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Colleen Deborah Ayers strangled after threesome and drunken party, court hears

Victim: Colleen Deborah Ayers. Photo: Police Media The Lakesland property where the body of Colleen Deborah Ayers was found. Photo: Seven News
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Police at the Lakesland property where the body of Colleen Deborah Ayers was found. Photo: Seven News

Bryon and Judith Green were worried about their missing daughter for a week, unaware she was dead and buried on their farm.

The Greens were on an interstate holiday when they heard their property, in Lakesland, south of Sydney, had been ransacked.

When they returned in late May 2012, they reported their 33-year-old daughter Colleen Deborah Ayers missing.

The NSW Supreme Court on Wednesday heard that Ms Ayers invited a group of people back to the property on May 9, after a day of using drugs and having a threesome, and she was murdered during a sexual encounter with Micheal John Duffy.

Her body was found buried near a dam on May 31.

The jury has been told they will hear evidence that another woman, Rachael Margaret Evans, burst in on Mr Duffy and Ms Ayers as they had sex in a guest house on the property and started choking her with a leather belt.

Mr Duffy, 34, who has pleaded not guilty to murder, is accused of helping Evans strangle Ms Ayers before they robbed the Greens’ house late that night.

The jury has been told that Evans has pleaded guilty to Ms Ayers’ murder and will give evidence.

In her opening address, Crown prosecutor Elizabeth Wilkins, SC, said there would be evidence that Ms Ayers met Mr Duffy, Evans and another woman at a pub in Picton, before the group caught a train to Campbelltown and checked in to a hotel for the night.

Mr Duffy, Ms Ayers and Evans had sex, while another woman filmed them, and the group bought drugs to share in a Campbelltown park the next morning, Ms Wilkins said.

That evening the group, including two other men, caught a taxi to the Greens’ property, where they lit a bonfire, and started drinking in the guest house.

The jury was told of evidence that Evans became agitated when she could hear Mr Duffy and Ms Ayers having sex, and got a leather belt, saying: “I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it.”

“Rachael Evans will tell you that she did go in with a belt and she did put it around the deceased’s neck, with the intention of strangling,” Ms Wilkins said.

“But I expect she will tell you that the deceased struggled and bucked her off … and it was at that stage that the accused, Mr Duffy, intervened and also started strangling the deceased.”

Ms Wilkins said some of the group washed Ms Ayer’s body before burying her, destroying evidence, and robbing the Greens’ house.

The same taxi driver who dropped off the group picked them up the next morning, and asked them how their night was.

“[Rachael Evans] said ‘Yeah, it was great, very exhilarating,’ ” Ms Wilkins said.

Defence barrister James Trevallion told the jury it was Evans and a teenage girl, who cannot be identified, who killed Ms Ayers.

“The motive Rachael Evans had, I expect you’ll hear, is simply a twisted desire to kill somebody.”

Mr Trevallion said Evans and the girl agreed to blame Mr Duffy if they were questioned by police.

“It’s the defence case that this is what happened.”

Mr Trevallion said there was no issue that Mr Duffy helped bury the body, and stole some items from the Greens’ house.

The trial continues before Justice David Davies. 

Conservative columnist Katie Hopkins reported to police over asylum seeker views

The column in The Sun.’Tiny hearts and balls of steel’
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Controversial British columnist Katie Hopkins has been reported to police for allegedly inciting racial hatred in an article applauding Australia for threatening asylum seekers “with violence until they bugger off”.

In an article for The Sun comparing North African migrants to “cockroaches”, Katie Hopkins praises Australians for being like British people but with “balls of steel, can-do brains, tiny hearts and whacking great gunships”. Europe should adopt Australia’s turn-back-the-boats policy for migrants attempting to arrive from North Africa, she wrote.

On Monday, Hopkins and The Sun editor David Dinsmore were reported to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s Office over the article by the Society of Black Lawyers.

In the complaint, published by The Independent, Society of Black Lawyers chairman Peter Herbert described Hopkins’ comments as “some of the most offensive, xenophobic and racist comments I have read in a British newspaper for some years”.

Herbert said that Hopkins’ use of the term “cockroaches” echoed the use of the word to describe the Tutsi minority and Hutu moderates during the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

He wrote: “The Society of Black Lawyers (SBL) therefore requests that this matter is investigated as a matter of urgency under the Public Order Act 1986. I am aware that this section requires some intention but given the scale of the tragedy currently unfolding, the likelihood some of these migrants may already be in the UK having fled during previous  months or likely to land here in due course these comments can amount to incitement to racial hatred.

“We are in the process of writing formally to the International Criminal Court to petition for an investigation into these comments under the provisions of incitement to commit crimes against humanity.

“Given the huge circulation of these comments in The Sun and in the media generally, the propensity for racial violence against people of African descent in the UK is obvious. We request that these matters be investigated as a matter of urgency and the case file be passed to the [Crown Prosecution Service] for a decision to be made as to the merits of a prosecution.”

A petition calling for The Sun to sack Hopkins over the article has attracted over 200,000 signatures.

Around 1300 migrants are estimated to have died in less than a fortnight in the waters south of Sicily. On Monday European Union leaders announced that they would launch new military operations against people smuggling networks in Libya, including destroying ships, as well as expanding search-and-rescue patrols.

Follow us on Twitter  Australian Politics – Fairfax

Who hit this pup? Bashed dog found wandering in bushland

The Staffordshire terrier-cross puppy is in a critical condition. Photo: RSPCA NSWIt is hoped the distinctive markings on a puppy fighting for its life after another suspected act of animal cruelty will help authorities identify and locate its owner.
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The emaciated animal was found wandering around in bushland near Cessnock on Monday with a fractured skull, the Newcastle Herald reports.

The disturbing discovery comes only six weeks after nine of an 11-puppy litter of bull-terrier cross dogs were bashed to death by the side of the road at nearby Kurri Kurri.

RSPCA Northern Region team leader Scott Meyers said X-rays showed a number of injuries that suggest the dog, a male cross-bred Staffordshire terrier about 12 months old, was deliberately bashed in the head and dumped.

“The dog is emaciated, and I mean emaciated, and it has this really nasty injury to its skull, we are not sure if it will survive,” Inspector Meyers said.

The RSPCA was contacted at 8pm on Sunday after a member of the public saw the pup walking along the road on Gibsons Loop, which is in Werkata National Park, about 10km outside Cessnock.

“They tried to call him over to the car but they realised he needed more help,” RSPCA spokeswoman Jessica Conway said.

Efforts to find the dog failed due to the weather  but the search resumed on Monday and  the dog was found and  taken to the Rutherford hospital for urgent veterinary assistance.

“Trying to find a dog in scrub at night was pretty difficult,” Mr Meyers said.

“We went back this morning and found him about 50 metres down in the bush. He has no chip. I don’t think it has walked there, I believe it has been dumped there. The vet thinks the injury has been sustained in the last 24 hours. We don’t think it has been out in the bushland for very long.

“At the moment we are just pleading for information. If someone has seen it or knows of the dog … it’s a very distinctive looking dog, a white dog with two black patches on its eyes. It’s the kind of dog that you would have noticed. Hopefully someone will come forward with something.”

The RSPCA appealed for public information in March after a member of the public came across the “massacre” of  bull-terrier cross pups in bushland at Kurri Kurri.

The brutal deaths triggered an outpouring of emotion on social media, with police later charging Kurri Kurri man Nathan Thompson, 25, with a number of animal cruelty offences.

He has since been banned from having anything to do with animals for life after pleading guilty to 13 charges.

He will know his fate on May 4 when he returns to Newcastle Local Court for sentencing.

Please phone the animal cruelty line on 1300 278 3589 with any relevant information about the Staffordshire pup.

Newcastle Herald

Government takes aim at controversial WA Aboriginal corporation

Former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander regional commissioner Darren Farmer. Photo: Penny StephensThe federal government has asked a West Australian indigenous corporation to show cause why it should not be placed under special administration amid concerns about its handling of millions of dollars in mining company money.
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The Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations’ (ORIC) action comes after Fairfax Media last year exposed serious financial, conflict of interest and governance concerns affecting the Western Desert Lands Aboriginal Corporation (WDLAC), which is responsible for the interests of outback WA’s Martu.

WDLAC has received about $30 million from mining companies, including Rio Tinto and Reward Minerals, in return for its support for mining on Martu lands.

But little of the money has flowed to the wider Martu community, which largely remains mired in poverty. Instead, millions of dollars have gone towards the salaries and fees of WDLAC’s small staff, some directors and their families, as well as consultants.

A delegate of ORIC registrar Anthony Bevan on Tuesday wrote to WDLAC to invite the corporation to give reasons why it should not be under special administration.

“If I do this, your corporation will be run by a special administrator appointed by the Registrar. That person will have a broad range of powers over the affairs of your corporation,” the delegate wrote.

The show cause letter was sent after ORIC recently received the results of an external examination of WDLAC’s books by former Australian Securities and Investments Commission investigator Adrian Borchok.

ORIC has legislative power to appoint a special administrator in circumstances where a corporation has traded at a loss or where its officers have “acted in their own interests”.

ORIC’s intervention at WDLAC comes two weeks before Martu people will be asked to vote on the WDLAC board’s recommendation that an indigenous land use agreement with miner Newcrest Mining be granted.

As reported by Fairfax Media last year, some WDLAC meetings have erupted in violence between certain directors and Martu men.

Former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander regional commissioner Darren Farmer last year spoke out about his violent expulsion from WDLAC after challenging the board over its mining deals and handling of the millions of dollars in proceeds.

Mr Farmer on Wednesday said he was pleased by ORIC’s show cause notice to WDLAC and hoped it would lead to a clean out and restructure of the organisation.

“I got a beating. I got speared over that organisation,” Mr Farmer said.

Late last year, WDLAC advised its members that it could no longer provide financial help to communities or individuals because of a decline in mining activity on Martu lands.

WDLAC has until May 8 to give reasons why it should not be placed under special administration.

Sydney weather: It’s not a cyclone but it sure felt like one

Tree down at Curl Curl after severe winds. Photo: James Brickwood Tree down at Curl Curl after severe winds. Photo: James Brickwood
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The Pasha Bulka washed ashore in a 2007 east coast low. Photo: Peter Stoop

Tree down at Curl Curl after severe winds. Photo: James Brickwood

Tree down at Curl Curl after severe winds. Photo: James Brickwood

Record rainfall: The east coast low that battered Sydney.

NASA’s satellite view of the storm as it passed over Sydney. Photo: NASA

Live: Sydney battered by wild storms

Perhaps it’s no surprise that the massive storm that dumped the most rain on Sydney in a single day in more than 13 years, blew over huge trees and scoured beaches would in some parts of the world be defined as a cyclone.

As Rob Sharpe, a meteorologist at Weatherzone notes, wind speeds were gale force or stronger for parts of the city and up the coast since midnight Tuesday and even earlier.

“They have been consistently gale force. Gale force is the threshold for being Cat-1,” Mr Sharpe said, referring to the lowest level of a cyclone. “We have seen that in Sydney and the Hunter.”

In North America and Africa, east coast lows of the type endured by Sydney over the past couple of days are described as “east coast cyclones”, according to the Bureau of Meteorology’s website.

“From the wind statistics you can see that the Tropical Cyclone criteria for a sustained one-minute wind gust has been met,” Agata Imielska, a senior climatologist at the bureau, said. “The more important point here is that the winds are damaging. Generally a threshold wind gust of 90 km/h or more is used to define damaging winds.”

Both the bureau and Mr Sharpe are keen to distinguish the storm from tropical cyclones that originate far closer to the equator and typically draw their strength from the much warmer waters to the north – while being dubbed names such as “Larry”, “Pam” or “Solo”.

While east coast lows can develop from ex-tropical cyclones meandering southwards, their origin at this time of year is more usually within a pre-existing trough of low pressure.

For the current event, a relatively weak low-pressure trough on the coast was joined by “a really pronounced upper level trough” of cold air that had moved in from Victoria, Mr Sharpe said.

“Those two systems then combined and we saw that [cyclonic] rotation,” Mr Sharp said. “That rotation was created with the warm moist air along the coast interacting with the really cold upper level air inland.”

The strength of the current event was driven by the steep gradient between the warm over the Tasman and cool air at upper levels of the atmosphere, making for a classic east coast low set-up.

At this time of year, sea-surface temperatures off Sydney are about the warmest they get during the year, and this year they have been abnormally warm – right around Australia.

East coast lows “tend to peter out pretty quickly but that doesn’t stop them being a very powerful system,” Mr Sharpe said.

According to Manly Hydraulics Laboratory, wave heights off Port Kembla were literally off the charts, exceeding 8 metres:

According to Ed Couriel, the principal engineer at the Manly Hydraulics Laboratory, the highest wave recorded off Sydney was a whopping 13.6m, at about 11am on Tuesday.

The maximum significant wave height, a more general measure, was 7.3m, making it the second highest in records going back to 1987, Mr Couriel said..

Last night’s high tide came in a 2.13m, implying a storm surge related to the event of about 0.25m, he said.

Rain and wind

Sydney’s rainfall to 9am on Tuesday was 119.4mm, the most in any day since February 2002 and the most for an April day in 17 years, according to Weatherzone.

Wind speeds were also impressive with Wattamolla to Sydney’s south recording at least 100 km/h winds every hour since just after midday on Monday. Just after 9am on Tuesday they were clocked at 135 km/h, or well within the range of a category 2 cyclone if sustained.

Norah Head and North Head to Sydney’s north were also reporting strong gusts, with Norah Head also clocking 135 km/h before 5am on Tuesday.

That’s the strongest winds for Norah Head since 2007, the same time as another powerful east coast low drove the commodity carrier, the Pasha Bulker, on to shore, according to Brett Dutschke, a senior forecaster at Weatherzone.

The highest significant wave height recorded off Sydney during the 2007 event was 6.9m, placing it now fourth in Manly Hydraulics Laboratory records, Mr Couriel said.

Relief in sight

The good news is that the deep low is likely to weaken and move away from the coast late on Tuesday – but not before dumping as much as 50mm more of rain on Sydney, Mr Sharpe said.

The heaviest falls so far have been at Dungog, north of Maitland, where the town copped a severe thunderstorm cell. That storm dumped about 145mm on the town in three hours, leaving a total of 312mm for the 24 hours to 9am, the highest in more than a century of records, according to Bureau of Meteorology figures.

Paterson’s 242.6mm was also its highest daily rainfall for records going back to 1967, Ms Imielska said.

Williamtown recorded its wettest April and autumn day, with 155.6mm. The tally was the town’s third-highest rainfall for any month in records going back to 1942, she said.

Aside from raincoats, woollens are also coming in handy. Monday’s maximum of 17.2 degrees in Sydney made it the coolest April day in seven years.

Tuesday may struggle to reach even that, with a top so far of just 15.5 degrees at 8.48am.

Weatherzone is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.

Despite live baiting scandal, rules allow animal skins for greyhound training

Greyhound trainers in NSW have been given approval to use processed animal skins to “educate” their dogs only weeks after a scandal erupted over revelations of live baiting in the industry.
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The latest Greyhound Racing NSW policy prohibits “the use of any animal carcass or part of an animal as a lure in greyhound training, education or racing completely”.

But it says an exception to the prohibition is the use of “tanned and professionally processed animal skins for the purposes of trialling or educating greyhounds”.

“In the instance where a tanned and professionally processed skin is used, evidence of where it was sourced must be produced to a person authorised by GRNSW for immediate inspection upon request,” Greyhounds NSW said.

The announcement has outraged the NSW Greens, who claim it demonstrates the industry has learned nothing from the scandal over revelations some of Australia’s leading trainers were using live animals to train their dogs.

In February an expose by Animals Australia and ABC’s Four Corners program revealed trainers in three states were using live possums, rabbits and pigs tied to lures for dogs to chase around training tracks.

The revelations led to the board and the chief executive of Greyhound Racing NSW stepping down.

Paul Newson was appointed interim chief executive while a special commission of inquiry investigates the NSW industry.

But Greens MP John Kaye said the decision to allow animal skins shows Mr Newson “has failed to understand that permitting the use of animal skins feeds the demand for live baiting”. “Greyhound Racing NSW is sending a clear message to trainers that defenceless animals whether they are dead or alive are an effective and acceptable training tool for dogs,” he said.

However, a Greyhound Racing NSW spokesman said the organisation believes it is “appropriate to use skins that are a by-product of legitimate processes which already occur regardless of the needs of greyhound racing”.

He said the policy will be reviewed after receipt of the findings of an independent expert engaged to “recommend best practice greyhound rearing, socialisation, education and training methods that will move away from any reliance or association with animal products”.

The report is due in July.

Sydney light rail line: Transport sets up new agency to build CBD-eastern suburbs service

An artist’s impression of the new light rail service down George Street at Martin Place. Preliminary construction on George Street has already forced temporary closures in the city. Photo: James Alcock
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An artist’s impression of the new light rail service down George Street at Martin Place.

Preliminary construction on George Street has already forced temporary closures in the city. Photo: James Alcock

An artist’s impression of the new light rail service down George Street at Martin Place.

Preliminary construction on George Street has already forced temporary closures in the city. Photo: James Alcock

An artist’s impression of the new light rail service down George Street at Martin Place.

Preliminary construction on George Street has already forced temporary closures in the city. Photo: James Alcock

The state’s transport authority is overhauling the structure charged with delivering a light rail line through the middle of the city to the eastern suburbs.

Major construction is due to start on the project in September or October, though early works along the route are already taking place.

The acting secretary of Transport for NSW, Tim Reardon, told staff last week a new stand-alone delivery office would be set up to run the light rail project, along the same lines as the office set up to build the North West Rail Link.

The restructure means the sudden departure from the department of Chris Lock, formerly the deputy director general of the Transport Projects division of Transport for NSW, who had been working full-time on the light rail project.

Construction of the light rail line is expected to be highly disruptive, and the cost of the project has already blown out by at least $500 million, from $1.6 billion to $2.1 billion.

One of the major difficulties will be reorganising the city’s bus network to accommodate the construction of the project.

Buses from Parramatta Road and City Road that run along George Street will be re-routed when George Street is closed to traffic, though the government is yet to explain what the new bus routes would be.

Asked about the internal transport for NSW reorganisation, a spokesman said the fact that the project director of the light rail scheme would report directly to the secretary of the department indicated the project’s importance to the government.

“The creation of a CBD & South East Light Rail Project Delivery Office and the evolution of Transport Projects from a broader division to a delivery office follows the agile and focused North West Rail Link model, which has proven extremely successful,” the spokesman said.

Mr Lock’s departure comes after a 10-year career in the department. His division had recently been in charge of delivering the light rail extension from Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill and the South West Rail Link to Leppington.

CBD light rail project director Jeff Goodling will act as the head of the new delivery office. The light rail line is scheduled to be opened to the public in late 2018 or early 2019.

 

Stephanie Scott: 1000 people gather to farewell 26-year-old teacher

Mourners gather for the funeral of Stephanie Scott in Eugowra. Photo: Wolter Peeters Yellow balloons were released in honour of Stephanie Scott on April 11. Photo: Kate Geraghty
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Family of accused offer condolences

Eleven days ago, Robert Scott was to have walked his daughter Stephanie through the vine-covered archway of Eugowra’s Eat Your Greens function centre for her wedding.

Instead, the Scott family were among about 1000 people gathered at the picturesque venue in central western NSW on Wednesday to farewell the 26-year-old teacher.

She and her husband were supposed to have their first dance in the sandstone dining room to Keith Urban’s Making Memories Of Us.

Instead, the same song played as yellow balloons were released into grey skies.

The celebration of her life marked yet another sad milestone since Ms Scott disappeared from Leeton High School on Easter Sunday.

Three days after she was last seen, school cleaner Vincent Stanford was charged with her murder. Two days later, police found her charred body in a national park 70 kilometres away.

On April 11, the day she was due to marry Aaron Leeson-Woolley at Eat Your Greens, her family fronted a public memorial at Mountford Park in Leeton and released yellow balloons into the sky in memory of the popular English and drama teacher.

Ms Scott’s elder sister, Kim, said she pulled together 95 slides to show at the private service on Wednesday but it still didn’t do justice to the smiling girl she called Button-Nose.

“I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve even tried to impersonate your brilliant cackle, but after 95 slides, I still don’t think I’ve done your beautiful life justice,” she posted online, two days before the memorial. “You’ll always be our little sister and always be our Button-Nose.”

Her sister Robyn responded: “The world is far less bright without her in it. Our lives less full and our future less whole. How can this happen to someone so good?”

The two-kilometre stretch of road winding from Eugowra to Eat Your Greens was lined with yellow balloons and streamers on Wednesday as hundreds of cars filed into the countryside venue.

Under the grey sky, mourners came with bright yellow ribbons in their hair and pinned to their jackets. Her younger brother, Scott, donned a yellow tie, her mother, Merrilyn, wore a corsage of yellow roses.

Be Still by The Killers rang out over surrounding paddocks, with lyrics: “Be still / Wild and young / Long may your innocence reign / Like shells on the shore / And may your limits be unknown.”

Leeton High School vice-captain Grace Green told the crowd it would be difficult to finish the last two terms of high school without the “love and laughter” of everyone’s favourite teacher .

She recalled excursions to Sydney and her teacher’s well-worn motto of “please study, eat, repeat”.

“Miss Scott was a breath of fresh air,” she said.

Kim Scott told stories from their childhood, of three sisters sharing a bedroom and getting up to mischief.

Mr Scott placed a large photo of his daughter in front of a white casket topped with pink flowers before the service began.

A photo of her as a grinning graduate fronted the order of service, behind the words: “Stephanie Clare Scott.”

Leeton mayor Paul Maytom said it was an upbeat celebration.

“It was really good to have a service like that which, as touching as it was, it [had] a lot of laughs,” he said.

After a service and wake at Eat Your Greens, her family were expected to continue celebrating her life at the Services Club in their home town of Canowindra.

Schools between Leeton, Cowra and Canowindra flew flags at half mast on Wednesday and businesses in Leeton closed from 1pm to 2pm as a sign of respect.

Students, colleagues and Leeton community members held a public memorial to coincide with the private gathering at Eugowra.

The Scott and Leeson-Woolley families had spent Tuesday night together, reminiscing and comforting each other.

“Oh my goodness I love my family which obviously includes my amazing brother in law Aaron Leeson-Woolley,” Robyn Scott posted on Tuesday night.

“Even with the loss of Stephanie Clare we are still blessed to have each other to give each other strength in this terrible time for us as a family. Stephanie Clare would be proud of us that’s for sure.”

Bank ad campaigns backfire: customers dissatisfied, ready to leave say experts

Breakable: New research suggests the relationship between banks and their customers is fragile.SBS warns of more cuts if it can’t double its advertisingWoolworths’ Anzac Day debacle highlights social media riskBanks promise “more give, less take” and “happy banking”, inspiring “the little dragon in all of us”. But the more they impose their feel-good campaigns on us, the more we hate. Australian research published in this month’s Journal of Marketing Management shows bank advertising campaigns are backfiring​ because customers largely hold strong negative bias against them. “Overly positive information was viewed cynically by customers, who immediately compared these proclamations with their own real, and often more negative, service experiences,” wrote Jana Bowden, senior marketing lecturer at Macquarie University. She found customers had limited tolerance for performance failures and deep cynicism and scepticism because they believed banks lacked “authenticity and trustworthiness”. As a result, the relationship was fragile, with the customer often “on the precipice of leaving”.   In striking contrast, Roy Morgan research declared in March that its customer satisfaction ratings had hit a 19-year high of 82.9 per cent, with non-big four banks leading the charge. The big four are now only separated by 3 per cent, with Westpac coming first, followed by the NAB, Commonwealth Bank and ANZ.
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Steven Münchenberg, Chief Executive of the Australian Bankers’ Association, said the Roy Morgan data showed that bank customer satisfaction levels had been “consistently trending​ upwards for many years”.

“Banks have for a long time invested heavily in enhancing their product and service offerings to improve customers’ banking experience,” he said.

“This includes making it easier and more convenient for customers to access their money.”

Westpac group executive Jason Yetton said at the time: “I’m delighted but also humbled by the response of our customers who now say that they are the most satisfied amongst those of Australia’s major banks.” But Dr Bowden said these eagerly anticipated ratings, closely tied with executive performance bonuses, distorted the reality that customers – new and existing – viewed their relationship with banks as “detached, non-personal, reductionist and transactional”.   A 0.1 per cent increase can be heralded as a major win in the banking world. A quarter of Commonwealth Bank senior executive’s long-term bonuses are determined by satisfaction scores. “The potential risk [here] is that they might potentially encourage executives to focus on strategies which increase satisfaction score performance in the short and medium term … at the expense of a deep understanding of the reality of the total customer experience and real customer engagement,” she said. “Banks have to recognise that 82 per cent satisfaction doesn’t mean that their customers are resolutely committed. These statistics do not measure lasting and strong consumer engagement.” While Dr Bowden said bank customers are “on the precipice of leaving”, new Canstar​ Blue research shows only 18 per cent would shop around and take their money elsewhere. Nearly 80 per cent of the 5550 consumers surveyed by Canstar​ Blue admitted they were likely to apply for products like credit cards and personal loans with their banks. Those aged 18 to 24 and aged 70 and older were most likely to stay put. Based on current market offers, a customer searching for the best value $5000 loan over three years could potentially save $1100 in interest payments alone.

“Regardless of who you bank with, it’s absolutely crucial that you thoroughly compare all financial products available – otherwise your loyalty could end up costing you big,” said Simon Downes from Canstar​ Blue said.

“Some Australians seem to be putting convenience ahead of value, which could be a big mistake.”

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Australian property seen as hot destination for money laundering

Australian property is seen as an attractive place to invest corruption proceeds, the report says.Australia needs to tighten safeguards against money laundering in its booming property market, which has attracted Chinese funds with likely links to corruption, an international anti-money laundering body said in a report released late on Tuesday.
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The intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force said real estate agents and lawyers have been identified as a high money laundering risk in Australia, where regulations do not require them to report suspicious transactions.

The Paris-based group recommended that Australia widen its efforts, instead of only focusing on drugs, fraud and tax evasion.

“Australia is seen as an attractive destination for foreign proceeds, particularly corruption-related proceeds flowing into real estate, from the Asia-Pacific region,” FATF said in its year-long review of Australia.

Lawyers, accountants, real estate agents and precious stones dealers should demonstrate that they are refusing business on money laundering and terrorism financing grounds and they should be required to report suspicious transactions, the task force recommended.

The report comes a month after Australia ordered the Chinese owner of a $39 million Sydney mansion to sell up within 90 days, saying it was purchased illegally although it did not suggest it was linked to corrupt funds.

Immediately following the high-profile incident, Treasurer Joe Hockey said Australia would beef up its investigations into foreigners buying residential properties.

Australia, the United States and Canada are the three most popular destinations for suspected economic criminals from China, Chinese state media have said. Last year, China launched “Operation Fox Hunt” to go after suspects who have left the country to seek refuge abroad, often taking large sums with them.

Chinese are the number-one foreign buyers of Australian real estate, snapping up nearly $6 billion worth in 2013, according to the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Reuters