Monthly Archives: April 2019

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ICAC witness John Caputo pulls out of CDP campaign launch after Liberal Party finds out

Power couple: the Reverend Fred Nile at his wedding with Silvana Nero last year. Photo: James Alcock Quit as MC: John Caputo, after appearing before the ICAC in April. Photo: Rob Homer

After failing in her bid to enter federal Parliament last year, Christian Democratic Party candidate Silvana Nero has been busy preparing for an assault on the seat of Wakehurst, held by NSW Attorney-General Brad Hazzard, in next year’s state election. The CDP’s northern beaches campaign will be launched by Ms Nero – the wife of upper house MP the Reverend Fred Nile – at a modest $35-a-head fund-raiser at Dee Why RSL on Friday night. But the campaign has suffered a casualty even before it has been launched: the master of ceremonies for the evening, Liberal fund-raiser John Caputo, has been forced to pull out after the Liberal party state director Tony Nutt found out. A former mayor of Warringah, Mr Caputo is a committee member of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s federal electoral conference and vice-president of Premier Mike Baird’s state electoral conference. Mr Caputo made headlines earlier this year after giving evidence at the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s investigation into alleged Liberal party slush funds used to hide political donations from banned donors, including property developers. In April, Mr Caputo told the ICAC he had handed over thousands of dollars’ worth of cheques from a March 2011 Liberal party fund-raiser to former energy minister Chris Hartcher, who is accused of being the mastermind behind the slush funds. Mr Caputo, who strenuously denies any wrongdoing, agreed that this was not normal fund-raising practice. On Wednesday, Mr Nile said Mr Caputo had agreed to MC the CDP campaign launch because he was “a family friend of the Neros”. “Silvana has been a friend of his for 15 years,” Mr Nile said. Mr Caputo confirmed that Ms Nero “is a friend and she asked me to do it. I’m happy to do it”. But when contacted, the NSW Liberal Party appeared to have no idea about the arrangement. Within minutes of being asked for its view, a spokeswoman for Mr Nutt called back to deliver the bad news. “Mr Caputo is not attending the event,” she said, leaving Ms Nero and the CDP searching for a new MC –  and Mr Caputo at a loose end on Friday night.

Wahroonga rollover victim Priya Muthu was carrying son when truck fell on her

The scene of the truck crash in Wahroonga. Photo: Channel Nine Police take notes after the crash. Photo: Getty Images/Cole Bennetts

Emergency services rushed to the scene after the home’s owner made the call. Photo: Getty Images/Cole Bennetts

Police scan the scene. Photo: Getty Images/Cole Bennetts

Fatal accident: Priya Muthu with her husband (far right) holding their son. Photo: Supplied

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Young mother Priya Muthu was supervising construction work on her north shore property on Wednesday evening when tragedy struck.

With her four year-old son Prahlad in her hands, she was pinned beneath a tipper truck that toppled over as it careered out of control and rolled backwards down a sloping, dirt driveway.

Ms Muthu, 30, died at the scene. Her son was taken to hospital with minor facial injuries.

The truck was carrying soil and rocks and was working on a subdivision on the Wahroonga land owned by Ms Muthu and her husband, Babu Manivasagam Narayanan Soundara.

Its 67-year-old driver was not in the vehicle at the time of the incident and witnesses said he appeared devastated as he spoke with police at the scene.

It’s believed Ms Muthu had attended the investment property on Spurgin Street with her son to oversee construction work on a second home to be built at the back of the property.

Tenants who lived in a small weatherboard home at the front of the property said Ms Muthu was a kind, helpful women and a good landlord.

“She’s very good, she’s very kind, very helpful when we needed some help,” Guiseppe Gargiulli said. “She’s a very good landlord.”

Mr Gargiulli, who lives at the home with his wife Valeria Miassedova and daughter Anastasia, said he was cooking dinner on Wednesday when he heard “bang noises” at around 5pm.

“I heard big noises, I came outside and I heard the child say ‘mum, mum’,” he said.

Mrs Miassedova and her daughter ran outside to see the woman pinned beneath the truck and they called an ambulance.

Emergency services arrived to find the truck tilted on its side at the side of the house at the end of a short, steep driveway.

Mess and soil from construction work in the front yard has done little to hide the damage caused. Twisted metal poles, snapped wooden planks and tipped fences lie in a jumble along the driveway.

A real estate agent who sold the land to Ms Muthu and her husband four years ago and has remained friends with the family since said she was a ‘‘caring mother’’ who was always smiling.

‘‘She was a caring mother and she always smiled and she is such a nice person,’’ he said.

Ms Muthu had worked in IT for charity organisation Wesley Mission for the past five years.

Wesley Mission chief executive, the Reverend Dr Keith Garner, said she was warm, gracious and dedicated.

“Priya was a well-respected and loved member of our Information Services team, who, like us all, are devastated by the news of her death,” he said. “Her warm and gracious manner was cherished by all her worked with her.”

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison maintains secrecy over asylum seekers

Asylum seekers’ plea: Let Australians adopt out children’Piracy on the high seas’: Fraser

Colombo: Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has defended the secrecy surrounding the fate of 153 south Asian asylum seekers being held at sea by Australian authorities as an integral part of the federal government’s operations strategy.

”What I’m saying is that any other ventures that are the subject of matters before the Australian courts are matters that we will address in those courts and we have always maintained a very strong process for how we manage communications regarding our operations,” Mr Morrison said.

”That communication protocol has been put in place by Lieutenant-General Campbell, who heads the joint agency taskforce in Australia that has command over these matters. As the minister of the government, I’m going to adhere to those protocols because they have been very important to the success of those operations.”

Speaking after the launch of two patrol boats given to the Sri Lankan navy by Australia, Mr Morrison said any talk about where the 153 asylum seekers would end up was speculation.

”Those matters are currently before courts in Australia so I don’t intend to [engage in] any further discussion of that other than [what] has been provided in the court,” Mr Morrison said.

Asked whether he asked Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaska to consider accepting the asylum seekers, Mr Morrison rejected the question as speculation.

”I have given you my answer to that question … once again you’re speculating,” Mr Morrison said.

With about half the asylum seekers being held at sea by Australian authorities believed to have come from Tamil refugee camps in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, there has been suggestions that India might accept the boat.

However, in an interview with Fairfax Media last week, B. Anand, principal secretary for rehabilitation and welfare of non-resident Tamils in the state of Tamil Nadu, said India was not able to accept any more Tamils who left India by illegal means.

“The war in Sri Lanka ended in 2009, so it is difficult to accept that these people can still claim refugee status,” Mr Anand said. “And if they were registered here as refugees, once they leave the country illegally, we cannot take them back here.”

Mr Morrison said that whatever happened to the 153 asylum seekers, Australia took very seriously its responsibilities to people’s safety.

”And to the various obligations that we have under the various conventions of which we are a signatory to and the Australian government rejects any suggestions that we have acted contrary to any of those obligations that we have,” he said.

Mr Morrison said he was not concerned that the 41 asylum seekers who were returned by Australia to Sri Lanka on Monday would be mistreated by Sri Lankan authorities.

”No, I’m not [concerned] and we’re relying on the same assurances on those matters as the previous government relied upon,” he said.

Mr Morrison also rejected allegations that Australian officials had mistreated any of the 41 refugees.

”I find those allegations offensive and I reject them absolutely.”

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Melbourne Rebels chief Rob Clarke hopes to secure private ownership deal

Melbourne Rebels chief executive Rob Clarke is hopeful Super Rugby’s cellar dwellers could have new owners before the start of next season.

The Rebels have been under the auspices of the Australian Rugby Union since the Harold Mitchell-led private consortium – which was involved in a nasty battle against a rival bidder to win the foundation licence – handed control of the financially struggling club to the Victorian Rugby Union last year.

Clarke said the club had attracted interest from several parties, despite its troubled financial history and poor on-field results, with the bottom-placed Rebels needing to beat the Bulls in Pretoria in the final game of the season this weekend to have a chance of avoiding the wooden spoon for the second time in four years in the competition.

‘‘If you look at those factors [financial history and poor results] it could lead you to believe that nobody would be interested in the Rebels but what I think is very interesting about the conversations currently under way [is that] there are individuals and groups of individuals who see real progress in this organisation,’’ Clarke said.

‘‘We’ve been having discussions with a number of groups over the last 12 months.

“Just because the ARU stepped in when Harold Mitchell stepped out last year didn’t take it [private ownership] totally off the agenda from our point of view because in this market, with a young team looking to build a long-term, sustainable and successful future, then it makes sense to have an underpinning of financial support that private equity can bring to an organisation like ours.

‘‘There’s been two groups in particular in recent months that have had ongoing and detailed discussion with us and the ARU and I would suggest in the coming period there’s likely to be some announcements.’’

When asked when an announcement could be made, Clarke, who would not reveal the interested parties, said: ‘‘I think before next season all will become clear.”

ARU chief executive Bill Pulver, who has faced an environment of shrinking revenue with a harsh cost-cutting mindset, has said he is open to the prospect of private investment in Australian franchises.

There are several consortiums currently jostling to buy the NSW Waratahs.

Westfield’s shopping mall spin-off company Scentre raises $2.9 billion in bond issue

Scentre Group, the spin-off from the Westfield empire, has made its first corporate foray with an issue of €2 billion ($2.9 billion) in bonds to help finance future development projects.

The senior bond issue is across four tranches ranging from four to 12 years. Bankers suggest it may become one of the largest ever in Europe by a non-bank Australian corporate.

According to the advisors to the issue, Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas, assisted by HSBC and Barclays and the broader syndicate of another 13 banks, Scentre management financed part of its $5 billion bridge facility through the new bond issue.

Under the terms of the issue, three of the tranches will be in euros and the 12-year tranche will be in pounds sterling.

Scentre’s directors, led by new chief executive Peter Allen, held an investor roadshow in Europe last week, where it was said the reception was positive. Scentre has interests in 47 shopping malls in Australia and New Zealand.

One banker said European investors liked the fact Scentre had kept the same management of the malls, despite there now being no one from the Lowy family in the day-to-day running of the business.

The books opened for the issue on Tuesday night with settlement on July 16. The credit ratings assigned were A1/A from Moody’s Investors Services and Standard & Poor’s. Scentre also has Moody’s assigned long-term senior unsecured rating of A1 to its other €10 billion MTN program.

An analyst said the raising was the first test of how the international bond markets view the future strategy of the new entity.

Included in the split in Westfield to form Scentre was a $22-billion bridging loan, of which $5 billion was for Scentre. Some of the funds raised from the bond issue will be used to help repay that loan.

Other cash is expected to be raised over time with the sale of interests in the shopping centres, which include Westfield Sydney and Fountain Gate in Melbourne.

Kate Stewart, managing director and head of debt capital markets at BNP Paribas in Sydney, noted all four tranches were priced at the tight end of revised guidance: 67, 72 and 92 basis points over mid-swap for the euro notes and 113 basis points over Gilts for the sterling.

“Positive buy-side response clearly came through in the deal book. The book really is a ‘who’s who’ of real-money investors – it is extremely high quality and featured a number of large tickets, including bids of up to 500 million in each of the tranches,” Ms Stewart said.