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Drug survey finds the ways Australians stand out in the world

Will Tripp is white, employed and just shy of his 40th birthday.
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His drug of choice is alcohol, but he is next most likely to smoke marijuana, most likely in the few hours before bed.

If he was to try psychedelics, he may be motivated by the desire to expand his mind.

He pays more per gram for cocaine than he would if he lived anywhere else in the world.

The fictional Mr Tripp is the typical Australian respondent to the Global Drug Survey 2017, which was conducted in partnership with harm reduction groups and global media, including Fairfax Media.

The report’s authors caution that participants in the survey are likely to be people who are interested in the topic of drug use and the report should not be used to draw national estimates.

But the survey does spot patterns and emerging trends and can be used to make comparisons within the drug-using population.

More than three-quarters of the 5700 Australian respondents to the anonymous survey of 115,000 people had used illegal drugs and around one in three had used them in the past month.

They were more likely to take cannabis than legal drugs, including tobacco and caffeinated drinks, and the next most popular illegal drug was ecstasy, followed by cocaine and LSD.

Australians respondents were not the biggest cannabis users in the world, but they were the biggest bong users, with water pipes more popular in Australia than any other country.

They had a slight preference for smoking their weed with tobacco but the difference was small, whereas every other country had a clear cultural preference.

Survey respondents from New Zealand and the Americas much preferred straight marijuana, while those from Europe were bigger fans of mixing it with tobacco.

And they were more likely than most other countries’ citizens to have injected drugs, with 6 per cent of respondents admitting to having done so in their lifetime compared with 2 per cent globally.

GDS founder and chief investigator Adam Winstock said Australians picked up what they could get hold of and were quick to pick up on global trends but these were sometimes slow to spread as a result of border control policies and dealing networks.

“The dark net will challenge this, as will a wealthy group who will make cocaine a worthwhile risk,” Dr Winstock said.

“Geographical dislocation from traditional dealing networks makes [Australia] more prone to novel drugs, which may carry higher risk than the drugs they seek to replace such as MDMA.”

Surveyed Australians paid more for cocaine than any other country, spending about $321 a gram, which was slightly more than New Zealanders reported but almost double the next most expensive country.

It was cheapest in Colombia, with a local price of $5.26 per gram.

The typical Australian LSD user was 20 when they first tried the drug, in their own country, at home with friends. They mostly took tabs, for which they paid $19 each.

They were a little older, around 22, when they first tried magic mushrooms, which they usually ate whole rather than in other food.

Most people said an important motivation in experimenting with psychedelics was curiosity, but a large majority also said they wanted to expand their minds, learn more about themselves and deepen their understanding of the world.

Dr Winstock, an addiction psychiatrist who advocates education rather than prohibition when it comes to drug policy, said if people were going to use drugs, they should test drugs such as mushrooms and ecstasy and gradually increase the dose once they felt the effects, to avoid overdose.

“In a world dominated by fake news and where policies remain immune to the evidence – facts are more important than ever,” Dr Winstock said.

“While drugs always carry some risk of harm – how you choose to use is the difference only you can make.

“There are so many chances here for enlightened policies that treat people who use drugs as adults. Honest conversations are easier to support than law change.”

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Manchester attack: Australians urged not to travel

Manchester attack: Australians urged not to travel A woman is consoled as she looks at the floral tributes following an evening vigil outside the Town Hall on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Photo: Getty Images
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A woman is consoled as she looks at the floral tributes following an evening vigil outside the Town Hall on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images

Messages are left among tributes by members of the public in St Ann Square on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 in Manchester ,England.Photo: Getty Images

A woman looks emotional as she looks at flowers left in St Ann Square on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Photo: Getty Images

A young man writes emergency details and a tribute message on a pavement on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Photo: Getty Images

A woman lays flowers in St Ann Square on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Photo: Getty Images

A man with a t-shirt that says ‘FCK ISIS’ waits at a red light on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Photo: Getty Images

People leave flowers in St. Anne’s Square on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Photo: Getty Images

Messages are left among tributes by members of the public in St Ann Square on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 in Manchester ,England.Photo: Getty Images

People embrace as they stand near the Arndale centre on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Photo: Getty Images

Messages are left among tributes by members of the public in St Ann Square on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 in Manchester ,England.Photo: Getty Images

A giant TV advertisement screen, standing next to the city logo of The Worker Bee, displays ‘Pray For Manchester’ after last nights terrorist attack, May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Photo: Getty Images

Armed police officers monitor the area before an evening vigil outside the Town Hall on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Photo: Getty Images

A woman wearing a ‘I heart MCR’ t-shirt makes her way to lay flowers in St Ann Square on Tuesday, May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Photo: Getty Images

A tribute is laid at a candlelit vigil, to honour the victims of Monday evening’s terror attack in Manchester, England. Photo: Getty Images

A Manchester United scarf, laid in the shape of a heart, lies next to flowers left by members of the public at a candlelit vigil in Manchester, England. Photo: Getty Images

People gather to attend a candlelit vigil, to honour the victims of Monday evening’s terror attack, at Albert Square on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Photo: Getty Images

Members of the public attend a candlelit vigil, to honour the victims of Monday evening’s terror attack, at Albert Square on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Photo: Getty Images

Members of the public look at some of the floral tributes following an evening vigil outside the Town Hall on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Photo: Getty Images

Members of the public attend a candlelit vigil, to honour the victims of Monday evening’s terror attack, at Albert Square on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Photo: Getty Images

Members of the public gather at a candlelit vigil, to honour the victims of Monday evening’s terror attack, at Albert Square on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Photo: Getty Images

Police officers and members of the public look at some of the floral tributes following an evening vigil outside the Town Hall on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Photo: Getty Images

Members of the public attend a candlelit vigil, to honour the victims of Monday evening’s terror attack, at Albert Square on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Photo: Getty Images

Members of the public attend a candlelit vigil, to honour the victims of Monday evening’s terror attack, at Albert Square on May 23, 2017 in Manchester, England. Photo: Getty Images

TweetFacebookThe City of Manchester stands United pic.twitter南京夜网/LowMhEnZeK

— OhDearBritain (@Ohdearbritain) May 23, 2017broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.

— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) May 23, 2017

“The Australian High Commission in London is making urgent enquiries to determine whether any Australians have been affected by the incident,” it said.

All major UK political parties suspended their election campaigns for the day.

Leaders from around the world sent messages of sympathy and support.

In a statement to the Australian Parliament, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it had been a vile and “brutal attack on young people everywhere”.

Australia was acting to protect places of mass gathering, he said, and Australia stood with the UK as “steadfast allies in freedom’s cause”.

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Manchester terrorist attack halts UK election campaign

London: Savagery has brought British politics to a stop before.
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When a neo-Nazi assassinated Labour MP Jo Cox after she met constituents in Birstall, West Yorkshire last year, it was in the dying days of the bitter EU referendum campaign.

Remainers and Leavers downed megaphones, paid tribute, shed tears and vowed to be a little kinder to each other. When the campaign eventually resumed, a pall remained.

With just over two weeks to until national polling day, Prime Minister Theresa May was supposed to be spending the day in Tory heartland – in Somerset seats in idyllic south-west England. The welcome the Tory leader would have enjoyed might have been respite from her worst day on the campaign trail and potentially of her 10-month-old prime ministership.

But Tuesday would bring horror, visits to children’s hospitals and sympathetic calls from world leaders, including US President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

At 10.33pm on Monday, a suicide bomber struck the Manchester Arena, targeting young fans of popstar Ariana Grande as her Dangerous Woman concert came to a close. Saffie Roussos, just eight years old, would be named by the headmaster of her primary school as one of the 22 victims.

May immediately suspended the campaign.

The former home secretary stayed up throughout the night overseeing the response and taking updates. At 4am she spoke to her opponent Jeremy Corbyn to agree to indefinitely halt the politicking.

Just before midday, she stood outside 10 Downing Street and gave one of her trademark tough but determined, heartfelt but commanding and calm, methodical addresses.

This was vintage May – the resolute stateswoman.

Just 12 hours earlier the political landscape she faced could not have been more different and – for a leader who has soared sky-high in the polls – discomfitting.

On Monday May was being derided as “weak and wobbly” a counter to her claim, repeated ad nauseam, of being “strong and stable.” It followed another disastrous policy proposal, Tory backlash and subsequent backdown.

This time it was over what the British press dubbed the ‘Dementia Tax’ – a scheme unveiled in last Thursday’s conservative manifesto that would allow the government to claim against the deceased estates of the elderly for the care they’d received in their homes.

The Tories’ 20-point lead in some polls halved. Four days later May, was promising there would be a cap on the absolute limit that would have to be paid.

The Tory backlash and U-turn mirrored a similar episode in March over a budget proposal to raise national insurance costs for the self-employed – a proposal that contradicted the last Conservative manifesto.

May was hammered on both in her prime-time interview on the BBC with the veteran political commentator Andrew Neil – widely reported to be one of her worst performances. Her voice wavered and she was noticeably higher in pitch as Neil challenged her over her broken promises and issues of trust.

This was May under pressure.

But all of this will be swept aside and very likely forgotten as a result of the Manchester atrocity.

The campaign, with 16 days to go, is on hold “until further notice,” Downing Street said. But even when it resumes, the tone will be different.

Domestic social care policies will go backstage, with the spotlight on national security, issues of cultural and national identity – which will play to Tory and Theresa May strengths.

Overwhelmingly, national unity will be paramount and there will be little complaint.

“Powerful statement from Theresa May, thank you.#WeWillNeverBeBroken,” Jo Cox’s husband, Brendan, tweeted as the prime minister wound up her 14-minute statement.

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Poor children face higher risk of early puberty

Boys who grow up in hardship are more than four times as at risk of starting puberty aged 10 than those who grow up in safer, wealthier households.
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And girls who grow up disadvantaged are twice as likely to start puberty early than others.

The startling findings, which may help explain why disadvantaged children are more likely to have health problems later in life, come from a new study by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, which surveyed 3700 Australian children.

Parents were asked to report on signs their children were going through puberty, which included growth spurts, pubic hair and skin changes. About 19 per cent of all boys and 21 per cent of all girls were classified as having reached early puberty.

But looking only at the children from severely disadvantaged homes, 36 per cent of boys and 33 per cent of girls were found to have reached early puberty.

That is compared with “average families”, where 20 per cent of boys and 21 per cent of girls went onto early puberty.

Lead researcher Ying Sun, a visiting adolescent health academic from China, said the findings could help explain the link between early disadvantage and health problems later in life.

“Multiple evidence shows early maturation links with emotional, behavioural and social problems during adolescence,” she said. “Also, it carries risk for reproductive tract cancers and cardiovascular diseases.”

The findings suggest that early-onset puberty may be an evolutionary response to trauma and struggle.

“When we are raised in sub-optimal living conditions that means we have a higher risk of premature death,” associate professor Sun said.

“That means maybe we will die before we’re successfully reproductive, so we would choose an adaptive strategy to mature earlier, to have our first baby earlier, and maybe we could have more kids to ensure our genes transfer to the next generation.”

Being born premature or being overweight may also influence when puberty starts.

Journalist Amanda Dunn has written The New Puberty, a book about children going through puberty earlier, which is due to be released in July. She says while scientists still do not know precisely what triggers puberty when it does, there is well-established evidence that early childhood stress and trauma can bring it forward.

“The hypothalamus in the brain is the trigger for puberty and it sends messages to the pituitary gland, and the pituitary gland then sends out puberty hormones that swing the testes and the ovaries into action,” she said.

“But we don’t know exactly why the hypothalamus swings into action when it does, that’s still unknown. The research shows that if a young person is under stress, under duress, they tend to mature earlier, probably simply in order to survive.”

The latest research, which surveyed children recruited at birth as part of the Growing Up in Australia study, was published today in The American Journal of Pediatrics.

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Labor pledges crackdown on dodgy company directors

NewsMember for Fraser, Andrew Leigh outside his office which is 600m outside the new Fraser border. He will now need to move to a new office inside the new Fraser electorate. 7 July 2016Photo by Rohan ThomsonThe Canberra TimesPolitical Insider: Sign up for our newsletter
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All Australian company directors would be assigned special ID numbers under a new Labor policy designed to prevent them deliberately tanking their companies to avoid paying workers, creditors and the Tax Office.

The federal opposition is also promising tougher penalties for dodgy directors and stronger protections for employee entitlements under its plan for a crackdown on what is known as “phoenix activity”.

???The scourge of corporate Australia, phoenix activity costs the economy billions of dollars a year, but little has been done to stamp it out. It occurs when a company collapses with a mountain of debts and then rises from the ashes – like the mythical bird – with the same assets and customers to avoid paying bills.

Under Labor’s new policy – to be announced by frontbenchers Brendan O’Connor, Andrew Leigh and Katy Gallagher on Wednesday – all company directors would be forced to undergo a 100-point identity check.

Under current rules, it is easier to become a company director than it is to open a bank account. Applicants are not required to prove their identity or provide a record of their past corporate history, allowing unscrupulous directors to register a number of companies using different versions of their name.

Under the Labor plan, existing and prospective directors – about 2.5 million of them – would be assigned a director identification number via the Australian Securities and Investment Commission for a $50 fee.

The unique ID number would allow tracking of directors that have been involved in multiple failed companies and expose fictitious directors, considered the bane of credit rating agencies and the Tax Office.

The number would enable ASIC to build a database of directors’ corporate histories, helping it identify repeat offenders and candidates for disqualification from managing corporations. ???Labor will argue the ID number initiative will not add to red tape and could help cut down on paperwork by helping to pre-populate online forms.

Phoenix activity can have devastating impacts on small businesses, particularly suppliers and subcontractors, and employees. The issue has been particularly prevalent in the building industry but occurs across the economy.

Labor believes the more entrenched the activity becomes the worse it will get and the harder it will become to clamp down on.

ASIC recently said 11,494 companies had been identified as potentially engaging in illegal phoenix activity. The Tax Office told a recent Senate inquiry that the number of “potential” businesses illegitimately building their wealth through “fraudulent phoenix behaviours” was 19,800.

It estimates it is owed about $1.8 billion in debt from these entities.

The scandal that has rocked the Australian Tax Office has also been linked to phoenix activity, with reports that one of the accused co-conspirators of the $165 million fraud previously engaged in the activity.

The opposition says the current penalty regime is insufficient. It is proposing stiffer punishments for breaches of directors’ duties, managing companies while disqualified and refusing to open books to administrators.

The Productivity Commission has estimated phoenix activity costs the economy up to $3.2 billion a year, and has backed the idea of a unique ID number for directors. Experts and regulators have also called for more stringent ID standards.

Dr Leigh has described phoenix activity as “un-Australian”.

“The spread of phoenix activity throughout Australia hurts decent small businesses,” he said in February. “It hurts the people who worked for the failed company and the suppliers and subcontractors who worked with them. It also hurts honest taxpayers, who have to shell out more when some people don’t pay their fair share.”

In the last financial year, the Tax Office conducted almost 1000 audits into phoenix schemes and raided several offices.

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Coptic Church buys Woodend retreat for monastery

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The Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Melbourne has snapped up the historic Campaspe House at 29 Goldies Lane to turn it into the Archangel Michael Monastery for Nuns, as well as a retreat for women. The 7.28-hectare site formerly offered boutique accommodation. Market sources suggest the vendors wanted about $3.5 million. CBRE’s Scott Callow would not confirm sale details.


Another strata office has been sold off the plan in the new Aurora Melbourne Central development on La Trobe Street, at $10,350 per sq m. Colliers International’s Chris Ling, Anthony Kirwan and Oliver Hay sold the 189 sq m workspace to Asia Pacific Education Consultants (APEC) for $1,956,150.


Fitzroys’ Mark Talbot and James Lockwood sold 167 Martin Street for $1.55 million under the hammer on an exceptionally tight 2.2 per cent yield. The shop, on a popular strip between Nepean Highway and Gardenvale train station, is leased to Gatto Rosso Trattoria and Pizza.

Port Melbourne

Rigging, flying effects, staging, corporate event and theatre services business Show Tech has bought a multi-level office and warehouse at 210-212 Lorimer Street in an off-market deal for $3.6 million. Nicholas Ott of Ott Properties represented the vendor and CBRE’s Guy Naselli and Jake George negotiated the deal.


A fully leased 13-year-old medical centre with eight consulting rooms, two treatment rooms and a separate pathology area at 93-95 Tanti Avenue sold for $3,701,000 CBRE’s Josh Twelftree, Sandro Peluso and Rorey James said. The property sold 33 per cent above reserve to a general practitioner. Meanwhile, Mr Twelftree, Mr Peluso, Lewis Tong and Chao Zhang sold the 3765 sq m Canterbury site of a former aged care facility at 14 Balwyn Road for $6,888,000.


Two adjoining double-storey Victorian-era shops at 766 and 768 Camberwell Road have sold. Both were owned by same family since they were built in the 1930s, Prowse Burns Commercial’s Philip Prowse and Fred Bartlett said. The corner shop at 768 Burke went for $1.75 million on a 2.9 per cent net yield and No. 766 sold for $1.6 million on a 3.7 per cent net yield.

Malvern East

Land rates in Melbourne’s east are rising. Gross Waddell’s Andrew Thorburn and Alex Ham sold a single-level showroom at 608-610 Warrigal Road for $1.6 million, a land rate of $3912 per sq m. The property sold with a permit for an 11-unit development over 5 levels.

Dandenong South

Cameron’s Al Armstrong and Angus Clark have successfully sold a office-warehouse off the plan in the Logis Eco Industrial estate. The 1367 sq m structure at 41 Babbage Drive sold for $2.05 million to a passive investor.

Clifton Hill

Another former East West Link property sold to an owner-occupier, the fourth such sale, all to owner-occupiers, in the past three months, Savills Australia’s Mark Stafford, Julian Heatherich and Nick Peden said. The 50-52 Alexandra Parade property sold privately for $860,000.


An older-style warehouse with updated office and kitchen facilities at 40-42 Isabella Street sold at auction in front of 35 people for more than $1.32 million. A combined 40 bids from three potential owner-occupiers pushed the price to around $2220 per sq m for the 595 sq m building, Nixon Industrial’s Nikola Drendel said. “We are seeing a lot of interest at the moment from owner-occupiers for quality warehouses.”


A site at 1370-1372 North Road sold under the hammer for $1,965,000. Rodney King and Chris McKenzie of Crabtrees Real Estate said the former petrol station in an industrial zone had a month-to-month tenancy in place and sold to a local business that intends to build a showroom.


Hairdressing salon Ninety Six Degrees in The Shade has sold its premises at 40 Pin Oak Crescent to Metro Chinese Medicine Clinic. The 71 sq m building sold for $834,000, ICR Property Group’s Raff De Luise and Julian Materia said.


A double-storey building with yoga/pilates downstairs and a two-bedroom dwelling upstairs at 82 Glen Eira Road sold for $1.77 million, Kenny Oliver of Hocking Stuart Commercial said. The net yield of 3 per cent was one of the lowest achieved in the Ripponlea Shopping Village, he said.

South Melbourne

Three bidders vied for a 326 sq m warehouse at 60-66 Gladstone Street, submitting more than 200 bids. The winner paid $2,115,000 or $6487 per sq m on a strong 2.37 per cent yield. The property was leased for a five-year term returning $50,198 a year net, said Mark Smedley and John Pratt of Dixon Kestles & Co.


An old two-storey shop and residence on the corner of 9 Chapel Street and Dandenong Road sold via an executor’s auction for $1.1 million. The 130 sq m building generates income from the shop, dwelling and prominent signboard, James Glen from Nichols Crowder said.


Queensland-based Hello Harry Burgers will open in Shop 1 at 672 Glenferrie Road after leasing 160 sq m for $145,000 per annum. Morley Commercial’s Jonathan Lu said competition for the site was fierce, with a number of national tenants expressing interest.



Homemaker brand Sheridan is bedding down at 781-783 Burke Road after signing a long lease at $200,000 per annum. Fitzroys’ Chris James negotiated the 5x5x5-year deal for the 182 sq m ground floor plus first-floor mezzanine. It will house Sheridan’s new Studio format, typically larger than its traditional shops and stock Australian-made furniture and items including sofas, beds, bedding, towels and linen items, side tables, and other homewares.


An acupuncture and myotherapy clinic has taken a lease at the Northcote Plaza in a deal brokered by Teska Carson’s Luke Bisset and Fergus Evans. The 56 sq m shop 12, a former Maxibags store, was leased on four-year term with a four-year option for $30,000 per annum net.

Dandenong South

A 2560 sq m building at 88-92 Micro Circuit has been leased for $192,000 on a three-year term to a new tenant Aqua Rush by Cameron’s Al Armstrong and Angus Clark.


Armstrong’s Foodservice will move to a larger facility, subleasing its 6 Trent Street property (584 sq m) to storage company Brosline. Colliers International’s Richard Wilkinson and James Stott negotiated the three-year lease term between the two suppliers at $82 per sq m. Meanwhile, Winemaking supply store Grapeworks has moved to a new 2342 sq m warehouse at Dingley Village. Mr Stott negotiated the rental at $87 per sq m for four years. Trident Financial Group has moved to 21 Shierlaw Avenue in Canterbury, Colliers International’s Damien Adkins said. He negotiated a five-year lease at $260-$290 per sq m, with options to renew.

Moonee Ponds

A hair salon will move into 127 Puckle Street in a deal brokered by Fitzroys’ Terence Yeh. The 150 sq m space was leased on a seven-year term at $65,000 per annum plus outgoings and GST.


After only one year, Colliers International’s new Lifestyle Estates brand is expanding with the appointment of a manager, Lisa Fraser-Smith, previously from RT Edgar Mornington Peninsula. The Lifestyle brand is a division of Rural & Agribusiness.

Allard Shelton has appointed Jessica Fulton as a sales and leasing executive. Ms Fulton spent time with Asia Pacific Group, Savills and Fletchers Real Estate projects division.

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Mathieson sells $23m industrial site leased to CSR

A large industrial warehouse leased to a subsidiary of building products giant CSR in Melbourne’s south-eastern industrial heartland is setting fresh benchmarks for industrial yields, selling for $23 million.
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The property across two titles at 13-27 and 29-43 Whiteside Road in Clayton South covers a 39,720 sq m site with a warehouse and office space leased to Viridian, one of Australia’s largest manufacturers of glass.

Cushman & Wakefield’s head of industrial Andrew O’Connell, who managed the sale with colleague Robert Colaneri, said the property sold on a yield of 6.56 per cent, at the lower end of the range for industrial assets in a market where increased competition is driving strong sales.

But tightening yields across the industrial sector were worrying sign that some investors were “buying and paying a premium for cashflow” which could disappear when a lease expired, Quintissential fund manager Shane Quinn said.

“We’ve got big concerns people are paying a premium over their asset’s replacement value around the country,” Mr Quinn said.

Mr Quinn said in the current market it was “hard” to stick to fundamentals, but the banks’ recent tightening of lending standards for investment-grade stock would result in “good buying over next six to 12 months at sensible metrics”.

Investment in Melbourne’s industrial sector totalled $200 million in the first quarter of this year, with the second quarter on track to match the volumes seen in the same period last year when $309 million in assets sold.

The property, bought by a private Chinese Australian investor, had a WALE of 7.75 years and returned net annual income of $1,574,157.

The same investor snapped up a double-story brick warehouse at 575 Burwood Highway in Knoxfield late last year and owns a shopping centre in Hawthorn.

The property was sold by DMS Glass Properties, a company owned by Don Mathieson, the brother of wealthy hotelier Bruce Mathieson.

“There is lack of quality industrial investments with strong lease covenants in Melbourne’s south-east, and there is an investment appetite for industrial sites up to $50 million,” Mr Colaneri said.

Results this quarter include 40 Howley’s Road in Notting Hill which sold for $10.55 million, an asset in the Altona Logistics Park on Toll Drive which went for $7 million, and 68 Kirkham Road in Keysborough which fetched $15 million, he said.

Two large investment portfolio deals had also boosted sales over the quarter.

“We expect to see the fundamentals of the industrial market and constrained stock levels underpin increased competition for assets for the remainder of this year,” Mr O’Connell said.

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Will the government line up for another bank tax?

Treasurer Scott Morrison delivers his post-Budget address in the Great Hall at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday 10 May 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen If the Turnbull government’s primary aim in slugging the banks with a levy is to raise $6.2 billion over four years, then it may have miscalculated.
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The new tax could fall well short of this amount, according to experts who have now digested Monday’s statements by the big banks on the impact to their profits.

This raises the spectre that the government could move to increase the tax down the track.

“The banks’ disclosures seem to confirm our view that a levy of 6 basis points would not raise enough to meet the government revenue-raising objective of at least $1.5 billion per annum. In fact, we believe the levy may only raise about $1 billion in its first full year. We therefore think the rate could be adjusted accordingly,” according to Morgan Stanley.

It is a view echoed by Deutsche Bank, which sent a note to clients on Tuesday saying the banks’ statements about the effect the tax would have on their profits “suggest that the aggregate amount to be collected by the government is likely to fall short of the $6.2 billion targeted in the budget over the four-year period, hence we see a risk that the 6 basis point levy could be lifted.”

The prospect that the government could lift the tax is what bank insiders are really sweating about and it creates a serious dilemma for the banks grappling with how to fight back against the new tax.

If the banks engage in all-out warfare against the government now, they risk an even bigger punitive response later.

For its part, the government has found comfort and support in the fact that the community is solidly supportive of hitting the banks up for part of the bill for budget repair.

The banks have little ammunition other than to warn Australians that, in the end, they will be slugged with the bill, primarily through increased interest rates, lower interest rates on deposits, or lower dividends – and lower dividends result in lower bank share prices.

The community is less moved by bank arguments that the government’s decision undermines the strength of the financial sector and therefore the nation.

Morgan Stanley reckons interest rates will go up by between 5 basis points for owner-occupier borrowers paying interest and principal, and 25 basis points for investors with interest-only loans.

Thus those borrowing to fund investment properties will receive a disproportionate slug to their financing costs, having already been hit with bigger borrowing rates over the past year.

Deutsche Bank agrees the repricing of various portfolios, on loans and/or deposits, may provide some offset, but notes that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s monitoring will make this a little more difficult.

The government continues to warn it will look very unfavourably on banks that respond by passing the cost on to customers and seems less concerned about shrinking dividends.

(Westpac took the step of quantifying the impact to dividends, saying the tax would shrink dividends by 4.3 per cent).

The notion that banks will reduce costs is less likely because they have been taking costs out for years and there are probably limitations to how much further they can go.

Additionally, raising interest rates could perversely lead to additional risks if it reduces demand for new loans or, just as importantly, pushes some existing borrowers into financial stress and increases default rates on loan portfolios.

Even before factoring in the levy, bank profit growth is under pressure as the housing market is increasingly viewed as having peaked.

So who among the banks gets hit the hardest?

According to Morgan Stanley: “All else [being] equal, the levy equates to between ~2 per cent and ~3.5 per cent of our FY18E group profit forecasts, and we continue to believe that it will have the most earnings impact at ANZ and National Australia Bank,and the least impact at the Commonwealth Bank.”

Deutsche agrees that based on a percentage hit to profits, CBA will be the least affected, followed by Westpac, while NAB and ANZ will be hit hardest.

Bank shares continued to fall in Tuesday morning trading.

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Gas price forces Woodside to pursue low-cost expansion options

Faced with declining oil and gas prices – and forecasts they could remain low for some time – Woodside Petroleum is seeking to maximise cash from existing operations as it pursues a range of potential low-cost expansion options.
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“In the near term, we expect to generate increasing cash flow and returns from our existing business and committed projects, and we see further upside potential from lower capital intensity and quicker to market opportunities,” chief executive Peter Coleman told analysts Tuesday.

Any expansion of capacity will hinge on rising demand globally for gas and an anticipated supply shortfall. The company is looking to new sources of demand, such as Pakistan, which it believes could emerge as a top-five buyer of liquefied natural gas globally within the next five years or so.

“Woodside is well positioned to capitalise on an expected increase in demand from emerging Asian markets,” Mr Coleman said.

Between 2017 and 2020, gas output will rise around 15 per cent, he said, with the start up of the large Wheatstone project and the Greater Enfield project. Beyond 2020 expansion of its Pluto project and possible output from an oil project off Senegal, are likely, he said.

Woodside has admitted that seeking to launch large new projects in the present market was “challenging”, which was why it is focused on capturing “new value from low-cost extensions or expansions to existing projects developments”, he said.

“Recent contracts have been signed at lower prices than previously, in line with market conditions,” he said.

A number of buyers globally, most notably Japan, have baulked at continuing to pay a premium price for gas imports, as other buyers have turned from long-term contracts to buying for shorter periods as the spot market for gas has emerged.

Additionally, in recent months, a “buyers club” the largest liquefied natural gas importers – all Asian – have teamed up to secure more flexible supply contracts. Korea Gas Corp (KOGAS), Japan’s JERA and China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) have all agreed to exchange information and cooperate in joint gas purchases. JERA is half owned by Tokyo Electric and Chubu Electric, two large Japanese energy utilities. Between them, this group absorbs a third of global LNG production.

Mr Coleman conceded that the growing impact of trading in the spot market had forced producers to accept lower prices for some shipments, although the trader took the credit risk for the transaction, while at the same time opening up new markets, such as Egypt.

“We’re not concerned about it, but we’re watching,” he said. “It also means prices will remain low [on those sales] but it will develop new markets.”

The West Australian gas producer is also hoping to develop a range of smaller domestic markets as mine and truck operators in the country’s north west switch to using gas from diesel, along with converting its own shipping fleet, which will help extend the use of gas into new markets.

When discussing gas field developments Woodside has on its horizon, there was little mention of the giant Sunrise field, straddling the Australia and East Timor borders, which has been delayed pending resolution of a lengthy boundary dispute between the two countries.

“It will happen one day,” Mr Coleman said of the potential development of this resource. “There is a lot of work going on in the background … particularly around border negotiations.”

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

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Investors and analysts turn bearish on banks

Australia’s banks have been on a tear in recent months, catching a tailwind from the so-called “Trump” trade that enabled one major Australian lender to outperform the soaring US banks which have helped drive indices like the Dow and S&P500 to record highs.
Nanjing Night Net

But this month, a period of extraordinary investor returns appears to have dramatically come to an end as the entire Australian banking sector was heavily sold down – and analysts and fund managers are less than hopeful a recovery is in sight.

Between November 8, the day of the US election, and May 1, NAB soared 29.8 per cent. CBA rose 21.4 per cent, ANZ added 21.9 per cent, while Westpac rose a more modest 16.7 per cent.

None of the banks most directly affected by the US administration matched NAB’s spectacular performance up to the start of May.

JPMorgan gained 24.3 per cent over the period, Goldman Sachs rose 23.6 per cent, while Morgan Stanley added 28.3 per cent. Another similar bank, Wells Fargo, was hit with a lending scandal and so rose only 19.6 per cent over the period.

This is despite the US banks being far more exposed to the reflation trade, as well as US President Donald Trump’s unwinding of the Dodd-Frank regulations in February. The partial repeal pushed Goldman Sachs to a record high, but it has declined since. Local investors didn’t expect the changes to significantly feed through to Australian banks.

Since the start of May, Australia’s big four banks have lost ground, shedding a combined $50 billion in market capitalisation and between 7.2 per cent and 13.7 per cent off their share prices as they went ex-dividend, were hit by a banking levy in the budget, new macroprudential regulations and as ANZ’s earnings disappointed.

The rapid pace of the decline, JPMorgan’s equities team wrote, is surprising, but even after it the banks are not necessarily at fair value.

The big four don’t tend to do well in May, losing on average since 2000 1.6 per cent over the month. But that hasn’t stopped them surging the rest of the year before.

Two and a half decades without a recession and a decline in local interest rates “created a fertile backdrop for Australian banks to outperform both global banks and the broader Australian market”, wrote UBS equity strategist David Cassidy this month.

Since 1997, the MSCI World Bank Index, from a base of 100, hovers just above 200 index points. Australia’s banks are almost touching 1400 index points.

Peak performance in the Australian banks, Mr Cassidy wrote, was actually around the April bank reporting season in 2015. But since then, the bank bull market has proved “surprisingly stubborn”.

“Australian banks seem to have hitched a ride on the global banking rally which began in mid-2016 as bond yields started to inflect upwards. This is despite no direct benefit on Australian banks from a steeping yield curve.”

But looking ahead, Mr Cassidy is one of many analysts who now expect bank performance to decline. “Banks appear a ‘market performer’ at best from here … Headwinds and clouds seem to be accumulating”.

JP Morgan’s equity sales team wrote that “caution around house prices and impending APRA capital requirement announcements could see the sector needing to look optically cheap to increase interest on the long side”.

Many fund managers are also cautious on the sector.

The big four banks, which together comprise over a quarter of market capitalisation of the S&P/ASX200 index, are favourites with income-investors by virtue of their high dividends. But the bank levy, two of the banks said on Monday, would hit dividends – a view also expressed by many fund managers.

In his monthly note, Contango Asset Management chief investment officer George Boubouras said investors could still rely on high payouts from the banks, which in absolute terms would continue to be attractive. But “investors should simply expect that initially the growth of dividends will slow at first before we eventually see a dividend cut in the years ahead”, he wrote.

The big four have recovered somewhat in recent days, but Katana Asset Management portfolio manager Romano Sala Tenna said the “opportunistic buying” was unlikely to signal a recovery. “I’d suggest the balance of probabilities is still weighted to the downside,” he said.

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