Pace tyro Rabada surging through Proteas ranks

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When South Africa broke its bafflingly poor record at international tournaments earlier this year, in the under-19 World Cup, team coach Ray Jennings predicted its pace spearhead would be playing for the Proteas’ senior team within three years – maybe even two.
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Kagiso Rabada’s progression in that sense has been, like his bowling, rapid. What Jennings expected would take years was instead completed within seven months, on Wednesday night at Adelaide Oval.

At 19 years and 164 days, Rabada became South Africa’s youngest Twenty20 debutant and third youngest in any format over the past half a century – and all before he has even completed his first full season in domestic cricket in South Africa.

That the 191-centimetre paceman consistently reached 140 km/h in the first Twenty20 against Australia, and could do so again if chosen at the MCG on Friday night, would not have surprised anyone who saw him excel in the under-19 World Cup, not least Australia’s batsmen against whom he claimed 6-25 in the semi-final to surge to public prominence in South Africa and the world.

“Ever since I started playing … I’ve always had pace. Always,” Rabada said this week. “I didn’t get lots of wickets in school, but my economy was really low. I didn’t have one single five-for for the first team. But as soon as I got to the provincial ranks, that’s when I started to get wickets.”

South Africa’s determination to expedite Rabada’s progression from the elite junior teams to the elite senior teams was reflected in his selection for South Africa A for a mid-year series in Australia, and then in the top team in the one-day tri-series in Zimbabwe that also featured Australia.

“Things have happened really quickly for me, but I love it. I love the opportunity,” he said.

That Rabada did not play in the series in Zimbabwe – he was deliberately chosen as a non-playing member, to ease him into international cricket – did not grate on him at all.

He was instead rapt to be able to approach the likes of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel for advice, as prospective teammates rather than just idols.

Because of Rabada’s rapid pace and skin colour, he is likely to generate comparisons to now-retired Proteas fast-bowler Makhaya Ntini. Rabada is less bothered by such comparisons than he is baffled by them.

“To me it [skin colour] is irrelevant,” he explained. “I’m labelled as a ‘born free’ in South Africa. Obviously I know the history, but I didn’t live through that era so I don’t know what it’s like. Obviously there is racism around still, but I don’t see skin colour in anything.

“I’m me, and I’m trying to be like me and no one else. I look up to lots of bowlers, not just one bowler … it doesn’t matter what country you’re from. If I like something … I’ll try and incorporate that into me. But at the end of the day I want to be me, not anyone else.”

Kyle Abbott, who is emerging as South Africa’s most reliable paceman outside its big three of Steyn, Morkel and Vernon Philander, said Rabada had impressed him with his efforts in training and on the field, as well as socially.

“There’s a lot of talent there. For a 19-year-old to be bowling … at 140-odd clicks … is really encouraging,” Abbott said.

“The environment we’ve got here is a perfect one for a youngster to come into. We respect each other and he’s fitted in incredibly well. I definitely think he’s going to be one to look out for in the future.”

Rabada’s rapid progression through the ranks has already forced him to abandon a plan to study law.

He will still study at university, at his parents’ urging, but will pursue a less onerous qualification more conducive to his playing duties in domestic cricket for Gauteng and Johannesburg’s Lions, as well as the national team.

Rabada’s intent to maintain his close ties with family and friends has already helped him adjust to life on the road and “not [be] letting the fame go to my head”.

“Family is important; even on this tour they’ve really helped me. I’ve been on the phone with them and they’re there. They encourage me a lot,” he said.

“When you feel down – and I know I’ve felt a bit down for various reasons – [they’re invaluable] when you’re seeking some advice.

“I do feel nerves, I admit it. I’m not Superman. But they [family] really get your head in the right space, and I’m grateful for that.”

Council awards Buildev Group company sand-mining lease against advice of staff

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Port Stephens mayor Bruce MacKenzie. PORT Stephens councillors awarded a sandmining lease over council land to a Buildev Group company against the advice of council staff and an independent expert, who recommended that it go to another company with decades’ more experience.
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Castle Quarry Products, which was unveiled this year as the Newcastle Jets’ new naming rights sponsor, was issued the lease in 2013 to mine up to 6million tonnes of sand from the 175-hectare Cabbage Tree Road, Williamtown property, amid widespread publicity about the mounting financial woes of other Buildev Group companies and major shareholder Nathan Tinkler.

Criticisms have since been levelled at mayor Bruce MacKenzie for taking part in confidential council deliberations on the matter within a day of his own family sand supply company, Macka’s Sand, withdrawing from the tender process for the lease.

The issuing of the lease also followed council investigations and legal proceedings in 2009 over alleged unauthorised sandmining by another Buildev company, Buildev Properties, at Fullerton Cove.

The Newcastle Herald can reveal the proceedings were dismissed by consent, with Buildev Properties required to pay the council’s legal costs under the settlement.

But it would not agree to pay about $80,000 – the amount that the council estimated the company made from the alleged mining – into a community trust fund, as was sought by the council.

Cr MacKenzie was among councillors to back Castle Quarry Products for the Williamtown lease during a confidential vote in April 2013, because the financial return to council stood to be far more lucrative, he said.

He told the Herald that council staff got it ‘‘absolutely wrong’’ in recommending the lease go to M.Collins & Sons and had given the advice as ‘‘they were fearful of any involvement by Nathan Tinkler’’.

‘‘I wasn’t,’’ Cr MacKenzie said.

Sensing an opportunity for big earnings, the council called for tenders to mine the sand at Williamtown in 2012. It received nine responses and hired an independent specialist to help evaluate them.

According to council documents, M.Collins & Sons was unanimously recommended in February 2013 as the preferred tenderer as it had the highest overall rating against criteria that included royalties and base rent to the council, previous experience, management and technical resources and capabilities.

Councillors were advised Sydney-based Collins ‘‘has been in operation since 1975’’.

Castle Quarry Products, which company records show was registered in late 2010, had the better prices but had not satisfied tender documentation requirements.

But a majority of councillors opted to terminate the tender process on February 12, a day after councillors received a memo that Cr MacKenzie’s family company had withdrawn.

The details remain under wraps and the council has refused to release its tender evaluations, but acting corporate services group manager Carmel Foster cited ‘‘confusion’’ over the different price structures that made the tenders difficult to compare.

Castle Quarry Products and Collins were invited to give presentations to councillors.

Collins upped the royalty payment it was offering but this was still lower than Castle Quarry Products, which had increased its own prices to include annual CPI rises, according to the council.

Ms Foster said all pricing information was kept ‘‘strictly confidential’’.

Councillors voted for Castle Quarry Products in April after being advised again to accept Collins, although Cr Geoff Dingle and Cr John Nell sought to have the meeting open to the public.

Lease conditions included that the council retained intellectual property rights over documents prepared in order to obtain project approvals.

In July that year, Castle Quarry Products deposited $250,000 into a bank account as security.

Ms Foster said the deal was expected to raise more than $20million for the council – about 27per cent more than if Collins had been selected.

Nearly three years on, the mining has yet to start.

The council said the project remained on track, although advice to councillors shows the company was permitted ‘‘to delay progress’’ of an environmental impact statement because of bushfires on the site last year.

Castle Quarry Products is housed at Fullerton Cove – the same site of the alleged unauthorised mining in 2009 – where it operates another sandmine. The property is owned by a third Buildev company, BD (NSW) J001.

The site’s future is unclear, with the Herald revealing in July that receivers had been appointed to BD (NSW) J001.

Buildev co-founder Darren Williams remains a director of Castle Quarry Products, but Tinkler associate Troy Palmer pulled out in August, amid the Independent Commission Against Corruption hearings into Buildev’s and Mr Tinkler’s secret political donations and lobbying.

Cr MacKenzie told the Herald he was not afraid to justify the deal ‘‘in any setting’’ and he was ‘‘prepared to take the risk’’ for a higher return.

But Cr Dingle said ‘‘two years down the track, they haven’t even done the [environmental impact statement]’’.

Calls to Buildev were not returned.

Hyundai in bid for top marques with Genesis

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SERIOUS VALUE: Hyundai’s new Genesis has refinement and pricing on its side for its attack on the Australian market.KOREAN car maker Hyundai is set to come out swinging when it makes its first foray into the Australian luxury car market next week with its new Genesis large sedan.
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Hyundai is planning an attack on established luxury brands Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Jaguar and Lexus and will hit its rivals with a package encompassing size, style, finesse, warranty and marketing, the new car arriving on the market with a vast standard equipment list.

If that is not enough, there is always the pricing, Hyundai putting the car on the market for $60,000 (plus on-road costs), a number that could find favour with Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore fans wondering where their next cars will come from once local manufacturing stops.

That pricing brings a staggering amount of standard equipment, with everything from nine airbags to a stack of electronic safety systems, radar-guided cruise control and a spacious, leather-trimmed interior.

But owners wanting more will be able to take the Sensory Pack of extras for another $11,000 or the Ultimate Pack with even more equipment (but including the complete Sensory Pack) for $22,000, making the best-specced variant an $82,000 buy and more than $45,000 less than a comparable Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Hyundai is also making a statement with the Genesis warranty with 10 years roadside assistance, a five year unlimited warranty and five years or 75,000kilometres free servicing.

Hyundai Australia chief operating officer John Elsworth said the introduction of the big luxury car was all about challenging the traditional values in the luxury car category.

‘‘We’re proud to put the Hyundai badge on this vehicle and we are pretty confident this car will stand the test of time and quality,’’ he said at the car’s national launch.

In some markets, Genesis is available with 3.0 and 3.8litre V6 engines as well as a 5.0litre V8 and either rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive. For Australia, Hyundai has opted for the 232-kilowatt, 397-Newtonmetre, 3.8-litre engine with eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel-drive.

Movie review: Love, Rosie a true love tale

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FAIRY FLOSS: Lily Collins stars in Love, Rosie.LOVE, ROSIE (M)
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Stars: Lily Collins, Christian Cooke, Sam Claflin, Tamsin Egerton

Director: Christian Ditter

Screening: selected cinemas

Rating: ★★

IT would be hard to find a film with less local flavour than Love, Rosie – the work of a German director, Christian Ditter, and an Iranian-English screenwriter, Juliette Towhidi, adapting an Irish novel, Where Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern.

Shooting took place in Toronto and Dublin, though all the actors speak with English accents. The film involves best friends who seem destined to become a couple, but don’t.

Instead, Rosie (Lily Collins) falls pregnant to her prom date (Christian Cooke), who leaves her. Meanwhile, her soulmate Alex (Sam Claflin) goes off to Harvard where he takes up with a snooty American girl (Tamsin Egerton).

The humour is slightly bawdier than expected.

Despite this, the film remains a traditional Cinderella story, in which the patience of true love is at last rewarded.

Typically for the genre, this entails some callousness: secondary characters are allowed to seem like actual romantic possibilities before being kicked to the kerb.

What all this adds up to is a film with the consistency of fairy floss.

Christian Rein’s cinematography has the inviting warmth of a latter-day Woody Allen movie, cranked up beyond realism.

Collins manages to be sweet and chirpy without being too cloying. Claflin is well cast as a good-looking doofus, although it’s a stretch to think of him getting intoHarvard: given his failure to register Rosie’s extremely obvious passion at the outset, you’d have to presume he’s either not that keen or not that bright.

Movie review: Interstellar, bold sci-fi is on the dark side

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PIONEERING ASTRONAUT: Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar.INTERSTELLAR (M)
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Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Mackenzie Foy, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck

Director: Christopher Nolan

Screening: general release

Rating: ★★★

IN a standout year for science-fiction cinema, Interstellar takes the prize for ambition. Boldly overreaching and fearlessly cheesy, Christopher Nolan’s space travel epic aims to go where no filmmaker has gone before – at least, no filmmaker since Stanley Kubrick.

On near-future Earth, resources are running out. Most have given up on space travel as an impossible dream, but not the ruggedly individualistic Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a test pilot and engineer turned unwilling farmer, who sets off through a wormhole to find humanity a new home.

The situation may be dire but the set-up has a Jules Verne innocence, especially when Coop is puzzling over scientific anomalies with his precocious daughter, Murph (Mackenzie Foy). Once the voyage gets going – with Murph furious at being left behind – the tone grows more sober but not less intriguing.

What are Coop and his companions destined to encounter? Aliens? Time travel? God Himself?

Only near the climax does interest start to wane. Rather than preserving a sense of mystery as Kubrick does in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Nolan insists on explaining everything, meaning that much of the thrill is liable to evaporate on second viewing.

Still, there’s no question that Nolan sees himself as an artist, not just an entertainer. Interstellar may be a blockbuster spectacle but it’s also a puzzle that bends the laws of space and time to create different kinds of links between images, like Nolan’s Memento.

Nolan has never been strong on what you’d call the human touch: his insistence on shooting on celluloid seems meant to give his basically mechanical vision a semblance of organic warmth. The rule of thumb is that his films work better the more they verge on horror – as in Memento, The Prestige and parts of The Dark Knight, all of which hinge on the implication that a seemingly upright protagonist might be merely an empty shell.

Unfortunately, Interstellar instead goes in the direction of emotional uplift: there must be more weeping here than in all Nolan’s other movies put together. For Anne Hathaway, who plays another of the astronauts, this is business as usual. But even the swaggering McConaughey has to keep something in the tank for when Coop’s defences come down.

That the big speeches about the need for connection ring hollow is unsurprising, considering that Nolan has yet to direct a convincing love scene. Beneath the schmaltz lies a characteristic chill, evident literally in the harsh landscapes, and figuratively in a plot where most of the characters are loners of one kind or another.

At the heart of it all is a guilt that’s never resolved: why does Coop agree to travel into space and abandon his kids? But given his boredom with farming, it’s clear that part of him can’t wait.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Marquee man: Josh Childress. Photo: Nic Walker
Shanghai night field

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.”