explore the real and perceived barriers to women in the industry and,  from next year, the employment of more women by Richmond.

But for that progress there is continued disappointment on other fronts. Fairfax Media reported on Sunday that Searle, the first woman appointed as an assistant coach in the VFL – no woman has progressed higher in coaching in football – had walked away from her job, citing disillusionment due to the lack of a clear career pathway.

Speaking specifically about Searle on Wednesday, McLachlan told ABC radio: “I think Peta Searle is one where we’ll do what we can to see she gets an opportunity, because someone who obviously is as qualified as her – and I’ve done enough research to know that she’s well regarded – I think to get the ball rolling sometimes you’ve just got to make opportunities and make things happen. And I think we’ll try to do that with Peta.”

Searle worked as an assistant coach to Gary Ayres at Port Melbourne for two seasons, and had a stint at Melbourne last year when she was invited to work with its coaches once a week.

But she has left the VFL and returned to teaching in order to better support her young family. A five-time premiership player and senior coach in the Victorian Women’s Football League, Searle’s aim has been to work permanently at an AFL club.

Among the three visions McLachlan outlined for the code was the aim of it being ‘‘truly representative’’.

‘‘If we do that, I believe we’ll fill every stadium and success will follow,” he said. “I have a clear vision of where I think the game needs to go and we’re going to get there. For me, that vision is about having an unassailable hold on the Australian community. In women, in children, as much as men. From the north to the south, in all communities.’’

McLachlan said there would be a different approach to the way the AFL did business. “The shape and structure of the team will change,” he said, adding it will evolve rather than happen as soon as he takes control on June 5.

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University of Newcastle graduations: Nikki Payne

STUDY: Nikki Payne studied through Open Foundation. NIKKI Payne never imagined undertaking university study, let alone a degree in medicine.

After schooling at Vacy Primary School and Dungog High School, Nikki attained administration qualifications and worked in accounting and hospitality before starting her family.

‘‘I wanted to be something my children could be proud of, but I still didn’t know what. I started [at] Open Foundation on the recommendation of a friend.

‘‘I eventually decided I wanted to do nursing, but I was getting better marks than I expected and so someone suggested I aim for medicine instead. I did and I got in,’’ she said.

The university’s enabling program Open Foundation this year celebrates 40 years of providing people a pathway to university study.

Ms Payne said the enabling program prepared her well for what lay ahead in university study.

‘‘I loved Open Foundation. I found the staff extremely supportive and encouraging, including the learning development team,’’ she said.

The University of Newcastle is the largest provider of domestic enabling programs in Australia and the proportion of its students from a low socio-economic background is 26per cent, significantly higher than the sector average of 16per cent.

Ms Payne admitted she was apprehensive before starting Open Foundation as she had not studied previously and did not know how she would cope with the pressure.

‘‘My lecturers helped my transition go rather smoothly, as did the new friends I made,’’ she said.

Ms Payne will be awarded a John Lambert Friends of the University Scholarship, on the basis of academic merit and equity criteria, to support her study in the highly competitive University of Newcastle Bachelor of medicine (Joint Medical Program).

‘‘Studying medicine is a whole new ball game, she said.

‘‘Going from part-time to full-time study was a major change, as well as going from one day per week away from my children to five days per week. Medicine is definitely challenging and also very interesting,’’ she said.

Nikki said she was keeping an open mind about potential specialities.

‘‘At this stage I’m considering two pathways – either rural GP and/or obstetrics. I like the idea of the variety a rural GP encounters.’’

Approximately 35,000 people have enrolled in the Open Foundation since it started as a pilot in 1974 with only 80 commencing students.