Monday, February 13, 2017

Amber Harrison, Jeff Kennett in Twitter war as Seven West Media wins court injunction

An extraordinary war of 140 characters has erupted on Twitter between between former Seven West Media employee Amber Harrison and Seven West board member Jeff Kennett.

An fiesty Twitter exchange between Ms Harrison and the former Victorian premier escalated late Monday after Seven West won an interim court injunction preventing Ms Harrison from using social media to publish confidential documents.

"You have bombarded me .. with threats if I tell my story. The only thing I have taken back here is my voice. And I intend to keep using it," Ms Harrison told Mr Kennett in a tweet.

"What you do not like is being called out for being hypocrites."

Mr Kennett hit back saying "what we do not like is you releasing commercial documents that have nothing to do with you claim and is not your property."

"We have respected the confidentiality (that) SWM and Ms Harrison signed up to twice. Time to correct the record."

Ms Harrison, former executive assistant and lover to Seven West chief executive Tim Worner, has been using Twitter to leak documents in recent days to counter legal action by Seven West lawyers.

The 39 year old has been threatening to expose what she calls the "truth" about internal matters at Seven West despite Tim Worner being cleared by an internal inquiry of wrongdoing including claims of drug use and credit card fraud.

Seven West obtained an injunction from the Supreme Court of NSW to prevent Ms Harrison from releasing documents or property of the company.

"It has became clear late last week that Ms Harrison is now releasing or divulging commercial in confidence emails and other documents that she has no right to hold," Seven West Media said in a statement.

Amber Harrison has accused Seven West of an orchestrated campaign to spin the scandal of her affair with Mr Worner which was known to the Seven West board three years ago.

"Jeff, your team leaked the tale they needed to protect your CEO in March 2015 - and then blamed me for it."

With the injunction hearing scheduled for tomorrow, Mr Kennett's public comments on Twitter are seen as unusual given the high stakes nature of the case and the reputational damage already done to Seven West.

Mr Kennett, who is also chairman of the mental health initiative Beyond Blue, has become Seven West's unofficial spokesman on the case when looks certain to descend into an murky, expensive and highly personal legal battle.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Billions wasted on bad infrastructure spending, global report warns

Infrastructure has been a buzzword on financial markets ever since US President Donald Trump promised to "rebuild America" with massive spending projects.

But a global report out today says billions of dollars are wasted on infrastructure projects because of bad planning, bureaucracy and the failure to retain good staff.

The US-based Project Management Institute (PMI) says Australia fares worse than the global average with $108 million wasted for every billion dollars spent on infrastructure.

Globally, the PMI study says organisations on average wasted $97 million for every billion dollars invested according to the responses of 187 project managers.

However, the outcome shows that for the first time in five years more projects are being completed more efficiently with waste down by 20 percent.

PMI chief executive Mark Langley told The World Today that a failure to retain good project staff was a key contributor to waste.

"Champion organisations do this very well. One of the key things that they do that Australia lags in is defined career paths  for project and program managers," Mr Langley said.

"They've identified a role in an organisation just like accountancy, law and engineering. In Australia, they do that substantially less than the global average."

Mr Langley, who is in Australia to launch the report, said a lack of attention to staff retaining good staff contributes to a "brain drain".

"There's an opportunity for Australian organisations to start to invest in careers of project managers in both the public and private sector," Mr Langley said.

Australia compares poorly to other competing nations where waste on projects has been reduced, according to the research.

India has the lowest waste of $73 million for billion dollars followed by China and the Middle East with $82 million wasted per billion.

PMI says Europe has the worst waste management with $131 million lost for every billion dollars invested.

Mark Langley says the rally in infrastructure spending after Donald Trump's presidential victory has been "quite positive".

But Mr Langley conceded there is a risk of disappointment if Mr Trump fails to deliver on the big spending plans.

"I think there's always a danger on that. But building out infrastructure is absolutely essential to economic growth."

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Business Council boss Grant King says Australian credit rating needs to remain near AAA

Newly-appointed Business Council of Australia Grant King has warned that the government's AAA credit rating is at risk if efforts to repair the budget fail.

Mr King told the ABC's AM program that a ratings cut "just follows as a matter of logic" after Deloitte Access Economics forecast bigger-than-expected deficits over the next four years.

"If those budget deficits continue to expand then our credit rating will be at risk. I think that would be a correct statement," Mr King said.

"I think it is very important that Australia maintains a high credit rating. Whether it's AAA, it's certainly not much less than that.

"We are seeing indications that the deficit is deteriorating so it is going to be a challenge."

Mr King's warning of an imminent ratings cut came after the ratings agency Standard & Poor's reiterated that the Federal Government has six to 12 months to deliver on more budget savings and revenue measures.

Mr King underscored the importance of Australia maintaining the AAA sovereign rating to ensure it can deliver on services Australians have come to expect during the boom years.

"The government is like the community's insurer of last resort. We expect our governments to look after our community and our citizens if there's a disaster like cyclones in Queensland," Mr King said.

"In order for the government to have that capacity to support the community it has to maintain a good credit rating to be able to fund whatever those circumstances are."

The former Origin Energy chief executive of sixteen years is also expressed concerned that US president-elect Donald Trump will torpedo the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) by not participating.

Mr King says despite the absence of the United States, Australia need to find ways to encourage and improve global trade.

"Australia in a global context is a relatively small economy. We don't have a large domestic economy so trade is critical to Australia," Mr King said.

"We have to be an outward looking country. We can't run inwards and look to our own economy."

Mr King's appointment as Business Council president comes after criticism about the business lobby's power and influence from former Future Fund chairman David Murray and Liberal Party powerbroker Michael Kroger.

Former BCA president Catherine Livingstone and current chief executive Jennifer Westacott have been described as "out of touch" and "missing in action".

"Look I think there are many aspects of public debate out there that are making it more and more difficult for any organisation frankly to get its view across," Mr King said.

"So yes it might be right to say it's become more difficult. My hope is that in the next couple of years we can get better and better at that."

 Mr King also defended the government's plans for corporate tax cuts of $48 billion over ten years despite perceptions the money will go into shareholders pockets rather than create new jobs.

 "What the BCA's arguing for is a reduction in the rate of tax. Business would be happy to pay more tax in total but a lower rate is a key to doing that."

The business push for company tax cuts comes after confirmation that wages are growing at the slowest pace on record.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Rio Tinto executives sacked over Guinea consultancy payments

Read my story on ABC News Online

Source: Rio Tinto statement

Indigenous Australians' wellbeing 'stagnating or worsening': Productivity Commission

Indigenous Australians are becoming more disadvantaged with alarming increases in imprisonment rates, mental health problems and self harm, according to a damning Productivity Commission report out today.

The Commission's "Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage" report says despite some positive trends, the plight of indigenous Australians has "stagnated or worsened" in critical areas of wellbeing.

Read the Productivity Commission report

Among the findings, the national indigenous imprisonment rates have surged by 77 percent over the past fifteen years with hospitalisation rates for self harm up by 56 percent over the past decade.

Listen to my interview with Productivity Commission deputy chair Karen Chester

The report points to a failure of policy and oversight, with the Commission estimating that only 34 of a thousand indigenous programs are been properly evaluated by authorities.

Productivity Commission deputy chair Karen Chester told the ABC's AM program the findings are a wake up call for all levels of government about the reality of indigenous wellbeing and whether the $30 billion budget is being properly spent.

"You want to know that money is being spent not just in terms of bang for buck for taxpayers but that we're not shortchanging indigenous Australians," Ms Chester said.

"Of over a thousand policies and programs, we could only identify 34 across the whole of Australia that have been robustly and transparently evaluated.

"At the end of the day, we can't feign surprise that we're not seeing improvement across all these wellbeing indicators if we're not lifting the bonnet and evaluating if the policies and programs are working or not."

The report is being billed by the Commission as "compulsory reading" and the most comprehensive report on indigenous wellbeing undertaken in Australia.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were involved in the study which was produced by the Productivity Commission for a review into government service provision.

Despite the disturbing assessment, an number of case studies have been highlighted where good governance is contributing to the success indigenous organisations.

These include the Waitja Tjutangku Palyapayi Aboriginal Corporation in central Australia which helps communities to counter economic disadvantage and the Marius Project in the northern Victoria town of Swan Hill.

(Perhaps point to Things That Work chart on page 23)

The report says areas of health, economic participation, life expectancy and aspects of education have improved from the update two years ago with child mortality rates narrowing between 1998 and 2014.

The proportion of adults whose main income came from employment increased from 32 percent in 2003 to 43 percent in 2014-15.

But the Productivity Commission's Karen Chester says it is now up to state, territory and federal governments to take the report on board to determine what is working and what is failing.

"I think the clock has been ticking for a while already," Ms Chester said.

"We have the data, we have the analysis and we know what indicators are linked to the others."

While the report includes case studies of examples of "things that work" it says the small number available underscores the lack of indigenous programs that are being rigorously evaluated for effectiveness.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Cyber attack threats expose Australia to $16 billion risk, warns global insurer Lloyd's

The growing risk of cyber attacks leaves the Australian economy exposed to a potential $16 billion dollar damage bill over the next decade, according to one of the world's biggest insurance companies.

In a joint study with Cambridge University, the Lloyd's insurance giant has found that out of 301 global cities, Sydney ranks 12th in terms cyber attack exposure with $4.86 billion of economic growth at risk.

In its City Risk Index 2015-2025, Lloyd's says Sydney is the riskiest Australian city followed by Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra.

Globally, Lloyd's warns that $294 billion is at risk as attempted and successful cyber attacks become more prevalent.

The warning comes after recent evidence of attempted cyber attacks at the Bureau of Meteorology, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Lloyd's global chief executive Inga Beale told The World Today that dealing with the constant threat of cyber attacks is now critical for businesses of all sizes.

"It's not just for banks to worry about - it impacts retailers, travel and hospitality firms, education and healthcare providers, and any business with proprietary information worth protecting," Ms Beale said.

"Where a decade ago people would talk about preventing a cyber-attack, the reality is firms will be subjected to attacks. The issue is how you mitigate against that."

The Australian Cyber Security Centre recently said systems in government agencies had been hit with 1,095 cybersecurity incidents considered serious enough to trigger an operational response.

The Lloyd's study points to a report from the accounting firm PWC which highlights a 109% increase in detected security incidents in Australian companies, compared to a 38% global average.

Under proposed legislation before the Australian parliament, hacked companies that lose personal details, tax file numbers, medical records or credit card information would be required to report the incident and alert customers.

But Inga Beale warns that while big business and government agencies are at most risk, private individuals are at risk from personal information stored in smartphones and personal computers.

"We are living in a world where people carry a globally-connected supercomputer in their pocket and almost every important work document is stored in the cloud, on servers or online," Ms Beale said.

"The result is an explosion in the potential for cyber risk. The latest series of high profile data breaches is just the beginning. With the emergence of the Internet of Things the potential for cyber risk is enormous."

As one of the world's major insurers and reinsurers, Lloyd's is now seeing demand for cyber attack cover form a major part of its traditional business of insuring for global natural disasters and catastrophes.

Lloyd's says demand cyber insurance in Australia has increased by 16,828 percent in the past two years as businesses seek protection from current and emerging threats.

The Lloyd's index points to a range of other risks including power outages, terrorism, sovereign default, oil price shock, heatwave, drought and floods.