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Poms play the fall guys yet again

Mike Gatting had just turned around his hitherto barren 1994-95 tour of with a double century against Queensland in Toowoomba. Then, while fielding, a ball took a rogue bounce and hit him in the jaw, breaking it and leaving him unable to bat, or shave, but worse than those, eat. England’s stocks by then were so threadbare that physio Dave Roberts, after patching up Gatting, took the field in borrowed whites. Well, he was on tour to provide relief.
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It was a different time. Tours were longer, ancillary staff fewer, preparation variable. Some of the English journos had a standing arrangement to meet at 7.30 each morning for a run. One morning, also in Toowoomba, I rose to join them, but at the appointed hour found no-one in the hotel foyer. At last, after 15 minutes, one appeared, singlet back-to-front, eyes sunken, hair standing on end.

What had happened, I asked. In reply, he said one word, the name of one of the England players. With lawyers watching over my shoulder, I won’t repeat it here, but suffice to say it wasn’t who you might have expected. He had drunk the journos under the table the previous night.

The years have rolled by. Tours are shorter and sharper now, auxiliaries outnumber players, preparation is more wholesome and clinical. For England’s last tour in 2013-14, a nutritionist rang ahead with detailed instructions about meals at each ground. Piri piri, tofu, pumpkin seed and goji berry breakfast bars, mungbean curry with spinach all featured. Fairfax Media’s Chris Barrett got the leek, and also heard about the story first.

But one thing has not changed. As soon as the English arrive in , they begin dropping like the flies Douglas Jardine once was cautioned to leave alone. Some fall to injury, some mental health, some loss of form. Some pop off at the least opportune moment. In 2002-03, highly regarded seamer Simon Jones tore his ACL while fielding on the first morning of the first Test, and was not seen again on tour. He had taken an early wicket, but by day’s end, were 2-364.

In 2006-07, accomplished opener Marcus Trescothick played two early tour matches, then went home because of stress and did not play Test cricket again. There were many others. Last time, in 2013-14, Jonathon Trott went home with Johnsonintus after the first Test and Graeme Swann retired after the third, two in a procession that would see England burn through 18 players in the series. So much for the healing power of kale. At least it meant the pain of losing by whitewash was shared around.

Marcus Trescothick arrives back in England after leaving the 2006-07 Ashes tour. Photo: PA

This time, England have been in the country barely a week, and already Steve Finn has torn a cartilage and gone home, Moeen Ali and seamer Jake Ball have worrying twinges, and this tally does not include Ben Stokes, who is not here because of his own, unique injury problem. At the Adelaide Oval this week, the makeweight in borrowed whites was assistant coach Paul Collingwood. As a player, he made a Test double century there, but the rule of thumb in is that Collingwood on the Adelaide Oval means desperate days.

To lose one player is unlucky, three … unluckier. There is no ready explanation for this frailty. It is not unknown in reverse – Craig McDermott left England after one Test in 1993, Adam Gilchrist before one in ’97 – but it is rarer. Conditioning ought not to be an issue. The tyranny of distance is no more, not really. The late Peter Roebuck, when young, wrote of ns as “strange, leathery creatures”, but in truth English and n cricketers are as familiar to one another as if in one big troupe. What was instructive about Dave Warner’s recent well-publicised remark was not the idea of idea of his “hatred” for England, but that he has to work it up.

Hard pitches have an impact, hostile crowds, too. Still, they seem inadequate to explain this chronic English ague. England is the higher-ranked team in this series, and the Ashes holder, and yet English author Jon Hotten summed up the country’s mood when he asked on Twitter what might be the German-style compound noun for the general feeling of dread abroad. Mitchtwitchglitchzeig, we suggested. But maybe it is just “medic”.


25/04/2020 0

Coronial inquest: Lake Macquarie man takes his own life at Parklea Correctional Centre

Parklea Correctional Centre. A CORNER has recommended Parklea Correctional Centre remove all “hanging points” after a Lake Macquarie man died by suicidein his cell in 2014.
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The inmate, who can only be referred to as P, was found dead in his cell at 3.15pm on February 25, 2014, a few hours after a distressingphone call to his partner, during which he threatened to take his own life and said he “couldn’t deal with it”, according to findings published on Friday.

A coronial inquest held in Glebe Coroner’s Court last month explored a number of significant issues relating toP’s death, including whether he should have been considered a suicide risk upon entry into the prisonand what steps were still necessary to remove or reduce the risk of inmates taking their own lives.

P, who was 42 at the time of his death and grew up in Toronto, appeared in Newcastle Local Court on February 14, 2014, charged with a number of property offences.He was granted bail, but was unable to meet one of the conditions and remained in custody.

He was moved to cells at another courthouse and then a correctional centre before being transferred to Parklea Correctional Centre on February 20, 2014.

Upon arrival, P told a registered nurse he had no history of mental health issues, self-harm or suicide.

But after a distressing phone call to his partner at 12.40pm on February 25, 2014, P went back to his cell and endedhis own life.

Deputy State CoronerMagistrate Harriet Grahame found P’s death was self-inflicted, but found correctional staff could not have known his intentions.

“P’s death was unforeseen by those entrusted with his care,” Ms Grahame said.

“I accept that his decision to take his own life was sudden and unexpected.

“Sitting alone in his cell, ruminating on the breakdown of his relationship appears to have caused him profound despair.”

Ms Grahame said had P not been able to take his own life“so easily”, hemay have survived until he wasreleased back into the common area later that day.

“P is not the only prisoner to have died in these circumstances,” Ms Grahame said. “Urgent action must be taken to improve conditions at Parklea and elsewhere.”

Ms Grahame recommended urgent funding be provided to redesign the cells atParklea Correctional Centre, which is privately operated by GEO Group.

Lifeline: 13 11 14.

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25/04/2020 0

Cold Chisel’s Newcastle Supercars concert sells out

The Cold Chisel concert at this month’s Newcastle Supercars weekend is a sellout.
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Tickets to the Newcastle 500 on Saturday, November 25, include entry to Cold Chisel and Spiderbait that night inside the track at Foreshore Park.

General admission tickets to the race are still on sale, butorganisers were forced on Friday to closeoff access to the concert due to high demand.

It is understood the concert crowd has been capped at about 20,000 for safety reasons.

Cold Chisel’s Newcastle Supercars concert sells out TweetFacebook Newcastle Supercars track build, Friday, November 10Pictures: Jonathan Carroll“The concert site has peak capacity which has now been reached in advance ticket sales for Saturday,” Newcastle 500 event manager Kurt Sakzewski said.

“There has been an overwhelming early response which began when tickets went on sale to the local community in April.

“To ensure the safety and comfort of patrons, this means any tickets sold after today are not guaranteed concert access, which purchasers will be told when buying.

“Those who have purchased up until today date will be able to secure a wristband at any of the four information booths at the circuit by presenting their ticket.

“People are still able to purchase tickets for all days without Saturday concert access.”

All grandstand seating is sold out for the three-day race weekend, and corporate suites have sold out on the Saturday and Sunday. Tickets forpit-lane walks have also sold out.

Supercars had to cap the crowd ata Cold Chisel concert onthe Gold Coast two years ago when the band attracted more than 20,000 fans, but that concert was not held inside the race track.

Organisers are still predicting a crowd of about 150,000 over the three days with 13 days to go.

The Cold Chisel gig could be one of the biggest in Newcastle since the Newcastle Earthquake Relief Concert, featuring Midnight Oil, Crowded House, The Angels and a host of other star acts,attracted 42,000 to the International Sports Centre in 1990.

Meanwhile, the track continues to take shape at Newcastle East.

The metal skeleton of the pit-lane building is in place, and work has started on a pedestrian bridge over Wharf Road.


25/04/2020 0

Meriton ‘deceptive’ in blocking guests’ bad reviews

At a Meriton serviced apartment block in Bondi Junction over the course of 10 days in April 2015, the lifts were out of order, the phone lines were down, the hot water was broken and there were leaks.
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At another Meriton property in Queensland in September the same year, guests had power outages, no hot water and put up with “excessive” construction noise.

When the major accommodation provider suspected many of its guests would write bad reviews on TripAdvisor, Meriton’s staff stopped their customers’ email addresses from being shared with the popular travel review website.

In the first case of its kind, the Federal Court has found Meriton “engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct” between November 2014 and October 2015 by supplying incorrect contact details for guests to the review site, or by withholding them.

Under TripAdvisor’s “Review Express” program, participating hotels and apartments pass on email addresses of recent guests who have agreed to share their contact details.

The travel website then emails the guests, prompting them to write a review.

The n Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) investigated the practice of “masking” guests’ details after a former Meriton employee went public in 2015.

“This was a deliberate and systematic process of masking or blocking email addresses from TripAdvisor in order to stop TripAdvisor being able to contact those guests and ask them for reviews,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court told Fairfax Media on Friday.

“Meriton argued there wasn’t really any big impact from this, really ‘nothing to see here’,” Ms Court said.

“But the judge, having heard all the evidence and heard the arguments, said Meriton intended to reduce the likelihood of negative reviews being posted.

“The overall effect of that was to create a more positive impression of those properties.

“The judge also said that if you look at the scale and frequency of this practice … the effect it had was substantial.”

The judgment also referred to internal emails which, in one case, showed staff had asked a guest to remove a one-star rating from TripAdvisor in return for a full refund.

Ms Court said the ACCC had dealt with smaller companies posting fake or misleading online reviews, but the Meriton case was the first of its kind dealing with a major operator.

“Consumers are relying more and more on these kinds of rating systems, on comparison websites, they trust them, they’re looking at them, and so it is clearly misleading if those reviews are being manipulated in such a way as to create a false impression.”

In a statement, Meriton’s general counsel Joseph Callaghan said the decision was disappointing.

“Meriton has never denied that between November 2014 and October 2015 some Meriton staff masked email addresses of certain guests at its hotels, which meant that those guests did not receive a reminder email from TripAdvisor to review their stay.

“As soon as Meriton’s managing director was made aware of the conduct, it was stopped.

“Meriton did not agree that the conduct had the effect on the consumer alleged by the ACCC, but the court has decided against us. We will review the judgment and consider all options.”


25/04/2020 0

Deadly fake Chanel lifejackets sold to the desperate

People smugglers in the Mediterranean have found a new, grotesque way to exploit their customer-victims: “Chanel” lifejackets.
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Libyan traffickers sell these fakes to sub-Saharan refugees, flashing the gold Chanel-branded lining under the neon orange exterior and demanding a premium price.

Chanel confirmed to Fairfax it does not make lifejackets.

The traffickers’ deception is cynical and deadly: jackets are packed with cheap foam, if submerged they fill with water, turn into deadweights and drag the wearer under the waves.

“You can be the best swimmer in the world but you can’t really swim with a straitjacket on, and that’s essentially what these things are,” says Simon Lewis, a St Kilda lifesaver who has spent much of 2017 trying to save refugee lives in one of the most popular and deadly migrant routes on the planet.

“The smugglers are smart because they’ve learnt the system of how to make money from everything, and try to scam everyone, to get every last dollar out of them before they send them to their death.

“They don’t care about lives, they’re just herding cattle and making money off it.”

Lewis saw the fake Chanel lifejackets firsthand, as he pulled refugees from the southern Mediterranean. He is one of a handful of ns who have been patrolling this route in 2017, on charity-funded ships that aim to plug the holes in the official search-and-rescue network.

In the last month Lewis reached a new level of authority: head of mission. On the MV Lifeline, funded by the German charity Mission Lifeline, he was the boss.

He was excited by the promotion. But command comes with a heavy burden of responsibility, and last month he faced a terrible choice.

“For 24 hours I thought I’d killed 17 people,” he says.

He wonders still if they did die.

On October 23, the Lifeline got a call from the MRCC, the maritime rescue co-ordination centre in Rome.

“Seventeen migrants had left the coast off [Libya’s capital] Tripoli and were about 5?? hours away from us,” Lewis recalls. “We were told we were the only boat to rescue them – we were told there were no other options.”

But the Lifeline was already bolting for safe harbour. The Mediterranean – a balmy bathtub in summer – was frothing into a nasty autumn storm. Lightning was flashing over the sea. The waves were two metres high and rising. They would have to turn about and sail into the storm.

“I had to make probably the hardest decision of my life,” says Lewis. “[It] will stay with me.”

The storm was building. The waves at the heart of it could be five metres high. The RHIB dinghy used for rescues would have sunk and the Lifeline would have struggled.

“My executive job was to decide who lives and who dies,” Lewis says. “I was either going to kill 17 refugees or put my crew in extreme danger. It was the best shitty decision … a calculated, easy decision.”

But as they sped for harbour he, and his crew, had an image in their minds of a small, overcrowded rubber boat behind them, packed with refugees in the middle of the storm. They imagined the fear and panic the refugees would be feeling, alone in the sea.

The next day Lewis called the duty manager at the MRCC. It wasn’t normal protocol, he says, but he had to ask: what happened?

“He goes ‘Oh, they got rescued and they’re on their way to Italy’. I don’t actually know if that’s legit … I just didn’t want to have the conversation. So I don’t know how some magical ship came out of nowhere to rescue them … it blows our mind, that, after we were told we were the only asset.”

Lewis took the best traditions and procedures of n lifesaving into the Mediterranean. In 2016 he set up a rapid response group on the Greek island of Lesbos, pulling Syrian refugees from the water between Turkey and Greece.

“We used n knowledge and n values,” Lewis says. “It makes me proud.”

But on board the southern Mediterranean NGO ships in 2017 it was a much more complicated situation.

Rescue ships have been accused of colluding with people smugglers, and Italian prosecutors are investigating whether charges can be laid. Charities have been accused of entering Libyan waters to pick up smuggler “deliveries”.

Lewis says he knew he would be under intense scrutiny.

“Our friends one day can be turning against us the next,” he says. “It’s very political … I get death threats, I get crazy people commenting and facing up to me … I know I’m targeted, I know our phones are hacked, I know that I’m watched, I’m a big boy and I know this is what the scenario is.”

He has nothing to hide, he says.

“We publicise exactly what we’re doing … you can get on the internet and see exactly where our boat is, we have film crews on board. We’re like Big Brother on a ship.”

Europe is toying with an n-style “turn back the boats” policy, in response to the thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean in the last couple of years. Breaking: 116,692 #migrants & #refugees arrived by sea to Europe. 2,405 dead/missing ?????? https://t苏州夜场招聘/NrTqBYkT2Cpic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/1DLFbPvzmW??? IOM (@UNmigration) August 8, 2017 Photo: Colin Cosier

“Nobody on board the Aquarius is here to judge why people have fled their home,” she said. “But people don’t leave their home unless they have a very good reason.

“We don’t judge whose life it is, or what it is they are fleeing, [we] are here simply to save their lives.”

Also on board the Aquarius is Lauren King, 33, from Sydney, who is working with Medecins Sans Frontieres to care for those pulled from the sea. Earlier this month they rescued 588 people in just one day – three rubber boats overloaded with men, women and young children collapsed, spilling their human cargo into the sea.

But King says rescues are rarer these days – in April they were “constant”, but by late northern summer fewer boats came from Libya, thanks to the coastguard and Italian navy.

Nevertheless, people are still trying to flee “hell”. And as the weather turns colder, hypothermia is a risk as well as drowning.

“But people tell us they would rather risk their lives trying to escape Libya than stay there one more day,” King says. “If their boat is intercepted by the Libyan coastguard they try to take the journey again.

“I recently spoke to a woman, it was the second time she tried to take a rubber boat. The first time she had three children and they all drowned in front of her. She was intercepted by the Libyan coastguard, and she tried again a few months later. People are risking their lives again and again. Nobody gets on these boats unless they have no choice.”

Intercepting boats just “keeps these people out of sight”, King says.

Those rescued have stories of arbitrary detention in squalid conditions, torture, abuse, rape of men and women. The scars on the refugees’ bodies are testament to their claims.

“One young man from Sudan spoke of being bought and sold several times, they’re treated as commodities,” King says.

Come hell or high water, the evil trade continues.


25/04/2020 0

Robert Dillon: Sporting Declaration

FULL HOUSE: The crowd at No.1 Sportsground in 2007, when a NSW team featuring Andrew Johns played a T20 game against South . Picture: Ryan OslandWHAT would you rather –a V8Supercars race in Newcastle, or a Big Bash League cricket franchise?
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That’s the question Sporting Declaration has been pondering this week after opening the envelope from the good people at Newcastle City Council and noticing –according to my less-than-reliable arithmetic–a rates rise of approximately 7.6 per cent.

Now, I’m not averse to spending a few extra dollars each year if I can see some benefit for the community.

If council announced, for instance, that rates were rising to cover the cost of restoring the old Newcastle Post Office to its former glory, I’d say about bloody time.

If they decided to build an overpass to replaceAdamstown railway gates, I’d be cheering with thousands of others.

But if, as I suspect, part of my rates arecontributingtowards the construction zone formerly known as the Foreshore, which will become a V8 Supercars race later this month, I’m suddenly not so enamoured.

I’m not anti-revheads. If the predictions are accurate –16,000 new visitors to Newcastle, 150,000 spectators,a TVaudience ofabout 220 million, and potentially $57 million coming into the city over the next five years–I appreciate the benefits.

But I can’t help comparing the upheaval-causing enthusiasm council have shown for V8 racing with their apparent indifference to ’s most popular sporting code, cricket.

It’s a bit more than two years ago now that council were offered a chance to host a Big Bash League trial game featuring the Sydney Sixers at No.1 Sportsground.

Council responded by asking Cricket NSW to stump up an estimated $7000 –to cover the costs of security, ground preparation and post-match clean-up –a request that was not surprisingly interpreted as a cold shoulder. The game was instead played at Drummoyne Oval, to the dismay of the Novocastrian cricket fraternity.

Cricket NSW haven’t been back to play since.

There are plenty of other regional venues eager for a piece of interstate action, in particular Wollongong, which staged a Sheffield Shield match last season and will do so again this summer.

Meanwhile, Coffs Harbour recently hosted a women’s one-day international, Geelong’sKardinia Parkwas used last season for a men’s T20 international between and Sri Lanka, and Canberra was a World Cup venue in 2015 and next year will host a Test match.

Moreover, Canberrans are already lobbying to be first port of call if and when Cricket decides to expand the Big Bash League.

Last I heard, Newcastle had a larger population than Canberra and routinely drew bigger crowds to sporting events.

And on this subject, I speak with some authority, havinglived in the national capital for four years.

Yet what hope is there of Newcastle hosting a BBL match in the near future, let alone accommodating a franchise?

Buckley’s would be my guess, all things considered.

Cricket NSW, as theNewcastle Heraldhas revealed, has launched an ambitious bid for government funding to build a specialist cricket stadium at Broadmeadow.

This might not be required if council had shown a touch of foresight.

The decision almost a decade agoto redevelop No.2 Sportsground surely ranks as one of the most dubious exercises of recent times.

No.2, which cost an estimated $7.5 million, of which$2 million came infederal government funding, is now used almost exclusively for club rugby union –and in particular one club.

If only council had shown enough common sense to instead spend that money next door, building another grandstand and modernising No.1 Sportsground with TV-standard floodlights.

The rah-rahs would still have been able to use No.1 in winter, along with AFL. In summer we might have had a cricket arena suitable for interstate and international events.

Indeed, just imagine if the grandstand at No.2 had been built at No.1, and then the undisclosed (commercial in-confidence) millions council is investing in a V8 race had instead been spent on further improvements to transform No.1from a sportsground into a stadium.

Novocastrians haveshown time and again over the years that they will turn out in big numbers to watch elite-level cricket.

In 2007, 10,652 fans attendeda Twenty20 match (featuringAndrewJohns), while the crowds of 16,500and17,654 respectively forSheffieldShieldmatches (starring Steve Waugh) in seasons 2002-03and2003-04 respectively were far larger than any turnouts at the SCG.

One of my fondest memories of No.1 was the tour match between England and NSW in 1986-87, featuring names like Ian Botham, David Gower, Mike Gatting, Steve and Mark Waugh, Mike Whitney, Mark Taylor, Greg Matthews and the late, great Robert “Dutchy” Holland.

For many years, touring international sides regularly played in Newcastle, against either the state team or Northern NSW.

It’s now three seasons since we were allocated even a Sheffield Shield game, and who knows when or if the Blues will return.

The most disappointing part is that, if the city had a stadiumcapable of hosting BBL matches, I have no doubt that it would be consistently bursting at the seams.

Even in their lean seasons, the Knights and Jets have traditionally enjoyed home-crowd support other teams can only envy. If we had a BBL outfitto call our own, it is not hard to imagine it would generate similar support and parochialism.

The prospects of that dream ever becoming a reality would appear remote.

Instead we have a car race, an iconic post office in disrepair, and a rates rise. Some would say it’s just not cricket.

Robert Dillon: Sporting Declaration


25/04/2020 0

‘Disgusted’ judge clears banks’ $100m rate-rig settlement

The Federal Court on Friday approved a $100 million settlement between the sharemarket regulator and two of the major banks accused of seeking to rig the benchmark bank bill swap rate (BBSW).
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ANZ Bank and National Bank will both pay $50 million each to end the case brought by the n Securities & Investments Commission, Justice Jayne Jagot told the Federal Court in Melbourne. The penalties should serve as a deterrent, she said.

“The public should be shocked, and indeed disgusted” by the conduct of the banks, aimed at corrupting a key benchmark in the pursuit of short-term gain, Ms Jagot said. The settlements leave Westpac as the only bank still fighting the case in court.

ASIC alleged traders at the three banks sought to manipulate the BBSW rate — used to price more than $10 trillion in derivatives — to benefit their institutions’ trading positions.

The local industry cases came after banks worldwide paid $US9 billion ($11 billion) in fines for rigging Libor, a practice that scarred the industry’s already-tainted reputation in the wake of the global financial crisis.

NAB said on October 27 it would pay a $10 million penalty, $20 million in costs and a donation of $20 million to a financial consumer-protection fund. It also admitted its employees “attempted to engage in unconscionable conduct”.

ANZ’s financial settlement is also split between penalties, costs and a donation, the court heard. In its agreement, ANZ acknowledged it failed to adequately train its traders on BBSW and agreed to initiate an independent expert review of its BBSW policy.

The big risk for the banks in settling the case is whether any admissions will be subsequently used in other legal actions. National minimised the potential of further suits by admitting only to attempting to engage in unconscionable conduct; class actions rely on the plaintiff being able to show actual losses.

Further, the bank didn’t admit to any breaches later than 2011, and civil claims typically need to be filed within six years of the alleged breach.

Bloomberg


25/04/2020 0

Broken lifts, no hot water: Meriton ‘guilty of preventing bad reviews’

Property tsar Harry Triguboff’s Meriton Serviced Apartments could end up being fined many millions of dollars after being found guilty of engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct by preventing guests posting negative TripAdvisor reviews of their accommodation.
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In the first case of its kind, the Federal Court ruled on Friday, in favour of the consumer watchdog, that Meriton management deliberately implemented a strategy to minimise the number of critical comments its guests sent to TripAdvisor.

Each breach of n consumer law can incur a maximum fine of $1.1 million and commissioner Sarah Court of the n Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), says there are arguably many instances of this kind of behaviour.

“It could be argued that every time an email address was masked that was another instance of misleading or deceptive conduct, so the penalties could be in the multiples of millions. It could prove very expensive for Meriton.”

Meriton was found to have either misrepresented guests’ email addresses to the review service so they never received emails prompting them to submit comments, or not sending over their addresses at all.

“We alleged this was a widespread practice by a large provider of apartment accommodation in New South Wales and Queensland, that was also deliberate and systemic, and the court found that Meriton had that intention,” says Ms Court.

“Meriton argued it was not a breach and was not misleading but the court found it did have the intention of reducing negative reviews which created an impression of their accommodation that would not otherwise have been there. It’s the first time a court has considered the issue of the practice of manipulating reviews.”

Meriton’s general counsel Joseph Callaghan said the court’s decision was obviously disappointing and the company would be reviewing the judgement and considering its options. “Meriton has never denied that between November 2014 and October 2015 some Meriton staff masked email addresses of certain guests at its hotels, which meant that those guests did not receive a reminder email from TripAdvisor to review their stay,” he said.

“As soon as Meriton’s Managing Director was made aware of the conduct, it was stopped. Meriton did not agree that the conduct had the effect on the consumer alleged by the ACCC, but the Court has decided against us. We will review the judgment and consider all options.” Meriton and ACCC court battle beginsACCC alleges Meriton doctored emails

The Federal Court will probably hear any mitigating argument from Meriton next year, and then rule on the penalties it will impose. As well as the fines, it could also order that Meriton makes a declaration about its practices, is prevented from any such “corrective” conduct on reviews in future, is forced to advertise the court’s finding and to alert its consumers to the verdict.

Meriton could appeal, but is more likely to do so after the decision on penalties, Ms Court said.

An expert witness on TripAdvisor said that consumers were 30 per cent more likely to post a review – whether negative or positive – if they received a prompt to do so soon after a stay. The court found that on several occasions Meriton engaged in this conduct against the majority of its guests at one hotel when there were problems like a lift not working or a lack of hot water.

“I assume that every accommodation provider will look at their judgement with interest,” Ms Court said. “This case involved a significant company and what it did was found to have an impact on consumers.”

The ACCC was alerted to Meriton’s practice of “masking” the email addresses of people who might potentially give them bad reviews by a report from a former Meriton employee revealing a management directive not to give feedback forms to guests who complained during their stay.

An alleged email from a national manager was shown, saying the controversy was simply the result of “one disgruntled ex-employee”.


25/04/2020 0

Nationals secretly plotting return of Fiona Nash to fill spot she lost

The Nationals are working on a secret plan to parachute Fiona Nash back into the Senate seat she was forced to vacate by the High Court.
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Ms Nash, the former deputy leader of the federal Nationals, was disqualified under section 44 (i) of the constitution and her place was set to be filled by Liberal Hollie Hughes, who was the next person on the joint Coalition senate ticket.

But Ms Hughes faces constitutional issues of her own, as she was recently appointed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal by the Turnbull government, which could disqualify her under section 44 (iv) of the constitution for holding an office of profit under the crown – even though she had no conflict at the time of the July 2, 2016 poll.

On Friday, Justice Stephen Gageler referred Ms Hughes confirmation to a full bench hearing next Wednesday after advising that she may be constitutionally ineligible to sit in the Senate.

Fairfax Media can reveal the Nationals have received confidential advice from high-profile barrister Bret Walker SC about Ms Hughes’ eligibility about 10 days ago, and the likelihood of Ms Nash being able to resume her seat if Ms Hughes is disqualified by the High Court.

Nationals contacted by Fairfax Media said they were hopeful the popular Ms Nash could be returned to Parliament, though they acknowledged she faced an uphill battle.

Former n Army general and Liberal candidate Jim Molan is the next person on the NSW senate ticket after Ms Hughes and had been considered the front runner to take her spot if the High Court rules she cannot take the seat.

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25/04/2020 0

RBA cuts economic forecasts, will miss inflation target

Generic shoppers in Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall. QueensPlaza crowds retail Christmas shopping economy National Bank NAB. Brisbane Times.The Reserve Bank has cut its forecasts for economic growth by 25 percentage points and said it’s on track to miss its inflation target for four years in a row.
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The economy is now only set to grow by 3.25 per cent by 2019, according to its statement on monetary policy released on Friday, compared to a previous estimate of 3.5 per cent growth. At the same time, inflation does not look like it will rise above the RBA’s target of 2 per cent until the end of that year, the bank said.

The central bank said it was still not clear how much spare capacity there was in the labour market, which meant wage stagnation could stick around for some time, fuelling uncertainty over the forecasts.

“Both these factors affect the outlook for inflation and household income growth, which is a key driver of consumption and therefore the gross domestic product growth forecast,” the RBA said.

Household spending remains a key uncertainty – particularly after retail sales posted the weakest three-month stretch in seven years – as policy makers fret that highly indebted households struggling with record-low wage growth will be spooked out of spending.

The updated forecast also partly reflects changes to the items collected by the n Bureau of Statistics in its basket of goods used to gauge consumer price growth.

The basket was updated on Monday for the first time in six years after the bureau said it was overestimating inflation by not accurately calculating the cost of housing and utilities.

In its statement on Friday, the Reserve Bank estimated that underlying inflation in the three months to September of 1.8 per cent was actually 1.5 per cent.

Keeping the cost of living rising at between 2 and 3 per cent is a key target of the Reserve Bank to keep prices stable and to support the long-term growth of the economy. Inflation below 2 per cent suggests people are not spending as much as they should as a result of low wage growth.

Board members said they were more confident in their forecast that wage growth would start to turn around after a string of positive employment results has seen unemployment sink to its lowest level in four years.

The bank expects that trend to continue with its updated forecasts pencilling in a drop in the unemployment rate to 5.25 per cent, close to the so-called natural rate of unemployment.

The forecasts have pushed expectations of interest rate rises out to late 2019, which could end with nearly doubling its run for the longest time without a rate cut or rise at 33 months.

“The RBA’s lower inflation forecasts may prompt some calls for the bank to cut interest rates below 1.5 per cent. That seems extremely unlikely without a major deterioration in the economic outlook and a rebound in the unemployment rate from 5.5 per cent to well above 6 per cent,” said Paul Dales, chief economist at Capital Economics.

“With the housing market looking very fragile and household debt high and rising, now is not the time to turn a blind eye to low inflation and raise interest rates.”

The n dollar retreated after the statement was released but recovered the lost ground. At 4pm, the dollar was fetching around 76.79 US cents.

With AAP


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