COUNTRY GARDEN … no doubt … was at the forefront of Chinese private investment leading Beijing’s Push into SYDNEY and beyond …
Through Vertical Integration:
–Chinese property developer buys large tracts of land sites
–builds with Chinese materials, and labour (Visa Workers)
-sells 100% of housing projects to Chinese (FIRB Ruling); Chinese buyers gain ‘Permanent Resident Visa’
LOCKING OUT AUSTRALIAN FIRST HOME BUYERS
WAS it behind closed doors in Macquarie Street in 2012 that the proposal for the NORTH RYDE STATION PRECINCT evolved? The start of the High-Rise Precincts to engulf Sydney …
A number of local Ryde people were selected to form a Committee … and were sworn to secrecy … that’s how NSW INC began to conduct ‘Community Consultation’ …
So that by the time the wider RYDE Community were aware and had written their submissions to oppose this monster … it was fait accompli … it now looms over the Village of North Ryde … and its fugliness cannot be missed from afar … Lindfield, Hunters Hill, Lane Cove, Gladesville and beyond
COUNTRY GARDEN is a property development company based in Guangdong Province, China, owned by Yang Guoqiang’s family. It focuses on building high-end residential property.
Founded in 1992 and listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange since 2007, it is controlled by China’s richest heiress, Yang Huiyan.
As a strong advocate and supporter of China’s new urbanization process and a creator of green, Country Garden has reshaped over 500 Chinese towns from tier 1 to tier 5.
The Chinese property developer has over 900 projects ongoing outside of its home market.
RELATED ARTICLES ABOUT COUNTRY GARDEN … and why it would seem Country Garden was to REBRAND itself!
▲ Country Garden, now Risland, completed its $580m North Ryde development late last year.
Upon entering the Australian market in 2013, Risland snapped up a 17,580sq m site in North Ryde, launching 830 apartments across three towers. Construction on the $580 million project completed last December.
Along the east coast, the developer has chased land subdivision opportunities, spending$400 million on a 366-hectare site in Victoria’s Wyndham while picking up an 8-hectare site in Cranbourne East in Melbourne’s south east in 2018.
Risland has pushed ahead with the $1.9 billion Windermere project—38 kilometres from the Melbourne CBD— with stage one scheduled for completion by the end of the year. The developer kicked off construction on the 4,700 home greenfield project in October last year.
Risland told The Urban Developer that the first four stages are “progressing well”, while the commencement of stages five to eight are expected this month.
“Several lots in stages nine and ten are being reconfigured. We anticipate that an amended planning permit will be issued by May 2020 and that construction could commence as early as October 2020,” a spokesperson said.
AUTHOR Ana Narvaez The Urban Developer – Managing Editor
Rainbow City is little more than a swathe of grassland on an island in the Pacific, but it has an apparently grand future.
Rainbow City is being marketed to foreigners as a “Little Singapore” in Vanuatu
The project covering more than 86 hectares will dwarf nearby villages and resorts
Locals say they have been kept in the dark about the development
The grass is slowly being replaced with roads, the soil forming the base for apartments, villas and shopping centres.
*This patch of paradise on Efate, the island that is home to Vanuatu’s capital, will eventually become a mini city for foreigners.
Over the next 10 years, the buildings over 86 hectares of open land will come to dwarf the surrounding villages, private homes and small resorts that neighbour it.
*Supported by private, Chinese-backed investment, it is the biggest residential development in Vanuatu.
Australia and the United States have been worried about the growing level of Chinese government interest in Vanuatu and the Pacific more broadly, but private investments from China like Rainbow City are booming.
And for locals, it is the most direct source of disquiet and discomfort about the future of their island homes.
Rainbow City, according to Ms Cheng, is part of her efforts to contribute to Vanuatu’s economy.
“We want to help Vanuatu … open the tourist market, have tourists come here,” she told the ABC.
“People from the whole world will come here … [from] England or Australia, or … China or Hong Kong, Macau.”
Although ostensibly aimed at attracting investors from around the world, the marketing and design of the development — which the company has dubbed Little Singapore — is clearly geared towards Asian investment.
Preliminary construction has begun, but not a single property has been sold yet, or even put on the market.
“A lot of people [are] asking how much to buy,” Ms Cheng said.
“Soon we will make it to market,” she went on to explain, saying the first property sales were due to take place around the end of the year.
Anxiety around Chinese-backed development in the Pacific is not new, but it is heightened, given the renewed focus on the region by the world’s great powers.
The vast oceanic territory under the control of the island nations through their exclusive economic zones — and their strategically advantageous mid-ocean locations — has thrust the Pacific back onto the radar of China and the United States, as well as their allies.
Vanuatu is already one of the biggest recipients of China’s largesse in the Pacific, according to a comprehensive analysis of aid to the Pacific by the Lowy Institute.
Their Pacific Aid Map shows China donated almost twice as much to Vanuatu as Australia through $US99.65 million ($145 million) in grants and concessional loans.
That money paid for the redevelopment of the Luganville wharf along with smaller projects, such as building new offices for the Prime Minister, President, and the Foreign Affairs and Finance ministries.
However, Australia remains the biggest single national contributor of aid to the Pacific, having spent $1.2 billion across the region.
New Zealand and Japan still outrank China in aid committed to the region, too.
Diplomatic officials from both Australia and the US have told the ABC they are concerned China’s strategic lending will lead to “debt-trap diplomacy”, though some experts have recently cautioned against overstating such concerns.
While nations that rim the Pacific jostle for influence across the ocean, on the islands and atolls the concern reaches into everyday life.
*Developments like Rainbow City hold the promise of jobs and training for ni-Vanuatu, but locals tell a different story.
John Bakoa lives on a property just down the road from Rainbow City and worked on the construction site, helping to build the perimeter wall.
*“They don’t pay us well,” he said. “They pay us 130 vatu … per hour.”
*That is about $1.70 in Australian terms, and is well below Vanuatu’s minimum wage.
Ms Cheng vociferously disputes this, saying full-time workers on the site are paid a “good and high salary” that is “always over” the minimum wage, although it is not clear if that applies to casual workers too.
*Locals are also worried Chinese workers will either refuse to buy fruit and vegetables from them, or undercut them at markets.
Sydney’s dam levels are falling so quickly the city would need the equivalent of a metre of rain and a major deluge to break the dry spell.
Details of the state of Sydney’s catchments were circulated to government agencies this month as NSW braces for increasing stress on water supplies, particularly across the northern Murray-Darling Basin.
“It will take approximately 1000 millimetres of rain to fall over the course of a year in order to break the current drought in Greater Sydney, including an intense rain event of 200 millimetres over 1-2 days,” the government document states. “The annual average is 850 millimetres.”
Sydney’s dams are 48 per cent full, down more than 10 billion litres over the past week. The weekly drop of 0.4 percentage points would have been more without the 250 million litres being produced daily by the city’s desalination plant.
“Greater Sydney is in drought and dam levels are dropping faster than they have in decades,” a spokeswoman for Sydney Water said.
“This … is around 50 per cent greater than the Millennium Drought,” she said, adding that storage levels had sunk from 90 per cent to below half full in about two years.
Governments have been scrambling to respond to a sharp reduction of rainfall even as evaporation rates have increased with record temperatures.
In NSW during the first nine months of 2019, rainfall has been half the average while daytime and mean temperatures are running at the hottest on record.
“The Bureau of Meteorology’s climate forecast indicates no foreseeable signs of reprieve from current drought conditions, with warm and dry weather predicted,” the Sydney Water spokeswoman said, citing bureau outlooks.
“Based on these forecasts, the drought is therefore unlikely to break within the next year.”
That reduction “made a big difference to Sydney’s water security”, the spokeswoman said.
NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey said Sydney’s restrictions were already “equivalent to the level 2 water restrictions we experienced during the Millennium Drought. The trigger point for level 2 water restrictions [this time] is 40 per cent capacity for the Sydney catchment.”
Labor’s water spokesman Clayton Barr said “there is a growing concern across parts of the Sydney water network, and the state more widely, about how water is being handled and preserved”.
Mr Barr said he recently met community groups at Cataract Dam, the largest dam in the Macarthur Region, who were worried that levels had dropped from 90 per cent to under 30 per cent in just two years.
A former school teacher from Copacabana Beach has just locked horns with the four most powerful private institutions on the planet. And they don’t like it. The shoddy audit standards, massive government consulting business and global tax avoidance operations of the Big Four accounting firms, EY, KPMG, Deloitte and PwC, now finally face government scrutiny. Michael West reports.
On a crisp Thursday morning early this month, Deborah O’Neill walked into the Senate with a good idea. The Senator from the Central Coast of NSW had watched events unfold in London, the retinue of scandals which had enveloped the Big Four; and their intimate connections to a raft of corporate collapses and their attendant, gargantuan, conflicts of interest.
Here, the Big Four accountancy firms – shadowy partnerships who reveal nothing of their spiralling profits – had staged another breezy escape from accountability. In the Royal Commission into the Banks, where they booked another breathtaking bevy of advisory fees, they fielded nary one question as to their own culpability in the systemic fraud perpetrated upon ordinary Australians.
Yet in the UK, the calls were rising for the oligopoly to be broken up; too big, too profitable, too failed in its self-appointed role as the Guardian of Global Commerce.
At 11.49 am, O’Neill rose in the Chamber to speak. “I move that the following matter be referred to the Parliamentary Joint Inquiry into Corporations and Financial Services …”. She went on to note the failure of audit in detecting fraud, and conflicts of interest arising from their government consulting fees. As well as booking monster fees from advising multinational corporations on how to dodge tax, it was audit and consulting which had helped the Big Four to double-digit revenue rises in recent years – yes, rises in revenue, not profits; much of this coming at the expense of taxpayers.
Hansard from August 1 records: “Question agreed to”. What Hansard did not record was the dismay at how O’Neill managed to get away with this motion, nor the surprise and high indignation of the Big Four, the bewilderment of Liberal party senators across the floor, and even the surprise among her own colleagues.
The Big Four are among the largest donors to both major parties, tipping in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to both Liberal and Labor coffers, effectively political bribes to garner government business and to avoid precisely this kind of nosy, intrusive government activity.
This had been coming for a while, Deborah O’Neill told michaelwest.com.au last week. “They (the auditors) escaped scrutiny in the Hayne Royal Commission. ASIC has been calling on the Government to deal with the quality of auditing for the past seven years and they have done nothing. What impact does their consultancy work, which is unregulated, have over their capacity to audit independently?”
For the Big Four, the dollars at stake are mind-boggling. The following chart shows Federal Government consulting fees which have gone to these four firms alone over the past seven and a half years until this month when O’Neill called her probe. In the red is Department of Defence, in the blue, all other departments.
Big Four fees. Source: Greg Bean analysis of Austender.
In the three weeks since the Inquiry was announced the phone calls from the Big Four have been flowing. “What a cheek it was to announce this inquiry without so much as consulting us” … “there is nothing to see here anyway”, sums up the mood of indignation.
“She slipped that one through,” said one long-term Labor Senate operative. Canberra insiders are variously surprised and amused that the motion was not killed from the start. Now the word is the Committee is stacked with Liberals keen to kill it and Labor senators under pressure to kill it.
One senior lawyer au fait with the practices of the firms confided the Big Four had already enlisted senior partners at the big city law firms and their Big Four colleagues in London to kill it. They will be vigorously looking at their “document retention” policies, he old this reporter, “which really means document destruction”.
“Make no mistake, they (EY, Deloitte, KPMG and PwC) will be prepared, they are preparing already. They are not, in the least, worried about this”.
Indeed, the last time they faced parliamentary scrutiny was during the 2015 Senate Inquiry into Corporate Tax Avoidance where the Big Four despatched a tight platoon of slick witnesses to bat away committee questions with casual efficiency. Their clients: Google, Uber, News Corp, Microsoft and the oil majors were suitably shown up, embarrassed for their tax chicanery. Yet, on the masterminds of global tax avoidance themselves, not a glove was laid.
As the Big Four practise their defence strategies for the audit inquiry, their lobbyists, PR people and senior partners have shifted into overdrive with phone calls to the major parties and even the press. One newspaper boss in the financial media has been summoned to the gleaming Barangaroo headquarters of one of the firms to be scolded over the “unhelpful” Big Four coverage by one of his more dutiful news reporters.
O’Neill herself is not taking anything for granted. This is not a Royal Commission and large financial institutions have “given the bird” to past inquiries, lied and refused to co-operate with documentary evidence. She expects a battle.
Five of the ten-person Committee are Liberal MPs, four are from Labor and there is one Green. The Committee chair, young Liberal Senator James Patterson, is a member of the right-wing Institute of Public Affairs and unlikely to do Deborah O’Neill any favours. Another, Andrew Bragg is ex EY, one of the Big Four. Another, Jason Falinski, has already been hosing down expectations via the Financial Review that the Inquiry will find anything of significance.
The Liberal faction, say sources, is expected to “drop ASIC in it”, that is run the line that the embattled corporate regulator the Australian Securities & Investments Commission is to blame for any deficiencies in the accounting regime. The Committee itself was reformed after the Election, newly composed with O’Neill replaced as deputy chair by South Australian MP Steve Georganas.
Greens’ senator Peter Whish-Wilson, who is big on corporate malfeasance, is likely to take the fight up to the Big Four. O’Neill herself has experience, having presided in four Corporations Committee hearings. But the power and money behind the opposing forces are formidable.
Part of the reason the Inquiry was not struck down by a vote on the floor on August 1 was that the Liberals were somewhat wedged by findings in the last Parliament that there were big problems with audit standards in Australia.
“For some time, the PJC on Corporations and Financial services has been reporting on the quality, or more accurately lack of quality of auditing in Australia,” she says. “This issue should have been dealt with in the Terms of Reference of the Banking Royal Commission.
“The Liberal-National Government failed Australians and our financial sector when they chose to exclude audit from the scrutiny of the Hayne Banking Royal Commission. I am concerned about the potential conflict of interest of these companies originally designed exclusively for audit who now offer extensive consultancy services.
“When auditors secure less than 25% of their income through auditing work, the question needs to be asked – what impact does their consultancy work, which is unregulated, have over their capacity to audit independently?”
Here is another snapshot of the fee-fest. The chart below shows fees by Big Four firm from 2012 to 2018. Defence consulting is in red and all other departments blue.
Total revenue is $3.7 billion, according to analysis done for michaelwest.com.au by data expert Greg Bean. In the 313 days before Deborah O’Neill announced her inquiry Big Four revenue rose by $600 million. Collectively therefore, they make around $700 million a year for providing advice to the Federal Government alone.
Big4 v All Other. Source: Greg Bean
Previously, the four firms had been taking 60% of their revenue out of the cash cow which is DoD. Defence spending went ballistic in the year after Tony Abbott became prime minister. Though things have tapered off slightly. In 2018, they took 50% out of DoD and so far this year have only taken 44% of total fees out of DoD.
Meanwhile, as pointed out for three years by this website, audit standards in Australia are poor, marked by persistent failures to adhere to Australian Accounting Standards (AASB) which means – as the Corporations Act requires companies to comply with AASB – that Australia’s largest companies are routinely breaking the law.
The regulatory establishment is entirely captive. There were even recent revelations that Bill Edge, the chairman of the government’s audit body, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), was taking payments from his old firm PwC. Yet the firms have so infiltrated government that they have become “beyond regulation”.
Last week, the Committee met without representation from Labor and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg agreed to an extension of the submissions deadline from September to October 28. The Big Four are stacked with former political operatives of both major persuasions such as ex union boss Paul Howes who is now a partner of KPMG. They will not be needy of external advice on how to filibuster.
If they manage to kill the inquiry, or at least neuter it, the Big Four will buy another few years of unrestrained growth at the expense of government (which is increasingly outsourced to them), taxpayers and stakeholders in the companies which they purport to be guarding.
In the long run however it is an untenable situation to have an oligopoly of four auditors “guarding” the biggest institutions in the world, advising them how to dodge tax while advising government on tax policy and literally taking over the business of government via their consulting divisions.
A key factor in the outcome therefore will be media, which has yet almost entirely ignored these things. In its defence, the Big Four play a suave media game. Yet the spate of global document leaks such as Panama Papers, LuxLeaks and Paradise Papers, while focussing on celebrity tax avoiders, has ignored the Big Four perpetrators.
Worse, the myriad files remain locked in a document trove controlled by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) as it grows stale and beyond the access of the public. For now, the Big Four has covered all bases. The Senator from Copacabana Beach, and her colleagues, surely have their work cut out.
Another report has emerged highlighting how Malaysians are manipulating Australia’s electronic travel authority (ETA) visa system to stay long-term in Australia:
Australia’s population of 64,600 lapsed visa holders is more than triple the size of last year’s refugee intake, newly released Immigration data has revealed.
Malaysian visa overstayers were the most highly represented, with around 9,440 living in the country in June 30 last year…
The data shows the vast majority of visa overstayers were on tourist visas – an estimated 47,000 – followed by student visas at around 10,000…
The data also breaks down the length of overstays, with around 12,000 people staying in the country without a visa for more than 20 years…
Malaysians are the biggest group in the visa overstay data, beating much more populous countries like China, India and the United States.
Many high-profile Malaysians, including members of parliament, were educated in Australia under the Colombo Plan…
Those highly educated, low-risk Malaysians have led to the country receiving a ‘low-risk’ visa rating from Immigration, which makes it easy for them to get visas with minimal vetting…
Malaysia is covered by the Electronic Travel Authority, which means their tourist visas are essentially approved automatically…
The ABC last month also revealed that 33,000 Malaysians have exploited Australia’s ETA system over recent years in order to travel to Australia to then submit fraudulent applications for asylum:
High Commissioner Andrew Goledzinowski said 33,000 Malaysians had applied for asylum in Australia in recent years…
“Many who overstay then apply for refugee status…. They are doing it because they know we are a generous country”…
“From the information we have, the large number [applying for asylum] is due to the fact that Malaysians are taking advantage of Australia’s immigration laws to enable them to stay longer in an unlawful manner,” said a statement from Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs…
“Everybody [in Malaysia] has got this idea that it’s so easy to get asylum in Australia,” [James Chin, director of the Asia Institute Tasmania] said.
Residents of a Frankston South building affected by combustible cladding said the issue, as well as a laundry list of other defects in their complex, had caused them major emotional and financial stress.
“I think this has probably been the worst 10 months of my life, putting up with this,” owner Kerry Ould told 7.30.
“You buy the biggest thing of your life and you have got zip consumer protection. Nothing.
The Victorian government has put $600 million towards a project to identify and replace dangerous cladding and has vowed to pursue dodgy builders who installed it.
*Other states are less advanced, with concerns raised around the delay in action on the issue in NSW.
NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge has been particularly vocal.
“In New South Wales, there’s not one cent that’s come forward from the state government to help property owners,” he told 7.30.
*”There’s no public register,we don’t even have a set of guidelines to identify what property owners need to do to make their properties safe.
*”This is a problem created by bad government, by deregulation and privatisation. And that’s why I believe government has to be part of the solution.”
*Mr Shoebridge said the NSW government was refusing to make a register of affected buildings public.
“I find it astounding,” he said.
“We’re two and a half years post that tragedy in Grenfell and we still don’t have a public register in New South Wales, we still don’t have a comprehensive system to identify buildings at risk of flammable cladding.”
Residents in 37 apartment complexes across Sydney have been advised remediation work to remove some or all of the combustible cladding on their buildings will need to take place.
NSW Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson said the government was approaching this issue “practically and diligently”.
“We have prioritised high-rise residential buildings for assessment with local councils, who are making every effort to see assessments done as soon as possible,” he told 7.30 in a statement.
“Every day we clear more buildings and learn more about the buildings requiring remediation work.
“I want to make it clear, residents are not in any immediate danger as a result of living in one of these buildings. Extra fire safety measures have been put in place to protect residents until buildings can be cleared or remediated.”
The Chinese billionaire at the centre of a political corruption inquiry has launched a scathing attack on the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), which is pursuing him in court for $141 million.
Property developer Huang Xiangmo published a lengthy statement on his personal website accusing the ATO of being motivated by “unknown dark forces”.
He also claimed the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), and the media, of conspiring against him.
Mr Huang said his treatment was akin to attacks by “White Supremacists”.
“The ATO is believed to be a professional government agency with some integrity but it really pains and saddens me that it has now surrendered itself to the pressure of some unknown dark forces, almost allowing itself to become a tool for political persecution against me,” he wrote.
The tougher regulations would mean builders and designers are required to register plans for key elements like water-proofing to ensure they are carried out in compliance with building standards.
The new laws also state that a duty of care is owed by a person who carries out construction work, making it easier for home owners to sue their builder if things go wrong.
Building commissioner David Chandler said this will be the first in a series of legislative changes to help shore up the industry.
“We’ve got to stop making up construction in the field. So the first thing that we’re going to get here, is we’re going to get documentation that is completely, properly declared as being fit for construction,” he said.
“That’s a leap — that is huge. All of the designers out there acknowledge the fact that that’s a game-changer straight away.”
Renewed trust in ‘great Australian dream’
Minister for Better Regulation Kevin Anderson said the legislation would restore confidence among residential buyers.
“Those that do the wrong thing, those who cut corners, hopefully they will be gone,” he said.
“This is the start of the process that industry has been calling for. We want to fix the problems right at the start.”
He said there would be significant penalties set out in the regulations, in excess of $100,000 for corporations and individuals.
“What we’re doing today is, we’re drawing a line in the sand to fix those problems right at the start so mums and dads who buy into residential apartments in Sydney, in NSW, will have confidence that their dream — the great Australian dream — is as the plans that have been declared in that building.”
The changes will not be retrospective, so any owners of properties that experience issues in the future will not be covered by the new laws.
IT would appear that the longer ALAND, the Builder of neighbouring Peak Towers blocks access for the MASCOT TOWERS Engineers … the more attention they draw from the audience of SydneySiders concerned about defective developments … and unfair debt imposed upon the Mascot Towers residents …
ALAND’s reputation as a builder it would seem is sullied … how can they believe they can ride this out? How can they possibly recover?
Mascot Towers on unstable ground due to ‘loss of soil’, owners say
The owners of Sydney’s troubled Mascot Towers claim new tests have revealed a “loss of soil” under the cracking apartment complex’s north east corner.
The Mascot Towers Owners Corporation said new tests revealed the soil supporting the building has lost “bearing capacity”
*They claim engineers have been refused access to neighbouring apartment block Peak Towers where there were previous groundwater leaks
On Tuesday night the owners decided to pursue a commercial loan instead of raising money in special levies, which some could not afford
The 132-unit block was evacuated in June, and its Owners Corporation on Tuesday accused the developer of a neighbouring apartment complex, Peak Towers, of denying access to engineers as they try to determine the cause of the structural problems.
“Urgency has arisen following tests revealing a reduction in bearing capacity of soils at the north eastern corner of the building near the boundary of the Peak Towers development,” an Owners Corporation statement read.
Aland — the company that built Peak Towers — said it had not been shown the report the Owners Corporation was referring to.
The Owners Corporation urged Aland to do “the right thing” and allow them access to the building.
“If Aland is confident that Peak Towers is not of any cause for concern for Mascot Towers, then they should have no difficulty in allowing our engineers access to the site,” the statement read.
In a statement, Aland’s managing director Andrew Hrsto said his company had no control over access to Peak Towers.
The Mascot Towers Owners Corporation said all engineering findings were being reported to newly appointed NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler — a role created by the State Government two months ago in response to concerns about construction standards in Sydney.