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  • Saifiti twins win Fiji call-up

    Daniel, left, and Jacob Saifiti.KNIGHTS twin towers Daniel and Jacob Saifiti were playing for The Entrance Tigers less than a year ago.
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    On Saturday, a day after celebrating their 19th birthday, the Saifiti brothers will represent Fiji against Papua New Guinea at Robina in the first leg of the Pacific Test double-header.

    They have played National Youth Cup this year, will still be NYC-eligible in 2016, and the Knights are closing in on securing their services for another two years.

    Newcastle coach Rick Stone has monitored their progress since they joined the club at the end of last year and had no hesitation including them in the Fijian pack to tackle the Kumuls.

    Their Bati teammates will include Knights clubmate Korbin Sims and experienced NRL players Kevin Naiqama, Marika Koroibete, Apisai Koroisau and Jayson Bukuya.

    Knights director of football Michael Hagan said the twins, who are studying to become primary school teachers, had worked hard on and off the field.

    Hagan said the boys had struck up a close relationship with former Knights, Dragons and New Zealand Test prop Craig Smith, Newcastle’s NYC assistant coach.

    ‘‘They’re very athletic, they’ve got good motors, and they’re good characters,’’ Hagan said.

    Their mother, Bev, is Fijian, but they were born in Newcastle and raised on the Central Coast.

    Rather than rooming together in camp this week, Jacob is sharing with Wyong prop Eloni Vunakece and Daniel has been paired with Wentworthville centre Fabian Goodall.

    ‘‘At the start of the week, seeing all the NRL players was pretty surreal, but by the next day I got over it and once we started training I was right,’’ Daniel said.

    ‘‘I’m used to playing club footy against people my age in under-20s, so coming up against full-grown adults that have been in the NRL system for a while, it’s going to be tough, but I’m just going to have to handle it.’’

    Daniel, a prop, tips the scales at 117 kilograms, and Jacob, who plays in the back row or front row, weighs 111kg.

    They are both 193cm tall, and Jacob came off the bench in the Tigers’ 22-18 victory over Mounties in the Ron Massey Cup grand final last year.

    ‘‘I definitely wasn’t expecting it. We got told we might be in the squad, but when they said we’d be starting, it was a bit of a shock,’’ Jacob said.

    ‘‘The week’s been pretty chill. All the boys have been really friendly and heaps welcoming, especially the first-graders, because they’ve taken us young guys under their wings and shown us the way.

    ‘‘It’s still a bit surreal.

    ‘‘Making this team hasn’t really sunk in yet, but I’m sure it will by kick-off.’’

    ■ The Knights are close to finalising terms on a new deal with Kade Snowden.

    The 28-year-old former NSW and Australian prop has been their retention priority since they acknowledged they would lose Beau Scott to Parramatta at the end of the season.

    Snowden, in the final year of the four-year deal he signed when he returned from Cronulla in 2012, has no plans on leaving and starting again at a new club.

    Knights coach Rick Stone is keen to keep the Belmont North Sharks junior as his pack leader.

    The Knights are also making steady progress in negotiations with 20-year-old former Junior Kangaroos outside back Jake Mamo, who has been linked to the Dragons and Sea Eagles.

    ■ Knights prop David Fa’alogo declared himself unavailable to captain Samoa against Tonga in the second Pacific Test at Robina on Saturday so he could treat an ongoing knee injury.

    In Fa’alogo’s absence, Joey Leilua, Pat Mata’utia and Carlos Tuimavave will fly the Knights flag in the Samoan squad.

    ■ There is a Knights connection in most of the rep teams running around this weekend.

    The withdrawal of Jarrod Mullen has left four Knights, Aku Uate, James McManus, Kade Snowden and Tariq Sims, in the Country Origin team to play City at Wagga Wagga on Sunday, and Danny Buderus is on the Country coaching staff.

    Former Knights prop Tony Butterfield is one of City coach Brad Fittler’s assistants.

    Knights outside backs Chanel Mata’utia and Nathan Ross are members of the NSW Cup representative team to play Queensland Residents in Brisbane on Sunday.

    That team will be coached by former Knights assistant and lower-grade coach Garth Brennan, who has won back-to-back premierships with Penrith’s NSW Cup and NYC teams in the past two seasons.

    Justin Holbrook, a former halfback understudy to Knights Hall of Famer Andrew Johns, will coach the Junior Kangaroos against the Junior Kiwis at Robina on Saturday.

    ■ The selection of rookie Sharks utility back Jack Bird at halfback for Country Origin shows just how far Knights playmaker Tyrone Roberts has slipped off the radar.

    Roberts, who partnered Knights teammate Jarrod Mullen in the Country halves last season, has been below his best, and Barrett preferred to give the chance to Bird, who has played just five NRL games and none at halfback.

  • Overseas workers: Australia risks becoming ‘two-tier’ workforce, ACTU warns

    “There is no benefit to the current trend”: ACTU President Ged Kearney. Photo: Steven SiewertAustralia is creating a “two-tier system”, with many international workers having fewer rights than others in the workforce, an ACTU submission to the senate inquiry into temporary visas warns.
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    Australian unions are pushing for a cut in the swelling number of overseas workers on temporary visas and a return to predominantly permanent migration to curb exploitation and unemployment.

    The submission by the Australian Council of Trade Unions calls for a re-evaluation of the “largely uncapped temporary visa system”, which, if allowed to continue, would see the number of overseas workers on temporary visas grow from 1.2 million to 2 million by 2020.

    It argues that working holiday visas should be capped to allow more young Australians to enter the workforce.

    The union said that last year, an extra 40,000 people became unemployed when the number of temporary visa holders increased by 45,000.

    More than 160,000 young international workers are currently on working holiday 417 visas at the same time that 290,000 people aged 15 to 24 are unemployed.

    ACTU president Ged Kearney said Australia has a “proud history of permanent migration which has contributed significantly to the great multicultural nation we are today”.

    “There is no benefit to the current trend, where we rely on international workers to fill alleged gaps in skills. We must create opportunities through investment and training to combat unemployment,” she said.

    “We need to focus on creating job opportunities for Australians, we must ensure our permanent migration system is robust and we must limit the use of temporary visas to reflect genuine skills shortages.”

    The assistant minister for immigration and border protection, Senator Michaelia​ Cash, has criticised the senate inquiry as being “politically motivated by those who are fundamentally opposed to the 457 skilled migration program”.

    The federal government released its response to an independent inquiry into the integrity of the 457 program, chaired by John Azarias​, a week before the Senate inquiry was launched last month.

    Ms Cash has said the earlier inquiry had been comprehensive and the government has announced it will follow recommendations to strengthen the integrity of the 457 visa program.

  • IAN KIRKWOOD: Two sides to war on drugs

    IT was a Tuesday afternoon in Wallsend, and patrons of the Racecourse Hotel were struggling to absorb the news that one of their number, Renae Lawrence, was under arrest in Bali after police had allegedly found more than two kilograms of heroin strapped to her body.
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    She’d been caught three days earlier, on Sunday, April 17, 2005.

    The Bali Nine story was big news then, and it’s even bigger news now with confirmation on Wednesday morning that two of the nine, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, have been executed on the Indonesian island of Nusa Kambangan.

    Sympathy for Lawrence and her fellow smugglers was pretty thin on the ground in Wallsend and surrounds those first few days after their arrests, especially as Schapelle Corby had been arrested flying into Bali just six months before with 4.2 kilograms of cannabis stuffed into her boogie board bag.

    But as more details of the case trickled out, it became increasingly apparent that most of the people arrested were simply mules for a larger and more sophisticated smuggling operation.

    And within days, it was revealed that the Australian Federal Police had been tipped off about the gang and its activities, and that they had allowed the Indonesians to make the arrest, knowing the death penalty was the potential – and we now know, eventual – punishment for at least some of those involved.

    More than one commentator has described the AFP as having blood on its hands over the executions of Chan and Sukumaran, and the absence of the death penalty in Australia means the Bali Nine would never have faced such sanction on these shores.

    Now, with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop having recalled the Australian ambassador from Jakarta, Indonesia’s determination to keep on executing narcotics smugglers could well trigger a cooling in diplomatic relations, at least for the short term.

    Over time, the deaths of these two Australian drug traffickers are likely to fade into history to become footnotes to the long and largely unsuccessful war against drugs that governments of all persuasions have kept in their campaign kitbags.

    But to what ends?

    Heroin comes from the opium poppy – Papaver somniferum – which has been cultivated since Neolithic times, some 7000 or more years ago. Cannabis use can be traced back at least 5000 years.

    Despite the lightning pace of human progress across the 20th and 21st centuries, drug use of all descriptions appears as endemic and entrenched as it’s always been, and the most that law enforcement agencies can do as they prosecute their battle is to put a finger in the dyke, here and there, or to dry up the supply of one drug, only to see ballooning production of a replacement.

    In that regard, there’s a case to be made that the late 1990s crackdowns on the marijuana trade in Australia opened a new doorway for heroin, which became suddenly cheaper in the absence of pot, while heroin, in turn, all but disappeared from suburban streets to be replaced by an arguably more insidious and product in the form of the long-acting amphetamine, ice.

    Now I am not arguing in favour of drugs.

    For most people, the long-term costs will eventually outweigh whatever short-term benefits the user receives from the drug experience. But by treating drug use, primarily, as a criminal matter, we are surely destined to repeat the same problems over and over, generation after generation.

    Governments around the world could end the drug crime problem overnight, by taking control of the means of drug production, and supplying those who wish to take drugs with a regular, affordable supply of their poison of choice.

    Even a conservative estimate of the global illegal drug trade puts its value at more than $300 billion a year. Imagine that much money – and probably a lot more – staying in the licit economy. Imagine the reductions in violence, in robbery, in accidental overdoses.

    But imagine, also, a whole lot more people taking a whole lot more drugs, at least in the short term. And it’s this bit of the equation that stops me from saying “legalise the lot”.

  • Long track to recovery as debris pile mounts on Fernleigh Track

    Long track to recovery at Fernleigh It’s taken two days for crews to clear the popular Fernleigh track. Pictures: Darren Pateman
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    It’s taken two days for crews to clear the popular Fernleigh track. Pictures: Darren Pateman

    It’s taken two days for crews to clear the popular Fernleigh track. Pictures: Darren Pateman

    It’s taken two days for crews to clear the popular Fernleigh track. Pictures: Darren Pateman

    It’s taken two days for crews to clear the popular Fernleigh track. Pictures: Darren Pateman

    It’s taken two days for crews to clear the popular Fernleigh track. Pictures: Darren Pateman

    It’s taken two days for crews to clear the popular Fernleigh track. Pictures: Darren Pateman

    It’s taken two days for crews to clear the popular Fernleigh track. Pictures: Darren Pateman

    It’s taken two days for crews to clear the popular Fernleigh track. Pictures: Darren Pateman

    Storm damage to a jetty.

    Storm damage to a jetty.

    Storm damage to a jetty.

    TweetFacebookSTORM debris has been cleared from the hard-hit Fernleigh Track over the past two days, but more work is needed to restore its former glory.

    And four badly damaged public jetties in Lake Macquarie will need major repairs.

    A council statement said workers started clearing the Fernleigh Track from the Belmont end and were working their way north.

    ‘‘Due to the large amount of trees creating blockages at various locations, council has been unable to do a full assessment of the track’s condition,’’ the statement said.

    ‘‘Crews will continue to remove debris in the coming days to allow us to re-open this highly utilised track as soon as possible.’’

    The council urged people to avoid the area until debris was cleared.

    Initial assessments found six of Lake Macquarie’s 32 public jetties were damaged, ranging from ‘‘minor decking issues’’ to major structural problems. Jetties at Belmont, Wangi, Brightwaters and Green Point remain closed and require major repairs.

    People should take care at other jetties and boat ramps ‘‘because of water heights and debris’’, the council said.

    Lake Macquarie mayor Jodie Harrison said there were many parks, reserves, cycleways, roads and footpaths where trees had fallen.

    ‘‘Council crews will continue to tidy and address issues as they get reported from the community or our asset inspectors,’’ Cr Harrison said.

    Councillor Daniel Wallace asked at Monday’s council meeting whether the storm clean-up would hit the council’s budget. Council strategy director Tony Farrell said natural-disaster declarations were not designed to restore damaged cities to their original state.

    ‘‘We’ll have to fund some of the clean-up by deferring [other] projects,’’ Mr Farrell said.

    Cr Harrison said the council had received a ‘‘tremendous response’’ from the council’s free green waste pick-up. The council said on Facebook it would probably ‘‘take a few weeks for our crews to get around the city’’ to complete the pick-up.

    ‘‘We will be going to every street in every suburb across the city,’’ it said.

    Reduced tip fees would be charged for general waste from the storm at Awaba tip until May 19.

    Resident Dave Dillon said on Facebook that this ‘‘bulk-waste collection should also be free’’, but the council said ‘‘storm-related waste disposal charges may be claimable’’.

    ‘‘Keep your receipt and contact your insurer,’’ it said. The council is offering residents ‘‘free pasteurised mulch’’, from the tip until May 19.

  • iiNet board set to back M2’s bid over TPG

    iiNet chairman Mike Smith is set to back M2’s bid for the company.iiNet is set to announce it has judged M2 Group’s $1.6 billion takeover bid as superior to TPG Telecom’s $1.4 billion offer.
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    In a move that could trigger a bidding war, sources told Fairfax Media the belated announcement could come as early as Wednesday night or Thursday morning after lengthy deliberations between the boards of iiNet and M2.

    Analysts and major shareholders have backed the M2 bid.

    Once the announcement is formalised, TPG will have three business days to respond by matching, beating or walking away from M2’s offer, which is made up almost entirely of its own company shares.

    However, industry insiders have also warned that TPG could respond by spending its three days buying up iiNet shares in an attempt to build a blocking stake to stymie M2 and any other would-be buyers.

    iiNet and M2, which owns internet service providers Dodo and iPrimus, have been in talks to provide a detailed understanding of the latest offer.

    The combined entity would have 1.48 million broadband subscribers compared with the 3 million at market leader Telstra and 988,000 at the  current second-place player, Singtel-Optus.

    iiNet founder Michael Malone has also been in contact with shareholders and telco executives to promote his support for M2’s bid.

    Mr Malone told Fairfax Media he had sent emails and text messages to shareholders detailing why he preferred M2’s share swap offer valued at $1.6 billion over the all-cash deal proposed by TPG.

    His key reasons included the ability to keep shares in the combined entity, the tax rollover relief for local investors, higher valuation of iiNet and the allegedly better cultural fit.

    Mr Malone is one of several key players attempting to influence the outcome of iiNet’s acquisition, which could be the biggest telco deal of the decade and create Australia’s second-largest provider of fixed-line internet services.

    “iiNet must come out in favour of this new transaction and if they come back and say ‘no, we’re not going to recommend this bid’ and continue to back the TPG bid, then they haven’t been listening to shareholders,” he said. “Given there was over $1 billion added to TPG’s share price that their market cap will go down by that amount if they walk away, so there’s a fairly compelling reason why they should come over the top.

    “At no point has [TPG executive chairman David Teoh] ruled out coming back with a better offer.”

    Mr Malone has a close attachment to the company he founded from his mother’s garage in Perth more than 20 years ago.

    He heavily criticised TPG’s bid.

    He called for all but two of iiNet’s board to be sacked if the deal was unsuccessful.

    He added that he’d spoken about the deal with M2 executives but declined to detail the conversations.

    The key positives of M2’s offer included its higher valuation for iiNet, the inclusion of shares, the ability to get tax rollover relief and the high levels of potential synergies.

    “iiNet and M2 combined brings in over $2 billion in revenue and growing subscribers, which is something Optus doesn’t have,” he said. “iiNet and M2 also have a huge amount of synergies because iiNet is in 450 exchanges with its own [broadband equipment] while M2 isn’t.”

    This comes despite critics of M2’s offer claiming that the company has greatly overestimated the potential synergies and iiNet’s true value.

    Mr Malone said he was continuing to make phone calls and communicate via text messages with interested parties while on honeymoon in Botswana.

    However, he insisted he had not decided which deal he would vote for or against, despite supporting M2’s offer over that of TPG.

  • EDITORIAL: Reducing Wallsend’s flood risk

    Wallsend during the 2007 Pasha storm.FLASH-FLOODING can kill, as recent events in the Hunter have demonstrated.
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    Put enough water into a stream, then prevent it flowing away by introducing some form of blockage, and the water backs up and spreads out, putting lives and property in danger.

    In some areas, long intervals between such events mean communities and planning authorities forget, leaving new generations to rediscover the peril next time adverse circumstances conspire.

    In other areas, flash-flooding events are frequent enough for the danger to persist in memory, creating deep apprehension when severe storms strike.

    Wallsend is the Newcastle suburb most prone to flash-floods, and repeated studies have warned that serious measures need to be taken to reduce the risk as far as possible. Chances are the risk can’t ever be eliminated, given that the Nelson Street shopping strip was built on low-lying ground at a choke-point in the course of Ironbark Creek.

    Heavy enough rain in the creek’s catchment can fill Wallsend with water in a surprisingly short time, turning Nelson Street into a raging torrent and sending surges of dirty water through nearby shops and homes.

    The 2007 Pasha Bulker storm is the most recent instance of such severe flooding at Wallsend, but it wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last, as Newcastle City Council has acknowledged.

    Indeed, given its detailed knowledge of what can go wrong at Wallsend, the council can probably count itself lucky that the most recent storm spent the worst of its fury in other areas.

    The council has invested some money to reduce the known risks at Wallsend, buying some properties to convert for floodwater detention and setting up a flood warning system.

    But it has been obvious for a long time that some larger works were needed and the council has been repeatedly criticised for not moving quickly enough.

    At long last the council is putting some options on display, a move that might mean some real action isn’t far off.

    The council’s favoured option is to remove two of the three low road bridges over the creek – those at Tyrrell and Boscawen Streets – to eliminate the risk of debris catching against the bridges and causing sudden damming of floodwater. The plan includes upgrading the Nelson Street bridge to handle more traffic and, presumably, to help ensure the free flow of excess water.

    It’s now about eight years since the Pasha Bulker storm, and major floods in Wallsend are considered to be a 10- to 15-year risk. The council needs to finalise an option and make a serious start on the work as soon as possible.

    The work will be costly, so efforts to get help from other levels of government should continue. But the urgency of the task means it should begin, even if the council has to go it alone.

  • Instagram’s @music ‘treasure hunters’ hoping to score growth gold mine

    
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    Instagram is hoping to capitalise on the popularity of musicians to drive further growth across the photo-sharing app.

    The company, which social media behemoth Facebook owns, launched its first account dedicated to a single subject on Thursday – @music.

    The account will act as a springboard to the company’s blog, where a team of about 12 freelance journalists will profile musicians, instrument makers and others in the recording industry.

    “We see ourselves as treasure hunters,” Instagram music editor Alex Suskind told Fairfax Media.

    “It’s not just about curating photos, although there is a lot of that.

    “It’s also about interviewing these people who are sharing their moments on Instagram and highlighting what they are doing in a visually creative way.”

    Music is the most photographed topic on Instagram, accounting for about 25 per cent of the app’s most popular accounts.

    For example, 30.8 million of Instagram’s 300 million users follow Beyonce, while Arianna Grande has 30 million and Selena Gomez 28.9 million.

    The account will publish six posts a week, grouped into series under various hashtags including #LocallySourced for unsigned artists, #DoubleTrack for artists interest outside music and #15SecondLessons for videos on how to perform anything from riffs to drumbeats.

    It will also feature posts on the Instragram blog ranging from 750 to 1000 words. Mr Suskind said the account was not designed to disrupt music magazines such as Rolling Stone.

    He said the account was more of a “DVD extras” designed to add value and drive further engagement from Instagram users.

    “We’re not looking to disrupt the music journalism industry. Our goal is to share a unique perspective.

    “It’s really about driving engagement.”

    Its small editorial team will scour millions of accounts to find its profile subjects, which Mr Suskind said would range from signed and unsigned artists, session musicians and instrument makers to the “most passionate fans”.

    “That’s going to fun and a challenge and why we are kind of unofficial treasure hunters.”

    Australian Recording Industry Association chief executive Dan Rosen said he was yet to see the full details of how Instragram would use the account, but praised the initiative.

    “It’s a demonstration of the power music to push the social media conversation,” he said.

    “It will be interesting to see what they will do, but certainly we are supportive of any platforms that can spread the word of how great music is and how talented our local musicians are”.

    Instagram, which Facebook bought for $US1 billion ($1.25 billion) in 2012, has trebled its users in the past two years, rising from 100 million in February 2013 to 300 million last December.

    The launch of @music comes after Facebook posted its slowest growth in quarterly revenue last week, while higher spending on research and development ate into profits.

    It attributed the slowdown to a strong US dollar. Sales rose 42 per cent to $US3.54 billion, when they could have risen 49 per cent without the currency effects, Facebook said.

    It also warned of heavy investments in 2015 as it steps up efforts to expand a collection of products that include messaging service WhatsApp, Instagram and virtual reality headset maker Oculus Rift.

    As a result, Facebook’s operating expenses rose 83 per cent in the first quarter as research and development costs jumped 133 per cent and marketing and sales spending nearly doubled.

    But Facebook’s user growth on its main application remains strong. It now has 1.44 billion monthly active users, compared with 1.39 billion in the fourth quarter and analysts’ estimates of 1.43 billion.

    with Bloomberg, Reuters

  • Tocal field days cancelled as risks remain

    Tocal from the air during the flooding last week. Pic: Darren PatemanTHE Tocal Field Days have been cancelled on the advice of emergency services.
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    The three-day event was scheduled to start on Friday.

    Field days chairman and college principal Cameron Archer made the announcement on Wednesday night.

    “We regret having to cancel the field days, but it is the only responsible thing to do,” Dr Archer said.

    Dr Archer said the key problem – apart from more heavy rain forecast – was a severely damaged concrete bridge at Mindaribba, on Tocal Road, which was the main access road.

    “This bridge was damaged by the recent storm event and is unstable,” he said.

    “With further rain and heavy traffic there is a possibility that it could fail completely.”

    The annual event attracts up to 10,000 visitors a day.

    Heavy rain could cause the Paterson River to quickly rise and make Gresford Road to the north and Paterson Road to the east unpassable.

    Dr Archer said the event involved 12 months of planning.

    “We and many others plan all year for the event. We look forward to it and enjoy all aspects of it,” he said.

    “The event has tremendous support from the community and rural industry. This year, all sites were fully booked up and ready to go.

    “[The cancellation] is a bit sad but we will get through it.”

    Many exhibitors had already set up displays, and were looking forward to the weekend, albeit, a wet one.

    Dr Archer said previous field days had been affected by rain, but this time the landscape was already sodden from last week’s storm and subsequent flooding, and the Paterson River remained above normal levels.

    “The Tocal Field Days Association and the college work assiduously on safety; we take great care and we take our responsibilities seriously,” Dr Archer said.

    “Sometimes hard decisions have to be made in the interests of eliminating risks completely.

    “We do not believe we can take the risk of running the event given the advice we have had as well as the access problem which is evident when one assesses the condition of the bridge at Mindaribba.”

  • Forget My Kitchen Rules, it is actually billionaire Kerry Stokes’ Seven Rules

    Seven’s latest restructure opened with a picture from hit My Kitchen Rules. Photo: Supplied
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    Seven’s latest restructure opened with a picture from hit My Kitchen Rules. Photo: Supplied

    Seven’s latest restructure opened with a picture from hit My Kitchen Rules. Photo: Supplied

    You can’t accuse the Kerry Stokes’ Seven camp of not having a sense of humour.

    The presentation for the latest restructure of the media group’s debt woes – which it inherited as a result of the previous Stokes-sponsored restructure – opened with a picture from Seven hit My Kitchen Rules.

    As if it was not already clear who sets the rules around that joint.

    Stokes’ media/mining/oil and gas/investment holding conglomerate, Seven Group, won’t be among the parties tipping up to $600 million cash into Seven West.

    But it will maintain its 35 per cent stake by converting preference shares it received in the 2011 transaction that folded the Seven Network and Pacific Magazines into the listed vehicle that housed the West Australian newspaper (WAN).

    “Today’s initiatives will resolve a complicated instrument Seven West Media has had in place  with (Seven Group) since 2011,” said Seven West director, David Evans, who heads the thoroughly independent committee assessing the transaction.

    The 2011 complications also led to WAN, which is now Seven West, inherit $1.65 billion worth of debt which was tied to the Seven Network business it acquired.

    Helping Evans oversee the proposal, at arms-length from the Stokes camp, is James Packer’s lieutenant – former Nine Network svengali, John Alexander.

    Stokes’ non-billionaire fellow investors get to show what they think of the latest transaction, which has been deemed “not fair but reasonable” by the independent expert, in June.

    Phone in

    Catherine Livingstone was definitely wearing her Business Council of Australia hat at the National Press Club Wednesday.

    In the audience listening to her president’s speech was BCA CEO, Jennifer Westacott.

    Livingstone’s direct report at Telstra, David Thodey, was winding down his final days as the telco boss with a Singapore Sling at the island nation’s Grand Hyatt.

    He was the headliner at a sold-out event for the Australian Chamber of Commerce, Singapore .

    Back at the press club, fellow BCA board member, Qantas boss Alan Joyce, was also in the audience and in such a relaxed mood he even took questions from the press.

    Hockey stick

    It is hard to believe barely a year has passed since Joyce was forced to visit Canberra, begging bowl in hand, seeking help for the embattled airline which has since staged a Lazarus-like recovery without any help.

    One of the men who turned him down that time, Treasurer Joe Hockey, was spotted taking out his budget frustrations on a little black ball Tuesday evening in Parliament House’s squash court.

    Two reporters were “balls deep” in a game when we had to give the court up for Hockey.

    It is part of the protocol at the “big house” that MPs and senators have right of way when it comes to the gym and pool and squash area.

    Hockey was appreciative and asked the scribes where they were from.

    “Fairfax”, was the answer.

    “Ah,” said Hockey rolling his eyes.

    Whodunit

    As if the reputation of our financial planning industry was not low enough.

    APN News & Media has added to the wealth industry’s list of crimes and misdemeanours in a reply to an ASX “please explain” notice on Wednesday inquiring why a change of director’s interest notice for Anne Templeman-Jones, was a week late.

    “The APN shares were purchased on behalf of Anne Templeman-Jones (“the Director”) in a superannuation fund by a financial adviser. The director had instructed the financial adviser to inform her immediately if an APN share purchase was made,” said the media group’s mea culpa.

    “The financial adviser did not follow this instruction and did not inform the director that APN shares had been purchased on her behalf within the required timeframe,” said APN.

    At least her outcome was not as bad as former APN executive, Mark Jamieson, who took Westpac to court over the loss-making financial advice he had received from one of its advisers.

    Earlier this month, Queensland’s Court of Appeal dismissed the bank’s appeal against the original judgement.

    Bank Twitter

    ANZ boss, Mike Smith, completed his digital initiation on Wednesday by joining Twitter with the line: Pleased to join Twitter and looking forward to contributing to the conversation.

    CBD suspects he will not be offering any robust views about Anzac Day.

    His Twitter profile offers us the news that he is an “International banker, Asia-phile, adopted Aussie. Passionate about our customers, diversity champion.”

    The only wonder is that it took him this long to join Twitter.

    More than a year has passed since he posted an article on Linkedin titled “How I became a social media believer and why banking’s future is digital”.

    Total Recall

    You can’t accuse data storage provider, Iron Mountain, of wasting time on creative code names when it came to prosecuting its successful $2.5 billion bid for Brambles spin-off, Recall.

    Iron Mountain’s code name for the proposed transaction was, drum roll, Project Augusta.

    Recall is based down the road in Georgia’s capital, Atlanta.

    Got a tip? [email protected]

  • Timber frames let down roof atKiwi Waffle’n’Cones

    Brian McDermott inspects the damage. Picture: Peter StoopZAARA Street, Newcastle, resident Brian McDermott was at home on the Tuesday morning of the Newcastle storm when a neighbour got on the phone to tell him about his roof.
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    “You know part of your roof has gone, don’t you?” Mr McDermott recounted on Wednesday.

    “Funnily enough, I was thinking it would be all right because we got a new roof three years ago when we moved in.

    “Well, the metal sheets were fine, but it was the timber frame holding it all together that gave way.”

    Mr McDermott, the publican at Wickham’s Albion Hotel, lives upstairs with his family in a large, free-standing brick terrace in Zaara Street above the Kiwi Waffle’n’Cones ice-cream shop, an East End institution.

    The loss of the roof and the subsequent flooding of the upstairs living areas led to huge amounts of water soaking the ice-cream shop ceiling, which then collapsed into the store.

    Shop owner Anthony Rogers, who was interstate when the storm hit, said it could take as long as two months to get the shop up and running again.

    “I’ve had it 11 years and Richard Laycock had it for 14 before that, so this year is its 25th anniversary,” Mr Rogers said.

    Mr McDermott said the night of the storm was a sleepless affair. The roof came off in sections on the Tuesday morning.

    One section ended up in the swimming pool of a neighbouring unit block. Another in an adjacent tennis court.

    A third section fell on two family cars in the driveway, writing them off, although a third car in the driveway escaped with little damage.

    Mr McDermott said that with the roof gone, the horsehair plaster ceiling began to give way, opening up numerous holes to the sky above.

    At one stage, water was above the skirting boards in the upstairs rooms, with water pouring down the stairs to a side entrance behind the shop.

    Mr McDermott, a lifelong Novocastrian who was a young, 24-year-old Citizens Group councillor on the Newcastle council sacked by the state government in 1984, said there were others who copped it far worse than his family in the storm.

    Having bought the terrace three years ago, he was determined to restore it if the structural damage was not too severe.

    “The front dates from about 1922 and the rear section is new, and it’s a privilege to sit on the front verandah of a morning and look across at the surfers going into the water at the beach.”