Monthly Archives: February 2019

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Pendlebury now Brownlow favourite

Trading places: Gary Ablett and Scott Pendlebury Photo: Sebastian CostanzoThe news that Gary Ablett would miss the rest of the season as a result of surgery caused a flurry among bookmakers to reframe their Brownlow Medal markets. And even though the Gold Coast captain could theoretically still win the award despite being absent for the final seven home and away games, the medal has a new favourite.

Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury firmed from $7 before Ablett’s injury to $3.25 on Wednesday afternoon with Sportingbet.

Ablett had been a $1.60 favourite heading into last Saturday’s game against Collingwood, but has eased to $6 second favourite, with Sydney’s Josh Kennedy on the next line of betting having come in from $10 to $6.50.

Sportingbet analysts have Ablett six votes clear of Pendlebury at present, who is half a vote clear of ineligible Fremantle star Nathan Fyfe. Fyfe was suspended for two matches for a rough conduct charge in round two.

Ablett won last year’s Brownlow with 28 votes, the lowest winning total since the Bulldogs’ Adam Cooney won with 24 in 2008. Sportingbet estimates the Suns captain is sitting on 24 votes.

Brownlow night now looms as a one-day cricket-style chase, as the challengers to Ablett’s crown will know his final tally two-thirds of the way through the evening. From that point on, the contenders will face off ispon a bid to topple the master midfielder in the remaining seven weeks.

Ablett leads The Age Footballer of the Year award with 91 votes, while Fyfe sits atop the AFL Coaches’ Association Most Valuable Player ladder with 75 votes. Both awards allow a player to poll up to 10 votes per game, compared with a maximum of three per game in the Brownlow.

Ablett will have to defy history if he is to claim a record-equalling third medal. No player has missed more than six games and still triumphed. That feat was achieved 84 years ago by Richmond’s Stan Judkins, who polled seven votes to win the Brownlow in a three-way tie with Footscray’s Allan Hopkins and Collingwood’s Harry Collier. The low-winning total was the result of a system in which umpires gave just one vote every game to the best player on the ground. Stranger still was the reason Judkins played so few games in 1930: He was dropped five weeks out from the finals.

Ablett won his first Brownlow in 2009, and has finished no lower than 7th in any count since 2007. He is likely to this year move into third position on the all-time Brownlow votes tally, behind only Gary Dempsey and Robert Harvey.

In Gold Coast’s three completed seasons, he has 75 votes to his name. The next best Suns player is Harley Bennell with 13.

Who wins, who loses when the carbon tax goes?

‘Back to ground zero’ after repealCarbon price was working: ANU studyRenewable energy investments hit the wall

Now that the Abbott government has succeeded in repealing the carbon price, who stands to win and who stands to lose?

On the face of it, the winners from the repeal of Australia’s carbon price will be the 371 liable entities paying the tax and consumers who forked out more for goods and services as the emissions charge was passed on.

Losers will include firms that have profited from their relatively low carbon output compared with rivals, such as Snowy Hydro and Hydro Tasmania. Accounting and corporate advisory firms are also likely to cut jobs as demand for their expertise dims.

The effects of the Senate’s repeal of the carbon price – $25.40 a tonne as of July 1 – will take some time to play out.

Since the carbon price fell most directly on the power sector, its removal should produce winners in that industry, save for the hydro plants and wind farms which operate at near-zero emissions.

However, as former Citi analyst and clean energy campaigner Tim Buckley notes, the coal-fired power producers have been stoked with billions of dollars in compensation to ensure they absorbed the carbon hit.

“The government gave almost 100 per cent free permits to the generators, who were allowed to bank the cash,” Mr Buckley said. “Then they’ve charged consumers for the cost of the carbon and taken the difference as a profit.”

AGL on Thursday (July 17) said the repeal of the carbon price would reduce earnings before interest and tax by about $186 million. The sum includes the loss of $100 million in “transitional assistance arrangements” for its Loy Yang A power plant in Victoria and about $86 million from anticipated falls in its wholesale power prices paid to its renewable energy and gas generation units.

Perverse result

Likewise, the big trade-exposed energy users, such as the aluminium and cement industries, were given 94.5 per cent of their permits.

Perversely, since allocations were made on industry averages, some aluminium producers actually profited from the carbon price. That benefit will presumably evaporate along with the tax’s demise.

“Australia’s aluminium smelters were heavily protected from the carbon price and in some cases were over-compensated,” said Hugh Bromley, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, noting the industry’s effective carbon price for the 2013-14 financial year ranged from minus-$34 per tonne of carbon-dioxide equivalent, to $6 a tonne.

“A plant such as [Rio Tinto’s] Bell Bay effectively made an additional $220 for every tonne of aluminium produced, while some plants on the mainland faced a cost of around $115 per tonne of aluminium,” Mr Bromley said.

Industrial beneficiaries of the end of a carbon price include the chemicals industry, particularly sectors such as refrigeration that use chemicals with a high greenhouse gas potency. Land-fill operators are other winners since many would have collected large upfront costs for waste they may not now need to manage.

“You’re talking 50 years of emissions that they are passing through,” Mr Bromley said.

Other producers of greenhouse gases, such as coal miners and gas producers, will also benefit from the absence of a carbon cost.

These sectors, particularly the new LNG exporters, happen to be among the fastest growing sources of carbon-equivalent emissions, with their expansion likely to make it harder for Australia to meet its goal of reducing 2000-level emissions 5 per cent by 2020.

Firms able to tap the Abbott government’s alternative to a carbon price to achieve that target – the direct action plan to pay polluters to curb emissions – will also be beneficiaries, assuming workable legislation supporting the policy can get through the Senate.

Details of the policy – including how baselines will be enforced – remain unclear, as is the precise amount of money available. Environment Minister Greg Hunt insists he will have access to the full $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund for the plan, although the May budget allocated only $1.14 billion over the four-year forward estimates.

Consumer view

Consumers are also potentially winners from the repeal of the tax, but by how much remains less clear than the precise $550 per household this year routinely pledged by the Abbott government.

As Fairfax Media has reported, the annual savings may come in closer to $250, with electricity the main item to change. The fabled roast leg of lamb that was to have cost more than $100, is selling at about a fifth of that price in the supermarkets. After the repeal it may be all of 20 cents cheaper.

While some power companies say they will fully repay any carbon tax collected on electricity bills since July 1, how carbon-linked prices for other parts of the economy will be reset remains uncertain.

Tony Wood, an energy expert at the Grattan Institute, cites the case of a dairy producer sourcing milk derived from several states – each with a different carbon profile in their power sectors. How much should milk prices fall once the tax goes?

“I wouldn’t be Rod Sims for quids,” Mr Wood said, referring to the head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

As Fairfax Media reported, Qantas, a major fuel user, has ended its “carbon surcharge” but said competition meant it had not been able to recover the carbon costs as intended. Post-tax fares may hardly budge.

Shadow price

Meanwhile, any cheering in corporate boards might not reach the accounting departments. Companies will have no choice but to maintain a “shadow carbon price” no matter the current Australian policy, analysts say.

“Regardless of what happens today, we will have a lot of uncertainty in the market, and that creates a shadow carbon price in power futures,” said Mr Bromley.

Peter Castellas, chief executive of the Carbon Market Institute, said a survey of 82 companies liable to pay the carbon price last year found almost three quarters assumed a future carbon price on their investments.

The estimated carbon price ranged from the low price for Certified Emissions Reductions, worth around 20 cents a tonne, to more than $50 a tonne, surveyed companies said.

“Any company looking at any long-term investment will be thinking of factoring in a carbon price,” Mr Castellas said, noting this is particularly true for firms with international operations.

Globally, the assumed carbon price is $20-$60 a tonne, Mr Buckley, a director of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said.

One place where losses have been mounting for some time is in the area of carbon-related jobs.

The big banks scaled back or halted their carbon trading desks “a long time ago,” said Michael Green, director of Bradman’s carbon and energy recruitment unit. Business is “as dead as doornail”.

The uncertainty has spread to the renewable energy industry, the next area likely to be hit by an Abbott government roll-back.

Bradman has recently sent offshore one of Australia’s most experienced wind farm construction managers.

“He’s just bitter about the situation in Australia and he won’t be back some time soon,” Mr Green said.

Little wonder, with Bloomberg New Energy Finance noting that Australia’s investments in large-scale renewable energy plunged to just $40 million in the first half of 2014 from about $2.7 billion for all of 2013.

The carbon industry is about to enter a period of pause which will see firms like Bradman devote their efforts to expanding in Asia or elsewhere.

“It is hibernation but at the same time [we’re] going to suffer a brain drain,” Mr Green said. “We’re just tired of the ups and downs.”

Disability advocates speak out against any slowdown of NDIS rollout

Disability advocates have warned against any delay to the full rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, following a speech by the scheme’s architect which has been widely interpreted as foreshadowing a slowdown.

The chairman of the board of the National Disability Insurance Agency, Bruce Bonyhady, told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday the ultimate success of the scheme should not be jeopardised ”just for the sake of meeting deadlines set before the scheme started”.

Mr Bonyhady said building the scheme up too quickly carried a risk that prices would be inflated if demand for services outstripped supply.

Under the current timetable, the scheme’s first full year of operation will be 2019-20. In that year, the scheme is expected to provide support to 460,000 people at a cost of $22 billion.

Mr Bonyhady and the agency board are finalising advice to Commonwealth, state and territory disability ministers on whether this timeframe should be changed.

Mr Bonyhady, whose submission to Kevin Rudd’s 2008 ideas summit kickstarted debate about a National Disability Insurance Scheme, said he expected the board to provide that advice in about a month’s time.

The Gillard government decided to launch the scheme in July 2013, a year ahead of the timetable proposed by the Productivity Commission, and a review released in March found the ambitious timeframe had compromised planning.

In May, the Abbott government’s Commission of Audit recommended the rollout be slowed, warning the financial sustainability of the scheme was at risk on the current timetable.

Mr Bonyhady said the board would recommend ”taking as long as it takes to build an NDIS that will last”.

”In this current phase of the scheme’s development, in the trial phase, about 30,000 people are going to access the scheme, so at a rate of about 10,000 per annum. In the next three years, according to the current timeframe, 400,000 people are scheduled to access the scheme.”

”What we’re looking at is what is the best way to get those 400,000 people into the scheme. I’ve already said today we’re going to do that as quickly as possible. There are aspects of the scheme that we think we can bring forward, such as investment in housing, because we know there is a long lead time before that housing is available. But the other aspects of the scheme are really going to depend upon how quickly the market develops – how quickly that supply grows in response to the growth in demand.”

Disability advocates responded to Mr Bonyhady’s speech by urging against any change to the rollout timetable.

The president of People with Disability Australia, Craig Wallace, tweeted:

Our disabilities can’t be delayed or put on hold, neither should the NDIS— Craig Wallace (@CraigWtweets) July 9, 2014

If there is a compelling case to delay NDIS I have not heard it.— Craig Wallace (@CraigWtweets) July 9, 2014

Every Australian Counts campaign director John Della Bosca said any delay to the rollout would leave Australians with disabilities and their families struggling without the support they needed.

”The starting point for any conversation about the NDIS has to be focused on the real crisis,” Mr Della Bosca said.

”People with disability are currently denied access to participate in our community and economy. They are treated as second class citizens. Rolling out the NDIS is a big job, but it’s hardly sending someone to the moon and it should not take a decade to deliver,” he said.

Ken Baker, the chief executive of National Disability Services, said it would be ”premature” to extend the rollout timeline for the scheme at this stage.

”Having been a student, if I was given six weeks to do an assignment, and after week one I was given an extension, I would probably slow down my pace of work,” he said.

”We don’t want to slow down the effort because we’ve put in huge effort to get this far.”

Labor’s spokeswoman on disability reform, Jenny Macklin, who oversaw the launch of the scheme as the minister for disability reform in the former Labor government, said the rollout was proceeding as planned, with 5000 people with disability receiving support packages, costs coming in under budget, and client satisfaction at around 90 per cent.

”For the first time in our nation’s history, people with disability are getting the care and support they deserve,” Ms Macklin said.

”There is no excuse for delay. People with disability have waited long enough.”

The minister responsible for the NDIS, Mitch Fifield, said the timing of the rollout could not be altered without the agreement of state and territory governments.

”The Commonwealth will be guided by the advice of the independent Board of the NDIA in relation to the optimal rollout schedule,” he said.”

The scheme was launched a year ago with trials in the Hunter region of NSW and the Barwon region of Victoria as well as South Australia and Tasmania, while trials started in the ACT, Perth and in the Barkly region of the Northern Territory in July this year.

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Nikki Campbell rings the changes in preparation for British Open

Nikki Campbell is taking a fresh approach into the British Open. Photo: SMP ImagesNikki Campbell has tweaked her ball, her clubs and her training regime, and is in some of her best form in recent years for the start of the British Open on Thursday.

Campbell finished second at the Ladies European Masters in England last Sunday, the result putting her in second place on the European Tour money list and rocketing her back into the top-100 in the world, up 21 places to 95.

It’s a way off her best ranking of 35, but the Royal Canberra golfer is hoping for a personal best at Royal Birkdale this week.

“I’ve never made the cut in a British Open, so that’d obviously be great,” she said.

“The US Open [last month] was the first major cut I’ve made … it’s different golf, majors, so I just want to keep getting better each time.”

After a practice round on Monday, Campbell said the coastal course just north of Liverpool could present some headaches for the field.

“It’s very tough, if you are off-line it’s really brutal, it’s chip out sideways, so it’s going to be very hard. If it blows, I think anything under par is going to be pretty good.”

Campbell joined the European Tour last year after a decade playing in Japan, but admits she “didn’t play very well last year.”

She subsequently switched her ball from a Titleist Pro V1x to a Pro V1, upgraded her Ping clubs to the i25s, and is “going to the gym more”.

“It’s nice to be in contention again in tournaments,” she said. “I don’t really want to play golf if I’m not able to compete, if I’m just making up numbers it doesn’t really interest me that much.”

While she said the European Tour is “a lot of fun,” there are downsides to the move from Japan.

“Financially it’s not as good; I don’t have any sponsorship at the moment, so it’s tough to pay costs and things, but last week helped a bit.”

Campbell will be one of nine Australians chasing the British Open’s prize purse of $US3 million ($3.2 million). Karrie Webb will lead the charge, with Sarah-Jane Smith, Sarah Kemp, Stacey Keating, Stephanie Na, Bree Arthur and amateurs Minjee Lee and Su-Hyun Oh also in the field.

Dank could have answered the one burning question

If there was one question Stephen Dank could have answered during his radio interview with friend and former Adelaide Crows coach Graham Cornes on Tuesday night, it was this.

Dank was asked whether he could detail what peptides had been given to the Essendon players during the club’s 2011-12 supplements program. He was asked specifically about Thymosin beta 4, the banned drug the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority alleges was given to the 34 former and current players.

Dank’s response: “Obviously, I can’t because of the impending court action.”

Well, that’s not right. According to lawyers consulted by Fairfax Media on Wednesday, if Dank knew categorically what had been administered, and those drugs were not prohibited, then there was nothing which could “prevent or inhibit” him clearing up the question those interested in this saga want to know.

Instead, Dank provided a general response, declaring all drugs had been WADA approved, leaving listeners to wonder yet again where things really sat in this football (and political) mess.

This appears to be the lie of the land. Dank has told the Australian Crime Commission he had not administered anything illegal, declaring last year “they said they didn’t think that I’d done anything wrong”. The players are of the belief they were given nothing illegal but, if they had, it was only because they had been duped.

The Bombers share that view. Last year’s AFL charge sheet listed 16 supplements (one redacted) given to the players. But there is still some confusion over whether players were given Thymosin beta 4 or the legal Thymomodulin (a spreadsheet detailing the use of Thymomodulin was found on Dank’s computer at Essendon).

Dank, himself, told Fairfax Media’s Nick McKenzie that he had given the players Thymosin beta 4 but was then shocked to be told by McKenzie it was on the banned list. ASADA has sought this transcript, sparking questions about just how strong is its case against the players – and Dank.

This is sure to be scrutinised in a book on the Essendon mess that one closer observer is seeking funds to write under the working title of: Black Optics – The Darkest Days of Australian Sport And Administration.

Dank also took aim at the club’s damning internal report conducted by former Telstra chief Ziggy Switkowski last season. Dank was not interviewed or asked to contribute to the report.

Switkowski described the program as a “pharmacologically experimental environment”. While this doesn’t necessarily mean there were illegal concoctions, it surely doesn’t sound good. Going on that report, and where the Bombers now stand in that they believe nothing illegal was administered, it could appear the club is having a bob each way.

Switkowski did not wish to comment when contacted on Wednesday.

Dank wants his day in court because he claims it’s unfair he is subjected to ASADA’s burden of proof laws, he having been issued with a show-cause notice. In court, it will be up to ASADA to prove he is guilty of any alleged breach. That is Dank’s right but if the Bombers and Hird lose their cases against ASADA in the Federal Court, players almost certainly will then have to prove why they should not be placed on the Register of Findings, the first step towards an infraction notice.

If that does happen, Dank challenging ASADA through the courts will be of little comfort to the players.

Dank says there has been a “clear breach of what ASADA is supposed to do” as the names of the club, players and drugs had been made public. In that regard, he has a point.

Clearly, there have been governance failures by all parties.

Dank, for his part, says he has no regrets, and “to be perfectly honest, I have got better things to do with my life than have to submerge myself amongst all of this” .

Wonder how the players, their families, the AFL, the Bombers and even James Hird feel about that? This is an issue that AFL chief Gillon McLachlan, who could yet be caught up in the court action alleging an unlawful joint probe, and chief medical officer Peter Harcourt stress involves the health and welfare of the players. This is an issue that has hijacked another AFL season. It has cost the Bombers millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, and Hird a one-year suspension and a personal need to challenge the process in the courts.

McLachlan, rightly, wants his focus, and that of the 18 clubs, including Essendon, to return purely to football matters. Unfortunately, that won’t happen for some time yet.