Socialite may face jail over insider trading charges

THE Sydney socialite Oliver Peter Curtis was charged on Tuesday with conspiracy to commit insider trading, two years after his former best friend John Hartman pleaded guilty to insider trading offences that led to a prison sentence.
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The charges relate to an alleged agreement between the two where Mr Curtis allegedly traded on the basis of inside information Hartman possessed about the trading intentions of his employer, Orion Asset Management.

According to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, in return for providing the insider information, it is alleged Mr Curtis provided Hartman with a share of the profits in the form of cash and ”by using the funds to purchase items for Mr Hartman”.

Mr Curtis is the son of the Sydney businessman Nick Curtis, a founder of Sino Resources and the executive chairman of the rare earths miner Lynas Corp.

Mr Curtis works with his father at a corporate advisory firm, Riverstone Advisory.

Hartman, the son of the prominent Sydney obstetrician Keith Hartman, was sentenced to three years’ jail after pleading guilty to related, and unrelated, insider trading offences in April 2010.

Hartman, who had previously enjoyed luxury cars and gambling trips to Las Vegas, was sent to jail in a form of protective custody for volunteering to give evidence against Mr Curtis.

ASIC alleges that Mr Curtis traded on 45 separate occasions between May 1, 2007, and June 30, 2008, making a total profit of $1 million.

According to a release from ASIC on Tuesday, Mr Curtis was granted bail ”on a number of conditions” and the matter will return to court on March 26.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of five years’ jail.

In sentencing Hartman, Justice Peter McClellan wrote plainly about Mr Curtis’s involvement in receiving inside information, then trading in a financial product called contracts for difference.

”[Hartman] communicated this inside information for the purpose of Mr Curtis using the information to acquire and thereafter dispose of … CFDs [contracts for difference],” Justice McClellan wrote.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

McGuigan negotiated with Moses Obeid

THE wealthy businessman John McGuigan has admitted personally negotiating with Moses Obeid, the son of the former Labor MP Eddie Obeid, who wanted a sizeable stake in his coal company.
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Giving evidence at the Independent Commission against Corruption, Mr McGuigan said that in late May 2009, he was introduced to Moses Obeid by Greg Jones, a close associate of then mining minister Ian Macdonald.

At that time the government was still considering which companies would win the right to explore for coal in 11 areas the government was opening up for mining.

The commission has heard that the Obeids used inside information allegedly provided to them by Mr Macdonald to acquire key properties in the Bylong Valley which was one of the areas covered by the new exploration licences.

Mr McGuigan, the managing director of Cascade Coal, said Moses Obeid initially wanted a 30 per cent share of Cascade Coal and that he was ”very focused on extracting value” for their three farms in the Bylong Valley. Mr McGuigan said that he did not want the Obeids to be joint venture partners but that they were adamant that access to the properties would be given in return for a stake in Cascade. In the end 25 per cent was agreed upon. The Obeids later negotiated a $60 million payout for this stake. To date they have received $30 million.

Several weeks after this initial meeting Cascade was announced as the winning tender for the Mount Penny licence.

Mr McGuigan also agreed that a highly confidential document about the government’s proposed mining areas was most likely provided to him by the mining magnate Travers Duncan, who was also an investor in Cascade Coal.

The inquiry has heard that Mr Duncan was on friendly terms with Mr Macdonald and the pair often dined together.

Mr McGuigan agreed that the knowledge the Obeids were involved in Cascade Coal would have an impact on any attempt to raise money for a mine at a later date. However, he maintained confidence that the Liberal government would not cancel Cascade’s licence. ”My view was and continues to be that the exploration licence, the rights, that we currently have was validly granted and is not and cannot be in question,” he said.

Commissioner David Ipp then pointed out that the mining minister has an unfettered discretion as to whether to grant a mining lease. At present Cascade has a licence to explore, not to mine.

In other evidence the Obeids’ former farm manager Barry Taylor said, ”I only seen Old Eddie three or four times,” in the two years to March 2010, when he was running their property Cherrydale Park at Bylong.

Mr Obeid snr made a surprise appearance at the inquiry on Tuesday. He and his solicitor watched a live feed of the hearing from a room in the ICAC complex. Members of the public also present said Mr Obeid nodded or shook his head and on occasions muttered what he thought the correct answer was to questions being asked of various witnesses.

Mr Obeid, his wife Judith and son Moses are due in the witness box on Thursday.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Government internet snooping takes more than it gives, says web founder

THE founder of the world wide web has warned of the dangers posed by governments intent on increasing the monitoring and filtering of the online activity of their citizens.
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Sir Tim Berners-Lee said while it was important to fight organised crime and for a state to defend itself against cyber attack, there were enormous negatives associated with excessive government oversight of the internet.

”The whole thing seems to me fraught with massive dangers and I don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said in Sydney on Tuesday in reply to a question about the Australian government’s data retention plan.

Sir Tim was speaking at the launch of the CSIRO’s $40 million Digital Productivity and Services Flagship, a research division focused on facilitating the growth of the digital economy and exploiting the full potential of the National Broadband Network.

The data retention proposal is part of the federal government’s overhaul of national security measures and would require internet service providers (ISPs) and telecommunication carriers to store the internet history of all Australians for at least two years.

”That information is so dangerous, you have to think of it as dynamite,” he said. Instead of nabbing ”serious criminals”, such a process would only snare people who had taken out too many library books.

While it was possible to set up a watchdog, he was not yet aware of any government that had successfully introduced a foolproof system of checks and balances.

Sir Tim, in Australia for the first time in 15 years, also raised a red flag about web filtering. ”I have a worry about a government that is liable to take too much control; maybe to spy, maybe to block. So beware of a government that has the ability to control what you see on the web.”

The retention plan, which would have required every Australian ISP to block overseas-hosted ”refused classification” material as identified by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, was shelved in November after several years of acrimonious debate.

Sir Tim invented the world wide web while working in Europe in 1989. He is the director of the World Wide Web Consortium, which oversees the web’s continued development, and holds a senior research position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Communication Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, architect of a controversial mandatory internet filtering plan, also spoke at the launch.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Raise Warragamba, says dam expert

A family enjoying the view of the dam from a platform at the Warragamba Dam Visitor Centre.A MAJOR flood of the Hawkesbury Nepean Valley in western Sydney would be more devastating than the Brisbane floods of 2011 and was just as likely to occur, said an expert witness to the Queensland government’s post-flood inquiry.
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The potential for a catastrophic flood in Sydney’s west was placed on the agenda last year by the O’Farrell government’s adviser Infrastructure NSW, which suggested raising the level of Warragamba Dam to prevent a future disaster.

And while the present rainfall in parts of NSW and Queensland is not expected to cause large problems in Sydney, the renewed focus on flood mitigation has heightened concern about what would happen if rain concentrated in the city’s west.

”There is huge flood risk – it is probably greater than Brisbane,” said a dam expert, Mark Babister, a witness in the Queensland Flood Commission’s inquiry into the 2011 Brisbane flood.

”It probably would impact on more people, homes and small businesses,” Mr Babister, the managing director of WMAwater, said. ”But it wouldn’t have some of the economic consequences of shutting down a CBD.”

The most common suggestion to mitigate the risk of flood in the Hawkesbury-Nepean area is to raise the height of the wall at Warragamba Dam.

Lifting the height of the dam wall by 23 metres, which was suggested in a 1995 environmental impact study, would lower the flood level at Windsor Bridge by about five metres in the event of a one-in-200-year flood.

But in 1995 the Carr government instead decided to manage flood risk in western Sydney by upgrading roads to make evacuation easier as well as making the dam safer by building a spillway to release excess water.

Infrastructure NSW, in its report to the government last year, slammed this decision.

It said the choice of managing the ”issue through evacuation and planning has had either limited impact or benefit, or has been completely inadequate in reducing the social and economic impacts of flooding in the HNV [Hawkesbury Nepean Valley]”.

Another expert, Drew Bewsher, said the renewed focus on water management represented a opportunity to look at raising the dam wall again.

”You can have two or three decades without much flooding and people forget about flooding altogether,” Mr Bewsher said. ”Now is the time to do something.”

The topography of the Hawkesbury Nepean Valley makes it uniquely susceptible to flooding, even if there has not been a major event since 1990.

The O’Farrell government has said it would conduct a ”strategic review” of mitigation options for the area, but would not put a time on the review.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Man guilty of torching police car

THE former president of the Nomads bikie club has changed his plea to guilty for torching a police car parked outside his tattoo shop after new CCTV material contradicted his evidence.

Despite both the defence and prosecution acknowledging the footage did not alter much in way of evidence, Scott Orrock, 47, reversed his plea before the District Court on Tuesday after the previous trial had to be aborted last week when police tendered the new evidence.

Mr Orrock, the owner of Skin Deep Tattoo, in Newtown, admitted to smashing a police car window on April 21 at 3am and pouring highly flammable alcohol into the vehicle before setting it alight.

Ten minutes earlier Mr Orrock had gone into Newtown police station demanding an officer ”f—ing move it [the vehicle] right away or otherwise I will burn it down”.

In his sentencing submission Mr Orrock’s barrister, Deone Provera, said his client was ”not perfect” but also drew attention to a ”limited criminal history that was mostly for motor vehicle offences.” In 2006 Mr Orrock was shot at Showgirls nightclub and subsequently charged for concealing the identity of his attacker.

”Mr Orrock doesn’t suggest he’s off knitting doilies, nor that he is a fragile flower,” Mr Provera said.

”He’s a quite well known personalty in bikie circles and that community … but this is a person who has moved way from the life he once led,” he said.

Crown prosecutor Craig Patrick submitted Mr Orrock had shown no remorse or contrition for this ”deliberate, intentional and planned act.”

Justice Robyn Tupman is expected to hand down a sentence on Thursday morning.

”His criminal record is not that bad, he’s never been in jail for full time until now and he hasn’t committed an offence since 2006,” she said. ”I know the Crown would like to send him to jail for life but the maximum penalty is 10 years … this is the first time he’s been to jail, and that he is a Hells Angels member does not change anything.”

But Ms Tupman said the nine months non-parole period for maliciously damaging a police car and the eight months already spent on remand in Long Bay jail were not sufficient terms.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Iemma in frame as McClelland decides to bring down curtain

Contender … Morris Iemma is tipped to replace Robert McClelland.THE former federal attorney-general and prominent Kevin Rudd supporter Robert McClelland is to retire from federal politics.

Mr McClelland announced the federal election would bring an end to his 17-year hold on the Sydney electorate of Barton, triggering speculation the former NSW premier Morris Iemma could replace him in the seat.

Other names being discussed in relation to Barton are Shane O’Brien, who is the mayor of Rockdale and assistant general secretary of the Public Service Association of NSW, and the former Labor aide Kirsten Andrews, who is now with the National Heart Foundation.

If Mr Iemma decided to put his hand up, it is understood he would enjoy the backing of the NSW Labor head office. He also has strong support in his local branches, where he has remained active since leaving office.

A Labor source, who has spoken to Mr Iemma about the issue in recent months, said he was ”definitely interested, but not committed” to running.

A major consideration is his family. Mr Iemma and his wife, Santina, have four children. Their eldest son starts high school this year and they have twins in primary school.

Despite the 8.1 per cent swing against Labor in the 2010 election, Mr McClelland held Barton with a margin of 6.9 per cent.

He served as attorney-general under Mr Rudd’s government from 2007 and continued in the role under the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. But Ms Gillard moved Mr McClelland into emergency management in 2011 and then dumped him from the cabinet in March last year soon after he strongly backed Mr Rudd’s leadership challenge.

”After almost 17 years in federal Parliament, my decision has not been taken lightly and follows discussions over the Christmas recess with my family and friends,” Mr McClelland said.

The son of the Whitlam minister and NSW senator Doug McClelland, he said it had been a ”tremendous honour and privilege” to represent his constituents and he was grateful for their support.

The former Rudd government press secretary Lachlan Harris, who worked for Mr McClelland in opposition, said although retirement often triggered positive tributes, the sentiments in this case would be genuine.

”This was one of the true nice guys in politics,” he said.

”He was one of the ones that had friends on both sides of the aisle. He had an old-school sense of what’s right and what’s wrong,” Mr Harris said.

The shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, said Mr McClelland was ”a very decent guy treated poorly by Julia Gillard”, and the Victorian Labor MP Steve Gibbons said the former lawyer ”served the party and his community with great distinction”.

On Twitter, Joel Fitzgibbon, a Rudd supporter and Hunter region MP, described Mr McClelland as ”a great servant of the Labor Movement” whom history would treat well.

As a backbencher last June, Mr McClelland referred in Parliament to Ms Gillard’s involvement in providing advice on the establishment of a contentious Australian Workers Union fund.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Firms use tax money for aid projects

WEALTHY resource companies operating overseas are tapping into Australian taxpayer funds to set up aid projects potentially benefiting their corporate social responsibility credentials.

Aid and mining watchdogs have expressed concerns about the practice, arguing the corporations are wealthy enough to bankroll their own aid and that linking donations to controversial mine operations is a conflict of interest.

Nine mining companies all operating in Africa have been linked to the successful applications via the Foreign Affairs Department’s Direct Aid Program – a scheme that allows heads of missions to give up to $30,000 to local causes.

About $215,000 of taxpayers’ money went to the mining company-conceived projects last financial year, including a school for the deaf, providing trade skill training to local workers, establishing women’s groups and digging wells.

Two applications involved uranium mining companies, Paladin Energy in Malawi and Bannerman Resources in Namibia.

Other successful applicants included the nobium miner Globe Metals and Mining in Malawi, gold miner Endeavour Mining Corporation in Ghana and copper miner Mawson West in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The coalminer Intra Energy Corporation, gold miner Resolute Mining in Tanzania and Middle Island Resources, which is involved in gold mining in Burkina Faso, also were associated with successful applications.

Paladin, which has been the subject of some controversy in Malawi over job cuts, was last year linked to a funding application through its employees’ charity – Friends and Employees of Paladin for African Children.

Paladin’s (African) Ltd general manager, international affairs, Greg Walker, who was invited late last year to be Australia’s honorary consul to Malawi, was involved in the process, according to 2012 correspondence from Australia’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Matthew Neuhaus, to Mr Walker. The letter obtained under freedom of information confirmed Mr Walker’s successful application for the employees’ charity funding proposal.

The Aidwatch director Thulsi Narayanasamy said it was not the place of the Australian aid program to fund the corporate social responsibility programs of wealthy mining companies.

The Mineral Policy Institute’s executive director, Charles Roche, said the programs created a conflict of interest with aid linked to the mining proposal rather than the fact it was coming from Australia.

But DFAT and the companies rejected the claims. “It is in everybody’s interest to encourage Australian companies to operate in a socially and environmentally responsible manner,” a DFAT spokeswoman said.

Several companies said they spent large amounts on aid which the DAP funding merely complemented.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Problems in patient care linked to deaths

Surgery deaths … in about 1 per cent of cases, the clinical problems were found to have probably caused the person’s death.A QUARTER of all surgical patient deaths involve potential problems with care that could or should have been provided differently, a massive national audit has found.

And one in every 20 deaths led to significant criticism of the care given to the patient, according to the Australian and New Zealand Audit of Surgical Mortality.

In about 1 per cent of cases, the clinical problems were found to have probably caused the person’s death.

The audit’s chairman, Guy Maddern, said the potential problems were those where it might have been possible to tackle the issue differently and bring about different results.

”It may have been that a scan should have been done earlier or an antibiotic prescribed, it may not have made any difference but with the benefit of hindsight we have identified it,” he said.

The audit, which is run by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and examined more than 10,000 deaths over three years, found the most common areas of concern were problems with delays in treatment, or the decision to operate at all.

Professor Maddern said he believed the audit, in its third year, could prevent patient deaths. In Western Australia, where an audit has been run for about 10 years, deaths seemed to be decreasing.

”We think what might be happening is we might be finding surgeons who are realising it might not always be necessary to do [surgery],” he said. ”Often these patients are put in front of a surgeon and they feel obliged to do something, and this audit is giving them the confidence to say ‘this surgery is not going to provide a meaningful solution.’ ”

In most of the audit areas the national figures showed improvements on previous years, and the vast majority of deaths involved no significant criticisms.

The proportion of surgeons participating has also increased drastically, from 60 per cent last year to 90 per cent this year.

But Professor Maddern criticised private hospitals in NSW and Queensland that had been slow to participate, despite the NSW government now funding the process here.

Other problems identified in the audit included patients not being moved into a critical care unit, with 12 per cent who had not received critical care treatment likely to have benefited from it. Patients had also missed out on preventative treatment for deep vein blood-clots, and experienced delays in transport to other hospitals.

”Most of these deaths are occurring in the older age groups, and they have many co-morbidities … the surgery is in many ways the easy part; it’s managing these other conditions in the post-surgical period that is extremely complex,” Professor Maddern said.

The chief executive of the NSW Clinical Excellence Commission, Cliff Hughes, said every surgeon would receive a personal audit report, which was conducted in a similar manner to a jury trial, and a summary at the end of the year.

He said such detailed feedback was ”pretty much a world-first”, and had been driven by surgeons and anaesthetists in NSW.

He could not say how many private hospitals in NSW were currently participating in the audit process, but was confident the number would improve.

The Australian Private Hospitals Association did not respond to a request for comment.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Capitals milk their elite status

They are going to miss the finals for the second year running, and their marquee player hasn’t played a minute, but the Canberra Capitals have cemented their place in the local sporting landscape well enough to sign a new sponsor.

Canberra Milk finalised a deal this week that will link it to the Capitals until the end of the 2013/14 season at least, although managing director Garry Sykes said that’s likely to be extended.

The company, once the naming-rights sponsor of the Capitals, already supports the two major Canberra football teams and Sykes puts the Caps into the same category of “well established” sporting teams.

“I think it took a little while for the Canberra sporting industry to settle itself down with the [now defunct] Cannons and Cosmos and so forth,” Sykes said. “I think the three major guys – Raiders, Brumbies and Capitals – have established themselves now and have got a good foothold here in Canberra, so we thought it was time to get on board and support them.”

Sykes was unconcerned about claims from captain Jess Bibby that Basketball Australia was not doing enough to grow the women’s league, saying it didn’t affect the decision to sponsor the Capitals.

“It’s not all about where the WNBL think they fit – the Capitals represent Canberra, so do we,” he said, noting the company declined an approach by the GWS Giants AFL team. “One of the criteria, too, is ‘what’s Canberra?’ GWS is not Canberra; Raiders, Brumbies, Capitals are.”

The Caps have posted a poor record on the court this season, with key player Lauren Jackson injured and unable to play, but Capitals coach Carrie Graf said sponsorship is the key to future success.

“It’s about continuing to grow our off-court program so we can grow our on-court program, and I mean elite sports sponsorship’s a big part of that.

”I think it shows that we want to grow, we want to get bigger and better,” she said.

The team has more injury concerns ahead of Friday’s game against Townsville, although in-form centre Brigitte Ardossi is to return after a week off following a concussion.

“Alex Bunton’s been in bed crook, Nicole Hunt didn’t practise last night, her Achilles flared up on the weekend … and Val Ogoke rolled her ankle last night, so she’ll be doubtful. So we’re a little light on,” Graf said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Charlesworth backs up cricket rotation policy

ONE of Australia’s most versatile elite-level coaches, Ric Charlesworth, has emphatically endorsed Australian cricket’s contentious rotation-based selection philosophy.

The inclusion of Tasmanian bowling all-rounder James Faulkner for Monday night’s Twenty20 loss to Sri Lanka took the tally of Australian representatives this summer to 33 in the 13 matches played across the three formats.

The spread of appearances exceeds last summer’s tally of 29 players in 19 matches.

Charlesworth, a former shield stalwart for Western Australia who has held top-level roles in cricket – he was New Zealand’s high-performance manager from 2005 to 2007 – AFL and hockey, hailed the emergence of fast bowler Jackson Bird in the summer’s last two Tests as a tangible benefit of not relying on a clique of elite players.

“It would seem to me that the workload, the number of games played in the different formats, [requires rotation],” he said on Tuesday.

“I was arguing in the 1990s we needed separate teams almost, and that’s started to emerge.

“People don’t really believe they can do it until they’ve done it, and unless you provide them with a lot of opportunities, you don’t find that. Unless people get an opportunity to play, you don’t really find out about their mettle.”

Charlesworth played 47 first-class matches for WA between 1972 and 1979, juggling a domestic-level cricket career with an international-level hockey career that took him to four Olympics.

He played more than half his matches alongside John Inverarity, now Australia’s chief selector, and about one-third with fast-bowling great Dennis Lillee.

The former opening batsman said Lillee was the fittest and hardest-working teammate he encountered during his cricket career but nevertheless predicted that “if he had to play all the [current] different varieties of the game and field with the quality that’s expected now, that it would not be an easy task at all for him”.

As coach of the national women’s and now men’s hockey teams, Charlesworth has been an advocate of rotation, on the basis that “if you want a sustainable performance then you need depth and flexibility”.

“The spin-off from that was many more people believing – and knowing – they could do it,” he said. “You never picked your best team until the big series or the big competitions. That’s one of the issues cricket has to face, that every time Australia plays there’s an expectation it has to win.”

Charlesworth lamented cricket as “neanderthal” in some areas, such as rotation and the depth of statistical analysis, compared with sports such as baseball. He commended his former teammate Inverarity for his much-derided emphasis on “informed player management”, the term Inverarity prefers to rotation.

“There’s a whole range of people in Australian cricket who don’t think you need a coach. Either cricket’s wrong or every other sport in the world’s wrong,” Charlesworth said.

“In baseball you manage your pitchers. In cricket you manage your fast bowlers I would’ve thought, and even the spin bowlers depending on what their loads are. To be fit for bowling, you need to bowl – I have no problem with that – but how much is the issue.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.