Fairfax front pagesOctober 16, 2014

Fairfax front pages | October 16, 2014 The Border Mail, Albury, Victoria

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Dogs tip nearly $1m towards Giant deal

Tom Boyd of the Giants celebrates a goalThe Western Bulldogs’ decision to pay close to a million dollars of Ryan Griffen’s contract to play with the Giants for the next four years, as well as offering up their first round draft pick were critical in the GWS backflip in agreeing to trade Tom Boyd.

The Bulldogs had initially insisted on only a straight swap of their captain for Boyd but the decision to significantly increase the trade offer by adding their first draft pick – No.6 – and contribute a major part of Griffen’s contract was a game changer for the Giants who were also under AFL pressure to bring in seasoned players to quickly become more competitive.

Sources said the Giants were not finished trading and were positioning for further activity on the last day of trades, ahead of Thursday’s 2pm deadline.

Boyd, who has played nine AFL games after being taken at No.1 in last year’s national draft, has been offered a seven-year deal by the Bulldogs worth more than $6 million. In reality it is a six-year deal worth $1 million a year, which starts from 2016, as players in their first two seasons are on AFL-mandated contracts with standard payments based on number of games and where they are picked in the draft.

Boyd, who recently turned 19, will be on the mandated contract terms next year – which, if he played every game would enable him to earn about $200,000 – but then it is understood his contract will jump to slightly more than $1 million a year for the next six seasons.

Text messages from the promising young forward, while on a surfing holiday in Indonesia to his coach Leon Cameron and chief executive David Matthews, helped create the shift in the Giants’ mindset over their refusal to trade the young player.

The Dogs bold decision to throw everything at Boyd came out of a meeting at the home of Bulldogs president Peter Gordon attended by chief executive Simon Garlick and Boyd’s manager Liam Pickering on Tuesday night. It is understood it was at that meeting the Dogs agreed to add pick six to the offer of their captain Griffen and raised the idea of contributing to the cost of Griffen’s contract. There were direct negotiations on Wednesday between Garlick and Matthews to finalise the trade.

The Boyd camp had been strong in insisting that he would only go to the Bulldogs next year once his initial two-year contract was up and therefore sought to disabuse the Giants of the idea that they would be able to auction him to all 10 Victorian clubs next year for a better deal.

Once the Bulldogs offer was substantially improved to add pick six to Griffen, and the contribution to the midfielder’s contract, it was doubtful they would receive a better trade deal.

Furthermore, even the Giants felt other clubs would be unlikely to offer a financial deal of the length and scale of the Bulldogs’ offer for Boyd next year and so there was a risk of losing him for nothing through the pre-season draft.

The Boyd-Griffen deal capped the most dramatic day of action in the history of the draft and trading system in which not only was last year’s No.1 draft pick traded for a club captain, but three high-profile contracted players – two of them former All-Australians – whom their clubs had said would not be traded, were all traded, and a mega five-club, six-player deal was finally struck, while several other trades were also done.

On a hectic day, the complex deal involving Dayne Beams becoming a Lion, Levi Greenwood, Jack Crisp and Travis Varcoe becoming Pies, Mitch Clark a Cat, Heritier Lumumba a Demon and a clutch of draft picks changing hands, was finally completed.

Soon after that, Geelong moved pick 21 – which they had received the previous day from Brisbane for Allen Christensen – to the Saints for Rhys Stanley.

Carlton also completed its deal to move their draft pick seven to GWS for pick 19, Kristian Jaksch and Mark Whiley.

Gold Coast is offering picks 47 and 49 to Hawthorn for midfielder Mitch Hallahan, who wants to join the Suns. Hawthorn has asked for the club’s second round selection, 29.

Carlton is interested in delisted Sydney player Matthew Dick, who could be signed as a delisted free agent from November 1.

The outlier to all of this action was Essendon and Port Adelaide who went to mediation talks on Wednesday to try to break the deadlock in negotiations for Paddy Ryder to move to Port Adelaide, but to no avail. That negotiation shapes as the critical last-day deal to be done Thursday.

Australians remain top as richest in the world

Another day, another stellar global comparison for Australia.

The Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report has ranked us No.1 for median adult wealth, like last year and the year before that. What’s more, the report predicts Australia will keep top spot on that measure until at least the end of this decade.

But when it comes to average wealth, we’re ranked No.2 behind Switzerland. So which is better – a higher median or a higher average?

A good illustration of the difference between the median and the average is what happens whenever the super-rich Bill Gates arrives at a crowded bar – the average wealth of the crowd soars but the median stays pretty much the same – that is the wealth of the middle person if you lined up everyone in the bar from richest to poorest.

That makes the median the best figure for comparing the wealth of regular people in different countries, because the number is not skewed by the very rich.

The difference between a country’s median and average wealth is a rough indicator of how wealth is distributed across the population. The narrower the gap, the more evenly wealth is spread.

In the US, a country with a relatively high level of inequality, the median adult wealth of $US53,352 ($61,000) was just 15 per cent of the average of $US347,845. But that gap was much narrower in Australia, where the median adult wealth ($US225,337) was 52 per cent of the average ($US430,777).

Australia’s No.1 ranking for median adult wealth follows a No.2 ranking, behind Norway, on a more meaningful measure – the United Nations Human Development Index, which rates countries according to health, education and income.

But the latest World Happiness Report, published by the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network, ranked Australia 10th.

Fire which broke out at the Barangaroo construction site in Sydney in March spread quickly while workers lunched

The Barangaroo fire caused traffic chaos and forced thousands to evacuate. Photo: Rob Homer The Barangaroo fire caused traffic chaos and forced thousands to evacuate. Photo: Rob Homer

The Barangaroo fire caused traffic chaos and forced thousands to evacuate. Photo: Rob Homer

The Barangaroo fire caused traffic chaos and forced thousands to evacuate. Photo: Rob Homer

The Barangaroo inferno that brought Sydney to a standstill in March spreadunusually quickly while workers were at lunch, fuelled by highly flammable material probably ignited by heat or sparks, official reports reveal.

The documents show just how close an 86-metre-tall crane and huge concrete slabs came to collapse, as flames licked at the crane’s base and temperatures at the fire floor reached 1100 degrees.

The findings raise questions over work practices at the site before the fire, which caused traffic chaos, forced thousands of people to be evacuated and blanketed central Sydney in a cloud of smoke.

The March 12 fire at Tower 3 at Barangaroo South involved the ground floor and two basement levels.

A Fire and Rescue NSW investigation synopsis, obtained by Fairfax Media,suggests three possible ignition sources: heat produced by welding work, a spark produced by an angle grinder or freshly cut hot metal.

The report by an unnamed senior firefighter, issued about three weeks after the blaze, said the area where the fire began”consisted of several combustible materials”. In particular, it noted a “highly flammable” polyurethane filler that poses a “severe fire hazard when exposed to heat or flame”.

“It is my opinion that carrying out hot work [involving significant heat or sparks] in proximity to the volume and configuration of combustible material at the point of origin has resulted in an accidental fire,” the report said.

According to a timeline, workers operating on a steel column broke for lunch at 1.50pm, and a contractor raised the alarm five minutes later.

During the fire two-metre flames and smoke burst from vents around the base of the crane, which could have led to a “rapid collapse … it may twist and buckle and come down”, the report said.

Supports encasing recently poured concrete had been destroyed and “concern is whether [the concrete] can continue to support itself”.

A witness had reported smelling methane gas on the morning of the fire. The report said while the presence of gas may have contributed to the blaze, the area was well ventilated and there was no report of a leaking gas main on the day.

A separate internal report of the Barangaroo Delivery Authority said the rapid spread of the fire was “very unusual in construction” and was partly fuelled by the “chimney effect” of small openings in the structure above large, open basement areas.

A Fire and Rescue NSW spokeswoman said the possible sources of the fire have been referred to police and Workcover NSW.

Workcover NSW said it is still investigating the fire, including what work activities may have contributed and what controls should have been in place.

A Lend Lease spokeswoman did not answer questions about how the fire had affected the project’s deadline or on the insurance excess paid, saying it would be “inappropriate” to comment until investigations were complete.

She pointed to the company’s full-year results released in August, which put the post-tax financial impact of the fire at $6.2 million.

Major parties stand to reap millions from taxpayers under proposed donations laws

New laws proposed by NSW Premier Mike Baird have been hit with criticism. The major political parties stand to reap millions of dollars from taxpayers to fund their campaigns at the next NSW election under proposed laws announced by Premier Mike Baird, an outcome being criticised by a leading academic as “extraordinary”.

Mr Baird has responded to revelations at the Independent Commission Against Corruption of rorting of donations laws before the last state election by unveiling a new funding system to be in place for the March 2015 poll.

The Liberal, National and Labor parties will be be eligible for taxpayer funding of up to $4 per vote they receive in the Legislative Assembly and up to $3 per vote received in the upper house, the Legislative Council.

They will only be reimbursed for what they spend on an election. But they may spend – and therefore be reimbursed – up to $9.3 million each.

They also will be allowed to accept private political donations but their overall spending must stay within a $9.3 million cap.

In addition, up to a further $100,000 spent in each lower house seat may be reclaimed from taxpayers, effectively creating a second $9.3 million spending cap across the 93 electorates.

Anne Twomey, professor of constitutional law at the University of Sydney, says that as a result of the new scheme the major parties stand to be handed millions of dollars extra by NSW taxpayers.

Professor Twomey has calculated the money parties would be eligible to be reimbursed based on the 2007 state election (she deemed the 2011 election as atypical of the votes received by each party due to the Coalition landslide).

Based on first preference votes received in 2007 Labor and Country Labor could together claim up to $10.6 million in taxpayer funding under the new system. The Liberal and National parties could claim $9.7 million.

This means both parties would have their election campaigns fully funded by the taxpayer, instead of only about 75 per cent of their expenditure under the current system.

The new rules would allow all parties to bill the taxpayer for extras such as travel and market research. If it exceeded the first $9.3 million cap, this spending could potentially be reimbursed by distributing it across electorates under the separate $9.3 million spending cap.

Professor Twomey also noted that the total number of voters grows each election, meaning the new system naturally increases the potential pot of money that can be reclaimed by parties from the taxpayer.

“It’s extraordinary that after such a great deal of debate as to whether full public funding of elections is acceptable the Baird government has introduced full public funding by stealth without justifying its decision to do so,” she said.

“Does the public really want to spend many, many more millions of dollars on political parties when there are other priorities like schools, hospitals, roads?

“It may be the public thinks those millions could be spent on something more worthwhile than making life easier for political parties.”

The bill passed the lower house on Wednesday but debate in the upper house has been deferred until next week.

This followed concerns raised by the Greens and Christian Democratic Party that failing to get a candidate elected in the lower house would lead to their potential taxpayer funding being significantly reduced.