Monthly Archives: March 2019

Retail sales slip after solid start to 2013

Retail sales have fallen in March after a strong start to the year, led by falls in clothing, footwear and personal accessories, sustaining expectations the Reserve Bank could lower the cash rate tomorrow.
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Retail sales fell 0.4 per cent in March seasonally adjusted, below economists’ expectations of a 0.1 per cent rise.

Sales of clothing, footwear and personal accessories dropped by 4.2 per cent, while household goods slipped by 1.5 per cent. Other retailing, which includes pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, fell 1 per cent as department stores saw their sales ease by 0.1 per cent.

But food sales rose 0.8 per cent as more people ate out, with cafes, restaurants and takeaway food outlets enjoying a 0.2 per cent lift. Retail turnover rose 3.2 per cent for March compared to the previous corresponding month, the Bureau of Statistics data showed.

BT Financial Group chief Chris Caton said people should not be alarmed about the unexpected fall in retail sales figures.

“We shouldn’t panic about this number. It follows two very strong numbers and there’s almost always a correction out there eventually,” Mr Caton said.

“It’s not really a sign that retail is suddenly weak again. The influence that we don’t know about is the earliness of Easter and what that may have done [to the figures].”

ANZ economic analyst Savita Singh said despite the seasonally adjusted fall, retail sales were still 2.2 per cent higher than last year.

“Together with the improvements in house prices, these data suggest that some interest-rate sensitive parts of the economy are beginning to improve,” Ms Singh wrote in a research note.

“However, despite better consumer confidence and spending, there has been no notable improvement in business conditions and the non-mining investment outlook remains soft.”

There was no change in financial markets’ expectations of an interest rate cut following the release of the retail numbers. The markets were pricing in a 52 per cent chance of a 25 basis points cut at the RBA meeting tomorrow.

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Without wetlands, what will protect the Great Barrier Reef?

Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Supplied. Aerial view of Great Barrier Reef, Cairns.
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UNESCO has released its latest report on the state of the Great Barrier Reef, and has once again raised concerns about excessive port development along the coast, and the state of water quality around the reef.

In March I was invited to Queensland to see for myself the threat posed by proposed massive port expansions along the Great Barrier Reef.

I flew over Abbott Point to examine the present coal terminal. We visited the adjacent Caley Valley Wetlands in a tinny, revealing dozens to hundreds of birds at every creek turn. Huge flocks of whistling ducks took flight as we approached, herons perched in trees or stalked among water lilies; we saw great pelicans, magpie geese, kingfishers, elegant long-necked cormorants, kites, and half a dozen other species of duck, rails and black swans. The density of birds was astonishing, the highest I have ever seen in any wetland. It was immediately clear that this was an extraordinary haven for wildlife.

The present coal terminal and connecting road and rail links follow the southern side of the wetlands to a long loading jetty. This infrastructure is large and has clearly had a significant impact, but there is much intact and unspoiled wetland left. The plan is to expand the port to become the largest coal terminal in the world; that expansion would be the end for these wetlands. The impacts on the Great Barrier Reef directly would also be considerable: millions of tonnes of dredge material are likely to be dumped near Holbourne Island and its coral reefs, with potential for much greater dispersal further offshore.

Further south we travelled by boat from Yeppoon to Gladstone. The Fitzroy River delta is one of the wonders of this coastline. Approached by sea, it probably looks much as it did when Captain Cook sailed by more than 200 years ago.

People tend to develop estuaries wherever they find them. They have lots of low-lying land to build on, easy access to the ocean and plentiful water to flush away waste. Given this long historical association, there are very few of the size and importance of the Fitzroy that are left undeveloped. This means the estuary is as significant, extraordinary and precious as the Great Barrier Reef itself. If it is destroyed it cannot be recovered. Yet it is deeply threatened by proposals for a massive new port.

The importance of the estuary is underlined by the presence of endangered and iconic species, such as a small and genetically distinct resident population of snub fin dolphin.

Travelling south we encountered the mangrove-laced Narrows, flushed by powerful tidal currents that promote high productivity and attract large animals like bull sharks and even occasional crocodiles. The northern section, like the Fitzroy Delta to which it is connected, is undeveloped and has a timeless quality about it. On the southern stretch, construction cranes and the silhouettes of bulk carrier ships loom, soon merging into a relentless string of industrial constructions.

I have never seen such a sprawling port. Every company appears to have its own separate facility, so that Gladstone is more like a collection of many ports than a single entity. There seems to have been little need to build gas hubs on the world heritage-listed Curtis Island, had land been used more wisely. Images taken before dredging operations opened up the Curtis Island jetties revealed that dredging hadn’t just deepened and widened channels, it had removed the entire network of shallow wetlands.

Gladstone’s wasteful sprawl now threatens more of Curtis Island as well as the Fitzroy Delta.

I doubt that many Queenslanders or other Australians realise what they are about to lose: the wild open spaces, places for recreation, inspiration and fun, and habitats that sustain the wider ecology of the coast, support significant fisheries and protect the Great Barrier Reef.

Wetlands along the coast are vital to the survival of the Great Barrier Reef region. They are the reef’s first line of defence from adverse terrestrial influences, retaining and trapping sediments and nutrients that would otherwise be moved offshore to stress and damage corals. They help limit the spread of flood waters, which will be an increasingly important function in the future as the climate changes. And they provide nurseries for many commercially important species of fish like prawns, snappers and emperors.

I was alarmed by the enormous threats to the unspoiled coastal environment and quality of life for Australians; one cannot ignore the global significance of the Queensland coast, the role of intact, healthy habitats in the economic prosperity of the region, and the interdependent nature of the entire coast to the outer reef region – you can’t damage one part without damaging others.

Visiting these amazing places first-hand has revealed to me how mining interests are prepared to squander the future of many to enrich just a few in the present. Open spaces and unspoiled country are the soul of Australia, embedded in the national psyche. But there is a real danger that Australia is selling its soul to the mining industry.

The World Heritage Committee was wise to send a mission to investigate. The risk to the Reef is profound.

Coastal wetland protection and protection of the Reef from port expansion, dredging and shipping are fundamentally intertwined. Without a swift change of direction, Queenslanders and the world risk ruining a living priceless treasure.

Callum Roberts has in the past received research funding from a variety of organisations, including the UK Natural Environment Research Council, UK Department for International Development, UK Darwin Initiative, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Fauna and Flora International, Pew Charitable Trusts, WWF, and Greenpeace. Callum is a WWF UK Ambassador, trustee of Seaweb, Fauna and Flora International and Blue Marine Foundation, and advisor to Save our Seas and The Manta Trust.

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Police taskforce to investigate leak to bikies

Damaging and horrible … Police Commissioner Ken Lay. Photo: Penny StephensJohn Silvester: Rats in ranks
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Police fear a major information leak described as damaging and horrible will compromise serious criminal investigations, including some into bike gangs.

Chief Commissioner Ken Lay announced a taskforce on Monday afternoon to probe the leak, which was detected when police documents were found last month during searches of three properties in Melbourne.

A junior member of the force has been suspended without pay and is expected to be the source of the leak, which included documents dating back to 2010. The officer is from the northern region.

One of the raided properties that had leaked documents inside was linked to a high-profile member of a motorbike gang.

The are 31 officers on the task force, described as senior members and “the best”.

“Today we’re talking about one of the gravest breaches of police security certainly in my time in Victoria police,” Mr Lay said.

“This is a gross breach of trust. It is absolutely vital we nail this, and nail this very quickly.

“This is our greatest priority going forward.”

Police have contacted people named in the documents, whose safety may have been compromised and Acting Deputy Commissioner Steve Fontana said there were some crimes committed against people on the list, but it was unclear if this was retribution.

Mr Fontana said it was unclear how many people were named in the documents, and how many of those were potentially at risk.

He said police had “no idea” how many investigations may have been jeopardised.

Mr Lay said the force were confident the leak was predominantly the work of the suspended member, but there may be other officers on the periphery.

“The amount of damage that has done been done by these people is quite extraordinary.”

Taskforce Keel has been given two months, but Mr Fontana said he expected criminal charges to be laid soon.

The Echo taskforce, established to probe bikie gangs, professional standards command and crime department officers executed the warrants.

Mr Lay did not say how many documents were found, but said it was a significant number. It was unclear whether there were electronic copies of the documents, or how many people had been given the information.

Mr Fontana said many of those named in the documents as assisting police had criminal histories and detectives had made a list prioritising those most at risk.

Some would be offered protection, he said.

Mr Lay apologised to the media and the public for being unable to reveal more about the breach, but said details would be provided as soon as possible.

He said that it was extremely rare to speak openly about an ongoing investigation, but he wished to ensure that the public did not lose confidence in the force’s capacity to keep their information private.

“It again highlights how difficult it can be to protect the community from people who are hell-bent on corruption,” he said.

Taskforce Keel, which will probe the breach, will include two superintendents and be headed by Mr Fontana.

More to come…

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Roos bound over Bulldogs

Heyfield’s Daniel Stevens handpasses under pressure during the match against Sale City. Heyfield’s Nick Dowse kicks the ball out of defence.
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Gallery: local footy

HEYFIELD made an early statement of intent with an emphatic 50-point victory over Sale City.

The Kangaroos have begun their North Gippsland football premiership defence with three wins from four matches

A strong second term on Saturday helped the Kangaroos defeat the Bulldogs 12.13 (85) to 20.15 (135).

After a tight start to the match, the Kangaroos opened up a 28-point lead at half-time with a five-goal second quarter with Lyell Berry and Jesse Bedggood in blistering touch in front of goal.

The visitors kept within reach in the third term, but could do little to eat into the Kangaroos’ lead, which they continued to build on in the second half.

Heyfield defender Scott Anderson stood out, with Jesse Leeds and Nick Dowse also influential.

For the Bulldogs, Matt Lutze had one of his best matches this season, Byron Shingles was also impressive, while Mitch Evans and Nick Grainger booted four goals each.

Wildcats top cats

WOODSIDE enhanced its status as the competition’s big improver, with a 30-point triumph at home over league heavyweight Churchill.

The eagerly anticipated clash between the undefeated top of the table sides lived up to all expectations in the first half.

Five points favoured the Cougars after a high-scoring first quarter before the visitors used the conditions to their favour in the second term, skipping away to a 20-point lead after kicking seven goals to three.

Coach Tim Darby, Travis Brighton and Hamish Towns made an impact in front of goal during the second quarter.

The Wildcats blitzed their opponents during the third term, outscoring Churchill six goals to three to reel the half-time margin back to one point at the final change.

In the final term, the Wildcats remained hungry, passionate and wanting the win.

Through key forward Justin Staley, the Wildcats hit their straps early in the quarter. The Churchill defence worked diligently to contain Staley, as the midfield dominance and delivery into the forward line put the home side in the box seat.

The Wildcats won 21.14 (140) to 17.8 (110) after a seven goals to two final term.

Staley kicked 11 goals against a formidable backline, Hank Norman chipped in with two majors in a dominant performance, while Matt Scholz also held his own in a strong individual effort.

Blues get out of gaol

ROSEDALE got out of gaol to record its third win of the season.

After taking the lead 10 minutes into the final term, Gormandale appeared poised to register its first win of the season, but the Blues regained the lead and went on to win 9.14 (68) to 9.8 (62).

Tigers coach Luke Henderson said his side could take plenty from the contest despite falling short of the line.

“We have seen in the opening month that we have the ability to beat everyone at the competition, but we also know that we are at a level that we can also lose to anyone,” he said.

“We know that we have to play at our absolute best; we have pulled together patches and glimpses of this.

“We had plenty of the ball in the last quarter against Rosedale, we hit the front 10 minutes into the final term, however they replied with a goal straight from the centre to regain the lead.”

Henderson said the Tigers’ season would be on the line this Sunday then the side travels to Glengarry.

Strong start gives Saints victory

ELEVEN unanswered goals in the first term lad the foundation for Cowwarr’s 18.18 (126) to 6.12 (48) win over Boisdale-Briagolong.

The Bombers could do little but watch in awe as the Saints rebounded from the disappointment of the opening month to put the result well beyond question during the first term.

The Saints took the foot off the pedal as the Bombers asserted themselves in the contest, outscoring the home side in the second term.

Cowwarr added a further seven majors for the contest to record a 78-point victory, marking Lee Coopers 250th senior game milestone in style.

Tim Johnston created headaches for opposition defenders, finishing with eight goals. Ben Plozza made the most when pushing forward, kicking four.

Milestone man Cooper was impressive in the midfield and recruit Jordon Sandy again impressed, with Brendan Patrick-Smith also among the best.

Adam Helmke was the Bombers’ best.

Hard work for TTU

TRARALGON-Tyers United was forced to work hard for the four points against a persistent Glengarry.

The Bombers were pushed in a tough physical contest at Tyers.

Glengarry skipped out to a 10-point lead at the first change before the Bombers fought back in the second term with a Brian Graham goal giving them a one-goal lead at the long change.

The Magpies led by two points after a tight third term. Defender Lachlan Little had a major impact on proceedings, with Trevor May and Robbie Cahill popping up to score majors.

The Bombers got the better of the visitors early in the fourth term, racing out to a 25-point before the Magpies booted two majors during the final 30 seconds.

Graham was among the majors in the final term with TTU booting six goals to four at it won 12.14 (86) to 11.7 (73).

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Competition unusually close with five teams on top

CASTLEREAGH LEAGUE
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In an unusual scenario after just three competition rounds five teams sit equal at the top of the ladder on four competition points.

Going into the round both the Dunedoo Swans and the Gilgandra Panthers were the only undefeated teams, but now neither can claim that mantle after both lost their games by six points.

Hosting the Gulgong Terriers the Swans would have rated themselves a good chance but the visitors seem to be continuing their fine end of season form from last year and they took an entertaining match 26 to 20, indicating that they are well and truly one of the contenders in 2013.

The recent tradition of tough, close and uncompromising games between the Warren Bulldogs and the Gilgandra Panthers continued at The Boneyard on Saturday with the Doggies eventually winning the game 34 to 28.

The Panthers got off to a flying start when they scored in the first minute after a Warren player dropped the ball from the kick-off but after a fiery first half, which saw an all in and a player from each side dispatched to the sin bin the hosts had worked their way to a 16 to 10 lead.

An early try in the second stanza saw them go out to 22 to 10, but the Panthers came roaring back to score two converted tries and with 20 minutes remaining it was game on with the scores locked up at 22 all.

Despite being on the back foot through conceding a number of penalties the Dogs were able to score back-to-back tries before a last minute touchdown to the Panthers completed the scoring for the afternoon.

Warren’s lock, Sean Robson was a standout while his opposite Simon Cass was among the Panther’s best. Graham Lake in the centres also had a busy game, denying Gilgandra a couple of tries with some vital interceptions as well as having a good game in attack

In the other games the Coonabarabran Unicorns proved to be too strong for the Coolah Kangaroos in a Friday night game at Coolah, winning the game 66 to 22 and the Coonamble Bears notched up their first competition points for the year at the expense of the Trangie Magpies, winning a good contest at Trangie 46 to 28 after leading 16 to 6 at half time.

The Grizzlies’ front rower Scott McKenzie was the difference between the two sides, scoring four tries and generally being a handful for the Magpies defence. Jye Carter, Trangie’s second rower was their best, scoring a double as well as being prominent in defence

Round 4 shapes as an important one for a number of clubs, given the closeness of the competition after just three rounds.

Much attention will focus on the clash between Gilgandra and Dunedoo with the losing side slipping off a share of the competition lead.

The Swans always seem to save something special for the Panthers and if they come in attacking frame of mind, and Gilgandra use their talented backs a fast flowing game could well be on the cards.

After a disappointing first round loss to Coonabarabran the Gulgong Terriers have shown that they are a very competitive unit and they will be keen to build on the momentum gained in their wins over Warren and Dunedoo when they host Coonamble.

It is another long road trip for the Bears and they will be desperate to record back to back wins to stay in touch with the other teams on the competition ladder.

Coolah face a daunting task in trying to topple the reigning premiers, the Warren Bulldogs at The Boneyard while Trangie also face a difficult assignment in trying to wrest the Boronia Cup away from Coonabarabran on the Unicorns home ground

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