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Month: November 2018

Freed lawyer speaks to family from Libya

Freed lawyer speaks to family from Libya

An “ecstatic” Janelle Taylor heard her daughter, human rights lawyer Melinda Taylor, say “I love you” this morning as she was freed after spending more than three weeks jailed in Libya.
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Although unable to speak about her experience, the lawyer was able to reassure her Brisbane-based mother that she was fine in what Mrs Taylor described as an “emotional” phone call.

Mrs Taylor said she spoke to her daughter in the early hours of this morning after the Libyans handed her over to Australian ambassador David Ritchie.

And Mrs Taylor was chilling a bottle of champagne to celebrate when she sees her daughter’s face on Skype later today.

Ms Taylor, has been held with three International Criminal Court colleagues since she travelled to Zintan, southwest of Tripoli, on June 7 to help prepare the legal defence of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam.

“She didn’t tell me anything about her experience in the jail because she was in the convoy and the phone call was monitored so the only thing she said was she loved us and looked forward to speaking to us and she’s excited to go home,” Mrs Taylor said.

Mrs Taylor has been in constant contact with her daughter’s husband Geoff Roberts over the past few weeks and has arranged to talk to her daughter on Skype about midday when Mrs Taylor and her husband John will have a proper celebration.

“We’ve got a bottle of champagne here that our other daughters brought over two weeks ago and the whole time Melinda has been in there we said ‘we have to do something to support Melinda so we went off alcohol’,” she said.

“So the bottle of champagne is now in the fridge and [Melinda’s husband] Geoff said he’d Skype us when she gets home at about midday today and that’s when we’ll drink the champagne.”

“…It will be great, I’ll be very happy to see her face.”

Ms Taylor has a two-year-old daughter, Yasmina, who she will be reunited within the next few hours in Hague along with her husband.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr rang Mrs Taylor in the early hours of this morning to tell her that her daughter had been handed over by Libyan officials ending a “harrowing” few weeks for the parents.

“We are now ecstatic that she’s actually been handed over by them because we were excited when we told she was going to be released but we were ecstatic when we got the email last night to say and a phone call from Bob Carr to say the Libyans had handed her over to the ambassadors,” Mrs Taylor said.

She said Melinda did not have plans to come to Australia until December and her parents had decided it was best to wait until then to see her.

“Melinda said ‘look Mum and Dad I would love you to come over’ and we would be on the next plane but we feel maybe Melinda’s life need to go back to being normal so she can get on with her life,” she said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Freed lawyer speaks to ‘delighted’ husband

Freed lawyer speaks to ‘delighted’ husband

Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor, left, arrives at the airport in Rome. Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor leaves jail.
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On a plane home … Melinda Taylor with husband, Geoffrey Roberts, and daughter, Yasmina.

Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor is on a plane on her way home to the Netherlands, after she was released from jail in Libya overnight.

She is due to arrive in Rotterdam later today, having flown out of Tripoli on an Italian military aircraft. She will be met in the Netherlands by her husband Geoff Roberts and her two-year-old daughter, Yasmina.

Mr Roberts told the National Times that her family was very relieved by her release. He had spoken to her on the telephone during her trip and said, “she’s OK”.

“I am delighted that she’s been released. I am obviously very happy about that. But I don’t want to talk too much until I have spoken to her.”

An “ecstatic” Janelle Taylor heard her daughter say “I love you” this morning in an emotional phone call.

Although unable to speak about her experience, the lawyer was able to reassure her Brisbane-based mother that she was fine.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bob Carr, who is in New York, said the news of Ms Taylor’s relief had given him a boost.

“It’s actually lifted the jetlag,” he said this morning.

“I only wish that I could be there at Rotterdam airport when Melinda arrives and she lifts up that two-year-old,” he said.

He thanked Libyan authorities, especially “Prime Minister el-Keib and Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz, whose personal intervention was instrumental in bringing this matter to a close”.

Senator Carr said that Ms Taylor’s husband had been able to distract their daughter by changing the subject and talking about their pet dogs whenever Yasmina had asked about her mother.

But the Foreign Minister also said that the young girl had been waking up at night and crying unaccountably.

The Australian government has been pushing for Ms Taylor’s release, since she and three International Criminal Court colleagues were detained in the city of Zintan on July 7, accused of threatening Libya’s national security.

It was alleged that Ms Taylor had a spy camera in a pen and passed coded letters to the son of Muammar Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, from his former right-hand man, Mohammed Ismail.

The Australian lawyer’s release comes after weeks of talks that involved the Australian government, Libyan authorities and the ICC.

Ms Taylor was released to Australian ambassador-designate to Libya, David Ritchie, at 1am AEST today and has travelled back to Europe with a delegation lead by ICC President Song Sang-hyun.

Judge Song told reporters on the tarmac in Rome that Ms Taylor was in good spirits and health.

“I’m very happy to bring them all back to freedom,” he said.

Ms Taylor is still likely to face an internal ICC inquiry into allegations raised by the Libyan authorities.

In a statement yesterday, the court said the information reported by the Libyan authorities would be fully investigated in accordance with “ICC procedures”.

But Senator Carr said he did not think this was a concern as the issues between Libya and the ICC had been resolved. “We can rest easy about that,” he said.

Senator Carr said that even though Ms Taylor has been released, there were times when he thought the process was taking too long and he feared the worst.

“As late as Sunday [I] was talking to [parents] John and Janelle,” he said.

“I had to tell them the evidence was ambiguous.”

The Foreign Minister said that the episode, which has required a lot of interaction with the Libyan government, had had a positive effect on Australia’s relationship with the country.

“It’s had the ironic effect of giving us real rapport with the Libyan leadership,” he said.

“I’ve come to appreciate my conversations with the prime minister, and the deputy foreign minister.”

Follow the National Times on Twitter: @NationalTimesAU

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Warranty company silent on return of goods

Warranty company silent on return of goods

THE owner of a national extended-warranty company appears to have gone silent, leaving many consumers wondering when their electrical goods – sent in for repair – will be returned.
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Do you know more? Email Larissa Ham at [email protected]南京夜网.au

Consumer Affairs Victoria and NSW Fair Trading have received a number of calls from consumers experiencing problems with company U-NITED Warranties, owned by long-time businessman Vern Rickman.

A Consumer Affairs spokeswoman said consumers had reported their goods were being held by the company, which also operates a maintenance area, for repair or replacement, but had not been able to contact the trader to arrange for their return.

Both bodies are making inquiries to confirm the status of the company and say they will provide consumers with information as soon as possible.

Mr Rickman runs a number of companies under the United Group banner, including a warranties division – said to be Australia’s largest – along with the maintenance arm and an audiovisual department that has had clients including McDonald’s, My Chemist, Myer and Crown Casino.

At least part of the business is believed to be in trouble, but despite repeated attempts, The Age has been unable to contact Mr Rickman to verify the status of the company. Calls to the head office go straight to an answering machine.

A multimillion-dollar fine dining restaurant in Victoria’s South Gippsland, Archies on the Creek, owned by Mr Rickman, closed earlier this year.

Last year Mr Rickman told The Age he was also the major shareholder in PumpTV, a company rolling out small TV advertising screens on petrol bowsers throughout Australia and China. In an interview last year, Mr Rickman said the screens were expected to be viewed by 2 million people a month within the next two years. A call to PumpTV yesterday was greeted with a hang-up.

Meanwhile, retailers including Myer and Big W have ceased selling warranties through the group, and have been fielding phone calls from concerned warranty holders.

Myer spokeswoman Jo Lynch said the retailer stopped selling extended warranties through U-NITED about a month ago after becoming aware that customers weren’t able to contact the company.

”We are still trying to determine the extent of outstanding claims but at this point in time have had little information passed on from U-NITED,” she said. ”Myer is working through a process to locate customer goods that may be currently located with repair agents and transport companies who now have no contact point.”

Concerned warranty holders should phone Myer’s customer service hotline on 1800 811 611.

Big W stopped selling the extended warranties mid-June, after the warranty company advised them they were experiencing difficult trading conditions, Big W spokesman Benedict Brook said. The retailer has only been selling the warranties through U-NITED since late last year and it is believed no Big W customers are missing electrical goods. However, thousands of customers would be holding the warranties. Mr Brook said the retailer was in the process of finding another provider.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

RBA expected to hold rates steady

RBA expected to hold rates steady

THE Reserve Bank board is considered certain to sit on its hands for the first time in three months today amid signs its previous rate cuts are stabilising property prices.
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The RP Data Rismark survey finds Sydney and Melbourne prices bounced back 1 per cent in June after slipping in May 1.2 and 2.7 per cent.

Daily data shows the turnaround began after the Bank’s May 0.50 point rate cut and gathered pace after its June 0.25 point cut. ”Things are improving, but we would need further gains to be assured of a stabilisation in house prices let alone a recovery,” said Westpac economist Matthew Hassan.

The Sydney median price is $541,000, down 2 per cent over the past year. The Melbourne median price is $480,000 – down 6.6 per cent.

Separate figures from mortgage broker AFG show a surge in refinancing to take advantage of the Reserve Bank rate cuts totalling 1.25 percentage points since November.

Two in every five of the new mortgages sold in June were for borrowers wanting to refinance rather than buy. In a sign that borrowers expect further rate cuts this year the popularity of fixed-rate loans slumped to its lowest point since September. One in every six home loans were at fixed rates, down from one in every four in March.

Every one of the 23 market economists surveyed by Bloomberg expects the Reserve Bank to stay its hand today – an unusual consensus. Pricing in the futures market, which is notorious for overestimating the likelihood of rate cuts, puts the probability of a cut today at just 16 per cent.

AMP chief economist Shane Oliver said a spate of strong employment news since the June board meeting will leave the board feeling it can wait before cutting again.

”I tend to think because they cut at two meetings in a row, and because the growth and employment figures surprised on the upside, they would probably be inclined to sit back and wait and see,” he said.

Deutsche Bank economist Adam Boyton said he thought the bank would cut again later this year. ”Consumer confidence is lower now than when the Bank started to move at the end of last year.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Why our banks can’t afford faster growth

Why our banks can’t afford faster growth

Banks are quietly content with the flood of deposits heading their way.There was an important sentence or two missing from yesterday’s Westpac warning about financial servicessector growth remaining modest – modest growth is all our banks can handle anyway.
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While our senior bankers might suggest their highly-remunerated whiz-bang management talents are prevented from delivering stronger profit growth by dull-witted customers being overly cautious, the reality is that the banks are incapable of doing much more than they’re doing.

The combination of stiffer Basel III capital requirements and the competition for domestic profits means banks are quietly gratefully for subdued credit demand.

The deposit loop is a virtuous cycle for the banks at present, but it has the potential to rapidly turn vicious. Fearful Australians aren’t seeking to borrow much, returning our household savings ratio to something more like our longer-term average, before we started bashing the collective plastic in the 1990s. Instead of wanting to borrow, we’re stuffing increasing amounts of money under the banks’ mattresses.

We’re encouraged to do that by the tasty real interest rates on offer from the banks who are genuinely competing for deposits, but it’s a finely balanced thing – that strong deposit growth is just enabling the banks to meet the limited credit growth without drama in this uncertain world where large amounts of foreign funding are frowned upon.

Should we collectively experience an outbreak of confidence, that fine balance would be lost. If we were more confident about the economic outlook, we’d be less likely to leave money in the vaults – we’d be withdrawing cash to buy shares or property.

The Catch-22 is that we’d also be keener to borrow more, but wouldn’t be able to because we’d be reducing the deposits that would fund the borrowing.

Money hunt

That danger of Australians wanting to both borrow more and deposit less deeply worries the bankers who have the job of finding money to allow their business to operate.

They’re happy for the uncertainty to continue – keep those European crisis headlines coming.

Symptomatic of how serious the competition has become among the banks wanting to borrow our money is the fact that the best online savings rate has risen again after initially falling in the wake of the RBA interest rate cuts.

The new leader in the field is the Westpac brand, RAMS, offering 5.75 per cent, albeit with a couple of catches – a minimum of $200 a month deposited and no withdrawals made.

(Rabo is in second place, offering 5.6 per cent but that’s only a four-month special while NAB’s UBank has 5.51 per cent with a minimum deposit requirement.)

That two of the top three offers are being made by Big Four banks that traditionally could raise deposits more cheaply than smaller institutions tells us something about how keen they are to borrow.

From an investor’s point of view, the subdued environment has its own rewards, as long as you’re not sitting on shares bought at the pre-GFC peak.

At present pricing, banks only have to maintain dividends to make holding bank shares richly rewarding thanks to those fat franked yields.

A little profit growth is always welcome, but let’s not get too enthusiastic – we wouldn’t want to encourage optimism.

Michael Pascoe is a BusinessDay contributing editor.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.