Clock ticking down for Cabcharge

After suffering the ignominy of a first strike at last year’s annual meeting, investors in 85-year-old Reg Kermode’s Cabcharge empire are gearing up to vote for a second strike on executive pay rules on November 28.
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It comes as Cabcharge is being smashed on the sharemarket after the loss of two bus contracts with the NSW government, which has been seen as a setback in what had previously been perceived as a close relationship. Indeed, until 2010, former NSW premier Neville Wran was a director of the company.

Against this backdrop is the impending response of the Victorian government to an inquiry into the taxi industry by Allan Fels, which recommended that the surcharge Cabcharge charges on every non-cash fare processed through its EFTPOS terminals or its Cabcharge charge cards or vouchers should be reduced from 10 per cent to 5 per cent. The Baillieu government has until December 12 to respond to the recommendations.

In the past two weeks shares in Cabcharge have fallen more than 18 per cent, against an overall drop in the market of 2 per cent, as broking houses downgraded recommendations for the stock. Goldman Sachs now has a sell recommendation on the stock and Deutsche

Bank has reduced its recommendation to hold.

Kermode, who founded Cabcharge in 1976 and has reigned as CEO and chairman for more than 22 years and currently holds about 100,000 shares, has never been a poster boy for corporate governance. As cracks appear in the organisation investors are now airing their concerns.

It is understood that at least one proxy group, Ownership Matters, has recommended shareholders vote against Kermode’s re-election given the $14 million penalties (equivalent to 33 per cent of net profit in 2011), imposed by the Federal Court in ACCC proceedings that related to anti-competitive behaviour.

Ownership Matters is also believed to have recommended shareholders vote against the re-election of director Neill Ford, on the basis he is affiliated to Kermode and therefore part of the ”substantial” shortfalls in corporate governance.

Ownership Matters is also believed to have recommended that shareholders vote against the remuneration report given the ”generous ex-gratia payments” made to retiring senior executive Sharon Doyle upon her retirement, particularly in light of the penalty from the ACCC under former chairman Graeme Samuel relating to the anti-competitive behaviour of its electronic payment system.

Cabcharge received a first strike on its 2011 remuneration report after 40 per cent of shareholders voted against the remuneration report. Under the rules, a company that receives a ”no” vote of 25 per cent or more on its remuneration report for two successive years will be forced to put all its directors up for re-election.

It seems that after years of clipping the ticket on most aspects of the country’s multibillion-dollar taxi industry, the clock could now be ticking for a company that has entrenched itself as one of Australia’s most powerful vertically integrated companies.

Fels said while he couldn’t comment on the final report, the draft report recommended cutting the surcharge from 10 per cent to

5 per cent.

”Cabcharge’s tentacles reach everywhere in the industry and any substantial reform in Victoria and elsewhere would have an effect on Cabcharge,” he said.

The taxi inquiry – the seventh since 1981 – also recommends removing the taxi industry’s mandatory network affiliation, which is dominated by a duopoly that includes Cabcharge.

Under the current system, taxi drivers have to be affiliated with a network service provider, which costs $7000 a year. In return for this, the networks accept bookings from customers and transmit booking details to data terminals installed in taxis. The tone of the Fels review was that the networks exert too much control over the industry.

If speculation is right and the government accepts the recommendations, it will put pressure

on other state governments to follow suit.

This, coupled with the decision by the NSW government to put a number of bus contracts out for tender that were previously renegotiated at term end, was played down by the company on the basis that the contracts represent 16 per cent of the total fleet

of Cabcharge’s 49 per cent joint venture.

While this is true, the concern is that this will herald the beginning of a new era where other contracts will be put up for tender, which will crunch margins.

It prompted Deutsche Bank to issue a report saying: ”This is a serious setback for Cabcharge at a time when it faces regulatory and competitive issues in its core taxi business. The risks have increased significantly with the presentation of the final report by the Victorian taxi industry inquiry. While the timing and extent of any changes are uncertain, we see a high likelihood of some of the recommendations being implemented, especially around network affiliation.”

Cabcharge and Kermode have had a dream run for years, but the dream run could fast be coming to an end.

Between a declining share price, a major NSW bus contract up for tender in 2013 and the outcome of the Victorian taxi inquiry soon to be delivered, Kermode and the board will face the blowtorch at the annual meeting as well as the likelihood of a second strike.

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Tinkler’s racehorse stud pays its debts and avoids liquidation

NATHAN TINKLER’S troubled racehorse stud Patinack Farm has avoided liquidation, with proceedings initiated by the NSW Office of State Revenue finalised in Supreme Court proceedings on Tuesday.
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The Chief Commissioner of State Revenue withdrew after Patinack settled its $259,866 claim. Neither the Australian Taxation Office nor WorkCover sought to step in as substitute creditors, indicating their own claims had also been settled. No costs were awarded.

Fairfax Media has previously reported Patinack was costing Mr Tinkler up to $500,000 a week. After Nechita won a group 1 race at Flemington on Derby Day, the stud’s head trainer, John Thompson, told Sky News the stable had experienced cash flow problems.

”I’ve gone weeks without vets, farriers, bedding and ran out of feed a number of times,” he said.

Fairfax Media has also previously reported that Mr Tinkler had tried to sell Patinack, and faced allegations of unpaid super by Patinack employees. It is believed likely that any settlement with the Tax Office, whose lawyers appeared in the wind-up proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court, would include any unpaid super liabilities.

Patinack, which raised about $4 million from a reduction sale of 300 horses at the Magic Millions auctions on the Gold Coast, is believed to have owed ”millions” to the Tax Office. Much less was owed in unpaid workers compensation insurance premiums, but this has now also been paid.

A solicitor for WorkCover, Raymond Roser of Woods and Day, confirmed the settlement: ”These wind-up proceedings against Patinack Farm died today … Anyone who wanted to join the proceedings or substitute into the proceedings, had their opportunity today.” Any creditor to Patinack that is still unpaid would need to instigate new wind-up proceedings against the company.

Mr Tinkler’s Tinkler Group Holdings has also settled a dispute with the Office of State Revenue, paying $82,493, but faces a possible continuation of the liquidation proceedings by the law firm Gilbert and Tobin (owed about $345,000) and Internet Fraud Watchdog (owed $145,000), who have until Monday to apply to become substitute creditors.

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Drug Smart card appeals to youth

TAMWORTH youths between 12 and 17 will now have better access to information surrounding alcohol, cannabis and ecstasy following the introduction of the NSW Government Drug Smart campaign to the region.
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Drug Smart is a fold out information card containing personal experiences of youth with alcohol and drugs.

The Northern Daily Leader took to the streets yesterday armed with the information cards, eager to find out young people’s reactions to them.

Thirteen-year-old Emma Smallwood from Tamworth said she was impressed with the credit card-sized packs.

“We usually learn about this kind of thing from school, but teachers won’t elaborate on the real-life consequences like this booklet does,” Emma said.

Friend Iesha Elia agreed saying the booklets would be widely accepted because of the real life stories they


“Real people have written their experiences in them and they seem to be around our age group so that makes them appealing to read,” Iesha said.

The card also hopes to dispel myths about some of the drugs that young people may encounter.

Member for Tamworth Peter Draper encouraged youths to pick up one of the cards available from his Fitzroy St office.

The cards contain important contact details of services that can give further information or help.

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Haven Redbacks create club history

Captain Matt Whatson delivers a good pass from the midfield in the grand finalCAMDEN Haven Redbacks staged a courageous second half fightback to secure a 3-2 golden goal victory over Old Bar Barbarians in the Football Mid North Coast reserve grade grand final on Saturday.
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In so doing they became the first Camden Haven reserve grade side to take out the title in the club’s 33 year history.

Grand Final day at the Regional Stadium Port Macquarie saw a big crowd, clear skies, a great pitch and for the Redbacks a full squad ready to play.

Their opponents, minor premiers Old Bar were also just as keen to take early control of the game, however the Redbacks started confidently using space out wide to create problems and putting their defence under pressure. Early chances from Al Williams, Jose Ustariz and Daniel Trompert were all off the mark but provided plenty of hope for the large crowd of supporters who made the journey to Port.

Old Bar slowly got into the game and after 15 minutes they were making inroads through the centre of the park. They took the lead with a super long range effort which gave keeper Dan Westwood no chance.

The goal inspired the Barbarians and they dominated the rest of the first half. In fact, they doubled their lead on 30 minutes when a mix up in defence allowed their strikers to combine to again find the net. Things were looking bleak for the Redbacks as they trudged off at half time.

Whateve coach Bill Roe said at half time had an immediate effect. A more fired up Camden Haven team took the game to Old Bar pushing them deep.

Williams and Trompert up front were causing caused havoc, while Boyd Goodear, Matt Whatson Boyd, Jose and Brett Anderson were winning more ball and controlling the in the midfield.

Fresh legs saw Nathan Monaghan come off the bench to further bolster the midfield and the Haven then really clicked into gear against a tiring opposition.

Matt Whatson was now see lots of ball and pushed it round beautifully. With 30 minutes to play Al Williams latched on to a through ball and gave the Redback army plenty to cheer about with a sweet finish for a 1-2. scoreline. The game was now well and truly on and the Redbacks lifted and played some great soccer, creating more chances, but the clock was running down.

After a great run from the back Ben Romer found Williams up front and he delivered a neat ball to Nathan Monaghan who put it away with three minutes to go. The team and the crowd lifted and extra time looked imminent.

A 2-2 result at full time saw the game go into golden goal and the Redbacks went for the throat. Josh Robinson replaced an injured Huck Yewdall and led the charge. After only five minutes of extra time he slotted in an excellent pass behind the defence for classy finisher Al Williams to run onto and put away emphatically for a remarkable come from behind win, setting off massive celebrations. A pitch invasion followed and the biggest team song ever … .

“What a day, we were down, we came back, it was superb….a great day for the club, players, staff and families” enthused coach Bill Roe.

“It was a classic smash and grab job. Man of Match was Al Williams and close behind Boyd, Matt and Lee. A great season finished off with a great win. Thanks to the supporters, 1st graders, staff and most of all the team and a special mention to Deano who missed out but played in plenty of crucial games throughout the season. Well done boys enjoy the win.”

“Go you Redbacks Premiers.”

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Smoke ban: clubs cross great divide

Thin red line: Ann Davies deals with the red tape at South Tamworth Bowling Club. Photo: Robert ChappelTHERE’S no mistaking the anti-smoking legislation in force at South Tamworth Bowling Club – it’s marked out by red tape.
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If anyone with a cigarette in their hand strays into the non-smoking zone they can be hit with a $550 fine, together with a $5500 penalty for the club.

Because it is a one-room club, South Tamworth officials have had to mark out the smoking and non-smoking areas with tape on the floor.

“All our smoking areas are under the exhausts,” club CEO Ann Davies said.

“The only issue we have is that now everyone congregates in the smoking area and there’s no one in the non-smoking areas.”

The smoking area is actually smaller at the club than is enforced by the regulations.

“Under the current regulations you’re allowed 50 per cent of room space and ours is 25 per cent of the floor space, which is what the regulations will be next year,” Ms Davies said.

The club has not had any complaints regarding the regulations as yet.

“Everyone’s really happy and we haven’t had any people we’ve had to chastise,” Ms Davies said.

“The smokers are happy we’ve accommodated them.”

One smoker at the club, Robert Todd, said the smoking bans didn’t worry him and he believed segregation was a good idea.

Alan Pope, a non-smoking patron of the club said the ban should have been brought in years ago.

“I can now come to the club and I know I can sit almost anywhere,” he said.

“Before I had to go early and sit in a corner to be away from smoke.”

North Tamworth Bowling Club president Des Allen said the club was dealing with the smoking bans as best as they could, but he was receiving further advice.

“We have two main bar areas so we’ve restricted the smoking areas to 50 per cent of each of these areas,” Mr Allen said.

“Our signage has to make sure everything is clear and that’s where the Department of Health is going to help us.”

The North Tamworth Bowling Club has asked for more clarification of the regulations as they are “not too sure of the finite parts of it, but we’ve implemented what we think is right” Mr Allen said.

“So far we’ve been talking to a lot of the smokers and they seem to be co-operating. There’s just a bit of a question mark about the variations in the rooms.

“We want to do it right because the fines are pretty hefty.”

Kootingal and District Bowling Club president John Cloake said the club asked the Health Department to advise them on how to organise the areas, as they are also a one-room club.

But not everyone is happy with the regulations.

“I disagree with the ban as these people are smoking a legal substance,” Mr Cloake said. “But the government can allow me to shoot illegal substances into myself in a room in Sydney.

“I do respect the people’s [non-smokers] position, but if you don’t like smoking in clubs don’t go there.”

Tamworth Services Club CEO Gil Swan is also worried about segregating people, but reports no problems with the regulations so far.

“We’ve had no complaints, it’s running extremely well at the moment,” he said.

“We have a division, which is a low wall, but it is not designed to separate people and we don’t want them to feel segregated in the true sense of the word.”

Mr Swan supports the regulations and says everyone should be happy they have been given two years to enforce the total ban.

“In Victoria it came in overnight and in Queensland they have some tough laws. We have two years which is beneficial to all concerned – smokers and non-smokers,” he said.

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Council plans toimprove parking

The signs aren’t good: Robyn Byrne is fed up with inadequate parking in the Tamworth CBD.Photo: Robert ChappelA TAMWORTH woman is calling for a major rethink on CBD parking restrictions, saying current parking provisions do little to accommodate the needs of office workers.
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Frustrated at inadequate parking on offer for city centre office workers, Robyn Byrne has written to the Tamworth Regional Council in an effort to to improve parking facilities.

A shortage of all-day parking for those who worked nine-to-five jobs was the key sticking point which drew her ire.

“The lack of long-term, accessible parking in the CBD is an outrage,” Ms Byrne said.

“Parking has always been a dilemma, I just can’t believe the council has still done nothing about it.”

Ms Byrne also said all day parking in Gipps St was unsuitable, with a lack of lighting and police patrols making it unsafe to walk to car parks at night.

“You wouldn’t walk through Bicentennial Park at night in a pink fit! It’s just too dangerous, especially if you are alone,” she said.

But Ms Byrne is not simply taking a swipe at the council over the lack of acceptable parking, she has made a number of suggestions about how existing parking could be improved.

“People who work in the CBD should be given authorised parking stickers like you see in Sydney, because it would ensure they always have access to parks in the CBD.

Tamworth Regional Council roads and drainage manager Bruce Logan said the council was investigating ways in which CBD parking could be improved and Ms Byrnes complaints would be duly


“It is our intention to conduct a review of parking in the library/art gallery car park to see if there is any way we could better balance CBD parking,” Mr Logan said.

The council was also looking to expand current parking facilities in the CBD but these plans would require an increase in funding.

“We are looking to upgrade a grass area behind the old Parry Shire building to increase parking areas but those plans are entirely dependent on funding,” Mr Logan said.

Mr Logan also identified improvements to street lighting in Kable Ave as a possible way to increase safe parking areas in the CBD.

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Area 14 plans discussed

COMMUNITY members were impressed overall with plans for the new Rainbow Beach residential area discussed at last Tuesday’s meeting at Bonny Hills Community Hall.
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Jack Jones from the Lake Cathie Progress Association said developers from the St Vincent’s Foundation covered a broad overview of Area 14 development plans.

“This included 900 building blocks, two sites for schools, sporting fields, a wetland lagoon, and extensive walking tracks,” he said.

“It’s in the early stages of planning and hasn’t got full approval yet, but should be fully approved within the next 12 months.”

This Rainbow Beach Estate is the largest of three developments in area 14.

“It looks like a good development. There is already an extensive bush regeneration program taking place,” Mr Jones said.

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Council assesses investment portfolio

Port Macquarie/Hastings Council was told last week that despite the turmoil in the world financial markets, its accrued investment income is 2.55% above the year-to-date budget, but the total investment portfolio performed 2.45% below the benchmark for August 2008.
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Council is currently reviewing the potential impact of significant market developments regarding the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers along with issues surrounding AIG (American International Group) and US mortgage lenders Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Independent investment advisor, Oakvale Capital, will examine the exact impact (if any) on Council’s investment portfolio. Preliminary advice is that Council has no direct exposure having simply acquired investment products such as CDO’s from Lehman’s Australian subsidiary. Indirectly though this is a significant global financial event and there is potentially some downstream effect on Council’s portfolio. The size of this effect, if any, will depend on whether credit defaults continue to occur or if the Lehman’s event brings the bad news to a close.

As previously reported, some of Council’s investments were downgraded due to a ratings migration and a change in the rating agencies methodology. These investments now fall outside legislative and policy guidelines and a strategy will need to be implemented to address the issue.

An appropriate strategy is currently being formulated in consultation with Council’s Independent Investment Advisor (Oakvale Capital) and a report as to the recommended strategy will be made to Council as soon as the strategy is drafted.

All investments were made in accordance with the Act, Regulations and Council’s Investment Policy.

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Help needed for fire victims

HOUSE fire survivors Nicki Wright and her four children continue to grieve the loss of their beloved partner and father figure Ricky Ogilbie from the house fire that claimed his life just weeks ago.
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The latest in a series of fires across homes in NSW, Nicki and her four young children were fortunately out of the Brogan St home, in Armidale, they shared with Ricky when the fire claimed his life on Saturday, July 2.

However, this is doing little to console the 25-year-old mother of four as she faces the future without her partner and with no possessions.

Family friend Sue Powdrell has responded to the tragedy by setting up an appeal for the family.

“It will take time for Nicki to heal emotionally from this tragic loss of Ricky, but the community can help her to replace her possessions,” Mrs Powdrell said.

“This poor girl has lost everything.”

Ms Powdrell urged people in the local area to make an effort to help Nicki get back on her feet.

“Anything the people of Armidale, Tamworth and the surrounding areas can do would be so appreciated, please help this young family,” she said. Ms Powdrell also wants to remind the community of the Ogilbie family’s loss as well.

“Church groups are praying for both the families directly affected by the fire and I want to encourage the community to keep them in their prayers as well,” she said.

Nikki and her children are staying with her mother for the time being. Essential items like children’s clothing, blankets, bedding and whitegoods all have to be replaced.

Tamworth’s Red Shied Family Store on Peel St is available to take cash donations, no matter how small, but essential items like clothing should be dropped at the Armidale Neighbourhood Centre.

Co-ordinator of the Armidale-based appeal Jim Foord has said the response has been positive but urges the public to get behind Nicki and her children.

“A variety of things have been coming in and some people in the community have been quite


“We really need people to donate anything of practical assistance, however we are not set up for cash donations, but support of this family will go a very long way,” Mr Foord said. Call 6772 4373 or Sue Powdrell for more information on how your goods can help.

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Teacher’s federation disappointed with ATC announcement

MR Wayne Webber, Regional Organiser, NSW Teachers Federation was extremely disappointed with last week’s announcement by the Labor party regarding management of the Port Macquarie Australian Technical College (ATC)
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“The announcement from Julia Gillard that gifts the College to the Catholic Diocese of Lismore locks out the 72% of local students attending public schools as well as the students attending other private schools, from the facilities of the Port Macquarie ATC” he said.

“No reasonable observer would believe that the Catholic Educational Authorities will allow equal access for students from non-Catholic schools to the publicly funded facilities of the ATC. As a facility built with public funds, the ATC should have an ethos of social inclusion. Placing this facility under the control of a Church or any other private institution can only be described as social and educational exclusion for the majority of local school students.

“For Australia to genuinely tackle the skills shortage, training facilities need to be available to young people from all walks of life, not restricted by religious affiliations or socio economic status, “ Mr Webber said.

Prior to the Federal election, Mr Rudd’s Labor Party promised Australians ‘Fresh Thinking’. The decision to gift the ATC to the Catholic Church belies this promise; it’s just more of the same from the Howard/Vaile era. No genuine consultation has occurred with the public education community, the Rudd Government continues to starve public schools and TAFE Colleges of the funds needed to ensure the future of our nation.

If the Rudd Government is truly committed to providing education and training that meets the needs of students and their communities, it must provide the facilities to meet those needs through an expansion of the provision of public education and training, not simply give away public assets to the private sector.”

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