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    More court challenges to ICAC findings


    2019 - 03.21

    Craig Ransley arrives at the ICAC inquiry.A series of court challenges toIndependent Commission Against Corruption findingswill ride on the coat-tails of a legal bid by mining mogul Travers Duncan and his associates to have findings against them overturned.
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    Mr Duncan and his former business associates John McGuigan, John Atkinsonand Richard Poole are seeking to have findings that they acted corruptly by concealing the involvement of the Obeid family in a coal tenement struck down by the Court of Appeal.

    A second group of businessmen, formerDoyles Creek Mining directors CraigRansley, Mike Chester and Andrew Poole,are challenging findings made against them in a separate ICAC inquiry.

    The Supreme Court heard on Monday that the matters are “likely to be interrelated” and the latter should be adjourned until the former is heard.

    The Baird government rushed a bill through state Parliament lastWednesdayto validate past corruption findings,which were jeopardised by a High Court ruling on theICAC’s powers.

    But the bill, which becamelaw on the same day,does not preclude a challenge to corruption findings on grounds that are unrelated to the High Court ruling.

    Lawyers for Mr Duncan and his associateshave alsoforeshadowed a constitutional challenge to the validationlawas part of their case.The outcome of this challenge will be watched closely by lawyers for the former Doyles Creek directors.

    The ICAC found former mining minister Ian Macdonald acted corruptly by awarding an exploration licence to Doyles Creek Mining, which was then chaired by Mr Macdonald’sfriend andformer union boss John Maitland.

    Mr Ransley, Mr Poole and Mr Chester were found to have acted corruptly by making or agreeing to Mr Maitland making “false or misleading” statements to the Department of Primary Industries about the proposed mine.

    The Court of Appeal will hear the Duncan matter in mid-June.

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    Miners need iron ore prices to steady to hold share gains


    2019 - 03.21

    Iron ore has plummeted as much as 67.3 per cent from its 2014 high of $US144.18 to a low of $US47.08 reached in early April. Photo: Erin JonassonShares in Australia’s listed miners have mimicked the strong rebound in the iron ore price, but with Chinese growth forecast to soften in the second half and supply to remain high, the price of iron ore and resources stocks may still suffer.
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    Over the last month, the price of iron ore for immediate delivery at the port of Qingdao in China has jumped more than 30 per cent to $US61.40 a tonne, according to Metal Bulletin.

    Iron ore plummeted 65.2 per cent from its 2014 high of $US135.27 to a low of $US47.08  in early April.

    Since early April, Fortescue Metals shares have surged 43.4 per cent, BC Iron shares 57.4 per cent, and Mount Gibson 12 per cent. Atlas Iron has been in a trading halt since April 2 after it was forced to stop mining some of its operations.

    Shares in major miner BHP Billiton have added 4.3 per cent over the last month, while Rio Tinto has gained 4.7 per cent.

    However, the impact the iron ore price crash had on the smaller miners’ share prices has not come close to reversing.

    Fortescue shares are still down 55.2 per cent since the beginning of last year, Atlas shares down 89.6 per cent, Mount Gibson shares down 78.3 per cent, and BC Iron shares have plummeted 90.8 per cent.

    Rio and BHP have been less affected thanks to a range of factors, including resource diversification, break-even cash costs, and grade qualities. Since the start of 2014, Rio shares have dipped 13.7 per cent, while BHP is 16.3 per cent lower.

    UBS is forecasting iron ore to fall to $US45 a tonne in the second half of 2015, and current share prices are factoring in an iron ore price higher than that.

    Fortescue’s share price factors in an iron ore price closer to $US55 a tonne, while BC Iron’s  was factoring in a price around the $US51 a tonne mark and Atlas closer to $US52 a tonne.

    “If prices were to stay at $US60 per tonne, or better, then clearly the market will react favourably to that,” UBS analyst Glyn Lawcock said. “That’s the price you need iron ore to stay for a couple of years and Fortescue needs to keep its cost base down where it is to deleverage. There’s a lot of water that needs to flow under the bridge in terms of time for that to occur.

    “We still believe that supply needs to be rationalised to rebalance the iron ore market, given that iron ore demand growth looks set to fall dramatically from recent rates as Chinese steel production reaches and maintains peak levels for the rest of this decade.”

    Mr Lawcock said UBS had a neutral rating on Mount Gibson because of its strong net cash position, and low leverage could help it during the volatile price period. According to UBS analysis, Mount Gibson’s share price was factoring in an iron ore price of around $US51 a tonne.

    “Our sell recommendations on Fortescue and Atlas reflect their higher leverage and net debt positions, which we see as more risky, given that our estimates for their break-even prices are in line, or above our second half 2015 forecast for iron ore of $US45 [a tonne].”

    BHP is rated a buy, with UBS tipping oil to rebalance sooner than iron ore and the company to benefit from the demerger and separate listing of South32, Mr Lawcock said. Rio is rated neutral.

    “Combined with new supply under construction and set to commission over the next few years, our analysis shows the market moving into a protracted surplus. In our view, the price rally seen this week reflects slightly improved sentiment, as we have seen initial indications that supply rationing may be under way.”

    Atlas has lowered its output by around 5 million tonnes, Vale has hinted it may switch off 30 million tonnes a year of its high-cost capacity if prices fell even lower, and BHP is increasing supply at a slower rate as it aims to hit 290 million tonnes a year, Mr Lawcock said.

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    Fundraising auction lifts Dungog’s spirits


    2019 - 03.21

    Wayne Pritchard’s house went under water in the recent floods‘‘I’ve always just done me own thing,’’ says Wayne Pritchard as he leans against the old saloon doors of Dungog’s Royal Hotel.
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    ‘‘I’ve never asked for anything in me life, but this time, this time I just had to get some help.’’

    In the next room, about a hundred locals are bidding for signed photos, kitchen appliances, pamper packs and a patchwork quilt – all among the dozens of things donated to the fundraiser for those starting over. Bob Berry from around the corner even donated a trailer load of firewood. It’s just gone for 110 bucks.

    ‘‘This one just knocked me down to my knees,’’ Wayne says over his schooner. ‘‘I worry about my wife ‘coz she’s just not showing a lot of emotion,’’ he says of Lynette who’s just ducked up the road to take his 88-year-old mum home after a Mother’s Day pub lunch.

    ‘‘It’s like we’re still in shock a bit, you know. It’s a bit like a twilight zone.’’

    It was 10 to four in the morning when Wayne and Lynette were woken by a neighbour.

    ‘‘He’d just climbed out of bed and stepped into water up around his ankles so he raced over to wake us up. We went outside and the water was up to the top of our piers. I told Lynette to go and grab some things while I moved the cars, but then it came up so quick.

    ‘‘At 5.30am, I closed the doors and heard the fridge fall over. Couldn’t do nothing. Couldn’t even get some clothes.’’

    The floodwater went right through their Hooke Street home. Their daughter and grandchildren, staying for a couple of days, had already left. The brown line on the curtains shows the flood peaked at about two metres inside. The grandfather clock had stopped at 6.50, about the same time it was swallowed by the brown swirling torrent in the lounge room.

    Lynette had lived in Dungog all her life, and so had Wayne’s mum. Wayne, who used to work in the mills and at Tomago smelter, had also spent most of his life there. The house was built in 1938 and a renovation had only recently been completed.

    ‘‘About 28 years in that house,’’ he said. ‘‘And no one has ever seen the water come up like that.’’

    He was good mates with Colin ‘Spider’ Webb who perished when his home was washed away in Dowling Street. And he knew Robin Macdonald too, before she was lost to the flood. They’d worked together in the SES years ago.

    Marion Stuart owns The Bower Retreat over the hill. She was one of the organisers of yesterday’s fundraiser.

    ‘‘We’re getting a bit of spirit back in the town today,’’ she said.

    ‘‘Nothing is going to be a quick fix, but we’ve been inundated with help from people all over the place. It’s really wonderful. There’s a long way to go though.’’

    Three weeks ago, Brian Simpson was rescuing people from the aged care village. Yesterday he was the fundraiser’s auctioneer.

    Vince Melouney, who once played with the Bee Gees and The Aztecs, knows Dungog well and wanted to do his bit on the stage.

    The Royal’s licensee John Masterman picked up the signed Brad Fittler poster at auction, but it cost him $500. He was living in Dalby during the Queensland floods four years ago. He lost two cars and everything in the shed, but the water only got to the top step of the house.

    ‘‘I suppose you could say I’ve been where these people are now,’’ he said.

    ‘‘It’s been three weeks now. People are tired. The adrenalin has run out. They’ve stopped and realised what has happened and it’s only starting to really hit them. But they’ll just keep on going because they know they have to.

    ‘‘It’s been a good day here and we’ve raised about $7000 and that’ll help people with a few things. Right now we’re all buggered. Vince is still here and he’s out there cleaning up so I better get back out in the bar and help.

    ‘‘Tell the people in Newcastle that they need to come up here.

    ‘‘We need people to come back to Dungog because, well, just tell them we’re open for business and we’d love to see them.’’

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    MP makes maiden speech


    2019 - 03.21

    Redlands MP Matt McEachan and daughter Indie at Parliament HouseTHE need to upgrade arterial roads was mentioned when Redlands MP Matt McEachan made his maiden speech made to the 55th Queensland parliament on Wednesday.
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    Mr McEachan, elected in January to replace Peter Dowling, said the growing population in his electorate was affecting infrastructure including arterial roads.

    He urged the state government to honour LNP commitments made before the state election to upgrade Cleveland-Redland Bay Road and Mount Cotton Road.

    Capalaba MP Don Brown will make his maiden speech in the next sitting of Parliament on May 19.

    “I wanted to highlight the challenges facing our bay island communities, most particularly the mainland parking and access issues,” he said.

    “I look forward to working with Mayor Karen Williams and the council to address these issues,” he said.

    Mr McEachan, who has been appointed to the Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee, thanked his mother and daughter for their support.

    “I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to represent the people of Redlands without the support of my family, especially my mother and my daughter.”

    Capalaba MP Don Brown will make his maiden speech in the next sitting of Parliament on May 19.

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    Trade college project launched


    2019 - 03.21

    Mayor Karen Williams and Australian Industry Trade College CEO Mark Hands cut the ribbon on a tree that will be planted on the new Redland campus, at a launch of the project last week.A NEW college campus for Redland City is set to expand training and employment opportunities for young people in south east Queensland.
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    The Australian Industry Trade College (AITC) was established in 2008 at Robina on the Gold Coast and since then, its combination of senior schooling, trade skilling and apprenticeships has helped to deliver more than 1030 full-time apprenticeships to young Queenslanders.

    The college was launched by CEO Mark Hands at a luncheon attended by mayor Karen Williams, Redland City councillors and local business and education leaders at Sirromet Winery.

    He said Redland City made the perfect choice with the support of Cr Williams and community leaders helping to drive the introduction of the Redlands campus.

    Mr Hands said the AITC offered an efficient, portable schooling model that was based on strong partnerships with industry leaders and employers, registered training organisations and all levels of government.

    “We feel incredibly excited about our plans and hope to have some big announcements in coming weeks as we firm up our Redlands partnerships and begin to establish a real presence on the ground,” Mr Hands said.

    The AITC was a private, independent school with a learning program developed in collaboration with industry to meet targeted, industry needs.

    He said the vollege’s mission was to deliver high caliber, motivated, hard working apprentices and trainees who add value in the workplace.

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