History of Hunter rail line captured on NFSA video

It is easy to see whyJeff Wray fell in love with the sound of the steam train. The curator from theNational Film and Sound Archive of (NFSA) spent 10 years on the tracks as a signal man with the state rail.
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It was this interest in the train lines which helped kick-off a newdocumentary titledSteam on the Main North. The15-minute filmshowcases the history of the Hunter region as a major transport network. It has been released just in time for Hunter Valley Steamfest,which celebratesMaitland’s rich steam and industrial heritage.

“Steam has always been a strong magnet for rail enthusiasts,” MrWray said.

Video tells of Hunter’s steam train history TOOT TOOT: Steam engines of the Hunter. Picture: NATIONAL FILM AND SOUND ARCHIVE OF AUSTRALIA

TOOT TOOT: Steam engines of the Hunter. Picture: NATIONAL FILM AND SOUND ARCHIVE OF AUSTRALIA

TOOT TOOT: Steam engines of the Hunter. Picture: NATIONAL FILM AND SOUND ARCHIVE OF AUSTRALIA

TOOT TOOT: Steam engines of the Hunter. Picture: NATIONAL FILM AND SOUND ARCHIVE OF AUSTRALIA

TOOT TOOT: Steam engines of the Hunter. Picture: NATIONAL FILM AND SOUND ARCHIVE OF AUSTRALIA

TweetFacebookSteam on the Main Northis a fascinating snapshot of the region’s history, as many of the rural areas featured were heavily transformed by the suburban sprawl.

“The film also explores the wide variety of passenger and goods steam trains that undertook the journey along the Main North line, which was particularly unique for this era.”

As steam trains were being decommissioned across the country, in the Hunter Region they endured for much longer.By 1968regular use of steam engines had stopped in many parts of NSW, but not locally.

“Steam lingered on with force in the Hunter,” he said.

“They were closely linked with the coal mining industry, but were also being used in the late period of the steam era to transport passengers and also freight.

“There was a larger variety of engines in the Hunter at that time as well.”

The documentary features footage from the Hunter Region shot by transport enthusiast andcinematographer Roger McKenzie and his friend Bernie Kent in 1968.

It features footage from three locations around Maitland, Fassifern, Hawkmount (between Awaba and DoraCreek)and Thornton.

“I think the film really lets the trains do the talking,” Mr Wraysaid.

You can watch Steam on the Main Northat the top of thispage. Itis a sequel to Steam on the Harbourwhich was released in October 2016 (watch below).

The Burton Automotive Group Hunter Valley Steamfest is locked in for April 8 and 9 and organisers are hoping to match last year’s 30th anniversary crowd of 80,000 over the two days.

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Malcolm Turnbull accused of “dangerous” interference in Papua New Guinea politics

Malcolm Turnbull will travel to Papua New Guinea this weekend – but has already copped an extraordinary spray for the “insensitive” and “dangerous” timing of the trip ahead of local elections.
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PNG’s former prime minister Sir Mekere Morauta on Tuesday accused Mr Turnbull of interfering in the domestic politics of ‘s neighbour barely two weeks before the country’s caretaker period begins.

Mr Turnbull has not travelled to PNG since taking over the top job in 2015 and Mr Morauta said the government in Port Moresby would “spin” a visit so close to the election as an endorsement of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

“That is a very dangerous position for the n Prime Minister to put himself in, especially with the prospect of a new Government just around the corner,” Mr Morauta said in a statement.

Mr O’Neill – who struck a deal with to host the Manus Island detention centre for asylum seekers – has faced persistent claims of corruption while PNG’s economy has struggled.

Student protests against his government turned violent last year and Mr O’Neill later survived a motion of no-confidence in the local parliament.

“Mr O’Neill will use this visit to prop up his sagging image and boast to Papua New Guineans that he commands ‘s support,” Mr Morauta said.

Writs for elections are expected to be issued on April 20, with national ballot considered mostly likely to be held over two weeks in July.

has relied on PNG, along with Nauru, as part of the so-called “Pacific solution” for offshore processing refugee claims.

The supreme court in PNG last year ruled the Manus Island camp to be unconstitutional, but despite Mr O’Neill pledging to close the centre more than 800 asylum seekers remain on the island, with hopes a deal with the US will see some of the men resettled.

Mr Turnbull will also need to navigate a surprise request from PNG last month to transfer $550 million of n aid each year directly into the local budget coffers to fund local hospitals and education.

International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells has already warned that ‘s “aid is not charity” and said the government would not honour the request.

Mr Morauta, a former governor of PNG’s reserve bank who stepped down from politics in 2012, has been a fierce critic of Mr O’Neill in recent years and flagged he may run for parliament again.

He said the two leaders had met in recently and at several international summits.

“What is so important that Mr Turnbull should be visiting now? What is so important that it cannot be conveyed to the incoming Government in a couple of months’ time?” Mr Morauta said.

“If Mr O’Neill happens to be the Prime Minister after the election, fine, visit him then. We would all accept that. But to visit now is inappropriate,” he said.

Both Mr Turnbull and Mr O’Neill have been asked for comment.

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Greedy Smith keen to live it up on Good Times tour

GOOD TIMES: Joe Camilleri, Vika and Linda Bull, Andrew “Greedy” Smith, Colin Hay and Deborah Conway will perform at Newcastle’s Civic Theatre on May 31. The APIA Good Times tour bus is about to hit the road with some of the biggest names in Aussie rockon board.
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Rock n Roll Music – Mental As AnythingThis year Colin Hay, Deborah Conway, Mental As Anything and The Black Sorrows are performing for audiences nationwide.It’s a rare opportunity to hear hits like Harley & Rose, Chained to the Wheel, Down Under, Who Can It Be Now?, Nips Are Getting Bigger, Live it Up, Too Many Times, It’s Only The BeginningandMan Overboard live, on the one stage, under the one roof.

Andrew “Greedy” Smith, singer and keyboardist with Mental As Anything, can’t wait. He hasn’t performed with Hay since he toured the US with Men At Work 35 years ago.

“In 1981 we had a hit in Canada with Too Many Times and wanted to tour there. A year later Men At Work were climbing the hit parade in the US and Colin very kindly offered us the support spot for their 80-date tour of US and Canada,” Smith tells Weekender.

“It was full on but fun so we signed up to do it all again in 1983.”

Mental As Anythingstarted offas students who put a band together to play blues, 1960s pop, rockabilly, country and their own original compositions to fill in time at art school in Sydney in the mid 1970s.

Their first gig was at Sydney’s Cellblock Theatre on August 16, 1977, followed by a year-long residency at the Unicorn Hotel where they usedthe pool table as their stage.

It was in 1978 at Sydney’s Civic Hotelthat they caught the attention of new independentlabel Regular Records who sold all 1300 copies in a fortnight of the three-track vinylMental As Anything Plays at Your Party.

“We would’ve remained an art school band playing dances and partiesif Cameron Allan and Martin Fabinyi hadn’t wanted to start an independent record label,” Smith explains.

“They needed someone to record and chose us. We were four competing songwriters and whatever new single was released sounded quite different to the last.”

In 1981 If You Leave Me Can I Come Too?was a hit and in 1985 Live It Up was the highest-selling n single.

If You Leave Me (Can I Come Too) – Mental As Anything“Live It Up was a hit in but we had no success with it in the UK and Europe until It was used in the film Crocodile Dundee,” Smith says.

“Our UK label then put the film poster on the single cover and re-released it to radio over there and it became a big hit. A few years later Yahoo Serious asked us to record Chuck Berry’s Rock’n’Roll Music for his first feature filmYoung Einstein. The movies have been kind to the Mentals.”

In 2009 Mental as Anything were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.

Live It Up – Mental As Anything“We’ve always been known as a singles band so it was a pleasant surprise to be inducted into the Hall Of Fame.We got to hang out with other bands and take stock of our musical past.”

And as for the nickname? The chicken nugget myth is actually fact.

”In our early days in 1977 we were setting up for a gigin a college hall and five or so metre-long cardboard boxes were delivered,” Smith explains.

“It turns out the boxes were full of KFC so I ate 16 pieces out of mine while we were playing. Reg Mombassa started calling meGreedyand I guess it stuck.”

The APIA Good Times Tour comes to Newcastle’s Civic Theatre on May 31. Tickets are on sale now. For your chance to win tickets, read Weekender on April 15.

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North offer GWS star nine-year $9m deal

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North Melbourne have made a Buddy Franklin, Tom Boyd-type nine-year $9 million contract offer for Greater Western Sydney midfielder Josh Kelly, according to former AFL club executive Brian Waldron. Fairfax Media has confirmed that there is a nine-year contract on the table for Kelly.

Kelly’s father, Phil, was a wingman who played 61 games for North in the mid-1980s. Josh grew up following North while living in Melbourne’s inner south.

It is understood St Kilda are also interested in the 22-year-old midfielder and have scope under their salary cap but not the inclination to do a nine-year deal.

Waldron, former St Kilda CEO and head of NRL club Melbourne Storm, said on SEN on Tuesday morning that North had made the extraordinary deal.

“North Melbourne have offered Josh Kelly nine million over nine years,” Waldron said.

“On the table. He has to take it ??? I also heard they offered Dustin Martin well over a million dollars a year for five years.

“Maybe a million a year in eight years’ time isn’t going to be much, but clearly it’s a huge, huge investment.”

Kelly’s manager, Paul Connors, refused to comment when contacted by Fairfax Media.

“I have not spoken to Paul, but I know an offer has been made.”

GWS are understood to be aware a long-term offer has been floated for Kelly, but not the specific terms or if a firm offer had actually been made.

North can also potentially draft elite teenager Nick Blakey, the son of John Blakey, in next year’s draft should he choose to wish to go to North.

Blakey is equally eligible for the Lions and the Swans. John played sufficient games for the Lions to be eligible there as father son also but the family has long now lived in Sydney where John is an assistant coach at the Swans.

Nick is a member of the Swans academy and is eligible to be recruited as a priority by the Swans.

Blakey is a talented rangy 193cm skinny midfielder who kicks the ball like his dad.

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Hey Ross, the rebuild (or whatever we’re calling it) must start now

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Fremantle should be headed for some in-season retirements if coach Ross Lyon is to truly launch his declared four-year revitalisation of an ailing playing list.

The besieged coach revealed intentions to inject youth from his under siege group immediately after Sunday’s embarrassing 89-point thumping from a born-again Port Adelaide in Adelaide.

It should ring deafening warning bells to out-of-sorts key defender Zac Dawson, ageing winger Danyle Pearce and nuggety utility Nick Suban.

Even highly popular key defender Michael Johnson will be under siege as Lyon and club powerbrokers swing into crisis mode in a bid to eradicate an alarming slide with team performances and attempt a rapid revival.

After 211 games Johnson, a serviceable veteran, should be a serious candidate to hang up his well-travelled boots after a disastrous start from Freo, with the 2013 runners-up and 2015 minor premiers lamenting at the bottom of the AFL ladder after successive thrashings from Geelong and Port.

Johnson was restricted to just four appearances last season as the big defender battled to overcome a nasty hamstring injury that required surgery.

Johnson, 32, Dawson, Pearce and Suban have been faithful servants to Lyon through a near-premiership winning campaign from 2012-15.

One obstacle with any early move from Pearce to step down after nothing his 250th game in Sunday’s clash against his old club is his absurd contract security.

The often-maligned midfielder, who turns 31 on Friday, signed an agreement last year through until the end of 2018.

At almost 26 and with 146 senior Dockers games under his belt, Suban still has time on his side.

But the type of roles the gritty utility plays in Lyon’s highly defensive game styles need refinement and are now more logically suited to younger and developing Dockers.

It’s well over time for a massive introduction of youth with clear confirmation that the changes will be nurtured and tolerated for well into the remainder of an already failed 2017 season.

Lyon controversially elected to start his warhorses with the league’s third oldest and third most games played average while trumpeting that a four-year rebuilding project is in full swing at Fremantle.

Loyalty to his aged warriors at the expense of a young brigade of Dockers to establish a foundation to planned future sustained success has backfired on Lyon.

Heading into his sixth season with the Dockers, Lyon has also failed to generate any apparent newfound playing style to stay in touch with a substantially swifter AFL game featuring high octane movement and scoring as a priority.

New ways now must be paved for an injection of younger talent with hopes they can regenerate flagging hopes of a return to finals anytime soon.

Promising recent draft picks Griffin Logue and Harley Balic as well as key forward Matt Taberner are non-negotiable call-ups to be educated in the harsh realities of an AFL playing cauldron as cornerstones in Fremantle’s long term plans.

Logue turns 19 this month and as the Dockers prized first pick at number eight in last November’s draft, he must be thrown into the firing line in a sweeping change in selection and development philosophy.

He is a raw and emerging big bodied, running defender.

Playing Logue to learn a craft of guarding key opposition forwards as well as using an innate athletic running capability to initiate Dockers attacking moves from backward of midfield is better development than perseverance with a lumbering Dawson in the dim twilight of his 166-game career.

Perennial fringe-dwellers Hayden Crozier and Tom Sheridan as well as key position defender Sam Collins must be re-tried and given extensive periods to confirm any significant value for long term retention in a rejuvenation or cast aside as new draftees are targeted in November.

Hopes of a return to finals calculations as the game continually evolves into a fast and furious heavy possessions and swift movement into scoring zones rest with a serious injection of youth.

Whatever Dockers recruiting specialists have perceived with recent draft inclusions must be examined on the big stage of AFL conflict for the remainder of this season to demonstrate if they are indeed the best suited to carry Fremantle’s future hopes for success and promise.

Lyon has seemed reluctant to swing his developing youngsters into his senior team with loyalty to the servants that bravely battled attrition and buffetings in his heavily defence-oriented game style through the Dockers’ four successive finals campaigns.

Reality hit in a shellacking from a slick Port when Lyon sent repeat offenders of poor foot disposal into battle for a second successive week.

There is now no logical future in continuing with servants that do not have long term value in any ambitious rebuilding project that Lyon says will take as much as four years.

The players that might be there as a four-year plan bears finals fruits should be blooded, taught and moulded from now.

Retirements will make that room.

There’s probably limited value in retaining some of the tried and tolerated foot soldiers sitting back at alignment unit Peel Thunder to assist fast-tracking project Dockers on Lyon’s senior list.

But, staying to be teachers at Peel is the only way Dawson, Pearce, Suban and company should be viewed for the remainder of what is shaping as an arduous and emotionally-draining 2017.

Any revitalisation is in desperate need of patience and nurturing with a senior list in serious transition from almost achieving an ultimate success to any eventual return to finals.

Lyon also goes on urgent notice to confirm he can actually revitalise a playing list at the conclusion of a serious premiership tilt with a far more mature group.

The four-times AFL Grand Finalist coach has not earned a reputation for developing a playing list from foundations.

He inherited a vastly mature and experienced St Kilda back in 2007 and refined a gifted list into genuine title contenders and again fine-tuned Fremantle into flag candidates after taking over in 2012 from former Essendon hard nut Mark Harvey.

Lyon’s Saints brigade included superstars in the ilk of dual Brownlow medallist Robert Harvey, Nick Riewoldt, Luke Ball, Fraser Gehrig and Brendon Goddard.

His takeover at Fremantle presented Dockers champion Matthew Pavlich, Luke McPharlin, Aaron Sandilands, Stephen Hill and an emerging gun Nat Fyfe.

That audacious shot at the title is ruthlessly over with Lyon confronted with a hefty and apparently long rejuvenation.

A savage assessment of failing service probably should have been initiated mid-way through last season when from minor premiers in 2015 to serious flag candidates to start last year before a dramatic tumble to losing the opening nine engagements of the home-and-away campaign.

As a matter of urgency and even if it’s a directive from chief executive and board of management level, the development program needs to happen now.

Up to six changes should be on the cards in Fremantle’s clash with a fast and slick moving reigning premiers Western Bulldogs in Perth on Saturday night.

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Skelton not holding his breath over Wallabies future

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Departing Waratahs second-rower Will Skelton is not sure where his international career is at but says he wants to put his hand up whenever possible for the Wallabies, provided his Super Rugby performances improve.
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Skelton has signed a two-year deal with English Premiership side Saracens after spending two months with the London-based team following the Wallabies spring tour late last year.

Given Skelton has not played 60 or more Tests for his country, he will be unavailable for Wallabies duties in 2018 and the first half of 2019, meaning it is unlikely he will come into coach Michael Cheika’s Rugby World Cup calculations.

The 24-year-old has been grappling with the decision of whether to stay or go for a number weeks and says it came down to what was best for his family, even if the move may tarnish a potential Wallabies career for the time being.

“It was a massive decision to not be able to put the gold jersey on again or be able to put my hand up to put on the jersey again but that’s one we haven’t taken lightly,” Skelton told Fairfax Media. “The World Cup’s a massive thing in a rugby player’s career. I’ve been apart of one and I did half a tournament because I got injured. It’s a massive focus but at the end of the day, I put my family first in this decision. We chose as a family to go alone and experience life over there.”

Skelton said Cheika was “disappointed” at the news and there would be an increasing frustration on the part of the Wallabies boss at seeing so many of his star players leave n shores for the cash and experience of Europe.

However, Skelton has been told he will eligible for Wallabies selection in June and the Rugby Championship provided his form was up to scratch.

He can opt for an early release to join Saracens in time for the start of their season in September but that will be sorted out at a later date.

“Cheika was disappointed and who wouldn’t be if you’ve got guys going overseas?” Skelton said. “He’s coached me since I came into the league so I’ve learnt a lot from Cheik and Daryl [Gibson]. They’ve been my first Super Rugby coaches and I’ve learnt a lot and I’m thankful for what they’ve taught me.

“We’ll always keep in contact if that window or door does open. I’ll keep that door open to come back.

“Talking to Cheik he didn’t say it would affect anything. He’s going to pick the best players who are in form and who will do their part for the team so I’m always going to put my hand up there.”

Skelton refuted suggestions the signings of Rory Arnold, Adam Coleman and a number of other promising second-rowers had anything to do with his defection to Britain.

“Mate, to be honest that didn’t really come into it at all,” Skelton said. “We’ve been fighting for positions for the last two or three years and we’ve got healthy competition there within the Aussie ranks and we’re really building that depth we need in the lock position.

“Was it [for] financial [reasons]? No. It was a massive family decision for us to be out of our comfort zone. That was the main driver.

“I had a taste of it for that short stint and I enjoyed it. I got a feel for the place, got to know the boys and it made the decision a lot easier.”

Skelton has played 18 Tests for the Wallabies, with four of those caps coming in 2016.

Even if Cheika wanted to give the 203-centimetre giant another shot, Skelton says he needed to lift his game, starting with a big performance for NSW against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday.

“It begins with the Waratahs. I feel like I haven’t been playing good footy for the Tahs and that needs to happen if I want to stake a claim in the national team,” Skelton said. “I really need to perform for my team and I put my hand up week in week out to do that. The Hurricanes is my focus short-term.”

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What has happened to MKR ‘bad boy’ Josh?

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If there was ever a moment for Seafood King Josh to plunge the filleting knife deep into the chests of nemeses Court and Duncan, it should have been tonight. But in a surprise turnaround for the almost absent “bad boy” of Broome, he proved a worthy and generous dinner companion.
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Everyone had high expectations of the Melbourne hipsters’ ultimate restaurant, Gastro Turf, especially Della and Tully. “I think we’re definitely going to see triple digits tonight,” says Tully. “I think they’re definitely going to finish on top,” agrees Della.

The pair are cooking at Court’s parents’ place in the Yarra Valley because they can’t fit everyone in their Richmond apartment. They seem slightly rattled at having to drive further to pick up their ingredients, however their menu is trendy and confident. Entree 1: Venison, smoked labne and blueberries. Entree 2: Snapper, asparagus and mussel butter.Main 1: Chicken, cauliflower rice and carrots. Main 2: Pepper berry kangaroo, with eggplant and spinach.Dessert 1: Goat’s cheese profiterole with thyme and honey. Dessert 2: Whiskey sour.

When the guests arrive, Court hugs everyone but Josh, who she tells can “come on through”.

Court: “I don’t feel like I really need to give Josh a big ol’ hug. I’m not about to fake some kind of embrace that I would not like to have,” she said. “I think it’s a mutual agreement,” laughed off Josh, who almost said more but decided not to.

“Going back to Gastro Turf I feel like it’s a lot better the second time ’round, just looking at the space, it just looks more like an art gallery instead of a trashy alley way.” Even Amy leads to the cheers to Court and Duncan’s restaurant. What are they up to?

On seeing the couple’s menu, the leaderboard’s rop dog Valarie fears the worst: “I hate to admit but I think they are going to pip us to the post tonight, dammit.”

“There is no way that these guys are going to be behind you, like you’ll still be at the bottom of the leaderboard, guaranteed,” Josh cockily delivers to crestfallen Mark and Chris, which would come as a huge surprise to Courts had she been present since she believes “Josh thinks we should go home”.

“Obviously the Seafood King has a strong opinion on that, but I think we have more of a chance than he’s giving us,” says Chris to the cameras. “Exactly, keep your opinions to yourself,” Mark privately retorts.

The entrees go really well and they score a perfect 10 from Pete Evans for the “bold and beautiful” venison, which Della and Tully “couldn’t fault”.

But if someone could find fault, surely it would be Josh. “Every so often I just grit my teeth together, I don’t know what it is. Initially I thought it was part of the venison part of the bone or something, there’s all these little blackberry seeds.” Welcome back, Josh.

“I’m not nit picking,” he tells the table, to unimpressed commentary by Betty (“hashtag nit picking”) – who he has been clashing with the most over critiques of late. “It’s just the blackberry seed, like as I’m actually eating it just kinda crunch and it just stops you enjoying your meal, it kinda puts the brakes on.” Nitpicking much Josh?#MKR#Josh#Nitpickingpic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/pHIboLSqFN??? #MKR (@mykitchenrules) April 4, 2017It’s a problem when all your guests fall asleep at the table #MKR#CourtDuncanpic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/TOyHHdvUdb??? #MKR (@mykitchenrules) April 4, 2017 Continue reading

Cromwell lobs $3b bid for Investa Office Fund

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Cromwell Corporation has ended months of speculation by making an after-market close unsolicited, indicative, non-binding proposal for Investa Office Fund, valuing it about $3 billion.
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It comes as the Investa Listed Funds Management Limited independent directors are also in negotiations to acquire a 50 per cent stake in another related entity, Investa Office Management, along with the Investa Commercial Property Fund.

Cromwell bought its current 9.83 per cent stake in April 2016, which thwarted rival bidder Dexus, which itself made a cash offer for IOF in November 2015. Dexus’ cash offer went nowhere as a result.

It has been one the longest-running battles for control of a large asset fund in the real estate investment trust sector.

Under the proposal, Cromwell has offered a cash price of $4.85 per IOF unit, which is inclusive of (and on Cromwell’s assumption) an anticipated distribution of 10?? per IOF unit for the half year period ending June 30, 2017.

The proposal is subject to a number of conditions including undertaking due diligence.

The receipt of the proposal follows discussions with Cromwell, led by chief executive Paul Weightman, since November 2016.

The IOF independent directors have not yet formed a view on the merits of the proposed takeover.

IOF has one of the more enviable office portfolios, valued at about $4 billion, in the country, including towers at 126 Phillip Street and 420 George Street in Sydney and 567 Collins Street, Melbourne. They also own an office at 259 Queen Street in Brisbane.

According to CLSA analysts, “while we consider Investa a good office manager, we have reservations about the independence of Investa Listed Funds Management Limited board, in our view of the need to maintain funds under management across the platform, but hold judgment until we see the IOF’s final proposal”.

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Calombaris pay scandal tests business relationship

The underpayment of $2.6 million in wages by celebrity chef George Calombaris’??? company has caused major ructions with his new business partner, Radek Sali???, who could be forced to bail out the embattled hospitality empire.
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Mr Sali, the former chief executive of Swisse vitamins, took a 33 per cent stake in Calombaris’ company Made Establishment last year, valuing the restaurant group at $20 million.

Mr Sali and his co-investors said they were “prepared for a few potholes in the books” when they invested, but they were not made aware that up to 200 staff had been underpaid for up to six years. It is also understood that financial information provided to Mr Sali’s advisers last year, when they undertook due diligence on Calombaris’ businesses, may have overstated the performance of the Jimmy Grants chain. iFrameResize({resizedCallback : function(messageData){}},’#pez_iframe_268′);

“This was a business that had its issues when we bought in, but that is what we look for as an investment,” Mr Sali said.

Mr Sali admitted that events of the past few days would test his relationship with his business partners, including the MasterChef host.

“I have spoken to George three times today,” Mr Sali said.

“Look, my business partners, including George [Calombaris], have been saying how great it is we have gone into business together. I have reminded them all along that in business life can get challenging, and that will be the test of our relationship. Well, life very quickly became challenging.”

With an estimated personal fortune of $400 million, Mr Sali had forecast the rapid expansion of Jimmy Grants when he became chairman of Made Establishment last year. iFrameResize({resizedCallback : function(messageData){}},’#pez_iframe_268′);

He conceded that the underpayment of staff would have a major financial impact on the company.

“This will be paid for out of cashflow,” he said.

That process could take 12 months, and according to Mr Sali, “I would suggest we won’t be paying any dividends in that time.”

About 50 former staff from Calombaris’ stable of restaurants, which includes The Press Club, Gazi and Hellenic Republic, are understood to have made contact on Tuesday following widespread media coverage.

The MasterChef judge said he was “devastated” by the blunder, which will see affected employees back-paid an average of just over $16,000 each.

“I am so sorry we have messed up and let you down on a fundamental, which is to ensure our people are paid what they are entitled to,” Calombaris said in an email to staff on April 3.

A number of Calombaris’ former business partners refused to comment when contacted by Fairfax Media.

However, one individual, who has knowledge of the Made Establishment accounts, said he believed the cost of the underpayment of staff would exceed $2.6 million.

“The truth is, it will cost a lot more,” Fairfax Media was told.

“You have superannuation, payroll tax, BAS, the cost of hiring KPMG to do the review, and the cost of spin doctors. All up, that’s $4 million before you have to pay a fine to Fair Work.”

A spokeswoman for the Fair Work Ombudsman refused to answer questions about the size of fines that could potentially be imposed on Calombaris, or why it had not launched an investigation when concerns were first raised 18 months ago.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman is currently working through the issues we first identified and raised with the business in 2015 to ensure compliance has been achieved,” a spokeswoman said.

“As this remains an ongoing operational matter we cannot make further comment at this stage.”

In 2014, Fairfax Media revealed Calombaris’ empire faced a major financial overhaul amid mounting debts and the closure of a string of high-profile restaurants.

In a bid to raise cash, Calombaris and his partners in Made Establishment sold off the buildings that housed some of their signature restaurants, including the premises of East Brunswick institution Hellenic Republic.

At the time, Calombaris denied the company was in trouble, saying the group was revamping its business plan in a bid to go back to its roots.

“There’s not one hospitality operator out there doing cartwheels right now,” he said. “We’ve made a few mistakes but we’ve have some real successes too.”

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Exploitation grows from ethical issue to investment risk

ATKIN Tuesday May 2, 2006. AFR Photograph by Glenn Hunt Ph. 0416258914 DAVID ATKIN- JUST super. SPECIALX 00050166 Photo: Glenn HuntIt is little wonder employees, investors and consumers have hit zero tolerance on wage fraud issues.
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With convenience store giant 7-Eleven so far forking out $83 million in compensation to thousands of employees and Domino’s embroiled in wage fraud allegations, along with Caltex, it is little wonder worker exploitation has moved from being an ethical issue to an investment risk.

The spectre of tough new laws, beefed up penalties and the heightening interest of short sellers has made a lot of companies – and industries – nervous.

Not surprisingly, it has prompted a number of super funds to raise concerns with fund managers that invest their members’ money in companies that have been caught up in underpayment scandals.

The latest is Cbus, which has 740,000 members and manages $36 billion of members’ money. Fairfax can reveal Cbus wrote to a number of fund managers that manage some of their funds under management to look deeper.

Cbus’ David Atkin told Fairfax Cbus requires its active investment managers to “fully incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations in their investment processes”.

In relation to Domino’s, Atkin said Cbus continued to engage with its fund managers and the company on the issues and the approach it was taking to seek to address them. “We have also written to all active equities managers acting on behalf of Cbus … to request that they satisfy themselves that appropriate sustainability mechanisms are in place across franchise-model companies in which they invest,” he said.

Cbus follows First Super, which wrote to Perpetual, IFM, Allan Gray and Eley Griffiths Group, questioning Domino’s business model.

First Super told the fund managers: “We are now very concerned about the sustainability of franchisee businesses, the implications for their staff and contractors, and what this means for investment risk.”

Domino’s Pizza Enterprises, which was found to have rampant underpayment issues across its franchise network, has become one of the top 10 most heavily shorted stocks on the ASX.

The growing concern of companies being exposed to worker exploitation has created a booming business for consultancy groups such as PPB Advisory.

PPB recently appointed Siobhan Hennessy, a partner at Deloitte, to join its ranks. Hennessy played a key role in 7-Eleven’s compensation schemes, which so far have paid back $83 million to more than 2000 underpaid workers.

In a client newsletter to be released this week, titled Scrutiny of Domino’s highlights how investors are moving towards zero tolerance on labour market indiscretions, PPB says has moved into a new era of ethical investing where risk management is imperative. “It is not enough for a company to deliver good economic returns and not be sinful,” it says.

“Unfortunately for any organisation dealing with public scrutiny over its business practices, the court of public opinion is likely to influence investors, particularly if the organisation is slow to respond to allegations, or is not willing or unable to be transparent around its activities.”

It gives a warts-and-all account of what can happen if a company gets caught up in a wage fraud scandal: possible legal action, investigations by the ATO, ASIC and the Fair Work Ombudsman, fines, compensation and untold reputational damage.

It advises companies to undertake a risk assessment of their labour force, subcontractors or franchisees to ensure there is no wrongdoing. It also suggests the introduction of a compliance program that reviews and tests the various employment terms of subcontractors, labour hire firms and franchisees.

The newsletter is written against the backdrop of imminent changes to the law and higher penalties, which will make it increasingly difficult for companies to turn a blind eye to wages fraud in their supply chain. iFrameResize({resizedCallback : function(messageData){}},’#pez_iframePizzaPointer’);

On March 1 the Turnbull government introduced the Protecting Vulnerable Workers Bill, which proposes new penalties and laws to make franchisors and holding companies on the hook for workplace abuses if they have significant control or influence on the franchisee.

The legislation was listed on March 20 but quietly taken off the program last week with two other Fair Work Bills listed in its place.

But the public appetite – and investor concern – is there. While the bill is unlikely to be listed at the next sitting of Parliament, due to the federal budget, it can’t be far away.

The Opposition, particularly the shadow minister for employment and workplace relations, Brendan O’Connor, has made it clear he is determined to keep up the pressure. “ns have a right to know where this promised legislation has disappeared to,” he told Fairfax. Indeed.

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