Friday, January 31, 2014

Wazza Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

News this week has mostly revolved around cyclone fever, a patriotic war against the ABC, and food processing. The most substantial of these was most likely food processing with a Federal Government decision not to support a subsidy proposal for investment and restructure at the SPC Ardmona plant in Shepparton. SPC is a subsidiary of Coca-Cola Amatil.

It really should be difficult to criticise this decision. However, there are suggestions of a hypocritical contradiction with the recent decision to provide support to the Cadbury chocolate factory in Tasmania. An opinion posted the The Drum provides as good discussion of the issues (warning: ABC) More than one message in SPC decision
However, the big dose of tough love for the ever-demanding Australian business community will likely give little comfort to the recipients of the second message. Taken together, the Cadbury and SPC Ardmona decisions starkly tell voters one thing: some jobs are more equal than others.
Yesterday the Prime Minister rationalised the Coalition's 2013 election campaign decision to support Cadbury with $16 million in assistance as development of "regional tourism infrastructure" and not simply propping up another struggling business. But at the time he seemed particularly focused on the continuing viability of Cadbury in Tasmania and the 200 jobs that the factory upgrade would add to state's depressed economy.
Now a preference to support regional tourism infrastructure doesn't sound like a bad thing for Cairns and FNQ? Indeed it brings to mind previous subsidy support of $495,000 for development of Gallo Dairyland near Malanda, which also included a chocolate content.

This was a not unsubstantial amount and the crowning achievement of Warren Entsch in his previous incarnation as Member for Leichhardt. Gallo has been up for sale and the most recent report doesn't seem to indicate great enthusiasm: Snap up a commercial property gem
Another unique property for sale is a Malanda cheese and chocolate factory attached to Gallo Dairy.
The farm was for sale after being in the Gallo family for three generations, Atherton agent Kevin Ramke said.
"We have it on an internet site in China, but we haven't had any luck," he said.
A quick search hasn't thrown up much remaining information and background on the cheese and chocolate factory but I have never been convinced the subsidy would stack up on an appropriate public interest analysis.

It does seem though that if you are seeking a subsidy then chocolate tourism is a thing!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Straya Day: old man yells at cloud


This week there was an Australia Day speech by the former Member for Cairns, Queensland Treasurer, and now corporate director Keith DeLacy. This speech was described by a particular community leader as "brilliant". All I saw was a collection of the kind of clich├ęs and platitudes which should probably be expected, but then devolved into an old man yelling at clouds.



Yes, we all do actually already know how fortunate we are Keith, but thanks for the reminder. Not enough for Keith though, who managed to imitate Monty Python in his own biographical anecdote and also dredge up some misguided comment three years ago from some inner city progressive media columnist as evidence of some imagined culture which has emerged to overwhelm our great society.

Now entitlements is something Keith should know about given his corporate directorships have most prominently related to water and mineral rights. But no, he was really using this opportunity as a faucet to tap his inner Gina! It was the cloud of other peoples entitlements, albeit unspecified. Although I don't think there was much doubt who these entitlement bludgers were that he was talking about? Blessed though are the rent-seekers or something?

Anyway, as Keith tells it some have sought to take this country down a seditious sewer ever since Donald Horne wrote The Lucky Country in 1964. Inner city progressives, intelligentsia and academics are mostly to blame.

However a particular comment by DeLacy noted among our great achievements:
"Australia, with less than one third of one percent of the world population, has produced 13 Nobel prize winners."
I'm not sure what the point is of comparing Australian performance on Nobel Prizes with subsistence villagers in Sub-Saharan Africa? So lets look at where Australia stands in terms of Nobel laureates per 10 million of population.

 
 
Oh the embarrassment of being beaten by New Zealand. Note that at the bottom of the scale are the most populous nations of India and China where an overwhelming majority have lived in uneducated poverty for much of the period of Nobel history.
 
These numbers are actually science Nobels listed at Wikipedia and sourced from the BBC so it doesn't include such as peace prizes. It also excludes Patrick White in literature but he was one of those seditious inner city progressive types anyway. Australia is listed at number 21 in science Nobels on this scale relative to population and falls to 26 if all are included. 
 
So who should we really compare ourselves with? Lets take just those advanced countries which have scored a total more than 10 science related Nobels. This excludes New Zealand. As always the best way to solve a Kiwi issue is to just leave it off the map. Lets then compare this exclusive group with GDP per capita (2012 at PPP):
 
 
Straya is the green and gold square. It would apparently seem to come as a surprise to some captains of industry that our national performance on this or any appropriate Nobel scale is actually comparatively poor. I wonder if Donald Horne said anything about that?
 
When it comes to this, and also the perceived entitlements cloud, an opinion comment at Business Spectator this week I thought was apt:

"Raw numbers are always found at the heart of propaganda."
 
 
Note: The claim that Australia is less that one third of one percent of global population is actually wrong anyway. It is about that number but greater. Why quibble with rhetorical misrepresentation?

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Man from the British Virgin Islands

There was some confusion and concern in the Loose Change office yesterday when the previous links in FungWatch: offshore tax havens were revisited. The name Fung Wing Cheung, Tony didn't seem to appear any longer in a database search with "details withheld" displayed instead on the graphics screen.

ICIJ have now updated their leaks database including the release of further details. A Loose Change scoop can now reveal that there is enough information to suggest the person identified would indeed appear to be our Aquis developer Hong Kong Tony. Although perhaps the man from the British Virgin Islands (BVI) would be more appropriate?

A direct link to the offshore leaks database should reveal this screen:

 

The green nodes are the related entities. These are also listed as:
 
 
Click on the green nodes to expand the links and the screen links keep expanding out into a spaghetti network to become something like this:
 
 
 
I haven't scrutinised all the information in detail but there is enough to confirm the identity as being Tony Fung. These include links to corporations which have previously emerged on related searches and persons associated with those which also include references to the Yu Ming companies known to have been associated with Tony Fung.
 
The screenshot also shows a link from Well Harvest Properties Limited to an address: Unit 1001. 10'F.. Aon China Building. 29 Queens Road Central Hong Kong. This is the address of Wing Cheung Tony Fung which appears on ASIC registration documents as the owner of the single $1 share in Aquis Resort at The Great Barrier Reef  Pty Ltd.
 
Well Harvest is the shareholder of both Domus Mercury and Giant Smart where Fung is also listed above as a director. Tony Fung holds 60% of Well Harvest with the other 40% held by Axenia Holdings. Axenia is also listed in the offshore leaks database with an extensive network of corporate links via the British Virgin Islands.
 
The leaked database information relates to the period up until 2010. Again the warning posted at ICIJ should be noted and there is nothing here to imply anything inappropriate:

There are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts. We do not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly. If you find an error in the database please get in touch with us.

Just to demonstrate how corporate links to offshore tax havens such as the British Virgin Islands do not indicate anything inappropriate there are also some fine Australian citizens whose names appear in the database. These include a Barry O'Sullivan from Toowoomba and his Asia Pacific Claims Management Corporation.

Barry is the man well known for his infamous bullying abuse of businessman, ex-councillor, and then LNP candidate for Cairns, Paul Freebody. Barry is a lovely chap and has now been cleared of an allegation by the CMC and is all set to replace Barnaby Joyce as Senator for Queensland. While the details of leaked records related to Greater China were withheld until this week other details including Australia were released last year:  Accounts queried in tax sweep

Note: There is no link here or suggestion of any between Barry and Tony Fung.

Further reports and database can be accessed via ICIJ

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Employment numbers do the Hokey Pokey

The regional labour force statistics from ABS were out today which are likely to reaffirm the perceptions of cynics in our community about these numbers. Last months anomalously low 4.6% unemployment rate did the Hokey Pokey on us and turned itself around to become 8.6% in December. We were not alone.

Last month I also made reference to an unusually low 3% rate on the Sunshine Coast. This also did the Hokey Pokey and became 6.2% again. Both were flagged last month with sample size warnings.

A quick flick through the regional numbers seems to indicate these two were the main contributors to an increase in the unemployment of 'The Bush', which returned to its more typical position with a rate higher than Brisbane. I wont repost the graph again as it doesn't show anything new apart from that.

The seasonally adjusted trend numbers from Conus are the best shot of making sense of where we are at: FNQ jobs data as volatile as ever
Our Conus Trend series shows the unemployment rate in Dec at 6.7%, which is a fall from the Nov plot of 7.0% (which was revised up from 6.5%).
If that seems confusing to you then the link to Conus provides further explanation and detailed analysis. The main concern with this months stats is that every single component was negative although that is also at least partly a reaction to the previous month.

However it would be good to see some more positive trends emerge on the participation rate and also employment which remains below the level a year ago. We are though entering the seasonally weak time traditionally for employment in FNQ.

I posted a graph early last year on the employment numbers in the December quarter v the subsequent March quarter and will do so again with a partial update. These are the raw numbers for average monthly employment for the quarter:


A further decline in reported ABS employment should probably be expected. This is why the seasonally adjusted trend is essential for any comparison.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

FungWatch: offshore tax havens?

Tweets circulating today from some good sources (not cranks) on a potentially significant story concerning leaked details of offshore tax havens used by Chinese elites at The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists where "Files shed light on nearly 22,000 tax haven clients from Hong Kong and mainland China."
 
The reports are based on leaked information of offshore tax haven details up until 2010, and apparently the political elites in the People's Republic of China are unhappy: ICIJ to reveal China's offshore secrets 
Very soon, ICIJ and our media partners around the world will expose new details of China’s hidden offshore economy. We will release our reporting on more than 20,000 offshore clients from mainland China and Hong Kong contained in our Offshore Leaks database, and relate the untold story of how offshore dealings emerged as a favored business strategy among China’s elite.
While the full details are being withheld so far in the database, a search does show a listing and several related entities, with links to the British Virgin Islands, dating from 2004 for a Fung Wing Cheung, Tony. What are the chances?

Links to and between the offshore entities can be graphically displayed:



Of course it may not be unusual for a wealthy individual to be associated with offshore tax havens.  ICIJ also advise to check any details with alternative sources. The following disclaimer is also posted:
There are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts. We do not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly. If you find an error in the database please get in touch with us.
Release of any further details is awaited?

Update: A search again today doesn't appear to any longer reveal the name Fung Wing Cheung, Tony.  The link provided under the name above still displays the entity names however now displays "details temporarily withheld" where the name previously appeared. The image posted here is from a screenshot following a search and link on that name on 22/01/2014.

Update 2: The man from the British Virgin Islands



ICIJ reports: The People's Republic of Offshore; Inside the global offshore money maze

Global Mail: China's elites master the secret offshore cash stash

The Guardian: China's princelings storing riches in Caribbean offshore haven

Will the return of China flights be more than just seasonal?

Queensland Economy Watch has questioned a recent report in the Post that Cairns is on the cusp of a Chinese tourism boom: Chinese tourism boom for Cairns?

I posted some comments there related to Cairns Airport numbers and have since revisited the data. The currently posted historical data by the airport is presented differently from what I downloaded last July with a clear differentiation between domestic and international passengers.

This is a graph of international passenger traffic since 2003 which also correlates with CairnsWatch:


A simple trendline (blue) would appear almost terminal (sic). The 12 month rolling average less so although not showing any signs of a positive trend either. Apart from seasonal factors there have also been a series of 'one-off' (?) events which contribute to the inconsistency and make any trend analysis difficult. This is monthly "growth" compared to the previous year:


This is massively more volatile than the similar domestic graph previously posted. This makes it difficult to ascertain the impact of the direct flights by China Eastern. These commenced at the end of October 2012 (just as the eclipse was due) and subsequently suspended in August 2013.

There were to recommence in November in line with seasonal Chinese tourism but this was subsequently delayed and they have only recently recommenced on January 7th in time for new year. It can probably be presumed this delay may have been related to the recent tourism changes in China and downturn in Chinese arrivals: Chinese tourism turbulence

The introduction of the flights certainly correlated with a boost in the international passenger numbers around the eclipse and 2013 Chinese new year although didn't seem to do much to sustain total passenger numbers in subsequent months. Three direct flights a week is nowhere near what once came from Japan. Something to watch as the year progresses and also what impact the regulation of Chinese package tours may have.

Brisbane Airport updated numbers yesterday with some interesting comments: Mining slowdown leaves Brisbane Airport domestic traffic flat
Brisbane Airport reported 1.4 per cent passenger growth in 2013, led by a 4.8 per cent rise in international traffic but only a 0.6 per cent rise in domestic traffic.
Chinese passenger growth at the airport fell 1.6 per cent in November - the first fall since January 2013 - due to changes in laws regulating cheap group holidays. But Mr Newbold said a rebound to 8 per cent growth in Chinese passengers in December was an encouraging sign.
Note: The January 2013 decline reported here may have been related to the lunar new year falling in different months in consecutive years.
 
Meanwhile some brave souls have speculated that a dairy-driven economy could froth a strengthening $Kiwi exchange rate all the way to parity with the $AUD. Traffic across the Tasman could also be something to keep an eye on?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Aquis twists & turns

So we now potentially have a plethora of applicants seeking a licence for an 'integrated resort' casino with reports of up the eight registrations of interest. Thankfully the ridiculous Kirra Beach proposal on the Gold Coast has already been wiped out but a more interesting proposal from our tropical perspective is an entry from the Whitsundays: Investors gamble on Whitsunday's China town
The Whitsundays could soon be the hub of Chinese investment in Australia with proposals for a casino, entertainment precinct and a temple in the works.
The China Australia Entrepreneurs Association and the Zelong Group from Macau met with the Whitsunday Regional Council in Proserpine on Friday to sign an agreement to work together to secure a regional casino licence.
The investors estimate the total financial package to be worth $10 billion to the region.
$10 bloody billion I tell you! A quick look doesn't seem to throw up much more transparency on Zelong Group than we have on Fung?  It may however throw some illumination on the recent noise and bluster over delays to the timing of Aquis.

There was speculation on intentions when the bid was made for Reef Casino about whether or not the licence could be moved or otherwise cover Aquis. During the Premier's visit to Cairns to quell the 'Aquis uprising' (with demands to fast-track the process and even some suggestions it could provoke a separate state) he was quite clear about this in his comments on radio:
"But the other thing is that people may or may not be aware that the Fung Family are also involved in a bid for essentially the licence at The Reef Hotel Casino.  Now I have no problem whatsoever as long as they pass the normal probity requirements, if they end up successfully acquiring that – and this is all speculation – but if they were to acquire that and wanted to move that to up to Yorkeys Knob, well that’s a way of fast-tracking that part of the process."
Aquis haven't indicated that they will pursue this but rather will participate in the process for three new 'integrated resort' casinos in Queensland despite any "red tape" delay. An obvious reason why they would pursue this route is that the Premier's helpful suggestion could imply additional competition with four rather than three new casino resorts?

Moving the Reef licence would still mean a total of seven in Queensland. However that would potentially make room for three new licences besides Aquis rather than two. There would still be seven total but four new 'resorts' rather than three. The assumption until now was for the two regional licences to be split between Cairns and the Gold Coast with the third designated for Brisbane.

If I were Fung I wouldn't want any additional competition especially as close potentially as the Whitsundays. Would it be too cynical to contemplate this as motivation behind the recent bluster?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Cairns rentals moving on up

The RTA have updated their rental data for the December 2013 quarter. These are median rents based on rental bonds lodged for each class of property such as 2br units, 4br houses, etc. There is excellent data here back to 2009 however in a rather frustrating series of excel files which require some manipulation for further analysis and graphs.

So I will just do a quick and nasty selected cut & paste for now. These numbers are 3br houses and look to be fairly typical of comparative trends among the sectors. Only Cairns here has shown a rental increase over two years, with a significant fall in Mackay. Cairns has now caught up with Townsville.

I have also thrown in Isaac where the numbers represent almost entirely the mining towns of Moranbah and Dysart.

Note re Aquis: Beware the unintended consequences of a construction boom. I would have thought affordable student accommodation around JCU should already have been flagged on that?

  Dec Qtr 11 Dec Qtr 12 Dec Qtr 13
  Rent ($) New Bonds Lodged Rent ($) New Bonds Lodged Rent ($) New Bonds Lodged
Cairns Region 305 445 330 407 340 452
Townsville Region 350 365 350 338 340 373
Mackay Region 450 302 470 253 395 402
Isaac Regional Council 1700 108 500 129 340 161

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The plain package postcode?

Among the items of local data to be revealed today the one which achieved the most news was this which was also picked up by the Cairns Post: Australia's sexiest postcode is Cairns with locals purchasing highest number of adult sex toys

With Cairns in first place, Queensland's Mackay postcode of 4740 shared second place with Sydney's CBD (postcode 2000), followed by Campbelltown (postcode 2560) in third place and Melbourne CBD (3000) in fourth.
Femplay spokeswoman Lea-Anne Trevillion said they were surprised that Cairns topped the list, as they expected most of their orders would come from Sydney or Melbourne.
"We knew it's hot in Cairns, but we had no idea it was so sizzling in the bedrooms," she said.
As previously and frequently pointed out here the Cairns 4870 postcode has one of the largest populations in Queensland. Guess what? Another with an anomalously large population is Mackay!

For whatever reason Cairns and Mackay ended up with fewer postcodes with much larger populations than is usual in metropolitan zones, and also compared to Townsville and Rockhampton.

Channel 7 Sunrise wanted to know "what is going on in North Queensland?" The answer may be that for sex toy statistics size does matter!

I couldn't find any further information at Femplay but did discover several other items of interest.

Previous postcode post: Cairns Post does it again

Stall recovery at Airport

Domestic traffic at Cairns Airport recovered from last months eclipse stall to grow by 9.6% compared to the previous December. This maintains the consistent trend growth in numbers:


The graph of monthly YoY growth shows more clearly the recovery from the eclipse blip:

 
The international terminal however continues to languish and numbers were down on the previous December.
 

Oh No Victoria!

Weaker ABS employment numbers out today has sent the $AUD a cent or so lower. Conus has analysis and comment on the numbers: Weak jobs data but Qld bucks the trend

However it was Victoria this month which threw up a shocker with this comment from the ABS:
The largest absolute decrease in seasonally adjusted employment was in Victoria, down 12,600 persons, driven by a statistically significant decrease in full-time employment of 26,900 persons. The largest absolute increase in seasonally adjusted employment was in Western Australia, up 3,800 persons.
Weakness in Victoria isn't a shock as it appears more vulnerable for a few reasons. The trend which remains broadly pervasive is weaker full-time employment compensated by increases in part-time.

In Queensland the decline in full-time employment over the past year has been all male, although this has been trending up in more recent months against the national trend. The decline in the participation rate over the past year is also pretty much all male.

The monthly aggregate hours worked numbers have come in for more attention in recent times and have been featured in the post this month at MacroBusiness: Australian jobs shocker in detail

ScreenHunter_874 Jan. 16 12.41

That is Y-o-Y change and clearly something of a rollercoaster in Queensland in recent years! If anything the states seem to be now showing some convergence on this measure at a rate too close to zero?

Another chart worth a look is from ACTU economist Matt Cowgill who does some good stuff to break down the extent to which the decline in the participation rate can be attributed to an ageing population. His opinion is that this was so for a period to an extent but no longer so much:



Regional data next week and will watch on 'boys v girls' employment in FNQ and 'Brisbane v Bush' in Qld. Too early in the year yet to keep an eye out for refugee Victorians arriving on our footpaths in their caravans!

Update: An interesting post from Queensland Economy Watch on this months data: Qld jobs market remains sluggish – unlikely trend unemployment rate fell last month. Also a graph laden post at Grogs Gamut.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Wing Cheung Tony Fung #2

This is the current ASIC extract for Aquis at the Great Barrier Reef Pty Ltd, which is understood to be the corporate entity making an application for a $4.2 billion integrated resort development at Yorkeys Knob which includes Australia's largest casino:

 
Yes, it is a $1 company with a single share held by Tony Fung. As previously noted it did take a few changes to get to this: Gateway to the Greta Barrier Reef
 
The bid for Reef Casino is being made by a separate company, Aquis Casino Acquisitions Pty Ltd, with 100 fully paid $1 shares held by Wing Cheung Tony Fung.
 

 
Be reassured! They have a nice office in the Cairns Square development. You just need to get out on Level 2 and follow the signs around the corner to the office of Suters PGD Architects.

 


There was an updated Hong Kong rich list released just last week by Forbes. Tony Fung continues to appear nowhere with #50 starting at US$ 1 billion. There are some Fungs listed but do not appear to be related.

The OLGR regulator has previously indicated a casino licence would typically be subject to "probity investigations which typically consider a range of matters, including financial stability, business ability, reputation and criminal history".

Monday, January 13, 2014

Chinese tourism turbulence

The news on todays data dump from ABS was mostly dominated by housing finance but it was tourism arrivals and departures which may be more relevant for FNQ. While overall arrivals were quite sound a trend decline in arrivals from China has attracted some interest.

Conus has posted a detailed analysis of this: Chinese visitor numbers fall again
"Arrivals from China were down (to 51,600), for the third consecutive month (after revisions), and stood at their lowest monthly level since May 2012........."
A search has thrown up a media release from the Tourism and Transport Forum with some explanation for this with reforms in China likely to increase the price of packaged tours:

As of October 1, 2013, a new ‘China Tourism Law’ came into effect which applies to all tourism operators in China for domestic and international travel and contains a number of provisions designed to protect consumers and address concerns around low-quality shopping tours. The reforms are intended to improve the overall experience for Chinese tour visitors, including access to a broader range of retailers, attractions and locations, as well as protecting the privacy and consumer rights of Chinese travellers
NB: This is a change to Chinese law which applies across the board – not just to Australia – and is designed to lift the quality of Chinese tour operators’ product.

Here is a link to Tourism Australia’s website, which explains Australia’s response to these changes: http://www.tourism.australia.com/campaigns/news-9940.aspx


I'm not sure that is a full explanation as some weakness was evident prior to October. This may be something to watch in coming months particularly as we are now in peak season with Chinese New Year at the end of the month. I'm also not sure what the current status is of seasonal direct flights from China to Cairns?

Elsewhere there were some strong numbers out of Malaysia and India, while the Barmy Army also made a contribution! Aviation capacity was also referenced as a key driver of growth by TTF.

Update: Also a twitter pic posted today by @David_Scutt. I haven't done any downloads  from ABS to check this but the recent China decline is apparent although there was also a spike immediately prior?

 
Update with graphs from MacroBusiness: Where'd the Chinese tourists go?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Wing Cheung Tony Fung #1

What to make of this latest twist ?  Aquis $4.2bn mega resort and casino proposal at Yorkeys Knob on hold with red tape blamed  

Mind you the facebooked response from the Member for Cairns was serious! King Parrot invoked an inspirational quote from Abraham Lincoln and then immediately surpassed that with a post on that old media tart Laura Norda, the political distraction equivalent of a tabloid page three titty-girl. 

Meanwhile, the Member for Barron River was silent. Perhaps deliriously happy at the prospect the family trust business may now be free to offer horsey rides around the arse-end of the subject property for another year?  

The news of potentially a years delay for the project attributable to the ubiquitous "red tape" appears to have been an exclusive from Aquis to our old mate Nick Dalton. Poor Nick! Even I feel sorry for him now that he has had to endure a lecture from Gavin King who insightfully warns:
"If more than a decade in newspapers taught me anything, it's that you shouldn't believe everything you read in newspapers."
Indeed. If it took him a decade to learn (and implement) that as a paperboy then one can only wonder what trust can be placed in his preaching as a politician? This is now looking a bit messy and Aquis is emerging with the potential to even surpass Tom Hedley for corporate entertainment! 

So, what has actually transpired to incur another episode of irrational community angst? This passage in Nick's exclusive, apparently directly quoting Justin Fung, really is all we need :

"However, the Queensland Government's Integrated Resort Development (including casino licence) application process announced just prior to Christmas means the project may take longer than we had hoped or anticipated and there is a high level of uncertainty about the outcome.
"As a result of these delays it is proper to put the project's Environmental Impact Statement on hold pending the outcome of the casino application process. This could result in a delay of up to 12 months from our originally anticipated start date of July 2014."
Now lets take the last paragraph first. There wasn't a sensible person within cooee of Cairns who wasn't surprised at the speed with which Aquis presented their EIS after the terms of reference were finalised. Rumours persist that the concerns of rival consultants have been muted by fear of commercial consequences.

The timeframe initially proposed was that the EIS would be released for a public consultation period before Christmas. This was then pushed back into the new year. It now seems that the EIS didn't pass muster with the Co-ordinator-General even to be released for public consultation so was sent back for "fine tuning".

So now the EIS wont be released until the casino licence process, announced in November, is completed. I'm not sure what was ever expected here? The gaming authority in NSW is currently investigating the Packer Crown casino proposal at
Barangaroo for approval. This is expected to take a few months but only because there has been a recent investigation lasting more than a year when Packer moved to increase his stake in Echo (Sydney Star & Jupiters) beyond 10%. That is despite Crown being a comparatively transparent ASX listed entity.


The yarn doesn't seem to have been reported anywhere outside Cairns? Should one suspect that Aquis spinner PR Crook has bowled up a flipper? Crook also delivers the spin for Professor Clive Palmer and his 'Team Titanic'.

Which brings us back to Wing Cheung Tony Fung. Despite a very publically known family background not the most transparent individual. Perhaps he has been overlooked somehow but the billionaire databases at Forbes and Bloomberg don't seem to embrace his oft claimed billionaireness?

The Fung family background is not questioned and older brother Thomas, based in Canada, is quite well known. Information at Thomas' Fairchild website includes an article which describes young Tony as "the bad boy of stock markets". Never mind there is a glowing citation from the Chinese University of Hong Kong where his father Fung King Hey had been a major benefactor and even had a building named after him.

When it comes to the suitability of Tony Fung for a casino licence there is a legal blot which reflects rather poorly and rightly needs to be considered, although this was now some time ago. The report in the South China Morning Post is a good account and particularly damning: Words don't come cheap for SHKS

So lets next look at the Australian corporate entities of Wing Cheung Tony Fung and some implications .........

Friday, January 10, 2014

Unemployment vulnerability mostly misses Cairns

A post at The Conversation on employment vulnerability throws up some perhaps surprising findings: Unemployment ... coming to a suburb near you.

This identifies suburbs of existing disadvantage job-loss localities and emerging disadvantage job-loss localities. It may surprise some that no Cairns suburbs appear on the existing disadvantage list for regional Queensland urban centres. Edmonton does make an appearance on the emerging list.

Some of the localities which appear on the emerging list don't fit what may be stereotypes of potential disadvantage:

These areas are not usually associated with social disadvantage. While they share the employment characteristics of the other potential job loss suburbs — low formal education levels, higher levels of part-time employment and employment in vulnerable industries — on other indicators of disadvantage they appear as some of Australia’s middle suburbia. Existing levels of joblessness tend to be lower in many of these localities and formal attachment to the paid workforce is strong.

In regional Queensland inclusion of suburbs around Gladstone and Mackay stand out, and also Emerald. These have all been boom centres based on resource related construction. W.A. also stands out on state comparisons:

 
It will be interesting to track how this plays out if the national unemployment rate does rise further as some anticipate. The full research paper was published in November 2013 with a link here: Employment Vulnerability in Australian Suburbs

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Building approvals November

The world is slowly trending back to normal as the new year evolves with retail and building approvals data released today. Most of the focus has been on healthy retail numbers but Conus has posted comment on the Australian and Queensland building approvals as well as our local regional numbers: Units skew building approvals.

Unit approvals, for obvious reasons tend to be more lumpy, but yet again this sector is entirely missing in Cairns where approvals remain all houses:
In Cairns the total approvals number fell to 51 (from 76 in Oct). The Conus Trend series also showed a decline falling to 53 (from a downwardly revised 54 in Oct). Although the Trend data has drifted marginally lower in recent months, we should bear in mind that at the start of the year Trend approvals were running at just 38 per month.
There is also comment and graphs at Queensland Economy Watch:  Good news for Qld building industry as new apartment approvals surge

I posted last month on the North v South divide (Rising tide for beaches building) which is based on the SA2 data and will update that graph again:


To put this trend in summary numbers these are the total dwelling unit approvals for the last few years. The final column there is simply South Cairns approvals as a percentage of the North.

       South        North       S/N %
FY    2012 216 200 108.0%
FY    2013 178 234 76.1%
YTD 2014 98 160 61.3%

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Pay up for commercial use of public space!

There are both pleasures and frustrations which come with living adjacent to prime public space. The pleasures can be music from a Sunday morning violin drifting in from the park or an impromptu T.I. evening concert around the BBQ. However, being woken at sunrise to the thwacking sound of a boot camp group punching leather is for me not one of those pleasures!

The introduction of fees for such commercial use of public space has been spreading and attracted much discussion and debate. A post at The Conversation discusses some of the issues: Public park or private gym: boot camps or bloody nuisance?

There is a also a recent perspective from Gene Tunny at Queensland Economy Watch: Gold Coast PT's should pay fees to use parks:

I noticed in the Gold Coast Bulletin that personal trainers on the GC are outraged the Council will start imposing an annual $200 fee for them to use parks, consistent with councils in Brisbane and elsewhere. It makes sense for councils to charge GC PTs who are gaining commercial advantage from using parks because they don’t have to pay rent for the space. Indeed, it might even make sense for the Council to charge even more than $200, depending on how much the PT uses the park.
There is also an interesting discussion of this at Australian Fitness Network where it seems not all operators are opposed and insurance cover is also raised as a significant issue. I presume these public parks effectively become a workplace for the business although am unsure of the legal position here and any consequences for Council?

I'm unsure of the current arrangements for this in Cairns but have been informed there have been fees applied  for a few years now. There has instead been lively discussion around a fee for commercial photography in public spaces, which particularly relates to weddings. At least in principle the same rationale for fees should apply.

Note here that we are not talking about user-pays for public use of a public space but commercial exploitation of a public resource by a business. In a recent twitter exchange I suggested a comparison with mining taxes and royalties although this was a bit cheeky with a clear difference that minerals are not a renewable resource.

To witness some who would self-describe as of the ideological left defend free commercial exploitation of a publically funded resource is slightly bizarre. Perhaps they haven't thoroughly thought through their position?

Rather than council being forced to justify a fee for such commercial business activities there needs to be a clear justification for why any particular activity should be exempt. For both kinds of activity mentioned here business operations and scale at the fringe may be difficult to define and regulate. Collection costs may then be inefficient.

There is an argument that the proliferation of the photography through social media has a positive public benefit in promoting Cairns. This only works for me if it can be demonstrated that any fee would materially inhibit that which seems unlikely?

It is to be hoped that council policy in principle is to impose fees for any commercial business use of public space unless there is appropriate justification for exemption. At least I can sleep easier knowing that the boot camp thwackers over the road are assisting to ameliorate my $4k p.a. council rates bill, even though still not able to sleep in!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Wet slow to build

A hot and dry end to the year provided a rare fine evening for NYE fireworks but also saw well below average rainfall for December. An update of my inexpert chart of monthly rainfall variation from average is posted:

 
The 12 month rolling average shown here (red line) remains well in negative territory despite some positive months through the dry season and particularly a relatively rainy November. Tinaroo is also at lower comparable levels than for some years: 
 
 
I will await the next weekly tropical climate note for updated status of ENSO and elusive Madden Julian Oscillation!