GREG RAY: Big two face new test

GEOBLOCKING is the system used by multinational tech corporations to force Australians to pay higher prices for products than those paid by Americans and Europeans.
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You strike it when you try to buy something on-line, only to learn that the really good price advertised isn’t available to Aussies.

It’s a bit like the ‘‘Newcastle tax’’ imposed by petrol retailers on our city’s motorists. There is no good reason we should pay more, but because the suppliers have the market sewn up they can charge us whatever they like.

For years Aussies have been fleeced by the geoblockers, who use software to detect what country visitors to their websites live in, before smashing some of them with higher prices or excluding some of them altogether.

Now a federal government competition review has decided that enough is enough and is proposing an education campaign to teach people how to get around the geoblocking software.

It’s a bold idea, and just part of a whole heap of reforms proposed in the newly released Harper Review.

The geoblockers aren’t the only targets: the review has the big supermarket duopoly in its sights too.

The review has backed plans by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to try to stop the big retailers from abusing their market power to the detriment of small businesses.

Not surprisingly, the big two are squealing.

If you believe what their critics have been saying for years, the dominant retailers have made a fair bit of their money by cannibalising many smaller Australian businesses.

If that’s true, any new law that stops them crushing other businesses could interfere with the part of their business model that involves pinching other people’s margins.

We’ve all heard the criticisms and the moaning from small businesses that complain about horrendous demands by the big retailers for ever-lower wholesale prices, for extra levies to support supermarket advertising and still more payments to get your products on the best shelves.

That’s if you can get your business on the preferred supplier list at all, and if you can survive the creation by the big retailers of their own generic brands, often packed and labelled just like yours and specially designed, you might think, to grind you out of business.

And of course we have heard similar stories from farmers, some of whom have complained of being forced to plough their crops into the ground because they couldn’t make the supermarkets happy enough.

From the point of view of the big retailers and the people who guide their decisions, they aren’t doing anything wrong by targeting the margins of their suppliers and by fighting fiercely to keep competing retailers off their turf. Their sole obligation is to maximise returns to their shareholders, and the way the system stands they would be criticised for failing to scoop up any stray cents that might be managing to fall into somebody else’s pockets, especially if it was mere kindness or a sense of fair play that held them back.

So, having been helplessly listening to the victims of retail duopoly power over a span of years, the review is proposing a new system that might actually offer some protection to complainants.

The idea is to replace the present hard-to-use law against the misuse of market power with a new ‘‘effects test’’ that will provide opportunities to punish big companies that deliberately adopt measures that harm competition.

Perhaps as sweeteners, the review is also proposing the deregulation of retail trading hours and letting supermarkets compete with the highly protected pharmacy industry. Oh, and making it easier for supermarkets around the country to sell liquor from their shelves.

Having cheerily accepted those concessions, the supermarket duopolists are squealing blue murder at the prospect of protection for smaller businesses.

Consumers will suffer, the big two have said, with straight faces, apparently.

My guess is that, if the proposal survives the furious lobbying the big two will probably mount against it, consumers will be better off in the long run. It will probably protect a lot of jobs too, I’d suggest.

Now let’s see if it survives.

Rail passing loop construction to begin in 2015

Loop: A new passing loop at Rowsley is expected to cut the number of train delays between Ballarat and Sunshine.CONSTRUCTION of the Rowsley rail passing loop will not begin until 2015.
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While work will begin on the Ballan Train Station car park upgrade before the end of the year, the passing loop will be made a second stage of the $14.3 million project.

The passing loop is seen a being one part of critical infrastructure to cut down the number of train delays between Ballarat and Sunshine.

Due to the single-track nature of the majority of the journey from Ballarat to Melbourne, trains are often forced to wait in the passing loops for other trains to pass.

Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder said the loop would help to improve punctuality and reliability.

“Preliminary design work is well under way on the Ballan station car park upgrade and Rowsley crossing loop,” he said.

“The project is now in the final stages of planning.

“Public Transport Victoria is also completing additional environmental assessment surveys for the Rowsley crossing loop’s alignment.”

Mr Mulder did not respond to questions asking if the loop would help to increase the capacity for the line to add extra services in the future.

V/Line recently published its latest annual report, which was tabled in parliament on September 17.

The report showed a decline in patronage for the 2013-14 financial year, following steady growth in numbers over the past few years.

“While patronage numbers increased on the Geelong, Seymour and Gippsland lines, there was a drop on the Ballarat and Bendigo lines,” V/Line spokeswoman Ebony Jordan said.

“The decline is a result of the line closures during major Regional Rail Link track works and the extension of electrification to Sunbury, with customers now travelling on Metro trains.”

Works were also conducted over the past 12 months between Ballarat and Sunshine to help improve the speed at which trains travel.

The works coincided with Regional Rail Link works and included the replacement of wooden sleepers with concrete sleepers at the Ballarat Railway Station and stabling yard, the removal of mud holes, resurfacing and re-aligning of the track between Rockbank and Ballarat, and the reconstruction of track formation at Ballan.

Ms Jordan said speed restrictions were removed in two places along the line as a result of those works.

She said one speed limit increased from 120km/h to 160km/h and the other increased from 80 km/h to 160km/h.

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Psychiatrist sought

NEW ERA: Mount Gambier Hospital director of nursing Paul Bullen stands in the newly finished six-bed purpose-built mental health ward. Picture: SANDRA MORELLOCOUNTRY Health SA will launch a fresh bid to attract a resident psychiatrist to the Mount Gambier Hospital as a new purpose-built mental health unit is just months away from operation.
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While the 16-bed acute medical ward was handed over by builders to staff at Mount Gambier Hospital Tuesday, September 23the six-bed mental health unit will remain idle until an array of specialist staff can be appointed.

If the recruitment campaign is successful, it will secure the first resident psychiatrist in the history of the hospital.

While additional staff will be recruited for the mental health unit, health officials will juggle current employees to staff the sprawling new medical ward.

No additional staff have been employed at this stage, despite the additional beds.

The cutting edge new ward – which mirrors state-of-the art technology and aesthetics of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital under construction – is the biggest section of the hospital’s $26.7m redevelopment.

Staff were busy making beds Tuesday, September 23at the new ward, which is expected to see the first patients later this week.

Country Health SA South East regional director Jayne Downs said the new mental health unit – one of just three in country South Australia – was expected to be busy when it became operational.

“The new units at Whyalla and Riverland have been pretty much full from day one,” Ms Downs said.

“It will provide a whole new level of care and a fantastic option for people to stay locally rather than seeking services in Adelaide.”

She said it would take some time before a mental health team could be assembled for the new ward.

“Early next year it should be up and running,” the health chief said.

Asked if the recruitment of a psychiatrist was likely, she said that was “certainly the plan”.

“There has always been a position here and I think it is quite a tough ask to come out to the country on their own,” Ms Downs said.

She said the city had never had a resident psychiatrist attached to the hospital.

“I think there has been one or two who have been out in the community, but we have certainly never had anyone appointed to the hospital,” Ms Downs said.

Asked about the flow of mental health patients to the emergency ward, she said there were steady numbers.

“The staff have always worked really hard not to admit people unless they really need to – they can be cared for and gain extra support in the community,” Ms Downs said.

She said the new ward complemented existing mental health services.

“There is the community team, the intermediate care team, the community rehab team that is out in the houses and there are the acute mental health nurses,” Ms Downs said.

“If we go back a decade, we really just had the community team I think now we have got such a fantastic resource – it is an exceptional array of services for a country location and for our population.”

The new mental health ward will have an electronic wandering alert system to ensure security and safety.

National contest for pony club five

EMU Creek Pony Club (ECPC) will have strong representation at Australian Interschool Equestrian Championships next week.
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Five members of the Terang-based club are bound for Werribee Park National Equestrian Centre for the championships, which start next Monday.

The contingent includes Mercy Regional College pair Polly Moloney, 14, and Erika Grant, 14, and Hamilton and Alexandra College’s Rosie Allen, 15.

Lizzy Kelly, 14, and Airlia Munn, 14, will represent Mortlake College. Asha Kelly, 16, also qualified but declined the offer due to an American exchange trip.

The five are among 95 Victorians in the field and 368 overall. They booked their spots at qualifying events at Ballarat and Werribee earlier this year.

“They’ve all been members of the club since they were five years old,” ECPC district commissioner Wendy Kelly said.

“It’s been fantastic to watch them all come along and go up through the grades. They’re all very committed.

“They have a very good attitude to the sport. They’re competitive but they don’t get stressed about it. They enjoy their competition and all work very hard.”

Kelly said the ECPC riders would compete in a variety of sections at the championships. Polly and Amarah Parc Vandal are in show hunter.

Rosie will be aboard Contagous in the 110cm showjumping class, having placed second over 115cm at national championships last Saturday.

Lizzy and Jack The Rippa are in the 100cm showjumping class while Airlia Munn will be aboard Thornton in the preliminary eventing and freestyle dressage.

Erika and Nawarrah Park Union Jack are also in show hunter as well as intro eventing. Erika will ride a second horse, Alluvial, in preliminary eventing.

“If they perform at a good level on the day they’ll be up there, with a little bit of luck. They have the abilities and the skills to be competitive,” Kelly said.

“Victoria is always very competitive. New South Wales is probably the most competitive state but Victoria always has a high standard.

“They’re hard to beat on their good day. It really depends how the riders perform over a few days.”

Terang College student Laura Shaw, 16, will also attempt to make her mark at the championships as Victorian showing team captain.

Laura will ride Daly Downs Trend in three show horse classes — ridden, led and rider.

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Coledale dealer gets 625 hours of community service

A Coledale man has been slapped with a whopping 625 hours of community service – the equivalent of almost four months’ full-time work – after he was caught selling drugs.
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Joel Bennett Forbes pleaded guilty to four charges of drug supply and one charge of possessing ammunition in Port Kembla Local Court on Tuesday, earning him the substantial penalty.

The court heard police attached to Strike Force Lorrie secretly recorded Forbes organising to supply quantities of cannabis on at least four occasions between March 27 and March 31 this year.

He was heard offering to supply the drug to an unknown person at 5.50pm on March 27, while the following day,police monitored a mid-morning exchange of 56.8 grams of cannabis between Forbes and a known male.

On March 31, Forbes was recorded twice supplying cannabis to different people in the space of half an hour. Police swooped on his Hyde Lane home on April 1, uncovering almost 1.2 kilograms of cannabis, including plants that Forbes claimed to have found in the bush.

He admitted to cutting leaf from the plants.

Cannabis resin, seeds and leaf was found throughout the house including the main bedroom and kitchen areas.

Police also discovered a bullet in the main bedroom, which Forbes said he’d been given as a present as his nickname was “Bullet”.

In court on Tuesday, the 35-year-old said through his lawyer that he enjoyed working and would commit to performing community service if given such an order as punishment.

Magistrate Mark Richardson agreed to the order, but handed Forbes 150 hours on each of three drug supply charges and 175 hours on the fourth, giving him a total of 625 hours to perform, or just under four months worth of 40-hour working weeks.

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Shellharbour Hospital mental health services status disputed

The Health Services Union says mental health services at Shellharbour Hospital have been downgraded, forcing the transfer of high-risk patients to Sydney.
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HSU regional organiser Andrew Gorman said the changes meant there were now no high observation beds between Sutherland and the Victorian border.

Mr Gorman said despite the union’s call for more high observation beds at Shellharbour Hospital’s Eloura West facility, it had been downgraded to a general observation unit last week.

That meant the most severely behaviourally disturbed patients would now have to be transported to Sutherland Hospital or beyond for a higher level of observation, he said.

“Around six years ago when the mental health unit at Shellharbour was a separate unit, Eloura West was a high dependency unit where patients were under 24-hour watch,” he said.

“When the mental health unit came under the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD), Eloura West was downgraded to a high observation unit where patients were checked every 15 minutes.

“Now it has been further downgraded to a general observation unit where patients are normally not checked for anywhere between 45 minutes and one hour.”

However, a spokesperson for the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) denied the union’s claims.

“There has been no recent change to the level of service provided in the Eloura West unit,” the spokesperson said. “And the level of observation has always been determined by a person’s individual care plan.”

The unit has been in the spotlight since the alleged murder of 47-year-old patient Joseph Gumley by another patient on July 31 this year.

The unit was temporarily closed and remains the subject of police, NSW Health and internal investigations.

It was partially reopened in mid-August with six of the nine beds available for patients.

On Tuesday, Shellharbour MP Anna Watson, Kiama MP Gareth Ward and South Coast MP Shelley Hancock met with ISLHD management for an update on the situation.

Ms Watson said while the meeting was informative, management had not been able to give a time frame for the reopening of all beds.

“I will be writing to the Minister for Mental Health [Jai Rowell] and demanding the three beds be reopened immediately to help cater for mental health issues in this community,” she said.

“I will also be calling for this government to open up inpatient services in the Shoalhaven.”

Mr Gorman said lack of high observation beds meant mental health patients had to access services in Sydney, which inconvenienced both them and their families.

He said high suicide rates and an ice epidemic throughout the region meant there was more demand for high observation beds, or a return to a high dependency unit.

People with mental illness have access to a broad range of services on the South Coast according to an Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District spokesperson.

These include early intervention, emergency care, assessment, rehabilitation and residential facilities.

There are specialist services for children, adolescents, youth, adults and older people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and those from non-English speaking backgrounds.

The mental health facilities include:

■Community residential facilities at Dapto and the newly opened sub-acute mental health unit at Shoalhaven Hospital, which provides a short-stay community-based residential service.

■At Wollongong Hospital there is a general adult inpatient unit, a psychiatric emergency care centre and a dedicated inpatient unit for older people.

■On the Shellharbour Hospital campus there are four mental health units; one observation unit, two general inpatient facilities and an adolescent psychiatric care unit. There is also a rehabilitation unit.

■The mental health service also provides a comprehensive range of non-inpatient services in both outpatient and community settings, including community mental health services and support services.

■There are also specific programs providing services to consumers, family and carer support and health promotion activities.

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Rain would help: Nufarm

“The outlook for the 2015 financial year is spring and summer rainfall plus initial benefits from the restructuring will drive earnings recovery in Australia”: Doug Rathbone.AGRICULTURAL chemicals and seeds supplier Nufarm is banking on spring rains to help boost its profits.
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Rain boosts demand for Nufarm’s crop protection products, which include weed, insect and fungus killers.

Nufarm also expects that a reorganisation of its Australian operations, which began in March and aims to lift profits and cut costs, will produce benefits in 2015.

“The outlook for the 2015 financial year is spring and summer rainfall plus initial benefits from the restructuring will drive earnings recovery in Australia,” Nufarm managing director Doug Rathbone announced yesterday.

Nufarm’s business in Australia in fiscal 2014 generated flat sales and lower underlying earnings due to dry conditions and tough competition.

Mr Rathbone cautioned that in Australia nothing was ever perfect in farming.

In some parts of Australia now, marginal crops were being cut for hay, but other crops looked terrific.

“We need a bit more rain in the north. Most of the crop areas in Australia would like a little bit more rain before December so they can finish the crop off nicely,” he said.

“It’s varied, but we’ve got a better year on our hands now than we’ve had for the last two.”

Nufarm yesterday unveiled a 53 per cent fall in full year profit to $37.7 million for the year to July 31.

The result was weighed down by hefty costs from restructuring its Australian and New Zealand businesses.

But excluding those costs, underlying net profit rose 4 per cent to $86.4 million.

Nufarm said dry conditions in Australia and a long winter in the United States had reduced demand for its products and put pressure on margins.

But Nufarm’s South American business performed well, especially in Brazil and Argentina.

AAP

Matt Maguire to play on with Brisbane

Matt Maguire has re-signed with the Lions.
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SOUTH-WEST export Matt Maguire’s AFL career will extend into a 14th season.

Maguire has signed a one-year contract extension with the Brisbane Lions for 2015.

The 30-year-old, who was aligned to South Warrnambool as a junior, is the only remaining former Rooster at the Gabba after the retirements of Jonathan Brown and Brent Moloney this season.

Maguire, who was part of TAC Cup side Geelong Falcons, played 13 games for the Lions in 2014, providing invaluable experience in a young back line.

Maguire has played 69 games with the Lions over the past five seasons after being recruited from St Kilda during the 2009 trade period.

He has played a total of 168 games, having made his debut with St Kilda in 2002.

Lions general manager of football operations Dean Warren said Maguire was an invaluable member.

“Matt is a fantastic personality to have around the club and the experience he brings to our young group is invaluable,” he said.

“We are really pleased that Matt will be going around again in 2015 and there is no doubt that the likes of Darcy Gardiner and Justin Clarke will benefit immensely from having someone with Matt’s experience alongside them in the back line.”

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Make A Wish fraudster has jail suspended

Thomas Alexius Vandermey had pleaded not guilty in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court to 10 charges of attempting to or dishonestly obtaining donations for the Make A Wish Foundation.A MACARTHUR man who posed as a bogus fund-raiser to collect donations for a well-known children’s charity has been handed a suspended jail sentence.
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Thomas Alexius Vandermey had pleaded not guilty in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court to 10 charges of attempting to or dishonestly obtaining donations for the Make A Wish Foundation.

Vandermey, 53, of Ardonachy Street, was convicted and given a four-month jail sentence, suspended for 12 months.

The charges related to his illegal fund-raising in Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Condah, where he collected a total of $310 from the public.

Magistrate Peter Mellas found all charges proven.

He said the offending breached people’s trust as Vandermey had represented himself as an accredited collector.

Mr Mellas said the message had to be sent to the community that anyone who dishonestly raised funds faced the prospect of time in jail. The magistrate said Vandermey had been vague during a 700-question interview with police, claiming he had registered as a collector but had never actually collected money for Make A Wish.

He also told police that people must have confused him with someone else or that they had his fund-raising mixed up with his collections for Relay For Life.

Mr Mellas said Vandermey’s interview with police raised a number of credibility issues and he did not accept the accused man’s evidence.

He said local and national Make A Wish organisers gave evidence Vandermey was never an accredited fund-raiser and had not left money at their offices in Melbourne.

In evidence, Vandermey said he signed up to the Make A Wish Foundation website and followed through exactly as he had done with the Cancer Council’s Relay For Life for the past seven years.

He said he had attempted to find a group walking from Melbourne to Portland for the foundation and tried to get in touch with an organiser, leaving a message, but no one ever got back to him.

Vandermey said he then went to the foundation’s Melbourne headquarters and dropped off money at the front desk.

“I was double-parked. I ran in and dropped off the money and left,” Vandermey said.

“Information in the envelope contained the names of the people I collected from.”

Vandermey said he later received an email thanking him for his generosity.

“I thought ‘well that’s OK, they got the money’. Then I heard a scream about bogus collectors,” he said.

“I thought I was doing the right thing. I’ve suffered ever since.”

In cross-examination, Senior Constable Nathan Brown asked why Vandermey had double parked before allegedly dropping off the fund-raising money.

Vandermey said no parking spots had been available and he had to get to his work for a private contractor in Ringwood.

Vandermey refused to name the contractor, saying he didn’t want his employer harassed.

The magistrate warned Vandermey to name the contractor or face the possibility of being held in contempt, but he still refused. Senior Constable Brown also questioned why Vandermey had not told police during an interview he had dropped off the funds raised in Melbourne.

Vandermey said he couldn’t find the walkers on the road between Melbourne and Portland but denied he stole any funds he collected. “I didn’t need it at the time. I had inherited a heap of money,” he said.

Vandermey has a number of prior court appearances, mainly for street offences.

Vandermey said he had been involved with Relay For Life for seven or eight years and had volunteered with primary schools and sporting clubs.

He said the mother of his two daughters walked out when they were toddlers and he raised the girls largely by himself, but he suffered a heart attack in April this year.

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Hawks to harness 2012 heartbreak, says Lewis

Warrnambool export Jordan Lewis says the Hawks will use the heartbreak of their 2012 grand final loss to Sydney as motivation for Saturday’s rematch.JORDAN Lewis plans to harness the heartbreak of grand final day two seasons ago when Hawthorn chases a slice of club history against Sydney on Saturday.
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The Hawks and Swans clash in the 2014 grand final at the MCG, a repeat of the 2012 decider which Alastair Clarkson’s men lost in agonising fashion.

Lewis, whose side won all the key statistics but lost 14.7 (91) to 11.15 (81), said the defeat had not been a talking point behind closed doors this week.

But the Warrnambool-raised onballer believed the players who remained — 17 if Cyril Rioli and Brad Sewell earn recalls —would use the result as motivation. “We haven’t actually spoken about it yet but I imagine the players in their own time would be thinking about it,” Lewis told The Standard yesterday.

“No one wants to experience a loss on grand final day. You don’t have next week to redeem yourself.

“I imagine some of the guys would use that as some sort of motivation. I feel sick in the stomach when I think about that game.

“If you’re ever out on the field and you’re stuffed and can’t be bothered running, you think about those five minutes after the grand final and that gets you through.”

Lewis, 28, said the loss proved the football adage that anything can happen in grand finals.

He highlighted the 2013 grand final, which Hawthorn won against Fremantle despite being under siege at various stages, as further proof.

“We sat down after the game (in 2012) and every indicator we take we were in front. You sit there and think, ‘how come we didn’t win?’,” he said

“For a long time they had a run-on and managed to kick two goals late which put them in front. We ran out of time to run them down.

“Then you look at last year, we didn’t win as many indicators as we would’ve liked but we still won the game.

“That sort of stuff goes out the window come grand final day. It’s a tight contest. It’s a different game to normal. It’s a fierce battle.”

Lewis has declared himself fit for the grand final, despite suffering a corked thigh in the heart-stopping preliminary triumph against Port Adelaide.

Opening up on the injury, which forced coaching staff to substitute him in the third quarter, he said he was confident of being 100 per cent fit by Saturday.

“I’m a pretty optimistic sort of person. Those sort of thoughts (about missing the grand final) didn’t creep into my mind at any stage,” he said.

Lewis said he was attempting to remain as calm as possible this week.

“It’s funny. Coming into a grand final, if you think about it too much early on in the week, you can drain yourself out,” he said.

“I’ve learnt over the years not to get too excited too early. There are certain things in the week that are different but a lot of it remains the same.

“Everything done at the club is the same as a normal week, except our Thursday training sessions — there’s going to be 10,000 people there.

“That and the grand final parade are two really different things. We tell our players to enjoy them, don’t shut them out. You might not get this experience again.”

First bounce in the Swans-Hawks showdown is at 2.30pm on Saturday.

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