Xi Jinping: a man for all committees

Beijing: A beaming portrait of Comrade Xi Jinping dominated The People’s Daily front page, towering over a smaller image of China’s new leadership group of seven men.
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The communist party transfers power to a new Politburo Standing Committee twice a decade.

A Chinese president and party general secretary is usually installed just once every ten years.

So five years into the job, this week was the litmus test of Xi’s real power. Entering his second term, it was time to mould an inner circle unfettered by his predecessor, Hu Jintao, and party elder Jiang Zemin.

As the image on the front page of the party’s official mouthpiece faithfully reflected on Thursday, Xi emerged as the strong man.

Breaking with party tradition, he declined to appoint a potential successor to the Standing Committee. Would Xi stay forever?

A party congress of 2200 yes men had a day earlier changed China’s constitution to enshrine ‘Xi Jinping Thought: Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era’.

Chinese state media encouraged the view this historic development had seen Xi rise to the level of Mao Zedong in the communist pantheon.

Cadres and school children alike would read the Thought as a guide to action.

Xi mapped out this ‘new era’, a 30-year plan for China’s global rise, on its own socialist terms.

US President Donald Trump, from a White House riven by Republican insurrection, congratulated Xi on his “extraordinary elevation”, telling US media “some people might call him the king of China”.

But is China really in the grip of the “cult of Xi”?

Despite predictions that Xi would stack the standing committee with his followers, he respected the faction system.

It was designed in the wake of Mao to introduce intra-party competition in a one-party state.

Two Xi loyalists rose and he dominates, but the weakened Communist Youth League and Jiang Zemin’s Shanghai Gang each kept a seat, replacing retiring faction members with new faces.

These included an economic reformer who once dabbled in grass roots village democracy in Guangdong, Wang Yang, plus the party boss of market-friendly Shanghai, Han Zheng.

(The renewal of the 25-member Politburo, the next rung down, was a bigger sweep, with two-thirds of new faces said to be Xi men).

The appearance of theorist Wang Huning to a frontline political role may hint there is more to the unprecedented rise of Xi than simply a grab for personal power.

Before he disappeared inside the party machine in 1995, to work for three leaders as a political advisor, academic Wang was best known for his theory of “new authoritarianism”.

A strong and unified central party leadership was crucial for Chinese reform, Wang argued.

Wang is Xi’s speech writer, and will oversee propaganda in his new role on the Standing Committee.

Is Xi a brand for centralised party power, easier for a population to rally behind than a collective of seven drab men?

At face value, it is all Xi.

In five years, Xi has amassed power like no other recent Chinese president. The head of the military, party and state, he also chairs myriad “leading groups” on issues ranging from deepening reform to internet security and financial affairs. Premier Li Keqiang has been sidelined.

Last year, Xi became known as “the core” of the party.

The anti-corruption campaign Xi unleashed has chased the powerful and wealthy across the globe.

The toppling of Sun Zhengcai, party boss of Chongqing and Politburo member, by corruption investigators ahead of the 19th Congress smashed the party succession system. Sun, 54, is said to have been earmarked by Jiang as a future leader.

Sun’s expulsion from the party was announced just weeks before the Congress opened, while allegations he had plotted to bring down the party were aired as it met.

The timing is illustrative of how the anti-corruption campaign, which has undoubtedly been effective in changing China’s business and political culture, has also been wielded as a political tool.

The scale of “inspections” is vast – 1.5 million Party members, including 43 members of the Central Committee

The biggest scalps, including the former security and justice ministers, are frequently cited in state media to “scare the monkeys”.

Under Xi, the voices for liberal reform in China have been severely weakened. Hundreds of human rights lawyers were detained in 2015, new curbs placed on foreign non-government organisations in 2016, and China’s decades-long high-tech battle against freedom of speech on the internet and social media continued.

Tougher media censorship was highlighted when five major British and American media outlets were barred from entering Xi’s press conference to unveil the Standing Committee.

But China watchers who examine party journals have in recent months dispelled the idea of any personality cult of Xi.

In contrast to the party organ People’s Daily, city newspaper Beijing News ran the group leadership photo on its front page.

The truth of Chinese power, where decisions are made behind closed doors, can be hard to discern from the theatre.

At congress press conferences, vice ministers and provincial party chiefs sang Xi’s praise, outlining how they would abide by his Thought.

Xi was undoubtedly delivered a mandate on key policies, including military reform. It was explicitly written into the constitution that the Communist Party held absolute leadership over the People’s Liberation Army.

Xi’s key message in his congress speech was that China could only modernise with the communist party leading it.

Internationally, the political message was don’t expect a rising China to adopt western democratic reform.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has often called for China to commit to the “rules-based international order”, diplomatic language rolled out by US allies displeased by Chinese island building in the contested South China Sea.

Xi said China wants an increasing say on how the global governance rules are set.

Xi is the party’s front man into the future.

It has been pointed out the risk of this new style of dominant leader is that should things turned pear shaped for China, it will be Xi that takes the fall.

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Shareholders want power to ‘escalate’ issues

A group representing some of the nation’s biggest superannuation funds says shareholders need greater powers to ensure their concerns are heard at company AGMs – including on environmental and social issues.
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The n Council of Superannuation Investors, which represents super funds and institutions managing $1.6 trillion in assets, wants shareholders to have the ability to put non-binding, advisory resolutions on the agendas of company AGMs – a move it says would allow shareholders to “escalate” environmental, social or governance (ESG) issues when companies had otherwise failed to act on investor concerns.

It says the system governing so-called “shareholder resolutions” in is flawed, restricts shareholder rights and lags behind the regimes in Britain and the US.

Shareholder resolutions are in the spotlight this AGM season, with non-government-organisations (NGOs) like Market Forces and the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility lodging a series of social or environmental-related items at companies including Santos, Woolworths and BHP.

The bulk of resolutions put to shareholders at company meetings are proposed and endorsed by boards, but groups of 100 or more shareholders – or shareholders owning at least 5 per cent of the company – can put forward their own resolutions.

But such resolutions must not venture into areas that involve management of the company, regarded as the domain of boards, not shareholders.

To get around this, the resolutions often first propose a change to companies’ constitutions – requiring a near-impossible hurdle of 75 per cent shareholder approval. Such resolutions have proved unpopular with many investors who are reluctant to vote in favour of constitutional change, even if they support the subject of the resolution itself.

Under ACSI’s proposed reform, a non-binding, advisory resolution could be passed with just 50 per cent shareholder support, but would still require the backing of at least 100 or more shareholders – or shareholders owning at least 5 per cent of the company’s issued capital – before it could be put to other investors.

n shareholders already have the power to lodge a protest vote on director and executive pay through the two-strikes policy, which triggers a resolution on a board spill if more than 25 per cent of shareholders vote against a company’s remuneration report two years in a row.

Shareholders in Britain and the US have broader powers to propose non-binding resolutions, although in the US, at the company’s request, they can be subject to a lengthy “informal review” by the Securities and Exchange Commission. In the UK, courts have the power to block resolutions deemed “vexatious, frivolous or defamatory”. Active ownership

Shareholder resolutions are usually opposed by companies’ boards, and attract very small shareholder votes in their favour.

But they also attract attention to the issue at hand, for example with the ACCR’s resolution regarding BHP’s membership of the Minerals Council.

Some institutional investors say they find the resolutions helpful, because they make it easier to discuss ESG issues with company boards. But some directors argue that they can divert board resources, ignore efforts companies have already made on ESG issues and can push agendas that are – as stated by several companies in response to the resolutions – not in the interests of shareholders as a whole.

As part of its research, ACSI interviewed 20 big investors from and overseas, and studied the regimes governing shareholder resolutions in Britain and the US, where resolutions are much more common.

ACSI chief executive Louise Davidson said there was “clear consensus” among investors of the need for reform, with the current system “[making] it very difficult to consider a resolution on its merits, because you are having to think about whether you want to change the constitution of the company to accommodate it.”

Ms Davidson said that – rather than investors considering such changes on a company-by-company basis – “it ought to be a market-wide reform”.

Currently, she said, shareholders left unhappy about certain issues were left with the “blunt instrument” of voting against the re-election of company directors, an action which many investors were reluctant to take – especially if they were otherwise happy with the direction of the company.

She said n shareholders needed a better way to express concerns about ESG issues.

After considering other options, ACSI recommended a non-binding vote because it was considered a “good fit” with ‘s corporate culture, where – unlike in the US – boards are more willing to discuss issues directly with investors.

A spokesman for financial services minister Kelly O’Dwyer said the government was aware of ACSI’s report and would consider its recommendations in due course. This would include “whether further legislative reform of the Corporations Act is warranted”.

“Ensuring that public companies are accountable to their shareholders is crucial, and shareholders play a critical role as a check on good governance,” he said. Proxy support

Brynn O’Brien, executive director of the ACCR, backed ACSI’s proposal. “This is a missing part of the corporate governance landscape in ,” she said.

ACSI’s plan also had the measured backing of at least two of the nation’s influential proxy advice groups, who guide institutional investors on how to vote at company meetings.

Ownership Matters principal Dean Paatsch said there was merit in “tweaking” the system to allow shareholder feedback on non-financial risks, given it was “very difficult” to support constitutional amendments.

“They can bind the board in perpetuity and create an avenue for future litigation,” he said.

But he cautioned that any changes to the current system should come with “some sensible rules around what resolutions can be put to shareholders”.

Daniel Smith, general manager at CGI Glass Lewis, said his firm supported non-binding resolutions in principle, but believed an independent third party – such as the n Securities and Investments Commission – should have the power to review resolutions.

“We are also supportive of giving shareholders the right to an annual non-binding vote on a sustainability report,” he said. “Such instruments could give shareholders additional meaningful tools of communication to boards, without going down the rabbit hole of attempting to direct the company.”

This year, CGI Glass Lewis recommended in support of Market Forces’ shareholder resolution at the Santos annual meeting, which called on the company to improve its disclosure of climate change risk. The resolution attracted 5.2 per cent of votes in favour.

The n Institute of Company Directors said it was still considering the report, but said it was a “thoughtful contribution” to the debate.

“Mechanisms that can enhance governance frameworks, without diverting corporate resources into self-interested causes, are worthy of discussion,” said AICD general manager advocacy Louise Petschler.

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Packer backs the right horse: himself

The big man was back. James Packer fronted his first Crown Resorts AGM in years, and was in vintage form with a sledge for MP Andrew Wilkie over the allegations about the casino operator’s poker machine practices.
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There was also a mea culpa of sorts over the failed overseas bet – which still made the company billions.

And, most importantly, Packer single-handedly fended off a massive vote against the company’s remuneration report.

The latter is a feat he will not be able to repeat next year.

Packer was able to pull off the face-saving act this year due to a quirk in the timing of his appointment to the board: The remuneration report relates to the previous financial year, when Packer was not on the board.

He is now on the board, of course, and will not be able to vote on the remuneration report while this remains the case.

For the record, Crown reported that the vote on the remuneration report passed comfortably: 456 million shares voted for the resolution, 97 million against.

The decisive factor was Packer’s 342 million shares. Without it, Crown would have been struck with a massive first strike – 46 per cent of voting shares going against the resolution.

“There have been no material changes to the company’s remuneration policy during the year and ASA will again be opposing the resolution,” said the n Shareholders Association ahead of the meeting.

It means that unless Packer and his loyal lieutenant John Alexander – Crown’s executive chairman – make nice with their fellow shareholders on the issue of executive pay, it will be back to the “farcical” days of old.

Who can forget Packer railing in 2011 against the fact he could not vote his stake on the issue despite drawing no pay from the company.

Not that Packer’s fellow directors have to worry about two strikes that would trigger a spill of the board.

“If that happens, I will use my votes to ensure all directors are voted back in immediately,” Packer said when the company was previously hit with a strike. Mum’s the word

Packer had enough time to delve into other pet hates like political donations. He said he wished there was a zero dollar limit on political donations, “so then people couldn’t ask” him for anything.

When asked about his mum, Ros Packer’s donation to the Liberal Party, he said, “I can’t control my mother, can you control your mother?”

He’s got a point there. Pollie waffle

Speaking of politicians, the latest walloping from Packer would be no surprise to Andrew Wilkie who came to the billionaire’s attention in 2010 when he held the balance of power in government and struck a deal with Julia Gillard to tighten controls on poker machines.

The following year Packer took him on a tour of Crown Melbourne and Wilkie recounted the experience to Good Weekend.

“The point was made repeatedly about what a responsible enterprise it was,” remembers Wilkie, who felt grateful that Packer had taken the time to show him around.

The tour ended in a conference room with Packer remarking on how pleasant the visit had been.

“Then he leaned across the table, got his face quite close to mine, and said something along the lines of, ‘We wouldn’t want the next meeting to be an unpleasant meeting, would we?’???”

Wilkie commented: “I just thought it was interesting that there was this one little moment when I got to look into his heart and soul and see another James Packer – a man prepared to use his political muscle, his financial clout, to get what he wants.”

The following year, Packer lobbed his proposal to build a casino in Sydney, sweeping aside any opposition in a breathtaking manner. Medcraft, out

Retiring ASIC boss Greg Medcraft took Senate Estimates for the last time on Thursday.

And it was an affair heavy on the well wishing.

The love-in even extended to John ‘Wacka’ Williams who thanked Medcraft, and was himself thanked by Medcraft.

It was a far cry from the often icy relations between the regulator and the Nationals senator who did not always see eye to eye on its policing of our big banks.

Part of Medcraft’s swansong also included a reversal of his now famed ” is a paradise for white-collar criminals” line.

It is a line that ASIC tried to “clarify” despite the comment being made to a room of business journalists.

Now Medcraft has officially reversed the ferret.

“We want to be a hell hole for white-collar criminals – to put it the other way!,” Mr Medcraft said chuckling.

We all do, Greg, we all do.

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Chinan Federal Police launches investigation into media tip-offs

The n Federal Police has launched an investigation into the leaking of information about the raids on the n Workers Union headquarters this week.
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The office of Employment Minister MichaeliaCash, still weathering a political storm over the involvement of one of her staff members in tipping off the media about the raids, has been notified of the leak investigation.

Attorney-General George Brandis said the government and representatives of the Registered Organisations Commission would no longer answer questions on the matter while the police probe is underway.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Senator Cash’s senior media adviser David De Garis quit on Wednesday, after admitting he had tipped off members of the media that the raid was imminent – allowing them to be in place when the federal police arrived at AWU offices.

His confession came after Senator Cash repeatedly told a committee her office was not involved.

The federal police raided the Sydney and Melbourne offices of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s old union, the n Workers Union, on Tuesday as part of an investigation into donations made a decade ago to activist group GetUp!

Union lawyers have launched a Federal Court lawsuit, to try to obtain copies of all correspondence between the Registered Organisations Commission and Senator Cash’s office.

“Disturbingly, the [commission] has refused to hand over all file notes of its communications with Minister Cash and her office,” Maurice Blackburn principal Josh Bornstein said, after a directions hearing at the court on Friday.

“We will continue to seek all such documents as part of the Federal Court case.”

If the union’s bid for the documents is successful, the commission will have to turn over the correspondence by November 10.

The AWU’s legal action is claiming that the AFP’s raids on union offices were illegal, and that the Registered Organisations Commission’s investigation is also illegal “because it is politically motivated”.

The AFP has committed to not turn over any of the documents it seized during the controversial raids to the regulator until the case is heard in court at a later date.

Labor has accused Senator Cash of misleading Parliament, a potentially sackable offence.

But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Thursday declared she had “acted entirely properly” in response to the media leak controversy that has rocked her office.

Senator Cash has refused to front up to a third day of hearings into the affair on Friday, saying she has commitments in Perth.

Senator Brandis is filling in for her at an additional estimates hearing in Canberra.

Senator Cash wrote to the Registered Organisations Commission on Thursday to suggest it ask the federal police to investigate the matter.

The raids are linked to an investigation by the Commission, which is also examining donations by the AWU to Labor campaigns in three seats at the 2007 election, including the seat of Maribyrnong, now held by Mr Shorten.

Registered Organisations Commission officials have said a “caller” gave the agency information which raised suspicions that documents relevant to the investigation may be being concealed or destroyed.

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Mad Max lists her Botany gem for $1 million

Joy Smithers: actor, ceramicist, and skilled home renovator. Photo: Tim Bauer
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Actor and ceramicist Joy Smithers should probably add home renovator to her list of talents given the job she’s done on her home.

Having bought what was a rundown weatherboard cottage in Botany with a studio and rear-lane access in late 2013 for $752,000, she has transformed it into something far more glamorous.

When she wasn’t filming Mad Max: Fury Road, the renovation of the three-bedroom home included adding a new bathroom, kitchen, walls, facade and a beautifully landscaped garden by her partner, former INXS manager Gary Grant.

“I love renovating,” Smithers tells Title Deeds. “I grew up in a big Federation house and took on the job from a young age. I like to keep the home’s charm and I’m big on re-using and recycling things.” And that’s where Botany has appeal.

“It hasn’t been gentrified yet. There are so many gems,” she says.

Given plans for another home renovation in the neighbourhood, but with her Batch Ceramics studio now moved to a larger premises, she has listed it with George Faris, of The Sydney Property Agency.

Expect to pay about $1 million at the auction on November 11. The home is expected to sell for $1 million or more at auction. Photo: SuppliedBig step on property ladder

As first home purchases go, a $5 million Double Bay apartment is a pretty good start. And so it is for property developer Nicholas Gazal, who has paid just that amount for a three-bedder on level six of The Cosmopolitan.

The result through Di Jones’ Chantal Hooper is well up on the $3.7 million it last traded for two years ago, and was sold within two weeks of hitting the market. Related: Ellen DeGeneres spends $23.8m on beach houseRelated: Edgecliff trophy home breaks suburb recordRelated: Bell buys pal Emdur’s Dover Heights houseNicholas Gazal (right), pictured here with brother Nabil Gazal, has bought in Double Bay. Photo: Luke Fuda

Gazal and his brother Nabil are co-directors of the family’s Gazcorp property development outfit, which was behind the Orange Grove factory outlet at Liverpool.

Nabil made his foray into the local market last November when he paid $7.11 million for his Darling Point spread, where he was later seen kissing his ex-girlfriend Roxy Jacenko, the happily married wife of insider trader Oliver Curtis.

Not to be left out, his sister Nicole O’Neil, of Real Housewives of Sydney fame, made her own $7-million purchase in March of a house in Vaucluse around the corner from the family home where mum Maud holds court. From Hillsong to oceanfrontHillsong musician Darlene Zschech has purchased an oceanfront property in Terrigal. Photo: Mike Ticher

Former Hillsong singer and songwriter Darlene Zschech and her husband Mark have bought on Terrigal’s oceanfront reserve for $3.85 million.

The clifftop residence – sold by Belle Property Killcare’s Cathy Baker – is expected to be a permanent home for the senior pastors at the local Hope Unlimited Church, and follows the recent sale of their waterfront home on Terrigal Lagoon for $2.2 million.

Records show the new digs were previously a holiday home for New Yorker Joanne Low and Daryl Wright, who paid $4.5 million for it 10 years ago. The clifftop residence is expected to be Zschech’s permanent home. Photo: SuppliedSt John family landmark up for grabs

As the film adaptation of Madeleine St John’s classic n novel The Women in Black goes into production under the direction of Bruce Beresford, it is perhaps timely that her family’s Mosman home is for sale.

Vino del Mar is the 1930s residence designed by architect Alan Stafford for Wrigley’s boss George Ekblade. It was bought by St John’s barrister and Liberal politician father Ted St John in 1960.

Madeleine St John, who died in 2006, never lived there, but stayed in the maid’s quarters when visiting from London. Vino del Mar, the Mosman home formerly owned by the family of Madeleine St John, is now for sale. Photo: Supplied

The Clifton Gardens property has traded on a biennial basis since 2013, when cinematographer Peter Menzies and his wife Denise sold it for $4.5 million to medicos Allan and Maya Molloy. They sold it in 2015 for $4.7 million to author and accountant Brett Kelly and his wife Rebecca.

Records show the Kellys have recently paid about $7.8 million for a Phillip Corben-designed house on Balmoral slopes, prompting them to list the landmark Spanish Mission home with Tim Foote, of Belle Property Mosman. Expect to pay $5.8 million to $6.38 million. The Spanish Mission residence is expected to fetch $5.8 million to $6.38 million. Photo: SuppliedAnd they’re off …

Prominent racehorse owner and breeder Peter Horwitz has settled on a new Mosman home, paying $8.2 million for the home of former Netscape Australasia head-turned-yoga devotee Clive Mayhew-Begg and his wife Eriko Kinoshita. Peter Horwitz has paid $8.2 million for this Mosman residence. Photo: Supplied

Sold after a campaign by Ray White Mosman’s Geoff Smith, the price was well up on the $7.35 million it raised when sold four years ago by gold and bullion dealers Kurt and Nathalie Jaggard. Horwitz now just needs to sell his Balmoral slopes home on Stanton Road.

It is being shopped around by McGrath’s Michael Coombs for $7.5 million to $8 million. Boatanica blows on to the marketWindsurfers Anick Graveline and Tom Lucedecke have listed their Avalon digs. Photo: Supplied

In Avalon, the Pittwater home of former champion windsurfers Anick Graveline and Tom Luedecke is up for between $10 million and $11 million.

Boatanica, as it’s called, is a complete rebuild since they bought it in 2011 for $3.6 million and yet another architect Richard Cole-designed collaboration with Luedecke’s Touchwood D.B, who is known locally for his high-end developments.

The contemporary sandstone, concrete and glass residence with a pool and boatshed is listed with McGrath’s Jonathan Fletcher. The pair hope to get between $10 million and $11 million through the sale. Photo: SuppliedRecord toppled

The Balgowlah Heights record has been smashed by more than $1 million just months after coal-industry expert Malcolm Maclennan and his partner Kim Turner paid $9.75 million for their waterfront reserve home. However, there’s no water lapping the boundary of the hillside home of Penny Ford, wife of Curwoods Lawyers partner Peter Ford. The Fords have set a Balgowlah Heights records at close to $11 million. Photo: Supplied

The three-level sandstone residence with home theatre, art studio, billiards room, pool and sauna on 1200 square metres was commissioned by the Fords following their purchase of it in 1996 for $999,600.

Michael Clarke and Cherie Humel of Clarke & Humel, were gagged by orders from confirming the widely rumoured $11 million sale figure, but did confirm it as sold. Igloo weekender

Still in Avalon, Samuel Littlemore, aka record producer/songwriter Sam La More, has returned from his expat life in LA producing hits for the likes of Gwen Stefani and Nelly Furtado and The Potbelleez, to buy a Pittwater pad for $2.35 million. The record producer and songwriter known as Sam La More has snagged an Avalon Beach weekender. Photo: Supplied

The five-bedroom house on Riverview Road with a domed roofline – billed an “igloo” on his Instagram account – is expected to be a weekender for the Watsons Bay-based artist.

Littlemore had no sooner taken the keys to the property than he and the rest of the members of electro dance group PNAU were nominated for an ARIA for best dance release. Nick Littlemore (left) and Sam Littlemore (right) are members of the electro group PNAU. Photo: AAP Image/Daniel Munoz

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NSW consumers continue to battle with Viagogo

“Find the perfect ticket,” the Viagogo site boasts.
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But consumers are finding the ticket resale website far from perfect, as it topped NSW Fair Trading’s complaint register for a second month.

Last month there were 36 new complaints about Viagogo, according to the register that lists businesses that are the subject of 10 or more complaints in a month.

In August, there were 59 complaints about the website, the highest number received about any trader in a single month since the register began almost a year ago, NSW Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean said.

The n Competition and Consumer Commission has launched action against the global ticketing company in the Federal Court, alleging it engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct by failing to disclose steep fees in the price of tickets.

In one example given by the ACCC the total price for two Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens tickets increased from $450.00 to $579.95 when a $125 booking fee and a $4.95 handling fee were revealed late in the purchasing process.

The price of a Book of Mormon ticket increased from $135 to $177.45 after fees were included.

It was also alleged that Viagogo misled consumers by claiming tickets were scarce and sell-outs were likely, without revealing that referred only to sales on its website.

Mr Kean issued a public warning about Viagogo in August, after other complaints about the fees, failure to provide refunds, delayed delivery and event cancellations.

“I won’t tolerate this kind of shonky behaviour, and as the register clearly shows, NSW consumers have had a gutful as well,” he said.

Simone Mohr bought four tickets on Viagogo to see singer Adele perform in Melbourne in March for $3000, including a $448 booking fee. She had gone to the website after a sell-out on Ticketmaster.

When she and her family arrived at Etihad Stadium, staff told her the tickets had already been refunded by the original buyer and would not be accepted.

Ticketing staff found Ms Mohr another four seats, priced at $800, and warned her not to use the website again. In total, the experience had cost nearly $4000.

“I was crying and shaking and the kids were so upset,” she said.

Sydney luxury car dealer Clayton Bespoke made the Fair Trading list for the first time last month with 14 complaints, after a public warning relating to owners not receiving their money when cars were sold on consignment, or that cheques bounced.

The guidelines on the complaint register note that many complaints received by Fair Trading relate to poor customer service, and that appearing on the register does not necessarily mean a business has broken any laws.

It also notes that larger businesses and certain industries can attract more grievances, while media attention on an issue can generate more complaints.

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[email protected]: ASX to open higher; all eyes on Macquarie

The information of stocks that lost in prices are displayed on an electronic board inside the n Securities Exchange, operated by ASX Ltd., in Sydney, , on Friday, July 24, 2015. The n dollar slumped last week as a gauge of Chinese manufacturing unexpectedly contracted, aggravating the impact of declines in copper and iron ore prices. Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg ASX, n Stock Exchange pictured in March 2012.AFR Picture by ROB HOMER(NO CAPTION INFORMATION PROVIDED)
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MARKETS. 7 JUNE 2011. AFR PIC BY PETER BRAIG. STOCK EXCHANGE, SYDNEY, STOCKS. GENERIC PIC. ASX. STOCKMARKET. MARKET.

Stock information is displayed on an electronic board inside the n Securities Exchange, operated by ASX Ltd., in Sydney, , on Friday, July 24, 2015. The n dollar slumped last week as a gauge of Chinese manufacturing unexpectedly contracted, aggravating the impact of declines in copper and iron ore prices. Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

The n market looks set to open higher after Wall Street gained overnight, recovering some of its losses from the previous session after a string of strong company results from the likes of Amazon, Google parent Alphabet and Vale.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.3 per cent, the S&P 500 gained 0.1 per cent, but the Nasdaq Composite lost 0.1 per cent.

In local company news, Macquarie Group is slated to post half-year results, ResMed is due to release first-quarter results while AMP is expected to provide an update on third-quarter funds under management.

Murray Goulburn, Carsales苏州夜总会招聘, WorleyParsons,Tabcorp, Regis Healthcare, GWA Group, APA Group and Qantas Airways have annual general meetings scheduled.

The n dollar has moved lower against a rallying US dollar, trading at 76.59 US cents this morning.

Markets will closely watch today’s High Court ruling on the issue of Barnaby Joyce and six other MP’s holding dual citizen status. Should the court vote against their case, we should see by-elections, in-turn increasing the prospect that the Liberals will be left with a minority government. The long and short of it

1. Central banks: The music that keeps investors buying will continue to play, just at a slower pace. That’s the message global central banks and economic data have sent around the world over the last 24 hours. The weak inflation data out of , with consumer prices up 1.8 per cent year on year, add further to the idea that the RBA will not be persuaded by other central bankers, who charged ahead with hawkish language only to pull back as the sustainability of an economic recovery has proven difficult.

The European Central Bank came out of the gates on Thursday with a commitment to halve the amount of its bond purchases, while at the same time extending the tenure of its bond buying program. The market read this as a sign that central banks may be buying less, but are no less active than they have been in working to ensure volatility remains low and confidence remains high.The market reaction tells you everything you need to know with the euro falling against the majority of G10 currencies and German Bunds going bid alongside shares. The line from ECB President Mario Draghi that the market appears to have liked the most is the assurance that there is no “sudden stop” of its program.

2. n shares: Our call for the ASX 200 sits at 5940 (up 0.5 per cent), so 16 points away from the high print from May and obviously 60 from the illustrious 6000 level. BHP is set to open up 8 cents higher (if we use the ADR), although the S&P 500 materials sector has gained 1.4 per cent. Aussie banks should open on a stronger footing, but it’s all eyes on Macquarie this morning, which is reporting first-half earnings. The market expects cash earnings of $1.14 billion, on revenue of $5.29 billion. However, keep in mind Macquarie is an absolute super star when it comes to earnings and in the last 18 half-yearly reports shares have only closed lower on the day of reporting once! The S&P/ASX 200 Index remains a shade below the year-to-date high traded at on May 1 at 5,956, with Thursday’s close at 5916.30.

3. Economic data: All eyes in will be on the producer price indexes (PPI) this morning in hopes that the recently weak inflation data was not a sign of things to come. PPI measures the prices received by producers at the completion of their supply chain and can echo the sentiments found from inflation data. RBA Deputy Governor Guy Debelle added to concerns about the slowing economy stating that the inflation data, as weak as it was, may be even weaker due to lagging rejigging of the index and substitution bias. Substitution bias is the idea that consumers will move to cheaper goods faster than indices like CPI can adjust for.

4. Wall Street continues to flash green with the SPX500 getting a lift on gravity-defying earnings. Since earnings season began in mid-October, investors have seen the top 30 stocks on Wall Street rise by 2.5 per cent. US economic data has been impressing since early September, and Friday’s US economic growth data is expected to keep the positive sentiment going, thanks in large part to economic bell weathers in the US raising forecasts. Technology firms remain a keen focus during earnings seasons after a shaky earnings season last quarter led by volatility surrounding the often-cited quartet of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google.

5. Currencies: The n dollar continues to be sold on the view that US dollars should be bought, not sold in anticipation of a new Federal Reserve head and the recent selling in the US sovereign bonds that have sent yields higher. The US Treasury 10-year yields are at the highest levels in 6-months, which brings the greenback higher in the hope that tightening is providing demand for the US dollar The Aussie fell against the greenback after the weak consumer inflation print pushed out the already lagging expectations for the next RBA hike.

6. Commodities have received exciting news for oil bulls: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince has called oil’s “new era” with supply control the key way to support prices. Recently, markets were encouraged by comments from Russia that it is open to extending cuts in alignment with Opec producers to the end of 2018. Despite impressive compliance between Opec on production cuts, US production showed the strongest rise in output since 2012.Given the rise in stocks, precious metals alongside the S&P Volatility Index (VIX) fail to hold relative spikes higher. The spot price of gold is currently trading near the low of the monthly range at US$1,306 to US$ 1,260.67 per ounce. Iron Ore remains under pressure on China’s concern about dirty steel mills, which has pushed miners to focus on mining higher-quality ore as lower-quality such as the 62 per cent iron ore content delivered to Qingdao continues to trade 20 percent below August prices.

7. Emerging markets: Volatility is picking up in emerging markets led by the rising concerns of a debt downgrade to South Africa after their Finance Minister signaled an intention to issue a slew of new debt to plug a widening budget gap. The troubles do not belong to that country alone. Looking across Emerging Market FX (EMFX), traders recognise the longest selling streak against the US dollar since April. There is traditionally an inverse relationship between trends in the US dollar and the US dollar-dependent borrowing emerging markets.

8. Market highlights:SPI futures up 10 points or 0.2% to 5908AUD -0.5% to 76.62 US cents (Day range: 0.7656 – 0.7719)NZD -0.6% to 68.46 US cents (Day range: 0.6834 – 0.6904)On Wall St: Dow +0.3%, S&P 500 +0.1%, Nasdaq -0.1%In New York, BHP +0.3% Rio +0.2%In Europe: Stoxx 50 +1.3%, FTSE +0.5%, CAC +1.5%, DAX +1.4%Spot gold -0.8% to $US1267.83 an ounceBrent crude +1.1% to $US59.06 a barrelUS oil +0.7% to $US52.53 a barrelIron ore -1.2% to $US61.47 a tonneDalian iron ore -2.2% to 444 yuanSteam coal -0.1% to $US97.10, Met coal +0.0% to $US181.50LME aluminium +0.2% to $US2190 a tonne

This column was produced in commercial partnership between Fairfax Media and IG

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Beale is key to managing Folau’s absence

How do you replace a player such as John Eales medal winner Israel Folau?
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The simple answer is that you don’t.

The Wallabies fullback was so explosive last weekend, so decisive, that it served as a reminder that in full flight there isn’t really anyone like him in either of the collision codes in .

When his dander is up – and it was in Brisbane – he is such a handful that you really have to be a world-class defender to do anything more than contain him.

All Blacks captain Kieran Read nailed him with one very good tackle last week but as the game went on, as Folau’s influence grew, we saw that familiar trait of defenders going high on the big No. 15 and really struggling to limit his metres.

We’re talking about high-quality opponents too – I’m thinking specifically of Ryan Crotty – who get caught upright in defensive situations against Folau, not because they are targeting him high but because when Folau decides to take you on his first stride forward is so long and so assertive that you get caught on the back foot before you can get into position.

I don’t think there is anyone quite like this in Test rugby at the moment. The closest athlete I can think of is the Blues’ Melani Nanai but his talents went strangely unfulfilled last season just as former Storm wing Matt Duffie was on the rise.

However, it is not all doom and gloom for the Wallabies on their northern tour as Folau takes a break from the game, a move that is good for him and hopefully decreases the chances of him playing injured at the next World Cup, unlike in 2015 when he was clearly compromised by an ankle concern.

The Wallabies can navigate their way through the period of Folau’s absence in part because of their talent pool and in part because of the versatility they already have in their back line.

I am not always a fan of Kurtley Beale dropping out of the defensive front line, but what that system means is that Beale already spends a lot of time in the back field, taking high kicks and looking for counterattack opportunities.

It would be no great disruption to have Beale move permanently to fullback while Folau is away. The position is familiar to him and the Wallabies attack is functioning so well because Folau gets them on the front foot when he returns the ball.

The ease of that switch, of course, relies on finding someone to step in to the No. 12 jersey and this is where Karmichael Hunt comes in.

There are changes happening in the northern hemisphere game, with even the Welsh choosing dual playmakers over crash ball No. 12s in their squads, but there is no doubt that Hunt’s front-on defensive starch has appeal on a northern tour.

But that aside, he has already shown some more creative touches in his limited time in the Wallabies jersey to indicate that the Wallabies would not lose much offensively with him at No. 12.

Of course, Michael Cheika might pick Hunt at fullback but you can be sure he would defend up in the front line anyway, so the numbers on the backs of Hunt and Beale are not as important as selecting them together to allow them to build some form of combination.

The strategy I would be less keen on would be shifting Reece Hodge to No. 15 just as he has found his feet as a wing, or the left-field option of picking Tom Banks at No. 15.

Banks should tour – he’s absolutely up to the job – but the Wallabies have done such a great job with the education of Marika Koroibete and Hodge on the wings that I believe this might be the best introduction for Banks, too.

The excellent strides the Wallabies have made since the first Bledisloe then beg the following question – even with Folau missing is it too much to ask for a Wallabies victory against England in the wee hours of November 19? Perhaps not.

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Amazon beats profit forecasts after sales jump

Amazon苏州夜总会招聘 sales jumped 34 per cent in the third quarter and profit topped analysts’ estimates as Prime Day sales boosted its retail business and demand remained strong for its popular cloud service for companies.
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The company’s shares, which closed down 0.05 per cent on Thursday, rose about 6 per cent in after-hours trading following the quarterly earnings statement. They have gained about 30 per cent this year.

The world’s largest online retailer said net income rose to $US256 million, or 52 US cents per share in the quarter ending September 30. Analysts on average were expecting 3 US cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Amazon forecast fourth quarter operating income to range from $US300 million to $US1.65 billion. Analysts on average were expecting $US1.5 billion, according to data and analytics firm FactSet.

Net sales in North America, its biggest market, jumped 34.8 per cent to $US25.45 billion in the third quarter.

Revenue from Amazon Web Services, the company’s fast-growing cloud services business, surged 41.9 per cent to $US4.58 billion, beating the average estimate of $US4.52 billion given in polling by data and analytics firm FactSet.

Total operating expenses also surged 35 per cent to $US43.4 billion as the company poured money into expanding its Prime program, creating original video content and building its warehouse and delivery infrastructure.

The company’s net sales rose 33.7 per cent to $US43.74 billion from $US32.71 billion, including $US1.3 billion in about a month of sales for upscale grocer Whole Foods, which Amazon acquired for $US13.7 billion in August.

Amazon’s annual Prime Day shopping event in July was its biggest ever by sales.

Reuters

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Investor confidence is rising

Despite continuing concerns about a possible conflict with North Korea and the ability of ‘s leading bank shares to maintain profitability under increased regulatory pressure, our sharemarket has followed the US and other world markets in rising strongly. This is boosting superannuation account balances and helping to reduce the impact of the new lower employer and personal contributions caps on funds available in retirement.
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Existing and future retirees caught by the new $1.6 million limit on tax-free retirement pension accounts will benefit if markets continue to perform well and rise even further. High investment returns will allow minimum annual tax-free pensions to be paid without dipping into capital and reducing the funds available in later years.

By setting an individual absolute cap of $1.6 million that can be invested in tax-free pension accounts, the government has deprived retirees of the opportunity to replenish their pension accounts when markets fall or their annual minimum pension payments exceed fund earnings. Their only hope of ensuring their money does not run out is to continue to achieve positive solid investment returns.

Achieving consistent and solid investment returns has always been the key to funding a comfortable retirement but is now far more important because of the greatly reduced opportunities to fast-track super contributions later in life. The exponential help from compound interest provides its greatest benefit for younger people unable to access their superannuation for an extended period.

The shorter time period involved and requirement to draw down a minimum annual pension that increases quickly with age reduces compound interest benefits for existing retirees but reinvesting as much annual fund income as possible is crucial to funding a lengthy retirement. Where other assets are available to help fund retirement, the best and most tax-effective strategy to make the tax-free pension account last if possible is to withdraw only the minimum mandated annual pension.

Funding additional annual expenses out of the non-pension assets will help preserve and even increase the pension fund assets for future use. The tougher super contribution limits increase the incentives to increase holdings of non-superannuation assets. Having these assets available to use when needed will help restrict withdrawals in retirement from tax-free pension accounts to the minimum mandated annual levels.

Where possible couples can boost their tax-free retirement income by ensuring that both partners make best possible use of the annual superannuation contribution limits. While one individual is restricted to the maximum $1.6 million tax-free retirement pension cap, with superannuation assets equally split, a couple can accumulate up to $3.2 million to fund their retirement. At the minimum annual pension withdrawal rate, at age 65, the combined annual tax-free income for a couple is $160,000.

Daryl Dixon is the executive chairman of Dixon Advisory. [email protected]苏州夜总会招聘.au

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Gagged Somerville House parents to march onto private school in anger

Somerville House parents banned from talking about a leaked report discussing the school’s future are planning a public protest as the facility’s governing body hits back at growing criticism.
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Protesters planned to march on the school at 7am on Friday to show their displeasure at the way the school has handled a series of information leaks and staff departures.

Organisers expected the short-notice protest to attract between about 70 to 100 people.

The PMSA’s statement dismissed a report that reportedly proposed a more centralised model for the association’s four schools. Photo: Jorge Branco

The agitation came as the Presbyterian and Methodist Schools Association, having newly engaged a Sydney-based crisis management firm, issued a lengthy statement seeking to “set the record straight”.

The response came the day after principal Florence Keaney was stood down, with the PMSA insisting she was not “sacked” despite leaving weeks earlier than planned and reportedly being ejected from the school grounds.

Ms Kearney had previously announced plans to quit at the end of the year, which were followed shortly after by the resignations of two other senior staffers.

The PMSA’s statement dismissed a report by Deloitte that reportedly proposed a more centralised model for the association’s four schools as a move to increase efficiency and denied it intended to “strip the ??? individual character” of the schools.

“Furthermore, no plans exist to centralise the operations of our schools,” the statement said.

Beyond PMSA, a protest group set up online as anger over the handling of the situation deepened, described the statement as “somewhere between laughable and insulting”.

The PMSA also sought to negate criticism over former Somerville House Foundation company secretary Rick Hiley’s move from the school to the governing body.

Mr Hiley downloaded foundation data onto a portable hard drive shortly before he left the school, sparking a warning to donors of a “serious security incident”.

But on Thursday, the association said independent experts had cleared Mr Hiley of any wrongdoing.

It also addressed a series of text messages reportedly sent between Mr Hiley and former PMSA chairman Robert McCall, which discussed trips to a nearby Korean bathhouse in school hours, involving nudity.

“Private dialogue referring to a scene from the PG-rated movie Eddie the Eagle was exchanged in a small number of inoffensive text messages,” the PMSA insisted.

“Reports that the event involved any inappropriate standards of behaviour are wrong.”

The school’s Parents and Friends’ Association was sent a legal letter on behalf of the PMSA on Tuesday warning members not to discuss or reference the Deloitte report in any way and calling for any copies to be destroyed.

“Any person who engages in behaviour contrary to their obligations to the PMSA and its schools will be addressed in an appropriate manner,” the letter warned.

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Trump settles on replacing Yellen at the Fed

President Donald Trump has largely settled on nominating either former investment banker Jerome “Jay” Powell or Stanford University economist John Taylor to be chairman of the Federal Reserve, three people briefed on the process said, setting the stage for what could be one of the most consequential economic decisions of his administration.
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These two men could have much different approaches to running the US central bank, which sets the direction for interest rates and also plays a lead role in financial regulation.

The three people confirming that Powell and Taylor are now the front-runners spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the internal deliberations publicly.

Trump is well-known, though, for changing his mind on nominations late in the process, and several people warned that a final decision had not yet been made.

But the emergence of Powell and Taylor as Trump’s two favourites puts the selection into much clearer focus, a decision that could have major implications for both the global economy and the Fed.

Powell is a Fed governor who has supported current chair Janet Yellen’s cautious pace of raising interest rates.

Taylor, a conservative economist, beloved by congressional Republicans for years, is considered more hawkish on fighting inflation, and many economists believe he would move more quickly to raise interest rates than Powell.

He has also criticised Yellen for going too far in trying to help stimulate the economy, warning that it could lead to out-of-control inflation that the United States saw in the 1970s and early 1980s.

In addition to his years at Stanford, Taylor held a senior role in the Treasury Department during the George W. Bush administration, focused on international affairs. He was also an economic adviser during George Bush sr’s administration and served at the White House during the Carter and Ford administrations.

Trump has said he likes having low interest rates, though, and it’s unclear if this might ultimately doom Taylor’s chances. Vice President Mike Pence has told White House officials that Taylor is an excellent economist and sat in on his interview with Trump.

Trump could make his decision as soon as next week. Yellen’s term ends in early February, and the Fed chairman must be confirmed by the Senate.

Trump recently met with Yellen about the prospect of renominating her to a four-year term at the Fed, and he has praised her approach to running the central bank. But in a recent interview with Fox Business, he suggested he was looking for someone new at the helm.

“I have to say you’d like to make your own mark,” he said when discussing the prospect of renominating Yellen.

The US economy is gaining strength, with a recent surge in the stock market, low inflation and low unemployment. Wages have lagged though, fuelling frustration among many Americans who feel they have been left behind by the recent economic recovery.

The next Fed chairman will have to decide how aggressively to raise interest rates, how tightly to retain supervision of banks, and how best to prevent the next financial crisis.

Powell has served as Fed governor for five years, but previously worked at a Washington think tank called the Bipartisan Policy Center, the investment firm Carlyle Group, and held senior roles in the Treasury Department during the George H.W. Bush administration. He has earned the respect of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Mnuchin is playing a central role in the selection process.

The Fed chairman and the treasury secretary traditionally meet almost weekly on a range of issues and work very closely on monitoring financial markets and setting regulatory policy.

He has a law degree, however, and isn’t a PhD economist, which is unusual for someone selected to lead the US central bank.

Deutsche Bank economists on Monday wrote in a research note that they would prefer Trump pick Powell over Taylor, saying “he would provide the highest degree of continuity to current policy. As such, markets should take a Powell announcement largely in stride, keeping financial conditions easy and providing little disruption to an economy that is experiencing solid growth.”

But Republicans have long pushed for a major shake-up at the Fed, complaining that the central bank plays too much of an activist role in setting policy at the risk of distorting markets and the economy. Such a sentiment, if endorsed by Trump, could give Taylor an edge. But if Trump decides he doesn’t want to risk the recent economic gains, he could opt to nominate Powell.

The Washington Post

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30,000 lightning strikes, ‘huge’ hailstones strike NSW

Flooding in Drummoyne due to Sydney storm.
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WET WEATHER. Circular Quay, 20th October 2017, Photo: Wolter Peeters, The Sydney Morning Herald.

Sydney and the Hunter region were battered by thunderstorms overnight with heavy rain continuing into the morning, causing flooding and damage.

Meteorologists said there were about 30,000 lightning strikes in the Hunter region overnight, with the area hit by “huge” hailstones reported to be about five centimetres in diameter.

The NSW State Emergency Service received 250 calls for assistance overnight, with the Hunter and Sydney metropolitan region the worst affected areas.

Sydney commuters face a slow trip into work on Friday morning with wet roads and flooding in parts of the city, including Drummoyne, Moore Park and Beaconsfield. Trains between Sydney and Newcastle were also affected due to power supply problems caused by the weather.

Graeme Brittain, a senior meteorologist at Weatherzone, said heavy rain fell over a wide area of Sydney on Thursday night and early on Friday as a series of storm fronts moved across the city.

Little Bay in Sydney’s east received a dumping of 32 millimetres of rain, Chatswood received 27 millimetres and Campbelltown 26 millimetres.

“The showers will continue for a few hours throughout the morning as the storm passes,” Mr Brittain said.

“Conditions will gradually clear throughout the rest of the day.”

He said there were 30,000 lightning strikes in the Hunter region overnight. Storms also passed over Sydney throughout the night, although there were significantly fewer strikes than in the Hunter, which bore the brunt of the bad weather.

The hail fell in Newcastle shortly before 4.30pm and lasted about 15 minutes. The western reaches of the Hunter experienced hail about 4pm.

In Gresford, there were reports of hail about five centimetres in diameter, which is classified by meteorologists as “huge” hail.

???A low pressure system moving across NSW is the source of the unstable weather which comes after a lengthy dry spell across much of NSW.

The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting clearing conditions later on Friday, followed by a partly cloudy day on Saturday with a top temperature of 27 degrees.

A top of 29 degrees and mostly sunny conditions are forecast in Sydney on Sunday, rising to a top of 30 degrees on Monday. 10c-20c sized #hail in #newcastle just now #stormpic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/Jp4yRzjZ0d??? Max Mason-Hubers (@MaxMasonHubers) October 26, 2017Sometimes nature reminds us who is in charge – 4cm #hail stones in #Newcastle this afternoon pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/xcpQkN86j8??? James McGregor (@JamesMcGregorAU) October 26, 2017Around 250 emergency calls to SES overnight, Hunter, Metro worst affected, no significant damage. Need emergency help? Call 132500.??? NSW SES (@NSWSES) October 26, 2017

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