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Retailers feeling the pressure from expansion of overseas entrants

Retailers are facing pressure from the overseas brands, higher rents and lack of demand for discretionary items. Photo: Rob Homer RZHThe appointment of voluntary administrators to the owner of the Marcs and David Lawrence brands, Webster Holdings on Thursday, reflects the combativeness of the retail sector and how perilous if can be if consumers swing away.
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Fuelling this is the arrival of the overseas brands, which while not quite direct competitors to the Webster labels, are still turning the screws on local retailers.

The shift in work practices, with more people working from home and increasing casualisation, has also led to less need for business attire across all genders.

Higher rents and a large foot print of stores makes life hard for retailers, particularly when cash is now needed and used for others things, such as mobile devices, and a greater variety of leisure activities.

That leaves less money in the household kitty for discretionary spending and apparel has felt the biggest pressure. This also forces the stores into longer and deeper periods of discounting in order to clear the stock.

According to the receivers, insolvency specialist Rodgers Reidy, they will now begin a review of Webster Holdings, leaving 1200 workers in limbo.

Reflecting the march of the overseas players is the Swedish clothing retailer Hennes & Mauritz, H&M, which  reported a rise in fourth quarter net profits, despite pressure on costs by the strong US dollar.

The company reported profits of 5.9 billion kronor ($A884 million), compared to 5.5 billion kronor in the corresponding period the year before.

The group operated 4351 stores, including franchises, at the end of November. That was an additional 427 stores compared to 2015. In , it continues to open more stores across capital cities and regional areas.

But it is not just the individual retailers putting on the pressure, as investors are also snapping up the malls.

According to the CBRE in its latest Retail MarketView data, 2016 had a record $1.8 billion in CBD retail transactions as foreign investors continue their assault on the n retail investment market.

The CBRE fourth quarter 2016 figures reveal that nationally, retail yields compressed on average 50 basis points last year, with the largest compressions experienced by neighbourhood shopping centres, being 60bps and large format retail, also 60bps.

CBRE senior research manager, , Danny Lee, said the contribution from foreign investors increased in 2016 to account for 30 per cent of total investments, an increase over the 25 per cent experienced in 2015 and well above the long-term trend of 10 per cent.

“Foreign investors have a lower required return expectation than domestic investors and have purchased some of the largest retail assets in 2016, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney,” Mr Lee said.

Mark Wizel, national director, n retail investment properties at CBRE, said investors were viewing retail as the most attractive asset class due to it having the best risk adjusted return.

“The retail sector is now contributing 31 per cent to total commercial property transactions, compared with 25 per cent two years ago,” Mr Wizel said.

“Rent growth coupled with yield compression saw strong growth in capital values, particularly in Sydney CBD, which has encouraged some owners to take advantage of conditions and dispose of assets. Foreign buyers have been actively seeking CBD assets and are willing to pay a higher price to acquire them.”

Mr Wizel said shopping centre yields continued to firm over the year, with regional, sub regional and neighbourhood yields compressing by 20 bps, 40 bps and 60 bps respectively.

“Neighbourhood shopping centres in all states including Tasmania continue to remain high on the shopping list of a range of private, corporate and institutional investors. However, it has been the emergence of the Chinese buyer for such assets that is starting to add significant pricing competition into the sector with yields continually achieved around the country at less than 5.25 per cent,” Mr Wizel said.

“Large format retail is also attracting foreign investors, particularly Chinese buyers who are seeking exposure to retail and with the lack of shopping centres being made available to the market are aggressively chasing large format retail assets.”

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Litbits February 4 2017

Historian Geoffrey Blainey. Photo: Pat ScalaFebruary 5: Diana Thompson will discuss her romance novel Unbridled Passion at Muse Canberra at 3pm. Tickets $10 includes a drink. musecanberra苏州夜总会招聘.au.
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February 7: Dr Norman Swan (ABC Health Report) Dr Richard Dennis, Prof Alastair Woodward and others will discuss the late Tony McMichael’s new book Climate Change and the Health of Nations at The n Centre on China in the World, ANU at 5pm. Admission is free. goo.gl/uk9IBz.

February 7: In the free Fellowship Presentation Pinafores, Prodigies & Precocities, Dr Gillian Arrighi explores the era of the child performer during the days of the British Empire, 1880–1914. Conference Room, Level 4, 5.30pm, National Library of . Bookings: nla.gov.au.

February 8: Historian Geoffrey Blainey’s The Story of ‘s People: The Rise and Rise of a New traces the country’s history from the gold rush to the present day. Foyer Theatre, ground floor, National Library of , 6pm. $15 includes book signing and refreshments. Bookings: nla.gov.au.

February 8: The next Poetry at the House reading in the Drawing Room of University House features readings from Chloe Wilson from Melbourne and and Keith Harrison and P.S. Cottier (from Canberra). Admission: $10 waged, $5 unwaged. Meals available in the Fellows Bar and Cafe from 6pm. Readings at 7.30pm.Bookings to Geoff Page: [email protected]苏州夜场招聘.au.

February 9: Join the Friends of the National Library for Revolution Francaise!, a white-gloves viewing of some of the library’s collection of original French Revolution pamphlets and other related items. Conference Room, Friends Lounge, Level 4, National Library of , 6pm. $15 Friends, $20 others. Light refreshments will be served after the collection viewing. Bookings essential. nla.gov.au.

February 12: Join author Tania McCartney for a free interactive reading of her children’s book This is Banjo Paterson, about one of ‘s best-known poets at the National Library of Bookshop at 11am. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Bookings: nla.gov.au.

February 12: National Gallery of Director Gerard Vaughan comes to Muse Canberra to talk about the saucy life of the French court so you can appreciate the exhibition Versailles: Treasures from the Palace.Tickets $10 includes a drink. musecanberra苏州夜总会招聘.au.

February 15: Fairfax columnist Clementine Ford’s new book, Fight Like a Girl, is a manifesto for feminists new, old and soon-to-be, and exposes just how unequal the world continues to be for women. Foyer Theatre, ground floor, National Library of , 6pm. $15 includes book signing and refreshments. Bookings: nla.gov.au.

February 17: The n Comic Arts Festival is on at the Conference Room, Level 4, National Library of from 1 to 5pm. Discover the Library’s own comic collection, and explore comics as literature, collectables and objects for academic study. nla.gov.au.

February 20: Hosted by the ANU and the National Library of , award-winning writer Kate Grenville discusses her latest book The Case Against Fragrance with former Canberra Times literary editor Gia Metherell at the National Library of Theatre, Lower Ground `1, at 6pm. $15 includes book signing and refreshments. Bookings: nla.gov.au.

February 21:State of Hope – Griffith Review, exploring the economic, social, environmental and cultural challenges facing South with Dennis Atkins, Angela Woollacott, Peter Stanley and Chris Wallace, will be on at .the Theatre, Lower Ground 1, National Library of at 6pm. Free admission. Bookings: nla.gov.au.

February 22: In NGA Book Club at 10.30am, join Claudia Hyles for a discussion exploring literary themes around the visual arts.This season’s book is Peacock and vine: Fortuny and Morris in life and at work by AS Byatt. Meet at the National Gallery of information desk. $18, $15 NGA members. Bookings: nga.gov.au.

February 22: Captain James Cook: Claiming the Great Southern Land by John Molony will be launched by the author Professor Iain McCalman at the National Library of Bookshop at 6pm. Free admission, Bookings: nla.gov.au.

February 23: Tony Kevin will be signing copies of his book Return to Moscow at Paperchain Bookstore, Manuka on February 23 at 6pm. The book will be launched by former chief minister Jon Stanhope. RSVP [email protected]苏州夜总会招聘.au.

February 26: Canadian author Madeleine Thien will discuss her whose recent book, Do Not Say We Have Nothing, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize for Literature. The novel is about the far-reaching effects of China’s revolutionary history, told through the stories of two interlinked musical families, from the 1940s to the present day. National Library of Theatre, Lower Ground 1, 6pm. $18 includes book signing and refreshments. Bookings: nla.gov.au.

* Contributions to Litbits are welcome. Please email [email protected]苏州夜总会招聘.au by COB on the Monday prior to publication. Publication is not guaranteed.

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Diplomatic stoush between Trump and Turnbull highlights refugee plight to the world

US President Donald Trump has called a deal between and the Obama administration “dumb”. Refugee Amin Abofetileh in the jungle on Los Negros island, next to Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Ashley Gilbertson
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Immigration Minister Peter Dutton (foreground) and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (background). Photo: Michele Mossop

As the dust settles from the now-infamous phone call between Donald Trump and Malcolm Turnbull, the world’s media is beginning to focus on the issue that caused their spat.

Donald Trump took to Twitter on Thursday to call a refugee deal with a “dumb deal” and declare he would “study it”.

“Do you believe it?” he wrote. “The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from .”

Since then, media organisations in the United States, the UK and New Zealand have put the deal – and the 1200 people it concerns – under the microscope.

The Los Angeles Times pointed out that conditions on Manus Island and Nauru have been repeatedly criticised by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

“The refugees are the collateral damage in ‘s widely criticized ‘Stop the Boats’ policy,” the LA Times wrote. “Many have reported that the biggest problem is the sense of paralysis at being trapped in limbo indefinitely.”

Another media site, Quartz, said the refugees were “languishing for years in offshore detention facilities”. An interviewee described the detainees as being “held hostage”.

In its explainer of the issue, news and media site Vox said conditions in the camps were “appalling”.

“Detainees have resorted to self-immolation to draw attention to their plight,” Vox said. ” continue[s] to look for any solution that wouldn’t require it to actually accept the refugees. That’s where the US comes in.”

The Atlantic and the New York Times also highlighted the plight of the refugees, the former in a story that asked: “Is the Refugee Deal With ‘Dumb’?”

“Although accepted 13,756 refugees in 2014-15, the period for which the most recent data are available, the country’s policy of offshore-detention centers for asylum-seekers who arrive by boat has been widely criticized,” The Atlantic said.

The Timespublished a video diary showing the daily life of a refugee on the “hell-hole” Manus Island.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the Daily Mirror described the conditions the refugees were living in as “pitiful”.

“The refugees are living under armed guard in squalid conditions – and getting cameras in to expose their plight has been near impossible,” the Mirror wrote.

In 2015, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton brushed off the United Nations Human Rights Council’s criticism of .

“We were criticised by, I noted, Bangladesh, by Iran, by North Korea. North Korea was my favourite,” Mr Dutton told the ABC’s 7.30.

“Frankly, I think it belittles the UN process when you’ve got countries like North Korea trying to lecture our country in relation to human rights.”

With more people around the world becoming aware of the Manus and Nauru deal, it’s possible this criticism could soon come from the US and the UK.

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‘No one of that era is completely exonerated’ over financial scandal, former RSL councillor Rod Bain says

Dr Rod Bain says some councillors and staff had failed to keep the rest of the RSL coucil informed about the financial issues. Photo: Phil HearneAn RSL NSW state councillor who resigned recently on principle over the financial scandal engulfing the league has made a frank admission that “no one of that era is completely exonerated” as the leadership faces a looming grassroots backlash.
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Fairfax Media can also reveal that one state councillor is the subject of an investigation over whether Bondi Junction sub-branch, of which he is secretary, has illegally denied membership to an RAAF veteran.

Bill Harrigan, a former n Federal Police officer, could face a disciplinary tribunal if an RSL investigator finds evidence he has used his power to exclude dissenters as the veteran claims. Mr Harrigan denies the allegations.

The state councillor who has resigned, Rod Bain, told Fairfax Media that information was withheld from some councillors about the financial issues that are now the subject of investigations by police, the charities watchdog and internal auditors appointed by the league’s national council.

These include credit card spending of $475,000 by former state president Don Rowe and hundreds of thousands of dollars paid in consulting fees by the RSL’s aged care arm to several state councillors including stood-aside national president Rod White.

Dr Bain, who himself is implicated in none of the alleged wrongdoing, said that some councillors and staff had failed to keep the rest of the council informed about the financial issues.

But he added: “We as directors at that time also might well be accused of failing in our performance of the necessary due diligence required and did not double check exactly what we were being told.

“No one of that era is completely exonerated if we consider the duties and responsibilities of a director to a board.”

The state council faces rising rank-and-file anger, with a push within the Far Western Metropolitan District for a vote of no confidence in the council followed by its removal and replacement by an administrator, according to internal emails seen by Fairfax Media.

On Friday, the state council faced a closed hearing in Canberra to answer charges by the national council of bringing the league into disrepute and for failing to properly deal with Mr Rowe’s credit card spending.

The national council has demanded the NSW leadership show cause why it shouldn’t be dissolved.

On the Bondi Junction stoush, NSW chief executive Glenn Kolomeitz – an East Timor and Afghanistan Army veteran – met with Mr Kawicki two weeks ago and heard Mr Kawicki’s complaint that Mr Harrigan had used his positions to quash dissent at the sub-branch and RSL club.

Mr Kolomeitz later wrote to Mr Kawicki saying “the issues you raised with me are very concerning such that it is my intention to refer the matter to the RSL NSW state branch investigator for investigation”.

Another veteran who clashed with Mr Harrigan, Frank Bugner, said he had been physically escorted from Bondi Junction club after a sub-branch meeting and as a result had joined Maroubra sub-branch instead.

Mr Harrigan said Mr Kawicki had failed to renew his sub-branch membership 2011 and had been denied renewal three years later because of his behaviour.

“I’m held in very, very high esteem by the membership … and I’ve always worked hard for the RSL,” Mr Harrigan said.

Mr Kawicki said as a life member he did not have to pay renewal fees. He said he tried to renew repeatedly and had never been informed in writing as per the league constitution that his membership was being revoked.

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Liberal Party-linked fundraising body Cormack Foundation bankrolling two Senate crossbench parties

Former Family First senator Bob Day and with Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm at Parliament House in Canberra.A wealthy fundraising body linked to the Liberal Party has quietly begun bankrolling the organisations behind two of the Coalition’s biggest crossbench supporters in the finely balanced Senate.
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The Cormack Foundation has donated more than $40 million to the Liberal Party over the last 18 years – including more than $3 million in 2015-16 – making it one of the party’s biggest benefactors.

The foundation is an investment company and “associated entity” of the Liberals that donates dividends from its share portfolio. It has stakes in a number of blue-chip companies – including the big four banks, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Telstra and Wesfarmers – raising about $3.9 million last year.

But for the first time in its 30-year history, the foundation last year donated to parties other than the Liberals – giving $25,000 each to the conservative Family First and the libertarian Liberal Democrats, according to the n Election Commission annual returns released this week.

The foundation has eight listed shareholders, who are also the company’s directors. They include Rupert Murdoch’s brother-in-law John Calvert-Jones, former Reserve Bank board member and Business Council of president Hugh Morgan and former ANZ chairman Charles Goode.

The donations came in a year that the Abbott and then Turnbull governments were highly reliant in the Senate on the votes of Family First’s Bob Day and the Liberal Democrats’ David Leyonhjelm.

The men were generally supportive of the government’s agenda in both the former Parliament and the current one. An analysis of their first year in the chamber found Mr Day voted with the government 90 per cent of the time and Senator Leyonhjelm more than 70 per cent of the time.

It’s believed to be the first occasion an “associated entity” has linked itself to more than one political party at a time.

The $25,000 donation represented nearly 30 per cent of Family First’s total donations for 2015-16. For the Liberal Democrats it represented slightly less than 5 per cent.

Cormack Foundation secretary Peter Matthey insisted the company is not a Liberal Party vehicle and supports a number of organisations.

“Cormack Foundation donates to libertarian causes – that’s the reason for its existence,” he told Fairfax Media.

But AEC documents show that, up until last financial year, the foundation never listed any parties other than the Liberals under the disclosure subhead titled “With which party, or parties, is the entity associated?”

Family First does not describe itself as libertarian and indeed Mr Day – who resigned from the Senate last year after his national building empire collapsed – actively resisted the label. Family First could not be contacted for comment.

“I’m not going to go into the detail of the discussions around how that was worked out,” Mr Matthey said.

Mr Matthey is a retired chartered accountant who was a partner at auditor KPMG. He says the foundation is totally transparent.

Senator Leyonhjelm said of the foundation’s support: “We approached them. They like my small government message, is what they told me.”

He said his party did not co-ordinate with Family First in its approach to the foundation.

“A couple of donors decided to include Family First after agreeing to give us something. Must have been something about minor parties,” he said.

But Greens democracy spokesperson Lee Rhiannon said it was extraordinary the Liberals’ biggest donor was also funding rival political parties.

“Considering an associated entity is defined as a body that undertakes fundraising for a particular party, the Cormack Foundation’s action suggests a new level of collaboration between these three parties,” she said.

“The Cormack Foundation returns shows a financial link between the Liberals, Liberal Democrats and Family First that could imply a consolidation of political co-operation between these parties.

“The financial links might also play out politically with increased collaboration on preference deals and voting in support of each other in the Senate.”

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Danny Vukovic brilliance helps Sydney FC earn draw against Brisbane Roar

Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold has paid a heartfelt tribute to goalkeeper Danny Vukovic, who he said had been sleeping on the floor of hospital rooms, then starring in the A-League as he cared for sick son Harley.
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Vukovic was Sydney’s saviour in the 0-0 draw with Brisbane Roar on Friday night just weeks after Harley underwent a liver transplant to treat the life-threatening condition biliary atresia.

​He posted an update on social media the day before the match, updating Harley’s condition and saying they received the ‘ultimate gift’ from an organ donor. He thanked fans and supporters while speaking to Fox Sports after the match.

“It has saved his life. It shows the importance of organ donation. We’ve been given the ultimate gift and we’ll be forever grateful. It’s been an amazing response,” Vukovic said.

But Arnold went on to reveal the depth of commitment Vukovic has had to his family and his club over the most emotional period of his life. Arnold said for almost a month, Vukovic had been sleeping on the floor of hospital rooms and still finding a way to be the best keeper in the competition.

“It’s a wonderful story. And he had to come back to Sydney for the hospital and the doctors and wait for the liver transplant for his son. His son is doing exceptionally well,” Arnold said.

“For probably three or four weeks, he was sleeping on the floor of a hospital room and still performing the way he did. He’s got a wonderful character, he’s a fantastic goalkeeper and a fantastic guy.”

Arnold said Vukovic had travelled to games on his own, often on the day of the game, and had regularly gone above and beyond to ensure he was focused on his work as well as his pressing family matters.

“Family is very important to every player. The fact he can be so close to his parents and his wife’s parents and the help he needs… the club has been extra supportive. A couple of times he’s travelled the day of the game, not even travelled with the team. And then play as well as he does.

“That will be a huge relief for him.”   Happy to let people know my son has had his transplant. Due to privacy reasons, I will not talk about when he had the operation so please don’t ask. Our family has received the ultimate gift from an organ donor, we are eternally grateful!! Harley is doing exceptionally well. Organ donation has saved Harley’s life and saves the lives of many ns each year. I urge everyone that wants to be an organ donor to sign up at donatelife.gov.au and also speak to your family about your wishes in regards to organ donation. Cheers #donatelife #organdonation #biliaryatresia #liverdisease #myliverbabyA photo posted by Danny Vukovic (@vuka1) on Feb 1, 2017 at 1:04pm PST

There were some touching scenes before the game as a number of Roar players, including Matt McKay and Michael Theo, approached Vukovic in the tunnel and wished him well as they were about to walk out onto the field.

“That’s fantastic,” Arnold said. “Over the six, seven years I’ve been coaching the A-League, Brisbane Roar have set the way in culture and standards. They’re a wonderful club with a lot of respect for everyone.”

Arnold was happy enough with taking a point from Brisbane, with both teams having a number of quality chances in a contest that managed to prove highly entertaining despite the result and hot and humid conditions.

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Abbott is right to call for Senate reform, he’s just wrong on the details

Former prime minister Tony Abbott’s call for a referendum to change the constitution to reduce the power of the Senate is, at last, an admission from the conservative side that the Constitution is “broke”.
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Hitherto, conservatives have mouthed the platitude, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Abbott says “increasingly resembles Italy”, facing chronic changes of prime minister and an inability to get things done.

“Over time the Senate has ceased being a house of review and become a house of rejection,” Abbott told the Young Liberals Federal Convention in Adelaide this week.

“The result is gridlock, not government, and it has to change. In the end, the government of the day has to be allowed to govern — and not with one hand tied behind its back because its legislation can’t pass.”

He wants a referendum to enable a joint sitting of both houses to pass deadlocked bills without the need for a double-dissolution election.

Abbott’s point is a good one. Remember this cuts both ways. The Coalition blocked more than 20 major pieces of Labor legislation in 1973, including ‘s first universal health-care system, Medibank.

It led to the only joint sitting to pass blocked legislation in ‘s history.

But the double dissolution is a heavy and clumsy weapon to deal with blocked legislation. In 1901, when legislation was leaner and each bit more significant, it was a different matter. But these days, with so much legislation and with a Senate that seems permanently without a majority, it makes government very difficult.

Obviously, the Senate should remain a house of review, but it should not be a huge disrupter. It is easy for minor parties to reject every “nasty” and applaud every “goodie”, but a government has to do both if it is to be fiscally and socially responsible.

Politics has changed so much that the double-dissolution election is far too cumbersome as a means of resolving deadlocks.

I agree with Abbott that we should remove double dissolutions from the Constitution. But his proposal that rejected legislation could go straight to a joint sitting would emasculate the Senate. You may as well not have it.

Abbott obliquely referred to his own fate and said that a prime minister who could not get the government’s program through would not survive.

Under his plan, his 2014 budget full of nasty surprises would have gone straight to a joint sitting and been passed.

In effect, Abbott is saying that, once the people have voted for a government with a majority bigger than the Senate cross bench, that government should get all its legislation through, even if it included stuff not mentioned at election time, such as GP co-payments, reductions in the dole etc etc.

A better, more accountable method would be as follows. If the Senate twice rejects legislation passed by the House and at the next ordinary election the Government is returned, the legislation should not have to return to the Senate, but be passed by the House alone.

In effect, the people’s vote would cancel the Senate’s earlier rejection of the legislation. This is perfectly democratic. After all, the actual legislation would have gone before the people. It would not be some vague promise or vague mandate to do something like “budget repair”. It would guard against undemocratic surprises, such as the 2014 budget, being foisted on voters.

But it would allow a government to eventually get its way without disruptive double dissolutions.

If, however, the Senate retained the power to reject legislation at least until after a supervening election won by the government, it would remain an effective house of review. The government would get the choice of accepting Senate amendments or having to delay the legislation until it was put to an electoral test.

It is dangerous for governments to always get their own way immediately and to have no checks or balances. But it is equally dangerous for governments not to be able to enact their legislative program.

There are other advantages to removing double dissolutions. Without them, it would be easier to have fixed terms with, say, elections on the last Saturday in November every three years. (If you went for four-year terms, senators’ terms would be an overly long eight years.)

Fixed terms would be better for business and everyone involved in politics and administration. People could plan better.

Double dissolutions are bad because they disrupt the election cycle. This is because senators take their seats immediately and their terms are back-dated to the previous 1 July. For practical purposes the House election has to be held at the same time as the next half-Senate election, so its term gets shortened by however long the back dating is.

At the 2 July 2016 double dissolution election, it meant a back-dating of only one day, but if a double dissolution election was held in, say, March, it would mean the next House of Representative’s term would be cut by nine months.

As it is, governments do not like winter elections so the present parliament is likely to be cut by two or three months with a March or April 2019 election.

Abbott said the paralysis in parliament had a direct effect on the prime minister. He said a prime minister who could not get the Government’s agenda through could not expect to survive.

But Abbott’s solution goes too far because under his proposal a government could get a hidden agenda through after an election.

Indeed, Abbott seems to have misunderstood what happened. He did not survive, not because he could not get his hidden agenda through, but precisely because he revealed the hidden agenda after the election.

A woolly mandate such as “budget repair” should not empower a government to get whatever it wants. But if a government takes the detailed rejected legislation to the people, then it should go through without Senate obstruction.

In a way, Paul Keating got the point at the 1993 election. He told the people that, if they elected John Hewson and the detailed Fightback! program, he would allow it through and the people should not expect Labor in the Senate to save them. It worked.

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Sydney Harbour Marriott puts finishing touches to a $15 million transformation

Refurbishment of Sydney Harbour Marriott hotel is part of a changing hotel sector in the capital. Photo: supplied “Part of the repositioning of the hotel is the arrival area for the guests, which is now seen as one of the most important for travellers,” said the general manager of the Sydney Harbour Marriott, Jennifer Brown. Photo: Supplied
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The Sydney Harbour Marriott in Circular Quay gets two more restaurants, a fresh lobby and a new reception. Photo: Supplied

The Sydney Harbour Marriott hotel has undertaken a $15 million refurbishment as it prepares for a busy few years as visitation increases at the new International Convention Centre.

The hotel sector is one of the busiest with a number of new developments across the Sydney city area, in what is described as an undersupplied market.

These include the soon-to-open Sydney Sofitel at Darling Harbour, the new Hyatt Regency, formerly the Four Points Sheraton, the Ribbon site and the planned Ritz-Carlton at The Star, also at Pyrmont.

The new ICC will allow a vast increase in the number of conferences and exhibitions, which will lead to a rise in demand for hotel rooms in coming years.

The general manager of the Sydney Harbour Marriott, Jennifer Brown, said with the rise in social media, hotels needed to be ahead of guests with connectivity, up-to-date food and beverage and offer services for travellers of different generations, from Baby Boomers to Millennials.

“Part of the repositioning of the hotel is the arrival area for the guests, which is now seen as one of the most important for travellers,” Ms Brown said.

“We offer a booking app, to make the arrival and departure as seamless as possible, so guests can start enjoying the hotel without standing in a queue and filling out forms.”

Ms Brown said having technology, such as WiFi, phone and other device charging stations and other connectivity, was as important as having a bathroom or bed.

“With the rise of social media, first impressions count more and the experience of the rooms and hotel is a priority,” she said.

“Opened in 1989, Sydney Harbour Marriott has been a long-standing Sydney institution for 28 years. Drawing on both local and international expertise, this transformation will position the hotel as a serious contender in Sydney’s food and drink scene.”

Included in the new development is a 120-seat restaurant called Silvester’s, as well as a laneway venue called Three Bottle Man. Custom’s House Bar will also be relaunched.

Ms Brown said the redevelopment of the nearby Circular Quay with the AMP tower and the Dalian​ Wanda project at the former Gold Fields House will attract a wide range of people to the area, from new residents to corporate travellers and local tourists.

International arrivals to continue to increase with the largest growth originating from China, according to Gus Moors, head of hotels at Colliers International.

“Chinese visitor arrivals have increased exponentially from 100,000 in the year 2000, to over 1 million for the year ending June 2016,” Mr Moors said.

Ms Brown said the hotel had Mandarin-speaking staff to cater for the growth in the inbound Chinese tourists.

She said all hotels must offer bilingual staff to ensure all guests were welcome and felt at ease.

Mr Moors said the new supply of hotel rooms was considered to be an overall positive for cities with strong overall market fundamentals such as Sydney and Melbourne and would “further help to revitalise these cities”.

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Mega development sites are the hot ticket for investors

754 Pacific Highway, Chatswood, is on the market with parking for 90 cars and a site area of 2040 sq m, with price expectations of $25 million. Photo: supplied The project, Oro, at 141 Allen Street, in Sydney’s Leichhardt, has been five years in the making, amid an affordability crisis. Photo: supplied
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Development sites are generating significant interest with investors who want to take advantage of the increasing demand for residential and commercial property opportunities.

Some of these are now being sold as mega sites, which allows the developer to offer a range of mixed-use services on one site.

According to Bennett Wulff​, national director and director in charge of Charter Keck Cramer’s Sydney office, a trend of “mega site” sales has emerged, underpinned by buoyant market conditions and supported by factors including state and local government planning initiatives as well as the increasing activity of offshore – particularly Chinese – developers with the appetite and capacity to deliver projects of such scale.

“Large-scale projects in favourable locations continue to sell strongly off the plan. Recent increases in development activity have still not met underlying dwelling requirements,” Mr Wulff said.

“Since 2014, a total of 50 residential development sites transacted throughout the Sydney metropolitan area at price points each exceeding $100 million, equating to a cumulative land price of over $9.4 billion and an average site sale price of about $189 million.”

There are currently two being offered, one at Leichhardt in Sydney’s inner west which is earmarked for residential and another at Chatswood, worth about $25 million for retail, commercial or mixed-use developments, subject to council approval.

After a five-year approval process, the 7149 square metre residential development site at 141 Allen St, Leichhardt, is for sale through Guillaume Volz, Ryan Bennetts and Zhenni Lu of Colliers International on behalf of a private family investment group.

The site received development consent in October last year for a staged development application comprising construction of six residential flat buildings between four and six storeys above basement level comprising 139 units, and associated works, including basement parking for 124 vehicles.

According to Mr Volz​, national director, development sites, residential at Colliers International, while the market and government have responded to Sydney’s undersupply in mass development areas, such as Olympic Park and the Parramatta Road corridor, “core suburbs such as Leichhardt continue to be ignored, despite the inherent attraction and desire from buyers for apartments in these neighbourhoods”.

Mr Bennetts, associate director, development sites, residential at Colliers International, said the development approval is extremely efficient allowing for only a single-level basement, “while also benefiting from the elevated position that provides 3600 views to the Sydney CBD and Harbour”.

Mr Bennetts said the vendor’s representative, Irving Washington, acknowledged that significant value had been added to the property via the development approval process and given the group’s interest elsewhere, the owners have now decided to sell.

On the north shore, the site at 754 Pacific Highway, Chatswood, has a net lettable area of 3825 sq m and parking for 90 cars.

Selling agents Henry Burke, of Colliers International, and Hugh Anderson, of Sutton Anderson, said there had been a rise in demand for freehold sites and they expected this trend to continue well into 2017.

They said the sales campaign was in the wake of strong results for similar freeholds sold in 2016, which included record sales results for 282-284 Victoria Avenue for $46.25 million, being a net yield of 3.9 per cent and a rate per square metre of $8300, 15 Help Street for $43.8 million on a net yield of 5.62 per cent and The Zenith Centre by DEXUS and GPT to Centuria and Blackrock for $279 million.

“754 Pacific Highway is a perfect investment opportunity, with the asset being close to Chatswood transport Interchange, Chatswood’s retail core and has the added bonus of providing multiple value-add opportunities,” Mr Burke said.

According to Hugh Anderson, director Sutton Anderson, “Chatswood is Sydney Metro’s largest and most energetic mixed-use centre with a cohesive mix of commercial, retail, residential and lifestyle developments.

“It has everything: excellent transport, world-class amenity, hotels, restaurants, cafes, a centre for the arts and fantastic parks and lifestyle elements,” Mr Anderson said.

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Anglican Church expands footprint

Multiplex has completed the rejuvenation of Darling Harbour, delivering M&L Hospitality’s redevelopment of 161 Sussex Street. Photo: John GollingsIn order to combine its Sydney properties at Telopea and Dundas, the Anglican Church has acquired a Rydalmere industrial site for $8.25 million. The 5000 square metre site  at 32 South Street will be developed as the new church for the Parramatta LGA parish, serving several surrounding western Sydney suburbs.
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To fund the acquisition, CBRE’s capital markets team of Peter Vines, Alex Mirzaian​ and Tom Sheridan was engaged to negotiate the sale of the church’s Dundas and Telopea sites. The Dundas Anglican Church, metres from the station at 79 Kissing Point Road, sold for $7.6 million to an Asian investor/developer, a record result for the area.

“The competitive sales campaign received 45 inquiries and 10 contract requests, underpinned by the site’s significant development upside with potential for 48 apartments at a proposed value of about $160,000 per unit,” Mr Mirzaian said. Hyatt Regency

Multiplex has completed its rejuvenation of Darling Harbour, delivering M&L Hospitality’s redevelopment of 161 Sussex Street. The former Four Points by Sheraton Sydney was rebranded earlier this year to Hyatt Regency Sydney, marking the Hyatt Regency’s return to Sydney.

The redevelopment included refurbishment of the existing hotel; a new 3667 sq m convention centre; and a 25-level tower including 13 new hotel levels and 10 levels of A-grade high-rise commercial office space.

David Ghannoum​, regional managing director at Multiplex, said the project will contribute to the revitalisation of Darling Harbour “as a vibrant tourism hub”.

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