Council ‘sat on its hands’, Planning Minister says
* What happened on Friday in Hawthorn would not be allowed in other parts of Victoria.
Normally, heritage protection would overrule any existing building or demolition permit, forcing the developers to go back to council to seek new approvals.
But uniquely in Boroondara, which covers leafy eastern suburbs like Balwyn, Camberwell and Hawthorn, interim heritage protection orders are powerless against existing permits thanks to a State Government planning scheme amendment.
“It’s very sad to see,” Opposition planning spokesman Tim Smith said.
“I’m quite taken aback with the wanton destruction of something that was really quite a pleasant old house.”
In July last year, the City of Boroondara granted a building permit to demolish the Auburn Road property.
Then in April this year, the council issued an interim heritage protection order on the property.
On Friday, after the heavy machinery had already moved in, the council wrote to the Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne, urging him to intervene.
Much of Sydney’s sewerage system is more than 100 years old …
Currently it is being taxed like never before …. experts have warned of the large underground canals in the lower north shore not coping …
CAAN was advised in 2012 the Sydney sewage system was designed and built for a population of 3 million people … Sydney’s population now exceeds 5 million people.
As reported in the Daily Telegraph earlier and by the ABC:
‘Earlier, there were reports the water could have flushed into the sewerage pipes inside residents’ homes, prompting fears hazardous waste made its way into the flood waters.
Hazmat crews were on scene and had cleared the water for any contamination.’
Message from Sydney Water …
Did you know that we manage 22,000 kilometres of water pipes – that’s enough to stretch almost halfway across the world! 🌏 Changing weather, ground conditions, tree roots and ‘construction work’ can all contribute to breaks in our pipes.
Residents forced to leave flooded homes after water main bursts in Sydney’s west
By Sarah Muller
August 31, 2019
Up to60 homes have been affected by flooding after a burst pipe sent litres of water down residential streets in western Sydney on Saturday.
The water main burst around 7.15am on Saturday on Bringelly Road in Kingswood, near Penrith.
Up to 60 houses were affected by the water and internal damage has been confirmed at several houses, according to Sydney Water.
A number of residents on ground-level properties were forced to leave their houses due to the water, according to police.
A small number of residents were evacuated “as a precaution”, a Sydney Water spokesman said in a statement on Saturday.
Emergency services have sandbagged dozens of homes, as water continues to flow through the area.
Water is being pumped from the streets into a nearby retention basin “to minimise the damage to properties”, according to Western Sydney NSW SES.
Parts of the street have been seriously damaged, and several ruptures in the road have been taped off by emergency services.
Footage taken at the scene on Saturday morning shows water bubbling up in the middle of the road and rushing through the streets, at times reaching partway up the tyres of cars parked in the street.
Emergency services will work to return the evacuated residents to their houses tonight, but the spokesman for Sydney Water said it will depend on whether power can be safely restored to the area.
Anyone unable to return to their houses will be provided with temporary accomodation.
Water supply was cut off to several thousand houses in the Kingswood area, including two local hospitals, before being restored late on Saturday afternoon.
However, other properties will be without water for the duration of the repairs to the area, and will have to receive “alternative supply”, according to Sydney Water.
The spokesman for Sydney Water said it is “too early to know how long repairs will take”.
The cause of the rupture remains unknown at this stage, but Sydney Water says, recent weather conditions may have been a factor.
“Periods of prolonged hot and dry weather like we’ve been experiencing are known to cause pipe expansion and joint movement, resulting in increased water main breaks and leaks,” the spokesman said.
Cars are being diverted from the area, and Bringelly Road remains closed.
Police said they expected the road would be closed for an “extended period of time”, and have advised motorists to avoid the area.
A Sydney Water spokesman said in a statement: “Sydney Water sincerely apologises to affected customers and thanks them for their patience.”
News Limited was willing to pay dearly for this story not to be published. It first offered a $110,000 payment, plus a private apology, to avoid going to court.
But the price it demanded was that the matter be kept confidential. The company was told to take a jump. See you in court.
The Daily Telegraph had published four stories about Michael Towke which he believed had defamed him, destroyed his political career, and caused untold stress to his family. ”These stories sent my mother to hospital,” he told me. ”They demonised me. I wanted to confront them in court.”
Buta court was not where News wanted to see Towke. ”They spent a lot of money fighting me,” he said. ”Their lawyers made me jump through every hoop. They asked me 30 pages of questions.”
Near the eve of the court date, lawyers for the subsidiary which publishes the Telegraph, Nationwide News Pty Ltd, offered the confidentiality package, which Towke emphatically rejected.
On the eve of the trial, Nationwide came up with another offer: $50,000, plus costs, plus removing the offending articles from the internet and dropping the confidentiality requirement.
On the advice of counsel, Towke accepted.
He was never willing to accept any settlement that was confidential, despite the risk that entailed. ‘‘I was willing to bankrupt myself to clear my name,” he said.
Here is his story.
Michael Towke is 34. He attended Marcellin College, Randwick. He is a Lebanese Christian, a practising Catholic and the eldest of eight children. He has a first-class honours degree in engineering and a BA, both from the University of Sydney, and won the Alan Davis Prize, the top prize for sociology.
He has an MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management. At 17, he joined the Army Reserve and served for 20 months. He is president of the Sylvania conference of the St Vincent de Paul Society and has been volunteering for Vinnies since he was 15.He works as a telecommunications engineer. He has lived in the Sutherland Shire for 10 years.
Towke is also a long-serving member of the Liberal Party. In July 2007 he won preselection for the then safe federal Liberal seat of Cook. He was set to replace the outgoing member, Bruce Baird.
*The contest attracted a large field, including Paul Fletcher, who recently won Liberal preselection for Bradfield (vacated by the former Liberal leader Brendan Nelson), and a former state director of the NSW Liberal party, Scott Morrison.
*Towke won easily. On the first ballot, he polled 10 times as many votes as Morrison, 82 votes to 8, who was eliminated in the first round. His victory meant that a Lebanese Australian would represent the Liberal Party in the seat where the Cronulla riot and revenge raids had taken place 18 months earlier, in December 2005.
Locals say 95 per cent of those involved weren’t from Cronulla.Source:News LimitedCAAN: Were the riots instigated by ‘the backers’?
*”The campaign against me started four days after preselection,” Towke said.
*Two senior people within the Liberal Party, whose identity is known to a widening circle within the party, went through Towke’s nomination papers to find every possible discrepancy and weakness.
*Then they started calling selected journalists to tell them Towke was a liar. The first story appeared in The Daily Telegraph on July 18, 2007, under the headline, ”Liberal ballot scandal in Howard’s backyard.” Three days later, on July 21, a second story appeared in the Telegraph: ”Towke future on hold.’‘ The next day, in The Sunday Telegraph, a third story: ”Party split as Liberal candidate faces jail.”
”That was the story that sent my mother to hospital,” Towke told me.
Then came a fourth story in the Telegraph, on July 25: ”Towke lied, but just by degrees.”
Four different Telegraph journalists, two of them very senior, wrote those four stories, so the campaign of leaks and smears was assiduous.
There is insufficient space to detail all the claims made and disputed. Towke was portrayed as a serial liar, an exaggerator.He disputed every such imputation with factual evidence.
After it was obvious his political credibility had been destroyed by these stories, he started defamation proceedings. A year of legal attrition ensued.
*Shortly before the matter was to begin in court this month, Nationwide News paid and settled.
It is telling that experienced Telegraph journalists appear to have based their stories on sources they trusted, suggesting those doing the leaking were both senior figures and seasoned in dealing with the media.
Though Towke would eventually win his legal war, the damage had been done.
The adverse media coverage set in train a reaction within the party to get rid of him.
*A second ballot was ordered, in which the balance of power was shifted away from the grassroots in Cook and to the state executive.
*The second ballot gave the preselection to Scott Morrison. Amazing. He had been parachuted into the seat over Towke’s political carcass. Morrison clearly had backers who wanted him to get the seat. ”These guys were prepared to ruin my life,” Towke said.
Why? There was a view among some senior Liberals that a Lebanese Australian could not win Cook in a tight election.
Two years later, Towke’s honour has been restored. His name has been cleared, his standing in the party rehabilitated, and his ties to the electorate broadened.
Justice will be served when the two assassins within the party are politically terminated. That process has begun. The circle will only be complete if this Lebanese Australian represents the shire in Federal Parliament.
Just another morning in ‘God’s Country’.Source:Supplied
A Chinese nickel mine operator has apologised after accidentally spilling an estimated 200,000 litres of toxic slurry into a bay in Papua New Guinea’s Madang province, turning the water bright red and staining the shore.
The spilled material is “very toxic” and rich in heavy metals
However PNG authorities say there are no immediate safety concerns
Compensation and punishments will be pursued, officials said
Mining authorities in PNG said the spilled material was a mineral-rich slurry that had been piped to the processing plant at Basamuk Bay from a nickel mine site 135 kilometres inland.
Mineral Resources Authority managing director Jerry Garry told the ABC’s Pacific Beat program the slurry was “very acidic”.
“In terms of the heavy metals — in terms of nickel, cobalt, magnesium — they are very toxic,” he said.
Mr Garry said the spill occurred when an electronic fault caused a pump failure, which went undetected by workers, leading to an overflow.
The spill occurred on August 24, and photos showing the contamination caused outrage on social media.
“The people from the village they went down to the beach … and they realised the water was contaminated and the colour had turned to red,” Nigel Uyam, a local villager who took the first photos of the spill, told the ABC.
“They are angry … we are trying to control the angry people and we are trying to control the situation.”
Authorities said compensation would be pursued and a punishment would also be imposed on the plant operator, Ramu Nickel, which is owned by the Metallurgical Corp of China (MCC).
Ramu Nickel’s vice-president, Wang Baowen, said the company was extremely concerned about the incident and “committed to address any compensation”.
A Chinese worker was killed and two local staff injured in a workplace accident in 2016 that saw the mine temporarily closed — that same year slurry leaked from the pipeline connecting the mine to the processing plant.
“People have been raising concerns about the way the plant has been operating for years,” Gavin Mudd, an associate professor at RMIT University’s engineering department, told the ABC.
“If this happened in Australia, there would be heads rolling.”
Despite the toxic nature of the spill, the mineral authority’s inspector found no immediate safety concerns and no reason to shut down the plant’s operations.
Residue samples have been sent to Australia for testing, with results expected in under a month.
Fame Cove … wouldn’t it have been wonderful if it were a National Park?
IS this ‘the sort of Significant Investment Visa’ that Australia needs?
IT is hard not to come to the conclusion that disrespect, arrogance and greed are the dominant characteristics being inflicted upon the community.
Related Article: North coast administrator swaps council for job with Chinese property developer
“Mr Lee and Ms
Shi and their companies have accumulated more than $47 million of
rural and bushland property in the Port Stephens area covering more than 5000
hectares since 2006, including a pine plantation that is currently subject to
investigation by the NSW Environment Protection Authority.”
Chinese billionaire property developer Phillip Dong Fang Lee and his wife Xiaobei Shi should be best known among Sydneysiders for their palatial purchase of a Point Piper home Mandalay, given it cost $40 million.
*But it is their company-owned property on the state’s North Coast that garners the most attention – for repeated environmental damage.
The company has run foul of government regulators for the third time since the 400 hectares of pristine bushland near Port Stephens was bought in 2006 for $8.8 million, last week incurring fines totalling $88,000 and an additional $20,000 in costs, and raising concerns among locals about what grand plans are in store for a property that was once offered to the state government as a national park.
The latest incident involves four offences brought by the Natural Resources Access Regulator, responsible for water law enforcement in NSW, related to the removal of vegetation and deposited rock and turf over an area of 4240 square metres of waterfront land without approval on Nanabah Creek, which feeds into the protected sanctuary at Fame Cove.
A spokesman for the regulator said the offences were brought under the Water Management Act, adding “the removal of the vegetation … is likely to have decreased the oxygen exchange between the open water and underlying sediments causing oxygen deprivation for any creatures living within those sediments.”
Despite a guilty plea, magistrate Brett Shields last Thursday slugged the company with the maximum penalty, stressing that it was important that the work of the regulator be taken seriously and therefore appropriate sanctions needed to be applied.
Despite the finding being made against Mr Lee’s company (and not himself personally), Mr Lee’s consultant Glenn Handford said: “Mr Lee is disappointed and realises he should have got a controlled permit, but the offence took place about four or five years ago.”
The Fame Cove property was first subject to fines of almost $200,000 in 2009 when a dam wall failed during excavation work, and in 2014 there was a fine of $8000 after a section of bushland was cleared and the felled trees left in the marine sanctuary.
Mr Handford was until Christmas 2017 the general manager at MidCoast Council, where he was responsible for enforcing land remediation efforts on the property.
It wasn’t the first time Mr Lee has hired from the ranks of former employees of council.Council’s former investigations and prosecutions coordinator Greg Pevitt resigned in early 2016 and soon after went to work as an adviser for Mr Lee’s company interests. Mr Lee’s current court-ordered rehabilitation of bushland by the Land and Environment Court is being overseen by strategic planner Stuart Murray, who also worked at Great Lakes Council in the mid-1990s.
“There’s a real sense of frustration among locals because this is a frequent offender that owns multiple properties in the area and has multiple cases of environmental damage to a significant environmental area,” said local Labor MP Kate Washington.
Mr Lee, a road construction and urban developer from China’s Fujian province, had planned to build an eco-resort on the property, but those plans were later abandoned after MidCoast Council slapped stop-work and clean-up orders on the property amid concerns about threatened species, unauthorised road building and land clearing.
“Mr Lee has decided not to pursue any intense development anymore, and his goal is to construct four houses, each on a 100 hectare lot, and keep them all for his personal use,” Mr Handford said.
Those plans are unlikely to assuage the concerns of locals, according to Fame Cove Residents Association member Len Yearsley.
“In more than 10 years ownership nothing has come to fruition and nothing built, but a collection of so many separate DAs means the state government need not get involved if they’re in separate small units of less than $10 million each, but the cumulative effect of so many DAs is not considered because there’s no master plan for the site,” Mr Yearsey said.
Fame Cove, a renowned boating haven, was hoped to become national park when Boral offered it to the National Parks and Wildlife Service in the late 1990s for $1.1 million, but it was instead sold into private hands.
Companies owned by Mr Lee and Ms Shi have accumulated more than $47 million of rural and bushland property in the Port Stephens area covering more than 5000 hectares, including a pine plantation that is currently subject to investigation by the NSW Environment Protection Authority after an unauthorised canal of up to 16 kilometres long was discovered in late 2017.
Mascot Towers: Residents given four hours to pack belongings
A change in the risk assessment of the car park has allowed evacuated residents to re-enter temporarily.
A frustrated apartment owner from the troubled Mascot Towers complex has shared photos from the past two years he claims provide evidence as to how drilling and construction at a neighbouring worksite contributed to the towers’ deterioration.
The owner told news.com.au that since construction began at a tower next door, residents made complaints to the strata company and Bayside Council about flooding and their building “shaking” but were “completely ignored”.
Mascot Towers, in Mascot in Sydney’s inner south, was evacuated on June 14, with residents being sent an emergency email telling them to get out. The evacuation was caused by “rapid deterioration” in multiple parts of the building.
Initial estimates that residents, some owners and some renters would be able to move back into the troubled building in a month have been thrown out, and owners are being told there is now “no timeline”, with the building being assessed on a month-to-month basis.
Many residents made desperate, supervised dashes into the building to try to remove all their possessions in the weeks following the evacuation, with others who can no longer lease their investment properties telling news.com.au they are considering bankruptcy.
Aland’s Peak Towers on Church Ave sits next to Mascot Towers. Various owners from Mascot Towers have suggested to news.com.au that shaking could be felt in their apartments during Peak Towers’ construction in 2018.
A neighbouring steel factory has previously claimed the construction of the Aland building also caused their factory, which is more than 40 years old, to crack and deteriorate.
Documents show numerous complaints were made by neighbouring residents during the construction of the Aland development to Bayside Council.
The apartment owner told news.com.au he was frustrated by the “lack of progress and absence of any form of reasonable communication”, and he was concerned developers of the next-door building were not taking their views seriously.
He said the troubled residential tower complex had problems from “day one”, but “major problems” arose during construction of Aland’s development.
Photos provided to news.com.au show the worksite at Peak Towers with drilling equipment positioned nearby in an area now marked as a dangerous “red zone” by engineers.
The red zone was so named to indicate the areas of most concern when engineers assessed the structural damage at Mascot Towers.
The supplier of the photos claims heavy digging took place next to what is now considered Mascot Towers ‘red zone’.Source:Supplied
Approximately 18 months into the Aland development.Source:Supplied
“When the Aland development started digging on their site, a number of residents, including myself, complained directly to Strata Choice about the damage and the ‘shaking’ of Mascot Towers, and Strata Choice did absolutely nothing,” the owner told news.com.au.
“The building at Mascot Towers was literally shaking when Aland were digging, and for Aland to claim it had no ‘impact’ was simply a baseless falsehood.”
The owner also claims residents complained “many times” to Bayside Council, who “ignored” them.
A spokesperson for Strata Choice said “Strata Choice did receive complaints of noise and inconvenience from time to time from residents.
“As Strata managers we are not responsible for day-to-day onsite operations at the building. We referred these complaints to the building manager and to the best of our knowledge, the building manager dealt with these appropriately.”
A Bayside Council spokesperson told news.com.au they were aware of complaints being received by council from residents regarding noise from builders at Aland’s development working out of hours, for which the builder was issued a fine. The spokesperson says Bayside Council is still looking into the matter.
Documents show Bayside Council issued fines to the construction site for operating outside of hours, with numerous complaints tendered from residents complaining of loud machinery operating as early as 3.30am.
The owner suspects the water table was disturbed during construction. He said 18 months into work next door, Mascot Towers’ carpark began to flood. The flooding had been a continual problem up until the residents were evacuated in June.
“Ever since work commenced on the Aland development, the basement carpark has been inundated with water, which has been causing structural damage to Mascot Towers,” he said.
“You have to remember that, yes, Mascot Towers had problems from day one, however it is only since the Aland development started that the Mascot Towers problems have become critical.”
A recent photo of flooding in the Aland building’s carpark, where ‘spear pumps’ are reportedly being used to clear water from the basement.Source:Supplied
Another recent photo from inside the basement of the Aland building.Source:Supplied
A photo of the flooded carpark at Mascot Towers at the time of the construction of the building next door.Source:Supplied
The neighbouring building site, which used horizontal props during construction after digging down next to Mascot Towers.Source:Supplied
Aland Developments has strongly denied their Peak Towers construction in Mascot caused any damage to neighbouring buildings, saying they have a history of reputable construction practices.
“I am very proud of Aland’s strong track record as a high-quality building and development company, and I am confident Aland has met all design and construction requirements in its new development at Mascot,” Andrew Hrsto, the managing director of Aland Developments, told news.com.au in a statement in June.
The building management company that looked after Mascot Towers wrote to residents seeking evidence of cracking and other damage in the middle of 2018, according to The Australian Financial Review.
The management company, Building Management Australia, told residents at the time it was putting together evidence to pursue Aland’s insurers for damage to the building.
Meanwhile, residents of Opal Tower have launched a class action against Sydney Olympic Park Authority, the government body who owns the land the tower sits on.
Many residents of Opal Tower have not seen inside their apartments since they were evacuated on Christmas Eve.
“I don’t blame anybody for taking legal action to defend their own rights,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters on Tuesday.
“This is an unfortunate set of circumstances. We inherited the system we have today, and we’re aiming to fix it by the end of the year through legislation.”
CAAN: How far back is Premier Berejiklian referrring to? With the O’Farrell Government being elected in 2011 – of which Ms Berejiklian was a Cabinet Member, an MP, Treasurer … followed by the release of both the Green Paper and the White Paper in 2012 leading up to the Planning Law changes in NSW which led to higher density of high-rise Precincts, and also medium-density housing, rezoning and exempt and complying development, cutting Red Tape, deregulation etc which has meant the loss of community rights, heritage homes, environment protections … this all tied in with the Australian Govt growth through high immigration and visa manipulation.
Ms Berejiklian said the Government would be announcing a new state building commissioner whose job it will be to hold all levels of the construction industry to account.
“(The commissioner) will ensure moving forward that everybody in the industry not only is aware of their responsibilities but delivers on those responsibilities to the nth degree,” she said.
“There is a crisis on our building sites across the nation,” NSW Labor Senator Deborah O’Neil said in a speech on Monday, addressing an issue she said was likely to affect homeowners across Australia.
“Every Australian should feel safe in their own home. This epidemic of dodgy development isn’t confined to Sydney alone,” Senator O’Neil said.
“The Government needs to show leadership and to send a clear message to those who would endanger lives by cutting corners, cutting costs.”
The senator warned Australians shouldn’t accept a “Third World set of practices here in building”.
Evacuated owners of Mascot Towers face a new legal challenge against their neighbouring building ‘Peak Towers’ for groundwater seepage after settling for $1.15 million on an existing defects claim.
DOES this not raise concerns?
PERHAPS GeoTech Reports need be furnished to ensure that development is appropriate … with so much of it going on!
IT would appear the development industry, their lobbyists have all played a role in this with deregulation, cutting Red Tape, loss of Australian Standards … and sheer greed with row upon row of apartment blocks and towers …
Soil-filled water pumped out of Mascot Towers’ neighbouring building, Peak Towers, has been identified as the cause of the “movement” in the property that led to its spectacular evacuation on June 14, the latest strata documents show.
Exclusive documents obtained by The Australian Financial Review reveal the outcome of the two-month investigation at the building in Sydney’s Mascot as well as the history of original construction defects which were not related to the recent “cracks” and evacuation.
A geotechnical engineer hired by Mascot Towers, who inspected Peak Towers at 27 Church Street in Mascot 10 days ago, “observed that the property was pumping soil-filled water from under the building”. He said the pumping was contributing to the settlement, or movement, in the building and recommended it should stop.
The discovery was made three days before owners approved the raising of a special levy of $7.7 million to start first-stage remediation of the building.
The owners’ lawyers, Grace Lawyers, urged owners to act quickly to “protect the building and its rights against the parties involved in the construction of 27 Church Street”. “
Preliminary views are that the adjoining property at 27 Church Street may (in all probability) be the cause of the settlement/cracking that eventuated in the evacuation of the building,” Grace Lawyers said in strata documents.
The lawyers have asked owners to approve an injunctionto stop the pumping and order access into Peak Towers for further inspections. They also advised owners to commence “urgent” legal action against the building, which was completed in June just as Mascot Towers was evacuated.”
Aland Development ‘Peak Towers’ next to ‘Mascot Towers’
But in a broader sense the official’s reference to the economic importance of China to Australia goes straight to the dilemma and the potential cost involved in what the Australian Government is currently doing, and must do, in dealing with China.
The debate about China’s behaviour and influence has moved on even from earlier this month, when Trade Minister Simon Birmingham told backbenchers to keep in mind the “national interest” in what they said.
That followed the blunt warning by Andrew Hastie, chair of the parliamentary committee on intelligence and security, that Australia needed to pay more attention to the threat posed by China’s rise.
Australia at the moment seems very explicit in its responses to concerns about China.
The willingness by the government to act is not new, in fact, the Turnbull government’s foreign interference legislation of 2018 may come to be seen as a turning point.
But now Australia appears increasingly prepared to put aside when necessary the imperatives of diplomacy.
Nor is it as reluctant as before to admit particular measures relate to China.
It has been especially strong in its language on behalf of Mr Yang.
The choice in such a situation can be complicated: between being forthright publicly or deciding a low-key approach could be more effective, to say nothing of better for keeping relations smooth.
In this instance, the Government has loudly called out the Chinese authorities’ actions.
It is yet to be seen how things will end.
Spreading Chinese influence
On another front, the Government this weekannounced a major move in its efforts to deal with Chinese influence in Australian universities.
Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University and an expert on Chinese influence in Australia,was highly critical in a lecture on Wednesday of the university sector’s vice-chancellors.
“The corporatisation of the tertiary sector and the extraordinary dependence on revenue flows from China, coupled with a sustained and highly effective influence campaign directed at senior university executives, has meant that many have lost sight of the meaning of academic freedom,” Professor Hamilton said.
Another issue, which has come into plain sight with the recent clashes, particularly at the University of Queensland, over events in Hong Kong, is the influence Chinese authorities exercise over many students here.
Chinese influence on academia
Then there is the murky area of collaborations with researchers andinstitutions.
A paper put out by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute late last year authored by Alex Joske, one of ASPI’s analysts, highlighted that “China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is expanding its research collaboration with universities outside of China.
“This collaboration is highest in the Five Eyes countries, Germany and Singapore […]. Australia has been engaged in the highest level of PLA collaboration among Five Eyes countries per capita, at six times the level in the US.”
In the education field, it is not just the universities where China’s influence has become a growing worry.
This month, the NSW government announced it would end the Confucius Classroom program that has been running in 13 schools.
The program, dealing with language and culture, has been funded by the Chinese government amid concerns this arrangement places Chinese government employees inside a government department.
And then there is the property sector
On a totally different front, hearings at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption this week produced a new episode in the long-running saga of the activities of Chinese property developer Huang Xiangmo.
ICAC heard evidence that Mr Huang allegedly gave $100,000 in cash to NSW Labor in 2015, despite donations from property developers being illegal.
The ALP covered up the donation. As a result of the evidence, the general secretary of the NSW party, Kaila Murnain has been suspended.*Leaving aside alleged egregious illegalities, the wider point is that large donations (and Mr Huang donated to both sides) are made in the hope of buying political access and influence.
Mr Huang, who late last year was stripped of his permanent residency and banned from re-entering Australia on ASIO advice because of concern over his links with the Chinese Communist Party, has achieved the bizarre distinction of having contributed to the political downfall of two senior Labor figures.
Former senator Sam Dastyari’s dealings with Mr Huang were central to events leading to Mr Dastyari quitting parliament.
This was influence of a sort the billionaire businessman hadn’t quite intended.
Anyoneidentifying the challenges Scott Morrison will face this term would have to put managing the China relationship high on the list. It’s a complicated juggle, trying to keep bilateral relations on course while protecting Australia’s sovereignty, as well as advancing its strategic interests through policies such as the Pacific step-up.
Although it’s sometimes interpreted as responding to US pressure, basically it is Australia’s own national interest currently driving its toughening position.
Much as we might wish Australia-China relations could be kept on an even keel, and crucial as that might be for Australia’s economic wellbeing, the indications suggest the ups and downs will continue and may get rougher.
CAAN: However, some suggest that ‘Australia’s economic dependence on China overblown‘ contrary to the views of Professor James Laurenceson and his ilk
–that Australia’s economic reliance on China is increasing
Researchers from Victoria University’s Centre of Policy Studies (CoPS) have countered this view, and that Australia’s economic dependence on China is not as great as commonly believed!
IN view of the threats posed by the CCP it would seem obvious there is an urgent need to diversify and increase trade with other nations, and not to put all our eggs in the one basket, and as reported by some others China needs Australian produce and materials more than the other way around …
Former NSW Labor MP Ernest Wong has been accused of lying and acting evasively at the ICAC inquiry into an allegedly illegal donation from a Chinese property developer.
Ernest Wong said he didn’t tell anyone that a table at a fundraiser dinner was sold for $100,000
Counsel assisting challenged this claim with an email written by Mr Wong in 2015
Mr Wong then conceded he might have told some colleagues about the $100,000 table
Dumped Labor party secretary Kaila Murnain gave damning evidence to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) this week that in 2016 Mr Wong told her Labor received a large donation from billionaire Huang Xiangmo.
*The Government wants to get a “better deal” from controversial pay-for-residency visas.
The significant investor visa makes to easier for migrants to get residency if they invest $5 million
Some are calling for it to be abolished, but others claim it presents “fair value”
Almost 600 significant investor visas (SIVs) were handed out in 2017-18
But the head of the firm driving uptake of the significant investor visa (SIV) in Australia — and attracting billions in capital for Australian companies — has claimed the country is already getting “fair value”.
The SIV provides a streamlined pathway to permanent residency for migrants with $5 million to invest.
Andrew Martin, managing director of asset management at Moelis Australia, said the SIV program in Australia has been “a massive success”, leading to direct investment of more than $11 billion since it commenced in 2012.
“It has been estimated that the follow-on investment from SIV investors has been up to four to five times more than the mandatory $5 million, meaning capital invested into Australia could be as much as $50 billion.”
The program was tweaked in 2015 to shift investment towards venture capital and emerging companies and away from real estate.
But Immigration Minister David Coleman flagged this month that the business and investment visa scheme — of which the SIV is the headline program — will be reviewed.
“I will be reviewing our business investment visas with a simple question in mind: can we get a better deal for Australia?”
Behind investment visas
About 7,000 visas are granted each year across the entire business and investment visa program.
Business innovation and investor visas, not SIVs, represent the majority of grants under the scheme. These apply business and investment requirements as well as a points test, which values migrants with youth, English language ability, qualifications and experience.
But larger investments arrive through the SIV scheme, which does not apply a points test. Plus, SIV holders qualify for permanent residency if they have spent just 40 days in Australia per year.
There were 183 SIVs were granted in 2017-18, with the program on track to deliver a similar figure for 2018-19, according to figures released in February.
*Eighty-seven per cent of SIVs have been given to Chinese nationals since 2012, ahead of Hong Kong (3.2 per cent), Malaysia (1.5 per cent), South Africa (1.3 per cent) and Vietnam (0.9 per cent).
The first permanent visas under the program were awarded in 2017-18. Approximately 700 had been granted at January 31, 2019.
*Moelis, the largest manager of SIV investments in Australia, has a team of 12 across Sydney, Melbourne and Shanghai working with clients.
*Its 2019 first-half results released this week stated capital flows from high net worth Chinese clients into the SIV program have “remained strong”.
“Despite the redemption of some SIV funds by clients who have achieved their residency objective, we have been successful in retaining the investment funds of many SIV clients who, despite having received permanent residency from the Australian Government, have chosen to retain their investment with Moelis Australia.”
It boasted there were barriers to entry for competing asset management firms, given Moelis has been pursuing SIVs for six years.
“It is an attractive pool of capital to manage given the relatively long duration of investment [up to eight years].”
The share price of Moelis Australia hit a two-year low after results were released.
Towards a ‘better deal’
Mr Coleman declined to elaborate to the ABC on his planned review of the scheme.
In the speech two weeks ago, he said: “We need to sharply focus on the practical execution to ensure that we are fully delivering on the goal.”
“Immigration to Australia is highly attractive to this cohort, and we need to ensure that we maximise the returns to our economy from their investment.”
*A 2016 report into the migration program argued the SIV (and its little-used “premium” $15 million investor visa) should be abolished.
*“The broader economic benefits of the significant investor and premium investor visas are negligible, and any benefits accrue mainly to those visa holders and to fund managers,” it stated.
*“It is likely that immigrants through these streams have less favourable social impactsthan other skilled immigrants.”
Mr Martin said he welcomed the review but stressed it needed to consider competition from the US and Europe.
“It is widely accepted that Australia’s SIV program is best of breed in terms of investment migration — especially in terms of its key investment requirements such as the $5 million amount which is much, much higher than most competing programs,” he said.
He suggested the Government could increase the proportion of funds that had to be invested into emerging companies, but that “we are getting fair value”.