In South-east Asia, cyber criminals make hay of government websites

Wednesday, 25. July 2018

Bangkok: A top level investigation into cyber crime across South-east Asia has identified nearly 9000 malware-laden servers and hundreds of compromised websites, including government portals.
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The international police agency Interpol said analysts identified 270 websites across the region that have been infected with malware code exploiting vulnerability in their design applications.

Among them were several government websites containing the personal data of their citizens. The governments were not named.

Derek Manky, global strategist at Fortinet, one of seven companies that collaborated with Interpol in the crackdown, said criminals are increasingly using a sophisticated web of compromised systems to launch attacks.

“Compounding these challenges, cyber criminals have no regard for political boundaries of national lines and will leverage various geopolitical protocols to their advantage,” he said.

One criminal based in Indonesia selling phishing kits via the dark web posted a YouTube video showing customers how to use the illicit software.

A number of phishing website operators were identified, including one with links to Nigeria.

Interpol said in a statement that threats were posed by 8800 comand-and-control (C2) active servers across eight countries, including various malware families that targeted financial institutions, spread ransomware – computer malware that installs covertly on a victim’s device and then locks it – distributed spam and launched distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Investigations are ongoing.

Interpol said the operation highlighted the need for law enforcement to proactively investigate vulnerabilities exploited by cyber criminals, rather than waiting for reports from victims.

It said identifying different laws applicable to cybercrimes was an important part of the operation.

Singapore police assistant commissioner Cheng Khee Boon was quoted by the Straits Times as saying “we will spare no effort to track down cyber criminals who think they can operate under the impunity of cross-jurisdictions”.

An Interpol office was opened in Singapore in 2015. It works with companies to expose cybercrime.

Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, China and Vietnam provided intelligence for the crackdown.

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Addressing trauma issues

Wednesday, 25. July 2018

NEED FOR SAFE ENVIRONMENT: Research strongly suggests that a high percentage of adult survivors of childhood trauma develop mental health problems.
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People exposed to traumatic experiences are at a higher risk of developing psychological and physiological health issues.

WIDE RANGE: Traumatic experiences can include single incident events, such as a car accident, or multiple adverse experiences such as abuse or neglect.

A traumatic experience can be described as an event that overwhelms a person’s capacity to cope, and can impact people of any age, sex, race or socio-economic background.

Traumatic experiences may include single-event experiences such as accidents or natural disasters, or more chronic exposure to traumatic events such as in domestic violence and childhood trauma.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) have been defined as emotional, physical or sexual abuse, physical or emotional neglect, exposure to domestic violence or substance abuse, parental separation or having a family member incarcerated, or having a family member with a mental illness.

While the majority of us have been exposed to at least one ACE, research into its impact indicates that as a person’s number of ACEs increases, as does their risk for negative outcomes in medical, social and psychological health.

In terms of a person’s psychological health, some common manifestations of trauma may include difficulty with executive functions such as attention, memory and decision-making, low self-esteem, difficulty regulating emotions, difficulty in interpersonal relationships, irritability, dissociation, depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, suicidality, or engaging in high risk behaviours.

Affected people often note that issues feed into each other, compounding problems.

As well as being very distressing, the person’s symptoms can interfere with their ability to carry on with their everyday work, life and relationships.

People who are affected by traumatic experiences may have developed ways to manage their distress that may seem to help in the short term, such as avoidance, substance abuse, self harming and dissociation; however, these strategies can lead to greater problems in the long term.

Treatment aims to support the individual to develop healthier and more adaptive ways of managing and reducing distress so they are able to get on with their lives without experiencing the debilitating effects of trauma.

There are a range of medications and trauma-informed approaches available to support people in their recovery.

There are also several strategies that people can employ in their daily lives to support their general health and wellbeing including good diet and exercise, good sleep hygiene, engaging in social activities, having things to look forward to, yoga, and engaging in regular relaxation and mindfulness.

Several apps for smart phones have been developed to support people in this regard, including “What’s Up” which has a range of strategies to support emotion regulation and the “HeadSpace” and “Smiling Mind” apps which provide guided mindfulness and meditation strategies.

Support is available for survivors, their families and communities through professional phone, information and resources, advocacy and education.

For further information on how to access appropriate treatment, it is recommended that people talk to their General Practitioner (GP) for a referral to a trauma-informed psychiatrist or counsellor, or contact the Mental Health Information and Support Service on 1800 011 511, the Blue Knot Foundation 1300 657 380, or the Victims of Crime Counselling Service on 1800 633 063.

Tom Hardy, real-life action hero, chases down motorbike thief in London

Wednesday, 25. July 2018

It’s either horrible luck or the greatest story in a petty criminal’s life: you manage to swipe a motorbike, only to be run down by a marauding Mad Max.
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Actor Tom Hardly apprehended a teen thief who crashed a stolen motorbike in South London traffic, The Sun reports.

According to witnesses, the actor sprinted after the boy after he attempted to flee the scene.

“It was mental – like he’d switched to superhero mode in an action movie,” a witness told The Sun.

“Two boys on the nicked moped had jumped a red light and smashed into a car.

“Tom must have been walking down the road. He went off like a shot in pursuit and looked furious.

“I asked Tom what happened and he told me he chased him through my back garden and caught him around the block,” the witness said, adding that Hardy proudly pronounced “I caught the c—.”

“Tom Hardy’s clearly not a man you mess with. I think he even checked the kid’s ID before cops took over,” the witness said.

In what sounds like a scene from one of his films, The Sun said the star “vaulted walls as he sprinted after the crook – then grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and patted him down for concealed weapons.”

Scotland Yard police later confirmed the report, saying two 16-year-old males ran off and “one was detained by Tom Hardy”, although the actor’s spokesperson declined to comment, said BBC News.

Hardy, 39, who recently co-created and starred in the BBC period drama Taboo, will next be seen in Dunkirk, the upcoming WWII epic from his Dark Knight Rises and Inception director Christopher Nolan.

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Up to 50 would-be extremists assessed by new police ‘fixated persons’ unit

Monday, 13. May 2019

Up to 50 Australians with mental illness or concerning behaviour are being assessed for a new police unit targeting would-be lone wolf extremists before they commit a terrorist act.
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The fixated persons investigations unit, unveiled on Wednesday, is one of newly appointed NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller’s first initiatives.

Comprising 17 detectives and government mental health workers, it will perform risk assessments on so-called lone actors or unstable people who are seemingly fixated on issues or individuals but are not considered persons of interest for counter-terrorism police.

“We know these people aren’t active counter-terrorism targets yet they are capable of acts of terrorism,” Mr Fuller said. “[We] believe we need to move quickly to close this gap.”

People could be referred to the unit by family, neighbours, counter-terrorism authorities or local police, who often know of concerning locals but are limited in how they can deal with them.

The unit might respond by sending an officer to speak to the person, drawing up a mental health plan or forwarding the case to the counter-terrorism unit.

“I’m not suggesting that, if you call, we’re going to kick your door down,” Mr Fuller said.

“What I do want to give is give the community a pathway to contact someone if they’ve got concerns about a family member, a friend or a neighbour because at the moment people don’t see them as terrorists but they are committing terrorist activities.”

Mr Fuller said about 50 people were being assessed for the unit.

Among them are Joseph Mekhael, a DJ arrested on Anzac Day for shouting anti-war slogans during the minute’s silence in Martin Place.

On his Facebook page, he claims to lead the “Save The World Army” and calls on followers to “have the courage to stand up against those who are enslaving the human race!”

Lindt Cafe gunman Man Monis would also fit the unit’s brief as would John Caddle, a mentally ill man who drove his car through a Wollongong mall in February in a mock terrorist act that he hoped would prove other terrorist events were “fake news”.

Monis was a long-standing public nuisance who taunted politicians and bombarded families of Diggers with anti-war letters, but counter-terrorism police had closed his case file.

Mr Fuller said the metropolitan robbery unit would be disbanded and its detectives, who have 10 years’ experience in “profiling” people, would start work on Monday.

He acknowledged that the link between mental health and Islamic State-inspired attacks was contentious and said the initiative was not intended to excuse or play down violent acts.

Muslim youth worker Kuranda Seyit, director of the Forum on Australia’s Islamic Relations, feared the unit would end up mining health professionals for any Muslim mental health patients.

“We need to carefully consider where we’re going with this….because there is the danger of stigmatising not just people with mental illness but also Muslims,” he said.

The unit is modelled on the Fixated Threat Assessment Centres in Britain and Queensland that have a joint police-mental health approach.

Police Minister Troy Grant said it also built on ideas from the FBI’s bystander work, which recognises that, in the aftermath of an incident, it often emerges that somebody knew or saw something but didn’t have the understanding or the means to report it.

Mr Fuller denied it was an attempt to pre-empt negative findings from the Lindt Cafe inquest.

Greens MP David Shoebridge said the initiative would struggle to succeed because trust had not been established.

“The missing link in the NSW Police Force’s terrorism response is the connection with vulnerable communities; it’s not a resourcing issue but a cultural one,” he said. “The spate of highly armed and high visibility police raids in western Sydney that end with televised arrests of members of the Muslim community destroy hard-fought links with the community.”

FIXATED PERSONS: The type of people the new police unit wants to look at

Ihsas Khan, 23: Years of odd behaviour, including cutting down Australian flags on a neighbour’s home, culminated in the alleged Islamic State-inspired stabbing of neighbour Wayne Greenhalgh.

A 18-year-old man from Narwee: Arrested in the Opera House forecourt last year allegedly carrying canisters of brake fluid on the “instructions of Islamic State”. He has an intellectual disability but was charged after his behaviour escalated.

Alo-Bridget Namoa, 19: Allegedly wanted to do an “Islamic Bonnie and Clyde” with her husband but suffers schizophrenia and hallucinations and became obsessed with watching beheading videos, a court heard.

A 17-year-old boy from The Oaks: Allegedly threatened to carry out a mass stabbing in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting. Charges downgraded after severe mental health and developmental issues emerged.

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The Young Pope is a very human story, despite its scale, says Jude Law

Monday, 13. May 2019

From its opening frames there is something both brilliant and confounding about The Young Pope. Its star, Jude Law, plays a young American cardinal who is elevated to the highest office in the Catholic church.
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Pushing aside the likelihood of an American pope – as opposed, say, to one from Latin America or even Africa – the series plays a little like a royal family biopic. The pomp and ceremony get it over the line, to some extent only just.

The series was pitched to HBO by writer Paolo Sorrentino as one which would “probe, with honesty and curiosity, the contradictions, the struggles, and the fascinating aspects of a man of the cloth who unexpectedly rises to lead a billion member congregation”.

Law holds high praise for Sorrentino. “It was really eye opening to work with someone who had such clarity of vision and contributed such an extraordinary signature and heightened, just every day, in every way, what we were all doing as a cast and as a team,” he says.

Not having been brought up in a religious home, Law says he had “always been curious about faith and one’s personal relationship with faith and I suppose it encouraged me to question and look at that a little more”.

The series does seem to play cleverly into a sort of global paradigm; a shift in religious conservatism, a rise in secular conservatism and a swing in politics to the right.

Whether The Young Pope is a reaction to that, or merely reflective of it, Law is unsure. He credits the show’s subtle sensitivity to the world around it to Sorrentino’s writing.

“Great writers and great creative minds, I think, have a natural antenna that reads what is in the ether, and I think I’m safe to say that perhaps some of this came from the religious terrain of the past,” Law says. “It also came from perhaps the Italian political terrain of the past.”

Clearly too, he adds, “there was a certain amount of preemptive registering of what was going on internationally. It just highlights how relevant sometimes this sort of reactionary voting or indeed, you know, the idea of voting in the unknown can lead you.”

Sorrentino’s writing, Law says, takes the character of Lenny Belardo and crowns him with this magnificent pontifical power but then explores him in a very ordinary human way.

“Paolo can take epic themes and operatic scale and make it very human,” Law says. “When I started I thought, I need to educate myself on papal history, on Catholic history, on life in the Vatican. But I didn’t really find any answers there as to who this character was.”

Sorrentino encouraged Law to focus more on the idea that Belardo is simply a man, orphaned at birth and “at his heart, he is trying to understand this sense of lack of love,” Law says. “A lot of the part he plays as Pope Pius is trying to understand that and, if you like, reflect his sense of solitude.”

Intriguingly, Law’s Pope – Lenny Belardo, later Pope Pius XIII – is a smoker, though the actor is quick to point out that he was written in Sorrentino’s script as a smoker, a character quirk which was borrowed from Pope Benedict.

“Benedict apparently liked a cigarette after mass, and it was I thought a wonderful kind of detail of character that Paolo included,” Law says. “His scripts are rich with detail of both musical reference and character reference and for an actor, that’s joyful. You sink your teeth into those.”

One of the most significant elements of the series, both for the audience and the actor at the heart of it, is the props and pageantry of the papal office.

“I think when I was starting out [as an actor] I underestimated the power of costume,” Law says. “And in this role, unlike almost any other, putting on the robes, the white daily robes or the more formal robes of ritual, it had a great impact.”

“A huge amount of revealing and feeling the sort of status of someone in that position is helped by the reaction of others,” Law adds. “And when you’re being carried in by 12 men on a golden throne with robes, bejewelled robes, it helps a lot.”

For one of the key narratives in Lenny Belardo’s story, Law works with Diane Keaton, who plays Sister Mary, the American nun who raised Belardo at the orphanage and who joins him at the Vatican as his personal secretary.

Law says Keaton brought “a unique sense of humour and mischief and boundless warmth” to the role. “She’s fantastically modest too,” he adds. “I remember when she arrived she was constantly saying, ‘I don’t know why I’m here’, because she seemed to be the last person to realise just how loved she is.”

Law said he nicknamed her “Mama Rose”, after Mama Rose in Gypsy. “She was very much my Mama Rose because she’s the one always saying, you’re going to be the Pope, Lenny. You’re going to be the Pope. You’re a saint, Lenny. She’s my biggest supporter in the piece. And it was wonderful to work with her.”

WHAT The Young Pope

WHEN SBS, Wednesday, 10.25pm, and SBS On Demand

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Rules Don’t Apply review: Warren Beatty’s satirical portrait of American double standards

Monday, 13. May 2019

????????????(M) 127 minutes
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Warren Beatty begins this pageant of Hollywood life in the 1960s with a quote from Howard Hughes, whom he plays with just the right amount of crazy: “Never check an interesting fact.” I don’t know if Hughes ever said it, because I haven’t checked it (boom, tish).

It works as both a warning and a statement of creed. What you are about to see might have happened but who cares: almost anything one could say about the real Howard Hughes is weirder than what Beatty could make up anyway.

The advance reviews on Rules Don’t Apply were harsh, to say the least, and it may be that standards are higher for Beatty, who has refused to fade into the Hollywood hills, even as he passed 80 earlier this year.

Apart from his huge body of work as an actor, his reputation as a director peaked in 1982 with Reds, for which he won the Oscar for best director, then faded. Bulworth and Dick Tracy were fun, but the market for Beatty’s satire seemed to have passed.

He claims to have been thinking about this new film since the 1960s, when he was the biggest hunk in Hollywood, and Hughes was still a force in American business. It’s certainly true Rules Don’t Apply is not so much a film about Hughes the movie producer and aviator as it is about the battle between sex and puritanism in American life.

Some critics have missed the point: it’s not that Beatty identifies with Hughes. He identifies with the beautiful young things arriving in Tinseltown in 1958, which is when he, too, arrived from Virginia with his sister Shirley Maclaine.

Frank Forbes (the fast-rising Alden Ehrenreich) has left small-town America and his high school sweetheart to pursue real estate ambitions in Los Angeles. He starts work as a driver for Mr Hughes, thinking he will get him to invest, although he has never actually met him.

Levar Mathis (Matthew Broderick), as a cynical senior driver, explains the strict rules for ferrying one of the 30 or so young starlets Hughes has under contract.

Candice Bergen, as Nadine Henly, runs the female part of the Hughes empire. The newest girl is Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) who arrives with her suspicious and god-fearing mother Lucy (Annette Bening). Frank deposits them in a lovely house in the hills above the Hollywood Bowl, where classical music wafts up at night.

In one sense, the film is an elaborate romantic tease about when the rosy-cheeked and wide-eyed Marla will finally succumb to either Hughes or Frank, or both. In another, it’s a sad love story about an old man losing his grip on reality, while these young things lose their innocence. It’s effective as both – far more than I expected. The comedy has bite, the writing captures the weird, and Beatty directs with care.

He gives us a richly satirical portrait of American double standards. Hollywood is in one sense more honest than the apple pie heartland that produced these two beautiful things, raised on the Bible but bursting with sexual energy. At least in Hollywood, they understand the attraction of sin.

As a lifelong liberal and libertarian, the religious right was never going to get much shrift from Beatty, who keeps denying the obvious truth that this is a thoroughly political movie.

It may not mention the current president, but it’s impossible to watch without thinking of his attitudes to women. At least Howard Hughes, as played by Beatty, is a gentleman. Not that Beatty wants us to take his portrayal literally: he never met the man, and Hughes had sold RKO Studios three years before Beatty arrived in the movie capital. Never check a fake fact, either.

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‘Bonds are different’

Monday, 13. May 2019

The wave of money flowing out of active funds and into passive investments causing plenty of headaches for the world’s equity fund managers, is affecting fixed income investors too. PIMCO, the world’s largest actively managed bond fund manager, is preparing its defence.
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In a paper titled “Bonds are different”, a team of researchers headed by Jamil Baz, PIMCO’s global head of client analytics, argues a number of reasons why passive investing doesn’t work as well in bonds, giving active bond investors plenty of room to beat the market.

“We’re talking about different animals here,” Mr Baz told The Australian Financial Review, referring to the differences between passive investment in equities and bonds. The paper’s argument is made most forcefully with figures that show actively managed funds more often than not outperformed their passive competitors across a range of time frames and bond fund types.

These calculations are debated. Others who’ve looked at this question, such as S&P Dow Jones Indices, conclude that bond funds frequently under-perform benchmark indices, particularly over long time periods after fees are taken into account.

However, in bonds, the benchmark and the returns offered by passive funds after fees are not necessarily the same thing.

Passive funds offer cheap exposure to assets by replicating a broad index, far more cheaply than managed funds do. But bond indexes are notoriously tricky to replicate, as bond markets have far lower liquidity than equities and the constituent parts of bond indices change far more quickly (generally every month) than they do in most equities indices.

And bonds, which are sold-on corporate or government debt, can go funny in times of crisis, leading to the curious situation of many active funds having under-performed the index in 2008-09 but having outperformed passive bond funds over the same period.

Comparing the performance of active bond funds to the index in shorter durations that exclude the financial crisis yields better results, according to PIMCO. And in all the categories and time frames examined, with the exception of one-year high-yield bond funds, more than 50 per cent of active bond funds beat passive funds after fees.

There are a number of technical reasons why active management gives greater returns in bonds than equities, Mr Baz argued.

Around half of the $102 trillion global bond market isn’t held by investors seeking a return at all, but by “uneconomic” investors. Central banks, for example, use bond buying and selling to control their currencies and inflation. Commercial banks and insurance companies use bonds for their regular yields rather than their alpha. These “non-economic, constrained investors” are not able to act with the freedom of those investing for profit – so their alpha is there for the taking by “economic” investors.

“Economic investors tend to outperform non-economic investors, as the former buy cheap fallen angels from the latter and sell them expensive high-coupon bonds. Active managers potentially may also be compensated by passive managers for providing the liquidity around changes in index construction,” the paper states.

“We absolutely concede that there is a place for passive management,” Mr Baz said. “Some take advantage of the lower fees, and passive funds put active managers on their toes and incentives them to do better.” But, he added, active bond managers are able to take advantage of opportunities passive managers cannot.

And there are more such opportunities in the bond market. Companies, for example, usually issue only one form of stock. But they can and do issue multiple types of bonds – only the largest of which will make bond indexes even though the others can be, in effect, the same. Active bond managers can do the research needed to discover and buy such bonds when they are cheaply offered.

In this sense, bond managers are somewhat like small caps managers, said BetaShares chief economist David Bassanese, who also tend to perform better against passive funds compared to other equities categories.

For most investors, passive bond investing is the only way to access the fixed income space at all.

“Before the advent of exchange traded funds, the only way retail investors could access fixed income was through unlisted, typically actively managed funds which charged a high fee for their efforts. ETFs, irrespective of debate of active versus passive, give retail investors access to fixed income products.”

Vanguard manages the world’s largest bond fund, which is passive. The issue of fees was also raised by its head of investments for Asia-Pacific, Rodney Comegys.

“Cost matters a tonne, and even more in fixed income than it does in equities,” he told the Financial Review. “There’s lower expected returns in fixed interest, so what you pay really takes away from your return. In a low-yield environment, that matters.”

“In aggregate – whether across equities or fixed income – passive investing keeps costs as low as possible. You don’t spend much on research. And for all the advantages of active … you also have the opportunity to underperform.”

Fees can vary widely across different fixed income active fund managers, and investors have to trade off the performance of an active fund with how much of that performance is eaten up by fees.

“Active is hard,” Mr Comegys said. “Hard for the investment manager and hard for the investor.”

But someone’s got to take the risk, Mr Baz argued. A market fully comprised of passive investors would encourage “free-riding, adverse selection and moral hazard”.

“You could have a situation where companies offer lower-quality paper, knowing it’ll be absorbed by the market because it’s passive and less research-intensive,” he said.

“The more passive fund buying there is, the more uncritical buying there’s going to be.”

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ASIC wants powers to change high-risk pay structures

Saturday, 13. April 2019

AFR and Deloitte Banking and Wealth Summit.Sofitel Wentwoth, Sydney. Conduct Risk & Risk Culture roundtable with Peter Kell, Deputy Chairman ASIC .April 5 2016. Photos Quentin Jones. Photo: Quentin JonesThe corporate watchdog is seeking greater powers to step in and change how some salespeople in the financial sector are paid, to prevent staff having an incentive to promote inappropriate products.
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The Australian Securities and Investments Commission deputy chair, Peter Kell, on Wednesday made the case for the regulator receiving beefed-up powers to intervene in the design and distribution of financial products.

The federal Treasury is consulting on a proposal to give ASIC these powers, which would allow it to veto higher-risk products.

But Mr Kell said the watchdog wants an extension of the Treasury’s proposal, and is also seeking the power to ban certain types of pay structures that are clearly against the interests of customers, such as certain types of commissions.

If it were given these powers, it would allow the watchdog to rule out the “most pernicious” aspects of how some financial products are sold to customers, Mr Kell said.

“We are keen to have the product intervention power not only in how the product has been designed, but also the associated way that people are remunerated for selling it,” he told a Senate committee inquiry into consumer protection in the banking, insurance and financial sector.

“You can imagine there may be instances where the product itself is not necessarily a problem, as long as it is sold to the right people. But if people are being paid very high commissions or other sorts of benefits for selling it, then the temptation will be to sell it to the wrong people.”

“That for us, I think is the key area where we think we would like to see an extension to what has been proposed.”

Mr Kell gave the example of “flex commissions” paid by lenders to car dealers – where a dealer receives a higher commission if a customer takes out a car loan with a higher rate of interest.

Current rules made it much more difficult for ASIC to address this “really unfortunate” practice, which had embedded itself in the industry.

“We have stepped in and done something about that, but it has taken us a lot longer, and it has been a lot more convoluted than would have been the case with a product intervention power.”

Customers who are vulnerable or have poor financial literacy were most likely to be victims of this type of commission, he said.

Perversely, incentives such as “flex commissions” tended to be adopted across the industry, because failing to do so would hurt sales of loans.

Mr Kell was also asked about recent reports by News Corporation of internal documents that showed ASIC staff before 2015 seeking feedback from banks on draft press releases about misconduct within banks. He said the regulator had since changed its approach, and the emails reflected “healthy debate” within ASIC.

ASIC’s push for greater intervention powers comes as the banking industry is pledging to overhaul how it pays frontline staff, by reducing sales targets linked to bonuses, and cutting commissions paid to mortgage brokers.

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Security fears over new technology being rolled out across NSW

Saturday, 13. April 2019

SMH News story by, Lucy Cormack. The end of the Government solar feed back tarrif. Photo shows, Solar user, Michael Kwan at his Killarney Heights home. He has decided on installing a smart meter, which will allow him to switch to a metering system on 31 December. It then allows him to use his solar energy to meet his household needs. Afterwards any excess electricity generated, and not used, is exported to the grid. Photo: Peter Rae Thursday 19 May 2016. Photo: Peter RaeYou probably don’t remember the exact time you last opened your refrigerator.
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But an electricity smart meter will.

It will also remember the age and brand of your appliance and how it is being used in the home – and all conveniently in real-time.

But a University of Canberra cybercrime expert has questioned the cost of such convenience in a new report, arguing that current smart meter technology could place consumers’ privacy and security at risk.

“It is great to be connected and online, and we need to embrace what’s coming at us down the pipes,” said Nigel Phair, director of the Centre for Internet Safety at the University of Canberra.

“But we are not doing it in a measured or consumer-informed way. An insecure and accessible smart meter is a great way to tell when homeowners are away for extended periods of time.”

Smart meters are digital devices that electronically record water, electricity and gas usage and transmit the data to the utility operator in real-time.

Currently a smart meter is formatted to allow either a one-way or two-way transmission of data, with the latter the most commonly used in the Australian market.

One-way meters record the amount of water, electricity or gas at a pre-set interval, which is then transmitted to the provider, while in a two-way device, usage is not only sent to the energy provider but the provider can also push data and messages back to the meter.

To date smart meters have been rolled out on a voluntary basis in NSW, after a mandatory mass roll-out in Victoria was widely criticised.

But from July this year, any new meters installed in NSW homes must be a smart meter.

As well as being more costly, Mr Phair said a two-way device raises a number of security issues, as information transmitted is often unencrypted.

“I think smart metering is the future. But as we stand today we should only have one-way transmit meters until we sort out security,” he said, adding that providers could use push notifications in two-way meters to send advertising or turn off power to a home, if a bill has not been paid.

An Origin spokesperson would not confirm if information on its smart meters was encrypted, but said all devices and related systems featured “security measures” to protect all data.

“Origin’s digital meters comply with relevant privacy legislation and electricity market rules.”

In 2009 a criminal operation in Puerto Rico contacted the general public with an offer to covertly reprogram their smart meters for a fee, to falsely reduce their apparent usage, saving them up to 75 per cent off their monthly electricity bills.

An FBI investigation later found the Puerto Rican electrical and power authority lost nearly $400 million dollars in annual revenue.

Mr Phair said the case showed just how easily such technology could be compromised, and said it points to the need for public policy and “certainty in the marketplace about the security of devices”.

Energy Australia installed its first smart meters in Victorian customer homes in 2009. In the period since, an Energy Australia spokesman said there had not be “no known security breaches.”

“As well as adhering to national regulatory rules, we ensure our meter service providers routinely monitor their smart meter security systems so they are safe, secure and customers are protected.”

He said Energy Australia smart meters were not integrated with home technologies like wireless networks or telephones, adding that any smart meter data would continue to be shared “via independent and secure networks which do not overlap with the customer’s own wireless networks.”

An AGL spokesperson said its digital meter data was “confidential and encrypted,” and did not contain names or addresses.

“Data can be transmitted in two ways between the meter and the meter provider, which is important to enable meter software/firmware to be updated. We have not experienced customer data breaches ,” he said.

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‘Pain spend’ is hitting households where it hurts

Saturday, 13. April 2019

Those balancing household budgets will not like the latest economic data. Inflation figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday show the consumer price index, the key measure of inflation, rose 0.5 per cent in the March quarter – and driving that increase were essentials like petrol and housing.
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Even though inflation was slightly weaker than expected, economists largely agreed the price growth was strong enough for the Reserve Bank of Australia to take interest rate cuts off the table. The annual rate of CPI growth lifted to 2.1 per cent, just above the lower end of the bank’s inflation target.

But commentators also noted that the price increases were not noted in areas that signalled economic growth, with the most significant price rises in the quarter being petrol (up 5.7 per cent) and electricity (up 2.5 per cent).

These are things households have to buy when at the same time their wages are barely lifting and their debts are high.

CBA economist Michael Blythe thinks that dynamic could impact on consumer spending, and thus affect the wider economy.

“Rising petrol prices, up 12.9 per cent over the past two quarters, are now having a negative impact on consumer spending power. In fact spending on areas that are largely outside consumer discretion, such as fuel, health, insurance, utilities etc., is on the rise, up 1.6 per cent in the quarter and 4.2 per cent over the past year,” he said.

“Trends in this ‘pain spend’ influence household’s perceptions of financial pressures, with a flow???on to sentiment and spending appetite.”

The pain was lessened slightly by a 6.7 per cent drop in fruit prices.

Underlying measures of inflation, which smooth out volatile price swings and are key to interest rate decisions, averaged just over 0.4 per cent growth in the quarter for an annual rate of 1.8 per cent.

In response, the Australian dollar lost a little ground, dropping from about 75.45 US cents prior to the release to around 75.2 US cents.

The RBA will hold its next monthly board meeting on Tuesday, but is expected to leave the cash rate at a record low of 1.5 per cent.

Hopes that March’s strong rise in employment was a turning point for the economy may prove premature as new figures show wilting demand for new workers.

Job advertisements on the internet declined 0.6 per cent in March after a revised 0.3 per cent fall in February in trend terms, Department of Employment data released on Wednesday shows.

This left annual growth at just 0.9 per cent.

Six of the eight occupational groups monitored by the department fell in the month, declining in three states and the ACT. Ending the rate cut talk

“Today’s CPI should bring to an end the debate about near-term rate cuts,” UBS economists said in a report.

“We expect core inflation to stay below the RBA’s target until [the first half of 2018], amid a housing correction that sees the RBA waiting to normalise rates until at least [the second half of 2018].”

Economists at Citi noted a lack of market-based inflation, with seasonal rises in areas such as healthcare, education, and insurance coming alongside higher petrol and housing costs

“We don’t expect much upside pressure in market determined prices in the future. Slow domestic demand growth and more competition from online and global retailers will constrain price growth in the non-food retail sector,” they said.

“More generally, low private sector wages growth and the increase in some mortgage interest rates at a time of record high household debt will prohibit many market-based CPI price lines from increasing at anything but a snail’s pace.”

Citi’s economists reckon the result is likely to stay the RBA’s hand for the rest of the year.

“For the RBA, its two main concerns are the subdued labour market and risks to financial stability. With these concerns pulling in different directions, we continue to expect no change in the cash rate this year. Any cash rate increase remains a distant possibility.

“We pencil in the first rate hike for [the December quarter of] 2018 as the RBA seeks to move away from historically low interest rates only when there is a likelihood of trend growth that removes the negative output gap.”

Capital Economics’ Paul Dales has abandoned his prediction of further rate cuts.

“The rise in underlying inflation in the first quarter, coupled with the RBA’s financial stability concerns, dramatically reduces the chances of any further interest rate cuts,” he said.

“When taken together with the RBA’s valid concerns that cutting interest rates further would threaten financial stability, today’s data suggest that underlying inflation is now at a level that the RBA will be willing to tolerate.

“As such, we are no longer expecting the RBA to cut interest rates further.”

He now expects the central bank to hold rates steady for at least the rest of the year.

Barclays’s Rahul Bajoria reckons rates wil be higher in a little over a year’s time.

with AAP

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

Buy, sell or hold your sporting investment portfolio?

Saturday, 13. April 2019

With the Treasurer about to deliver his federal budget within two shakes of a burnt stick, it is time for your humble correspondent to deliver my annual advice on your sporting investment portfolio, as regards which shares to buy, sell, and hold.
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John Coates. $7.02. Sell.

Tough call, but there is no way around it. His was a solid blue-chip stock until a couple of months ago when the challenge by Danni Roche for presidency of the AOC saw his price plunge from $12.57 to $8.22 practically overnight. Recent revelations have seen it fall further, and there are more to come.

Danni Roche. $3.58. Buy

Just 27?? three months ago, she is now rising by the week. If she gains the presidency, projections put her in the high $5-$6 range. (At that point, however, I’d sell. Remember Maxine McKew who did a staggering job defeating the sitting Prime Minister, John Howard, in Bennelong in 2007, and was rarely sighted thereafter. Ms McKew’s shares were never higher than on election night. I don’t necessarily say that will happen to Ms Roche as, after all, she will automatically take the top role should she win, and not be a mere back-bencher. I do say, however, that the fever of her accomplishment should push the shares to be well above their true value, in the short term.)

Rugby union. $2.46. Buy

A totally undervalued stock. There is no doubt whatsoever that the game is stinking up the joint in Australia. When I called the NSWRU the other day and asked what time the next home match starts, they said: “What time can you get here?” But all those wise-head brokers who are encouraging their clients to unload rugby portfolios at any price, forget that beyond Australian shores, rugby is booming as never before. Ultimately it is that value, those rivers of gold that continue to flow into the Australian Rugby Union’s coffers from overseas broadcasters ready to pay top dollar to see Australian teams that will sustain rugby through this distressing time of the “Depression Years”. (See, the last decade-and-a-half, since we held the Bledisloe Cup.)

Undervalued: A familiar Waratahs pose of late. Photo: Getty Images

A-League. $3.42. Hold

It is too hard to work out. I think it’s struggling. You think it’s struggling. But for some reason I don’t get, the insiders say it is as strong as ever, and getting stronger. On the other hand, soccer people always say that. It’s just in their blood. And so is falling to the ground screaming blue murder, even if you give them a light tap. Best thing is just to move on.

AFL. $19.52. Buy

It’s as blue-chip as they get, and is getting bluer. It is true that the AFL cheats somewhat by putting something in the water of the AFL follower that makes them mad for the game from the cradle to the grave, but it works for them. And the stunning success of the Women’s AFL this year highlights both how well run the game is, and how far ahead of everyone else they are in making their game grow.

NRL. $12.52. Sell

Something is going on this year, something like a change in the wind, whereby though all the media is still totally behind the game, the “buzzzzz”, is just not quite there. Plus, watch the concussion issue as it plays out in the courts. Todd Greenberg has done well this year to try to get on top of it, but I’ll bet it’s too late. Whatever happens in the current case, it is inevitable the game will face some serious pay-outs in the future which will push the share price down further. Finally, as more and more is known about concussion and the devastating long-term effects, it is equally inevitable that both players and spectators will veer away from what remains one of, if not the, highest-impact sports in the world.

Golden moment: Michael Gordon jumps on Mitchell Pearce in celebration after the Roosters field goal that sunk the Dragons on Tuesday. Photo: Getty Images

Australian Cricket. $25. Sell

Just before the Ashes. As that fascinating report in the SMH yesterday made clear – Channel Nine is thought to have lost up to $40 million by broadcasting the game last year – the professional game might be well past high noon in Australia, and just starting to wane. Sunset is no time soon, but the simple truth is it does not grip everyone the way it once did. Of course it will return to fever pitch just before this summer’s home Ashes campaign, it always does, but that fever hides the truth – with the loss of the West Indies as a serious competitive side, international cricket has lost one of its prime pistons and is lagging accordingly.

Raiders. $3.85. Buy

There’s something about that mob, under Ricky Stuart. About four years ago I got into the ear of their chair, telling him he had rocks in his head to take on Stuart, as he was just too intense and made his players wither, rather than grow. The chair ignored me, and was right to do so. Sticky has transformed them, and even though they’ve had a couple of unlucky losses, they will be dangerous come the finals.

Penrith. 62??. Sell

The Penny Panthers have become the Penny Dreadfuls in the space of just six weeks or so, and no team in the country has been more Ordinary on the All-Ordinaries Index than them – and there is no sign it is going to end any time soon. I can never work out where in Phil Gould’s “rebuilding phase” they are up to, but that roar in the distance ain’t more builders coming. It is Joe’s Bulldozers, on their way to knock over what’s up already and start again. It is going to be very expensive, won’t necessarily work, and that will push the share price down even further.

Come to think of it, an investment in Joe’s Bulldozers could be very useful. If the Waratahs, Swans and Collingwood don’t start winning soon, Joe will be very busy indeed and should make a fortune!

Twitter:@Peter_Fitz

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

Shining a light: Former netball boss speaks out

Saturday, 13. April 2019

Deposed Netball Australia director and former chair Anne-Marie Corboy has warned against underestimating the threat posed by the AFL Women’s league in the newly-competitive national environment, while staying cautiously optimistic that the power play orchestrated by the state associations will not derail netball’s recent progress.
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Speaking publicly for the first time about the divisive internal politics that have forced the involuntary departures of Corboy and former Australian captain Kathryn Harby-Williams from the board, the experienced businesswoman said governance reforms being driven by the Australian Sports Commission remained of critical importance.

“It’s very disappointing that this has played out over the last week, but maybe it’s a shake-up that was needed and it has shone the light on some things that need to be addressed in the sport,” Corboy told Fairfax Media. “Netball has had this great year and this little glitch that’s become public won’t detract from that.”

Corboy is supporting Paolina Hunt’s bid for re-election as chair at Friday’s board meeting – the first since last week’s AGM expanded the directorial power base of the state bodies led by chief agitators Netball Queensland and Netball NSW. She also urged the member organisations to take a broader view.

“I think there’s still a lack of understanding about the competitive environment in which netball is now operating,” Corboy said. “In fact one of the member organisation CEOs said to me ‘Well, we’re not really worried about AFL at all’, and I think that’s a demonstration that the MOs continue to see the world from their own state’s position and at times find it difficult to see the big picture. And of course Netball Australia is dealing with the big picture.”

Corboy, who succeeded long-time chair Noeleen Dix last April, said the genesis of the unrest came through the stalling of ASC-mandated constitutional reforms in early 2016, with the state associations deferring moves to abolish the role of president – now held by WA’s Robert Shaw – and angered by the drawn-out negotiations for a Super Netball broadcast deal.

“That put pressure on the organisations to be prepared for this year, and I think that’s where a lot of the tensions arose,” Corboy said, admitting the states’ full list of “gripes” included the admission of football club-owned teams, and even the competition’s fixture. “And when some personality issues came into it, that mix just created an environment where the Netball Australia board wasn’t able to prosecute its agenda in the way that we wanted to, and for me to prosecute my agenda as chair, because we were operating in that very tense – and, in fact, litigious – environment. There was a lot of correspondence between lawyers that was started by the member organisations.”

The states having rebuffed attempts to mediate, while citing dissatisfaction with Corboy’s leadership style, the former MCG Trustee stood down as chair last month. In a coup the Australian Netball Players’ Association condemned as “an inexcusable lack of judgment that only serves to satisfy self-interest”, she was then removed from her board role at a special general meeting without explanation or any suggestion she had breached her director’s duties.

Calling for the implementation of a unitary administration model that would abolish the state associations and redirect financial and personnel resources to the athletes, and keen to correct apparent misconceptions about netball’s funding arrangements and strategic priorities, Corboy believes the next 12 months will be “critical” to the sport’s future.

“We’ll see who is elected as chair on Friday and I think that will also be an indicator,” said Corboy, who hopes new chief executive Marne Fechner will be given the necessary board support to build on revenue, audience and participation growth that has accompanied the start of Super Netball. “I think that what’s lost in all of this is that netball has had one our best years ever … in the most competitive sports environment ever.”

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

Final piece of jigsaw sells

Wednesday, 13. March 2019

Final piece of jigsaw sells AUCTION: The Municipal building on the corner of Hunter and Market Streets will go under the hammer on Thursday. It is expected to sell for in the vicinity of $2.5 million.
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AUCTION: The Municipal building on the corner of Hunter and Market Streets will go under the hammer on Thursday. It is expected to sell for in the vicinity of $2.5 million.

152 Hunter Street, left, is one of two buildings that will not be included in the redevelopment of Hunter Street mall by Iris Capital.

This building on Greenway Street, Wickham has sold for $550,000. It houses Dark Horse Espresso.

This building on Greenway Street, Wickham has sold for $550,000. It houses Dark Horse Espresso.

This building on Greenway Street, Wickham has sold for $550,000. It houses Dark Horse Espresso.

This building on Greenway Street, Wickham has sold for $550,000. It houses Dark Horse Espresso.

TweetFacebookHALF A MILLION FOR DARK HORSEA building housing one of Wickham’s most popular coffee haunts has changed hands for $555,000.

The strata unit on Greenway Street is currently split into two tenancies, with the Dark Horse Espresso cafe in the front tenancy and the rear owner-occupied by a hairdressing salon.

Another hairdressing firm has purchased the building and plans to occupy the salon once the lease-back term of the current owners ends. The cafe will stay on in the front tenancy.

“This completes a run of four properties in a row we have sold in this Greenway Street complex,” said agent Jason Morris of Raine and Horne Commercial.

“We believe it’sbeen popular for its funky village-type feel and proximity to the CBD and the harbour.”

Greenway Street, Wickham