‘Oligopoly’ squeezes drivers out of CBD

Brisbane is Australia’s most expensive CBD for one-hour parking, according to the RACQ.The RACQ has blasted a “comfortable oligopoly”, comprising Brisbane City Council and two major private providers, which it said had exploited an undersupply of parking that has made driving into the CBD sole domain of the very wealthy.
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RACQ spokesman Michael Roth was speaking off the back of yesterday’s RACQ annual audit of capital city off-street parking costs, which found Brisbane was Australia’s most expensive CBD for one-hour parking, and the second most expensive city for parking overall.

But Neighbourhood Planning chairman Amanda Cooper disputed the motoring body’s claims the council was to blame, arguing it delivered the right balance of car parking and public transport for the CBD.

Brisbane City Council operates two off-street car parks in the city, at King George Square and Wickham Terrace, with the rest of the market dominated by Sydney-based Secure Parking and Wilson’s, headquartered in Hong Kong.

Though the council approves applications for parking developments in the CBD, a spokesman said there were no ongoing charges associated with privately managed car-parks.

While Mr Roth said the council car parks were well priced relative to the fees charged by the private competitors, overall rates for the 25,141 off-street spaces in the city were unreasonable.

“It’s a question of supply – there aren’t enough parks in Brisbane – but it’s also a question of a comfortable oligopoly with little interest in making parking affordable in the city for anyone who isn’t a corporate with a private park,” he said.

“Council tells us they want a vibrant city – well if you’ve got people paying an average of $42.31 for two hours’ parking and $65.71 for four hours while shopping or seeing a movie, that’s not going to encourage vibrancy is it?”

While Wilson’s declined to comment in regards to why their prices had risen steadily since 2001, a spokeswoman for Secure Parking defended the increase on the grounds not all drivers paid the standard “rack” rate identified in the RACQ study.

“The majority of drivers are early bird, monthly or taking advantage of one of the host of offers that Secure Parking has in the market,” she said.

“For example, through its free Club Secure program, Secure Parking offers all day early bird parking at multiple car parks right in the heart of the CBD for less than $20.

“To simply look at one rate of parking in isolation is not an accurate reflection of the full range of off street prices and offers available to drivers particularly when most of our Brisbane car parks offer 20 minute parking with some from as low as $5.”

Cr Cooper said the council was focused on developing public transport to offset a reliance on off-street parking supply in the CBD.

“We ensure CBD commercial buildings have adequate parking,” she said.

“However it’s a careful balancing act as too many car parks will lead to peak hour gridlock in the CBD and then everybody loses.”

Mr Roth said the RACQ had not considered private lease arrangements, nor included early bird rates in the audit, acknowledging motorists could still find good deals.

“But they’re not for everybody,” he said.

“RACQ has expressed to government and BCC that a charge to enter the CBD may make more sense than these huge parking charges plus tolls on inner city bypasses [like] Clem7.

“We now have relatively empty and bankrupt toll roads doing little to reduce congestion while we charge exorbitant rates for a short CBD visit. Is that really the best outcome our governments can facilitate?”

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Newman’s 100-day warning: state must do ‘more with less’

Campbell Newman says he does not believe the removal of 20,000 public servants would affect services.
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Stressing the need to reshape the public service, the Queensland Premier argued the private sector had found ways to “deliver more with less” during an interview with brisbanetimes南京夜网.au to mark the 100th day since the Liberal National Party’s election landslide victory.

Mr Newman said the period since the election had seen the fulfilment of election pledges, including Sunday’s axing of the waste levy and the reinstatement of a discount of about $7000 for property owners who buy another home.

However, the last few months have also brought upheaval in the public sector with the non-renewal of a raft of temporary contracts and decisions not to replace workers who left the service.

In recent weeks, Mr Newman has used a report by a Peter Costello-led audit team to paint a gloomy picture of the state’s finances and argued the state currently employed 20,000 more public servants than it could afford.

Unions have been increasingly active, arguing that job cuts would harm services.

Asked whether he accepted there was no way to remove 20,000 public servants without affecting services in some way, Mr Newman rejected the assertion.

“Sorry, I don’t accept that,” he told brisbanetimes南京夜网.au.

“I believe that we need to, in a very careful way, restructure the public service to ensure that it is efficient and that it delivers for Queenslanders.”

Mr Newman said private companies around the nation and world, in the face of challenges and competition, had identified how they could “deliver more with less”.

“I mean, for example, airfares today are in real terms cheaper than they were 10 years ago, 20 years, 30 years ago, and yet levels of service are very good,” he said.

“You can catch flights, airlines run on time, they’re safe. Similarly in terms of electronic goods, they’re cheaper today than they were in real terms 10, 20, 30 years ago.

“Why does the public service think that it shouldn’t change?

“What we need to do is find new, cutting-edge ways to deliver services and to cut down on waste and inefficiency, in particular in the back office.”

As departments have been working their way through cuts, unions have questioned the definition of frontline services, amid pledges by the government to protect frontline workers.

Mr Newman said a frontline public servant was someone who was “directly delivering for the community” including nurses, doctors, firefighters, police officers, social workers and school cleaners.

He said he had ordered ministers and directors-general to start looking for cuts in head office.

“We’re starting by saying if you’re going to sort of look at where you shed jobs, you shed them within a few hundred metres of where you as the minister work,” he said.

Mr Newman made the comments in an interview recorded on Thursday ahead of today’s 100-day milestone.

On at least three occasions in the lead up to the election, Mr Newman vowed not to use the financial commission of audit as an excuse to walk away from election promises.

The LNP pledged no forced retrenchments in the permanent public sector, but Mr Newman last week would not say if he regarded that as one of his promises he would not abandon.

“Look, I’m going to work very hard to save jobs, that’s all I can say at the moment,” he said.

Mr Newman said the government had already made it clear it could not protect people on temporary contracts and casuals, but was concerned about ensuring permanent public servants had job security.

However, he said the government had a “massive problem” not of its creation and he did not want to put up taxes or borrow more.

He said he would do everything he could not to retrench people, but this would be made harder if unions pushed for above-inflation wage increases.

Mr Newman has previously used the audit commission report to argue the government was living beyond its means.

The audit report notes that employee expenses jumped by 40 per cent between 2005/06 and 2007/08. Much of this went towards things like child safety services, transport infrastructure, hospital beds, better wages and conditions for health staff, and the prep year introduction.

Mr Newman said there was no dispute that more money had gone into certain areas, but insisted there had not necessarily been improvements to service delivery.

“We’re not efficient,” he said.

“Let’s look at one example; police officers are provided with houses in rural and regional Queensland, so are firefighters, ambulance officers, people in the health area.

“Each of those departments have their own units that run those houses, and we’ve seen situations where for example you’ve got empty houses for one department, and another department not having enough space in some of these regional towns and having to go and rent properties on the private market. That’s not efficiency.”

Mr Newman said he believed the LNP’s first 100 days had “gone pretty well”, but would not say if he had lived up to his pre-election comments that it would be “the most exciting, energetic period of change” Queenslanders had seen in decades.

The former Brisbane lord mayor said the job was “not particularly” more difficult than he had thought, but argued the Brisbane City Council processes were much more efficient than state government ones in numerous areas, including when it came to booking a flight or hiring a consultant.

“It [the state government] is a bigger organisation; it’s more complex; it has its own particular ways of doing business but frankly the BCC could teach them a lot down here,” he said of the differences between the two levels of government.

MPs from both sides of politics have privately argued the LNP can be assured of at least two terms in government, given the LNP currently holds 78 seats to Labor’s seven in the wake of the crushing result in the March 2012 election.

But Mr Newman dismissed such suggestions as “outrageous” and the musings of “the same old political insiders” that Queenslanders were sick of.

He said he did not take people for granted.

Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk yesterday released a Labor document that argued the first 100 days had been full of broken promises.

It accused the LNP of talking down the economy and pursuing a jobs “purge” based on a politically motivated audit report.

Ms Palaszczuk, in an interview with brisbanetimes南京夜网.au published last week, defended the previous government’s budget and debt strategy and argued the LNP government had created an atmosphere of uncertainty in the public service.

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What the gossip mags say

Married on screen and off … Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in a scene from Mr & Mrs Smith.BRAD PITT and Angelina Jolie stand in their wedding finery, gazing lovingly at each other, clearly just counting down the seconds until they can run off and do what newlyweds do (raid the minibar and bitch about the catering), but what exactly is going on here? Has New Idea pulled off the coup of the century, landing wedding photos from Hollywood’s king and queen before everyone else? Well, yes and no. Actually it’s pretty much no. They are the real actors and they are at the altar, but the pics are from seven years ago when the pair played a married couple in Mr and Mrs Smith. Apparently, the shots ”we were never meant to see” have just surfaced, sending a distraught Jennifer Aniston ”right back to 2005” and giving a clever pic editor the chance to pull some sleight of hand.
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Which is better than what Aniston’s father is planning if her new man Justin Theroux ever breaks her heart. ”Make sure he treats you right,” Woman’s Day is somehow claiming to have overheard him say, ”because I can still throw a left hook if he steps out of line!”

It’s strangely not dissimilar to what they reckon the Queen (yes the Queen, as in Elizabeth II) has done to Kate Middleton, ordering her to curtsey to Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie in a secret memo. ”She’s hurt,” royal stalker Bill Coles said. ”But she has just taken her medicine and kept quiet.” Until such time as her husband ascends the throne, we imagine. Then they’ll be bowing so low those ridiculous hats will be a danger to passing corgis.

Away from royalty, both real and screen, there’s titillation galore this week. Who has a loved-up Lara Bingle echoing her ex Michael Clarke who memorably said he ”couldn’t be happier” at his recent wedding to Kyly Boldy. Yeah? Lara says, well I’ve ”never been happier” than with new bloke Gareth Moody. Zing!

And NW has the most horrific (and therefore unmissable) photos of celebrities who have made poor surgery decision in years. There’s Tara Reid’s ”frowny face” stomach, Joan Rivers’s asymmetrical eyes and worst of all, ’80s pop star Pete Burns lips, which apparently burst from over filling.

But nowhere to be seen in the (admittedly small sampling of four) magazines we trawled through was mention of the TomKat split. Despite weeks of predictions that Katie Holmes would leave husband Tom Cruise and take daughter Suri with her, the actual announcement caught just about everyone post-deadline, leaving this prime piece of gossip untouched. For now.

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Foley hoping for a Barnes storming performance

BERNARD FOLEY hopes his debut as Waratahs playmaker will free Berrick Barnes to tap into his recent red-hot Test form and help the struggling side finish the season on a high during the next fortnight.
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Barnes has moved to inside-centre in the Waratahs’ penultimate Super Rugby match against the Brumbies at ANZ Stadium on Saturday to accommodate Foley’s first provincial foray at five-eighth.

They ran in those positions at the squad’s training run yesterday, alongside returning winger Lachie Turner, Drew Mitchell, centre Rob Horne and utility Adam Ashley-Cooper.

Foley, who spent his junior years at No.10 before joining the Waratahs, said he was adjusting well to the change from fullback but still expected Barnes to lead from his outside.

”I don’t have to tread on Berrick’s feet, he’s still allowed to be the dominant playmaker and call the shots as well but it’s a way we can adjust and be more dynamic,” he said.

”It’s probably going to help Berrick play a bit more ad lib, he was allowed to do that at the Wallabies and you saw how successful it was for himself and the team. When Berrick plays the free-flowing football he’s capable of he’s at his most dangerous, so hopefully this is a way in which we can unleash Berrick Barnes in the Super competition.”

Foley appeared to slot comfortably enough into the playmaker’s position at training, but admitted feeling somewhat intimidated by the task of bossing around some of his heroes.

”It’s pretty overwhelming when you come into a side [with] the likes of the Wallabies – the Drew Mitchells, the Rocky Elsoms … all those guys, and then you’re in the position to steer them around,” he said.

”But if you rest on that I think you won’t really achieve your full potential, so I’ve got a job to do and that’s to lead them around. So hopefully if I get selected at 10 I can keep that communication up and steer them around.”

One of Foley’s main challenges will be manufacturing a connection with the Waratahs starting halfback who, by the looks of the combinations yesterday, could be Brendan McKibbin, Sarel Pretorius or even Grayson Hart, who was heavily involved in the session and has done well for Southern Districts at club level.

Foley said communication would be the eventual pairing’s best weapon against unfamiliarity.

”If there’s direct communication between you and the No.9 you really go a long way to achieving what your overall objective in the game is,” he said. ”There is that unfamiliarity but with that I suppose there’s that excitement, in that you’re not that sure what they’re going to do and you don’t know that they’re going to take the opportunities.”

Horne, who returned to the Waratahs late last week after a successful stint with the Wallabies, could not hide his relief at having the likes of Test-proven wingers Turner and Mitchell in the back line once more.

”It’s a good feeling,” he said. ”I’m really excited for Lachie to come back and play if he gets picked, and having those guys [and] training inside them again it’s good, there’s a lot of experience there and you can probably tell just by watching with the noise level and stuff like that, so it’s good.”

Foley and Horne missed the Waratahs’ round-11 clash with the Brumbies in May but both remember the two-tries-to-none education their teammates received.

”That was a frustrating game for us, in the first half we had the pressure on them and we were unable to convert that pressure into points and take our opportunities,” Foley said.

”They scored that try on half-time and that probably created a little bit of doubt in that [Waratahs] team and the Brumbies were able to get a bit of a roll on and we didn’t recover.

”That’s the thing that plagued us and is at the front of our minds at the moment, getting that back, and when we do get the opportunities, to take them.”

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Brumbies ready to run wild and turn the tables on Tahs

No fear … Brumbies attack coach Stephen Larkham.THE new generation Brumbies have consistently broken records this year and they insist the scars of the past will not prevent them from breaking their Sydney hoodoo on Saturday night.
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Just 12 months after being embarrassed by the NSW Waratahs at ANZ Stadium, the Brumbies are poised to end a painful 16-year stretch in Sydney.

The Brumbies have beaten the Waratahs at home just once – but with Jake White’s men closing in on the finals, it could be the Brumbies’ turn to inflict pain.

The rejuvenated team have unexpectedly started restoring pride this year. They became the first Brumbies team to win in Wellington in nine years, had the club’s most successful two-game tour of South Africa and have more than doubled the amount of wins they secured last year.

With just five survivors from the starting XV that was demolished 41-7 at ANZ Stadium last year, attack coach Stephen Larkham said the new side had no fear of playing in Sydney. ”We went up there with big expectations last year, we didn’t want to lay down even though our season was over,” he said.

”The Waratahs are a different side at home, they’re hard to beat. We generally win at home and they would win up there when I was playing … this year it’s different with where we’re sitting. We can make what we want of this season and the way we’re playing and the headspace we’re in, there’s a lot of confidence there, our game is at a far higher standard than what it was last year.”

The Waratahs have lost their past six games and haven’t played since losing to the Hurricanes on June 2.

Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, Peter Kimlin, Pat McCabe and Andrew Smith are the only survivors from the Brumbies’ starting side that succumbed to a Waratahs onslaught in June last year and the memory of ending the team’s worst season on a sour note still lingers.

But outside-centre Smith said new faces brought new enthusiasm and a confidence that the Brumbies could topple the Waratahs at home.

”It was tough last year, the boys weren’t really up for it and the Waratahs saw that,” he said.

”That’s the message this week, we have to be ready to go and we have to be on.”

Meanwhile, the Western Force have been dealt another huge blow with captain David Pocock in doubt for their last two Super Rugby games in New Zealand against the Blues and Crusaders.

The loss of the worlds best openside breakaway to a groin strain would be a disaster for the club who are already struggling to ensure they have a full squad for the tour.

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Yield downturn confirms Qantas pain

QANTAS has laid bare the impact of its battle with Virgin Australia after recording its first monthly decline in yields from both its domestic and international operations in more than two years.
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The group’s latest traffic statistics showed total yields for its domestic operations – including Jetstar and QantasLink – were up 4 per cent for the 11 months to May, compared with the same period last year. Yields for the international operations rose 1.5 per cent over the same period.

But excluding Jetstar – which analysts described as the ”only shining light” – the group’s traffic figures for May revealed the toll the battle with Virgin was having on the core driver of Qantas’s earnings.

The group suffered monthly declines in yields from both its international and domestic operations – of 0.8 per cent and 1.3 per cent respectively – for the first time since November 2009, in another sign of why the airline warned last month its profit would fall as much as 91 per cent for 2011-12.

The latest figures come before Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin begin to significantly increase flight frequencies and use bigger planes on domestic routes, in a worrying sign for them that their earnings will also be dented significantly in 2012-13.

The CBA Equities transport analyst Matt Crowe said he was surprised at the level of weakness in yields from Qantas’s domestic operations in May.

”We have seen three or four months of weakening domestic airfare trends [from Qantas]. But we would have expected more of the weakness to be in the international side of the business,” he said.

While international fares have remained relatively flat in recent months, those for Qantas’s domestic flights have been declining, reflecting a large increase in capacity by airlines.

The Macquarie Equities aviation analyst Russell Shaw said in a note to clients there was likely to be ”limited upside” to Qantas’s share price because of risks to earnings in 2012-13 from a substantial increase in capacity from airlines in the domestic market.

”As capacity is ramped up more aggressively by Qantas over the next six months on both the mainline and domestic front, it is hard to see the yield growth trend heading anywhere else but further south,” he said.

Despite the release of the weak traffic figures, shares in Qantas rose 2.5¢ to $1.10 yesterday, helped by a 1 per cent rally on the sharemarket. Virgin fell 0.5¢ to 38.5¢.

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No comfort for investors in watchdog’s ancient history

INVESTORS banking on the accuracy of the corporate watchdog’s register of financial services licence holders to work out whom they should trust with their money, might want to reconsider.
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Insider tried yesterday to get an answer to whether (a) the Australian Securities and Investments Commission does regular checks of its licence holders, and (b) if the licence is ”attached” to the company to which it is issued, or the person controlling the company.

The official response was a link to an ASIC website, and a copy of its regulatory guide to financial service licences, both of which raised more questions than answers.

Audits and checks of holders seem to be random, and so long as the appropriate forms are filed and no flags are raised, there appears to be no restraint on how you use the licence once it is granted.

That probably explains the emails and phone messages Insider received over the weekend after last Friday’s column on the mysteries of Republica Capital, and its attempt to inject itself into the hollowed-out ASX listing of MediVac.

According to ASIC’s professional registers, Republica is an authorised representative of a derivatives trading company called Alt-FX. That same company has also authorised Beauchamp Securities to trade under its licence.

ASIC’s register of licensees, available so investors can check the bona fides of people offering to invest their money, says that Alt-FX operates from the offices of E.Vo Global Asset Management in Sydney, and is audited by Peter White. According to E.Vo director Jacob Pope, who rang Insider from Canada, that company has not had anything to do with Alt-FX, and its then controller Andrew Howard, for the past four years.

At any rate, ASIC company records, as distinct from the licence register, show that Howard passed control of Alt-FX to fellow director, Kieran Honour, last November, who then shifted its official digs to his home in suburban Prahran before giving it a shingle in Collins Street.

Honour is named on Republica Capital’s website as its chairman, so it was presumably a pretty simple matter, as the owner of Alt-FX, to authorise Republica to be its representative. Beauchamp shares the same Collins Street address as Alt-FX, and its director Trent McKendrick also sits on the board of Alt-FX.

The last time Alt-FX lodged a set of accounts with ASIC was in July 2010 – and they were already more than 12 months old. Honour signed them, with banker Albert Verdicchio, and they showed the company had a grand turnover of less than $60,000 and net assets of less than $75,000.

They also claimed that the company’s principal activity was acting as investment adviser to Alt-FX SPC, based in the Cayman Islands – which is interesting because Insider has seen records that say the Cayman company was struck off in October 2009. Presumably Alt-FX must have found something else to do so its directors could make the statement that nothing had happened since the end of the financial year that would significantly affect operations.

Last week, Honour, as shareholder/director, filed a copy of a letter sent to himself as company secretary to convene a meeting to have Alt-FX’s auditor, Peter White, removed. The letter was dated April 20, which brings a new meaning to snail mail.

Insider wonders just what use ASIC’s register of licence holders is if Alt-FX is an example of how outdated the information can be.

How many people are giving their hard-earned money over to licence holders on the naive assumption that those operating under a licence have been vetted by ASIC within living memory?

Symex comes up short

SYMEX Holdings appears to have been unable to meet an $11 million debt repayment obligation due by June 30, judging by its call for a halt to share trading yesterday.

The troubled consumer goods and tallow trader has been trying to offload non-core assets to generate cash to cut its borrowings. It recently sold its DCS International offshoot, having written off more than $4 million of associated goodwill in the half-year result, and had been aiming to sell non-core properties by the end of financial year to help meet the bank loan repayment.

Symex has had plenty of time before yesterday to alert the market to its attempts to get its repayment terms extended before the deadline, and the ASX should be asking if those buying and selling its shares in recent times were trading in a fully informed market.

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Finance sector growth will stay sluggish – Westpac

WESTPAC’S senior leaders have cautioned that growth across the financial services sector will remain modest over the medium term as consumers and businesses pay down debt and curb spending.
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The slower growth pace is part of a broader structural shift in the financial landscape, prompting banks to overhaul their businesses, they said.

”The uncertainty and volatility created by the European sovereign crisis are contributing to more cautious customer behaviour and lower growth,” the bank said in an update to shareholders released yesterday.

The comments came as closely-watched credit growth figures released by the Reserve Bank showed lending across Australia remained subdued during May, with mortgage lending mostly flat.

”Businesses and consumers are more conservative in their approach with a preference for lower levels of gearing and increased saving activity,” the joint update by the chief executive, Gail Kelly, and the chairman, Lindsay Maxsted, said.

”As a result, growth remains uneven and activity remains soft in those sectors that rely on consumer demand, non-commodity exports and tourism.” But activity in mining and other related sectors remained solid.

In a separate update to shareholders – also issued yesterday – rival ANZ said Australia and New Zealand remained well-placed even in the face of softening global economic growth.

Early signs of a recovery in business lending have appeared, with the Reserve Bank data showing loans to business growing for the third month in a row. Business lending is now more than 8 per cent on an annualised basis.

Despite the broader caution, Westpac said Australia’s economic fundamentals remained sound, with low unemployment, controlled inflation and low levels of government debt.

The ANZ chairman, John Morschel, said his bank’s Asian focus was providing it with a competitive advantage. But he noted there was ”significant pressure” on profit margins as a result of competition for deposits and higher long-term funding costs.

Westpac said it was directing efforts into investment sectors that were expected to generate higher growth and returns. That included pushing ahead with its retail strategy of multi-branding while building its wealth management business.

Analysts say banks can survive a period of slow credit growth as long as broader economic growth remains in place. But investors should prepare for a period of subdued returns.

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ASIC considers penalty appeal

THE corporate regulator is considering whether to appeal against a suspended jail sentence imposed on the Bill Express executive Peter Couper over his role in the collapse of the payments processor.
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Judge Liz Gaynor of the Victorian County Court sentenced Couper, 58, on Friday to 21 months’ jail, wholly suspended, and fined him $10,000 for falsifying the accounts of Bill Express and lying to the company’s auditor and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

Bill Express, which ran kiosks at newsagent outlets through which consumers could pay bills, promoted itself heavily by sponsoring the NRL’s Bulldogs and the AFL’s St Kilda.

But it and its parent company, OnQ, of which Couper was the chief financial officer, collapsed owing $250 million during the 2008 global financial crisis.

An ASIC spokesman said the watchdog’s lawyers were considering the sentence.

”A final decision on whether or not to appeal has not been made at this point in time,” he said.

Couper, who Judge Gaynor described as ”a weak man, out of your depth”, pleaded guilty last year to two counts of inflating Bill Express’s profit by $7.5 million in 2007 by recording a lucrative but non-existent sale of SIM cards and one count of lying to the group’s auditor by giving it the same information.

He also pleaded guilty to one count of giving misleading evidence to ASIC by denying contact with the Macquarie trader Newton Chan and the Bill Express marketing head Enzo Di Donato, who allegedly used the company’s money to prop up its share price.

Judge Gaynor said Couper acted at the behest of the company’s founders, Hal and Ian Christiansen, and praised his co-operation with Bill Express’s liquidators, PPB, in helping claw back for creditors a $1.2 million tax bill.

”Ultimately, I have decided not to jail you,” she told Couper in her sentencing remarks.

”But you have come very close indeed, Mr Couper, and you should leave this court with an acute sense of the disgraceful behaviour you have engaged in, and the fact that you will carry with you for the rest of your life a conviction in these terms against your name.”

She said Couper should be ”utterly ashamed” of himself.

”Your actions were weak and dishonest. You may have been overwhelmed by the high-powered situation you found yourself in, but you still had your own moral and ethical code, and as I have said, this you utterly abandoned. You simply collapsed under pressure.”

She said the risk of Couper re-offending was ”negligible” but the seriousness of the charges meant she needed to impose a jail term.

”Nevertheless, the considerable mitigatory factors and the particular position that you were in at the time have led me to the conclusion that a wholly suspended sentence will ultimately serve the purpose.”

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Harvey Norman floors koalas, says green group

Endangered … an environmental group says wood used to make Harvey Norman’s ”Natural Australian” flooring range is putting koalas at risk of extinction.THE retail giant Harvey Norman has been accused of selling flooring made from native forests in NSW where koalas face extinction following an investigation by environmental activists who tracked timber harvested in prime koala habitat.
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The environment group Markets For Change said its investigation found Harvey Norman buys timber flooring from forests recognised as critical habitat for koalas in NSW and sells it as part of its “Naturally Australian” flooring range.

Markets for Change tracked timber harvested by Forests NSW from Boambee State Forest, considered prime koala habitat, to a sawmill in Koolkhan owned by Boral Limited, Australia’s largest building and construction materials company.

The sawn timber from Boral’s sawmill in Koolkhan was then transported to a flooring manufacturing mill where Boral produces Harvey Norman’s Naturally Australian flooring range, the group said.

”Harvey Norman claims its Naturally Australian flooring products are sourced from ‘sustainable and renewable natural resources’ when instead they are contributing to the destruction of Australia’s native forests and destroying vital koala habitat,” the group’s report, to be released today, says.

”Markets for Change calls on Harvey Norman to phase out selling products made from native forests … [and] to give their customers clear and accurate information about the source of their wood products.”

The report says figures from the Australian Koala Foundation reveal there may be as few as 43,000 koalas remaining in the wild and warns logging forests is a leading threat to koalas.

”This report establishes clear links between this endangered koala habitat, the forest companies that are logging and processing it, and Australia’s largest furniture and electronics retailer, Harvey Norman,” the report says.

The group’s campaign manager, Louise Morris, said Harvey Norman had a unique opportunity to show leadership.

“Customers are increasingly demanding to know where their products come from and will vote with their wallets if a product is being sold at the expense of the natural environment,” Ms Morris said.

“It makes environmental and economic sense for Harvey Norman to shift to become a truly sustainable and responsible retailer by implementing publicly available procurement policies that ensure customers are no longer misled about the true story behind the products they buy.”

Harvey Norman was contacted for a comment but did not wish to respond.

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