Archives January 2019

Secret James Packer Crown Resorts documents to be made public

Details of a secret agreement between the NSW gambling regulator and James Packer’s Crown Resorts outlining measures to combat crime and corruption at the gambling mogul’s proposed casino at Barangaroo are set to be made public.

The NSW upper house privileges committee has supported the findings of an independent arbiter appointed by Parliament, Keith Mason, QC, that a privilege claim by Crown and the regulator should not apply to significant parts of the document.

Greens MP John Kaye intends to move a motion on Wednesday to have a largely unredacted version of the agreement tabled in Parliament on Thursday.

Crown and the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority had argued that the release of the details would be commercially damaging to the casino company.

But last month, Mr Mason found many of the censored details should be made public.

The matter was referred to the privileges committee by Dr Kaye after the government indicated it would not support the uncensored document’s immediate release.

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Frank Gehry ‘paper bag’ building at University of Technology set to seduce students

The striking Frank Gehry-designed Dr Chau Chak Wing building is open for business. Photo: Nic Walker Inside: Frank Gehry-designed Dr Chau Chak Wing building. Photo: Nic Walker

The brutalist brown tower that stains the skyline above UTS has long been regarded as harbouring Sydney’s best views, if only because the offending building itself is not visible.

Now the university has added its own flourish to that vista, putting the finishing touches on its Frank Gehry-designed Dr Chau Chak Wing building ahead of an official opening in February.

The interior, unveiled for the first time on Tuesday, reflects the latest thinking about how students learn, with smaller classrooms and more open-plan spaces. But for most Sydneysiders it is the building’s striking exterior – said to resemble a crumpled paper bag – that will inspire a study tour.

Five types of brick sourced from Bowral were custom-made for the project, containing a continuous groove rather than a typical indent. Stainless steel bars were inserted through the groove, bolting the 320,000 bricks to steel frames that form the graceful, undulating facade.

The atypical design made construction a slow, painstaking task, with brickies laying perhaps 100 bricks a day rather than their usual 500. But after starting work in November 2012 the building was completed on time and on budget at $180 million, the university said.

Gehry, the lauded Canadian-American architect behind Spain’s Guggenheim Museum, wanted the building to emphasise the need to “create artistry” in business education, according to UTS business school dean Roy Green.

“This was a building that has been designed from the inside out,” Professor Green said. “It starts not from the flamboyance of the architecture…but from the functionality of the spaces.”

UTS hopes the interior will be so attractive that students won’t want to leave. The days of giant lecture theatres are gone, says deputy vice-chancellor Shirley Alexander, thanks to the advent of online learning. The Gehry building’s auditorium seats just 240. Instead, there are smaller classrooms and more work spaces, lounges and kitchens where students can meet and (hopefully) study.

“Anything that can be taught online should be,” Professor Alexander said. The more intimate spaces were better configured for interacting with teachers, collaborating with peers and ‘high-touch’ learning,” she said.

“Almost every time I see a research paper where they’re attributing learning gains to a particular technology, when you look closer it’s the small group learning experience that has made the difference.”

The Gehry building forms part of a renewed urban precinct around Chinatown which includes the Goods Line, a pedestrian thoroughfare similar to Manhattan’s High Line, and a new residential district at the south end of Darling Harbour.

As for the university’s much-maligned Broadway high-rise, deputy vice-chancellor Patrick Woods said it would continue to be treasured “for the time being”.

“There are those who think it is absolutely wonderful,” he said.

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Electricity ‘poles and wires’ profits dip as NSW Premier Mike Baird prepares them for sale

For sale, maybe: Poles and wires will go on the market if the Baird government is re-elected next year. Photo: Jeffrey ChanDeclining electricity use in NSW has led to lower profits for state-owned electricity “poles and wires” companies just as the Baird government prepares to seek a mandate at next year’s election for their partial privatisation.

A report by NSW Auditor-General Grant Hehir reveals after-tax profit for distribution businesses Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy and Essential Energy for 2013-14 was $125 million less than the previous year, while the figure for Transgrid was $9 million lower.

Combined, the companies made an after-tax profit of $1.2 billion, down from $1.3 billion the year before.

Mr Hehir’s report says the lower profit reflected reduced electricity use by customers due to factors including milder weather conditions, energy efficiency measures and more use of solar power.

The result also came despite an underspend on electricity infrastructure by the poles and wires companies of $3.7 billion – 20 per cent less than what was allowed by the national regulator between 2009 and 2013.

But the report said the lower capital expenditure should spell good news for consumers, with electricity prices forecast to fall between 2014 and 2019 as a result.

The report, released on Tuesday, shows that dividends paid to the government by all state-owned electricity companies dropped from $1.16 billion to $872 million in 2013-14. This includes power generators that have since been sold.

However, the tax equivalent payments to the government – designed to ensure the government-owned companies operate on a level playing field against privately-owned competitors – were up from $580 million to $829 million.

This meant that total payments to government remained steady at $1.7 billion.

The government is proposing the sale of 49 per cent of the poles and wires businesses if re-elected in March next year. Essential Energy, which covers regional areas, is not included.

Premier Mike Baird has said the government anticipates about $20 billion from the sale.

This would comprise $13 billion from the transaction, about $2 billion in federal government incentive payments and $5 billion from interest earned after the proceeds are placed in the infrastructure fund, Restart NSW.

The government has said it will use the funds to build a second Sydney Harbour crossing and rapid transit line, extensions to the WestConnex motorway and rural and regional infrastructure projects.

Opposition Leader John Robertson said the report exposed the “folly” of Mr Baird’s privatisation plan, which would “hand over up to $1.7 billion each year to a private company rather than invest that money back into infrastructure and essential services”.

Greens MP John Kaye said the result was “terrible news” for Mr Baird’s proposed sale.

“The great promise of the pots of gold that were supposed to be delivered from poles and wires privatisation is in fact an illusion that is being chipped away by the realities of an industry with declining demand and growing costs,” he said.

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Crowded house: the post office box shared by 21 ALP members

Almost two dozen Labor members listed the same post office box in Auburn as their residential address for close to a year, in the latest evidence fanning allegations of branch stacking in the western Sydney seat.

ALP records obtained by Fairfax Media reveal that between December 2013 and September this year, up to 21 branch members listed PO Box 1158, Auburn, as their place of residence.

Eighteen of the members were in the controversial Regents Park branch, where numbers have blown out to more than 300 before the forthcoming preselection to represent Labor in the safe seat of Auburn at next year’s state election.

Between 2009 and 2012, the records show, the post office box was listed as a mailing address by former Auburn mayor Hicham Zraika.

Councillor Zraika is secretary of the Regents Park branch and expected to challenge incumbent Auburn MP Barbara Perry in the preselection contest, which opened last Friday.

The revelations follow those on Saturday, when it emerged that the same records implausibly suggested Cr Zraika, his wife Dania and their three daughters share their Berala home with eight other Regents Park branch members.

Supporters of Ms Perry – a former minister on the opposition front bench who is set to lose preselection – have now raised concerns that the same branch members could be eligible to vote in the parliamentary leadership ballot to be conducted after next year’s state election.

Numerous ALP sources allege the party has ignored the irregularities because opposition leader John Robertson needs to rely on Cr Zraika’s block of votes in the ballot, due to take place after the state election.

They say this is in part because the party is worried about Mr Robertson not securing blocks of votes from local powerbrokers whose ambitions he has thwarted.

They include Burwood mayor John Faker, against whose preselection Mr Robertson intervened in support of former Newcastle MP Jodi McKay.

Mr Robertson has also intervened in Lakemba to secure the preselection of Punchbowl Boys High School principal Jihad Dib over Bankstown mayor Khal Asfour – a move criticised by former NSW Premier Morris Iemma.

On Tuesday Cr Zraika, who noted there hadn’t been a rank and file preselection in Auburn since 1988, denied there were anomalies with the branches.

“The Rules of the ALP have always, and will always, be adhered to,” he said.

“If there are suggestions that this is not the case, then the ALP has robust and comprehensive internal processes to deal with precisely such matters.”

NSW ALP general secretary Jamie Clements said allegations aired in the media had yet to come before the ALP’s independent tribunal process.

“I can assure you that these matters will be dealt with through those processes and the only people who will get a vote will be members entitled under our rules,” he said.

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Yingying Dou: The mastermind behind the University essay writing machine

Students enlist website to write essays, assignmentsUniversity assignments – why are they cheating? Students buying assignments online could be charged with fraudLike SMH Student on Facebook

At the helm of the company embroiled in a large-scale academic cheating scandal is a Chinese-born businesswoman named Yingying Dou.

The enterprising 30-year-old, who also goes by “Serena”, has used her accounting degree to build a lucrative ghostwriting service, called MyMaster, aimed at Chinese international students.

As a flyer for MyMaster exemplifies, Ms Dou has ingeniously capitalised on the anxiety experienced by many overseas students.

“Are you racking your brains on your school work? Do you worry about spending $3000 retaking tuition on the failing subject? Leave your worries to MyMaster and make your study easier!,” one flyer posted on a toilet door at the University of Technology, Sydney, read.

This pitch has seen Ms Dou’s MyMaster company turn over at least $160,000 during 2014 and return more than 900 fraudulent assignments to students prepared to hand over up to $1000 for the work.

Her business ventures complement her expensive tastes, including designer handbags, which she has sold online for more than $3000.

Born in Chongqing in south-western China, Ms Dou attended high school at Pittwater House, a private school on Sydney’s affluent northern beaches.

Since graduating from Macquarie University, Ms Dou has established herself as the director of two companies: MyMaster and coaching college Yingcredible Tutoring.

She runs her businesses out of Chinatown and her main office space is on the sixth floor of a George Street building opposite World Square, where she has multiple classrooms for tutoring.

As the sole director of MyMaster, she has built a sophisticated online business from scratch, which now claims to have a 100-strong writing workforce and is servicing hundreds of students at some of Australia’s top universities.

When Fairfax Media approached Ms Dou she denied having ever heard of the website but promised she would investigate the matter.

“I will find out what’s going on,” she said. “I try my best to provide you information.”

Fairfax Media’s subsequent email questions remain unanswered and the website was taken down hours later.

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