Christian Lealiifano ready to break the shackles after shedding kicking responsibilities

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CARDIFF: Christian Lealiifano hopes relinquishing the goal-kicking duties can help him break the shackles as he aims to lock down a regular starting spot in the Wallabies.
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The ACT Brumbies star also hopes he can unlock Israel Folau’s talent at fullback to help him end the longest try-scoring drought of his Wallabies career.

Lealiifano’s confidence has taken a hit as he struggles with his kicking accuracy this year, admitting his woes with the boot are taking a mental toll.

But he is poised to get another chance to impress at inside centre when the Wallabies play Wales in Cardiff as new coach Michael Cheika puts his faith in proven players.

Lealiifano is battling Brumbies teammate Matt Toomua for the No.12 jersey, and hopes being able to focus solely on his regular duties will ease the pressure.

“[The confidence] is slowly building nicely, it’s something that comes with just playing more,” Lealiifano said.

“I feel like it’s coming along really well, all I can do is just keep enjoying it and not stress too much.

“I think you lose confidence if you put pressure on yourself, you’ve got to have fun. Not kicking has taken a lot of pressure off, just putting it away … focusing on other areas.

“But if it ever comes up again, hopefully I’ll be ready. It’s just a work in progress.”

Lealiifano was regarded as Australia’s No.1 goalkicker last year, nailing 83 per cent of shots in Tests and 78 per cent in Super Rugby.

But in trying so hard to regain his confidence after off-season ankle surgery, his accuracy dropped to just 51 per cent.

Cheika has declared the players who went within a minute of beating New Zealand two weeks ago deserve another chance in the starting team.

That’s good news for Lealiifano – and if given another chance, the talented playmaker is preparing to take down the “big trucks” in the Welsh backline.

Wales have named a giant midfield of Jamie Roberts and George North as the centre pairing.

North – 109 kilograms and 194 centimetres – famously carried Israel Folau on his back in a British and Irish Lions game last year while Roberts is just as destructive at 110 kilograms and 193 centimetres.

“If you’ve got size like that, you’re going to use it, our job is to limit the go-forward they get,” Lealiifano said.

“They’ll be trying to cause some havoc up the middle … If it’s me you’ve got to put your body on the line and try to stop the big trucks.”

Folau has failed to score in Australia’s past five games, his longest period without a try since making his Wallabies debut last year.

“I am pretty happy with the way I’m playing, I’m creating opportunities for myself and guys around me … scoring tries is a bonus,” Folau said.

“Most people would probably say I’ve gone under the radar because I’m not scoring tries, but I’m doing a lot of my work off the ball.”

Lealiifano said the duo’s combination would rely more on instinct than planned moves.

Araldo broken leg resembled a ‘bag of ice’

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Melbourne Cup 2014 full coverage
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Mick Moroney, the trainer of ill-fated Melbourne Cup runner Araldo said nothing could be done to save the horse after scans showed its pastern had been broken in seven places and resembled a “bag of ice”.

Moroney said his stable was still coming to terms with the unexpected demise of Araldo with staff, owners and connections deeply saddened. He said nothing could stem the despair at the stables.

He said the veterinarians had told him that the damage to the pastern, sustained when it took fright at a flag that a small child had been waving and struck a fence, was simply too great and the horse was euthanised.

Purchased for $500,000 from Germany, Araldo had been targeting next year’s Sydney Cup and BMW Stakes.

Racing Victoria chief steward Terry Bailey said he would hold talks on Wednesday with senior VRC officials about the flag waving incident.

Bailey said there are certain protocols and guidelines in place but whether the child complied with the guidelines has to be worked out.

Bailey will talk to racecourse curator Mick Goodie and acting chief executive Julian Sullivan to investigate short term measures for Oaks Day on Thursday and the final day of the carnival on Saturday.

He said it was a most upsetting incident but arrangements for horses to reach the mounting yard, as an alternative to the 100 yard race currently used, would be put in place for this week. After that he wants to have a complete overhaul of what pennants and flags can be brought into the racecourse.

Racing Victoria’s head of veterinary and equine welfare Brian Stewart said racing authorities would be conducting “a thorough review this morning about what can be done to manage” the proximity of racegoers to the returning horses.

“I guess nobody wants to take the colour and excitement out of racing but at the same time the  safety of horses and people, the jockeys, has to be a major concern,” Dr Stewart told SEN Radio.

With Stathi Paxinos

The 18 signs you’re obsessed with travel

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Travel nerds, unite. There’s no need to be ashamed. No need to hide.
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You may have begun to suspect, over the past few years, that you’re becoming increasingly obsessed with travel. That it’s starting to take over your life. That it is your life.

If that’s the case, you’ll recognise plenty of these telltale signs.

You can recite the entire aircraft safety demonstration off by heart. “To inflate your life vest, pull the red tabs…”

You own the geography edition of Trivial Pursuit. I went through an extremely nerdy phase of spending nights at home drinking with a few travel-obsessed friends and playing this game deep into the wee hours. There’s nothing cool about that.

You know the only two countries that start with “A” but don’t end with “A”. Hint: they’re in Asia. And if you know this off the top of your head then you’re definitely obsessed.

The most visited websites on your internet browser are all airlines. Closely followed by TripAdvisor and Wikitravel. Conversely, you haven’t bothered to check Smart Traveller for government warnings in about three years.

You roll your clothes. All good travel nerds roll their clothes when they travel, knowing it gives them more space in their bag. It’s when you start doing this at home that you’ve really got a problem.

You have no idea about current affairs… But you know, to the minute, when the next Jetstar sale starts. The lack of current affairs knowledge comes from being on the road so often and failing to check the news. The sale knowledge is self-explanatory.

You have at least 10 foreign currencies in your top drawer. The combined worth of all this spare change is about $14, which is why you haven’t bothered to go down to the bank and exchange it. That, and you never know when you might be back in Mongolia.

Your Facebook feed is full of languages you don’t understand. Some friends write in Japanese, some in Spanish, some in Hebrew. There’s a smattering of Arabic. It’d be handy to know what everyone was actually saying, but, failing that, at least the page looks exotic.

You don’t own a car or a house…  But you could probably buy both with frequent flyer miles if it was allowed. You’ve spent all of your hard-earned income on flights and holidays, which is why you still haven’t gotten around to those big, grounding purchases like property and vehicles.

The weather app on your iPhone has about 20 cities from around the world. You’re torturing yourself, clearly, but it’s nice to be able to quickly find out whether people will be going to the beach in Sicily, or if it’s started snowing yet in Whistler.

You can order food in six different languages. You’ll constantly mangle all of those languages to an almost unrecognisable state, but hey, at least you’re trying.

Your house looks like a souvenir store threw up in it. There are tacky snow globes, posters, miniatures of the Eiffel Tower, islander carvings, “I heart NY” coffee mugs, framed photos, bits of national dress, fridge magnets and key rings. Your partner or flatmate probably hates all of these items. But who cares?

You can sleep anywhere. It might be on a plane, it might be on a bus, it might be curled up in a corner in an airport, in a dorm bed or on someone’s ratty couch. Doesn’t matter – you’ve mastered the art of grabbing sleep wherever and on whatever you can.

You have a favourite airport. And a least favourite. You also have a favourite terminal at LAX (the Tom Bradley, obviously), and know the quickest way to get to all of the London airports. And it actually makes sense if someone tells you they’re going to “the LCCT in KL”.

You have your own blog. It might have 20 readers or it might have 20,000 readers. Doesn’t really matter. You’re travelling enough to warrant a space to write down all of those experiences.

You’ve been to Luton. I can’t think of any reason a tourist would visit this English city other than to fly out of it with a budget airline. It usually takes as much time to get there as it does to fly to your actual destination.

You know if you’re a “window” person or an “aisle” person. You have an extensive list of reasons to justify this preference.

You could pack a backpack and be out your front door in about 10 minutes. After many years of packing and repacking and repacking again, you don’t even need to think about what’s coming with you. Quick check of the weather on your iPhone, grab some local currency from your top drawer, and you’re gone.

What do you think are the signs you’re obsessed with travel?

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Melbourne Cup favourite Admire Rakti health checked before race

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Paranoia: Admire Rakti, right, was vet checked the morning of the Melbourne Cup. Photo: Michael DodgeRacing Victoria’s chief steward asked for Melbourne Cup favourite Admire Rakti to be health checked on the morning before it died suddenly after the race.
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Racing Victoria’s chief veterinarian Dr Brian Stewart revealed he checked the stallion stabled at Werribee on the morning of the cup after a request from chief steward, Terry Bailey.

Dr Stewart said the horse was healthy and described it as case of “chief steward paranoia”.

Mr Bailey concurred saying it was commonsense to check the horse.

“He (Dr Stewart) is right in what he says, probably a bit of chief steward paranoia, but after the call of the card, there was a little bit of easing in the market and some good judges (were) suggesting that it couldn’t win,” Mr Bailey said.

“I just felt it was our role – and duty bound – to make sure the public of Australia were protected. After all it was the favourite in the Cup, to just make doubly, triply make sure that the horse is OK,” he said.

Dr Stewart found the horse to be healthy and found no indication of the heart failure condition that felled the horse in the stables after the race.

The initial autopsy has confirmed the horse died from a heart failure condition, which Dr Stewart said was common in elite athletes while exercising. He said the horse was unlikely to have been in pain and described the death as like “fainting”.

Dr Stewart said it was a rare event in horses and occurred in about .007 per cent of horseracing deaths. In humans it would be treated with a defibrillator to re-regulate the blood flow. He said a horse-size defibrillator would be would be considered in a review of the death but no other racecourses used them.

“It would take a very, very rapid response (to use a defibrillator), but we will review it,” Dr Stewart said.

Mr Bailey said a veterinarian arrived quickly when Admire Rakti was seen to be in distress and was with the horse when it died.

He said jockey Zac Purton whipped the horse once but eased when it did not respond at about the 400-metre mark.

RSPCA Australia’s chief executive officer Heather O’Neil called for the Australian Racing Board to ban the whip by next year’s Melbourne Cup.

“Punters expect to see the horse they bet on to be ‘ridden out’, and jockeys show this by literally flogging a tired animal – it’s time for this to stop,” Ms O’Neil said.

She said there was no evidence that whipping made horses go faster and there would still be a winner if no whip was used.

“If anyone suggests repeated whipping does not hurt horses, they should try it on themselves.”

Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses campaign manager Elio Celetto said the same jockey Zac Purton had been fined at the Caulfield Cup on Admire Rakti for excessive whipping.

“This horse knew what was expected and was giving its all and he has paid the price with its life,” Mr Celetto said.

He said Australia needed to follow Norway and ban the whip in horseracing. He said the campaign would continue at Oaks Day with a mobile sign.

Dr Stewart said it was a tragedy but dismissed the calls for a whip ban.

“It is not a matter of horses being worked too hard or that we ask too much of athletes. They are elite athletes. In this particular circumstance there is absolutely nothing that could have been done to identify that this horse was at risk or to have prevented it,” Dr Stewart said.

“They are very well looked after, very healthy and are very much loved by everybody. It happens in humans. Do we stop people running in marathons? Do we stop people playing golf because someone might have a heart attack on the golf course? I don’t think this very rare, one-off incident is enough to say racing is definitely unacceptable in any way,” he said.

Mr Bailey said there would be a review of how horses got to the track after the death of Araldo from a broken leg after it was “spooked” by a waving flag.

He said one option would see horses come back via the clock tower which would move them further away from the crowd.

No problems between Demons and Jack Trengove says Melbourne coach Paul Roos

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Melbourne coach Paul Roos says the Demons don’t expect any ill-feeling between the club and former captain Jack Trengove after the midfielder’s trade to Richmond was aborted on medical grounds.
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Melbourne and Richmond had agreed in principle on a trade involving the No.2 pick in the 2009 national draft, but the deal was scuttled when Trengove was found in a routine medical check to have re-injured the navicular bone in his foot.

Trengove, who had played only two games in 2014, had surgery last week to remove existing screws, doctors this time using a bone graft. Roos said on Wednesday one of his first tasks upon his return to the club was to catch up with the former skipper.

“I’ve texted him a couple of times when I was away,” Roos said. “I don’t think there’s any problems whatsoever, and we hope that he can still contribute to this footy club as good player. He’s pretty positive, he seems pretty upbeat [about the surgery] and I’m looking forward to sitting down chatting with him about it.”

Roos said Melbourne had always believed Trengove a required player, but the potential trade deserved to be explored.

“It wasn’t a fire sale. He needed to be comfortable with it, we needed to be comfortable with it, but it was far from being a done deal. Jack’s addressed it already, he doesn’t have a problem with it at all. It was never a case of him being thrown out of there and that he wasn’t going to play for the Melbourne Football Club.”

Roos said the Demons hadn’t given up hope of Trengove being able to make some sort of contribution in 2015.

“In the short term, it’s about getting that bone to heal and the blood down there and in a sense, without being alarmist, leading a normal life. That’s the first component of it. We certainly haven’t given up hope of him playing, but the first thing is making sure the foot is healing so he can get to the point where’s out of the boot and he’s walking, jogging and healthy. That’s the first stage, and then we start to go from there.”

Antonis named in Socceroos’ squad

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Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou admits he is facing a race against the clock to get the right mix for January’s Asian Cup, naming another largely experimental squad for their final friendly against Japan on November 18.
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Postecoglou had suggested he would use the match in Osaka as a dry run for his best 23 given there is no opportunity for another friendly before he names his tournament squad. However, the coach has conceded he needs to give a final trial to fringe players to force their way into his reckoning. Among those given a chance to impress include A-League players Matt McKay, Mitch Nichols, Terry Antonis and Aaron Mooy after starring for their respective clubs, with Adam Federici, Bernie Ibini, Tomi Juric and Brad Smith making way.

Also back is German-based forward Robbie Kruse, who returns after having to leave the last squad with injury. Only two goalkeepers have been selected, with Asian Champions League MVP Ante Covic overlooked because, at 39 he doesn’t fit Postecoglou’s preferred age bracket.

“You’ve got to deal with realities. The realities are that we need to expand our playing pool. It’s as simple as that. You can’t just manufacture that overnight,” Postecoglou said at the squad’s unveiling in Sydney on Wednesday. “I don’t want to be caught short by injuries on the eve of the Asian Cup. From that point of view, everything we’ve been doing has been working exactly as I want it.”

Lamenting what happened at the World Cup, where the Socceroos were left to field heavily-weakened teams because of injury, Postecoglou said he feared the same thing happening in January and therefore needed to experiment further.

“Should our national team ever be settled? I’ve got question marks against that. I’ve said from day one that nobody should think being part of the national team is guaranteed,” he said. “What we’re going through at the moment has to happen, we need to go into the Asian Cup with a bigger playing pool to chose from. I don’t want to get caught short by injuries as we were before the World Cup.”

Postecoglou said he was impressed with the A-League over the opening month, saying the standard had improved and he could see the day when most of the squad was picked from the domestic competition. “We want to play a certain style of football and are looking for footballers who will fit in to that. I’ve been really impressed with the A-League the first few weeks,” he said. “I think the standard’s gone up another level.”

Antonis’ blazing start to the season with Sydney FC has catapulted him into contention for the Asian Cup and Postecoglou will be tempted to give the youngster a run-out against the Samurai Blue, who feature arguably Asia’s best midfield – headlined by Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa, AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda, Eintracht Frankfurt’s Makoto Hasebe and Hertha Berlin’s Hajime Hosogai. Postecoglou has also thrown international lifelines to Nichols and Mooy, who have found themselves overlooked for national duty in recent times. Nichols has been shining on loan at Perth Glory while Mooy has slotted in effortlessly to Melbourne City’s midfield.

“I’ve known Mitch for a very long time, I think he has some of the attributes that’ll fit in to our style of play. Whether that can happen at international level will be his test,” Postecoglou said. “The same with young Aaron. I think he’s had a solid start to his season at Melbourne City and again, has some of the attributes we’re looking for, for the game we want to play.”

The coach said the door was hardly shut on those who weren’t named, provided they were playing regularly for their club sides. “Guys like Matthew Spiranovic or even Tomi Juric [remain in contention], I had a good chat with Popa [Wanderers coach Tony Popovic] and it makes sense to leave them here and play games, because they need games,” he said. “Would Matthew Spiranovic be in this squad if he was fully fit? Absolutely, he was our best defender at the World Cup.”

However, Postecoglou said two of his would-be defensive options, Rhys Williams and Curtis Good, would face a difficult task to work their way back into contention as they battled to overcome long-term injuries. They appear to be on the verge of joining Tom Rogic on the sidelines, with the mercurial midfielder already ruled out as he seeks to overcome a debilitating groin injury.

Squad: Terry Antonis, Aziz Behich, Mark Bresciano, Joshua Brillante, Tim Cahill, Jason Davidson, Ivan Franjic, Chris Herd, James Holland, Mile Jedinak, Robbie Kruse, Mitch Langerak, Mathew Leckie, Massimo Luongo, Matt McKay, Mark Milligan, Mitch Nichols, Aaron Mooy, Mat Ryan, Trent Sainsbury, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, James Troisi, Alex Wilkinson.

Renting property? Don’t hold your breath for a long lease

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Renters get a pretty bad run in Australia. Not only must they contend with precarious tenure and skyrocketing rents, but they battle a national psyche that promotes home ownership as obligatory and denigrates leasing as unmitigated failure.
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Would it be this way if the system were fairer on tenants? The majority of Australian renters are on fixed short-term leases of six or 12 months, and one in seven are on periodic tenancy, liable to be evicted within four weeks. Might the stigma subside if we could access longer-term leases, the kind on offer in European countries such as Germany?

“Of course,” says Bill Randolph, director of the City Futures Research Centreat UNSW. He points out Australia already has a large cohort of long-term renters. A third of lessees have rented for more than 10 years, up from about a quarter in 1994. This group might lack security, but by circumstance or revealed preference, they remain renters.

“In the UK it’s called Generation Rent and that’s basically everybody under 35,” Randolph says. Countless reports show the same phenomena here – housing is less affordable, Gen Y is less obsessed with property ownership and 40 per cent of renters now have dependent children.

Yet the home ownership rate in Australia remains stable at 65 to 70 per cent.

Earlier this year, the Tenancy Union of NSW asked 580 tenants “why do you rent?” More than half said it was because they could not afford to buy, and a further 10 per cent said they were saving for a home.

People are buying later and mortgages are taking longer to pay off, but the appeal of the so-called Great Australian Dream appears largely undiminished.

It’s a very different scenario in Germany, where more than 60 per cent of households rent and the standard lease is indefinite.

German laws are roundly described as pro-tenant – “depressingly” so, according to one investor website – because it is relatively difficult for a landlord to terminate a lease without cause, and tenants can demand continuation. On the other hand, a tenant can generally give three months notice without justification.

German laws also stop landlords increasing rent by more than 20 per cent nominally over three years, and the quality of private rental stock is very high.

There are structural explanations for this, as well as historical and cultural ones.Germany and other European countries have a higher proportion of large institutional investors who are more likely to cede capital gains for cash flow.

Australia has very few institutional investors in the private rental market. Our rental yields aren’t attractive enough to big institutions, says Angie Zigomanis,senior manager of residential property at BIS Shrapnel.

“In many other countries rental yields are often close to interest rates, if not above the local interest rates, whereas in Australia they’re well below,” he says.

“[For] an institutional fund, who would like to just be a passive investor in residential property, they’re just not getting big enough returns to justify it.”

Rental yields fluctuate over time and differ between cities – they are higher in Brisbane than Sydney or Melbourne, for example. But data shows yields have declined, on average, since the 1990s.

In light of that, the benevolent institutional investor prepared to offer long-term leases at a lenient price seems more a mirage than genuine possibility.

But here’s the rub: yields in Germany are about the same as Australia. And though there are more institutional investors, the majority of German landlords are still “small-scale” – mums-and-dads, retirees and other individuals.

As Kath Hulseand Vivienne Milliganwrote in a 2011 paper, Germany demonstrates that “small-scale landlordism is not incompatible with a high level of secure occupancy for tenants”.

So could Australia turn German?Hulse, professor of housing studies at Swinburne University of Technology, says change is possible but unlikely.

An ageing population and a lack of adequate superannuation mean older Australians may increasingly come to rely on steady rent as a retirement income, rather than just chasing capital gains, she says.

More flexible leasing arrangements would also help – in particular, a system to moderate intra-tenancy rent increases, and greater freedom for tenants to modify and personalise their home, such as keeping pets or redecorating.

But Professor Hulse says the Australian desire for home ownership is “fairly ingrained”.

Ned Cutcher, policy officer at the Tenants’ Union of NSW, agrees. He says we could make some simple, immediate changes to the law to better protect renters from capricious landlords. But he is not convinced there can be a significant shift towards long-term leases until attitudes to renting change.

“I think that’s putting the cart before the horse,” he says.

Kate Shaw, urban geographer at the University of Melbourne, says decreasing or abolishing negative gearing, and increasing capital gains tax on investment properties, would be the first steps to dismantling Australia’s view of housing as a commodity.

“You’re not going to get support from property owners for long-term leases the way our taxation system encourages fast capital gains on property turnover,” Dr Shaw says.

“Other countries don’t have anything like the incentives Australia does to invest in property as a commodity rather than as a source of housing.”

Transfield ups guidance in wake of rejected Ferrovial takeover bid

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“Positive start”: Transfield chair Diane Smith-Gander. Photo: Rob Homer “Positive start”: Transfield chair Diane Smith-Gander. Photo: Rob Homer
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“Positive start”: Transfield chair Diane Smith-Gander. Photo: Rob Homer

“Positive start”: Transfield chair Diane Smith-Gander. Photo: Rob Homer

Nothing obstructionist: Transfield chief Graeme Hunt and Diane Smith-Gander. Photo: Jessica Hromas

Resolute: Transfield’s Graeme Hunt and Diane Gander-Smith. Photo: Jessica Hromas

Nothing obstructionist: Transfield chief Graeme Hunt and Diane Smith-Gander. Photo: Jessica Hromas

Resolute: Transfield’s Graeme Hunt and Diane Gander-Smith. Photo: Jessica Hromas

Nothing obstructionist: Transfield chief Graeme Hunt and Diane Smith-Gander. Photo: Jessica Hromas

Resolute: Transfield’s Graeme Hunt and Diane Gander-Smith. Photo: Jessica Hromas

Nothing obstructionist: Transfield chief Graeme Hunt and Diane Smith-Gander. Photo: Jessica Hromas

Transfield Services chief executive Graeme Hunt has denied the company is under pressure to start negotiations with takeover suitor Ferrovial as the Spanish company resists demands that it make no moves towards a hostile bid.

“We’re not feeling any pressure from the shareholders to be sitting down dealing with these people,” Mr Hunt said after Transfield’s annual general meeting in Sydney.

“Ferrovial are a credible player, they understand the businesses we’re in, but their price is too low.”

Transfield wants Ferrovial – which made an indicative $1 billion takeover bid in October worth $1.95 per share – to commit to a three-month standstill agreement before giving it access to due diligence so that it can consider making a higher offer.

A standstill agreement would preclude the Spanish group from trading in Transfield shares.

Transfield also wants Ferrovial to refrain from taking a bid directly to investors without a board recommendation during the due diligence period.

Ferrovial is understood to be happy to abide by the standstill agreement, but does not want to waive its rights to go directly to shareholders, which would amount to a hostile bid, amid concerns Transfield’s board is trying to retain too much power.

Mr Hunt claimed there was “nothing obstructionist” about Transfield’s requests, indicating that the company’s board did not want shareholders to be presented with an offer that the board did not believe represented fair value.

“It’s in the best interests of shareholders is to give them the opportunity with the appropriate confidentiality restraints to understand our business a little better to determine whether they can offer an appropriate price.”

Transfield plans to provide Ferrovial with 200 pages of data on the company, including information on contracts and its debt structure, if it agrees to its requests.

Transfield chairman Diane Smith-Gander declined to comment on what price the board would accept from Ferrovial and said the board would not open its books for due diligence until it was “comfortable” the Spanish group would not misuse the information it received.

“This company is a current and future competitor, just because it asks, we can’t provide it with commercially sensitive information,” she said.

Ferrovial plans to discuss its concerns with Transfield in the next few days and try to negotiate access to the Australian company’s books.

Transfield’s biggest institutional investor, Allan Gray, has backed the company’s decision to reject the initial takeover bid, arguing the group is worth more than $2 a share.

Transfield’s shares rose 4¢ to close at $1.90 after raising its full-year profits guidance at the AGM.

It now expects to deliver underlying earnings before interest taxation deprecation and amortisation (EBITDA) of between $260 million and $280 million for fiscal 2015, up from previous guidance of between $240 million and $260 million given at its annual results in August.

Ms Smith-Gander said Transfield was experiencing a “positive” start to the year with earnings in the fiscal year to date “well ahead” of the previous corresponding period.

Transfield, which did not pay dividends in fiscal 2014, will consider resuming dividend payments at the end of fiscal 2015.

Rival contractor Downer EDI also held its AGM on Wednesday with all resolutions passing easily, including its remuneration report and the re-election of chairman Michael Harding.

Cabcharge chairman Russell Balding attacks shareholders’ association spill threat

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Little has changed with Cabcharge’s board conduct since the death of company founder Reg Kermode, the ASA says. Photo: Louie Douvis Little has changed with Cabcharge’s board conduct since the death of company founder Reg Kermode, the ASA says. Photo: Louie Douvis
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Little has changed with Cabcharge’s board conduct since the death of company founder Reg Kermode, the ASA says. Photo: Louie Douvis

Little has changed with Cabcharge’s board conduct since the death of company founder Reg Kermode, the ASA says. Photo: Louie Douvis

Cabcharge chairman Russell Balding has hit back at the Australian Shareholders’ Association’s plan to vote to spill the taxi network’s board at its annual general meeting, arguing it will “serve no useful purpose”.

In an unprecedented move, the ASA has decided it will call for the whole board to stand for re-election if Cabcharge gets a fourth strike against its remuneration report at its November 26 meeting.

The ASA claimed Cabcharge had given no “real details” about short-term bonuses, except that they “will not align with shareholders interest, as it will all be in cash”.

It also disagrees with a “hurdle rate” of 9 per cent total shareholder return, leading to 50 per cent of long-term incentives vesting, rising to 100 per cent once 11 per cent TSR is reached.

Other complaints were that the board still lacked independence.

It said Cabcharge was effectively “a one-man board” before founder Reg Kermode died in April, and despite the subsequent splitting of CEO and chairman roles little had changed.

“We have been in a situation that Reg promised us things for many years and it never happened,” said the ASA’s chairman of NSW monitors Allan Goldin. “Bonuses used to be handed out at random just because Reg wanted to do it.

“Reg dies and everyone says it is going to be a new leaf – what we see is that nothing has really changed.”

As well as appointing a new CEO, Andrew Skelton, board member Mr Balding became chairman in May. Two independent directors, Rick Millen and Rod Gilmour, have since been appointed, but Mr Goldin said Mr Gilmour could not be considered independent.

“He was employed by Cabcharge until April, then all of a sudden they say we will put you on the board,” Mr Goldin said. “They say that they’re going to have a new board, but they aren’t.”

Mr Gilmour was a corporate affairs consultant to Cabcharge from July 2012 to April 2014, and has held government roles with policy and regulatory oversight of taxis.

Mr Balding countered that the Cabcharge board and management had addressed many of the concerns expressed by shareholders about the previous years’ remuneration reports, and he called on other shareholders not to support the ASA’s plans.

“The board believes it would not be in shareholders’ interest to support the voting intentions of the Australian Shareholders’ Association in relation to the company’s remuneration report,” he said.

Mr Goldin said the ASA almost never voted for a spill of the board because it was too disruptive to the company. After a company received two strikes against its executive pay, he said it hoped this would be enough to prompt change.

“Usually we would never recommend a spill if a strike happens but in this case you don’t really have a board and there are two directors who have been there for 18 years,” he said.

Once a spill motion is voted down, a company must get two more consecutive votes above 25 per cent against its remuneration report for another spill vote to be triggered.

Mr Goldin said he knew of no other ASX 200 company that had faced the prospect of its board being voted out twice.