Brambles Nth America pallets boss gone

The president of Brambles’ pallets business in North America, Kim Rumph, has left the pallets, crates and containers supplier after a reorganisation of senior executives.

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Brambles on Wednesday said that as a consequence of the organisational change, Ms Rumph, the president of CHEP Pallets North America, will leave Brambles immediately.

The company said that the leaders of its pooled pallet operations in Canada and the US, the CHEP Recycled business, and the Pallecon North America business will now report directly to chief executive Graham Chipchase, who took charge of Brambles in February.

“With this de-layering of our Pallets North America organisational structure, I will be closer to the day-to-day operations and the leadership of our important North American businesses as we continue to focus on delivering for our customers and shareholders,” Mr Chipchase said in a statement.

In February, Brambles reported a 50 per cent slide in first-half profit and lowered full-year profit forecasts.

Competition and cost pressures in its North American pallets business weighed on the first-half results, with outgoing chief executive Tom Gorman labelling the performance of the business “disappointing”.

Mr Chipchase said that since joining Brambles in February 2006, Ms Rumph had held a series of progressively more senior roles with group and regional responsibilities.

“I thank Kim for her dedication and service and convey our best wishes for the future,” Mr Chipchase said.

Shares in Brambles were 12 cents, or 1.29 per cent, lower at $9.21 at 1032 AEDT.

Trump backs Republican healthcare plan

US President Donald Trump has backed a draft Republican proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare and has also said he is also working on a system to cut drug prices in the United States.

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The new healthcare legislation would eliminate the requirement that most Americans obtain medical insurance and create a system of tax credits to coax people to purchase private insurance on the open market.

Democrats were quick to shoot it down with House leader Nancy Pelosi saying the Republican measure would take millions of people off health insurance rolls and benefit the wealthy.

In a series of Twitter posts, Trump called the Republican draft “our wonderful new Healthcare Bill” and said that it was “now out for review and negotiation.”

Trump, who has previously called for lower drug prices, added, “I am working on a new system where there will be competition in the Drug Industry. Pricing for the American people will come way down!”

He gave no details. His comment sent shares of drugmakers lower. Shares of Pfizer Inc and Merck & Co shed 1.1 per cent, and Amgen Inc dropped 1.4 per cent.

The president also said there would be additional action to allow people to buy health insurance across state lines “in phase 2 & 3 of healthcare rollout,” although it was not immediately clear when or how that addition would come.

The 2010 Affordable Care Act, Democratic former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement, enabled about 20 million Americans who previously had no insurance to obtain medical coverage.

The Republican plan would do away with an expansion of the Medicaid government healthcare program for the poor that was instrumental in reducing the number of uninsured Americans.

It would also remove the penalty paid by Americans without medical insurance and roll back government subsidies that helped lower-income people purchase insurance through government-run exchanges.

Republicans control both Congress and the White House but the future remains uncertain for the plan. It must win approval in the House and the Senate, where it faces a higher bar for passage, before it could go to Trump for his signature.

Health insurers and hospitals have lobbied lawmakers and the Trump administration to try to mitigate the impact of rolling back Obamacare, aiming to prevent people who gained insurance through the law from losing it.

Hungary to detain migrants in border camps, alarming UN

Hungary approved plans on Tuesday to detain migrants in camps on its border, state news agency MTI said, a step which the United Nations said violates European Union law and will have a “terrible physical and psychological impact” on asylum seekers.

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The measures, passed by parliament, will also tighten controls on Hungary’s border, which has been a focal point of Europe’s migration crisis since 2015.

The southern border with Serbia marks the external frontier of the EU’s passport-free Schengen area, and hundreds of thousands of people have crossed into the country.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban sought to justify the move, saying Hungary had to act to defend itself and describing the influx of migrants – many of them fleeing conflict in the Middle East and Africa – as a “Trojan horse for terrorism”.

Members of the Hungarian Parliament are seen during the plenary session of the parliament in Budapest, Hungary, 07 March 2017. (AAP)AAP

Orban’s chief of staff said last month that Hungary planned two or three camps along its southern border, where migrants will be kept while their applications for asylum are processed.

Migrants whose applications are not immediately approved will not be allowed to move freely around Hungary but will be detained in camps that they can only leave outward, toward Serbia, according to the bill approved by parliament.

UNHCR spokeswoman Cécile Pouilly said that would effectively condemn asylum seekers, including children, to prolonged detention in shipping containers surrounded by barbed wire.

Expanding an 8-kilometre (5 mile) zone along the border where summary expulsions have been the practice since last summer, police can now detain illegal migrants anywhere in the country and return them to the Serbian border to be expelled.

“Nobody can step onto Hungarian or European Union soil without a permit,” interior minister Sandor Pinter said in the bill.

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In a speech to newly appointed border guards on Tuesday, Orban described a country under siege.

Although the daily tally is down significantly, Hungarians “cannot lean back in our chairs… we merely gained some time in between two major waves (of migrants).”

The country must use this time to fortify its defenses, he said. Hungary has begun to put in place the second line of a “smart fence” along the Serbian border, complete with electroshock, surveillance and audio-visual warning systems.

Orban added the EU “made this work more difficult, so we can only count on ourselves, we need to defend our own borders… This will remain on the agenda until everyone admits that migration is a Trojan horse for terrorism.”

“That is the reality, which cannot be pasted over by any rose-colored human rights dream talk.”

UNHCR’s Pouilly said the number of asylum applications in Hungary had fallen sharply from 177,000 in 2015 to 29,000 last year, with just 912 in the first two months of 2017.

All asylum seekers, including those already in the country, would be kept in a transit zone where the detention centers are located, she said.

“In practice, it means that every asylum-seeker, including children, will be detained in shipping containers surrounded by high razor wire fence at the border for extended periods of time,” Pouilly said in a statement.

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Kennedy bags six, Eagles beat Blues in AFL

Star forward Josh Kennedy booted six goals as West Coast overcame a major scare to beat Carlton by 17 points at Domain Stadium.

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The Eagles appeared set for an easy victory after opening up a 35-point lead late in the second quarter on Saturday.

But, aided by a strong breeze, Carlton booted the next six goals to open up a shock six-point advantage.

A Kennedy goal just before three-quarter time settled West Coast’s nerves, and the Eagles kicked five goals to three in the final quarter to secure the 15.10 (100) to 12.11 (83) win in front of 30,491 fans.

Kennedy’s haul of 6.3 catapulted him to the top of the Coleman medal race with 60 goals, an even more impressive achievement given he missed five games with a calf injury.

Essendon’s Joe Daniher sits second with 59.

“I have never met anyone who cares less about that than him,” Eagles coach Adam Simpson said of Kennedy’s Coleman medal ambitions.

“I think he has kicked (23) goals in four weeks, so he’s in pretty good touch.

“We just have to get the ball in (more).”

The victory lifts West Coast (11-9) into seventh spot on the table ahead of tough matches against flag fancies GWS (away) and Adelaide (home).

The Eagles will need to win at least one of those to have a chance of reaching the finals, with percentage set to play a critical role in the eventual make-up of the top eight.

Carlton (5-15) are just 5.3 per cent ahead of the last-placed Lions, who thrashed Gold Coast earlier on Saturday at the Gabba.

Blues coach Brendon Bolton was proud of his team’s effort.

“It’s been a trait of our footy club all year, that when challenged they fight and dig deep,” Bolton said.

The Blues dominated the inside 50m count 32-17 in the opening half, but failed to convert their opportunities.

Three goals to Eagles forward Jamie Cripps gave them a three-point edge at quarter-time, and Kennedy blew the game apart in the second term with three goals.

Carlton were left to rue a series of missed set shots, but the game turned on its head in the third quarter as the visitors surged with the wind.

Youngster Jack Silvagni missed a sitter from just 20m out, but he made up for it with two goals for the term.

And when Blaine Boekhorst kicked truly late in the term, Carlton were up by six points and a boilover loomed.

But the Eagles had two things in their favour – Kennedy up forward, and a gale-force breeze to kick with in the last quarter.

Both factors proved pivotal, with Kennedy adding two more goals to his tally to keep West Coast’s finals hopes alive.

Dhawan posts ton before Sri Lanka hit back

India’s Shikhar Dhawan smashed his sixth hundred and added 188 in an opening partnership with KL Rahul before Sri Lanka’s spinners fought back to halt the visitors’ progress in the third and final Test.

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India reached the close of play on 6-329, after losing no wickets in the first session, with Wriddhiman Saha unbeaten on 13 and Hardik Pandya not out on one.

After winning the toss and opting to bat, India captain Virat Kohli could not have asked for a better start as his side began their bid to complete a series whitewash over the hosts.

On a surface ideal for batting, India’s openers picked up boundaries at will and made Sri Lanka pay for their profligacy with Dhawan given a reprieve on one, his edge flying through the slip cordon off left-arm seamer Vishwa Fernando.

The left-handed batsman went on to hit 17 fours in his 123-ball knock before he was out for 119, hitting a sweep shot off left-arm spinner Malinda Pushpakumara straight to Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal at square leg.

Pushpakumara had also provided Sri Lanka a breakthrough in his first over when he dismissed Rahul for 85.

The 30-year-old, playing only his second Test, later bowled an out-of-sorts Ajinkya Rahane for 17, to end the day with figures of 3-40.

A century once again eluded Rahul, who was dropped twice during his innings, as he was caught at mid-on trying to hit a lofted shot. It was his seventh consecutive score of 50 or more.

Left-arm wrist-spinner Lakshan Sandakan then got Cheteshwar Pujara (eight) to edge one to slip as Sri Lanka continued to fight back.

The 26-year-old, replacing the injured Rangana Herath, also removed the dangerous Kohli with the right-handed batsman out for 42 after getting an edge to slip.

Ravichandran Ashwin (31) was the only wicket to fall to the faster bowlers when he edged Fernando to wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella after the hosts had taken the second new ball.

“I’m not happy with the way the fast bowlers bowled in the morning, they bowled here and there. I’m not giving excuses. These guys are inexperienced,” Sri Lanka bowling coach Chaminda Vaas said.

“Vishwa (Fernando) is playing his second game and Lahiru (Kumara) is bowling in his sixth. They didn’t bowl well. After lunch they came back and bowled pretty well. After lunch they came back and bowled pretty well.”

Cleary pulls off NRL trysaver of the year

It was the trysaver of the year and might turn out to be the most important play of Penrith’s 2017 NRL campaign.

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Teenage halfback Nathan Cleary kept the Panthers’ finals hopes alive with a classy display in their 24-16 win over North Queensland on Saturday night, highlighted by a brilliant tackle to stop what seemed a certain Coen Hess try.

Cleary’s two second-half tries were the difference between the two sides however his desperate, lunging tackle on the Cowboys forward turned the game.

With the Cowboys up 16-12 in the 55th minute, Hess charged into a hole from five metres out and looked set to cross for what would have given his team a 10-point lead.

Despite giving away 22kg, Cleary managed to get under the Queensland Origin forward and prevent him from scoring.

“I don’t know. He was kind of targeting me the whole game. He was running amok on me,” Cleary told AAP.

“I just had to get one back and I was lucky enough to get underneath him.

“It was just spur of the moment, I saw the ball and knew I had to try and get underneath him.”

Panthers coach Anthony Griffin admitted it would have been a different ball game had Cleary not managed to save the try and questioned whether his side would have come away with two points.

“The tackle was unbelievable,” Griffin said.

“It was the play of the night for us. It was just a really desperate defensive game for us, we scrambled really hard, they scrambled really hard.”

The Cowboys subsequently ran out of gas on the back of injuries to Justin O’Neill and Michael Morgan with the Panthers jumping to sixth spot and putting them in touching distance of a top-four finish.

Cleary has been a big part of their late-season revival, which has seen them win six straight, and has led Penrith to begin talks with his management about extending his deal.

Already contracted to the end of 2019, Panthers Group CEO Brian Fletcher has stated his desire to sign him to a five-year contract extension on top of his existing deal which would lock him up until 2024.

“I haven’t really looked too much into it,” Cleary said.

“There was talk about it but I haven’t spoken to anyone about it, not my manager, not Penrith.

“I’m concentrating on footy at the moment and I’ve still got two years here.”

Canadian pastor freed N.Korea jail

A Canadian pastor who was imprisoned in North Korea for more than two years has arrived home in Toronto, a family spokeswoman says.

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Hyeon Soo Lim, formerly the senior pastor at one of Canada’s largest churches, had disappeared on a mission to North Korea in early 2015.

He was sentenced to hard labour for life in December 2015 on charges of attempting to overthrow the Pyongyang regime.

North Korea’s KCNA news agency said on Wednesday that the 62-year-old Lim had been released on humanitarian grounds, suggesting his health was poor. His family later said he was not in critical condition.

Lim’s release comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, though authorities have not said there is any connection between his release and efforts to defuse the stand off over North Korea’s nuclear program.

Family members will hold a Saturday afternoon press conference at his church, said spokeswoman Lisa Pak.

It was not clear if Pastor Lim would appear at the press conference, according to Pak, who said he would attend Sunday services at his church.

The Canadian government issued a statement on Saturday, saying it joined Lim’s family and congregation in celebrating his homecoming.

“Canada has been actively engaged on Mr Lim’s case at all levels, and we will continue to support him and his family now that he has returned,” the statement said.

Lim’s family in June urged the Canadian government to bolster efforts to seek Lim’s release, following the death of Otto Warmbier, an American student who died days after being released from a North Korean prison in a coma.

Footage from Japan’s ANN television showed Lim walking on a tarmac next to Canada’s national security adviser, Daniel Jean, at the Yokota Air Base on the outskirts of Tokyo, in a stop en route to his home.

China’s cloning of genetically modified dogs for research raises concerns

Beijing biotech lab Sinogene say they have successfully cloned a genetically-modified dog for medical research, and now plan to use the same technology to create “superdogs” for Chinese police.

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The beagle puppy named Longlong, born in May, is a clone of a gene-edited beagle called Apple.

“These two dogs are 99.9 per cent the same. We’ve observed their personality and appearance, even their facial expressions are identical. As you can see they’re both very naughty and active. Even the way they walk, how they move around,” says Mi Jidong, Sinogene General Manager.

Two other clone puppies Nuonuo and Qiqi followed Longlong in June. All were born from surrogate mothers in the lab.

Apple, the original beagle, was genetically modified last year using a gene-editing tool known as ‘CRISPR/Cas9.’

Clone puppies Nuonuo and Qiqi were born in May. SBS News

It’s been more than 20 years since the first mammal, a sheep named Dolly, was cloned in 1996. Since then other animals, including horses and pigs, have since been cloned. The first dog, however, was only duplicated in 2005.

“Dogs are extremely difficult to work with. Some cells are very complex and difficult to clone. Also it’s extremely hard for a dog embryo to survive in lab conditions, it’s very vulnerable,” explains Mr Mi.

Another reason the cloning of dogs may be more difficult is that the animal is more genetically similar to humans than other animals. Approximately 400 out of 900 genetic illnesses in dogs are similar to human diseases.

It’s for this reason that Apple, Longlong and his fellow-clones will be used primarily for medical research.

“It’s the first step in our future development to delve further into modifying dogs for medical research,” says Mr Mi.

Apple was gene-edited to have “several times” higher levels of blood lipid – a trait associated with high cholesterol. Sinogene say they’re cooperating with other labs in China to study gene-based diseases including heart disease and diabetes and develop medicines.

Scientist Mi Jidong plays with Sinogene’s cloned puppies from a gene-edited beagle.SBS News

But that’s not the only focus of the lab. Sinogene will also be using the same gene-editing and cloning technique to create ‘super dogs’ for the police force as early as next year.

“We’re also exploring how we can use genetic modification and cloning to improve the specific qualities of different working dogs. For example to improve their stamina, their intelligence to make it easier to train them And also give them a better sense of smell,” says Mr Mi.

China currently imports many of its police, search and rescue dogs. Mr Mi believes Sinogene’s work could save money and improve the quality of China’s police dog pack.

But the work has been condemned as cruel by animal welfare groups operating in China.

“Cloning has many problems. Large numbers of animals are used as donors and surrogates. But the success rate is very small. So it’s a huge waste of animal life,” says Peter Li, China Policy specialist at Humane Society International, and Associate Professor of East Asian Politics at the University of Houston-Downtown.

He says money would be better spent caring for China’s millions of unwanted dogs.

“I think this ‘super dog’ work is suspect. Dogs are already very intelligent. We know that cloned dogs have health issues, they don’t live long. It is a huge waste of public resources to clone dogs for the police force,” says Professor Li.

Beijing-based animal rights activist Mary Peng believes medical testing on animals needs to be better regulatedSBS News

Animal welfare activist and founder of China’s first international animal hospital in Beijing, Mary Peng, says she doesn’t feel animal medical testing should stop but says labs need to be better regulated. “Cloning is really just another form of breeding,” says Ms Peng. “But I share concerns of how the animals are treated.”

She says though China has progressed rapidly in recent years when it comes to the treatment and general attitude towards animals, protective laws lag behind international standards.

“China is having the world’s biggest love affair with their pets in the history of the world,” she says, “but this is all very new, less than 25 years old maybe.”

“And this experimentation, medical research etc, are also really new industries for China,” Ms Peng says. “And I’m not sure that the laws and regulations about how the animals are treated while they’re in these labs have been fully developed.”

But Professor Li says the lab’s work also raises larger ethical questions. “If we see cloned animals as a testing object, I wonder how soon this work will be applied to humans. If we have this level of audacity, this level of recklessness as a standard, then many other test labs will do things that should be stopped.”

Sinogene scientist works with dog cells in their Beijing labSBS News

Retired Tsinghua University artificial intelligence and ethics expert Professor Zhao Nanyuan dismisses the criticism of animal rights groups as foreign and irrelevant, saying China’s scientific progress outweighs the cost.

“To see human-animal relations as an ethical question is a concept borrowed from Western religion. In Chinese ethics we don’t have this.”

He says many in China, like him, will focus on the long-term benefit, rather than the individual treatment of an animal or embryo.

“In China we have less problems developing genetically modified technology. I’m pretty sure other countries will be behind China when it comes to human genetic research because of their concerns.”

 

 

Opinion: The dangers women face every day

International Women’s Day is described as a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

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It is a day to reflect on progress made, but also on future action that should be taken.

Though it is referred to as International “Women’s” day, it is a day for both men and women. Every human being evolves from the womb of a woman. Women not only give birth to human beings, they also nurture and care for them. They may juggle many roles ranging from the family home to the workplace, the community and broader society.

Australia is a peace-loving and diverse nation, yet violence against women continues to be a serious problem with at least one woman a week dying at the hands of her partner or former partner. The World Economic Forum predicts that the gender gap won’t close entirely for about 169 years (by 2186).

Women comprise more than half the population in Australia. There are significant economic, social and moral arguments for increasing women’s participation. According to the Australian Treasury 2015 Intergenerational Report, a 4 per cent increase in female participation would result in Australia’s GDP being $25 billion higher than it was in 2015.

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A new report by Deloitte Access Economics indicates that government, community and business must work together to prevent the economic cost of Australia’s domestic or family violence rising to $15.6 billion annually by 2021-22 – which is $2 billion more than the cost to Australia in 2008-09.

The Deloitte report also states that workforce related costs associated with DV include: reduced productivity of the survivor due to reduced workforce participation and/or ‘presenteeism’; absenteeism of the survivor, perpetrator and family members; the cost of replacing lost output through overtime by other workers; reduced productivity of survivors’ and perpetrators’ co-workers, friends and family; and loss of unpaid household and voluntary work by the survivor, perpetrator, and family and friends.

Though violence against a woman can occur irrespective of her age, socioeconomic, religious, cultural or linguistic background, violence experienced by culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) women tends to be unique.

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Women from CALD backgrounds can be less likely to report violence. They also experience more barriers in accessing support services and are less likely to leave a DV situation than other Australian women, according to the third national plan of action on family violence.

According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, CALD women who experience domestic violence face additional challenges and a fear of speaking out, including due to possible exclusion or persecution by their community. As an Indian Australian, I’m grateful for the cultural values that were instilled in me. But backward manifestations of Indian culture (or any culture), may lead to a woman feeling apprehensive about speaking up for herself.

Numerous people from the Indian community and other communities have publicly or privately commended me for having the courage to vocally raise issues that are normally taboo or not talked about. Publicly airing and discussing concerns in a constructive way is conducive to identification of key issues, which can inform better solutions.

It’s not well known or understood in CALD communities that DV extends beyond physical violence and also comprises psychological, mental, emotional, financial and sexual violence. This is exacerbated by the fact that people from CALD backgrounds may come to Australia from countries where DV is not even recognised, and women’s rights are virtually obsolete.

Physical bruises may be acutely visible but mental scars run deep. Mental, emotional or psychological abuse is not only less visible, it may be harder to prove and may have long-term detrimental effects such as depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.

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It is pleasing to note that some workplaces have Harassment Contact Officers (I formerly served as a Harassment Contact Officer at a workplace), and Wellbeing officers (trained to identify mental health concerns in employees). However, I think that it’s important for training of existing officers or specified officers for proactively identifying the possibility of an employee experiencing DV, especially since some people may be hesitant to open up about their suffering. Encouraging open conversation in family homes, schools, workplaces and the broader community of the topic of DV that may have been considered ‘taboo’ to talk about is imperative to stop DV at the start.

Just as it is said in Chinese philosophy, ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ are seemingly opposite or contrary forces which are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world. The word ‘woman’ and ‘women’ include the words ‘man’ and ‘men’ respectively. Human beings can reach their full potential if one realises that helping a woman also helps a man, and results in a better society for all.

Pallavi Sinha is Principal of Lawyers with Solutions and will be speaking on 15 March at a launch of the Department of Social Services national CALD campaign to reduce domestic violence against women and children.

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Dateline: Married at 13

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WA govt plays up ACCC’s backing of sale

The Barnett government has seized on Australia’s competition chief Rod Sims comments that the plan to privatise WA’s poles and wires utility Western Power would lead to lower prices.

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Mr Sims told The West Australian newspaper a new private owner would run it more efficiently and he believed the regulator would ensure those efficiencies resulted in lower prices for consumers.

Treasurer Mike Nahan said Mr Sims’ comments showed up union and Labor “lies” about the planned 51 per cent privatisation of Western Power leading to higher prices.

“Rod Sims, who actually will regulate the business in the future, says that’s simply not true,” Dr Nahan told reporters on Tuesday.

Premier Colin Barnett said privatisations of other poles and wires business in Australia showed that prices did not rise.

“If anything, they fall,” Mr Barnett told reporters.

“Bear in mind Western Power does not sell electricity. All it does is transport it.”

Mr Barnett said he believed Western Power was well run but private operators would change the culture of the organisation, creating efficiencies.

Last month, the Australian Services Union was forced to withdraw a pre-election advertisement in WA after Mr Sims complained footage of him warning privatisation leads to higher consumer prices was taken out of context.

He said he was referring to consumers paying higher prices when monopoly assets that were not well regulated, such as ports, were privatised.

The ASU and Electrical Trades Union hit back on Tuesday with their own report, claiming the government would reap a much smaller windfall from the sale than forecast.

The report by Orion Consulting Network concluded the sale would only yield net proceeds of just under $1 billion, compared with government claims of $3 billion.

The consultants also concluded the state government would be $276.5 million a year worse off including factors such as dividends.

But Mr Barnett talked up the planned sale, which is a central plank of the Liberal re-election campaign, saying the WA government would always have a direct say in what happens with Western Power as its biggest shareholder with a 49 per cent stake.

“Yes, it may not be popular but the Liberal party policy of selling half of Western Power gives us a clear financial plan, one that will reduce debt to very manageable proportions … and one that will allow us to return to surplus over the next four years.”

WA Labor won’t sell Western Power, saying it provides much-needed revenue, while the ETU fears maintenance standards will fall, presenting a bushfire risk.

The union has cited Victoria’s deadly Black Saturday bushfires as an example of why such important infrastructure should not be placed into private hands.

Meanwhile, Pauline Hanson says her One Nation party will also not support the sale.

RBA signals flat interest rates in 2017

The Reserve Bank of Australia remains upbeat about the nation’s economy, signalling it doesn’t intend to move interest rates this year.

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The RBA left the cash rate at a record low of 1.5 per cent at its March board meeting on Tuesday, saying that was the best way to maintain growth and push low inflation back into its two to three per cent target band.

Governor Philip Lowe was upbeat about exports, business investment and consumer spending growth at the end of last year.

At 1620 AEDT the Australian dollar had jumped to 76.16 US cents, from 75.96 US cents at 1430 AEDT.

Westpac chief currency strategist Robert Rennie said the RBA was more optimistic about global growth, China and the domestic economy as well as consumer and business confidence.

“It feels as if the statement that we got was a glass that was slightly more than half-full, so I’m not surprised the dollar is up,” he told AAP.

CommSec senior economist Craig James said while Tuesday’s commentary from the RBA was “boring”, the central bank had signalled it intended to leave rates on hold.

“In short, the Reserve Bank is saying ‘move on, move on, nothing to see here’,” he said.

However, UBS economists said the RBA was less relaxed about housing, noting that investor loans had picked up and removing last month’s comment that “some lenders are taking a more cautious attitude to lending”, meaning the central bank no longer viewed that to be the case.

Royal Bank of Canada senior economist Su-Lin Ong said the unchanged commentary on the labour market, wages and inflation should not be overlooked either.

“They continue to capture a sense of uncertainty over labour market outcomes and the composition of job creation, which is intertwined with weaker than expected wages growth and a slight nudging down of the RBA’s core inflation forecasts over the medium term,” she said in a note.

ABC axing up to 200 jobs in major shake-up

The ABC will axe a fifth of its management and plough millions of dollars worth of savings into making new content and beefing up its presence in regional Australia under a massive shake-up of the national broadcaster.

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Managing director Michelle Guthrie announced the sweeping changes to ABC staff on Tuesday, saying they were essential to the 85-year-old broadcaster’s long-term health at a time when its funding situation was “tight” and its audience no longer “rusted on”.

Between 150 and 200 middle managers in support areas like legal, IT and finance are expected to lose their jobs by June 30.

ABC TV and ABC News will also have extra cuts made in production and support jobs.

Money saved will be tipped into a new $50 million Content Fund, with $15 million a year to be invested in expanding the ABC’s coverage of regional areas by creating 80 new jobs and increasing digital and video output.

“We face a tough few months,” Ms Guthrie told ABC staff.

“The actions announced today will result in a stronger, more confident and better-equipped ABC.

“An ABC that unlocks our full potential and puts our investment directly where it matters – with audiences.”

The ABC board has backed Ms Guthrie’s plan, which she has been working on since becoming the broadcaster’s first woman managing director last May.

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Ms Guthrie said the ABC was not immune from widespread changes in the media sector driven by the emergence of new players such as Netflix and Amazon.

With the ABC’s TV and radio audiences in decline and its digital offerings struggling to breach the gap, “transformational change over the next year is essential”, she said.

The Content Fund sits at the heart of Ms Guthrie’s planned changes, with an initial $20 million to be injected to fund innovative ideas for new programming and services thought up by ABC staff.

Its coffers will eventually swell to $50 million, which Ms Guthrie said would be the biggest sum the ABC had ever committed to such a venture.

Regional projects will be a priority, while ideas on how to expand the ABC’s digital news service and new ideas for arts, science, business and sport projects will also be sought.

The Content Fund will be overseen by Leisa Bacon, the ABC’s former audience and marketing director who will now head the new Audiences Division.

Digital and corporate strategy boss David Anderson was also confirmed as the ABC’s new head of TV.

Regional Communications Minister Fiona Nash welcomed news of the ABC’s investment in regional content as a “good start” and said she hoped the remaining $35 million in the Content Fund would be allocated to regional journalists and content.

ANZ favours reviews over royal commission

ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott believes bank customers benefit more from reviews focused on single issues than they would from a wide-ranging but slow-moving royal commission into the entire industry.

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Mr Elliott’s rejection of a royal commission came on Tuesday as he appeared before a parliamentary committee, also saying that the bank has had up to 100 whistleblowers annually in recent years.

“We get about 70 to 100 every year, about half of those in Australia, half outside,” Mr Elliott told the House of Representatives economics committee hearing in Canberra.

“About 40 per cent of them after investigation have some merit, and are taken further.”

ANZ had never had an incident where somebody complained of being unfairly treated or faced any consequences as a result of making a report, he said, with many whistleblowers remaining anonymous.

Earlier on Tuesday, Commonwealth Bank chief executive Ian Narev had bristled at the suggestion during that a royal commission was necessary.

Mr Elliott told the same committee that it was simply easier to tackle customer problems in isolation.

“We’re already getting change in our industry: we are making real change,” Mr Elliott said.

“We think it is more effective to have narrowly focused targeted reviews that get things done rather than involving us in a multi-year process with uncertain terms of reference,” Mr Elliott said.

But Mr Elliott he would have no problem if the competition watchdog was asked to start monitoring the banking sector on a systemic basis.

Mr Narev and National Australia Bank’s Andrew Thorburn both told MPs there is no need for additional oversight, but Mr Elliott told the committee that he would have no problem if the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission became involved.

“I have no issue with that whatsoever,” Mr Elliott said.

Mr Elliott said that declining net interest margins – the difference between what a bank makes on loans and what it pays to fund them – and customer churn suggested that banking competition is already strong.