Tech billionaire buys Sydney mansion for record price of $75 million

Tech billionaire Scott Farquhar has bought a Sydney waterfront mansion for an Australian record $75 million, a report said Monday, after the owners resisted selling the 1863-built home to developers.

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The co-founder of Australian software giant Atlassian, which floated in the United States in late 2015, snapped up the iconic “Elaine” from John Brehmer Fairfax, whose family formerly owned the Sydney Morning Herald.

The estate, which stretches down to a harbour beach in Sydney’s prestigious Point Piper, had been in the Fairfax family since 1891 when it was bought for 2,100 pounds. It features horse stables, a tennis court and a ballroom.

Tech billionaire Scott Farquhar bought the mansion for an Australian record $75 million.HOWORTH

Fairfax reportedly resisted larger offers from developers to subdivide the land.

“We’re thrilled with the purchase and honoured to take over the Elaine estate in its entirety from the Fairfax family,” Farquhar, 37, told Fairfax Media.

“It would have been a great loss to see this rare property sold to developers and carved up.

Watch: Sydney rental affordability hits new lows 

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“When we heard of the plans, we just couldn’t let this beautiful piece of Australian history be turned into a development site.”

The price tag set a record for residential property in Australia, the Australian Financial Review said.

It topped the previous $70 million in 2015 when mogul James Packer, who runs worldwide gambling empire Crown, sold his Sydney home to Australian-Chinese billionaire businessman Chau Chak Wing.

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Housing focus not just Sydney: Morrison

Low-income renters in Hobart or Townsville are just as important to the government as Sydney home buyers, insists Treasurer Scott Morrison.

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Mr Morrison is putting the finishing touches to his second federal budget which will be delivered on May 9.

One of the features of the budget will be a package of measures to deal with housing affordability, the rental market and public housing.

Speaking to reporters in Canberra on Monday, the treasurer underlined the broad scope of what would be presented in the budget.

“I know that so much of the commentary and the analysis of the issue focuses on house prices in Sydney,” Mr Morrison said.

“I’m just as concerned about someone on low incomes living in Hobart who can’t afford their rent, or in Adelaide or in Perth or Darwin or Townsville.”

Work is under way in consultation with the states on how to better spend the $11 billion set aside for social and affordable housing and leverage more investment in the sector.

It’s also expected the government will point to its “city deals” as an example of how local, state and federal governments can cooperate on land development, transport and services.

Mr Morrison said he also empathised with the frustration of young home buyers facing high prices.

“If you live in Sydney it’s been like that for generations,” he said.

“My grandparents – all they ever knew on my father’s side was renting a house in Sydney – could never buy a house … so it has been a long term issue in Sydney.”

Economist Chris Richardson said the federal government itself could not make housing more affordable.

“They can do sensible things around housing – they really can, and they should – but we shouldn’t let Australians think that governments can solve housing affordability,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

“At $6.5 trillion, that is Australia’s largest market, and it’s a wicked problem to fix.”

An interest rate rise would make an impact, but was a “big lever”.

“If interest rates were to go up one per cent, and at some stage they’ll have done that, compared today to perhaps the end of 2018, that would cut about seven per cent from housing prices.”

The latest CoreLogic home value index for April showed dwelling values increased by 0.1 per cent across the combined capital cities in April, with housing market conditions slowing in both Sydney and Melbourne.

Over the three months to April, Sydney was the most expensive city with a median dwelling price of $860,000, and Hobart was the most affordable at $363,200.

A mother at 11 then back to primary school

Eleven years old, and pregnant.

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That was the horrendous fate of a Papua New Guinean schoolgirl raped by her stepfather and the confronting case Australian Federal Police sergeant Mandy Arnold encountered when she was first posted to Lae, PNG’s second largest city.

An ultrasound revealed that Becky (not her real name) had passed the 20-week mark of the pregnancy, meaning she was ineligible for a termination under PNG law.

Fortunately, Femili PNG stepped in to help – ensuring she had prenatal scans, health care, counselling and safe accommodation with her mother.

The organisation, which receives funding from the Australian aid program and private sector, works with police to help family and sexual violence survivors access services such as safe houses and legal assistance.

Sergeant Arnold said Femili PNG was the glue between the police force, courts, health system and women’s shelters.

“Although we couldn’t take back the crime, as a group everyone made it work,” she said.

Becky went on to give birth to a healthy baby boy who was later adopted. She’s since returned to primary school.

“To see her in her school uniform on the first day back at school, to me that was so special,” Sgt Arnold said.

The perpetrator has since died in prison so she won’t have to go through the gruelling process of giving evidence at a trial.

There are four AFP officers based in Lae providing training and mentoring to PNG police.

One of Sgt Arnold’s offsiders is PNG inspector Hove Genderiso, a 35-year veteran of the force and father of four.

Insp Genderiso believes domestic violence is worse today than when he first started as a cop.

One of the worst cases he investigated was a father’s sexual penetration of his four-year-old daughter.

“It’s worse than animals,” he said.

“A four-year-old cannot give evidence in court. It’s pretty difficult for a case like that to proceed in the courts.”

It can take two or three years for a case to go to trial.

On average per week, Inspector Genderiso and his colleagues arrest five to 10 men accused of domestic violence in Lae.

A lack of resources is a big factor hindering police officers’ ability to respond to call outs, for example in some instances there might not be any petrol in the police car.

Femili PNG is helping to fill such voids and has provided printers and computers to police stations and the public prosecutor’s office.

Sometimes requests for resources from Lae police to the headquarters in the capital Port Moresby are ignored for six months to a year.

Another problem is that some PNG police officers, especially some females, don’t have driver’s licences, but AFP officers assist with transport on occasions.

There are 70 female police officers in Lae out of about 400 and their presence is important for taking statements from vulnerable women and children.

* PNG readers seeking help and counselling for family and sexual violence should phone the 1-TOK KAUNSELIN HELPIM LAIN national hotline (715-08000)

* Reporter Lisa Martin travelled to Lae as a guest of Femili PNG during Rosie Batty’s recent visit.

National domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT. In an emergency call triple-zero.

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 to 25).

Australian readers seeking support and information about depression can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Papalii suspended for one NRL match

Canberra have handed Josh Papalii a one-match NRL ban on top of his suspension from the Anzac Test over a drink-driving conviction.

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The Raiders’ board on Monday decided the forward will be unavailable for Canberra’s round-10 clash with Newcastle in a fortnight after he pleaded guilty to drink-driving in an ACT court last week.

His club suspension comes after he was ruled out of Friday night’s Test against New Zealand in Canberra.

“The board believes Josh has endured a hefty punishment from both the court process and by his omission from the Kangaroos team and believed a further one match suspension was the correct punishment,” Raiders chief executive Don Furner said in a statement.

Papalii played in Canberra’s loss to Canterbury on the weekend, two days after he was fined $1000 and had his licence suspended for eight months over the incident in January.

Monday was the earliest time the Raiders’ board could meet to decide further punishment for the 24-year-old while the NRL moved to dump him from the Kangaroos side before they went into camp.

Australia captain Cameron Smith said Papalii knew he had done the wrong thing and was paying the price.

“That type of behaviour’s just unacceptable in general,” Smith said.

“It’s not what the Kangaroos stand for.

“Now he misses out on a Test match and it’s unfortunate for him because he’s playing some of the best football he’s played in his entire career.”

Papalii’s axing from the Kangaroos continues coach Mal Meninga’s tough approach to disciplinary issues which saw him overlook Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita for last year’s Four Nations because of his support for convicted killer Kieran Loveridge.

Parramatta winger Semi Radradra was also left out of that squad while he faced domestic violence charges.

“As we spoke about, Mal holds a firm line with behaviour issues and anyone that steps out of our beliefs, or are behaviours, you pay the price,” Smith said.

Fifita, who is set to make his international return in Friday’s match, said he felt for Papalii.

“He’s still young in his game and the sky’s the limit for him,” Fifita said.

“He’s just going to have to buy back in and earn the jersey back. It’s a tough road but he’ll get through it.”

ACCC claims Ramsay Health anti-competitive

The consumer watchdog has started Federal Court action against Ramsay Health Care, alleging that the private hospitals operator engaged in anti-competitive conduct at Coffs Harbour.

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission alleges that Ramsay threatened to block some surgeons’ access to operating theatres at its Baringa Private Hospital and Coffs Harbour Day Surgery if they proceeded with plans to establish a competing Coffs Harbour day surgery.

“The ACCC alleges that Ramsay sought to preserve its position in day surgery services in the Coffs Harbour region by making threats to reduce or withdraw individual surgeons’ access to operating theatres at Baringa Hospital,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement on Monday.

“It is alleged that the surgeons suspended their plans to establish a competing day surgery facility as a result of these threats.”

Ramsay Health said it took its obligations under competition law seriously and had co-operated with an ACCC investigation.

“Ramsay intends to vigorously defend the matter,” the company said on Monday.

“As this matter is now before the court, Ramsay will not be making any further comment on the allegations other than as required to keep the market informed in accordance with its continuous disclosure obligations.”

Mr Sims said the ACCC was taking action against Ramsay because misuse of market power and other anti-competitive practices could cause significant harm to consumers and other businesses.

The ACCC is seeking penalties, declarations, compliance orders and costs.

Shares in Ramsay Health Care were $1.45, or 2.02 per cent, lower at $70.25 at 1500 AEST.

The first win is the hardest, Lauda tells Bottas

“To win the first grand prix.

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..is always the most difficult one,” the retired triple champion and non-executive chairman of Bottas’s Mercedes team, told reporters.

“This I know out of my own experience. So every one that comes next, for him his life is easier. He has proven that he can win.

“As soon as you win the first grand prix, a big load comes off,” added the Austrian, who was surprised Ferrari did not win in Sochi given their race pace and having both cars starting on the front row.

Instead, Bottas roared past both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen to seize the lead into the first corner in a move that decided the outcome.

The Finn has had to wait longer than most to scale the top step of the podium but the man he replaced in January, retired 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg, took his first victory in his 111th grand prix start after also starting out at Williams.

Fellow-Finn Mika Hakkinen, world champion in 1998 and 1999 with McLaren, took 96 races.

Only last week, reporters were asking Bottas about having to accept so-called ‘team orders’ and help triple champion team mate Lewis Hamilton in the title battle against Vettel but it looks different already.

Bottas is now just 10 points adrift of Hamilton and, having started the season as an emergency stopgap, can now quite legitimately see himself in the championship mix.

That situation poses another headache for Hamilton but is one that Mercedes are relaxed about having to manage. They do not expect the relationship to turn sour as it did between the Briton and Rosberg.

“He (Bottas) took up that risky move to be Lewis Hamilton’s team mate, to take over the reigning world champion’s car, and I think that he has done a very good job,” said team boss Toto Wolff.

“The relationship between the two is very intact, Lewis was one of the first to congratulate Valtteri on his first race victory and I think that shows the respect that they have towards each other.

“Nevertheless, both of them are fierce competitors and they will want to win races and fight for a championship; But I don’t think it will affect the relationship and the dynamics within the team like it did in the last years between Nico and Lewis.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Storms in US South and Midwest kill at least 14

Severe weather devastated homes, overturned cars and felled trees, with the National Weather Service confirming at least four tornadoes in Texas.

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The mayor of Canton, Texas – a city some 60 miles (95 kilometers) east of Dallas – said the death toll there stood at four.

“It is heartbreaking and upsetting to say the least,” Mayor Lou Ann Everett told journalists Sunday.

A spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management told AFP severe weather had caused at least five fatalities in that state.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency had confirmed two deaths, one of them a child who was killed by electric shock in floodwater.

Cars and trucks are damaged as the walls blew out of the I-20 Dodge dealership after a tornado hit near Canton, Texas, Saturday, April 29, 2017. (AAP)AAP

Heavy rains also lashed the midwestern state of Missouri, with at least two reported casualties. According to CNN one of those killed was a 72-year-old woman who was stranded in her car as it was swept away by floodwaters.

In Tennessee, a two-year-old girl was pronounced dead at a hospital in Nashville after she was struck by a heavy metal soccer goal blown over by heavy winds, according to the city’s police department.

As of late Sunday the NWS was projecting major flooding to continue in parts of eastern Oklahoma, northern Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.

Authorities warned that severe storms potentially packing heavy winds, large hail and tornadoes could hit parts of the mid-Atlantic and northeastern US by Monday afternoon.

Other news

SA premier apologies over Oakden scandal

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has apologised to the residents of a state run nursing home and their families, after damning revelations on the quality of care at the facility.

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Mr Weatherill returned from holidays on Monday and reiterated an apology made by Mental Health Minister Leesa Vlahos over the poor treatment and potential abuse of elderly dementia patients at the Oakden facility.

“It is deeply distressing,” he told reporters at the Adelaide Airport before flying to the APY lands in the state’s north to take charge of a country cabinet meeting.

“I’m deeply sorry to those families and those residents that they experienced that abuse, that they experienced that neglect.”

The response was “not really good enough” to the widow of former patient Bob Spriggs, whose family alleges he was overdosed and also suffered severe bruising while in the facility early last year.

Barb Spriggs, whose husband has since died, said it took 10 months for complaints about the home from her family to gain traction with authorities and she is appalled to have since learnt of issues dating back even longer.

“It’s just appalling to think that it’s been covered over for over 10 years and nobody has picked up on it,” she told ABC radio on Monday.

The premier said steps are being taken to remedy the situation and that Ms Vlahos, who has resisted calls from the opposition to quit, has his full support.

He said she should be acknowledged for initiating an inquiry that has revealed “the depth of the concerns at this institution”.

But he said it is “disturbing” that mechanisms in place to safeguard the wellbeing of residents at facilities like Oakden did not fully reveal the issues there before Ms Vlahos decided in December that an inquiry was needed.

The inquiry, conducted by SA’s chief psychiatrist, uncovered the rough handling of patients, an excessive use of restraints, and a concerning level of injuries.

Releasing it in April, Ms Vlahos said a culture of cover-up existed at Oakden, which was now set for closure.

The opposition, medical groups and some families have accused the government of ignoring previous warning about care at the home.

Mr Weatherill said Ms Vlahos responded properly to a complaint about Oakden in 2014 but was given inaccurate advice at the time from SA Health.

Opposition Leader Steven Marshall says nobody involved in the situation wants to take responsibility and the premier should have sacked Ms Vlahos to demonstrate his standards or have set a better culture for the public service.

“The fish rots from the head,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

“This government is incompetent, ministers don’t take responsibility and consequently there are massive areas of neglect and cover up.”

Outlook key as ANZ starts earnings season

ANZ will kick off what is expected to be a solid round of bank earnings over the next week, with investors eager for clues on how long the blue skies over the sector can last.

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ANZ is tipped to unveil a first-half cash profit of about $3.79 billion – up more than 30 per cent on last year’s writedown-heavy $2.8 billion – thanks to a strong performance by its retail unit, tight cost control and a sharp drop in bad and doubtful debt charges already flagged in its first-quarter trading update.

National Australia Bank and Westpac are also expected to announce larger profits over the coming days but, with financial stocks having gained more than 20 per cent in the past six months, the market appears to have already priced that in.

“Investors are anticipating solid results supported by low bad debt provisions and cost control,” CMC Markets chief market analyst Michael McCarthy said.

“Yield investors continue to see banks as a relatively stable income proposition in the near term.”

The results will be the first since the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority introduced new restrictions on the amount banks can lend in the form of interest-only loans.

Banks lifted interest-only and investor rates as a result of APRA’s intervention and, while that could have a positive impact in the second half, banks could face earnings pressure in the longer term if the moves successfully reduce home loan demand from investors.

UBS banking analyst Jon Mott says that, while the banks have enjoyed a purple patch over the past six months, APRA’s limit on interest-only lending and hints of further increases to housing risk weights will have a bigger impact than many expect.

“The impact of this is likely to be decelerating credit growth to low single digit levels in FY18/19,” Mr Mott wrote in a note.

“Additional mortgage repricing is highly likely.”

ANZ lifted rates on some interest-only loans at the end of last week, with the impact to be seen in its full-year results.

Mr Mott has forecast a $3.31 billion cash profit for NAB when it reports on Thursday and $3.98 for Westpac next Monday.

Commonwealth Bank, which announced a 2.1 per cent lift in half-year profit to $4.91 billion back in February, will release a third-quarter trading update on May 9.

Sea of surpluses in Victorian budget

Victoria will get “surpluses as far as the eye can see” as it rings up more than $8 billion over the next four years, Treasurer Tim Pallas says.

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But he admits a key project will not go ahead unless the federal government stumps up the money.

A $1.2 billion surplus for this financial year will be unveiled in Tuesday’s budget, with average surpluses of $2.4 billion over the forward years, Mr Pallas said on Monday.

Along with debt being kept below the level the Labor government inherited from its coalition predecessor, Victoria has a greater capacity for infrastructure investment, Mr Pallas says.

“We’ve increased our level of infrastructure investment from around about $4.9 billion to $10.1 billion in this budget,” Mr Pallas said.

“Imagine how much more we could do if the federal government were interested in partnering with the state of Victoria instead of playing politics?”

A state and federal stoush is looming over a $1.45 billion regional rail revamp announced by Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday, to upgrade the Gippsland and Warrnambool lines and a new Surf Coast line.

Mr Andrews only told Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about the project that day, Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan spoke to her federal counterpart on Saturday evening, and now the two governments are squabbling over the cash.

The money is owed under the asset recycling scheme after Victoria sold the Port of Melbourne lease for $9.7 billion.

The $1.45 billion is included in Tuesday’s budget but the projects will not go ahead without the commonwealth funds, Mr Pallas said.

Before the election, the government promised no new taxes but it now says it will not increase taxes to fund election promises.

Two tax changes, for investment properties and new cars, were announced on Saturday and together are set to bring in $120 million a year.

The money will be used to “improve services and improve our offering around capital investment”, which Mr Pallas conceded were election promises.

“But everything we are doing now is far and away in excess of anything we offered at the last election,” Mr Pallas said.

Tackling family violence will be a key part of Tuesday’s budget and new schools are also expected to be funded.

Earlier on Monday, $26.5 million was committed to boosting the improvement in ambulance response times.

Shadow Treasurer Michael O’Brien criticised Labor for smaller surpluses than what was left to them and wasting money on infrastructure business cases.

“Victorians are seeing talk, they’re seeing higher taxes and charges, they’re not actually seeing the work being done that makes their life better,” he told reporters.