QBE on track to reach $US250 million in savings

Written by admin on 08/08/2018 Categories: 南京夜网

Insurer QBE is on track to meet its savings targets.QBE says it is on track to hit its target to cut costs by “at least” $US250 million by 2015, as it replaces hundreds of jobs in western countries with staff in Manila.
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The global insurer also affirmed its full-year guidance on Tuesday, as it benefits from relatively few natural disasters and the recent fall in the Aussie dollar.

At midday its shares had risen 2.6 per cent, or 39.5c, to $15.70.

QBE, which is looking to rationalise its operations after a spate of acquisition-led growth under former boss Frank O’Halloran, earlier this year unveiled a plan to save $US250 million a year by 2015 by sending about 700 positions to the Philippines.

As the changes are rolled out across its Australian division, chief executive John Neal today stressed that he expected expenses would be cut by “at least” $US250 million as a result of the program.

The cost-cutting push will also result in changes to its operations in North America and Europe – where the company may also look to carry-out cuts in its European business slightly earlier than expected.

“This is very much the start, the first wave if you like, and there will be more activity that will follow,” Mr Neal said.

So far, 521 positions in Australia have been affected by the offshoring changes.

Most of these staff are set to be redeployed within the group, while 39 have been made redundant, and 52 contractor positions have not been renewed.

The chief executive of its Australian arm, Colin Fagen, said QBE was “extremely confident” it would save more than the original $85 million in costs that it had planned to trim from its Australian operations by 2015 through the offshoring changes.

This was likely to occur because the company’s redundancy costs had been lower than expected, while the volume of work being carried out in Manila had exceeded expectations.

Mr Neal also said he was confident the company expected to hit its full-year forecast for premiums to increase by about 5 per cent, and indicated it had benefited from several one-off factors.

He said conditions were “very positive” in Australia and North America but tougher in Europe, where rates were flat.

“It’s still very very early days in the year but we are quite relaxed about where we see ourselves for the half year.”

QBE, which reports its profits on a calendar year basis, will present its half-year results in August.

Insurers have benefited relatively few natural disasters in recent months, while QBE has extensive US operations, so it tends to benefit from a falling Australian dollar.

“Overall, the weakening in the Australian dollar is good news for us, but it does bring some complications,” Mr Neal said.

Deutsche Bank analyst Kieran Chidgey said the progress on cost-cutting and positive one-off factors should cause the “market’s conviction in QBE’s turnaround” to increase.

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Spencer rules breakfast, but Nova’s share explodes

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He’s done it again; 612 ABC Brisbane announcer Spencer Howson has retained his crown as king of the lucrative breakfast radio session.
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Despite a 0.1 per cent drop, Mr Howson’s 13.1 per cent market share is still firmly in front of his commercial rivals, ratings agency Nielson confirmed on Tuesday.

But DMG’s Nova106.9 breakfast team of Ash Bradnam, David ‘Luttsy’ Lutteral and Kip Wightman closed in on Aunty’s star, gaining 1.1 per cent to steal the number two spot from Robin Bailey, Terry Hansen and Bob Gallaghar on ARN’s 97.3FM.

Nova also overtook 97.3 as the station with the largest overall audience through the week – a coup that rounds out its standing dominance of the weekend market.

Fairfax Radio 4BC, owned by the publishers of this website, also improved its overall market share, growing its audience by 0.9 per cent to beat 4KQ, 4BH, and the ABC’s Radio National and Triple J for the number six spot.

The station’s breakfast team also recorded a 0.4 per cent audience boost to maintain its sixth-place ranking.

Meanwhile the Triple M Grill Team – Pete Timbs, Michelle Anderson and Greg ‘Marto’ Martin – moved from fifth to fourth place, changing places with their Austereo cousins at B105 – Jason ‘Labby’ Hawkins, Stav Davidson and Abby Coleman.

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What a relief; now let’s get on with it, says Horwill

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Now we can all get some sleep: Wallabies captain James Horwill, left, fronts the media with coach Robbie Deans after the judicial hearing. Photo: James BrickwoodWallabies captain James Horwill says he feels ‘‘vindicated’’ by an International Rugby Board ruling that a stamping allegation against him be dismissed for the second time in nine days.
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The Test second-rower is free to play in the series decider against the British and Irish Lions in Sydney after 12 hours of deliberation overnight on Monday produced the same result as the first hearing on June 23.

Horwill said he was ‘‘very relieved’’ to be told the news during a gym session on Tuesday morning after enduring a sleepless night in limbo.

‘‘I feel very vindicated by the way it’s gone,’’ he said. ‘‘I love what I do and it means a hell of a lot to represent my country and not only to represent it but the opportunity to lead in what is probably the biggest game in this country since the 2003 World Cup final. I’m very excited and now we can focus on the game and that’s what is important.’’

The decision was handed down by Canadian judicial officer Graeme Mew  at about 10am on Tuesday, 12 hours after he took final submissions from Horwill, his legal counsel and the Australian Rugby Union.

Mew found there was no cause to overturn the original ruling of judicial officer Nigel Hampton QC, who said on June 23 that he could not find an intentional or deliberate action of stamping or trampling on the head of Lions second rower Alun Wyn Jones.

‘‘For the appeal to succeed the IRB would have to establish that there was some misapprehension of law or principle by the judicial officer or that his decision was so clearly wrong or manifestly unreasonable that no judicial officer could have reached the conclusion that he did,’’ Mew noted in his judgement.

‘‘There was sufficient evidence upon which a reasonable judicial officer could have reached the decision that was made.

‘‘Accordingly, it could not be said that the judicial officer was manifestly wrong or that the interests of justice otherwise required his decision be overturned.’’

Horwill accepted the decision calmly on Tuesday but was obviously pleased to have the uncertainty behind him.

‘‘I can’t complain. It’s been a very fair process both times; as I said before, the hearings have been very fair and the process is what it is,’’ he said, after  thanking the public for their support.

‘‘My family and the team have been very overwhelmed by the amount of support we’ve received so I thank you very much and it’s now time to get on with football.’’

The original incident occurred in the third minute of the Lions’ 23-21 victory over the Wallabies in the first Test.

Horwill struck Jones in the head during a ruck. The Lions second-rower played out most of the match and required stitches to his eye after the full-time bell.

The Lions referred the matter to the citing commissioner after the game, but a four-hour hearing in front of IRB-appointed judicial officer Hampton last Sunday night found there was enough merit in Horwill’s explanation that he was ‘‘spun off balance’’ by Lions players entering the ruck from the other side.

The decision was controversially overturned by the IRB on Thursday night and while the board did not provide a clear reason,  they cited the ‘‘preservation of player welfare’’.

‘‘It is important for the IRB to ensure amongst all stakeholders in the game that there is full confidence that priority is given to player welfare and the values of the game,’’ the IRB said at the time.

Horwill said he had been unaware of the incident until he was cited and had a chance to view footage from the game.

Rugby Union Players’ Association chief executive Greg Harris congratulated Horwill on being cleared to play.

‘‘James Horwill was initially cleared of the stamping charge as per the IRB’s established judicial process.

“RUPA, like the ARU, was both surprised and disappointed that the finding of the IRB appointed judicial officer, Nigel Hampton QC, from New Zealand was deemed to be ‘erroneous’.

‘‘The fact that the verdict was not delivered until midday on Tuesday added significant disruption to the preparation of the Wallabies team for the third, and deciding Test.

‘‘RUPA still remains sufficiently concerned with the perceived inconsistencies with the processes and as such has raised the matter with the International Rugby Players’ Association and requested that IRPA raise the matter formally with the IRB.’’

Harris said the case set a dangerous precedent by the IRB and that not only the RUPA membership, but the broader rugby community in Australia, were concerned about the motives behind the decision to refer the matter again.

‘‘James is the Australian captain and is a sportsman of impeccable character who in 130 professional games had never been cited.

“He always had the full support of RUPA and his fellow players no matter what the outcome of the IRB’s judicial processes were to be,’’ Harris said.

The IRB released a statement a short time ago accepting Mew’s decision.

‘‘While ultimately not proving successful in its appeal, the IRB is satisfied that it took the right approach,’’ the statement said.

‘‘The IRB would like to acknowledge the professional manner in which the Australian Rugby Union managed the process as host union of the tour.’’

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Four people missing from property found 

Written by admin on 10/07/2019 Categories: 南京夜网

FOUR people who had been missing for more than seven hours from a property near Paterson have been located safe and well.
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A young man and three children had left the property on Keppies Road about 10am and had not returned as night fell. The alarm was raised at dusk, with police on foot and on trail bikes joining locals in the search.

The Hunter Westpac Rescue helicopter located the four safe and well about 5.15pm.

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Investigation into 2Day FM prank saga now for the courts

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Going to Federal Court .. 2dayFM claims ACMA has not the power to investigate an allegation that it used its broadcasting service ‘in the commission of an offence’. Photo: Daniel MunozThe stoush between 2Day FM and the broadcasting watchdog over the “royal prank call” investigation will go to the Federal Court in September.
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Last month, 2Day FM took legal action against the Australian Communications and Media Authority in an extraordinary attempt to quash its investigation into the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha, who committed suicide after being pranked by two of its DJs.

The station is arguing that ACMA does not have power to determine if it broke the law by recording and broadcasting the hoax call without permission.

The move came after ACMA told 2Day FM what its preliminary findings were on June 20.

The station is at risk of losing its licence or being suspended if found to have used its broadcasting service “in the commission of an offence”.

2Day’s FM’s aggressive legal action and its statement to media suggest that ACMA, in its preliminary report, found it did break the law.

While ACMA also had the option to specify a licence cancellation or suspension in its report, it is unlikely to have done so. In bigger matters, the watchdog tends to impose such penalties after it delivers its findings.

Yet 2Day FM was spurred into action even without a specific penalty.

“If ACMA found they had breached their licence, that’d be enough for them to go to court,” says one source. “Put it this way: an adverse finding from a government regulator doesn’t help in regards to any future lawsuits.

“But ACMA is unlikely to cancel 2Day FM’s licence. That’s just too drastic. A suspension, on the other hand, is more likely – especially in light of all their other controversies.

“It’s fair to say that when it comes to breaches of taste and ethics, 2Day FM has form.”

The station’s many previous controversies include:

■ A 14-year-old revealing on a lie detector, after being asked about sex, that she had been raped;

■ A contest police claim encouraged dangerous driving;

■ A competition in which a woman was flown from the US and forced to cry and beg on her knees to meet a relative;

■ A prank call in which a DJ impersonated a school official and told a top-ranking student her score was wrong, reducing her to tears;

■ A presenter being offered $50 each time she made a listener cry;

■ Listeners being tricked into believing a popular presenter was dead;

■ A promotion called “Heartless Hotline” in which a parent of a disabled child was forced to argue with another caller to get Easter Show tickets;

■ A promotion in which the parents of a disabled child claimed they did not receive the full amount pledged to them on air;

■ Kyle Sandilands making fun of a disabled baby;

■ Sandilands suggesting Magda Szubanski be “put in a concentration camp” to lose weight;

■ Sandilands calling a female journalist a “fat slag” and threatening to “hunt her down”;

■ A competition in which women were lined up behind two panels – exposing only their vaginas – and requiring a man to identify his girlfriend by her genitals;

■ A competition to find Sydney’s smallest penis;

■ A competition in which a prize was hidden in the body rolls of an obese woman who was branded a “pig”, with footage streamed online;

■ A stunt in which employees competed to see who could masturbate the fastest and produce the highest sperm count;

■ And an intended stunt in which female listeners would compete to impregnate themselves with the sperm of a local celebrity.

The matter will be heard in the Federal Court on September 19.

Even if the court accepts 2Day FM’s argument that ACMA has no authority to determine if it broke the law, the watchdog will still have the power to decide if the station breached the codes of practice.

[email protected]南京夜网.au

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Revenge killing a possibility: police

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Police say there are many reasons why someone may have wanted Scott Hammond dead and are not ruling out a revenge killing after he used his pit bull terriers to attack and wound four people in 2011.
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Mr Hammond was found savagely beaten to death in his house on the outskirts of south-western Sydney along with a paralysed pit bull on Monday afternoon.

Police said they found the 48-year-old on the lounge room floor of an Ibbotson Street house at Tahmoor after a friend called concerned for his welfare.

Camden police Acting Superintendent Danny Doherty said homicide detectives were treating the death as a targeted attack and had many motives to sift through.

”It appears that the incident was a targeted attack and we have other motives that have to be looked at,” Acting Superintendent Doherty said. ”There are a number of lines of inquiry including the man’s history in relation to previous dog attacks.”

Mr Hammond pleaded guilty to using his pit bull terriers, Chocka and Girlie, to attack and wound four people in separate incidents at Tahmoor in 2011.

He was given a seven-month suspended sentence, ordered to pay $14,336 and destroy both dogs.

Several items were seized from the house but police would not comment on the suspected weapon used to inflict serious head injuries.

Police were waiting on the results of an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.

”But it appears he has sustained significant injuries, substantial head injuries,” Acting Superintendent Doherty said.

Mr Hammond had been unemployed and living by himself.

Police removed two dogs from the house and are checking to see if evidence, such as DNA, was transferred to them during the attack.

Detectives are yet to establish whether the paralysed pit bull was injured before or during the attack.

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Watch out when passing the buck

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Credit card holders are using an increasing number of additional credit cards to shift debt, a survey has found.
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Of more than 2000 Australians surveyed by creditcard南京夜网.au, one in five said they had credit card debt of more than $8000, and of these 68 per cent are forced to hunt down new credit cards to transfer debt.

Balance transfer cards come with 0 per cent interest for a limited time, offering debt-strapped cardholders an escape from crushing interest rates.

But creditcard南京夜网.au founder and chief executive Roland Bleyer says it is now common for people to constantly shift from one balance transfer credit card to another.

”That’s what people are doing – bouncing around from one 0 per cent balance transfer card to another,” Bleyer says.

”I received an email recently from someone who said they had avoided paying their credit card for five years thanks to these cards.”

Playing credit card musical chairs is an effective way of delaying debt repayments, but what happens when the music stops?

Bleyer says many consumers are lulled into a false sense of security and don’t take advantage of 0 per cent interest rates.

”Balance-transfer cards are definitely recommended and they’re definitely a good deal, but the problem is people are being slack and not paying off their debt in the interest-free period,” he says.

”They also have to be careful about their credit ratings. If people are moving their debt and continually applying for new credit cards, it’s going to ring alarm bells.”

Banks have cottoned on to the rising popularity of balance-transfer cards, with more than 30 such cards currently on offer. A year ago there were no more than nine 0 per cent interest balance-transfer cards on the market.

Bleyer says the cards are used by banks as a way of luring customers away from other financial institutions.

To do this, banks are beginning to increase the average nine-month 0 per cent interest period to 12 months.

They are also reaping a profit from those who fall for the trap of failing to close old credit cards after signing up for a new one.

Another trap is waiting for those who aren’t prepared for the steep interest rates once the promotional interest-free period ends, particularly on gold or platinum cards.

”These cards have a higher annual fee, plus a higher interest rate,” Bleyer says.

”Failure to either pay the balance off in time or achieve another balance transfer is a nice bonus, giving banks the opportunity to make much more money than they would from issuing a lower-rate card.”

The 2013 Credit Card Landscape Survey also found 45 per cent of credit card users don’t pay the minimum monthly repayments.

Bleyer advised that it’s best for people to use 0 per cent interest balance-transfer cards to pay off debt quickly and avoid racking up years of repayments.

”People need to make better financial decisions to pay down their debt,” he says.

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No guarantee of higher wages

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No guaranteeThe superannuation guarantee rose from 9 per cent to 9.25 per cent on Monday, but not everyone will be better off from the increase in compulsory super. Some employers will reduce their employees’ pay by the same amount as the increase so their employees are no better off.
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Both Labor and the Coalition are committed to increasing the guarantee over the next few years until it reaches 12 per cent, though each has a different timetable for reaching the 12 per cent.

While all employers have to pay the increase in super for this financial year, as it is the law, some employees are going to have to negotiate with their employers if they want to get the benefit. That is because some employees, usually senior staff, are on ”total remuneration” packages. And it is quite possible these staff, while receiving the higher superannuation guarantee, will have a cut to their pay to keep the total remuneration package the same.

The other category of workers who may be no better off is those whose employers pay a premium or margin above the guarantee. These employers may decide to reduce the premium they pay on super by the same amount as the increase in the guarantee.

Most workers will receive the higher guarantee with no change in their pay because they are covered by industrial awards and agreements.

But those on packages that are subject to individual pay negotiations are well advised to find out what the employer intends to do about the rise in super now, rather than waiting until the next pay review. It may come down to wording of the employment contract over how the super is treated.

A survey late last year by human-resources consultant Aon Hewitt found about 30 per cent of employers pay more than the guarantee. Of these employers surveyed, only about one in 10 indicated that they intended to maintain the same margin when the guarantee started rising. The rest said they intended to decrease the margin as the guarantee rose, absorb the rises in the guarantee until they were paying the legal minimum, or that it depended on the outcome of enterprise bargaining.

Some employers follow the letter of the law but not its spirit, by calculating the guarantee on the employees’ ordinary weekly earnings, less the pay that the employee sacrifices. There is nothing illegal about this. The anomaly could be fixed by a change in the wording of the law to restrict the definition of salary for the guarantee so that it is ”salary plus any salary sacrificed”. But anyone thinking of sacrificing should ask their pay office whether sacrificing means they receive less compulsory super.

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The curse of predicting currency fluctuations

Written by admin on 10/06/2019 Categories: 南京夜网

Ups and downs of the dollarNobody can know for sure where the dollar is going, let alone when it’ll get there, so getting that call right takes consummate luck.
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After all, it requires a simultaneous assessment of the outlook for Australia and that of everybody else. As is always the case with markets, it’s not enough to look at what’s already happened, either – you have to look ahead. In this case twice: at us and everybody else.

Trouble is, you can’t really ignore the currency. About one-third of the earnings of the top 200 listed stocks are denominated in US dollars, for instance.

And don’t even ask about managed funds in overseas shares or other assets.

Heck, the dollar even influences property prices. It might be expatriates buying – or selling, as the case may be – because of a big currency move. Or, say, investors from Hong Kong snapping up another apartment block or two.

Did I mention interest rates? Bet you thought the Reserve Bank and/or the banks controlled them. But that’s only half the story.

Just as important is the US Federal Reserve, which prints the world’s reserve currency at the rate of $US85 billion a month. This is the source of the liquidity in international capital markets from which our own banks raise half their money.

There’s no shortage of expert predictions about where the dollar is going. Try 80-something US cents for starters.

Except economists are the first to admit, since they don’t have much choice, that they’re worse at tipping where the dollar is going than anything else.

Not that they’re so hot on interest rates or GDP growth either, but this is no time to be picky.

Still, they do have a handy trick up their sleeves. This is what’s called ”reverting to the mean”, which isn’t a personality switch but a tendency for values to veer back to their long-term average. That is, they return to form.

There’s no reason they should, mind you, but it happens to be a statistical fact, so they may as well make the most of it.

The long-term average of the dollar is about US75¢, but there’s a complication. It’s been around or above parity for some time, so to get to that average quickly it would have to spend some time closer to US60¢, which would require either a surging US dollar or some economic doomsday scenario.

Another way of looking at it is that exchange rates should make the price of something the same everywhere after you’ve done the currency conversion. The respected Economist magazine, for example, famously compares the price of a Big Mac because it tastes the same wherever you buy one. No reflection on the local offering, but on the basis of burgerology our dollar is slightly overvalued.

Anyway, just because some of our best economic minds say the dollar can only drop even further, they’re not suggesting it should influence your investing, though to be on the safe side maybe you should bring forward the family holiday to Disneyland.

True, among listed stocks, exporters, especially the big miners, as well as online-challenged retailers, should be winners. But not as much as you’d think.

It’s a brave board that would take an outright punt on the dollar by not hedging at least some foreign-currency denominated contracts. And while they’ll undoubtedly be more competitive, some costs such as the interest on debt might also rise.

In fact, resources companies ”tend to trade more in line with their respective commodity price” than the currency, according to a report by RBS Morgans.

And the outlook for commodity prices is not good. Just ask Treasury. Besides, when all is said and done it’s the strength of the global economy, not to mention ours, that matters in the end.

It’s much safer to forget what the currency will do which, you never know, might be nothing.

Follow David Potts on Twitter @moneypotts

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Super not so great for women

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Mother-of-two Chris Panagiotopoulos says super is “something I don’t pay close attention to”. Photo: Simon SchluterChris Panagiotopoulos has a lot on her mind right now – and it’s fair to say her superannuation balance is not top of the list. Panagiotopoulos, 36, has a four-week-old baby daughter, Julia, and a 2½-year-old son, John. Right now, she is more concerned about adjusting to life with another child, and her eventual return to paid work, than planning for events still decades away.David Potts: Women treated as second-class citizens
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”You don’t see it – it’s something that’s put away and tucked away for when you need it later in life,” she says. ”I’m still in my 30s, not nearing retirement, so it is something I don’t pay close attention to.”

And she wouldn’t be alone.

For many women in their 30s and 40s, life is a frantic juggle of work and family – full of situations and events that need immediate attention. Planning for a distant retirement can end up low on the list of priorities.

It doesn’t help that the super industry seems to struggle to engage with women; last year, a survey by the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) and Suncorp found that women were more likely than men to feel ” inadequate, ashamed or dumb” when it came to their superannuation.

Forty-one per cent of women surveyed said they felt ”powerless”.

Yet the culmination of a series of factors means it is critical for these women to think and plan carefully for the times ahead. These include the longer average life-spans of women, the gulf between male and female pay packets, and, especially, the hit to a woman’s superannuation caused by years of reduced or halted earnings spent caring for children or older parents.

Dramatic shortfall

Experts are warning that without action by employers, super funds, governments and women themselves, a generation of Australian females will face a drastic shortfall in retirement savings, leaving them vulnerable to markedly reduced standards of living in their later years.

”Why is it acceptable that women should, in retirement, have less income and be less comfortable than men?” says Cate Wood, chair of super industry networking and advocacy group Women in Super. ”Especially when what’s caused that is that they have spent time caring for children or the elderly. It doesn’t seem equitable.”

The figures are sobering.

While one or two years off work to have children might not seem like much in the context of 35 years or 40 years in the workforce, it can add up to several tens of thousands of dollars in lost super and earnings from compound interest.

Research by ASFA suggests a 32-year-old woman on $65,000 a year will miss out on $28,000 in super if she takes two years off work; the same woman earning $85,000 a year will be $36,500 behind.

Add in the fact that women still earn less than men – $261 a week based on full-time weekly earnings – and it becomes clear why the yawning gap between average male and female super balances persists.

Based on the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, the gap in super balances between working males and females starts expanding when workers are in their early 20s, widening to $10,000 for the 25-34 age bracket and blowing out to a whopping $117,000 for those in the 60-64 age group.

But what does this mean? For many women, a severely crimped lifestyle in retirement and several years – the final years of one’s life – spent living solely on the age pension.

Wood, also the president of the Australian Institute of Super Trustees, points to research by the institute that finds women living on the pension who own their own homes are ”managing”. But, she says, ”they were from a different generation, a generation that’s more adept at coping with lower incomes.

”It is an issue looking ahead for those who are having great difficulty getting into the property market. It’s very challenging for single mothers trying to manage. It’s very daunting.”

The financial implications of the shortfall in super for females are set out in stark terms by research from Rice Warner Actuaries, which has crunched the numbers on what a woman would need to set aside for an ”adequate” retirement income of $40,391 a year – a figure that ASFA calculates would provide a comfortable standard of living.

To have an adequate income until her life expectancy age of 94, a typical 20-year-old female starting her career on $34,300 a year would need $613,000 in her super account when she retires.

But Rice Warner’s ”typical” female, after regular promotions and salary increases, will end her working life with $426,500. This may seem like a hefty sum – but it will mean she will need to rely solely on the age pension after she reaches 86.

Build in a career break of five years – a year off for the first child, then part-time work for two years, another year off for the second child and another year of part-time work – and her nest-egg shrinks to $380,500, giving her only enough income to last until 83 – leaving her on the pension for potentially more than a decade.

Crucially, ASFA’s calculation of $40,391 for a ”comfortable” lifestyle in retirement assumes ownership of a home. But today’s 35-54 year olds are less likely to be home owners than in previous generations; almost 68 per cent of the 35-44 age group were home owners in 2010, the HILDA survey found, a figure that had declined 4.5 per cent in 10 years.

Change lifestyles

Rice Warner deputy chief executive Melissa Fuller warns that, as things stand, future generations of retirees will have to ”significantly” change their lifestyles to match their income.

Among those women who have already retired, 49 per cent relied solely on the age pension in 2011, compared with 40 per cent of men. About 69 per cent of Australians of pension age receive a part or full pension – and 56 per cent of these are women. The single pension is $21,018.40 a year.

Fuller warns the sharp dive in income in later years may come as a particular blow to women now in their 20s and 30s, who are accustomed to a higher standard of living.

But this is already the reality for many women in their late 40s, 50s and 60s, who are struggling to house themselves, Brotherhood of St Laurence researcher Helen Kimberley says.

”This is already happening, it’s started, and it’s going to increase,” she says.

Kimberley warns that women with no spouse or partner, little or no superannuation and who have had extended time out of the workforce to care for children – or, increasingly, older parents – are particularly vulnerable to poverty, because many struggle to get back into the workforce. This includes women who would consider themselves highly qualified and ”middle class”.

Kimberley’s research suggests age discrimination in the workforce begins for people aged about 45. ”People have a downward spiral,” she says. ”Each job is worse than the last one, it pays less, offers less satisfaction, its status is lower and it is less secure.”

Those who are married will fare better if their spouses can help support them, Kimberley says. ”But even if, financially, that’s not a big issue, from the point of view of identity, it’s a big issue.”

Many women assume that when they retire they will have plenty of assets to support them – including their partner’s super, the family home and investments. But Wood cites the saying: ”a man is not a plan”.

Her advice for young women is to step up super contributions before they take time out of the workforce to have children. ”It’s not a great sacrifice, it’s almost like a coffee a day to contribute extra into your super,” she says. ”Compound interest makes a huge difference.”

Women now in their 30s and 40s should consider boosting their super payments once they are back at work.

”The best way is to save up through salary sacrifice with the maximum that you can,” she says.

She also advises women to consolidate their accounts and to seek financial advice. As for husbands and partners, they can contribute to their spouses’ super or split their super contributions with their spouse. Both options have potential tax benefits.

But it’s not just women and their families being urged to act.

Policies under scrutiny

As a federal election looms, the policies of both major parties are under scrutiny.

The Labor government’s Paid Parental Scheme, which pays primary carers 18 weeks at the minimum wage, does not include super – a move that would cost the federal budget just $20 million a year, according to ASFA.

”Getting super would be a step in the right direction,” Fuller says. ”It’s a form of pay, why not pay the super guarantee on it?”

The Coalition’s paid maternity leave scheme gives women six months of full pay after a baby and includes super.

Lifting the super guarantee to 12 per cent – as promised by Labor – will boost the super balances of all workers. Labor, under former prime minister Julia Gillard, had pledged to lift the guarantee over six years from this month. But the Coalition says it will delay the move to 12 per cent by two years.

ASFA and Women in Super are also calling for the end of a requirement that a worker must earn at least $450 a month from the same employer to be paid super.

According to ASFA, this would benefit 250,000 Australian workers.

But Wood says more ”innovative” measures are needed.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick suggests ”carers credits” to bolster the super accounts of people who leave paid work to act as carers.

Some employers have stepped up; National Australia Bank, for example, pays super contributions of 10 per cent when its workers are on parental leave.

And Rice Warner has gone to the Human Rights Commission for an exemption from the Sex Discrimination Act to pay its female workers an extra 1.5 per cent superannuation ”to address the barrier of higher longevity for its female staff”.

”We need to offer women ways of covering [their absences from work], particularly to save more and ways to catch up later in life if you need to,” Wood says.Case Study: Chris Panagiotopoulos

In her job as the executive assistant at Melbourne law firm IFS Legal, mother-of-two Chris Panagiotopoulos comes into regular contact with the superannuation industry. ‘‘Our clients are super funds,’’ she says.

Nonetheless, Panagiotopoulos says her own super is not front of mind – and little wonder.

After taking a year’s maternity leave after the birth of her son, John, Panagiotopoulos worked part time for 18months and is now back on maternity leave after the arrival of baby Julia in late May. ‘‘With kids, you think about the immediate but you do tend to think long term as well,’’ she says.

‘‘Planning for them, planning for school and planning for us in retirement. My priority now is looking after the kids and making sure I’m still employed, to be able to still get super so when I do get to retirement the funds are there.

‘‘Long term, I’m thinking about myself. But it’s last on my list.’’

Panagiotopoulos and her husband, Peter, have done some planning for retirement, which they intend to fund with super and investment properties.

But time out of the workforce means that Panagiotopoulos’ superannuation contributions have been reduced or halted altogether for the past two years, and will be until the children start school. Her plan now is to make extra super payments when she returns to work.

Looking back, Panagiotopoulos wishes she’d put more into her super before she had children when she was working full time.

‘‘I wish I’d locked away more money in my super,’’ she says. ‘‘Whereas now I have to be conscious of where I’m putting that money because I’ve got kids.’’What you can do If you’re planning to have children at some point, boost your super contribution now. You’ll benefit from the compound interest on those contributions for the rest of your life. Go to the MoneySmart website to work out how much extra contributions could add to your super balance. A 40-year-old earning $50,000 with a balance of $35,000 – the median for women aged 35-44 – could boost her $259,827 balance at age 67 by more than $8000 by salary-sacrificing just $20 a month. If you’re on a low- or middle-income wage, check whether you’re eligible for the government’s co-contribution scheme. This gives a tax-free boost of up to $500 for workers on less than $46,920 who contribute extra to their super. If you’re on maternity leave or working part time, consider whether your partner could contribute to your super. If you’re back at work after taking leave, consider boosting your super contributions now. ASFA and Suncorp suggest following the ”1 per cent rule” – contribute an extra 1 per cent to your super for every two years spent out of the workforce. If you’re thinking about changing jobs, assess the super and parental leave policies of potential employers.

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Happy travels but super has to stay put

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Illustration: Michael MucciQ I am 52 and finalising a divorce. I am looking at leaving Australia and not returning or working in Australia again. How do I go about obtaining my superannuation?
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A Monica Rule, author of The Self Managed Super Handbook, points out that there is no legislative provision that permits Australian residents or citizens to access their superannuation on the basis that they have left the country. For example, an Australian citizen who is 37 and decides to leave the country permanently will be unable to access their superannuation until they meet a condition of release such as retirement, temporary and/or permanent incapacity or death.

If the person entered Australia under a temporary resident visa, they may be able to access their superannuation when they leave Australia under the Departing Australia Superannuation Payment (DASP) provisions. The tax-free component is paid tax-free; the taxable component is subject to withholding tax at 35 per cent.

Q I am 56, retired and thinking of cashing in all my super ($170,000), as I am no longer making contributions. I plan to put $150,000 of non-concessional contributions into my wife’s super. Is this a good idea?

A If you have made no previous withdrawals from superannuation, the whole $170,000 withdrawn should be tax free. This would certainly save you paying fees on two separate superannuation accounts, but it may be worthwhile taking advice about your overall situation. For example, if your wife is younger than you, it may be a good strategy to put the money in her name as that could help you maximise overall Centrelink benefits. However, the downside could be that you would be losing access to it until she reaches her preservation age and is able to fulfil a condition of release.

Q I am a 29-year-old woman earning $95,000 a year. I don’t own any property and my only debt is a student loan in the UK to which I pay $500 a month. Do you have any advice on how to invest some of my savings, or is it better to continue saving for property? Is there anything else I can do to help me save more for the future?

A If your goal is to buy your own home as soon as you can, your best option is probably to continue building up funds in the bank until you achieve a sufficient deposit. If the goal is more medium-term than short-term, you could investigate using a First Home Saver account. If you do, make sure you understand the access restrictions.

Q I am an Australian citizen who recently moved to the US. I have $12,000 sitting in a savings account earning 5 per cent interest a year. I am looking to invest this, but I am not sure if I should invest the money in a mutual fund in Australia or bring it to the US and invest it here. What would you recommend?

A It would appear that the Australian dollar is now weakening against the American dollar. If you believe this trend will continue it may be worthwhile to invest the money in the US to gain a currency advantage – you also may find there is a greater range of investment opportunities in America. Remember that the Australian stock market is less than 2 per cent of world stock market capitalisation.

Q I am 44, my husband is 47 and our gross income last year was $106,000. We have a mortgage of $480,000 with $140,000 in an offset account. The loan is variable at 5.61 per cent and will hopefully be paid off by 2030. Our total super was $215,000 in June 2012. We have $150,000 in managed funds – $135,000 in an Australian tax-effective share fund and $15,000 in a balanced growth fund. We have had the managed funds since 1999. Do you think we should cash them in and place the money in our offset account to decrease the term of our loan? I realise we will miss out on growth of the investment, and will have to pay capital gains tax, but wonder if it’s better in the offset account so we pay less interest on the loan and pay it off quicker. We’d like to be debt free in 13 years when my husband is 60.

A The Australian sharemarket has averaged 8 per cent growth a year for the past 10 years and it’s reasonable to believe that this kind of return will continue. Furthermore, interest rates here appear to be moving down, which means less interest will be payable on your mortgage. It would take repayments of just $3000 a month to pay off your mortgage in 13 years. Provided you feel you can handle that, I would leave the share-based assets intact and reinvest all the income from them.

Another option is to redeem the managed funds, pay $150,000 off your home loan and then take out a separate interest-only investment loan for $150,000 to buy other managed funds. The interest on this debt will be tax deductible and you will have improved your tax position. This loan could be paid off once your home loan is out of the way.

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Cobalt Blue: In Christine’s honour

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CHRISTINE Sobey’s favourite colour was cobalt blue.
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It was worn among all of her clothing, whether it matched or not.

It was in Chris’ nature – she loved everything colourful, vibrant and happy.

Taken at just 49, family and friends wore bright shades of every colour of the rainbow, to celebrate her life when she lost her battle with cancer in 2008.

Now, her daughter Kristal Elliott is carrying on her mother’s passion for cobalt blue, in a fundraiser next month for the Australian Cancer Research Foundation.

For the 28-year-old Bendigo mother-of-two, Cobalt Blue is a way of honouring Christine and her amazing life.

“It’s about wanting to stop someone else losing their mum and going through what we’ve had to,” Kristal said.

“Seeing somebody get sick and go through all that pain and suffering, is really hard.

“Although what we’re going to do is only small, every bit helps.”

Christine and her husband Gary owned the popular Skydancers Butterfly House at Harcourt, where Chris was well known for her watercolour painting and decadent baking.

But at 44, she was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, developed by 350 Victorians each year.

She beat it through chemotherapy, but developed a secondary cancer of the brain at 48. She died a year later.

Kristal was 23, and mum to Amy, just nine-months old at the time.

Losing her mum was like losing most of her life. The pair were more like best friends than mother and daughter.

“Mum was my universe; she was my rock. It’s been really hard to try and sculpt my life into something else,” Kristal said.

But five years on, her mum’s memory is never far away, as she raises two young children and continues to bake beautifully as her mum once did.

“A lot of what my mum taught me, has actually inspired me to be a good person, to do the right thing and live a full life.”

Now, Kristal isthrowing that energy into Cobalt Blue, raising money for world-class cancer research in Australia.

The Bendigo community has rallied behind the cause, with almost $3000 donated so far, plus goods from local businesses, to be auctioned off on Sunday, August 18.

Seventeen people have registered to shave or colour their heads and there will also be a chance to own an original watercolour painting by Christine, Spring Fever.

Kristal Elliott, with her dad Gary Sobey, with Christine’s painting to be auctioned. PHOTO: BRENDAN MCCARTHY.

Kristal is among those shaving her hair, and reflects on her mum’s own loss of her hair during her cancer.

“Mum lost her hair during her chemotherapy and radiation … she was particular about her appearance, so it was a very undignifying thing to go through,” Kristal said.

“I just want to help and really want to make a difference.”

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How Hotshot firefighters made one last desperate bid for survival

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Yarnell Yarnell
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Yarnell

Granite Mountain Hotshots crew members set up emergency fire shelters during training in April 2012.

Flames swept across the small town of Yarnell in Arizona.

The Australian stance on fire shelters

With no way out, the 19 elite firefighters did what they were trained to do when trapped by a raging fire: they unfurled their foil-lined, heat-resistant tarps and rushed to cover themselves on the ground.

But that last, desperate line of defence couldn’t save the “Hotshot” crew from the flames that swept over them in the small town of Yarnell in Arizona.

All 19 men died, marking the biggest loss of firefighters in a wildfire in the US in 80 years.

The tragedy on Sunday evening all but wiped out the 20-member Granite Mountain Hotshots, a unit based at Prescott, authorities said as the last of the bodies were retrieved from the mountain.

Only one member survived, and that was because he was moving the unit’s truck at the time.

The deaths plunged the two small towns into mourning as the wildfire continued to threaten one of them, Yarnell.

Arizona’s governor called it “as dark a day as I can remember” and ordered flags flown at half-mast. In a heartbreaking sight, a long line of white vans carried the bodies to Phoenix for autopsies.

“I know that it is unbearable for many of you, but it also is unbearable for me. I know the pain that everyone is trying to overcome and deal with today,” said Governor Jan Brewer, her voice catching several times as she addressed a crowd gathered at Prescott High School in the town of 40,000.

One of the firefighters who died was Anthony Rose, 21, who leaves behind a pregnant fiancee, Tiffany.

Just over a month ago, the pair had posted a photograph of themselves sharing a kiss on their joint Facebook page, the Washington Post reported. A painted sign posted on the fence behind them read: “It’s a girl.” The ultrasound image of their unborn baby appears on the background of their Facebook profile.

Fellow Hotshot Billy Warneke also leaves behind a pregnant wife, Roxanne, who is due to have their first child in December, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

Warneke had served a tour in Iraq with the Marine Corps, and only joined the Granite Mountain Hotshots in April.

The wife of Hotshot member Andrew Ashcraft learned that her husband had died in the Yarnell fire while watching the news.

Juliann Ashcraft was at home watching the television with her four children, the Arizona Republic reported.

“They died heroes,” she said. “We’ll miss them. We love them.”

The lightning-sparked fire – which spread to 20 square kilometres by Monday morning – destroyed about 50 homes and threatened 250 others in and around Yarnell, a town of 700 people in the mountains about 135 kilometres north-west of Phoenix.

It was unclear exactly how the firefighters became trapped, and state officials were investigating.

Governor Brewer said the blaze “exploded into a firestorm” that overran the crew.

Prescott City Councilman Len Scamardo said the wind changed directions and brought 65km/h to 85km/h gusts that caused the firefighters to become trapped about 3pm on Sunday. The blaze grew from 200 acres to about 2000 in a matter of hours.

All Prescott Fire Chief Dan Freijo said he feared the worst when he received a call on Sunday afternoon from someone assigned to the fire.

“All he said was ‘We might have bad news. The entire Hotshot crew deployed their shelters’,” Fraijo said.

“When we talk about deploying the shelters, that’s an automatic fear, absolutely. That’s a last-ditch effort to save yourself when you deploy your shelter.”

Arizona Forestry Division spokesman Mike Reichling said all 19 victims had deployed their emergency tarps as they were trained to do.

When there is no way out, firefighters are supposed to step into them, lie face down on the ground and pull the fire-resistant fabric completely over themselves. The shelter is designed to reflect heat and trap cool breathable air inside for a few minutes while a wildfire burns over a person.

But its success depends on firefighters being in a cleared area away from fuels and not in the direct path of a raging inferno of heat and hot gases.

The glue holding the layers of the tarp together begins to come apart at about 500 degrees, well above the 300 degrees that would almost immediately kill a person.

“It’ll protect you, but only for a short amount of time. If the fire quickly burns over you, you’ll probably survive that,” said Prescott Fire Captain Jeff Knotek.

But “if it burns intensely for any amount of time while you’re in that thing, there’s nothing that’s going to save you from that”.

Autopsies were scheduled to determine exactly how the firefighters died.

About 200 more firefighters joined the battle on Monday, bringing the total to 400. Among them were several other Hotshot teams, elite groups of firefighters sent in from around the country to battle the nation’s fiercest wildfires. They have been specifically trained to respond to fires in remote regions with little or no logistical support.

The US has 110 Hotshot crews, according to the US Forest Service website. They typically have about 20 members each and go through specialised training.

Candidates for the Granite Mountain Hotshots had to show that they could pass an arduous pack test and complete a series of physical activities, ranging from 40 sit-ups in 60 seconds to 7 pull-ups to a 2.4-kilometre run in just under 11 minutes.

The Hotshot team had spent recent weeks fighting fires in New Mexico and Prescott before being called to Yarnell, entering the smoky wilderness over the weekend with backpacks, chainsaws and other heavy gear to remove brush and trees as a heat wave across the south-west sent temperatures soaring.

President Barack Obama offered his administration’s help in investigating the tragedy and predicted it would force government leaders to answer broader questions about how they handled increasingly destructive and deadly wildfires.

“We are heartbroken about what happened,” he said while on a visit to Africa.

Many of those killed were graduates of Prescott High, including 28-year-old Clayton Whitted, who as a firefighter would work out on the same campus where he played football for the Prescott Badgers from 2000 to 2004.

The school’s football coach, Lou Beneitone, said Whitted was the type of athlete who worked hard.

“He wasn’t a big kid, and many times in the game, he was overpowered by big men, and he still got after it. He knew, ‘This man in front of me is a lot bigger and stronger than me’, but he’d try it and he’d smile trying it,” Beneitone said.

He and Whitted had talked a few months ago about how this year’s fire season could be a “rough one”.

“I shook his hand, gave him a hug, and said, ‘Be safe out there’,” Beneitone recalled. “He said, ‘I will, Coach.'”

Hundreds of people were evacuated from the Yarnell area. In addition to the flames, downed power lines and exploding propane tanks continued to threaten what was left of the town, said fire information officer Steve Skurja.

“It’s a very hazardous situation right now,” Skurja said.

Arizona is in the midst of a historic drought that has left large parts of the state highly flammable.

“Until we get a significant showing of the monsoons, it’s showtime, and it’s dangerous, really dangerous,” incident commander Roy Hall said.

The National Fire Protection Association website lists the last wildfire to kill more firefighters as the 1933 Griffith Park blaze in Los Angeles, which killed 29.

The biggest loss of firefighters in US history was 343, killed in the 9/11 attack on New York.

In 1994, the Storm King Fire near Glenwood Springs, Colorado, killed 14 firefighters who were overtaken by an explosion of flames.

A makeshift memorial of flower bouquets and American flags formed at the Prescott fire station where the crew was based.

Prescott resident Keith Gustafson showed up and placed 19 water bottles in the shape of a heart.

“When I heard about this, it just hit me hard,” he said. “It hit me like a ton of bricks.”

AP with smh南京夜网.au

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