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Minister to face inquiry into Cronulla Fisheries closure

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April 10, 2019 by admin

The NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, is to face a parliamentary inquiry into the closure of the Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre, after earlier refusing a request to appear.
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She will table a cost-benefit analysis of the government decision to close and decentralise the centre next Monday, almost a year after the decision was announced.

Ms Hodgkinson initially told the inquiry chairman, the Reverand Fred Nile, she could not attend due to ministerial meetings.

Premier Barry O’Farrell appeared to criticise that decision during an interview with Alan Jones on 2GB radio last Wednesday.

“When I am invited by upper house inquiries I go,” Mr O’Farrell said.

“I expect my ministers to go.”

The Premier’s office declined to say whether he had directed Ms Hodgkinson to go to the inquiry, but a spokeswoman for Ms Hodgkinson said this was not the case.

“The reason for her appearance is to table the cost-benefit analysis of the decentralisation of the Cronulla Fisheries site,” said Ms Hodgkinson’s spokeswoman.

“The minister has not been directed by the Premier to attend the inquiry.”

The Herald revealed the decision to close the Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre, announced on September 8 last year, was made without a business case, costings or cabinet submission.

A number of staff members gave evidence at the penultimate hearing of the inquiry yesterday.

Peter Brown said more than half of the staff at the centre were classified as temporary, and were receiving severance payments up to 70 per cent less than they would have before the introduction of the government’s stricter excess employees policy, which came in to effect shortly before the decision on Cronulla was announced.

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Sharks have sixth sense to find prey – but not humans

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April 10, 2019 by admin

Kate Lee releases a captive-bred juvenile wobbegong shark into Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve, Manly. A juvenile wobbegong shark, born in captivity at Sydney Aquarium as part of Sea Life Conservation Fund’s breeding program, is released into Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve, Manly.
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Sharks are very misunderstood animals and receive a largely undeserved reputation as vicious animals, although they have a unique “sixth sense” that allows them to locate their true, much smaller, prey.

These are some of the findings from research conducted by the Sydney Aquarium into shark behaviour.

There are more than 350 species of shark, but only four or five are considered to be dangerous to humans, the aquarium says.

For most sharks something as big as a human would not be considered as prey as we are too large, it says.

Instead they may think of us as a threat and prefer to stay as far away as possible.

Attacks on humans in the wild are not as common as the media would indicate, and deaths are even rarer, the aquarium says.

No shark is thought to target humans as prey.

In most cases where a person is bitten, it is a case of mistaken identity, the aquarium says.

For the most part, sharks are generally placid animals and not to be feared.

This month, the Sydney Aquarium is relaunching as the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium following a $10 million overhaul.

The aquarium will become home to the largest variety of sharks and rays in the world.

In conjunction with its conservation arm, the Sydney Aquarium Conservation Fund, the attraction has completed research on the grey nurse and wobbegong sharks.

Among the findings:

– Sharks have a sixth sense, called electroreception. The underside of the grey nurse shark’s snout is dotted with pores. Each of these leads to an organ (ampulae of Lorenzini) that can detect electricity.

– The electroreception capabilities of sharks gives them the ability to detect and attack prey at close range without needing to see the prey as well as navigate using the earth’s magnetic field.

– The grey nurse shark’s reputation as a maneater is undeserved as they cannot eat anything as large as a human and are placid sharks that will not bite defensively unless severely provoked.

– The grey nurse’s name comes from its ability to “nurse” (or round up) small fishes into a tight school, for feeding.

The aquarium’s oldest shark is Josephine, who is estimated to be 25 years old and has been at the aquarium for almost 20 years.

– In Australia in the ’70s, grey nurse sharks were hunted almost to extinction due to fear of attack. The release of the movie Jaws in 1975 is thought to have had a huge influence on this. There are thought to be as few as 500-1000 left on the east coast of Australia.

– When the NSW government declared grey nurse sharks a protected species in 1984, they became the first protected sharks in the world.

– The freckles of a grey nurse shark are the equivalent of a human fingerprint, or the spots on a wobbegong shark.

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Should we worry about high-frequency trading?

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April 10, 2019 by admin

Ever since the meltdown at the US firm Knight Capital last month month, the debate over high-frequency trading has exploded.
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In short form, high-frequency trading is a flavour of trading that leverages computers and the speed of super-fast data connections to make lightning-quick trades, and lots of them. This means that, often, the trader’s servers are situated in the same data centre as the exchange’s servers.

While there’s no single strategy of a high-frequency trader – they might be acting like a market-maker, or playing index arbitrageur – the common thread is that they all rely on speed to succeed.

So, the billion-dollar question is: is this type of trading a major risk for markets, or closer to a non-factor?

At the end of the day, if you’re buying a piece of a company to own it for a long period of time, your primary concern should be the dynamics of the business, not the technical stockmarket action. Most readers have likely heard the Warren Buffett quote: “I buy on the assumption that they could close the market the next day and not reopen it for five years.”

Do we want the market shut down?

Keeping in mind the fact that we’re ideally buying companies and not just tickers, we should still want a healthy, properly functioning market that allows us to transact. And there are some signs that high-frequency trading is doing a lot to gum up the markets and cause some serious problems.

The US market data-collector Nanex has been on a warpath against bad practices among high-frequency traders. Specifically, they’re concerned about the proliferation of quotes by high-frequency traders.

When you log on to a broker’s site to make a trade, what you see listed under the bid and ask are quotes – that is, somebody offering to buy or sell at a certain price.

As the high-frequency trading industry has grown, the number of quotes has exploded – and, mind you, we’re talking just quotes here, because actual trading has not grown anywhere near as much. The reason that high-frequency traders are putting out this many quotes isn’t entirely clear.

In some cases, it may simply be offering and cancelling quotes the same way any market-maker would; but in other cases, it may be programs sending out odd quotes in an effort to mislead other market participants – think Muhammad Ali pulling a rope-a-dope. In some cases, Nanex has even suggested that high-frequency traders send out a barrage of quotes to create a sort of informational fog of war that gives them a brief trading edge over other participants.

The problems created by this quoting aren’t just in the abstract. Here are a few concrete potential outcomes from this flood of quotes:

Cost: Exchanges and brokers need to process, manage, and store market data, so as the volume of quoting activity rises, that increases the data-processing burden. That means costly servers, routers, switches, and storage devices. While computerised trading has done much to reduce the cost of trading, there’s a concern that this data overload threatens to reverse that trend.

Scaring away liquidity: High-frequency and many other types of traders are, understandably, reluctant to trade when they believe they’re getting a bad data feed. When a rush of quotes hits the market, it has the potential to slow everything down, create corrupted feeds, and cause liquidity providers to bow out.

Figuring out what the heck is going on: In the wake of the Flash Crash, it took US regulators months to put together the forensic trading data from just a single day. Technology is clearly a boon to the markets but, when things go wrong – and they will, regardless – it’s essential that we have a system that regulators can quickly and easily navigate.

THE DISAPPOINTING ANSWER

It would be nice if there were an easy, pat answer to this issue like “ban high-frequency trading” or “high-frequency trading is a non-issue”. Unfortunately, there’s not.

What we need is for regulators to dig into the problem, figure out what’s going on – who’s playing by the rules and who isn’t – and set rules that will allow us to take advantage of the latest technologies in the financial markets without the threat from ne’er-do-wells who abuse those technologies.

Government regulators, however, aren’t known (and lack the budgets) for swift manoeuvring. In a race between traders who work in microseconds, and regulators who work in weeks, months, and years, it seems reasonable to worry that regulators might remain a step behind.

FOOLISH TAKEAWAY

There are a couple of issues at work here. From the perspective of fairness and to ensure nothing untoward is happening, it’s vital that our regulators get a handle on what’s going on. After all, anything that tilts the game further against individual investors should be anathema to investors and ASIC alike.

Secondly, though – be Foolish. Take Buffett’s quote to heart. Trade less frequently and only buy or sell when you get the price you’re after. You don’t have to play the high-frequency traders at their own game.

You think Warren Buffett worries about high-frequency traders? Me neither. That’s a pretty good yardstick in my book.

Are you looking for attractive dividend stock ideas? BusinessDay readers can click here to request a new free report titled Secure Your Future with 3 Rock-Solid Dividend Stocks.

Scott Phillips is a Motley Fool investment analyst. You can follow Scott on Twitter @TMFGilla. The Motley Fool’s purpose is to educate, amuse and enrich investors. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691).

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ACP poised for foreign takeover

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April 10, 2019 by admin

To be sold … ACP is likely to bought by Bauer Media Group.Some of Australia’s most popular magazines, including the Australian Women’s Weekly, Woman’s Day and TV Week, are set to fall into German hands with the debt-laden broadcaster, Nine Entertainment, expected to soon announce the sale of its magazine portfolio to the privately owned Bauer Media Group.
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Hamburg-based Bauer, which publishes Grazia, FHM and Zoo in the UK, is expected to pay up to $600 million for Nine’s Australian Consolidated Press (ACP) and help the private equity-owned business avoid breaching its debt covenants, which would lhave left it at the mercy of its banks.

The two parties are understood to be working on the final details of an agreement, which is to be made public either later this evening or tomorrow morning.

Nine executives were not available for comment.

The magazines division featured in the popular ABC production Paper Giants, which focused on the launch of Cleo magazine by Ita Buttrose and Kerry Packer in the early 1970s.

Kerry Packer’s son, James Packer, severed the family’s long-standing links to the media assets in 2007 when he sold most of Nine and its related assets to CVC Asia Pacific. The private equity firm paid $1.46 billion cash and took on $3.6 billion worth of debt.

CVC has now lost all of the $2 billion it injected into the Nine group, which has struggled with a high debt load, bad conditions in the media industry, and Nine losing its ratings crown to Seven.

CVC must repay $2.8 billion of debt by February and a further $1 billion a year later.

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Foreign appetite for Aussie bonds starts to wane

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March 10, 2019 by admin

Foreign holdings of Australian government debt have slipped from record highs, sparking claims the overseas appetite for Aussie dollar assets may be waning.
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Australia has become a haven for global capital in recent months, with foreign investors snapping up government bonds in record amounts, putting a key support under the dollar.

However, an analysis of today’s balance of payment statistics by JP Morgan has found the increase in foreign holdings of government bonds during June was the smallest in three years.

Overseas investors added $5.1 billion worth of government bonds to their portfolios in the June quarter, it found, which was the smallest increase since June 2009 – and not enough to keep pace with the issuance of debt.

Because of this slowing, the share of the $245 billion in government debt that is held by foreigners has dipped from its record high of 79 per cent in the March quarter, to 77.5 per cent.

JP Morgan interest rates strategist Sally Auld said it is too early to say the trend would last, but it appears the rush into Aussie bonds from central banks and sovereign wealth funds is slowing.

“While one quarter is not enough to define a trend, we would argue that this is broadly consistent with the idea that much of the new reserve allocation by offshore central banks and sovereign wealth funds into $A fixed income is now in the past,” she said in a note.

If there is indeed less foreign interest in buying government debt, Ms Auld said the Aussie dollar may lose some of its resilience against the US dollar.

However, she noted that Australia was still one of a small group of AAA-rated economies with a stable outlook, and banks were also likely to seek out bonds as a relatively safe store of capital.

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No land tax relief in budget: Newman

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March 10, 2019 by admin

There will be no relief from land tax in next week’s state budget, Premier Newman says.Premier Campbell Newman acknowledges Queensland land tax has increased too much in the past five years, but says there will be no relief in next week’s state budget.
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Addressing a Property Council of Australia luncheon today, Mr Newman said the government could not provide relief on Queensland’s land tax surcharge when the state needed to borrow the equivalent of 20 per cent – $10 billion – of its annual turnover.

However, he remained coy when asked about the possible extension of stamp duty concessions to Queenslanders buying house and land packages, saying that was a matter for Treasurer Tim Nicholls.

“A whole range of government taxes, particularly the land tax, have gone up far too much in the last four or five years,” Mr Newman told the gathering of developers.

“There will be no relief on land tax, but what I can promise you though is that the days of all these taxes doing that, you know sort of zooming up like that, are over.

“We’re trying to get a hold of these things and level it off. Down the track, if we can provide relief on land tax, I tell you what, I’m the first person to propose those sorts of things.”

The Property Council of Australia has called upon Treasurer Tim Nicholls to undertake a wide-ranging review of state stamp duty for off-the-plan residential sales and the land tax surcharge, in the hope the LNP’s first budget will reinvigorate the embattled sector.

Property Council of Australia’s Queensland executive director Kathy Mac Dermott said the sector still bore an unfair proportion of the state’s tax burden, contributing 29 per cent, or $3.8 billion, of state taxation revenue.

With the lifting of the government’s land tax surcharge seemingly off the table, Ms Mac Dermott said the industry remained hopeful stamp duty for off-the-plan residential sales would be scrapped.

When asked about stamp duty concessions today Mr Newman remained coy.

“Well that’s a good idea, I should talk to the Treasurer about that,” he said chuckling.

“That Mr Nicholls, he’s pretty tough and he wouldn’t be happy if I said anything about his budget.”

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Malthouse inches closer

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March 10, 2019 by admin

MICK Malthouse will decide whether to coach Carlton within a week.
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Malthouse’s manager, Peter Sidwell, and Blues president Stephen Kernahan, chief executive Greg Swann and football operations boss Andrew McKay have officially opened discussions.

”Expect a decision over the next week,” Sidwell said yesterday.

”Discussions are expected over that time.”

The Blues had also tested Paul Roos’ interest in what Swann yesterday said was ”plan B” but the 2005 Swans premiership coach last night said he had declined the overtures.

”I spoke to Stephen and explained why I couldn’t do it,” Roos told The Age.

Roos has a son in year 12 next year and wants to remain in Sydney with his family.

It is believed Malthouse is spending time at the moment assessing Carlton’s assistant coaches and what staff he would like to bring to the club if he were to agree to terms.

Long-time friend Robert Wiley has emerged as a strong candidate to join Malthouse, his former Richmond premiership teammate, in a backroom role.

Wiley was a runner with West Coast Eagles when Malthouse helped deliver premierships in 1992 and 1994 and works as a junior coach with the WAFL.

Magpies football operations manager Geoff Walsh and director of sports science David Buttifant, two men who helped Malthouse win the 2010 flag when at Collingwood, have said they will remain with the Pies.

The Blues are expected to offer Malthouse a three-year contract worth about $3 million.

Speaking on the Blues’ weekly show, The Blue Print, Swann maintained the club had not approached Malthouse before deciding to end Brett Ratten’s tenure last week.

”Everybody is keen to say that it was a done deal – it wasn’t a done deal,” he said.

Asked if the Blues had a contingency plan if Malthouse were to reject their offer, Swann said: ”Plan B was also to talk to Roosy. But we were also pretty confident we would get a senior, experienced premiership coach, which is really the criteria we are after.”

Swann said Malthouse, 59, had made it clear through the year that he was still keen to coach. He has reaffirmed he still had the passion to coach in recent interviews.

”As I said before, even in discussions earlier in the year, even when he left his last job [at Collingwood], he had petrol in the tank, he wanted to coach again,” Swann said.

”Even when he talks to people at various functions, he made it known to anybody he spoke to that ‘I still have some petrol in the tank’.”

”We knew that he was still keen to coach.”

Malthouse last night told Channel Seven that discussions with the Blues had been ”promising” and he was excited about the prospect of coaching the club.

”I have a clearer picture now of how the inner workings of the football department work at Carlton,” he said.

Malthouse said he had also asked the Blues ”how far they are down the track with Travis Cloke. The answer was probably as clear as mud.”

Swann said the Blues would be in the ”hunt” for Cloke should the power forward decide to leave the Magpies.

He also confirmed the Blues would like to stage most, if not all, of their home matches at the MCG when their contract with Etihad Stadium expires after the 2014 campaign.

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Flashing: why do they do it?

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March 10, 2019 by admin

A middle-aged man in red and black boxer shorts flashing young girls on Emerald Beach, in northern NSW.
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A man aged in his 60s exposing himself in a discount store in Sydney’s west.

A man in his early-30s wearing a fluoro work vest flashing two young girls as they walked past a park bench in Melbourne’s inner-west.

A man flashing while riding a bike in a park north-west of Melbourne.

Last month there was a spate of similar incidents of exposure, which forensic and clinical psychologist Georgina O’Donnell says is the most common form of illegal sexual behaviour.

It is, she says, motivated by gratification from a stranger who does not consent.

So what is behind this behaviour which has recently targeted both women and young children?

Flashers, who can be men and women but are most often men in their adolescence and early adulthood, may have a sexual disorder called exhibitionism or paraphilia, characterised by having repeated urges to expose themselves to a stranger, Dr O’Donnell said.

“Exhibitionism is defined by a pattern of sexual arousal which may be expressed in exhibitionistic behaviour,” Dr O’Donnell, from Hobart’s ForensiClinic, said.

“Exhibitionistic behaviour by definition is non-contact, and there is usually no intention of further sexual behaviour towards the stranger.”

There are many theories about what causes the urges, but generally people who flash do so because they find it arousing, Dr O’Donnell said.

“Some people have a conscious desire to upset or shock the stranger, while others may fantasise that the stranger will become sexually aroused by their display.

“Others are not aware of, or concerned about, the stranger’s response at all.”

Women can also be diagnosed with exhibitionism, she said.

“Female exhibitionistic acts may include habitually undressing at a window that can be seen by the public for the purpose of experiencing sexual gratification from the attention of onlookers.”

Exhibitionist behaviour is illegal and in NSW obscene exposure carries a penalty of up to six months in jail.

There were a total of 284 sexual offences in the category of indecent assault, acts of indecency and other sexual offences reported to police in inner-Sydney in 2011, according to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

“Exhibitionistic acts may be perceived as a less serious nuisance act, however for some victims the behaviour can be very distressing and fear-evoking,” Dr O’Donnell said.

After a man exposed himself to a young girl at a discount store in St Mary’s, in Sydney’s west, on August 4 local police warned parents to be vigilant.

“It’s very important that parents properly supervise their children when visiting public places, like shopping centres, to ensure their safety and minimise the risk of this type of incident happening,” Crime Manager Detective Inspector Darryl Jobson said.

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Stevie J pays a high price

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February 10, 2019 by admin

Steve Johnson (foreground) makes his ill-fated contact.COMMENT
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IT’S the system that nailed Steve Johnson. Once the match review panel watched the videotape of him laying a block on Dan Hannebery at Geelong last Saturday and decided it was a reportable offence, he was in trouble.

That’s because Johnson’s record included a tripping incident against Richmond in round four this year (adding 78 points to his base penalty), and the loading from a three-match suspension for whacking Steven Baker, of St Kilda, in 2010. We all remember that incident, when Baker goaded him and their tete-a-tete ended as it was always going to end, with Johnson snapping.

Once Johnson was assessed at a 240-point misdemeanour, Geelong had nowhere to go. Had the Cats chosen to challenge the panel’s finding at the tribunal, they risked losing him for not just one but two finals (assuming Geelong goes through this week). It was a risk it was not prepared to take and it accepted the one-match ban yesterday.

Had it not been for the loading and the carry-over points, he would have been assessed at 120 demerit points, pleaded not guilty for a 25 per cent discount, and walked away with a reprimand.

That’s the system and it is worth noting that the incomparable Stevie J has some recent history in the area of body-checking. He did it to Chris Newman in the Richmond game and escaped; he knocked out Scott Thompson at the opening bounce against Adelaide (although in fairness, that was assessed, rightly, as an accidental collision).

Johnson, in his new role as a permanent midfielder, has been pushing the boundaries with his body-checking, as the Hannebery incident shows. He went a fraction too far, and he picked on an unsuspecting player. But that’s where logic gets thrown out, in my view.

But the system never needed to be used. Surely the Johnson bump on Hannebery, silly and unnecessary as it was, does not constitute a reportable offence in a rugged game like Australian football. Surely a free kick to Hannebery, who was winded but suffered no lasting injury, solves the problem and metes out the necessary sanction on Johnson.

It is such a contradiction to think that a little shoulder into the sternum of an approaching player, intended as a block for that player’s opponent, can draw a suspension from a final when there is so much more overtly dangerous conduct going on around it.

I love watching Stevie J play. He is unique with his all-seeing awareness on the field, and loveable in the fact that he messes things up sometimes, too. Now he won’t be there against Fremantle on Saturday, and I’m wondering if we have a Nanny state.

Here’s my question. Is it actually good for footy that he’s watching a final from the stands? The answer is pretty obvious.

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Jets extend van Egmond’s contract 

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February 10, 2019 by admin

THE Newcastle Jets have extended the contract of coach Gary van Egmond by a year and he will now stay at the helm of the A-League club until the end of the 2013-14 season.
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In his second term at the Jets, van Egmond took over from Branko Culina on the eve of last season.

The Jets finished seventh, missing the finals for a second straight year.

Van Egmond has since rebuilt the squad, bringing in a host of exciting youngsters, and now has at least another season to try and repeat his championship success of 2007-08.

The coach was not available to the Herald but said in a statement on the club’s website that he was privileged to lead the Jets.

“I see a bright future, for this season and for many years to come, in both the development of the players and in the total culture of the club,’’ the statement said.

“It is exciting times for the Newcastle Jets Football Club; we have a great representation of local talent in our senior group and near 100 per cent in our youth team.’’

After guiding the club to a championship and wooden spoon in consecutive years, van Egmond left the Jets, who were then owned by Con Constantine, to take up a position at the Australian Institute of Sport.

He spent two seasons in Canberra before returning to Newcastle last year.

In the statement Jets owner Nathan Tinkler described van Egmond as one of Australia’s premier coaches.

“When we signed Gary, part of his charter was to develop an exciting team and to nurture local talent,’’ Tinkler said.

‘‘What has been impressive during his first season with us, is not only his ability to coach but his desire to improve the game locally.’’

Gary van Egmond.