Illegal dumping investigator Craig Izzard denies bribery allegations at ICAC inquiry

Craig Izzard after appearing at the ICAC inquiry on Thursday. Photo: Peter RaeA former illegal dumping investigator told a corruption inquiry he was “surprised” to learn more than 200 tonnes of asbestos-contaminated waste had been dumped at a western Sydney property he was allegedly responsible for investigating.

Craig Izzard, a former rugby league player for the Penrith Panthers and Parramatta Eels, endured a day of rigorous questioning at the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Friday over his alleged involvement in “black market” dumping operations last year.

Mr Izzard maintained he had done nothing improper, as counsel assisting the commission James Mack guided him point-by-point through his employment code of conduct for the Western Sydney Regional Illegal Dumping Squad (RID).

“Is it your evidence that, while employed in the Western Sydney RID, you always acted honestly?” Mr Mack inquired

“I would say so, yes,” Mr Izzard replied.

Mr Izzard is the principal person of interest in four allegations of corrupt conduct, including three times last year when he allegedly solicited bribes from people in exchange for not investigating their dumping activity.

Among the allegations, Mr Izzard is accused of soliciting a bribe from Reuben Matthews in exchange for turning a blind eye to dumping at his property in Willowdene Avenue, Luddenham.

But Mr Izzard said he had no involvement in investigating the site, despite email evidence showing he was asked by Liverpool Council to investigate dumping complaints in November 2014.

He told the commission he had been “surprised” to learn that more than 200 tonnes of waste was later dumped at the site and tests revealed it was contaminated with asbestos.

Matthews was later convicted of dumping offences and fined $55,000. Another man, Nosir Kabite, was fined $25,000 after pleading guilty to transporting the waste to the property.

Earlier in the week, Mr Mack extracted an admission from Mr Kabite that he and Mr Izzard had an understanding that involved the exchange of “favours”.

After numerous recordings of phone calls between Mr Kabite and Mr Izzard were played before the inquiry, Mr Kabite admitted the pair used the code word “drinks” when discussing bribes.

“Mr Izzard frequently asked you for drinks, and by drinks he meant bribes, and it was your job to go out and get Mr Izzard a drink? Do you agree with me?” Mr Mack asked Mr Kabite.

“Yes,” he replied.

Mr Kabite said he gave Mr Izzard money on “two or three occasions”, and each payment was between $500 and $700.

However, Mr Izzard maintained the payments were in connection with an unrelated energy business he owned, whereby Mr Kabite would sell refrigeration units for him.

He also denied attempting to solicit a bribe from another man, Antonio Barillaro, in connection with alleged illegal dumping at a property in Badgerys Creek, telling the inquiry he’d never heard of someone by that name.

The commission also heard Mr Izzard regularly advised Mr Kabite over his council-related dilemmas, including one time when he suggested Mr Kabite’s nephew could attempt to avoid a dumping-related fine by pretending someone else was responsible.

When asked by assistant commissioner Reginald Blanch if he realised he was advising someone to pervert the course of justice, he replied: “I think it was, I probably didn’t [think] about it, Mr Commissioner.”

Mr Izzard will continue giving evidence to the inquiry on Monday.

North shore offices are back in the spotlight

The north shore in Sydney is returning to its former self as more office towers are being constructed to satisfy the demand of the expanding commerce industries.

Having gone through tough times when office vacancy reached heady levels of about 20 per cent, the area was turned into a residential zone.

But with significant stock withdrawals and rising rents in Sydney’s central business district, the demand for office accommodation across the north shore is expected to rise substantially, according to Knight Frank’s managing director, North Sydney, Angus Klem​.

He said North Sydney is now “well and truly an adjunct to the Sydney CBD”.

“Over the next two years significant stock withdrawals in the CBD will see an exodus of tenants to North Sydney and the other north shore markets,” Mr Klem said.

There is also the planned state metro line that has led the state government to buy up properties in North Sydney, which has led to a tightening of stock.

Knight Frank’s Giuseppe Ruberto​, director of office leasing, north shore, said a number of tenants were opting away from the CBD due to cost and the limited options available. He said instead tenants were choosing to operate within the north shore with North Sydney expected to be a big winner over the next 24 months.

“Effective secondary rents in the CBD core have risen by over 20 per cent in the last 12 months, with rents now sitting over $900 per square metre gross in some locations, so it is no surprise tenants are now considering other options. Recently we have seen tenants, including BT Australasia and Chubb Insurance, committing to North Sydney from the CBD,” Mr Ruberto said.

He said the lack of prime space in North Sydney was an issue of the past with 101 Miller Street as the only premium building available and experiencing strong leasing success with a number of floors leased, highlighting the demand for quality assets.

Another development is by DEXUS Property Group at 100 Mount Street,  North Sydney. The group has appointed JLL national head of leasing, Tim O’Connor, and JLL head of office leasing North Sydney, Paul Lynch, to partner with DEXUS’ leasing team, headed by Chris Hynes, on the project’s leasing.

DEXUS executive general manager of office and industrial, Kevin George, said the group had received some strong inquiries to lease the office space since it had agreed to buy 100 Mount Street. “Now that we have settled on the acquisition, we can progress leasing discussions,” Mr George said.

Knight Frank’s Tyler Talbot, director, institutional sales, North Sydney, said north shore investment activity had been strong over the past 12 months and this was expected to continue with high demand from both domestic and offshore groups.

“Limited quality stock, falling interest rates and the real prospect of significant rental growth has been driving down yields,” Mr Talbot said.

Knight Frank’s latest research report, the North Shore Office Market Overview: August 2016 found about 80,000 square metres of office stock has been earmarked for permanent withdrawal from the North Sydney market over the next four years.

According to Knight Frank’s Alex Pham, senior research manager, NSW, the significant withdrawal of stock saw the North Sydney vacancy rate dipping to its lowest level in four years at 7 per cent in July 2016.

Hotels sector braces for busy times ahead

The Novotel Darling Harbour was the first Accor hotel in Australia. Accor has grown to 208 hotels across the country.There are three mega trends that are being felt in the hotel sector and operators are taking up the challenge, says AccorHotel’s Asia Pacific chief executive Michael Issenberg.

Speaking in Sydney for AccorHotel’s 25th anniversary in Australia, Mr Issenberg said hotels had a new “dream phase” where the “before and after” experiences at a hotel had changed the sector dramatically.

AccorHotels arrived in Australia with the launch of the Novotel at Darling Harbour and now has 208 hotels under 12 brands across the country. It will expand with its latest $3.9 billion purchase of the Fairmont, Swissotel and Raffles hotel.

But Mr Issenberg said amid the new sharing economy and guests’ ability to plan and book a hotel room by themselves, and where every experience is put online immediately, its still old-fashioned service during the stay that remains the constant focus of hotel operators.

“Travel is now about the time it takes to plan and then book a holiday and select the appropriate hotel, which we call the dream phase, but once the guest arrives it’s back to offering the best service we can to make the stay enjoyable,” Mr Issenberg said.

“Everything has changed with technology and the sharing generation, so service is the differential for hotel operators.”

He said now that most people bring their own electronic devices and download movies, demand for cable TV in a room has diminished, but demand has risen for better Wi-Fi and technology outlets.

Mr Issenberg said the sector’s mega trends are the inflow of Asian travellers, the increased use of private stay accommodation, such as the group’s Onefinestay​ business, and the new sharing economy, which is not just the domain of the so-called millennials but where visitors like interacting in more relaxed lobbies and common areas.

“The growth of visitors from Asia is an important mega trend that is changing the hotel and tourism sector,” he said. “That includes having dual-speaking staff and different and more varied food, among many other services.”

This comes as the sector is bracing for an inflow of visitors for events that are now booked at the new International Convention Centre, which has been rebuilt in Sydney and opens later this year.

According to ICC Sydney, there are already more than 100 events booked and it expects to generate at least $200 million a year in economic benefits for NSW. Given the time and distance of travelling to Australia, it is expected that some guests will stay and see more of the country, which will benefit other states.

Business Events Sydney has booked 43 events to be hosted at UCC Sydney, of which 39 are international, which is its core focus.

Lyn Lewis-Smith, chief executive of Business Events Sydney, said of this pipeline 17 events will be hosted  next year, although she expects this to keep increasing over the next 12 months,

Ms Lewis-Smith said international conference delegates spend up to 6.5 times more than a regular tourist, so this super high yield traveller is the NSW government’s focus.

The chief executive and founder of Ovolo Hotels, Girish Jhunjhnuwala, said Sydney was the gateway to Australia for travellers around the world. And the opening of ICC Sydney will definitely further strengthen Sydney’s position in conventions, exhibitions and entertainment segments by attracting more international business travellers to the city.

“Hotel room demand is already at an all-time high in the city, and with the ICC’s opening, it’s going to likely accelerate rate increases, which is sure to benefit hotels in Sydney,” Mr Jhunjhnuwala said. “Overall room quality, however, continues to be a big issue, as there are limited new hotel openings and the majority of the city’s hotel room inventory is old and tired. Ovolo is well positioned with recently refurbished hotels in Darling Harbour and Woolloomooloo.”

Labor romps home in council elections at Lake Macquarie and Cessnock

TRIUMPHANT: Incoming Labor Mayor of Lake Macquarie Kay Fraser, centre, with supporters at Windale on Saturday night. Labor is expected to hold the balance of power in at least two Hunter councils after strong swings towards the party in Saturday’s local government elections.

“Labor is back and we’re back for good,” said councillor and incoming Mayor of Lake Macquarie Kay Fraser, as she delivered her victory speech to a crowd of about 60 party faithfulat the Windale Gateshead Bowling Club.

“Its been a bit of a hard slog, we all know it was a difficult pre-selection and we’ve had to work extremely hard…but we’ve had a 12 per cent swing and we are back.”

Midway through thecount of first preferencevotes on Saturday night there was also an 18 per cent swing towards Labor in its Cessnock heartland, with incumbent Country Labor mayor Bob Pynsent all but certain of retaining power.

The party also expectedto secure two extra seats on the council.“We’ve had fantastic support from the community,” Cr Pynsentsaid.

Labor insiders suggestedsome of the state government’spolicies had been on the nose with voters in the lead up to the poll, including the greyhound racing ban and council amalgamations.

Lake Macquarie Liberal councillor Jason Pauling admitted both those issues had been raised by voters on the campaign trail.

“But I think clearlythe most prevalent thing is thereis a predisposition to Labor in this area, that is no surprise,” he said.

“For many decades it has been very heavily dominated by Labor and this is a Labor town.”

Cr Pauling said his party expected to again have three councillors on Lake Macquarie council, but with two new faces –Nick Jones in the East Ward and Kevin Baker in the North Ward.

”We’re pretty chuffed and we didn’t expect much more than that. Anything beyond that would have been a dream,” he said.

“From what we can see, particularly the independent Lake Alliance appears to have taken a bit of a pounding.”

He said he was “deeply disappointed” that Cr Fraser had castigated him for a negative campaign style in her victory speech.

“From our perspective, the Liberals ran a very positive message,” he said.

“I will highlightthat ALP heavyweights attacked all three of our candidates who have ultimately been elected.”

In the speech, Cr Fraserthanked her husband and sons Pete and Steve for their support andaccused Cr Pauling of running a “disgraceful” campaign by sending text messages to ratepayers saying Labor wanted to take away their weekly garbage bin collection.

She said the independents –including Cr Laurie Coghlan –had tried to run on the “coat tails” of the old Lake Alliance whileLabor had run a positive, grass-roots campaign.

“We’ve been getting upand going to train stations every morning –freezing –door knocking, letter-boxing, going to the markets, we have been working extremely hard.”

Cr Fraser was “elated” that she willbecome the second female mayor of Lake Macquarie when she takes over from MPJodie Harrison.

“Ithink as a female to run the council is really an honour and a privilege and Ithink we bring other values to that position as well,” Cr Frasersaid.

Tennis: Wally Masur, Ken Willis and Keith Carnall headline Tennis ACT Walk of Fame

Wally Masur in action against Boris Becker at the 1987 Australian Open at Kooyong in Melbourne.Wally Masur joked that being included in Tennis ACT’s Walk of Fame just means he’s old.

Masur headlines a trio of Canberra tennis legends inducted into Tennis ACT’s Walk of Fame alongside Ken Willis and the late Keith Carnall.

The three will be honoured with inscribed pavers at the entrance to the Canberra Tennis Centre – a facility Masur believes could hold major events in the coming years.

“[Keith Carnall] is no longer with us so maybe it’s a sign that I’m on the wrong side of 50,” Masur said.

“It’s probably a coming of age for tennis, sport and the city of Canberra.

“I guess we’ve been on a bit of a journey, and that facility is absolutely world-class. A next-generation gym combined with the tennis centre and the indoor facility is just fantastic.

“That’s what tennis needs in this country, and the nation’s capital deserves a centre of that magnitude to hold events. I suppose the Walk of Fame is something for Tennis ACT to showcase some of the people that have been involved in the sport, different facets of the sport, and tie it in with this brand new centre.”

The recognition allowed 53-year-old Masur a moment of reflection on his days as a youngster looking to make a mark in the game.

“It’s always been a pretty vibrant tennis scene in Canberra,” Masur said.

“I was fortunate as a junior that the tennis scene – the A-grade scene and the junior scene – in Canberra at the time in the ’70s was very strong, and I was lucky to be a part of that.

“That was reflected around the country – tennis was pretty popular. Canberra was like a big country town at the time, it was was easy to get around, plenty of competition and I was pretty fortunate.”

Tennis ACT chief executive Ross Triffitt believes finding three candidates from vastly different eras is a nod to Canberra’s lengthy production line.

“They’re all outstanding candidates,” Triffitt said.

“It’s an exciting time and it’s probably a good time to ensure that we capture the history. Hopefully moving forward there’s going to be a great chapter with a great venue, boost in participation, and amazing individual performances.

“Some of our players are doing great things, so it’s certainly a great time to ensure that we’re capturing great things that happened in the past, and it looks very bright in the future.”

The Mail: Palentino leads the way for Weir quinella in Makybe Diva

The Darren Weir juggernaut continues to roll on, the champion trainer landing a one-two in the Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington to make it two out of two for the stable in group 1 races run in Victoria so far this season

But the result was not quite what most punters expected, as Weir’s four-year-old Palentino, a $9 shot, got the better of the red-hot favourite ($2.05) Black Heart Bart.

The pair fought an enthralling duel through the final 200 metres of the long Flemington straight, the younger colt getting the better of the older gelding to score by a length. The David Hayes-trained $13 shot He Or She, partnered by Craig Williams, ran right up to his best to take third place, two lengths adrift.

Now the Cox Plate is very much on Palentino’s agenda.

“I was a little worried about him in the yard, but when he jumped he probably got a pair further back than we were expecting, but he was settled and he was just going through the motions. He got a beautiful ride, and even when he got to the outside of him [Black Heart Bart] I didn’t know if he would get past him, but I thought he would test him,” Weir said.

“He was always going to be a little bit vulnerable in those first couple of runs, but he’s come on and got the job done today. This is the race he was aimed towards, and if he measured up he will obviously head towards the Cox Plate. We will have to map out a plan for that now.”


Tim Martin can’t remember his last city double, “it was probably three years ago – more maybe” but Moral Victory and Heavens Above announced the talented trainer is back. Heavens Above, runner-up in the the Queen Of The Turf during The Championships, dropped back to 1200m second-up and took out the Sheraco Stakes.

“She is just a good mare and when she finally got clear she really hit the line,” Martin said. “We know she is only going to get better as they step out in distance and I can’t wait to get her to another group 1 mile. She will go to the Golden Pendant, then hopefully back up in the Epsom and Melbourne is there for her as well.”

Tye Angland had to wait for the run to come on Heavens Above but she charged late to win by a head from Ravi, with Magic Alibi a neck back third in a blanket finish. Earlier, Clare Nutman had got Moral Victory to win first-up for Martin.


Sydney three-year-olds Detective and Kentucky Miss proved too good for their Melbourne rivals at listed level at Flemington on Saturday.

Joe Pride took Kentucky Miss to Melbourne and got some black type and might spell her and look at a race like the Galaxy in the autumn.

“Thrown in with no weight on her back, I think she could measure up,” Pride said. “It’s a handicap and it’s a good race for fillies if they’re smart. That’s why I’ll be mindful of where I place her in the spring.”

A race later Detective led home a Sydney quinella, beating Tessera for a black-type success, which could have him targeting the Caulfield Guineas.

“He just kept running second no matter where I took him [as a two-year-old],” co-trainer Peter Snowden said. “Those seconds have become wins now. It’s two for two this preparation. It’s good to see him show a bit of fight, he was well-ridden and it was good to see him get a win.”

Racing: Saracino Stakes his spring claim, but Baker unsure of his best trip

Flemington’s famous “straight six” can be a trap for inexperienced youngsters used to running around a bend and taking a lead from a rail.

Kiwi trainer Murray Baker was concerned that his progressive three-year-old Saracino might struggle to adapt to the contours of the straight 1200 metres at headquarters, a course and distance not encountered anywhere else in Australia.

The wily horseman hoped that his New Zealand raider might find cover to tow him into the race, at least past the crossing where the straight course meets the round circuit for the last 600 metres.

He admitted after the $6 shot had shown plenty of fight to virtually lead all the way in the group 2 Danehill Stakes that he had been worried when he had jumped in a prominent position, particularly given his tendency as a two-year-old to idle when he hit the front.

But any concerns would have been shortlived as Saracino, under Damien Oliver, saw off all challengers to score  by a long neck  from the Godolphin-owned Archives ($6.50) , who had also  been in the vanguard throughout, with  filly Samara Dancer ($11), from the Adelaide stable of Phillip Stokes running on for  third.

Baker is not sure whether Saracino will stay the 1600 metres of the Caulfield Guineas, but he is unlikely to die wondering as the horse’s next target will be the 1400-metre Guineas Prelude at Caulfield in a fortnight.

Should he come through that and look as though the Guineas distance will be no problem he will probably head for the group 1 classic.

“I thought it was a very brave effort, he was in front a long way out,” Baker said. “We were going to probably try and ride him off the pace today to get him over the junction, but he was in front, he kept kicking all the way up the straight.

“You’d like to think he could make the Caulfield Guineas. Who knows, he might not be a miler more a sprinter. But there are plenty of options open for him if he’s not going to get the mile.”

The Caulfield classic could also be the target for Peter Snowden’s improving colt Detective, who took out the listed Starlight Express Room Stakes over 1400 metres under Chris Parnham, winning at his first ride for the Sydney yard.

“He’s getting further up the pecking order [in the Snowden stable], the trainer said.  “This preparation I first wanted to win a race with him. He did that at Wyong and today he stepped up in class and won with authority.

“Whether he is a Guineas horse I am not sure, but he’s in it and we will keep heading that path and see what happens.”

It’s not often that horses start at $201 in a metropolitan race, and even rarer that they make the frame – especially on debut in a listed contest.

But young  Japanese trainer Yoshitomo Shima, who is based at Ballarat, managed to almost pull off a massive shock with his filly Beyond The Dream, who beat all bar the  favourite Kentucky Miss in the Cap D’Antibes Stakes.

Shima has hardly had any runners and is little known, as was the filly’s jockey, Sydney-based Yusuke Ichikawa. The trifecta on the race paid over $8000, while the first four, not surprisingly, jackpotted at over $88,000.

Postie Bike Nationals held in Maitland

Postie Bike Nationals | Photos Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Picture: Nick Bielby

Picture: Nick Bielby

Picture: Nick Bielby

Picture: Nick Bielby

Picture: Nick Bielby

Picture: Nick Bielby

Picture: Nick Bielby

Picture: Nick Bielby


Ken LongworthShrek: The Musical Jr

THE number seven has been very important in the lives of two of the main characters in Shrek: The Musical Jr – the title ogre and a princess.

Shrek was sent away by his parents on his seventh birthday after being told he was old enough to find his own way in the world.

And Fiona was imprisoned in a tower when she was seven and has remained there because a dragon drives away knights who try to rescue her.

The two discover that they share more than a dislike of the number seven when circumstances lead them to meet in this colourful story.

The animated musical film Shrek was a worldwide hit when released in 2001 and was adapted for the stage in 2008.

The success of that show led to it being further adapted in 2014 to a 70-minute junior version for young performers.

Hunter Drama is staging Shrek: The Musical Jr with a predominantly teenage cast of 56 as a school holiday attraction at Newcastle’s Civic Theatre. There will be six performances over three days from September 29.

As well as an ogre, a princess and a dragon, the story includes many fairytale characters, including Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs, the Big Bad Wolf, the Wicked Witch, Peter Pan, the Ugly Duckling, the Mad Hatter, Humpty Dumpty, a shoemaker’s elf and two bears.

The fairytale characters are ordered by a huge dwarf, Lord Farquaad, to leave the area around the royal palace and live in a swamp that has been Shrek’s home since his parents sent him away.

With the help of a friendly Donkey, Shrek heads to the royal palace to confront Lord Farquaad, who plans to become the country’s king, and meets Princess Fiona along the way.

The pair share some of the bright songs by David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tersori.

Tom Rodgers, who plays Shrek, said he had added a human side to the ogre so that he is more than a cartoon character.

He’s also had the tricky task of learning to walk normally while fitted with the ogre’s big stomach.

Phoebe Bayliss and Maisie Owens, who are alternating as Fiona, see her as more feisty than a typical Disney princess because she has been locked in the tower for so long.

Charlie O’Connell, as the Donkey, has a lot of energy, but also wants attention from those he meets.

And Rory Pollock, the tale’s Lord Farquaad, said he sees himself as the next big thing, in more ways than one.

Shrek: The Musical Jr, directed by Daniel Stoddart, has shows at the Civic on Thursday, September 29, at 10.30am and 2pm, and on Friday, September 30, and Saturday, October 1, at 2pm and 7pm. Tickets: $40 to $55. Bookings: 4929 1977.

A ‘HUMAN SIDE’: Tom Rogers as Shrek and Charlie O’Connell as his friend Donkey. Picture: MARINA NEIL

Going cashless? ‘Curse of Cash’ author Kenneth Rogoff says we have more of it than ever

In circulation. Photo: Image ForumWhat with myki cards, Opal cards, e-TAGs, epay, payWave, bitcoin and mobile phones, we’re using less cash than ever, right? Not on your life.

The latest Reserve Bank figures show there were seven $5 notes per person in circulation in 2015, well up from five per person ten years earlier, and four 10 years before that.

(If those numbers seem small, but climbing, it’s because the same notes get used over and over. They are a bit like extras in a movie.)

We have around six $20 notes per person, close to a record high, and far more $50 notes than we used to (25 per person) because of their use in automatic teller machines. But it’s the use of $100 notes – the kind most of us hardly ever see, and the kind bank transfers should have rendered redundant – that is exploding.

Twenty years ago there were only five $100 notes per person in circulation. They were less common than $20 notes, which was appropriate given they were far less used. A decade later in 2005 after the introduction of the goods and services tax (the one we were told would kill the cash economy) we had seven per person, and now we have 12. A graph included in the latest Reserve Bank annual report shows the number of $100 notes in circulation climbing faster than any other denomination.

Note that I said “in circulation”. They are certainly not in day-to-day use. A few years back I was asked on ABC radio what colour they were. I had to guess, and I guessed wrong. Whereas the lobster-red $20 notes are always in and out of our purses and wallets and last about 12 years before being damaged and returned to the Reserve Bank, the Bank expects the typical $100 note to last 70 years. When they do come back they are often not even unbundled.

Who’s got them? According to The Curse of Cash released this week by influential US economist Kenneth Rogoff, they are mainly in the hands of drug lords, human traffickers and tax evaders. We are actually worse than the United States, according to Rogoff. Ninety-two per cent of our currency is in large denomination notes, compared to 84 per cent in the US. Only Switzerland, Israel, Norway and Russia use big notes more than we do.

Rogoff wants us to go “cashless”, at least for denominations above $10, and eventually he would turn the $10 note into a coin to make it harder to move around undetected. Phasing out high denomination notes would be painless, for those of us with nothing to hide. We would be invited to deposit them in banks in return for their full value up until a deadline, after which they would no longer be legal tender and worthless.

Naturally, there’s a catch. Our Reserve Bank, like the US Federal Reserve, makes money from issuing $100 notes. It’s conflicted, being in effect a silent partner in organised crime.

Peter Martin is economics editor of The Age 

What is so controversial about a climate ‘toolkit’?

Taking the toolkit approach. Photo: Gary MedlicottIn the topsy-turvy world of Australian politics, much of the environment movement is more attached to neo-liberalism than the Coalition government. While US President Barack Obama might have used air quality regulations and a moratorium on building new coal mines to get around a grumpy Congress, in Australia we are often told that only a “market-based mechanism” can be trusted to solve climate change. It can’t.

This week the Climate Change Authority, to which Tony Abbott appointed Wendy Craik (ex-head of the National Farmers Federation), Kate Carnell (ex-Liberal chief minister and ACCI head) and John Sharp (ex-National Party minister and current National Party Treasurer), released a report which it provocatively titled Towards a Climate Policy Toolkit; Special Review on Australia’s Climate Goals and Policies.

What on earth could be provocative about a “toolkit”, I hear you ask. Well, for those who have spent a decade arguing that an economy-wide emissions trading scheme linked to global carbon markets delivers “least cost abatement”, plenty.

The idea that an emissions trading scheme is the “one true climate policy” is one of the last vestiges of the Kevin Rudd era and the highfalutin rhetoric about “evidence-based policy” and great moral challenges. To be clear, an emissions trading scheme is neither sinner nor saint, it’s just a policy idea with a patchy theoretical and empirical track record. A well designed ETS might be capable of driving rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions at low cost, but we can’t say for sure because nowhere in the world has a well designed ETS been used to achieve such an outcome. But there are plenty of economists who aren’t worried about practice getting in the way of theory.

The CCA report is the last of three that were negotiated as part of Clive Palmer’s deal with Greg Hunt to pass his Direct Action legislation through the Senate. Not surprisingly, the CCA took as its starting point the climate legislation that currently exists and tried to build a bridge forward. While it might be possible to design a more elegant bridge by ignoring our inelegant starting point, such a design would be as irrelevant as it was well designed.

Big changes in policy impose significant transition costs on industry, consumers and the bureaucracy. Abbott’s determination to rip up the carbon price while retaining the expensive compensation was as costly as it was unnecessary. But the fact that the former prime minister was indifferent to the economic cost of his political symbolism is not a strong argument for why the current or future leaders should be similarly reckless.

Further, if the CCA did recommend the complete abolition of the Abbott government’s direct action scheme and its replacement with an emissions trading scheme along the lines of the one that cost Malcolm Turnbull the leadership in 2009, there would be zero chances of such a policy making it past the Liberal party room, let alone the Senate.

So what has the CCA recommended and why were its recommendations so controversial that two of its own board members have written a public critique?

In addition to straying from the “true path” of economy-wide emissions trading, the CCA has committed several other crimes against neo-liberalism. It proposes that good old- fashioned regulation is sometimes the most efficient way to solve a problem, it recommends that different sectors of the economy be treated differently (we used to call that “industry policy”), and that some industries be protected from unfair foreign competition (dare I say protectionism?).

Significantly, the diversity of mechanisms proposed by the CCA mirrors the diversity of challenges faced by Australian industry. As those who designed Rudd’s carbon pollution reduction scheme eventually discovered, the issues faced by the owners of rubbish dumps that leak methane are quite distinct from the problems faced by a chemical factory or a coal-fired power station.

One of the more novel proposals from the CCA is the creation of an “emissions intensity” trading scheme for Australian electricity generators as distinct from an emissions trading scheme for the whole economy. The differences between the two are both subtle and significant.

An economy-wide ETS sets an upper limit on the number of tonnes of pollution that can be released across the whole economy. In theory, companies need to buy a permit for each tonne of CO₂ they emit, but under Rudd’s CPRS, for example, big polluters were to be given 94.5 per cent of the permits they needed for free.

An EI scheme that covers only the electricity sector, on the other hand, doesn’t set a cap on the tonnes of pollution that can be emitted. Rather, it sets a cap on the tonnes of pollution per megawatt-hours of electricity produced. Confused? Don’t be. Just think about cars.

Imagine if the government set a cap for the average fuel efficiency of the car fleet owned by big Australian companies of 10 litres a 100 kilometres and legislated that the fuel efficiency standard would decline steadily to zero by 2040. If a company’s car fleet was using an average of 12 litres a 100 kilometres, the firm would either have to replace its thirstiest cars with more efficient ones or, buy “credits” from another company whose car fleet was averaging less than 10 litres a 100 kilometres. The only way for a company to meet a zero emissions target by 2040 would be to switch its whole fleet to electric cars.

This week, the CCA recommended that the emission intensity of the Australian electricity sector should fall to zero “well before 2050”. Put another way, the CCA recommended that all of Australia’s coal-fired and gas-fired power stations need to shut down and be replaced with 100 per cent renewable energy in the next 25 years. In the meantime, the CCA plan would require coal-fired power stations (which are already well above the proposed starting level of “emission intensity”) to buy credits (sound like a carbon price?) from low emission generators like solar and wind (sound like a subsidy?)

So if a Climate Change Authority with a majority of members appointed by Abbott is recommending a scheme that breaks with the tenets of neo-liberalism, supports a carbon price (by another name) and says we need to shut down all coal and gas-fired power stations “well before 2050”, why did some of the ALP appointees to the authority attack the integrity of both the report and their fellow commissioners?

Professor David Karoly and Clive Hamilton rightly argue that that government’s 26-28 per cent emission reduction target is inadequate if Australia is to pull its weight in global efforts to avoid dangerous climate change. They highlight that unless we take urgent action today, then we will use up so much of our “carbon budget” in the next few years that it will become nearly impossible to avoid blowing that budget in the future, and they are right.

The uncomfortable irony of the rejection of the CCA road map forward is, however, that if the current government doesn’t introduce an EI scheme in 2018, as the CCA recommends, then even more of the carbon budget will be used up in the next few years making it even harder to stay within the long-term carbon budget.

But, we are where we are. Australia has been dragging its feet on climate action for more than a quarter of a century. Neither Rudd’s 5 per cent emission reduction target for 2020, the current government’s 26-28 per cent target for 2030, or the CCA’s previous recommendation target for 40-60 per cent on 2000 levels by 2030 are consistent with a purely scientific approach to the problem. And, of course, neither major political party nor the CAA wants to discuss the fact that Australia sees building enormous new export coal mines as an essential part of our commitment to helping the world reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A significant majority of the CCA members believe that giving the Coalition a way out of the climate policy cul-de-sac it is in, is worth the effort. While the decision of some members to criticise the report has attracted a lot of attention, the important question is whether or not a majority of the Parliament will agree with the majority of the CCA and conclude that in this climate progress is more important than protest. Time will tell.

Richard Denniss is the chief economist for The Australia Institute.

Twitter: @RDNS_TAI

Bill Shorten to skip Parliament for date with Canada’s Justin Trudeau

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will co-host a session with Bill Shorten at the Global Progress conference in Montreal. Photo: Adrian WyldEXCLUSIVE

Just don’t ask Bill Shorten to explain quantum computing or perform any incredible feats of upper body strength.

After Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s week on the world stage it’s Mr Shorten’s turn: the opposition leader will skip two days of Parliament this week to rub shoulders with heartthrob Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, meet with officials in Washington DC and talk defence in Dallas.

Mr Shorten and Mr Trudeau will also co-host a session on the future of progressive politics at the Global Progress 2016 conference in Montreal. The Labor leader will no doubt be hoping some of Mr Trudeau’s star power rubs off.

Mr Trudeau is still riding high in the polls almost a year after he took power, unlike Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Shorten will also deliver a speech at the conference focused on equality and fairness.

“Fairness isn’t some warm and fuzzy feel-good notion to benefit some – it’s a driver of economic growth,” he told Fairfax Media.

“This is something conservatives just don’t get. Good social policy is not just about a strong safety net, and it’s not a matter of charity.

“It’s about investing in lifting people back into work, in supporting their full participation in our economy and our society.”

The conference is also expected to be attended by US Vice-President Joe Biden, Italian Prime Minister Matteo​ Renzi​ and senior leaders from Germany, the United Kingdom and South America.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt and other business and charity leaders will also attend. Mr Shorten will meet with a number of the leaders on the sidelines of the event before heading to the United States.

Mr Shorten will meet with officials in Washington DC, just two months out from the US election.

The Labor leader has been deeply and publicly critical of Republican candidate Donald Trump, calling him “barking mad”. However he’s likely to attempt a more diplomatic approach when he’s on US soil.

In Dallas, Mr Shorten will tour Lockheed Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter facility. Australia is buying 72 of the next-generation fighter jets at a cost of at least $17 billion.

Mr Turnbull benefited from his time abroad last week, attending the G20 in China, the East Asia Summit in Vientiane and the Pacific Islands Forum in Micronesia. The trip allowed him to escape the domestic fray where the government is under pressure to reform the political donations system.

Mr Shorten will be abroad for five days, returning next Sunday.

Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce at odds over new mining tax proposal

Barnaby Joyce, left, and Malcolm Turnbull appear to be divided over a proposed iron ore tax. Photo: Alex EllinghausenPrime Minister Malcolm Turnbull calls it “troubling” but his deputy Barnaby Joyce apparently doesn’t have a bad word to say about a West Australian plan for a new $7.2 billion mining tax.

Mr Turnbull and Mr Joyce appear to have split over WA Nationals leader Brendan Grylls’ proposed iron ore tax hike.

While Mr Joyce was a leading critic of federal Labor’s now-defunct mining tax and has close ties to mining magnate Gina Rinehart, he appears to have an open mind on Mr Grylls’ controversial plan.

“Minister Joyce said the proposal was a matter for the state government and he would not run down any proposal that was designed to get a better deal for its constituents,” said a spokesman for Mr Joyce, who is currently acting PM.

WA Labor opposes the plan, in a reversal of the political positions taken on Kevin Rudd’s mining tax in 2010.

The apparent split has been exposed by the West Australian newspaper. Miners BHP and Rio Tinto are said to be infuriated by the proposal that would increase from 25¢-a-tonne to $5-a-tonne the “production rent” on iron ore, bringing in an estimated $7.2 billion over four years.

Speaking in Laos this week Mr Turnbull told the newspaper that Mr Grylls’ plan could damage investment in WA.

“It obviously sends a very troubling message to mining companies and other people considering making long-term investment,” he said.

“It’s a state issue, of course, but we view with great concern, as does the whole business community, the imposition of substantially increased taxes on particular, nominated companies.”

Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan – a Nationals MP – has said he has “grave concerns” about the proposal.

Mr Joyce called Labor’s mining profits tax a “debacle” and a “shambles” and even criticised respected senior public servant Ken Henry for proposing it in his comprehensive tax reform review.