Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Bumper crop elevates GrainCorp to ASX’s best performer

So sad for Greenies: We are not starving yet

GrainCorp says it expects its full year net profit to soar by as much as 100 per cent following a bumper crop, defying pandemic-fuelled labour shortages and supply chain disruptions that have plagued Australia’s food bowl.

The profit upgrade made it the best performer on the ASX on Monday, its shares surging by 13 per cent to $8.50 before easing to close at $8.10.

Chief executive Robert Spurway said the company overcame labour shortages and supply chain disruptions from Covid-19 and floods to process the harvest, which “broke multiple site receival records across our network”.

“The biggest challenge in the end for growers was the wet weather and the interrupted harvest from that point of view. Labour supply was certainly a challenge. But from our perspective, we planned for that very early and we were able to get the complement of workers that we needed,” Mr Spurway said.

The company now expects its full-year earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation to be $480m to $540m. This compares with $331m in 2021.

Meanwhile it has forecast underlying net profit of $235m to $280m versus $139m last year.

Not even VB maker, Asahi, bypassing GrainCorp to secure grain directly from farmers could dull Mr Spurway’s enthusiasm.

“I certainly wouldn’t like to comment but I still enjoy a drink when I can get one, in moderation,” he said.

“Generally, we continue to build a strong relationship with a number of global brewers and maltsters around the world and we’re seeing good demand for high quality malting barley both in Australia and globally.”

Key to the strong earnings forecast are the higher prices Australian grain has attracted, following drought across the northern US and Canada, combined with the threat of a Russian invasion in Ukraine, which threatens the nation’s harvest.

Ukraine harvested 32.4 million tonnes of wheat last year. Meanwhile, Australia’s wheat production is set to hit a record of 34.4 million tonnes this season, 3 per cent higher than the previous record set in the 2020-21 season.


Single-sex schools may discriminate against trans pupils

Single-sex schools will still be allowed to discriminate against transgender students under the government’s amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act, amid concerns that boys’ and girls’ schools would be ill-equipped to cater to the needs of the opposite sex.

Attorney-General Michaelia Cash has referred the matter, along with exemptions to discriminate against staff, to the Australian Law Reform Commission which is reviewing all religious exemptions in anti-discrimination law.

In a situation where a student transitions while enrolled at a single-sex college, a religious school would need to address issues including uniforms, bathrooms and the wishes of other parents to send their children to a single-sex school.

“If subsection 38(3) of the Sex Discrimination Act were amended to remove the exemption for religious schools to discriminate against a student on the basis of their gender identity, it could have the potential to effectively nullify the intention and ethos of religious single-sex schools,” Senator Cash said.

“Striking the balance between any individuals right to want to change their sexual identity and other parents’ and childrens’ wishes to go to a single sex-sex school must be sensitively managed.

“For example, if a current student transitioned whilst enrolled at a single-sex school, a religious single-sex school would not be adequately equipped to cater to the needs of the opposite sex. Matters such as uniforms, bathrooms, as well as the wishes of other parents to send their children to a single-sex schools would need to be addressed.”

Senator Cash said the ALRC would carefully consider changes to the SDA to “allow for these issues to managed and addressed correctly”.

“This is an important and crucial step that cannot be rushed. Let me be very clear, the government believes that discrimination against students is unacceptable,” she said.

LGBTI groups have raised concerns about whether transgender children would be included in an amendment to the SDA, prohibiting religious schools from discriminating against gay students.

Swimming legend Ian Thorpe, who is in Canberra campaigning against the reform, on Tuesday said transgender children would be further marginalised by the bill.

“This is a group of people that should be protecting,” Mr Thorpe said.

“When it comes to the biggest killer of people that are in their youth, it is suicide. And then, it is exponentially increased if you happen to be gay. And it’s even worse when we look at the statistics of someone who is part of a trans community.

“With this bill, we want to see it disappear. What this is, it becomes state sanctioned discrimination.”

Manager of opposition business Tony Burke on Tuesday said “the Prime Minister said he would end discrimination for all students”.

“He said he would end it for all students, that that’s what he said, full stop, and he should be true to his word,” Mr Burke told the ABC.

The Australian understands Labor’s major issue with the religious discrimination bill, which is separate to the SDA amendment, relates to constitutional issues around the overriding of state and territory laws, which the Victorian Labor government opposes.

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said the government was not, at this time, removing exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act allowing educational institutions to discriminate against transgender students because it could undermine their ability to run single sex schools.

He said this was why the government had referred broader changes to the Sex Discrimination Act to the Australian Law Reform Commission.

“I understand the proposal that is put forward is to repeal the exemption as it relates to students who are being exempted from the Sex Discrimination Act on the basis of their sexual orientation,” Mr Birmingham told the ABC.

“Now it doesn’t go further than that. Those other matters, as I understand it, would still be subject to a relatively quick, within 12 month, review by the Australian Law Reform Commission to try to address the best way to be able to enact any other changes without undermining certain issues around same sex schools or other matters that are there.”

University of Notre Dame adjunct associate professor Mark Fowler said the government’s proposal to “remove the ability to expel a gay student would be consistent with what peak bodies have said – no school seeks a right to expel a student because they are gay”.

Mr Fowler said significant “complexity arises when this apparently simple proposition is placed within the framework of the Sex Discrimination Act”.

“This is why the referral to the Australian Law Reform Commission was a reasonable way to address this issue. What if a group of students within a school starts a media campaign requesting that the school discard its traditional view of marriage,” Mr Fowler said.

“Would the school be prevented from refusing that request because its actions were on the basis not only of the students’ actions, but also their orientation? If the proposal does not take account of these issues, the amendment may undermine the ability of religious schools to maintain their distinct ethos.”


Bungles by NSW police officers cost $30m a year

Assault, battery, trespass and unlawful imprisonment and other cases against NSW police are costing $30 million a year.

NSW police bungles are costing more than $30 million a year in damages and compensation payouts to members of the public claiming to have been mistreated.

The number of successful claims involving police in New South Wales reached almost 400 in the past financial year – the highest level in five years and included assault, battery, unlawful imprisonment, malicious prosecution and trespass

More than $148 million has been paid since 2016 – an average of more than $80,000 a day – for more than 1600 incidents, sparking calls to overhaul police training and the “woke” police leadership.

Answers to Questions on Notice in NSW state parliament have revealed that during the pandemic year 2020-2021, police paid out $32,972,561 for 398 incidents, a jump of 100 incidents from 2019-2020 when $24,164,658 was paid out for 298 claims.

In comparison, Queensland for the same period paid out only $2,281,850 million, although the force has about 12,000 officers and NSW has about 17,000.

Retired detective sergeant turned One Nation MP Rod Roberts, said the consistency of the payouts every year showed the problems in NSW Police were “systemic” and had been ongoing for years.

“Police are a law enforcement body. Not social workers. To enforce the law they need to know the law, which by these figures they do not,” said Mr Roberts.

“We need to support our frontline officers and the first step in this is ensuring that they receive the appropriate training to enable them to perform their roles professionally,” he said.

NSW Police Acting Deputy Commissioner Corporate Services, Paul Pisanos said, “There is a myriad of reasons why civil claims are brought against the NSW Police Force, and to suggest that training – or lack thereof – is the cause is incorrect.”

The claim costs, including legal expenses for defending the police, are paid for by the NSW Police Force insurer.

The compensation amounts were revealed after questions in the NSW parliament and showed the categories of claims spanned intimidation, injurious falsehood, collateral abuse of process, negligence, trespass, misfeasance in public office.

Last year police were told they would not be held to account if they issued tickets wrongly for Covid breaches.

Mr Roberts said the management and leadership of the police in the past had been “too woke”.

“This is evidence they are not being trained properly and are being taught too much woke political correctness,” he said.

“The police are not getting the bread-and-butter education they need and the taxpayer is paying for it.

“The way we can be protected is for police to be aware of their powers.”

The call for better police training comes after criticism of plans by NSW Police to train 315 officers to become special gay and lesbian liaison officers for a huge World Pride event next year.

One Nation MP Mark Latham said the number was disproportionate and police should instead consider special training for dealing with housing estate and elderly residents.


‘Scary’ rise in retirees’ cost of living

Surging petrol, health, grocery and petrol prices have put seniors under extra financial pressure as the cost of a comfortable retirement climbs at its fastest rate since 2010.

Retirees suffered greater price rise pain than other households in 2021 because rising inflation hit unavoidable, non-discretionary expenses the hardest, pushing a couple’s annual comfortable retirement budget to $64,771.

This was up 3.5 per cent since 2020, while the budget for a single retiree rose 3.9 per cent to $45,962, according to a new report by the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA).

The ASFA Retirement Standard for the December quarter found fuel prices jumped 6.6 per cent in three months, dairy products rose 1.7 per cent and non-durable household goods – such as toilet paper – increased 3.7 per cent.

ASFA Deputy CEO Glen McCrea said higher food, petrol and health costs meant many retirees were “really suffering at the moment” as their price increases outstripped those of employees. “That triple whammy is really having an impact on the budget of retirees,” he said.

ASFA says a retiring couple wanting a comfortable lifestyle will need a combined super balance of $640,000, while a single retiree requires $545,000, based on a combination of super drawdowns and the age pension.

“The higher the cost of living, the more you need to get to that comfortable standard,” Mr McCrea said. “For retirees it’s harder to save money, and you can’t work more,” he said.

“For those people who are approaching retirement, and also younger people, the more you save in super will give you more room to deal with some of these inflationary shocks, which are very hard to manage when you’re a retiree on a fixed income.”

MBA Financial Strategists director Darren James said the rising cost of living came up in a lot of retirement conversations with clients.

“Especially in the initial discussions about what you think you need to live on, the first thing they say is the cost of living going up is scary,” he said.

“Everything costs a lot more and private health insurance scares a lot of them.”

Mr James combining super savings and the age pension would fund the retirement of a majority of people who did not have a full working lifetime of receiving compulsory superannuation.

“If you spend all of your retirement savings, your fallback position is you get the age pension of $38,000 a year (for a couple),” he said.

“Anything you can add to that just improves your quality of life.”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics this month revealed that in 2021 the cost of living for age pension households rose 3.4 per cent, almost one-third higher than the 2.6 per cent price rise for employee households.

ABS head of prices statistics Michelle Marquardt said: “automotive fuel prices have increased over 30 per cent over the last 12 months and continue to be the largest contributor to higher living costs for Australian households”.

“Food makes up a higher proportion of overall expenditure for age pensioner households compared to other types of households,” she said.




No comments: