Amazon spends $500m on bonuses for Christmas staff


In a blog post, Dave Clark, senior vice president of Amazon Worldwide Operations, wrote: “I’m grateful to our teams who continue to play a vital role serving their communities.



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Ford deal to build electric cars in Oakville comes amid $500M government cash to upgrade plant


The federal government and Ontario have pledged to spend up to $500 million to make the Ford plant in Oakville, Ont., able to build electric vehicles.

The future of the plant has been a key question for Canada’s automotive industry ever since the Unifor union started negotiating with the automaker for a new three-year pact to cover the company’s Canadian workforce.

The two sides struck a deal a few hours after a midnight strike deadline on Tuesday morning, one that will see the company commit $1.98 billion to build five new electric vehicles and an engine contract that could yield new jobs in Windsor, Ont.

Ford has previously committed to spending $11 billion US to develop and manufacture electric vehicles, but so far all of that money was earmarked for Ford plants in Mexico and the company’s home state of Michigan.

“With Oakville gaining such a substantial portion of Ford’s planned investment, the assembly plant and its workers are better set for employment going forward,” said Sam Fiorani, vice-president of global forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions.

Currently, the plant builds the Ford Edge and Lincoln Nautilus, but concerns over the plant’s future emerged earlier this year when a report suggested Ford was contemplating scrapping the Edge altogether. The new vehicles will come as welcome news for the plant, even as Fiorani says he worries that demand for the electric vehicles (EV) has so far not lived up to the hype.

“The EV market is coming, and Ford looks to be preparing for it. However, the demand is just not growing in line with the proposed investment from all vehicle manufacturers,” he said.

Plant needs upgrade first

And the plant can’t simply flip a switch and start building an entirely new type of vehicle. It will require a major retooling, and that will require time — and cash — to happen, which is where government cash comes in.

As first reported by the Toronto Star, the two branches of government have committed to spent up to $500 million combined to upgrade the plant so that it can build electric vehicles.

“The retooling will begin in 2024 with vehicles rolling off the line in 2025,” Unifor president Jerry Dias said. “So we know this is a decades-long commitment.”

It’s not clear what portion of the cash will come from what branch of government, but CBC News has previously reported that Wednesday’s throne speech is expected to contain a number of policies aimed at beefing up Canada’s electric vehicle industry, both on the consumer side and for businesses that build them.

Ontario’s finance minister welcomed the news of a tentative deal on Tuesday and confirmed that Queen’s Park legislators stand ready to do their part.

“Our government will always work with our federal colleagues, workers and the auto sector to ensure the right conditions are in place for the industry to remain stable today and seize the new opportunities of tomorrow,” a spokesperson for Vic Fedeli told CBC News in an emailed statement Tuesday.



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Ottawa says governments offering $500M to bring electric vehicle production to Ford’s Oakville plant


The federal government has indicated that it’s willing to put up to half a billion dollars into financing electric vehicle production in Oakville, with some money coming from the provincial government — an offer that could allow the Ford plant to stay open for years to come, the Star has learned.

Ford Motor Co. and its main union are in the midst of labour negotiations ahead of a deadline midnight Monday night, and a push for a retooling of the plant for mass production of EVs and their high-tech batteries is central to the talks.

After months of discussion and pressure from environmentalists and labour, Ottawa has told the company it is willing to do what it takes to bring electric vehicle production to Ontario and expects its funding to be part of an eventual $2-billion investment for a new mandate at the Oakville Assembly Complex.

The exact amount from the Ontario government is still being negotiated, a federal source, said, and all of it is wrapped up in the broader labour talks between Ford Canada and its biggest union, Unifor.

The money would be a major lifeline for the plant. Retooling is expected to start as soon as next year, giving the Oakville Assembly Complex and its thousands of workers a new lease on life.

The plant has had a question mark over its head for months now amid analysts’ projections that it would stop producing the Edge SUV. The mandate for the Edge ends in 2023, and there is no firm commitment from Ford that production would continue in Oakville after that time, throwing more than 4,000 jobs into a state of uncertainty.

Unifor’s national president, Jerry Dias, has been pushing for an electric vehicle mandate and substantial federal funding for Oakville. But reached on Sunday night, Dias said he was not aware of the federal offer.

Unifor targeted Ford for the first of its Big Three automaker negotiations, which come every four years. The hope was to set a high bar for negotiations with the other automakers.

Ottawa is set to use its Strategic Innovation Fund to finance the contribution.

For the federal government, the deal checks off quite a few boxes.

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains has been increasingly concerned that auto manufacturing in Ontario has dwindled and that the province needs to get into the EV market in order to flourish into the future.

He has argued that Canada should be able to marry its traditional expertise in the auto sector with its abundance of many of the natural resources that are needed to make electric-vehicle batteries.

At the same time, pushing Canada towards electric and autonomous vehicles is central to Canada meeting its environmental goal of having net-zero emissions by 2050.

“The choice to dedicate the Oakville Assembly Plant to the production of battery electric vehicles shows alignment between Ford’s commercial priorities and Canada’s commitment to sustainable growth,” Bains says to Dean Stoneley, president and CEO of Ford Canada, in a draft letter obtained by the Star.

“It also reflects our productive dialogue in recent months, built on top of an enduring partnership.”

In parallel with the talks between the company and Ottawa, Unifor has been pushing Bains for months to use federal funding to ensure electric vehicle production in Ontario. Unifor represents 6,300 workers at Ford Motor Co.

In the draft letter, Bains says he sees the arrangement with Ford as a jumping-off point to modernize the entire auto sector in Canada, and turn it into a global powerhouse for electric vehicle production.

“The size and the scope of the proposed investment reflect this significance.”

A spokesman for Bains would not comment directly on the labour negotiations on Sunday, but issued a statement about the value of attracting mandates for electric vehicles in Canada.

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“Minister Bains believes that Canada is well positioned to become a leader in electric vehicle and battery production. Developing domestic manufacturing in this sector will secure more good paying jobs for Canadian workers, and more opportunities for Canadian businesses. It will position Canada’s auto industry as a global leader in a growing market, and help us meet our climate ambitions,” spokesman John Power said in an e-mail to the Star.

An April report put together by the Pembina Institute and the International Council on Clean Transportation found that Canada has steadily lost global market share in auto manufacturing over the past 20 years and is dramatically under-invested in the rapidly growing EV market of the future.

The report says Canada manufactures about two million light-duty passenger cars and trucks a year and is the 12th largest auto producer in the world, down from fifth largest in 2000.

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Macquarie flags $500m pandemic hit to first-half earnings


In February, Macquarie reaffirmed guidance for its full-year profit to be “slightly” lower than last year’s record earnings of almost $3 billion, but reported an 8 per cent slide in profit for the 2020 financial year to $2.7 billion in May. The company slashed its final dividend which is currently sourced from its non-banking operations only – in order to preserve the regulated bank unit’s capital – and flagged an uncertain outlook.

For the second half ending March 31, it reported a 13 per cent slide in net profit to $1.27 billion and the group said on Monday that earnings for the current half year will be 25 per cent below this figure.

“We continue to maintain a cautious stance with a conservative approach to capital, funding and liquidity that positions us well to respond to the current environment,” Macquarie said on Monday.

Evans and Partners analyst Matthew Wilson said the Monday update was in line with his forecasts for a 34 per cent dive in earnings to $966 million compared to $1.45 billion for the prior first half.

The broker is forecasting a 25 per cent fall in earnings to $2.05 billion for the year ending March 31, 2021.

Evans and Partners has a positive recommendation on the stock with a $150 valuation. Mr Wilson described Macquarie as a banking outlier given its global diversity across different financial business which means it derives just 14 per cent of income from interest rate spreads.

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At its most recent update at the group’s annual meeting in July, Macquarie said the turmoil unleashed by the coronavirus will make it tougher for the company to reap the benefits of asset sales.

It highlighted challenging conditions across all of its businesses, with the banking division hit by rising provisions for bad loans and the global recession hampering deal-making.

At its full year results Macquarie reported that credit and impairment charges nearly doubled to $1.04 billion for the 2020 financial year and Macquarie said it will increase provisioning for the current quarter given its focus on supporting clients through the pandemic.



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$500m Derwent Valley project a step closer as developer lodges council plans


The developers behind a $500 million residential and community precinct in Tasmania’s Derwent Valley have put their first plans to council and expect to have all applications lodged by the end of the year.

Queensland-based Noble Ventures has plans for 700 residential lots, 200 independent-living retirement homes, a 100-bed private hospital, a 100-room hotel, a childcare centre and a marketplace in New Norfolk.

Construction has already begun on the residential lots, which already had a permit under previous owners.

The land for the central precinct is about 550 metres from the town centre, on the former Royal Derwent Hospital site.

The childcare centre plans have been released for public consultation, and the plans for the retirement village have been lodged with council.

Brothers Roger and Daniel Noble said they hoped to have the remaining applications for the hotel, hospital and marketplace with council by the end of the year.

Daniel Noble said the company was attracted to New Norfolk because it had more to offer than the outer suburbs of Hobart.

The site for proposed development The Mills is close to the town centre.(Supplied: Kenton Cox)

“There’s a township, a community and really great lifestyle but it needed to be rejuvenated,” he said.

“And when we saw that, we thought, ‘This is what we want to invest the next 15 years into.'”

Roger Noble said the project development and post-construction was expected to create 1,100 jobs per year between 2021 and 2040, more than half of which would be in the Derwent Valley.

The Queensland-based Nobles were able to travel to Tasmania with an essential-worker exemption for site and sales meetings this week, but had to postpone scheduled meetings with Planning Minister Roger Jaensch and State Growth Minister Michael Ferguson.

Brothers Daniel and Roger Noble stand in an office
Brothers Daniel and Roger Noble say the area has more potential than the outer suburbs of Hobart.(Supplied)

Biggest subdivision in decades: Mayor

The Nobles said they planned to run the retirement side of the development, which is called The Mills, and had been in discussions with private operators about the other facilities.

Mayor Ben Shaw said there was an air of confidence around the Derwent Valley.

He said the last significant subdivisions of similar scope would have been the houses for employees of the Boyer paper mill in the 1950s and 60s, and then the Fairview housing department subdivision in the 80s.

“It’s been the undiscovered area for so many years, and we’ve all known that it’s a great place to live and invest and been trying to encourage people recently to invest here, so I guess to see it [happen], it’s about time.”

There is currently a council-run childcare centre on the site.

Derwent Valley Mayor Ben Shaw
Derwent Valley Mayor Ben Shaw says the development could address a shortage of healthcare services in the area.(ABC New: Lucy MacDonald)

Cr Shaw said there had not been any discussions about the proposed private childcare centre replacing the council one.

“Certainly, it could be on the cards. Councils don’t really run childcare centres anymore, we’re probably one of the last ones in Tasmania,” he said.

Cr Shaw said there was a lack of health services in the Derwent Valley, which has a population of about 10,000.

“For them to propose some private health is really exciting, because we are underdone as a growing region, and we’ll really need that in the future.”

Not-for-profit plans to improve Derwent Valley’s health outcomes

Architect's drawing of a hospital proposal
The plans for a hospital on the site are expected to be lodged by the end of the year.(Supplied: Kenton Cox Architect)

Another project nearby is hoping to address service gaps with a health hub for the area.

Corumbene Care’s plans to redevelop two former hospital wards at the former Willow Court site have been approved by the Council.

Corumbene, which has operated an aged care home at New Norfolk for more than 50 years, spent two years trying to acquire the heritage-listed buildings, which are adjacent to the town’s Woolworth’s supermarket.

Chief executive Damien Jacobs said the not-for-profit was now looking for possible partnerships, grants, stimulus packages or private investment to get the project off the ground.

“So the idea would be to relocate our community program and team, along with telehealth, community service programs, allied health and then partner with other service providers including a GP practice and other supporting services to create a health hub,” Mr Jacobs said.

“Our primary aim is to help improve the health outcomes for our community.”

Mr Jacobs said Corumbene also had plans for purpose-built housing on another part of the site, and potential social housing opportunities for people over 65.

The planned redevelopment follows the opening of a rum distillery on the Willow Court site this year, and the success of the Agrarian Kitchen eatery in the same area.

The proponents behind the distillery have also released plans for a 22-room boutique hotel at the historic site.

View through window at Willow Court, Tasmania.
Aged care provider Corumbene wants to redevelop part of the hsitoric Willow Court site.(ABC News: Scott Ross)



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Daggy Northcote plaza poised for $500m renaissance


It will be the second apartment building to tower over the Plaza’s car park and neighbouring All Nations Park – the former Northcote tip.

It could be a shock to the neighbourhood which seeks comfort in the Plaza’s dim 1990s-era lighting and fit-outs.

However, trade will go on as normal at the Plaza because the strata-owned shops not controlled by Mr Smith are owned by individual investors.

Interestingly, Mr Smith promises a strategic re-weighting of Plaza’s tenancies, doubling its food and beverage tenants to 8.6 per cent in a bid to improve “footfall and dwell times in the centre.”

As if there weren’t already plenty of people sitting around drinking coffee and watching the passing crowds.

The Plaza sits back from the corner of Separation and High Streets on the old brickworks. A separate shopping centre, Northcote Central, fronts the High Street and is undergoing renovations.

A report by Macroplan indicates Northcote’s average retail spend is 11 per cent higher than the Melbourne average.

High renaissance

The moves at the Plaza come as retired footballer-developer Clint Bartram loses control of another Northcote development site, the prominent London Chartered Bank of Australia building down the hill at 342 High Street.

340-342 High Street, Northcote.Credit:

The Italian Renaissance style building and its neighbour have been put to the market through Gray Johnson by the mortgagee holder.

Both buildings on the 1050 sq m site are vacant and come with a permit for 23 apartments and four commercial spaces.

There is a two level basement carpark with rear access from Balgonie Place which provides access to the development.

Gray Johnson agent Matt Hoath said the site is expected to fetch around $5 million. Mr Bartram paid $3.75 million in March 2018. Expressions of interest close on August 27.

Records show another site in Mr Bartram’s Northcote portfolio, 43-47 Simpson Street near Dennis station, was bought by developer Srinivasulu Bandla, who paid $3.3 million, well short of its original $4.1 million price.

Bush block

Aged care provider Blue Cross is selling off surplus land next to its Scotchmans’ Creek facility in Mount Waverley.

The Scotchmans Creek centre boasts “natural bushland.”

The Scotchmans Creek centre boasts “natural bushland.”Credit:

The 9642 square metre parcel of land at 454 Waverley Road is squeezed between the creek and Blue Cross’ existing facility.

The Scotchmans Creek centre’s website boasts of its “natural bushland” setting.

“If you appreciate the great outdoors, you will feel right at home with its meandering creek and walking paths running through the property for residents and visitors to enjoy,” its website promises.

Hopefully the residents won’t lose too much of that bushy ambience when the land sells.

CBRE agents Nathan Mufale, David Minty, Marcello Caspani-Muto and Jimmy Tat have the listing which they suggest could attract town house or child care centre developers.

It’s in the coveted Mount Waverley Secondary College catchment zone where house prices easily push past the $2 million mark.

It’s expected to sell for more than $5 million.

Planning outfit

Financial planning outfit, the Yarra Consulting Group is off-loading its East Hawthorn office.

It’s made up of two adjoining buildings at 345-347 Riversdale Road, on an 878 sq m corner site between Auburn village and Camberwell Junction.

CBRE agents David Minty, Nathan Mufale, Scott Hawthorne and Sandro Peluso are handling the expressions of interest campaign.

Mr Mufale said the prime eastern suburbs location meant many buyers could at least walk by to check out the property.

“It’s likely to be in the 5km zone of most of our buyers. They won’t be able to inspect inside but they can look at it from the outside,” he said.

The owner-occupiers have owned it since 2017, paying $1.75 million. It’s carrying a $4 million-plus price tag this time around.

West of the junction in Camberwell, a vacant 1080 sq m showroom at 1360 Toorak Road in Burwood Village is up for grabs. It was most recently occupied by a Cash Converters outlet.

Gorman Kelly agents Nick Breheny and Aldo Galante are running the expressions of interest campaign with Gross Waddell’s Michael Gross and Andrew Greenway. They are expecting in the high $3- $4 million range for the corner site.

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