Nathan Tinkler buys Wilkie Creek mine for $150 million

Mining magnate Nathan Tinkler is making another sortie into coal, purchasing Peabody Energy’s Wilkie Creek mine in Queensland for $150 million.

The purchase comes less than a year after Mr Tinkler was forced to sell his stake in Whitehaven Coal for about half the price it was worth when he obtained it in 2011 after the company’s merger with Aston Resources.

Mr Tinkler, who formerly topped the BRW Young Rich List, became embroiled in a stoush with creditors after increasing his debts and failing to make repayments.

He was then forced to sell his stake in Whitehaven to make the repayments.

Mr Tinkler’s Hunter Sports Group still owns NRL team the Newcastle Knights, but is likely to face a battle with members for the club after defaulting in March on his commitment to have a $10.52 million bank guarantee in place.

The deal for Wilkie Creek will be funded through equity from Mr Tinkler and the support of Leucadia and Jefferies, as US-based investment and private equity firm, Mr Tinkler told The Australian .

The mine was closed last year following Peabody blaming the carbon tax, falling coal prices and increased costs of doing business as reasons for the shut down.

Peabody hired UBS in 2012 to sell Wilkie Creek for around $500 million, but was unable to find a buyer.

“I looked at it 18 months ago … at the time people in the market were saying they were looking for up to $600m and we probably weren’t that far away from that number then,” Mr Tinkler told The Australian.

Mr Tinkler said he would like to have the mine back into production by the end of the year, but has no intention of listing on the Australian stock market in the near-term.

NATHAN Tinkler has bought back into Australian resources in a $150 million deal for a Queensland mine.

The former billionaire’s Singapore-based Bentley Resources bought Peabody Energy’s Wilkie Creek thermal coal mine for $70 million in cash and the assumption of some of the company’s liabilities.

Coal giant Peabody has had its Queensland mine on the market since mid-2012.

At the time, Wilkie Creek was exporting 2.5 million tonnes of thermal coal a year through the Port of Brisbane and a $500 million price tag was touted to prospective buyers.

The mine closed in December, last year, with the company blaming the carbon tax and there are no employees or equipment left.

Mr Tinkler’s investment was made with the backing of Leucadia National Corp subsidiary Jefferies Group, a US investment bank.

According to documents lodged with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, Peabody expected to pay $34.5 million for port and rail obligations related to the closure this year and $25.9 million in other closure expenses.

Peabody said Bentley Resources would assume the rail and port obligations and ‘‘other liabilities’’ as part of the sale, subject to some closing conditions.

The Newcastle Herald reported in April that the embattled Newcastle Knights owner was trying to raise funds for a new coal venture after selling Aston Metals.

It is understood Mr Tinkler did not receive a cent from the Aston Metals sale, with all proceeds going to his banks.


Shoulder pain leads to a search for realignment

“What we are doing today does not support our eons of evolution… the lack of movement at all is our first problem.”Whether it was years of swimming, too much sitting at the computer or too much driving, life was taking its toll on my body. My shoulder was messed up beyond belief; the pain seeped down my right arm and across my back, up into my neck.

With a 1.6 metre open water swim race just three months away, and a shoulder so rigid I could no longer raise my arm over my head, I went to the doctor. First he tried to decide if I had bursitis or a rotator cuff injury (common in swimmers). I was put on Advil and taken off swimming. Things calmed down, but not enough.

I thought I was an outlier, but at physical therapy, about 75 per cent of those in the room had some kind of shoulder injury. Friends have complained of debilitating shoulder pain from working too many hours at the computer, from overdoing it at yoga or from jumping too fast into a hard-core fitness program.

“What we are doing today does not support our eons of evolution,” said Heath Reed, a licensed massage and yoga therapist who practices in the US. “There is no way our biology can keep up with technology. The lack of movement at all is our first problem. The secondary problem is our dysfunctional movement.”

I wanted to try every option before I considered surgery. Here’s my path:

Physical therapy

With my doctor’s referral, my first stop was physical therapy. My therapist asked me about the pain and when it started, and she felt around to find out where exactly it hurt. She swung my arm up, down, across and over, to isolate the pain. Swimmers, she said, are often weak between the shoulder blades.

First, she said, I needed to make sure my computer was at eye level, my arms were at my sides, my phone was not stretching my arm and I was not reaching for my mouse. In the car, I need to wedge a rolled-up towel between the base of my spine and the seat, to keep the curve in my lower lumbar spine.

I also was given a stretchy rubber sash for a series of arm exercises that used the wall, the door, doorknobs and the floor. They were short repetitions that required little effort, and, frankly, I was sceptical. I like to push until it hurts. I was told I could swim, but not hard, and no butterfly.

Drew Jenks, a physical therapist from New York who works with athletes and specialises in shoulders, said physical therapists look at movement impairment and work to fix it. “Do you have tightness in the back side of your shoulder? Do you have poor posture? Poor thoracic spine mobility? Poor stability and tightening of the muscles around the shoulder blade? We might get a doctor giving us a diagnosis for therapy for rotator cuff impingement, but that is not specific,” said Jenks, chairman of the Shoulder Special Interest Group for the Sports Section of the American Physical Therapy Association.

I did my exercises. I came back for five sessions of physical therapy. I swam tentatively at first, then harder. After five weeks I had regained almost complete mobility. I could not push myself. But my arm was functioning.

I competed in my race, and my shoulder did not hurt much. Still, I wanted no pain. Was that possible?


My physical therapist said massage complemented her work.

Reed, the Arizona massage therapist, teaches workshops on medical massage that focus specifically on rotator cuff injuries, shoulder bursitis and tendinitis. He said massage can help prevent shoulder injuries and rehab them, and help clients recover from shoulder surgery.

After an injury, there is an inflammatory response, Reed said. Traditionally experts have recommended RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). Once the inflammation eases, many experts recommend MICE (movement, ice, compression, elevation). In the past, experts immobilised the area of injury, to give the body a chance to recover. But, Reed said, too long a rest can lead to stiffness. This is where movement and massage can make the difference. “In our practice, what we try to advocate is a union of physical manipulation of muscle, massaging, working with ligaments, tendons, joints, range of motion, stretching, strengthening to begin to bring balance to that joint,” Reed said.

Massage loosened my shoulder in the short term, and it felt good.

Walking more, driving less

I knew that part of my problem was that I spent too many hours in front of the computer or in a car. Walking might not help my shoulder per se, but I felt that it would help my body overall.

Dr James Levine, a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist who invented the treadmill desk, coined the mantra “sitting is the new smoking,” and Reed agrees. “Movement is the missing ingredient in our modern, technologically oriented society,” Reed said. “We move significantly less than we did just a couple of generations ago.”

Even 15 to 30 minutes of walking every day would alleviate tens of thousands of injuries, Reed said.

To make that walk more effective, Reed said, exaggerate the swing of your arms and look about 20 degrees above the horizon. When you look up, he said, it activates parts of your brain that help with coordination. Studies have shown that walking is one of the best therapies for lower back pain, the pelvis, the bottom of the spine and for getting the synovial fluid moving.

I hiked every day. I hoped that would gently nudge my body back into alignment. I still spend many hours in front of the computer, but my shoulder feels better.


I’ve long been curious about Rolfing, named for Ida Rolf, a New York biochemist who studied alternative methods of body work and healing beginning in the 1920s. I had heard it hurt but that the results were phenomenal.

Rolf developed a theory that the body’s aches and pains arose from basic imbalances in posture and alignment, which were reinforced over time by gravity and learned responses among muscles and fascia — the sheath-like connective tissue that surrounds and binds muscles. Rolfing developed as a way to “restructure” muscles and fascia.

I felt like overworked muscles on my dominant right side were pulling across my back and yanking everything out of alignment.

Jan Sultan, a Redondo Beach-based Rolfer who was trained (and Rolfed) by Rolf and who has been practicing for 45 years, said that if a patient is orthopedically compromised with a rotator cuff injury, it lowers the probability that Rolfing will help. But it can help if the shoulder has a sprain, a muscle tear or imbalance to the joint.

My Rolfer, Maria Cristina Jimenez, discussed my history, symptoms and what I hoped to achieve. She had me walk, move and raise my arms over my head. Then she had me lie down on the table.

Her hands moved over my body, realigning and trying to find the pain. She was like a masseuse with extra-sensory powers. She found an upper rib (on the side of my injured shoulder) that had popped out, and with some pressure got it back in. Instantly my whole back and shoulder area felt better. The session ended with her gently cradling my sacrum and rocking me back and forth. There are many nerve endings there, she said. It felt weird, but good.

I walked home feeling clearer, taller and spaced out. After a lifetime of swimming, running, hiking, working, carrying children and sheer gravity, I realised that this is the crux of it: My body needs serious realigning — just like my car.

(I never got an official diagnosis because I chose not to get an MRI. And so far I’m not choosing surgery. I have just started swimming again after the race, so far without pain. I walk and practice yoga.)

The Washington Post

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National Union of Students slams tertiary reforms in federal budget as ‘horrifying’

Federal budget 2014: Full coverage

The national student union has condemned the federal budget’s shake-up of tertiary funding as ”horrifying” despite the changes being embraced by Australia’s leading university, the ANU.

The president of the National Union of Students, Deanna Taylor, said she was ”horrified but not entirely surprised” by the government’s most significant reform to the HECS scheme since its introduction in 1989.

Treasurer Joe Hockey’s first budget announced restrictions on course costs will be scrapped while the amount of funding for university courses will decline from 2016. Graduates will also repay their HELP debts once they earn $50,638, rather than $53,345

But Ms Taylor said the changes mean a generation of high-school students nearing the end of their studies will have to reassess whether university is a viable option, given their family’s financial situation.

”The deregulation of fees is without a doubt going to leave students with a sharp increase in fees, which will hit disadvantaged students the hardest,” she said.

Ms Taylor said given the reforms announced in the budget, we may see more students paying in excess of $100,000 to receive a university education.

”We’re slowing moving towards United States models of tertiary education, which most people would agree is not the shining beacon of access to education,” she said. ”Obviously, we want our universities to be world class but the way to do that is not to punish disadvantaged students.”

Ms Taylor said there were some ”very big question marks” over the government’s promised scholarships for disadvantaged students and on access. The budget details 20 per cent of additional revenue raised through increased fees will be used to fund scholarships for disadvantaged students.

”The scholarships that the government has been talking about will not nearly make up for the increases in student fees and it remains to be seen how that equity scheme will actually work,” she said.

But ANU Vice-Chancellor Ian Young said ”the government is just being practical in these things”.

”We have seen over the last four years the demand-driven system has grown the cost to the budget significantly, now either the taxpayer is going to have to pay that or the student is going to have to pay that or the system will become impoverished … A slight change to the mix of what the taxpayer and the student affords is probably a good thing,” he said.

ANU Students’ Association president Cameron Wilson said disadvantaged students are already under-represented at the university and the budget reforms are likely to exacerbate inequality.

”Despite the equity scholarship fig leaf, disadvantaged students will have more and more trouble accessing university due to ballooning costs and dropping graduate incomes,” he said. ”We call on ANU to carefully consider and consult with students who are already crushed under huge student debts. ANU should have the best minds and not the best-paying minds.”

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Budget 2014 in words

What story does Joe Hockey’s words on budget night really tell? We’ve bundled the more than 3500 of the Treasurer’s words from his first budget speech into this word cloud. The biggest words are the ones the Treasurer used most often. First, we manually removed the words ”madam speaker”, ”government”, ”budget”, ”year” and ”people” since they featured very large but that seemed to be more a matter of necessary repetition than significance. Common words were also automatically excluded. In sentiment at least, the budget speech appears overwhelmingly positive. Words like ”better”, ”research”, ”more”, ”new”, ”benefit”, ”help” and ”jobs” all loom large. Such as ”the government will help” and ”provide help to those most in need”. This is despite many arguing it is the toughest budget since John Howard’s post-election budget in 1996. But the word ”build” was the top-scorer, mentioned 26 times in Mr Hockey’s budget speech. As in ”build a stronger Australia”.  ”Billion” featured high, too, with 21 mentions, largely in the context of a reduced deficit, debt and improved investment.  ”Work” was also up there, although whether that is positive or negative depends on the context, of course. This was sometimes in the form of ”the government will work” but also in the LIberal Party rhetoric of ”those who can work, should work … work gives a sense of self”. As is often the case, what was left unsaid was perhaps even more revealing. The words ”environment” and ”climate change” did not appear in the speech once. Although the word ”carbon” made it in there three times: ”We are abolishing the carbon tax”, ”the abolition of the carbon tax” and ”without the carbon tax”. If you squint you can see the word ”student” in the bottom right buried between ”future” and ”increase”. The implication of which will not be lost on students, since universites have been given the freedom to set their own fees. ”SBS” and ”ABC” were also conspicuously absent, since the government has broken an election promise by cutting the broadcasters’ budgets by $43.5 million. ”Mining” was also low-key, with only five mentions in the Treasurer’s speech. Although, admittedly, that’s a 500 per cent increase on the  number of times Wayne Swan said the word in last year’s budget speech. The word ”foreign” only appeared twice, matching a budget in which the government slashed foreign aid by $7.9 billion over five years. ”Hospital” was also used just once when Mr Hockey said that a reduction in interest paid after the debt was reduced was ”more than enough money needed to construct 15 major new teaching hospitals every year”. Despite slashing billions from the Commonwealth’s share of hospital funding.  

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Federal budget 2014: Victorian doctors slam GP co-payment

Victorian doctors have slammed the new $7 co-payment for GP visits and medical tests and say they will fight hard to prevent Victorian hospitals from introducing similar fees for emergency department care.

On Tuesday night, the Commonwealth opened the door for the state and territory governments to start charging people for emergency department services after announcing that as of July next year, Australians will be charged a $7 co-payment for GP visits, including imaging such as X-rays and pathology such as blood tests.

A spokesman for the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Dr Simon Judkins, said the new fees could prompt more patients to go to emergency departments instead of their GPs because hospital treatment is free.

He said the potential for this to occur, combined with a Commonwealth Government announcement that it will cut hospital funding to the states, could prompt the Victorian Government to introduce fees for emergency department care to raise more funding for the health system.

But Dr Judkins said doctors would strongly oppose such a move because it could deter people from seeking help with devastating consequences.

He said doctors were particularly worried about poor people and those with mental illnesses who could walk out of hospitals when they realise they might have to pay.

‘‘We already have patients in emergency departments whose conditions deteriorate because they have to wait for a long period of time so if you throw in an additional disincentive of having to pay money before you see the doctor… then there’s potential for patients who are acutely unwell to walk out and deteriorate,’’ he said.

Dr Judkins said any new fee for emergency care would hit the poorest people the hardest, undermining the principle of universal care.

”People who work in public hospitals pride themselves on delivering equitable care to whoever turns up at our front door. We would hate to go down the path of the American system where people are charged for emergency care,” he said.

Dr Judkins said designing an emergency department fee would be difficult, too, because many patients who could be considered ‘‘GP type’’ patients present with problems that can escalate into serious illnesses such as meningitis or stroke.

‘‘The logistics of determining what is a GP-type visit or what is an emergency visit can only be done retrospectively and the bureaucracy and infrastructure that you would have to put into place to monitor that would far outweigh the cost or revenue made from such a co-payment,’’ he said.

‘‘We think any disincentive for anybody to come to an emergency department when they think they have a genuine health emergency needs to be strongly opposed.’’

Victorian Health Minister David Davis was unavailable for comment on Tuesday night, but Victorian Treasurer Michael O’Brien told 3AW radio that the Napthine government would closely monitor the $7 fee increase to see a doctor.

“We don’t want to see people deciding they are not going to see their GP because of this co-payment and they wind up clogging up our emergency departments in our hospitals with things which are really more appropriately seen by a GP,’’ Mr O’Brien said.

He said the Victorian Government was also concerned about the longer term reduction in federal funding for state hospitals.

“The state budget has put extra money into our hospitals, and extra money into our schools, and we will be very concerned if the federal government is, sort of, stepping back over the next decade,’’ he said.

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Record injection for WA infrastructure

Perth Airport to attract more than $600 million from Tuesday’s federal budget. Photo: Erin JonassonThe Abbott government says the 2014-15 federal budget will invest record funds for infrastructure for Western Australia.

Tuesday’s budget includes $611 million to improve access to Perth Airport and $590 million for the Swan Valley Bypass.

The government will also spend $307 million to upgrade the Great Northern Highway, $174 million to widen the North West Coastal Highway and $140.6 million for new interchanges on the Tonkin Highway.

Infrastructure and Regional Development Minister Warren Truss said the government was committed to the $1.6 billion Perth Freight Link and would work with the WA government “to involve the private sector” in co-contributing to the project with the two governments.

The federal government has unveiled an $11.6 billion transport infrastructure package for Australia that will take total federal spending to $50 billion by 2019-20.

It says the investment will in turn spur state and private sector investment in roads and rail across the continent and could spur up to $125 billion total investment by 2019-20.

Fairfax Media revealed last week the Abbott government’s plans for an asset recycling fund in the budget, which will be handed $5 billion to encourage states and territories to privatise assets by offering a 15 per cent bonus payment from Canberra.

The money for that fund will be funded by the sale of Medibank Private and by rolling in money from existing Building Australia funds and an Education Investment Fund.

Another $3.7 billion will be used to fast track already announced Coalition projects such as $1.5 billion for stage two of the East West link road in Melbourne and $866million for the Perth Freight link.

Treasurer Joe Hockey has described the infrastructure program as the biggest in Australia’s history.

WA will share also in continued funding for roads maintenance, including $2.5 billion over six years for roads to recovery and $565 million over six years for black spots projects.

Mr Truss said the infrastructure package would deliver better roads which “means less congestion, faster travel times and lower fuel costs”.

“The Abbott Government’s investment in Western Australia will also improve freight transport linkages to key domestic and export markets,” he said.  Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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Joe Hockey ‘daring’ states to ask for a rise in the GST, says Labor

Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Canberra. Labor has accused the government of daring the states to ask for a rise in the GST. Photo: Andrew Meares Treasurer Joe Hockey does breakfast television interviews on the front lawns of Parliament House after budget day. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Federal Budget 2014: Full coverage

The Abbott government is ”daring” the states to push for an increase in the GST, Labor says, after Treasurer Joe Hockey revealed in the budget that the states would be stripped of billions of dollars of funding for health and education.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said on Wednesday the funding cuts would force the Premiers to begin the potentially politically toxic argument to raise the goods and services tax to make up the shortfall, but Mr Hockey refused to be drawn on the issue in morning interviews, saying the GST was a ”matter for the states”.

Mr Hockey faces a fight on the issue, with the treasurers from conservative-led states Queensland, NSW and Victoria indicating on Wednesday that they would oppose the cuts.

Mr Bowen told ABC Radio that “as sure as night follows day, Premiers will say ‘to make up from this cut, we will need to increase the GST”.

“Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey have set it for this express purpose,” he said, adding that Labor’s position was clear in opposing a rise in the GST or broadening its base.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the GST was firmly in the government’s sights and that the Coalition had deliberately shifted greater burdens onto the state in health and education spending to force their hand.

But Mr Hockey told ABC radio on Wednesday that he made “no apologies” for his decision to push funding for schools and hospitals back on to the states and the Commonwealth would ;;sit down with the states to work through the details”.

He signalled that he would be difficult to move on the cuts, saying the ‘‘same taxpayer’’ funded hospitals and schools.

When asked if it could lead to an increase in the GST rate, Mr Hockey said the government wouldn’t move on the 10 per cent rate without taking it to an election.

But if the states wanted more money from the GST, ‘‘it’s up to them to argue the case to change the GST.”

Mr Hockey said the commonwealth had always funded those services at base levels, but the Rudd and Gillard governments went on a ‘‘spending spree’’ with no plan to pay for the increases in funding for schools and health.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott echoed his Treasurer’s sentiments on Wednesday saying the GST was “a matter for the states.”

“The states do well out of this budget, we are expecting them to run public hospitals and run the schools,” he said.

In a later interview with ABC Radio, Mr Abbott further explained his position.

“Changes to the GST is not something the government is planning, the states are perfectly entitled to argue for change, each level of government should be sovereign in its own sphere,” he said.

Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls said it would be tougher to deliver services because of cuts to future spending on health and education

‘‘We will use the time between now and the implementation of those decisions over the next couple of years to take the fight up with Canberra,’’ Mr Nicholls told ABC radio on Wednesday. ‘‘The revised funding models are going to make it tougher to deliver the services.’’

NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance, who will announce NSW’s budget on June 17, said the federal budget was really just ‘‘cost-shifting’’, estimating his state would have to find an additional $1.2 billion over four years to make up the shortfall.

‘‘We have committed expenditure to these areas. What we’ve seen from the commonwealth in this year’s budget is a cost-shift in terms of their growth monies,’’ he told ABC radio. ‘‘We want to see the agreements honoured. These are vital areas of service delivery at a state level.’’

NSW Premier Mike Baird said on Wednesday: “What we saw last night was a kick in the guts to the people of NSW.”

“I have a question to the Prime Minister and to the federal Treasurer . . . what services would he like us to cut here in NSW on the back of the funding cuts that we have seen overnight?”

Mr Baird described Mr Hockey’s actions as a “flick pass”.

“Our message to Canberra is, ‘no, we are in this together. You cannot outsource your problems to the states.”

Victorian Treasurer Michael O’Brien said on Wednesday: “We don’t want to see people deciding they are not going to see their GP because of this co-payment and they wind up clogging up our emergency departments in our hospitals with things which are really more appropriately seen by a GP.”

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Budget update for SMEs

MYOB CEO Tim Reed Photo: Jessica Shapiro

To help Australia’s small and medium business operators get the most out of the 2014 budget changes, MYOB strongly encourages them to take advantage of current tax deductions, to innovate and to make the most of online technologies to help boost their productivity, business performance and their confidence in the economy.

Following the handing down of the budget, it can be tempting for business owners to bunker down, play it safe and postpone their plans for growth. There are still opportunities to be had for SMEs.

I’m pleased the government has set a target of reducing regulatory compliance costs on businesses, individuals and the community by $1 billion every year. Business owners and managers will continue to call for tax reform, deregulation and reduction of red tape – our latest SME research shows GST and BAS simplification continue to top the list of initiatives they hope to see. We call on the government to keep tax reform on the agenda and to consider broadening the GST to not only address the needs of health and education spending but to also ease the burden of completing a BAS on Australia’s two million businesses.

With the retirement age set to increase to 70 by 2035, small business stands to gain the most from taking up a new $10,000 incentive payment encouraging employers to hire over 50s. We encourage small and medium businesses to keep this in mind as they hire and install a new step in their hiring process to ensure they capture this benefit whenever they meet the necessary criteria.

I hope the rise in the fuel excise rate does lead to increased investment in roads including highways and rail in our cities and regions, to help ease the pressure of rising fuel prices. Fuel prices was once again the top pressure point for SMEs this year, and has been since 2011. This change is likely to be the least popular part of the budget with SMEs, particularly so with certain sectors that will feel more pain – our latest research shows agribusiness and Western Australian-based businesses felt the most pressure from rising fuel prices. 61 per cent of SMEs would welcome investment in transport infrastructure in our major states and cities. Adopting online and teleworking technologies can also help ease the pressure by enabling business operators to operate from home or any location outside of the office.

Plans to facilitate innovation and self‑reliance via a new Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme will be well-received by SMEs. Our research shows more than half of SMEs would support increased government funding for innovation, R&D and training on how to use the internet to grow their business. The benefits of online technologies include the ability to compete on a more level playing field with local and global rivals, increased productivity and less time spent on business administration. This means more time for growing the business, which has the potential to make a difference to our economy.

Further support for small business include creating a specialised unit to help small businesses gain better access to government contracts, which is supported by half of the SMEs we surveyed. We strongly encourage assisting SMEs to gain access to government contracts and also encourage SMEs to take up these opportunities.

Small business will feel reassured that the budget has been put on a sound footing for the medium term. While no-one likes tax increases, and a number of consumers will likely feel the pinch, and this may constrain spending, past behaviour indicates there is a chance that Australian’s will believe the worst  is behind them and that economic growth will continue unabated – fulfilling the rising business confidence that recent surveys have shown.

Tim Reed is MYOB’s CEO

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Police search sand hills for Ronald Penn

SPECIALIST police and cadaver dogs will continue searching sand dunes for the remains of a Central Coast man believed to have been murdered nearly 20 years ago.

Ronald Penn, 61, was last seen at a Bateau Bay house on October 12, 1995 – the same day he was stopped by police at Charlestown regarding an apprehended violence order.

Two weeks later, Mr Penn’s white Mazda van was found burnt-out in bushland on Berkeley Road, Berkeley Vale.

Strike Force Rankmore detectives recently received information suggesting three men may have been in the near vicinity of Mr Penn’s car shortly after it was set alight around 10pm.

Two of the men are described as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander appearance, while the third man is described as being of Caucasian appearance.

A police statement released on Wednesday said all three were seen leaving the scene of the burning Mazda van in a red Ford Laser hatchback.

Ronald Penn. Pic: NSW Police

Detectives have also been provided with information suggesting Mr Penn’s body may be buried on a sand-hill within the Tuggerah Lakes area.

Detectives, along with the assistance of specialist police and a cadaver dog, commenced a search of local sand-hills on Tuesday.

The dig will continue on Wednesday.

“We are absolutely committed to solving this case and putting those responsible for Mr Penn’s death behind bars,” Tuggerah Lakes crime manager Detective Inspector Dave Waddell said.

“Mr Penn’s family and friends have suffered for far too long; they need to know what happened to Ron.

“The information and support we have received from members of the community has been invaluable, and we are very grateful for the help they have provided.

“If there is anyone else out there who can assist detectives, please do get in touch.

“We don’t need to know who you are; all we need is the information you have to hand. You can contact Crime Stoppers anonymously and your call will be treated in the strictest of confidence.”

Investigations have revealed Mr Penn had his clothes and personal belongings with him when he vanished.

None of his bank accounts have been accessed and his driver’s licence has not been renewed since he went missing.


Closing the gap 150 indigenous programs consolidated to cut waste

The government plans to save $500 million over five years by consolidating more than 150 indigenous programs into a five-pronged strategy to be run out of the Prime Minister’s Department.

Despite repeatedly promising to maintain funding levels before the election, it now insists it can achieve the savings by eliminating the waste and duplication highlighted in the National Commission of Audit report.

Treasurer Joe Hockey maintains the savings can be achieved without compromising the goal of closing the gap, citing the Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s “heartfelt” commitment to tackling disadvantage. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann claims the scope to tackle waste and duplication exists across all service-delivery departments.

But the savings will be attacked as another broken promise by Labor after Mr Abbott repeatedly insisted funding levels would be maintained and the Coalition’s election policy document said: “The Coalition will continue the current level of funding expended on Closing the Gap activities.”

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said $4.8 billion would be spent on the streamlined programs of jobs, land and the economy, children and schooling, safety and wellbeing, culture and capability and remote Australia strategies.

“The five new indigenous programs will make it easier for organisations delivering services on the ground,” Senator Scullion said.

He said the Stronger Futures policy developed by the former government would be revised “with the Northern Territory Government to place greater emphasis on results, rather than process”.

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