Orora faces $8m bill shock on power prices

Packaging company Orora says it faces a power bill blowout of up to $8 million at its NSW recycled paper mill once a current electricity contract expires and it feels the brunt of a recent surge in energy costs.

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Orora shares surged on Thursday as the company reported a lift in profits and sales revenue but the company warned increasing gas and electricity costs remain a substantial burden.

Higher electricity costs for its paper recycling mill in the southern Sydney suburb of Botany will deliver a hit to earnings of $6 million to $8 million in 2018, once a legacy contract expires in December.

In January 2016, the Botany mill started paying higher gas prices which reduced earnings by around $3 million in the first-half of 2017.

“A high degree of volatility and uncertainty remains in the Australian electricity market,” Orora said on Thursday.

“This is expected to continue for the foreseeable future and represents further potential downside risk to earnings before interest and tax.”

Orora said a number of initiatives are being implemented to offset rising costs, including a $23 million investment in a waste water treatment plant to generate renewable energy by converting biogas to electricity.

It said it will continue to assess further energy efficiency projects and supply options.

Orora on Thursday lifted its full-year profit by 1.5 per cent to $171.1 million, while sales revenue was up 4.9 per cent on the previous year at $4.04 billion.

The company’s power price warning comes as Australia’s second-largest energy retailer, AGL Energy, on Thursday said prices are likely to remain high until there is more investment in power production, which requires certainty from government policy.

AGL chief executive Andrew Vesey said wholesale electricity prices have moderated in recent months but the energy market needs more investment for wholesale and retail energy prices to really ease.

Lawyers warn Merlino over lobster comments

Victoria’s deputy premier says he will not be silenced by legal threats from a man authorities accuse of being a mafia boss and who attended a controversial lobster dinner with Opposition Leader Matthew Guy.

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James Merlino used parliamentary privilege on Thursday to reveal lawyers for Tony Madafferi sent him two letters claiming defamation over comments the Labor MP made outside parliament.

“I can assure all Victorians that I will not be silenced, I will not be intimidated,” Mr Merlino declared.

Mr Madafferi was at an April dinner with Mr Guy at the exclusive Lobster Cave restaurant, organised by the alleged mobster’s cousin and Liberal member Frank Lamattina.

Mr Madafferi is widely accused of being a high-level organised crime figure, but has never been charged or convicted.

The legal letters marked “not for publication, private and confidential”, were released by the government.

“Each of the imputations is false and our client expressly denies the same,” the letter reads.

“You would no doubt be aware that our client maintains he has never been charged with any criminal offence and has no criminal convictions.”

The letters demand a retraction, apology and payment of Mr Madafferi’s legal fees.

“Unless a satisfactory offer to make amends is received by this office … we are instructed to immediately commence proceedings in the Supreme Court of Victoria without further notice to you,” the letter continues.

Mr Merlino opened question time by telling the parliamentary Speaker of the letters.

“I ask that you urgently investigate this matter because Melbourne is not 1920s Chicago, it is imperative that those who stand for justice call out organised crime and those that seek to profit from their activities,” he said.

Mr Merlino did not table the letters, but made them available to the Legislative Assembly.

Mr Guy insists he did not know Mr Madafferi, a successful market garden and pizza chain owner, would be at the Lobster Cave dinner until he arrived.

The dinner meeting was to discuss fruit and vegetable markets and not political donations, the Liberal leader said.

However leaked phone calls of Liberal figure Barrie MacMillan suggest the meeting was designed to direct donations to the cash-strapped party.

Mr MacMillan resigned as a local electorate conference office bearer on Wednesday afternoon.

The Liberal Party say no one from the dinner who is not a member has made a declarable donation.

However after initially saying no one from the meeting has made any donation to the party since then, Mr Guy admitted Mr Lamattina did attend a $2,000-per head, 20-person fundraiser in June.

Mr Guy downplayed Mr Lamattina’s attendance.

“You don’t know first of all if everyone’s paid, if they’re a guest of someone and as party members they aren’t always paying for those events,” Mr Guy told reporters.

Gay marriage campaign kicks off

QUOTES ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE DEBATE:

“I have many other calls on my time as prime minister, but I will certainly support a ‘yes’ vote.

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– Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

“I will be voting yes. I will be campaigning for a yes vote. I will do my bit and I encourage people to join the movement for marriage equality because no true leader is ever too busy to fight for the fair go in this country. Equality is not a diary appointment.”

– Labor leader Bill Shorten speech in parliament.

“We will be arguing that by going ahead without the authorisation of parliament the government is acting beyond its power.”

– Public Interest Advocacy Centre chief Jonathon Hunyor, in launching a High Court challenge.

“We will not facilitate the introduction of a private member’s bill on this matter unless the Australian people have given their support through a ‘yes’ vote through this national vote that we are now undertaking.”

– Malcolm Turnbull, on the court challenge.

“We do have a pathway now that will see this issue resolved before Christmas.”

– NSW Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman, who will vote yes.

“I would call on everyone to honour the will of the Australian people as expressed through this plebiscite. So for everyone arguing against change, if it goes against us we should honour it and that’s what I will do.”

– ACT Liberal senator Zed Seselja, who will vote “no”.

“I think the less said about this irregular and unscientific polling the better. I’m not going to take any part in it whatsoever. I think they should abandon it.”

– Former High Court judge Michael Kirby.

Citizenship limbo: Changes dent photographer’s bid to represent Australia

It seemed minor at the time, but Josselin Cornou now realises a “server issue” at the website of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection barred him from Australian citizenship for the foreseeable future.

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He now faces two-and-a-half more years of juggling work, a burgeoning photography career and visits to his frail father in France.

And his experience highlights the effect the government’s snap citizenship changes continue to have on members of the Australian community.

Approximately 115,000 people applied for citizenship in 2014-15. Since the scheme was frozen in April, it is likely tens of thousands of would-be applicants have fallen into citizenship limbo.

Mr Cornou’s server issue prevented him from lodging his citizenship form just two days before the freeze.

“When I tried to submit the application it said it was failing, I would just get ‘server error’,” he said.

“I just waited because they said we’re having some maintenance.”

The French 30-year-old, who works at Google, complained to the department about the website after applications had been frozen, but it told him that until an application has been “successfully” submitted, in its eyes it had never existed.

A photograph by Josselin Cornou of the Sydney Opera House and Milky Way Galaxy during Vivid festival in 2016.Josselin Cornou

If passed, the reforms are predicted by the government to reduce demand by approximately 20,000 applications annually.

Changes proposed include a tougher stand-alone English test and the granting of a power for the Immigration Minister to overrule citizenship decisions by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

But the change that has the biggest impact on Mr Cornou is a requirement that applicants need to have permanent residency for four years before making the application.

Because the period of his 457 temporary visa is no longer counted, he now faces an extra two-and-a-half years where his travel overseas is limited by the residence rules in the citizenship application to three months out of every twelve.

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His employer expects him to travel overseas between one and three months each year, and his father in France has heart issues meaning he might need to return at short notice at any time.

“Last time my dad went to emergency room for a serious heart issue, I was not able to join him due to those restrictions – in order to keep my citizenship eligibility,” he said.

If work and family weren’t enough to juggle, Mr Cornou is emerging as one of Australia’s top landscape photographers.

He was named the French National Winner at the World Photo Organisation Contest for a photo taken on a trip to Antarctica.

The photo of Antarctica that made Josselin Cornou French National Winner at the 2017 World Photo Organisation Contest.Josselin Cornou

Representing France instead of Australia in international competitions is a source of a frustration.

“I think Australia is more about creativity and innovation – people are always smiling and they are always looking towards the next steps,” he said.

Arriving in Australia in 2012 on a 457 visa, his adopted country helped him along his photographic journey.

“I went from being a newbie to being awarded in top competitions,” he said.

“(At the World Photography Awards) I asked to represent Australia, but I was not able to.”

The fate of the citizenship legislation is in the hands of the Senate crossbench.

And with the bill facing strong opposition in Parliament, the next steps for Australia’s citizenship laws – and for people like Mr Cornou – remain uncertain.

0:00 New Kenyan-born Senator Lucy Gichuhi says citizenship for migrants is ‘not a right, a privilege’ Share New Kenyan-born Senator Lucy Gichuhi says citizenship for migrants is ‘not a right, a privilege’

Aust netball coach promises fresh approach

Australian netball coach Lisa Alexander has warned netball purists to brace themselves as the Diamonds prepare to spring a few surprises in this month’s Quad Series.

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Holders of every major trophy, the Diamonds are not about to get comfortable ahead of a run of tournaments that culminates in the defence of Commonwealth Games gold next year.

Long-time mentor Alexander anticipates that eyebrows will be raised when the Diamonds begin the Quad Series against England in Brisbane this month.

“I think some will be surprised by how we run our matches and traditionalists may not like it as much,” Alexander said.

“It will test people’s sensibilities of what they think netball is about.”

Players were given a month off following the inaugural Suncorp Super Netball competition before reuniting in Canberra late last month.

There the playing group was purposely unsettled and challenged by Alexander in an effort to push them out of their comfort zone.

Currently training in small groups in their respective states, the squad will gather on the Sunshine Coast from August 22 to prepare for the Quad Series against England, New Zealand and South Africa.

Remaining cryptic, Alexander said they would use every last piece of talent available against an English side she expects to challenge them.

“Suncorp Super Netball brought the game to a bigger audience and helped address the disconnect to the top, but (with English representatives involved in the competition) it’s a double-edged sword because they’ve also improved,” Alexander said.

“I would say this is going to be the most competitive Quad Series ever.”

The Diamonds were rocked by the withdrawal of star defender and incumbent captain Sharni Layton from the series due to exhaustion.

Not drawn on the specifics of Layton’s condition, Alexander said she was hopeful of retaining her ahead of the Commonwealth Games next April on the Gold Coast.

Layton has been replaced in the Diamonds’ 12-strong team to play England by Melbourne Vixens rising star Emily Mannix.

The Diamonds are set to announce a new leadership group and captain, decided by the players.

Australia start against England in Brisbane on August 26, before meeting South Africa in Canberra (August 30) and New Zealand in Invercargill on September 3.