QBE on track to reach $US250 million in savings

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

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

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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Electrocution ruled out as cause of man’s death

POLICE investigating the death of a man on his boat moored at Soldiers Point marina have ruled out electrocution as the cause of death.
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Evidence at the crime scene had earlier indicated to police to ‘‘suggest that electricity may have been a contributing factor’’, a police statement said.

However, Port Stephens crime manager Detective Inspector Matt Moroney has confirmed to theherald南京夜网.au that further investigation of the scene had since ruled out the electricity theory.

The death of the man, 55, is also not being treated as suspicious or a result of self-harm.

He had been living on the boat, which was moored at the marina, with his two cats.

A crime scene remains at the marina while forensic officers process the area.

An autopsy should reveal the cause of death later this week.

The scene at Soldiers Point Marina on Tuesday. Picture: Ryan Osland

The scene at Soldiers Point Marina on Tuesday. Picture: Ryan Osland

The scene at Soldiers Point Marina on Tuesday. Picture: Ryan Osland

The scene at Soldiers Point Marina on Tuesday. Picture: Ryan Osland

Fox grilled over alleged tip-off: inquiry

ARCHIVE of Herald reports
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TRANSCRIPTS AND COURT EXHIBITS

SERIOUS doubts have been cast over allegations that former Maitland-Newcastle bishop Michael Malone allegedly tipped off a priest that he was being investigated over claims of child sex abuse and told him who the complainant was.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox made the claim before the Special Commission of Inquiry in Newcastle on Tuesday morning, but his recollection of the event has been heavily questioned.

Under examination by counsel assisting the inquiry, Julia Lonergan SC, Fox was asked about a complaint he received in 2002 from a victim, known only as AH.

Fox told the inquiry that AH was “very distraught” when she called him. She allegedly told Fox that Bishop Malone had spoken to Father James Fletcher, disclosed AH’s real name to him and told him that she had made a complaint to police about his sexual abuse of her.

Fox later told the inquiry that he held a meeting with Bishop Malone and asked him about what he had told Fr Fletcher. Fox conceded that neither he or the other police officer who attended the meeting took any notes at their meeting with Malone.

In his evidence, Mr Fox said he contemplated laying charges against Bishop Malone, given that “potential evidence was destroyed”.

But serious doubts have been cast over Mr Fox’s recollection of the meeting and when he made reports about it.

One report given to the commission by Fox was not dated, and his evidence provided on Tuesday was at odds with another statement and evidence he gave the commission in a private hearing in May this year.

Commissioner Margaret Cunneen took the unusual step of lifting a suppression order on extracts of a transcript taken during the private hearings last month which showsthat Fox’s evidence was contradictory.

Ms Lonergan suggested to Fox that there “were elements of reconstruction” in Mr Fox’s new version of events, raising “serious questions about its reliability”.

She alleged that Mr Fox was changing his evidence to “make people think it’s more reliable than it actually is”.

Mr Fox rejected the suggestion.

Ms Lonergan asked Fox if he deliberately set out to mislead the commission.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox leaves Newcastle Supreme Court at lunch on Tuesday. Picture: Darren Pateman

Mr Fox also rejected that suggestion.

The inquiry continues.