The AFL’s man of the moment Lachie Neale is adamant Brisbane can finally end the league’s longest current winning streak, even if he thinks Richmond will be “happy to play them” in next Friday’s qualifying final.
The midfielder was voted into his second-straight All-Australian team on Thursday night, but was also crowned the season’s most outstanding player by his peers and the 18 AFL coaches.
Teammate Harris Andrews won his second-straight Australian blazer and trained well on Friday before declaring himself “ready to go” for an early return to face the Tigers at the Gabba.
Neale remembers the missed opportunities in the identical clash last season, the Lions then losing to Greater Western Sydney in a finals fade that soured their brilliant surge up the ladder.
“It’s been a while and they’re probably pretty happy they’re playing us,” Neale said of the Tigers’ 15-game unbeaten run that stretches back to 2009.
“But we’re excited and know our best footy can beat anyone in the comp.
“There’s no fears there; we’ve missed a lot of opportunities in the last couple of times and the scoreboard probably doesn’t feel like it reflects how we’ve matched up against them.”
Likewise, Andrews says Brisbane are ready to seize the big moments and expects to lead the way despite initial fears he would be out of action until the preliminary final.
“We did a lot of reflecting last year after those finals and came away thinking about moments in games,” he said.
“We had our opportunities, we weren’t able to capitalise.”
Richmond will hope key forward and Andrews’ direct opponent Tom Lynch bounces back from his own hamstring injury, while Brisbane will be looking to Neale to continue his dream season.
“It’s funny when I’m standing here, talking about it and reflecting on it doesn’t feel right,” he said of being regarded as the AFL’s best player.
“But when I’m playing I have full confidence in my ability and feel like I’m in that top echelon.”
A Brownlow Medal would give him the awards cleansweep, but there is no sense of complacency as he eyes a happier outcome this season.
“He’s extremely humble; getting all the awards and credit he deserves, but comes in as humble as ever and ready to work hard,” Andrews said.
“I’m excited to be fit and fresh for hopefully a big couple of weeks (alongside him).”
In the madness of the Melbourne Cup there’s always those who pleasantly surprise and those who disappoint.
Here’s our annual look at the studs and duds of the race that stops the nation.
MELBOURNE CUP: HOW IT WAS RUN AND WON
HOW MUCH DID YOU WIN? HERE’S EXACTLY WHAT THE MELBOURNE CUP WINNER AND TRIFECTA PAID
$20,000 INTO $290,000: THE BIGGEST CUP BETS THAT PAID OFF
VOW AND DECLARE: Obviously. Came from gate 21, found himself in the dicey position of leading early on before gaining cover, but still he looked under pressure from the home turn onwards, and then looked beaten three or four times up the straight. But he kept coming and coming on the fence, on supposedly inferior ground, when it seemed certain horses to his outside would get the better of him, as most often happens. He took the lead, lost it, then threw himself at the line at the end of the marathon to win. Special mention to CRAIG WILLIAMS for the balls-of-steel move to push up and across from the wide gate, rather than drift back and hope for the best, and for spending his horse’s his petrol in a millilitre-perfect way in the straight. And to trainer DANNY O’BRIEN. Went through hell and back, and a mountain of legal fees, to be cleared in the spurious and lamentable cobalt witchhunt of a few years ago. Has come out the other side to prove his capabilities, especially by giving this horse only two lead-up runs to this race. Cups King Bart Cummings used to want 10,000 metres in his horses’ legs in their lead-up preparation to the Cup. O’Brien’s done it with 4,400.
PRINCE OF ARRAN: He’s threatening to become the most adored horse in the country if he keeps this up, even if, unlike the winner, he’s not Australian but a Pom. Third last year after covering heaps of ground, and second this year, albeit thanks to a promotion from third due to the fourth-v-second protest which didn’t involve him. How tough and consistent is this seven-year-old gelding? He just never runs a bad race. Given a peach of a ride from a good barrier by Michael Walker, who might’ve thought he had it won, but couldn’t quite get there. Another 50 metres and he probably does.
IL PARADISO: Tremendous run from this northern three-year-old, particularly when he was having only the seventh start of his life. Missed the kick, tacked on before too long, but travelled way near the back and inside a wall of horseflesh. Finished superbly in the straight, threading runs here and there, and could almost have won it but for getting squeezed for room at the death, the downside of those coming from the back. Big tick.
A HEAP OF EXPERTS MADE TIPS AHEAD OF THE MELBOURNE CUP. JUST ONE NAILED IT
WHO WON THE MELBOURNE CUP? FIND OUT HERE
WHERE EVERY HORSE FINISHED IN THE 2019 MELBOURNE CUP
HOLD YOUR HORSES: RUNNER-UP DROPS TWO PLACE IN DRAMATIC FATHER VS SON CUP PROTEST
FURIOUS: PUNTERS PROTEST OVER BOOKMAKERS PAYING OUT
MASTER OF REALITY and FRANKIE DETTORI: Where’d they come from? Master of Reality was one of five starters who came out of the Irish St Leger, and was nowhere near the most impressive of them. And Dettori, for all his class, has ridden some shockers in this race. But, sitting in the death seat for much of the way, facing the breeze outside the leader, the gelding put up an incredibly gutsy effort to almost snatch the race, in a credit to the conditioning work of his trainer Joseph O’Brien. A shame he ducked in at the end to cause the interference which dropped him from second to fourth, costing connections a cool $750,000, but a mighty effort.
SURPRISE BABY: Two Aussie horses in the top five? Crazy. This gelding has swept all before him since starting his last campaign as a maiden and ending it with an Adelaide Cup. Took this, his biggest challenge by far, in his stride as well, settling near the back from his wide gate, and flashing home for fifth, despite the lack of pace early benefiting most runners up front. A horse any trainer would love in his stable. Paul Preusker, who’s based at Horsham, has done a tremendous job with him, again with only two lead-up runs, like the winner.
CROSS COUNTER: Special mention to last year’s champion, who humped a hefty topweight of 57.5kg today, had to make his way through some traffic in the straight, but did so admirably, finishing only 1.6 lengths away in eighth. A redoubtable stayer.
MER DE GLACE: Is on the borderline, but gains a definite pass mark for finishing sixth, in his first go past 2400m, after being cuddled around the trip in midfield on the fence.
MAGIC WAND: Probably also worth a pass mark, though the bookies don’t pay out on those, in coming 10th despite rising 1200 metres from a Cox Plate run in which she faded at the end. Had to work at the start from the widest barrier, so to finish 3.6 lengths off the winner wasn’t too bad.
FINCHE: It might seem harsh for a horse who finished seventh but – given his super run last year when fourth, the fact he carried the same non-taxing weight of 54kg today, that he’d impressed in his lead-up runs, the fact he was given a lovely ride by Cup master Kerrin McEvoy, and that he was presented for his run in the clear and not too wide at the top of the straight — the Melbourne Cup favourite had every possible chance really.
So missing a place, missing the top six even, was an unfulfilling effort.
CONSTANTINOPLE: At least Finche wasn’t this duddly. Joao Moreira gave the lightly-weighted equal second-favourite a cool run midfield on the fence. He was moved up to stake his claim around the turn, and then in the straight we found out that, despite him flashing home for fourth in the 2400m Caulfield Cup, it turned out he couldn’t run out a strong 3200m after all, finishing 13th.
RAYMOND TUSK: Without an Australian lead-up he was the mystery bag who might sneak under people’s guard, fly under the radar, etc etc. Didn’t do much flying of any sort in coming 16th, despite having every chance. That was well short of what those who took the $21 – not a very long price when the favourite’s $8.50 – will have expected.
Likewise LATROBE ($21) and SOUTHERN FRANCE ($26), who didn’t show a lot. Latrobe settled towards the rear from a wide gate and pretty much stayed thereabouts. And Southern France came with big wraps from Europe, but showed precious little to back them up, even if he was caught a tad wide, finishing 19th.
DOWNDRAFT: Placed in the Moonee Valley Cup two Saturdays ago, then won the Hotham three days ago to qualify for this race. There were many who took the $21 to say he could do the back-up. He couldn’t, coming 22nd.
MUSTAJEER: Was in the market at $19, and came second-last after making what looked a threatening run around the turn. To be fair, he didn’t so much dud it in the race but beforehand, when he worked himself into a hot mess with all the excitement, which he’d done before. Unfortunately the big fear about him came true.
Gaby Jammal, now 57, joined a militia in Beirut at the age of 12.
He came of age fighting in Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, witnessed the mass explosion that killed ex-prime minister Rafic Hariri and saw his country invaded multiple times by foreign forces.
But the blast that shook Lebanon last month, killing almost 200 and injuring 6,000, was “the worst crisis since Lebanon was declared to be a state 100 years ago”,said Mr Jammal, who is now a journalist, filmmaker and peace advocate.
He said the blast itself was more than just a tragic, fatal accident.
For Mr Jammal, who was also a political analyst and history lecturer, the explosion represents decades of political and social division, corruption and incompetence.
Nearly 3,000 tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate, “an atomic bomb just waiting to explode”, had been left to sit in a warehouse unchecked for six years in the port of Lebanon’s largest city before it ignited on August 4.
While finger pointing has ensued and dozens of arrests of port officials and employees have been made, Mr Jammal said the real problem stemmed from the top down in a failed political system.
Now experts say the explosion has crippled an already failing state.
“The blast alone would have been devastating for any nation,” said Mat Hardy, a senior lecturer in Middle East Studies at Deakin University.
Understanding the political climate that allowed a tragedy of this scale to occur requires taking a look back at Lebanon’s history of war and destruction, and the sectarian walls that divide its people.
‘A dilemma of identity’
This month marks 100 years since the formation of the state of Lebanon which later gained independence from France in 1943.
Political power was divided between 18 parties, representing the country’s 18 recognised religious and ethnic groups — 12 Christian sects, four Muslim and the Druze and Jewish communities.
Each have their own civil laws and court systems.
While in theory this political division seemed like a great way of protecting the rights of all people, in reality it has cultivated a culture of separation.
“People don’t see themselves as Lebanese. They see themselves as Maronite, Sunni, Shia, and so on.”
As the son of a Christian Maronite mother and a Muslim Palestinian father, Mr Jammal has spent his life straddling those divides.
Frustration over power divisions have led to multiple armed conflicts and political assassinations, followed by new and equally contested agreements, in an endless cycle of unrest where alliances are repeatedly forged and broken.
Mr Jammal said Lebanon’s politicians cultivated a sense of belonging to a party, rather than a country, for their own advantage.
“Each one gives the feeling to his own group that you don’t have the right [to vote for another group], and the other sect is your enemy,” he said.
Dr Hardy agreed, and said political support was based more on religious affiliation rather than policy or “the good of the nation”.
Political affiliations were also cultivated with foreign nations, further drawing the sense of belonging away from the state of Lebanon.
The Shia hold a special relationship with Iran, the Sunnah with Saudi Arabia and Christians with the Vatican and France.
A militia fighter at 12
In a country divided, a young Gaby Jammal and his three brothers struggled with their own “dilemma of identity”.
Their parents’ mixed marriage had not lasted and the young boys were raised by their father in a Sunni Palestinian region of Beirut.
Rejected by his mother’s people for not being a “real Christian”, in his father’s part of town the locals “would slap us on the face if we said we were Palestinian”.
Desperate for a sense of belonging, young Gaby joined a militia at the age of 12.
“At that time, there was no concept of child abuse, no human rights or NGOs, nothing, and we were in a culture of manhood — encouraged as boys to be stereotypical manly men,” he said.
His training included being shot at with live bullets as he ran through a field or climbed a tower 10-floors high.
“Because I was very good at the training, they gave me a Kalashnikov to sleep with. So instead of having a girlfriend I had a Kalashnikov and I was so happy,” he said with a laugh.
In 1975, the country’s longest bout of fighting ignited — Lebanon’s 15-year Civil War.
While alliances switched frequently and foreign troops played various roles, the main fight was between Christian and Muslim-led alliances which divided the city of Beirut in half along what was dubbed “the green line”.
But confusingly for the Jammal brothers, that “enemy” included their own family.
Kidnapped nine times
Despite fighting alongside the Muslims, their Christian names made Mr Jammal and his brothers targets.
He was kidnapped nine times during the war by militia groups from all sides, including his own, often to be used in prisoner exchanges.
On one such occasion, after Christian fighters kidnapped some of their men, Mr Jammal was taken by a Shia militia — a group that fought alongside his own.
“So they decided, just like that, we need to take some Christians and make exchange, so they kidnapped me and my friend,” he said.
He was again detained, but Mr Jammal was convincing, giving them his mother’s address as his own, which led not only to his release but a somewhat ironic announcement on public radio that “the Christian Gaby Jammal had been rescued from the enemy”.
But that “rescue” had left him on the wrong side of the green line and as he tried to cross back, he was shot at and then kidnapped again, this time by a Druze militia group — his third kidnapping in less than a week.
Eventually they discovered Mr Jammal was fighting on their side, but only after several days of torture and humiliation.
Another time, during a hostage exchange, he was told to walk toward his group and their prisoner was told to walk from the opposite side to make the exchange, but as they passed each other in the middle, shooting broke out between the two groups and the prisoners both hit the ground.
When the shooting died down, Mr Jammal got up to run but the man laying next to him didn’t move. He had been killed in the crossfire.
Other recollections are almost comical. During another kidnapping, which began with four days of torture, Mr Jammal said he finally began to “break the ice” with his kidnappers and told them why he had been near their territory.
He was on his way to watch The Blues Brothers, which had just been released in cinemas.
The party included Mr Jammal in the middle and two armed fighters on either side.
The young men “laughed like crazy” and the joking and the fun continued as they walked around town in the night singing and imitating classic lines from the film.
But at 4:00am, the fun stopped.
“They told me, we have to take you back,” Mr Jammal said.
At 7:00am, the group’s leader came and told them to beat him.
“And of course, simply, they beat me,” he said.
Disillusioned in the ‘jungle’ of Beirut
As the war dragged on Mr Jammal said: “West Beirut became like a jungle, everybody fighting everybody.”
He saw friends die in the chaos, leaders selling weapons and getting rich like “mafia” and the country being taken over by “warlords”.
While he now saw the flaws in his former belief that they were fighting for social justice, leaving wasn’t an option. In those days everyone needed to belong to a group for protection, he said.
His father and brothers had fled to Austria after they were also kidnapped many times, and the teenaged Mr Jammal stayed for a time with his mother, while still crossing each day to fight for the other side.
One day he returned to find his street on fire. He had just shelled his own home.
No one was hurt, but it was a “wake-up call” and Mr Jammal began to reject the concept of war.
When the war ended, he said there was no reconciliation, no efforts to integrate fighters back into society.
“The lords of war, let’s say they shared the cheese,” he said, adding that there was no clear deal and no hope for the “new Lebanon” they had been fighting for.
“All the bloodshed, all the people killed, 1 million displaced, hundreds of thousands of houses and infrastructure destroyed led to this — a situation that was worse than before.”
With ideas about peace and politics swirling in his mind, Mr Jammal turned to journalism and documentary film to explore solutions for his struggling nation.
Invasions and Hariri’s death
Invasions and attacks by Israel, occupation by Syria and internal armed conflicts continued to plague Lebanon, said Dr Hardy from Deakin University.
“Lebanon never really had a chance to get on its feet,” he said.
It was treated “as a cash cow” by Syria and later by Lebanon’s own ruling elite, while Hezbollah — a powerful and heavily-armed Shia militant group — filled a power vacuum in southern Lebanon when Israel withdrew in 2000.
A string of political leaders have also resigned under pressure while others were assassinated: the most significant being former prime minister Rafic Hariri, who was killed by a massive car bomb that ripped through downtown Beirut in 2005, further splitting an already fractured nation.
Filling empty political posts often took months, while the 18 parties struggled to agree on a replacement.
As Lebanon spiralled towards becoming a failed state, desperation created the first sign of unity among the Lebanese people when civil protests erupted across the country in October last year
Traditionally, protests were held by specific religious groups and frequently led by their corresponding parties, but in October, desperate civilians marched through Beirut as one, demanding change.
Lebanon’s largest explosion
“The country was spiralling into an economic crisis caused by unsustainable public debt, widespread corruption and lack of opportunity,” Dr Hardy said.
The value of the Lebanese pound dropped from 1,500 to the US dollar to almost 9,000, and inflation on basic products rose by up to 400 per cent, according to Mr Jammal.
And then came COVID-19, plunging Lebanon deeper into financial ruin.
Every session of government resulted in new taxes to try to curb the country’s financial problems, further angering citizens already struggling to feed their children.
Just when it seemed like it could not get worse, an explosion tore through the capital, the largest the country had ever witnessed despite its violent 100-year history.
“Half of Beirut is damaged totally or partially … I can assure you all the shops, the restaurants, coffee shops, pubs, whatever, all destroyed [in central Beirut].”
And with Lebanon’s failing economy, there was no money to rebuild.
The Lebanese people took to the streets again demanding reform and accountability.
The government succumbed to the pressure and resigned, leaving yet another power vacuum to fill.
Of all the conflict, destruction and death Mr Jammal has witnessed in his life, he said this was the worst crisis Lebanon had seen, and the future was more uncertain than ever.
In the wake of the blast, Dr Hardy said the future was not looking good as Lebanon keeps getting poorer.
“I don’t see any significant shift in Lebanese politics despite the cabinet resignations. The system is too entrenched,” he said.
“And we know in the Middle East that when impoverishment and disenfranchisement are rife, radicalisation can occur and possibly less peaceful means of invoking political change.”
But the new-found unity among Lebanese people, drawn together by their desperation for change, has sparked a seed of hope in others.
While the crisis has “crippled Lebanon’s economy”, Shahram Akbarzadeh — convenor of the Middle East Studies Forum at Deakin University — said the financial crisis has helped Lebanese people “transcend confessional lines and unite for political accountability.”
“It has opened up the prospects of breaking out of the confessional straight jacket in pursuit of a merit-based, responsible government,” Professor Akbarzadeh said.
For Mr Jammal, while the crisis seems entrenched, he has not given up on the people’s ability to unite.
Through the group Ex-fighters for Peace, Mr Jammal and a group of 50 former fighters have been promoting unity and reconciliation through organising events, films and lectures since 2014.
They are now working harder than ever to convince the next generation that conflict and division is not the answer.
He has lectured to more than 24,000 students, created 14 films and held numerous reconciliation events between former militia groups.
At the beginning of each of his lectures, Mr Jammal apologises for his participation in Lebanon’s many conflicts, and acknowledges the possibility that he may have killed a relative of someone in attendance.
“We start by criticising our own participation in the war and work on reconciliation and ending the cycle of hate, distrust and blame,” he said, adding that he enjoyed seeing fighters open up to their former enemies and bond in understanding each other.
“This really gives me hope that we can go forward.”
A SLEEK GREY trimaran that cuts through the water at 27 knots, the Sea Hunter is capable of sailing from San Diego to Tokyo, and back again, on a single tank of diesel—all by itself. The ship is an “autonomous unmanned surface vehicle”—a fancy name for a sailing drone—operated by America’s navy. The air conditioning on board is for the benefit of computers, rather than humans. The design pays little heed to human comfort. “I’m on a ship that looks like a Klingon bird of prey,” remarked an official when visiting the ship in 2016. Earlier this month the Sea Hunter spent time with the USS Russell, a more traditional destroyer, practising “manned-unmanned teaming”. The idea is that such double acts are the future of naval warfare.
In a report published this month, the Pentagon acknowledged a grim milestone: China’s navy, having churned out warships like sausages, has become the world’s largest. America had held that crown since the second world war. Though America’s warships tend to be heftier than their Chinese counterparts, the total tonnage of warships launched by the PLA navy between 2015 and 2019 exceeded that of America over the same period by almost half, estimates Thomas Shugart, a former submarine officer (see chart). Mr Shugart notes that the last such dramatic and rapid naval build-up was Ronald Reagan’s drive for a 600-ship navy in the 1980s.
In a speech on September 16th, Mark Esper, America’s defence secretary, explained how he intended to solve the problem. The starting point was more ships, if not quite as many as Reagan envisaged. America now has 296. Mr Esper promised to expand the fleet to more than 355 (a figure mandated by Congress, and five more than China’s current tally). As a statement of intent, he pointed to the fact that in April the navy granted a $795m contract for the first in a new class of frigate (“It’s like a yacht with missiles on it,” was Donald Trump’s assessment), with the option to buy nine more for a total of $5.6bn. That was its first major new shipbuilding programme in more than a decade.
But fleet size is not everything. Though there would be more ships, said Mr Esper, they would have to be smaller and nimbler. The fleet would have to grow more “distributed”, in other words capable of spreading out more widely to survive China’s plenteous missiles, and attacking from a greater variety of positions. And the very nature of the ships would have to change. In the past, America’s shipbuilding targets have featured only traditional warships—complete with sailors. Mr Esper’s goal includes unmanned vessels like the Sea Hunter.
Sailor-less ships have the advantage of being smaller (and so harder to spot on radar), and cheaper to build and operate. They are also what military types call “attritable”, which means that in a war they could be sunk in large numbers without the backlash that would follow heavy human casualties. In its most recent budget request to Congress, America’s navy asked for around $580m for developing several varieties of unmanned (and “optionally manned”) ships.
Mr Esper said that unmanned ships would “perform a variety of warfighting functions”, including supplying other ships and laying mines, but also “delivering lethal fires”. That is controversial. An armed unmanned ship must be either remote-controlled, and therefore vulnerable to having its communications jammed, or entrusted with the authority to make life-and-death decisions on its own.
Some question whether this goes far enough. Mark Montgomery, a retired rear-admiral, points out that for all the talk of autonomous platforms, the navy’s next carrier-based fighter jet, the F/A–XX, which the navy will not start building until the 2030s, will continue to have a pilot. That bulks up its design and shortens its range (or reduces its payload). At present, less than 2% of navy aircraft are unmanned.
The other problem is money. In his prepared remarks, Mr Esper said that the shipbuilding budget would have to grow from 11% of the navy’s spending to 13%, “the same levels…committed during the Reagan era”. Perhaps in a fit of fiscal sobriety, those numbers were struck from the final speech because, the Pentagon explained, a decision had not yet been reached. Once built, just running a 355-ship navy would cost tens of billions of dollars more per year.
Congress is reluctant to provide fresh funds until the navy proves the utility of unmanned platforms. The new plans would therefore require raiding other bits of the navy’s budget, at a time when crewing ships is already hard. “If this administration survives,” tweets Bryan McGrath, a naval expert, “there will be no money to operate this fantasy fleet.”■
This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “AI, Captain”
This is on top of temporary rules put in place in March and extended in September for another six months, including relief for directors from any personal liability for trading while insolvent.
Those temporary rules also included a provision that made it harder to issue a statutory demand for unpaid bills. The threshold was increased from $2000 to $20,000 and debtors were given six months instead of 21 days to respond to a statutory demand. Despite concerns back in June about the growing stockpile of non-viable businesses, these protections were extended in September until the end of this year. That extension was a bad idea according to the head of the credit managers’ peak body and will lengthen the economic shock, while small business representatives applauded the move.
“These necessary measures give otherwise viable small businesses more time to recover, preventing a wave of unnecessary insolvencies,” the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, says.
“While we support this temporary relief for financially distressed businesses, there will also be a number of zombie businesses kept artificially afloat as a consequence.”
In a normal year, Australia sees about 8000 companies go through the liquidation process with about 15 per cent of insolvencies, or 1200, initiated by the ATO.
According to the latest data published by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, so far this year only 6398 businesses have been wound up, a decline of 21 per cent. But the difference is getting worse as time passes: in August, court applications to wind up a company and administrations fell 65 per cent compared to August 2019. In the first week of September just 44 companies went into administration, down 75 per cent from the same week in 2020. Most were voluntary winding up applications.
Frydenberg said in September the extension would “help to prevent a further wave of failures before businesses have had the opportunity to recover”.
But the insolvency industry worries company debts could keep growing while protections remain in place. And that the sector could be swamped next year with Deloitte Access economics estimating up to 240,000 companies could fail due to COVID-19, a nearly 3000 per cent increase on a normal year.
Chief executive of the Australian Institute of Credit Management, Nick Pilavidis, says the government should not have extended the insolvency protections in September, saying his 2600 members could tell the difference between a zombie and a struggling-yet-viable business.
“Definitely the extension, we feel, was unnecessary and has a bigger potential downside,’’ he says.
“One of the issues is that any payments that our members recover [now], could be later clawed back through the insolvency process.
“While [insolvency] numbers are down, the risks are not down.’’
His members were now reporting longer payment times and lower cash receipts, he says.
As debt builds, this increases the likelihood that small businesses could end up losing assets used in loan collateral, such as the family home, he warned.
Chief executive of the Australian Restructuring Insolvency and Turnaround Association, John Winter, worries the insolvency industry won’t be able to handle next year’s stockpile. All the relief designed to help businesses stay frozen meant work for insolvency firms had ”evaporated” and about half Australia’s insolvency firms were currently using JobKeeper assistance themselves, he says. There was also a risk debts could could outweigh assets if insolvency went on for too long.
“By the time an insolvency practitioner is appointed to close that business down, there is less than nothing left. There is no chance to recover anything for any creditors, there’s certainly no chance to save the business and the liquidator is unlikely to even get paid themselves,’’ Winter says.
“If a bad business is being propped up and they are not paying good businesses, what they do is place that good business at risk itself.
“If you want to come out of this recession, you want good businesses protected, not the bad ones.’’
Asked why the government couldn’t just create a mass grave for 2020’s failed companies and move on, Winter says creditors would be left out of pocket.
“If nobody goes and looks at what has happened to those businesses that have failed we are going to see the amount of phoenixing in this country absolutely explode,’’ he said.
He suggests the federal government increase the funding the Assetless Administration Fund that was designed to clean up phoenixing. However, he added it needs about $80 million to clean up 2020’s mess, 10 times what is currently available.
Director of international insolvency firm Rodgers Reidy, Brent Morgan, says he has not seen any applications from the ATO to wind up a Victorian-based business over unpaid taxes since March. He suspects the tax office was now sitting on a stockpile of statutory demands that could be released in the first half of 2021.
Banks and landlords have also been lenient to businesses forced to close by COVID-19 restrictions. And coupled with JobKeeper the ”pressure points” that normally force un-viable companies to the wall had disappeared.
“They [the insolvencies] might all happen at the same time, which is probably going to be early next year,’’ Morgan says.
A spokesperson for the ATO says it has no ‘’formal moratorium’’ on submitting winding up applications, but was “mindful of taking actions which may unnecessarily cause further financial difficulties at a time when the community continues to experience the health and economic impacts of COVID-19”. They would not say when the ATO would start issuing statutory demands again.
Lucy Battersby has covered trends, technology and telecommunications since joining The Age in 2008.
THE OFFICIALS who ran Ukraine before its revolution in 2014 are believed to have stolen billions of dollars. One crony gave Viktor Yanukovych, when he was president, a solid gold loaf of bread. So nabbing a regional forestry official for a $10,000 bribe may seem like small potatoes. But the sentencing on August 28th of Oleksandr Levkivsky, who stands to serve four years in prison for taking a kickback to let out public land, is a big deal. Mr Levkivsky is among the first officials convicted by Ukraine’s High Anti-Corruption Court (HACC), which began work a year ago.
The court was set up at the behest of the IMF, which demanded an independent anti-corruption mechanism, among other things, in exchange for the billions of dollars in credit Ukraine needs to keep its economy afloat. The HACC has handed down 17 verdicts so far (almost all of them guilty), and is hearing scores more cases. But after years of being robbed, many Ukrainians are not satisfied with small fry. They want bigger fish hooked.
The HACC’s 38 judges were selected in a multi-round competition, with help from international experts. Some of the cases they hear are brought by an anti-corruption prosecutor supervised by the prosecutor general, but others come from the National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), an independent agency. The judges have proved willing to push back against investigators: in Mr Levkivsky’s case, they dismissed evidence that was gathered illegally. “There is no question about the professionalism of this court,” says Andrii Borovyk of Transparency International Ukraine, an anti-corruption watchdog.
But efforts to beat graft are under constant attack. In August the Constitutional Court ruled that since the constitution does not give the president the power to select NABU’s head, Artem Sytnyk, the respected prosecutor picked to run the agency in 2015, had been illegally appointed. Mr Sytnyk refuses to step down, saying the ruling is retaliation for NABU’s investigations into judicial corruption, but the court has now ruled that NABU itself was established on dubious legal grounds.
It is no coincidence that pressure is increasing just as the new court hits its stride, says Vadym Valko, a legal expert who closely follows NABU. The judges are hearing a number of high-profile cases, including ones involving the mayor of Odessa and a former tax chief. But collecting smaller victories, rather than focusing on big fish in order to satisfy public pressure, may be a better strategy. “Make sure that due process works,” says Matthew Murray, a former official in Barack Obama’s administration who helped push for the HACC. The court’s chief justice, Olena Tanasevych, wrote recently that sometimes “it seems as though absolutely everyone is dissatisfied.” That may mean her team is on the right track.
This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the headline “Lock up the small fry—for a start”
Brisbane’s All-Australian fullback Harris Andrews is certain to return in the Lions’ AFL qualifying final against Richmond after surviving a tough test of his injured hamstring on Friday.
Andrews, who hasn’t played since tearing his hamstring in Brisbane’s eight-point win over Collingwood on September 4, was expected to be sidelined for six weeks.
But he’s now in line to line-up against the Tigers next Friday at the Gabba.
Pivotal to his early return was emerging unscathed from an intra-club scratch match on Friday morning.
“It went well … I got up to some good speeds,” Andrews said.
“I’m really positive. Obviously I’ll see how I pull up after the weekend but it’s looking good.
“I’m looking forward to getting back into it next week.
“We achieved everything we wanted to in the last couple of weeks. The rehab guys do an awesome job of setting the benchmarks that you have to hit … and thankfully I’ve been able to hit that over the last week or so, so I’m ready to go.
“I’m just really excited to be fit and really fresh for hopefully a big couple of weeks.”
All-Australian selector Glen Jakovich has explained why midfielders Patrick Dangerfield and Marcus Bontempelli were selected in the forward line of this year’s team.
Dangerfield and Bontempelli were both named on the half forward flank, with many critical of the decision not to pick the likes of Sydney’s Tom Papley and St Kilda’s Dan Butler – two natural forwards who had terrific seasons.
Jakovich explained the selectors weighed up whether to select players strictly on positions or reward the best players over the course of the season, even if they didn’t play the role they were designated.
“This year was a different year,” Jakovich said on SEN’s The Captain’s Run.
“Did Tom Papley have a better year than Patrick Dangerfield? That is the question you’ve got to ask. To put Papley in you’ve got to take (Marcus) Bontempelli or a Dangerfield out.
“That’s how you’ve got to look at it, does that look like an All-Australian team that you want to put forward?
“I know 10 or 12 years ago we ended up putting Dane Swan on a half forward flank and we got criticised, but these guys actually play forward and kick goals in crucial games.
“I know the selectors and I put a lot of weight into that.”
Jakovich was part of the All-Australian selection committee which included Gillon McLachlan (chairman), Kevin Bartlett, Luke Darcy, Steve Hocking, Chris Johnson, Cameron Ling, Matthew Richardson and Warren Tredrea.
Dangerfield, who was selected in his eighth All-Australian team, was named captain while star Port Adelaide midfielder Travis Boak was named vice-captain.
The 2-minute, 15-second video, titled “The God of War H-6K Goes on the Attack!” was released over the weekend by China’s People Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) on Weibo, a Twitter-like social media site. It highlights the force’s H-6K aircraft, twin-engine jet bombers nicknamed “Gods of War” by the Chinese military.
But eagle-eyed social media users pointed out that some of the explosive aerial footage used appears to be lifted from numerous Hollywood movies, including “The Hurt Locker,” “The Rock” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”
The video, which was seen millions of times before the post was taken down on Tuesday, has been mocked by many users for its apparent liberal use of American action movies sequences, with commentators pointing out that the PLAAF’s propaganda is not only fictitious, but likely stolen without credit.
CNN has reached out to China’s Foreign and Defense Ministries for comment.
The video begins with some slick scenes of the large bombers in what appears to be the early dawn at a desert airbase. They roar into the sky and seconds later release a missile that zooms down to strike a target.
Comparing a freeze frame of the missile strike to Google Earth images, the target appears markedly similar to the US’ Andersen Air Force Base on Guam.
The sprawling base on the eastern tip on the island is a key US military facility in the Pacific. Until earlier this year, it was home to the US Air Force’s Continuous Bomber Presence, a 16-year program that rotated US B-1 and B-52 bombers through the island to keep them within quick striking distance of possible targets around the region.
Though that program ended in April, the Pentagon continues to move the strategic jets through Andersen at irregular intervals to keep adversaries guessing.
The base is thought to be a key target for any Chinese attack in the event of hostilities between Washington and Beijing. It was also threatened by North Korea during the height of US-North Korea tensions in 2017.
Before US Defense Secretary Mark Esper visited Guam last month, a US Defense Department release described the island as “a centerpiece of American strategy in the Indo-Pacific.”
The release of the video on Saturday came after H-6 bombers were among 37 Chinese planes that crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait, an informal but largely respected border of control for Beijing and Taipei.
The PLA flights were part of military exercises China has been conducting off Taiwan, the self-governing island Beijing considers to be part of its sovereign territory.
Those drills coincided with exercises the US military was conducting off Guam. Those included the sinking of a retired US Navy frigate and Tomahawk missile strikes from warships on island targets.
At the United Nations this week, Kenya’s president lamented the loss of animal species and called for measures to combat climate change. Slovenia’s president spoke of eliminating land mines, legacies of bygone wars that still maim and kill. And leaders of Iran, Cuba and Libya asked for a lifting of sanctions, hoping to eliminate measures they say hinder development and undermine international cooperation.
Was anyone listening, though?
None of these issues — nor numerous others — is getting lavish attention during this year’s virtual General Assembly leaders meeting, which goes through Sept. 29. Just as the coronavirus pandemic has taken center stage in daily life worldwide, it has hogged the conversation at the biggest of annual international meetings.
That has generated concerns that ground will be lost in tackling other major problems that will be around long after a COVID-19 vaccine is developed and deployed. Some of the other major issues getting lesser attention at the General Assembly this year: climate change, nuclear proliferation, refugee migration, poverty, cyber security and gender-based violence.
“COVID-19 is a massive distraction,” said Mala Htun, a professor of political science at the University of New Mexico. But, at the same time, Htun notes that the coronavirus is putting a spotlight on some big issues.
“Everybody agrees that the pandemic is both creating and revealing many underlying inequalities that the global community and national governments have been trying to address for years,” she said.
Indeed, numerous world leaders have made the connection between fallout from the virus and inequality. That nexus has been the basis for calls that range from a cease fire in all armed conflicts worldwide to renewed efforts for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestine Authority.
For leaders of several African nations, that connection has been the central argument for reduction, or even complete elimination, of foreign debt.
Listing ways his country has struggled to combat the virus, Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera said he was “hopeful for debt cancellations and extension of a debt moratorium in the meantime.” Niger’s president, Issoufou Mahamadou, was more blunt: “We need to purely and simply cancel this debt.”
Leaders were also using the virus as a frame to highlight other issues.
Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid called her small European nation the “world’s first digitally transformed state, where all public services run online.” She said that thanks to that, combined with the use of digital IDs (something other nations have been slow to adopt because of security concerns), Estonia had a relatively easy transition to doing things virtually. While cybersecurity was a big issue that had to be dealt with as societies go more digital, the benefits could include helping to combat climate change, she argued.
“In a way, the pandemic and its aftermath gives us an opportunity for a great global technological leap,” Kaljulaid said
Still, for all the attempts to tie COVID-19 to problems of the day, little beyond lofty statements was expected on issues that many experts deem urgent to the future of humanity, such as climate change. If it were not for the virus, devastating wildfires in recent years in the Brazilian Amazon, Western U.S. states, Australia and Indonesia, just to name some examples, would arguably have made global warming a much more central topic this year — as it was last year.
The most dedicated discussion expected on the environment is a “United Nations Summit on Biodiversity,” scheduled for the day after the general debate ends. Many world leaders are scheduled to speak. Similar high-level meetings are planned for later next week to promote the achievement of gender equality and the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Many leaders, such as Botswana’s president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, clearly came wanting to make headway on other major issues like climate change. In his recorded address, Masisi described how droughts were impacting animals, which impacted food production.
“This has contributed to animal deaths and the escalation of the human-wildlife conflict,” Masisi said, adding that the country would accelerate commitments under the 2015 Paris Agreement aimed at curbing global warming.
Stewart Patrick, a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations and an expert on the U.N., said the lack of in-depth discussions around many major issues wasn’t just because of COVID-19. A growing rivalry between China and the United States, two of the world’s most powerful countries, was also capturing attention, he said.
What’s more, Patrick said that the central role that the United States traditionally played in U.N. happenings had changed under U.S. President Donald Trump, who “doesn’t believe in open, international order.”
“When you have a great power rivalry, and the country that has always been the fallback pillar of trying to get something out of the U.N. is absent, it’s hard to have much action,” he said.
For any lamenting the lack of robust discussions on issues not directly related to the coronavirus, there is little question that the pandemic will remain the world’s top issue for some time. COVID-19 has killed nearly 1 million people worldwide, sickened tens of millions more and impacts just about every aspect of daily life.
What’s more, the world’s collective response has lacked coordination and arguably failed, a point that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made himself on Thursday.
Guterres told a high-level meeting of the U.N. Security Council that there had been “a lack of global preparedness, cooperation, unity and solidarity.” The only solution, Guterres said, was to fortify multilateralism.
“We have no choice,” he said. “Either we come together in global institutions that are fit for purpose, or we will be crushed by divisiveness and chaos.”
Longtime international correspondent Peter Prengaman is the Western U.S. regional news director for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/peterprengaman