Latest Melanesian/World News # 1
1) Australia attracting PNG’s skilled workers
Australia’s resources boom is employing record numbers of highly-trained Papua New Guineans fuelling a growing PNG expatriate community earning high-wages.
And Papua New Guineans have such a good reputation they are getting promoted faster than their Australian counterparts.
Latest estimates suggest up to 3000 skilled Papua New Guineans have moved to Australia.
Ben Imbun, a Senior Lecturer at the School of Management at the University of Western Sydney has been tracking their movements.
He told Jemima Garrett low wages in PNG are adding to the incentives to join the brain-drain.
IMBUN: They are doing blue collar workers to white collar managerial supervisory, mine geologists, engineers, so anything within that range, any job.
GARRETT: Papua New Guineans working in the resources industry are getting amazing pay in Australia. What did you find on that exactly?
IMBUN: Well amazing in terms of ah, I mean they are paid a lot a year in terms of comparing with what they get up there. They get a third of what an expatriate Australian or American or Canadian get up there. So when they have been trickling down and moving here they realise that they are paid as equal as anybody else. So whatever the extractive industry here is paying also covering the oil and gas. So I would think an average around 120 grand ok, so that’s quite a lot.
GARRETT: So people are getting two-thousand dollars a week?
IMBUN: Yeah that was what I was told and I’ve circulated a form to them to fill in, and that’s what they have ticked, most of them.
GARRETT: This is a bit of a boys club isn’t it? How many women from Papua New Guinea are getting jobs in the resources industry in Australia?
IMBUN: It sounds like a boys club, in my interviews of the 45 I’ve interviewed, I’ve only interviewed one or two in fact, one was an engineer in Perth working for a mining company, and another one was a domestic cleaner or worker up in Queensland looking after the campsite as a supervisor.
GARRETT: You found Papua New Guineans are getting promoted faster than their counterparts with similar qualifications from Australia. What sort of stories were you hearing?
IMBUN: The ones that are coming here they are skilled and they have worked in some of those quite established mines in Papua New Guinea or even popular mines like Ok Tedi, Porgera, Lihir, and have a vast accumulation of experience. Then coming here you’d think they’d be on an even higher footing compared with Australians here. From my interviews I’ve realised that some of them are suited to managerial roles.
GARRETT: And you found also in the blue collar area that people were getting promoted faster, what sort of stories were you hearing there about their competence and why they were getting promoted?
IMBUN: Well ah that’s really interesting. I’ve heard they’re more competent in terms they have the skills to actually dismantle big huge machines and they can build from there in terms of overhauling or in terms of the engines and those kind of big hauling trucks that carry ores and all that once they’ve broken down, one or two can be able to fit everything together. So I’m like yeah, think their total competency based once they have assumed competency on one piece of thing, they have to move on and then they get specialised in different aspects. Up in PNG they are more generic or they are able to do everything.
GARRETT: You mentioned the low pay that Papua New Guineans get in Papua New Guinea compared to in Australia. This is creating a significant brain drain, what sort of impact is it having in Papua New Guinea to lose so many skilled workers?
IMBUN: It’s happening, I’m surprised that it hasn’t been noticed by the politicians or by the country yet, but it’s amazing how these people have left.
GARRETT: Why do you think it isn’t being noticed by the politicians?
IMBUN: It’s interesting, so many things happen up there, so politicised, development politics, party politics, elections, everything seems to be so significant to them that I think, my opinion is that they do not sit down to really prioritise what’s really happening, that’s why a lot of the countrymen and women are here in Australia doing all these things, but it doesn’t hit them yet.
GARRETT: We are seeing a slowdown in the Australian resources boom at the moment. What impact do you expect that to have on the number of Papua New Guineans? Are we likely to see some going home?
IMBUN: Obviously some would be going home and they would have had exposure here having mingled and having worked and having been treated as equal in terms of pay, they’re exposed to a different environment and they would go as an expat I presume, some of them have already settled here in terms of getting permanent residency. And then going to other places as well. So surely they’ll be going back home.
GARRETT: No matter how the boom goes, whether it slows or continues, the resources industry in both Papua New Guinea and Australia is going to continue to be a major economic force. What needs to be done in Papua New Guinea to get more people ready to take on these sorts of skilled jobs?
IMBUN: What needs to be done is more specialised, particularly technical colleges, poly-technic colleges need to be setup, and in fact there is one large one that is operating that resulted out of when prime minister John Howard was around. Papua New Guineans, in fact other Pacific Islanders were complaining about the visa restrictions and them wanting to come here, particularly to Australia, John Howard said that they can only come here if they actually had the skills that were required by Australia. So that resulted, the establishment of a poly-technic in various countries; one in PNG, one in Samoa, Vanuatu and all that, offering TAFE courses. A lot of things are happening with the university in Lae and mining in particular faculties. So yeah, things are happening but not in the quantity that the industry is currently anticipating.
2) PNG’s Parliament debates betel nuts and health
Papua New Guinea’s politicians are calling for a ban on the sale and consumption of betel nut in major urban areas of the country.
Firmin Nanol reports they say it contributes to many of the country’s diseases like Tuberculosis and dirt in cities.
Presenter: Firmin Nanol
Speaker: Governor of PNG’s capital city Port Moresby, Powes Parkop The Minister for Environment and Conservation, John Pundari PNG’s Opposition Leader Belden Namah The Governor of PNG’s Oro Province, Gary Juffa
NANOL: For many Papua New Guinean families- betel nut brings direct cash income to their families and support many throughout the country.
In fact it’s often referred to as the green gold, and you pay no tax on the sale and consumption of the green nut mixed with lime and mustard.
The Governor of PNG’s capital city Port Moresby, Powes Parkop says betel nut chewing and spittle contributes towards the spread of communicable diseases like Tuberculosis or TB and is unhygienic.
He says major urban areas are littered with betel nut stains and rubbish and makes it a health hazard for many citizens.
Governor Powes Parkop who is fighting an uphill battle to stop the sale and consumption of betel nut in Port Moresby wants it to be banned in the city.
PARKOP: TB is making a comeback in our city, cancer is making a comeback in our city and most of them is airborne disease, passed through chewing of betel nut and spitting out here and there. And if we start taking some of these measures, getting our people to practice good habits, good eating habits, good drinking habits, chewing habits whatever, practice preventive health care, maybe they don’t need to go to the hospital, they don’t need to see a doctor.
NANOL: The Minister for Environment and Conservation, John Pundari supported Governor Parkops call.
He says betel nut is an unhealthy habit and must be banned in the cities.
PUNDARI: It’s got to be banned. Now what is life compared to chewing betel nut and spitting betel nut in the City of Port Moresby. Is life worth more than chewing betel nut and spitting betel nut in the City of Port Moresby or is this information we are reading in the newspapers about this drug-resistant TB. You know, I’m just concerned, if it is the City of Port Moresby and the way we chew betel nut and the attitude of our population in the city that carelessly spit betel nut all over. How will we contain the disease? Everywhere around the country, we’ve got to legislate and force that legislation, ban betel nut chewing.
NANOL: They were debating on a statement presented by PNG’s Health Minister Michael Malabag.
The Minister said lifestyle diseases is on the rise and urged people to take care of their personal health.
Mr Malabag told parliament the drug procurement and supply systems must be improved to ensure drugs reach rural health facilities.
PNG’s Opposition Leader Belden Namah says health is an individual thing.
He says people should take care of their personal hygiene to prevent getting sick rather than going to the doctor when they are sick.
NAMAH: We have to educate our people on the way they live, our attitudes. Papua New Guinea’s problem is attitude problem. You go to some of the hospitals, where each hospital bed, but it’s already broken bed. There is betel nut stains on the wall everywhere. You go to Port Moresby General Hospital, Papua New Guinea needs some serious attitude change and how do you do it? To live a healthy life is something that one must do himself or herself. Prevention is better than cure.
NANOL: The Governor of PNG’s Oro Province, Gary Juffa says the country should adopt a strict national population control policy.
He says PNG’s got a high population growth rate and it must be controlled to meet both the health and educational needs of its people.
JUFFA: Our population growth is placing a huge burden on the existing infrastructure. In addition to that, we have limited resources and yet we have not made an effort to develop, to check the population growth of our country. The entire world is suffering from a population growth problem and we will start facing those problems in Papua New Guinea and such are the issues are related to our population boom. So I would like to suggest that a effort be made to develop our policy to check our population and such an effort should include the development of curriculum so that it can be taught at our educational institutions and that our children can be taught about the importance of basic hygiene, nutrition, fitness and even population growth.
NANOL: Many international donor organisations including the World Health Organisation have said PNG needs to improve on its basic health indicators.
Western province premier George Lilo
Premier George Solingi Lilo, Head of delegation to the 6th Premiers Conference has called on the National leaders must refrain from playing politics and focus on national interest.
The Chair and host of the next premier’s conference, urged to all national leaders to put their interests of the people of Solomon Islands first and not their political interests.Speaking to local media at Kira Kira last week, in view of the motion of no confidence which happened in nearly all Parliament sittings.
He said this trend has caused national leaders to lose focus on national issues.
It also contributed to the diversion of resources that are required for efficient service delivery especially at the provincial level.
The Premier has called for all MP’s to take custody of the people’s trust and confidence.
Supporting the call the provincial secretary for Malaita Provincial Government Peter Hauia said national leaders should put their heads together and push for service delivery in the provinces.
He called on the Opposition and Government must focus on the betterment of the country through delivering goods and services to the people.
He said it was enough of advancing self political interests rather than national interests. http://www.solomonstarnews.com/news/national/16344-premier-lilo-calls-for-political-stability
By Elliot Dawea
4) Vanuatu party leader pledges political reform
Posted at 17:21 on 31 October, 2012 UTC
The leader of Vanuatu’s Ground and Justice Party, Ralph Regenvanu, says political reform will be a top priority for the coalition government he is trying to help form.
With 2250 votes in the Port Vila constituency in Tuesday’s general election, Mr Regenvanu has broken his own national record of receiving the most votes of any candidate.
His party has three MPs in the new legislature, and could have a fourth, pending final results.
Mr Regenvanu says if he gets into government, he will look to immediately address the fragmented nature of Vanuatu’s political environment and the lack of representation for voters.
“So that the next elections, we don’t get the same situation we have now that there’s every Tom Dick and Harry running. We need to get a system where political parties become more solid, more transparent, compatability with support in numbers that a party has in a constituency. We need to have some sort of system in place where we can stop all this rorting and duplicate voting and proxies and stuff that goes on.”
Radio New Zealand International
5)Two parties emerge as leaders in Vanuatu vote-counting
Posted at 17:21 on 31 October, 2012 UTC
The Vanua’aku Pati and the Union of Moderate Parties have emerged as the leading political groupings in provisional results from Vanuatu’s general election.
While the results are subject to change pending vote counts from some remote constituencies, the shape of Vanuatu’s new parliament is fragmented with as many as eighteen parties winning seats.
Johnny Blades reports from Port Vila
“No one block is dominating among the unofficial results in the 52 constituencies. The two oldest parties in the country, the Vanua’aku Pati and the Union of Moderate Parties, both suffered major splits within their ranks this year but have emerged stronger than other parties at this stage of the counting process, with 8 MPs each. Prior to the election, these two parties were in opposition and had entered a pact to work together to form a coalition government. However in Vanuatu politics no pact is guaranteed to last. Also in pursuit for the handle on power are the incumbent government’s leading parties, the National United Party and the People’s Progressive Party, each with 6 MPs, as well as a host of other parties and a handful of independents. Lobbying between prospective coalition partners is well underway and expected to intensify as those polling stations yet to submit results deliver votes over the coming days.”
Radio New Zealand International
6) New Study Reveals Alarming Declines in Pacific Shark Populations
NOUMEA, New Caledonia, Oct. 31, 2012 /PRNewswire-iReach/ — Research published today in the journal Conservation Biology presents the most comprehensive assessment of the status of Pacific shark populations to date. The paper, authored by Dr. Shelley Clarke and a team from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in New Caledonia, shows significant declines in catch rates for blue, mako, and oceanic whitetip sharks, as well as declining average sizes of oceanic whitetip and silky sharks, indicating heavy fishing. These results, along with evidence of shark targeting reported by Dr. Clarke and other scientists in the western North Pacific, heighten concerns for the sustainability of Pacific shark populations.
“Our research reveals alarming declines of 17% per year in populations of the oceanic whitetip shark, a species highly valued for its fins,” explained Dr. Clarke. “Also of serious concern are declines of 5% per year for North Pacific blue sharks, considering that this species is known as one of the most productive and abundant pelagic sharks. Overall, the data we analyzed show consistent trends for each species and area, even though they were collected from different fisheries.”
The paper also suggests that bans on shark finning (slicing off a shark’s fins and discarding the carcass at sea), as currently implemented, are doing little to reduce the number of sharks killed in international longline fisheries, likely due to a combination of poor enforcement and increasing markets for shark meat. Finning bans for international Pacific waters include a complicated fin-to-carcass weight ratio for enforcement and depend on follow-up domestic actions which to date have been lacking. The oceanic whitetip is the only shark species subject to international Pacific catch limits.
“These findings underscore conservationists’ messages that most finning bans are not properly enforced, and alone are not sufficient to reverse shark population declines,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International. “Prohibitions on at-sea removal of shark fins not only bolster finning ban enforcement, but also facilitate collection of species-specific fisheries data that are key to refining population assessments and informing the establishment of urgently needed shark catch limits.”
Notes to Editors:
Shelley Clarke was the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s shark scientist in 2010-2011 and has authored several groundbreaking papers on the shark fin trade including the estimate of 26-73 million sharks traded through the global market annually.
Shark Advocates International is a project of The Ocean Foundation established to advance sound policies for sharks.
Media Contact:Liz Morley Shark Advocates International, 843 693-5044, firstname.lastname@example.org
News distributed by PR Newswire iReach: https://ireach.prnewswire.com
SOURCE Shark Advocates International
7) Sydney University looks to close Koori Centre for Aboriginal students
The University of Sydney ended last year with a $117 million surplus, but is moving close it’s Koori Centre. The Koori Centre has supported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at the university since 1989. It also coordinates the teaching of Indigenous Studies and provides a library, comfortable meeting space and computers.
The Centre provides support staff whose role was to help Aboriginal students through their degree. Instead of maintaining and expanding the Centre, student says the university is seeking to close it.
University management says the Koori Centre’s functions will be incorporated into a broader “Centre for Cultural Competencies”. It assured staff no jobs will be lost in the process, but in the context of course and job cuts meted out last semester, Koori Centre students and staff suspect the worst.
Kyol Blakeney, an Aboriginal student who often uses the Centre’s facilities until late in the evenings to finish his assignments, told Green Left Weekly that “two main support staff have been taken out of the Centre and students have been forced to trek half way across campus to meet with them.
“Staff doors are now closed, making it hard for students to feel they can ask for help, when they have previously been open. The two staff members who have replaced our main support staff don’t say hello to students and are not helpful or encouraging.
‘On all the main entrance gates of this university are “Gadigal Nation” signs. This university recognises Aboriginal ownership but can’t grant us a small space of our own. International students have a whole floor and Muslim students have a large prayer room to themselves. Why can’t we have our Koori Centre?” asked Kyol.
“I’ve got great assistance from the Centre, as did other students. But I don’t know if I will be able to finish my course without the Koori Centre. Others feel the same.”
Students fear the Centre will be closed and locked during the summer break. Nicola Bewley, a social work student, told GLW that she was told in her “Introduction to Indigenous Australia” lecture on October 24 that “the Koorie Centre was being closed down” and “that you people doing this are the last ones doing this subject under the Koori Centre, as it will be dispersed into the Arts after this.’
Students have vowed to take more protest action before the break against management’s attempts to mainstream Aboriginal education. They have called a protest outside the university’s Fischer Library for 1pm, October 31.
Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, greeted President Obama as he emerged from Air Force One on Wednesday for a joint tour of the state’s devastated coast.
The two shook hands at the bottom of the stairs from the president’s plane, and Mr. Obama patted the governor on the back several times. Craig Fugate, the head of FEMA, also shook hands with Mr. Christie.
Mr. Christie and Mr. Obama talked to each other as they walked to Marine One, the president’s helicopter, for the brief ride to the storm-damaged area. Mr. Obama gestured to Mr. Christie to board the helicopter first.
The tour of the area was expected to last about an hour.
Jay Carney, the president’s press secretary, told reporters on Air Force One that the damage tour with the New Jersey governor should not be seen as a political event.
“This is a time to focus on what was a devastating storm and the terrible aftermath of that storm,” Mr. Carney said as Mr. Obama flew to New Jersey from Washington.
He added: “New Jersey was by many measures the hardest hit state, I believe that’s correct. It is entirely appropriate for the president to visit New Jersey and receive updates on the efforts there to recover and to view first hand the damage inflicted by Sandy. This is not a time for politics.”
Mr. Christie has been one of Mr. Obama’s fiercest critics, accusing him of lacking the abilities to lead the nation effectively. But in the past several days,he has had nothing but praise for the president.
Asked why the president chose to visit New Jersey, Mr. Carney said that “we are very careful about making sure that the places that we visit we are not using resources that would otherwise be used in recovery efforts, that’s the case here.”
10) US north-east tries to rebuild as millions battle Sandy’s effects
At least 55 dead and over 8m without power as National Guard enters Hoboken to help evacuate 20,000 trapped residents
- guardian.co.uk, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/31/us-north-east-rebuild-sandy
A huge clean-up continued across America’s north-east in the wake of a direct hit by superstorm Sandy that left New York City paralysed and that devastated coastal regions of New Jersey and other states.
The historic storm killed at least 55 people, left more than 8 million people without power and had brought campaigning in America’s turbulent presidential election to a temporary halt.
Effects from the direct hit on Monday night were still being felt on Wednesday morning as vehicles from the National Guard headed into the New Jersey city of Hoboken – just across the Hudson river from New York – to help evacuate up to 20,000 people still thought to be trapped by flood waters. The local sewage authority estimated that 500m gallons of water contaminated with sewage and possibly dangerous live power lines remained in the stricken city. Uniformed soldiers in trucks brought in pumps, food and medical supplies and took out people still stuck in their homes.
Hoboken officials warned residents not to go outside but instead await help. Hoboken’s Facebook page turned into a forum for pleas for aid. One woman, Keri O’Connor Robinson, wrote: “Please rescue my sister. She is seven months pregnant and she lives at 517 Jackson Street, on the second floor. We have not heard from her since Monday.”
Sandy is now thought to have caused tens of billions of dollars of damage with a unique combination of high winds, a massive flood surge and even a blizzard in mountainous areas. Its cone of impact stretched from North Carolina to Canada and it has been described by many as the worst ever to hit the region.
But it was New Jersey that has suffered the worst of the storm, and on Wednesday President Barack Obama was visiting the state in the company of its Republican governor Chris Christie. Sandy had pummelled its way through the state’s famous New Jersey shore, swamping seaside towns, ripping away boardwalks, destroying beaches and flooding the major casino resort of Atlantic City. “The Jersey Shore we knew as kids is gone. We will rebuild it, but it will never be the same,” Christie told one television interviewer.
In New York, city officials announced that a limited commuter rail system will be up and running out of New York by Wednesday afternoon. In another sign of the gradual return to normality, they also said a small amount of subway activity in the city will also return on Thursday morning as three of the city’s seven subway tunnels have now been cleared of water. However, there was no specific word on when the service will fully return to normal.
At the South Ferry stop at the very tip of southern Manhattan, flood waters remained almost up to the station’s ceiling. After almost 20,000 cancelled flights two New York area airports – Newark and JFK – reopened, but LaGuardia remained closed.
In many ways, it was a surreal tale of two cities in New York. In upper Manhattan and many parts of the outer boroughs, life was steadily returning to normal. Businesses, shops and restaurants were open and thronged with customers and Broadway shows re-opened around Times Square. On bridges linking Brooklyn and Manhattan, traffic was packed into huge jams as people sought to come to work by car rather than the usual public transport.
However, elsewhere the picture was very different. In lower Manhattan, where there is no power, vehicles negotiated streets without traffic lights and many residents left to stay with friends in other parts of the city. Usually packed and busy neighbourhoods like fashionable Soho and the East Village were relatively quiet and streets were lined with shuttered businesses.
That was true, too, of many areas of Long Island, where hundreds of thousands of people remained without power. If they could, they headed off to other areas that had power or had moved out ahead of the storm. Carol Goleb, of Oceanside, Long Island, took shelter with her parents in Queens, New York.
Goleb, said she was not going to take a chance that Sandy would be like last year’s hurricane Irene, which largely spared the city. Unfortunately, many of her neighbours did not make the same decision. Ninety percent of Long Island residents are thought to be without power. “A lot of them thought it was going to be another Irene,” Goleb said.
But as many areas struggled it was, however, a different picture on Wall Street. The New York stock exchange reopened on Wednesday morning after two days of having trading suspended. Mayor Michael Bloomberg rang the opening bell at 9.30am, right on schedule, as stock traders cheered from trading floor below. The market even rose as trading began adding 74 points to 13,182 shortly after opening. “We’ve got to keep rebuilding,” Bloomberg told reporters as he walked through the exchange.
Meanwhile, the neighbourhood of Breezy Point in Queens was struggling with the aftermath of a devastating fire that swept through at least 111 homes as Sandy’s flood waters rose through the streets. Elsewhere, in areas like Staten Island and Red Hook, which have extensive waterfronts, residents struggled to clear debris, stranded boats dumped on land and pools of standing water. In Coney Island, several feet of sand had been dumped by floodwaters several blocks inland.
Across the stricken region the Red Cross was organising teams of volunteers. The organisation asked for people aged over 16 and fit enough to carry at least 40lbs to step forward to work twelve-hour shifts helping people in need and cleaning up the mess. It also appealed for donations: an appeal that was repeated by both Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
For almost two days Sandy has derailed normal campaigning for next week’s presidential election. But on Wednesday there were signs of things getting back to the normal cut and thrust of the battle for the White House. Through the storm top Obama surrogates, like former president Bill Clinton and vice president Joe Biden, have been campaigning on Obama’s behalf seeking to fend off Romney’s challenge.
The Romney campaign, after cancelling numerous events as the storm hit, was back to full throttle. On Wednesday, Romney was attending three full blown campaign events in the key swing state of Florida. Florida was largely spared any real impact from Sandy so many strategists believe Romney can safely campaign there without being seen as being insensitive to the storm’s victims.
11) Chinese oil giant buys Gladstone gas stake for $5.7bn
- BY:MATT CHAMBERS
- From:The Australian
- November 01, 2012 12:00AM
CHINA has agreed to make one of its biggest recent investments in Australia, with China National Offshore Oil Corp inking a $US6 billion ($5.7bn) deal to take a one-quarter stake in BG Group’s Queensland Curtis LNG project being built at Gladstone to export coal-seam gas.
Associated with the deal is a $US60bn-plus LNG supply deal, where CNOOC will buy five million tonnes a year of LNG from BG’s global gas portfolio for 20 years, making the British company the biggest supplier of the fuel to China.
This will not come directly from Gladstone, but means a large proportion of QCLNG gas is likely to make its way to China.
Last night, BG said it had signed a heads of agreement with CNOOC for the $US1.93bn sale of a stake in onshore CSG ground and a 40 per cent interest in one of two LNG trains that are being built at Gladstone.
CNOOC will also reimburse BG between $US3bn and $US4bn for construction costs on the $US20bn project, which is scheduled to produce the nation’s first CSG exports in 2014.
The move, when it is finalised, will increase CNOOC’s overall stake in the project from 5 per cent to 25 per cent and make it the biggest Chinese owner of LNG assets in Australia. If a third LNG train is approved, which is becoming less likely as BG focuses its LNG growth on North America, CNOOC will be able to participate as a 25 per cent partner.
CNOOC also has an interest in the big North-West Shelf LNG project on Western Australia’s Burrup Peninsula.
The deal comes amid concerns that the flow and size of Chinese investments in the resources sector are dropping. According to a recent King Wood Mallesons study, only eight deals involving Chinese companies had been struck this year, half the level two years ago.
Of recent Chinese bids for Australian mining companies, there has been a focus on companies with assets in Africa rather than Australia, which China is more and more seeing as a tougher place to do business.
BG said the CNOOC deal would be conditional on government and regulatory approvals, which would include that of the Foreign Investment Review Board.
BG had flagged a selldown of its stake in QCLNG as part of a rationalisation of its global assets.
“Our agreement today to sell an interest in part of the QCLNG project to CNOOC means that we have now completed or reached asset sales agreements that should release a total of $US7.6 billion of capital by mid-2013,” chief executive Frank Chapman said.
Earlier in the year, BG suffered a $US5bn cost blowout on QCLNG as it was hit by a higher Australian dollar and construction inflation. Last night, Sir Frank said the project was on schedule and budget.
“In Australia, we continue to make good progress with our Queensland Curtis LNG project, keeping it on track for first LNG in 2014,” he said. “We now have contracts and other agreements in place for more than 90 per cent of the project scope to 2014, and we reconfirm the $US20.4bn capital budget.”
ROBERT GOTTLIEBSEN P29- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/chinese-oil-giant-buys-gladstone-gas-stake-for-57bn/story-e6frg9df-1226507888692
12)How casino dodged tender trap
Sydney Morning Herald State Political Editor
How the rules were changed
The NSW government relaxed its own rules on unsolicited projects just weeks before James Packer bid for a casino licence at Barangaroo in Sydney.
STRICT guidelines for determining when private proposals to the NSW government can bypass a competitive tender process were watered down shortly before James Packer put forward his plan for a $1 billion hotel and casino at Barangaroo.
It can be revealed that a requirement for ”independent evaluations” of a project to justify not going to tender were removed two weeks before the proposal by Mr Packer’s Crown Ltd was formally lodged with the state government on September 6.
Well connected … James Packer. Photo: Andrew Meares
The change was made on August 17, a week after the Premier, Barry O’Farrell, met Mr Packer to discuss his proposal.
The revelation will place more pressure on Mr O’Farrell to justify not putting to tender a possible second Sydney casino licence being pursued by Mr Packer, which could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to NSW.
Mr O’Farrell announced last week that Mr Packer’s six-star hotel and casino project for Barangaroo had received cabinet approval to proceed to stage two of a three-stage ”unsolicited proposals” assessment process.
Mr Packer wants to include VIP-only gambling rooms in his proposed six-star hotel to make the project profitable and needs the government to issue a second Sydney casino licence when the monopoly licence held by the Star casino expires in 2019.
Mr O’Farrell defended the decision to deal directly with Mr Packer and not put the casino licence to tender by arguing that Crown was uniquely placed to deliver the project. ”If this proceeds, the second gaming facility will be here through Crown at Barangaroo,” he said.
But documents show that in August the government altered its policy to remove the requirement for independent evaluation as to whether a project should be allowed to avoid a tender process.
The NSW government’s Working With Government guidelines, in place since 2006, state any requests to bypass a competitive tender process must be approved by the budget committee of cabinet.
They say when a direct negotiation is being proposed, ”the reasons for, and net benefits of, not undertaking a competitive tender process” must be fully demonstrated. ”Approval will only be granted where the proponent can show that there would be no viable competition for the delivery of the proposal’s essential outcomes.”
This would always involve ”independent evaluations” by the responsible government agency confirming that better value for money would be achieved by circumventing a tender process. The guidelines have been an integral part of the government’s unsolicited proposals policy in place since January. But in August they were replaced with the government’s Public Private Partnerships Guidelines which do not include these requirements.
Mr O’Farrell said last week that during a meeting with Mr Packer on August 10 he had ”pointed him to the unsolicited proposals policy which had been at that stage in place for more than eight months”.
A spokesman for the Department of Premier and Cabinet, which oversees the policy, said the new guidelines were introduced on August 17. Mr Packer formally submitted his proposal on September 6.
The spokesman said the proposal was assessed by the department and Treasury, and the new guidelines ”maintain the need for cabinet approval to enter direct negotiations with a proponent (ie proceed to Stage 2)”.
A spokesman for Mr O’Farrell said the changes were made by the department and were ”minor administrative changes and clarifications to keep the document up to date and relevant”.
A Crown spokesman said the company ”has – and is – following the process set out on the NSW government website. Crown is unaware of any change to the process”.
Mr O’Farrell has played down the potential cost of a licence to Mr Packer because ”this VIP gaming facility is not a full-blown casino”.