Archive for April, 2019

John Rosenbaum joins Aled Hoggett’s criticism of Gloucester Dialogue group on AGL coal seam gas plan

By admin | 杭州桑拿

A coal seam gas drill rig at Gloucester.GLOUCESTER mayor John Rosenbaum has joined fellow councillor Aled Hoggett in criticising a lack of consultation by energy giant AGL with the wider community, but said he still wanted to be part of an ongoing dialogue with the company.
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Cr Rosenbaum said he agreed with Cr Hoggett’s assessment that the Gloucester Dialogue – set up as a consultative forum between the community and AGL – had failed in its goal to develop ‘‘trust and … open communication’’, saying it had been ‘‘bogged down’’ in bureaucratic detail and had not been transparent with the wider community.

Cr Rosenbaum said the Dialogue had not been informed about a number of important decisions, including AGL’s plan to release water produced from coal seam gas drilling into a nearby creek when high rain levels didn’t allow for irrigation.

‘‘Those sorts of things are frustrating and I can understand where Aled is coming from,’’ Cr Rosenbaum said.

However he said he believed it was better ‘‘to at least be in the room’’ so that when issues were raised ‘‘at least we can apply pressure’’.

He also said changes to the way information from the meetings was published were being introduced to improve its transparency.

The Newcastle Herald reported on Thursday that Cr Hoggett had quit the Gloucester Dialogue because he said it had become ‘‘a means by which AGL and the state government provide carefully selected and manicured information to the council and the community’’ that ‘‘creates an illusion of consultation where in fact none exists’’.

AGL hit back at those comments, listing a number of examples where the company had responded directly to the Dialogue’s concerns.

‘‘For example, when the Dialogue members raised concerns about produced water and salt, AGL released its plans for a desalination plant,’’ a spokeswoman said.

‘‘When the issue of water and faultlines in the local geology was discussed, AGL committed to installing two extra water bores below the floodplain and in the faults to learn more about the shallow groundwater.

‘‘Airborne methane emissions was raised at the Dialogue and as a result AGL completed baseline monitoring before commencing activities, which will be compared to results once hydraulic fracturing is completed.’’

STATE Parliament has voted to establish a select committee into gas supply and cost in NSW.

Headed by upper house Shooters Party MP Robert Borsak, the committee will investigate the ‘‘factors affecting the supply, demand and cost of natural gas’’ in that state, including the impact of ‘‘tight supply’’ and the ‘‘commercial conduct of gas producers and the operation of the international and domestic gas markets’’.

Gas prices in NSW have continued to increase in recent years, driven by the huge jump in overseas demand and exports from projects in Queensland and the slow development of coal seam gas projects such as at Gloucester.

The solution has become an increasingly fraught battleground in the ideological stoush over coal seam gas exploration in NSW.

Producer AGL says its Gloucester coal seam gas project could provide about 15 per cent of the state’s gas and that regulators need to make it easier to push ahead with projects, while the state Greens and Labor parties argue for restrictions on gas exports.

Margaret Cunneen’s case against ICAC could open the floodgates

By admin | 杭州桑拿

Taking on the ICAC: Margaret Cunneen.ICAC inspector announces audit of Cunneen inquiryJudge rejects court bid by Cunneen to obtain ICAC documentsMargaret Cunneen likely to win temporary reprieve from ICAC hearings
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If Crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen wins her legal battle against the Independent Commission Against Corruption, she will have forever changed the way the watchdog conducts its investigations.

No longer will people hauled before the ICAC wait for an inquiry to be completed – including days of embarrassing hearings – before challenging the commission’s findings in the Supreme Court.

The pre-emptive strike to shut down an inquiry will be a far more attractive weapon in their arsenal.

Supreme Court Justice Clifton Hoeben, the chief judge at common law and a Court of Appeal judge, clearly had this in mind when he said on Thursday he was “thinking about the downstream effect” of the Cunneen case.

In other words, finding in Ms Cunneen SC’s favour could open the floodgates to similar cases in the future.

“The floodgates argument is silly,” was response from Ms Cunneen’s barrister, Arthur Moses, SC.

It is true the court must decide the case on the law, not on whether a favourable ruling would encourage a flood of copycat plaintiffs.

But Justice Hoeben said this appeared to be the first court challenge requiring a body such as the ICAC to provide reasons “at each step” of its investigation.

In this case, the Cunneen camp wants a statement of reasons for the ICAC’s decision to commence the investigation and to hold public hearings.

If Ms Cunneen wins the case, future targets of ICAC investigations will expect the same or will ask the Supreme Court for an order shutting down the inquiry.

The argument is novel but it is not the first time someone has tried to stop an ICAC investigation in its tracks.

Justice Hoeben also presided over a case last year in which mining mogul Travers Duncan tried to stop the ICAC delivering its final report on a coal tenement over the Obeid family’s farm.

He dismissed Mr Duncan’s case, and the decision was upheld on appeal.

Consumer watchdog v big business: the top 10 ACCC court cases

By admin | 杭州桑拿

Jetstar and Virgin: Accused of misleading customers about airfares. Photo: Louise Kennerley EnergyAustralia: In the hot seat over door-to-door selling. Photo: Ryan Osland
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Woolworths: Breached shopper docket undertakings about fuel discounts. Photo: Brad Kanaris

Coles: Found guilty of misleading customers about its bread. Photo: John Woudstra

Rod Sims, head of the ACCC. Photo: Nic Walker

Egg producers: “Planned a cartel”. Photo: Michele Mossop

Coles in trouble over spring apple claims

Misleading claims, drip-pricing and cartel conduct – some companies will do anything to squeeze every dollar out of your wallet and, at times, in breach of the law.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission won 100 per cent of its 28 consumer protection-related cases that were closed by the Federal Court in the past financial year, trumping companies such as Scoopon, Luv-a-Duck and EnergyAustralia.

The watchdog secured $12.1 million in penalties and other remedies in the process, its annual report shows. It is still locked in 12 consumer protection-related court battles.

Of the seven competition-related cases closed in the past financial year, the ACCC won four, lost and appealed in a case against ANZ, lodged a cross-appeal in a case against Flight Centre and lost a case against Coles.

The watchdog also received $220,000 from 23 infringement notices, including $51,000 from the owners of the GAP fashion chain for flogging non-compliant kids’ pyjamas and $20,400 from Carlton and United Breweries for tricking punters into thinking its Byron Bay Pale Lager was made by a small, local brewer.

Here is a wrap of the most noteworthy ACCC Federal Court cases in the past couple of years.

1. ‘COLES IS BULLYING SUPPLIERS’

Status: In court

In May, the ACCC launched court action against Coles, claiming it was engaging in “unconscionable conduct” by forcing 200 suppliers to pay ongoing rebates to fund the supply chain improvement program, Active Retail Collaboration.

Last month, the regulator launched a second round of legal action against the supermarket giant, alleging it was forcing suppliers to unfairly plug gaps in its profits and pay for “markdowns” and “waste”.

Coles had a “Perfect Profit Day” each year, a day to bully small suppliers into paying the gap when their products failed to hit budgeted profits, court documents allege.

Coles rejects the accusations and both matters are before the court.

2. ‘WOOLWORTHS KNOWLINGLY SOLD HAZARDOUS GOODS’

Status: In court

A toddler suffered chemical burns, a woman fractured her vertebra and a man hit his head on concrete, because Woolworths knowingly sold hazardous home-brand products through its stores, the ACCC alleges.

In September, the watchdog issued Woolworths with court papers, alleging it failed to alert authorities promptly and to begin recalls after receiving reports of serious injuries linked with some of its products, including deep fryers with weak handles, self-igniting safety matches, drain cleaners with a faulty child-resistant cap, and collapsing chairs.

It alleges that, by offering the products for sale, Woolworths made them out to be safe when they were not. The next hearing will occur on November 18.

3. ‘PETROL RETAILERS ARE SHARING PRICE INFORMATION AND REDUCING COMPETITION’

Status: In court

In August, the watchdog chased after the heavyweights of the petrol world, accusing them of co-ordinating fuel prices via a Brisbane-based website that updated pump price listings every 15 minutes.

The ACCC claimed BP, Caltex, Coles, Woolworths and 7-Eleven were using the website Informed Sources in a manner “likely to increase petrol price co-ordination” and dampen competition, leaving motorists worse off.

A lift of 1¢ a litre in the petrol price would cost Australian motorists about $190 million a year, the ACCC says. The retailers and the price-monitoring firm face up to $10 million in penalties if found liable.

4. ‘JETSTAR AND VIRGIN ARE MISLEADING CUSTOMERS ABOUT AIRFARES’ 

Status: In court

The ACCC began legal proceedings against Jetstar and Virgin in June for luring online customers with low headline airfares, only to make them pay more by “dripping” fees and charges during the booking process.

Prosecutors alleged they failed adequately to disclose an extra booking and service fee, which for Jetstar customers was $8.50 on a one-way ticket, and for Virgin customers $7.70, therefore misleading and deceiving customers.

In court, Virgin’s barrister said the fees were common practice.

“The familiarity of consumers with booking and service fees and like charges has the potential to bear on the issue of what consumers are likely to understand of what a website is likely to convey.”

Jetstar’s next day in court is on November 17.

5. ‘EGG PRODUCERS ATTEMPTED TO CREATE A CARTEL’ 

Status: In court

Egg farmers planned to kill millions of hens prematurely and bury their eggs as part of an industry-wide strategy to boost their profits, the Federal Court was told in May.

The ACCC alleged the farmers, who were facing a “catastrophic” oversupply that would swamp the market, drew up the plan to create a false shortage and increase consumer demand to keep their profits intact.

It accused the industry body Australian Egg Corporation of attempting to create a cartel to manipulate egg prices for both grocery shoppers and businesses.

6. ‘COLES AND WOOLWORTHS BREACHED SHOPPER-DOCKET UNDERTAKINGS’ 

Status: ACCC one win, one loss

In February, the ACCC took Coles and Woolworths to court in separate misuse of market power cases, saying both had breached an undertaking limiting fuel discounts linked to supermarket purchases to a maximum of 4¢ a litre.

Both chains had introduced new schemes soon after that allowed shoppers to increase their discounts by spending money at their petrol stations’ convenience stores.

The Federal Court in April ruled Woolworths guilty of breaching the undertaking made to the regulator, although it cleared Coles of wrongdoing. The ACCC says it remains concerned.

7. ‘SNOWDALE AND PIROVIC FREE-RANGE EGG CLAIMS ARE FALSE’ 

Status: ACCC one win, one in court

Two of Australia’s biggest egg producers fronted the Federal Court in December 2013 after the ACCC began separate legal actions against them over the use, or misuse, of the term “free range”.

In September, the court declared NSW-based Pirovic had misled consumers by trying to pass off eggs as free range when their hens were housed in crowded barns, slapping it with a $300,000 fine.

The ACCC is still locked in a court battle with Western Australia’s egg giant Snowdale, which it says has “free range” hens that cannot move about freely because of various factors, including stocking density and barn openings.

8. ‘COLGATE-PALMOLIVE, CUSSONS AND UNILEVER RAN A LAUNDRY DETERGENT CARTEL’

Status: In court

Unilever blew the whistle on an alleged laundry detergent cartel it was involved in with the makers of Radiant (made by Cussons) and Cold Power (made by Colgate-Palmolive) since 2009, with the knowledge of Woolworths.

It was granted immunity, as the ACCC began court action in December against Colgate-Palmolive, one of its former directors Paul Ansell, Cussons and Woolworths, over an alleged attempt collectively to deny consumers the benefits of lower prices for laundry detergent.

The scheme was code-named “project mastermind” in an internal Cussons email.

The ACCC is seeking damages of up to $10 million or 10 per cent of each company’s annual turn­over.

“These alleged arrangements also standardised the ultra-concentrate products offered, denying consumers a variety of choices on pricing, package volumes and the strength of the concentrate product,”  ACCC chairman Rod Sims said at the time.

9. ‘COLES IS MAKING FALSE “FRESHLY BAKED” BREAD CLAIMS’

Status: ACCC win

The mislabelled bread saga began when former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett discovered his “freshly baked” Cuisine Royale bread from Coles was made in Ireland. Angry, he mailed the offending items to Mr Sims who launched an inquiry.

The ACCC took Coles to court in June last year for misleading consumers to think its bread was made on the day at the store when, in some cases, the bread was partially baked months earlier in factories as far away as Denmark, Germany and Ireland.

The judge declared Coles guilty in June this year and, in a ruling in September, banned the chain for three years from advertising its bread is made or baked on the day it is sold when this is not the case.

The court is yet to hand down its decision on the penalty, which could be more than $3 million.

10. ‘ENERGYAUSTRALIA IS DECEIVING CUSTOMERS ABOUT CONTRACTS’

Status: ACCC win

Last year, the ACCC concentrated its efforts on the harm caused by energy retailers involved in door-to-door selling, securing $5 million in penalties, two court-enforceable undertakings and infringement notices totalling $26,400.

In one of the larger cases, the regulator launched court action in March 2013 against EnergyAustralia and four of its associated marketing companies for making misleading claims and engaging in deceptive conduct while signing up consumers in their homes.

In April, the Federal Court ordered by consent that EnergyAustralia pay a penalty of $1.2 million for unlawful door-to-door selling practices.

Beach Energy announces major gas reserves in Australia’s Cooper Basin

By admin | 杭州桑拿

Beach Energy estimates 600 trillion cubic feet or more of gas lies in the Cooper Basin.Beach Energy has flagged extremely large gas reserves in exploration acreage it holds in the Nappamerri Trough in the Cooper Basin, in central Australia, where it is pursuing work programs with global oil major Chevron.
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Exploration has found 600 metres of “gas-soaked sandstone” underlying known gas-bearing reserves giving gas across a vertical depth of one kilometre extending across “an area of 5000 square kilometres, which is totally gas-saturated”, Beach Energy managing director Reg Nelson told a business lunch on Thursday.

“That’s a huge amount of gas,” he said. “We estimate possibly there is 600 trillion cubic feet or more of gas”, and if 10 per cent or 20 per cent is recoverable, this would result in “60 to 120 trillion cubic feet of gas”.

“To put that in perspective, in 45 years, Cooper Basin has produced 6 trillion cubic feet of gas. Australia effectively uses a volume of 3 trillion cubic feet of gas a year.”

Beach has a joint venture with Chevron across much of this acreage that could result in $500 million being invested to clarify the extent of the reserves. It has exploration programs with others such has Santos and Origin Energy on adjacent acreage.

Mr Nelson would not be drawn on talk Chevron may walk away from the work with Beach.

“The speculation is out there, but we don’t know” what its intentions are, he said.

“They won’t tell us, so what’s the use of speculating?”

An estimated $500 million is to be spent proving up the reserves. Under a two-stage work program, Chevron has until March next year to decide whether to commit further funds beyond the initial $190 million agreed to.

If Chevron elects not to proceed to stage two, then ownership of the acreage reverts to Beach.

But to ensure the reserves are tapped, the government needs to have the “right policy settings” in place, Mr Nelson said, while pointing to the ban in place that is preventing onshore exploration in Victoria.

Separately, AWE managing director Bruce Clement highlighted concerns that a slower than expected ramp up of production to supply gas needed for the three Queensland export projects could further destabilise gas markets on the east coast.

“The big risk is with coal seam gas delivery in Queensland,” Mr Clement said. “There is the acknowledgement that the ramp … is behind. Can they produce the gas in the longer term to meet that demand?”

Mr Clement said there is the prospect of “significant price volatility over the next four years” as these projects come on stream.

Sydney Kings forward Josh Childress says he’ll keep his cool amid trash talk

By admin | 杭州桑拿

Marquee man: Josh Childress. Photo: Nic Walker
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Marquee man: Josh Childress. Photo: Nic Walker

Marquee man: Josh Childress. Photo: Nic Walker

Josh Childress expects insults when he steps out beneath the lights at Wollongong this Friday to take on the Hawks.

Some spectators will not let the Sydney Kings’ marquee player forget his brutal elbow strike on a Perth Wildcats opponent two games before. “I’m going to hear more trash talk from fans than maybe before,” Childress said. “I’ve just got to keep my cool.”

But keeping calm is only the start, according to the disappointed import. Asked if he was happy with his performance this season, Childress replied firmly: “No.”

“I have to be better for my team from an all-round perspective,” he said. “Leadership, rebounding, defending, scoring, creating – I just have to be better.”

Two weeks ago, Childress – perhaps the NBL’s biggest ever signing – landed what former Boomers captain Andrew Gaze called “one of the biggest hits ever seen in the NBL”.

Gaze and another former Boomers captain Shane Heal described the one-match ban and $7500 fine as light punishment. “A very dangerous precedent was set tonight…inconsistency from the NBL yet again. Compare that 1 game to past 1 game suspensions,” Heal tweeted.

Childress, a former NBA player with Atlanta, Brooklyn, Phoenix and New Orleans, denied receiving special treatment as a crowd-drawing import. “I would say, look at past suspensions,” he said. “I’ve heard that there have been full on fights and nobody has got suspended.”

He said neither the NBL nor the NBA was rougher than the other: “guys play hard everywhere, it’s just a matter of how you react”.

“I have a track record that shows I’m not a violent player,” he said. “It was a lapse of judgment.”

Childress would not be drawn on previous claims he had been provoked by his victim Jesse Wagstaff during the Perth game. “I’ve had that conversation 5000 times,” he said. Nor did he blame the referees for missing the alleged provocations. “They’ve got a job to do,” he said, acknowledging the umpires were only part-time employees. Every player in the league can say they don’t get enough calls. It’s the nature of being an athlete. You feel like you got fouled on every possession.”

Childress is ranked eighth in the league for average points per game, fourth for average rebounds and second for his two point percentage. But the Kings are yet to find their stride in the first four rounds.

After beating the Hawks at home in round one, the purple and gold went down to the Townsville Crocodiles, the Wildcats and the Cairns Taipans. Childress said this weekend’s double-header against Wollongong and then the Adelaide 36ers in Sydney on Sunday was a chance to regain momentum.

“I think we put a lot of energy and effort into worrying about what other teams are doing,” he said. “We just need to focus on us.”

The 2.03 metre tall forward remained optimistic the Kings could start winning again if they concentrated on “the little small chunks of the game that make a large difference.” But he took little satisfaction from the knowledge the Kings had come from behind to win against the Hawks in the first round.

“We would much rather have been ahead and stayed ahead,” he said. “We know they are a good team and they fight the entire game.”