Dealers question timing of Holden closure


Global automotive giant General Motors may have been formulating plans to axe the Holden brand in Australia well before a shock decision was announced in February, a Senate inquiry will be told.

The Australian Automotive Dealer Association says the way Holden’s demise played out raises serious questions of whether dealers were misled.

Other submissions to the Senate investigation, which will hold a public hearing on Monday, have indicated Holden was still taking on new workers on the very day the closure decision was revealed.

The AADA said for some time GM had been adamant, both privately with dealers, and publicly through the media, that it was in Australia for the long haul, despite the end to local car manufacturing.

On the basis of those assurances, and the fact that many agreements still had more than two years to run, Holden dealers had a clear expectation that the brand would remain in Australia with some investing millions of dollars to upgrade their operations.

“This inquiry needs to question whether General Motors Corporation, headquartered in Detroit, made the strategic decisions to exit the right-hand-drive car market globally some years in the past,” the association said.

“Operationally, the announcement of the sale of the plant in Thailand where Australia’s top-selling Holden vehicle, the Colorado ute, was manufactured was announced at the same time as the closure of Holden.

“Common sense dictates that the minute the decision was made to sell the GM Rayong plant in Thailand is the exact moment that serious questions would have emerged about Holden’s future in Australia.

“One would expect that the purchase of a vehicle assembly plant would facilitate a lengthy process of probity and due diligence by the purchaser.

“It is not unreasonable to suggest that the sale process was likely a year in the making, yet Holden dealers were left unaware.”

The demise of Holden brand, to be completed by the end of 2020, was announced on February 17, with company officials adamant all avenues were explored to keep the iconic name alive.

In its own submissions to the Senate inquiry, General Motors Holden said the decision to retire the brand was made only a few days before the public statement.

“Every realistic possibility was carefully examined but none could overcome the challenges of the investments needed for Australia’s highly fragmented and right-hand-drive market, the economics to support growing the brand, and the need for an appropriate return on investment,” the company said.

“Despite hopes of reaching a different outcome, the inescapable conclusion was that GM could not sustain further investment into Holden.

“GM reluctantly made its decision to wind down Holden a few days before the public announcement which was made with great sadness.”

In another submission to the inquiry, a former Holden engineer, who withheld their identity, said the closure came as a complete shock to the company’s remaining employees.

“No warning was given to Holden staff about the potential closure of the business and there was no request from Holden management for staff to make any contribution to avoid the closure,” the engineer said.

“On the day of the closure announcement, eight new engineers commenced employment at Holden.

“Perhaps nothing better illustrates how unprepared we were for this announcement.”

At the time of the closure announcement, Holden had about 185 dealers across the country and still employed about 800 staff.

About 600 of those were expected to be made redundant including more than 200 engineers and more than 250 management and administrative staff.

There are currently about 1.6 million Holdens on the road in Australia.



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Holden dealers claim they have been abandoned by government


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“A Holden dealer has written to Industry Minister Karen Andrews about the GMSV plans and expressing disappointment at the inaction of the minister’s office, which has sat on draft legislation that would help resolve the dispute with GM and address the substantial power imbalance between franchisee and franchisor,” a spokesperson for the Australian Holden Dealer Council said.

Ms Andrews said she continued to engage with dealers, meeting and speaking with them directly about their ongoing negotiations and also had been in contact with dealer representatives.

“Minister Cash and I also met this week with GM Holden to reiterate the expectation of the government, and Australians, that they negotiate in good faith and ensure a fair outcome for the Aussie dealers who’ve carried their brand for decades,” she said.

ALP senator Deborah O’Neill said the failed mediation showed the substantial imbalance of power that existed between franchisors and franchisees.

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“It has been over 15 months since the Parliamentary Report into Franchising highlighted this exact issue that Holden dealers now face, but this government refuses to stand up for small business and is beholden to large franchisors such as General Motors who are abandoning their car dealers here in Australia,” she said.

Holden’s offer to the dealers, of $1500 per vehicle for the next 2½ years alongside partial reimbursement for capital expenditure such as showroom refurbishments and a continuing service arrangement for dealers beyond the current franchise agreements, is open until the end of June.

However, the compensation offered by Holden, which equates to approximately $146 million, is well short of dealers’ demands for $6100-a-car, which they say takes into account the full extent of the losses they face and would result in a compensation figure of $594 million.

One of the affected franchisees is Ken Jacka, who has been forced to sell his Holden dealership in Maryborough which was started by his father in 1979.

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“General Motors has been saying you can stay on offering parts and service but that’s difficult when you have no new cars, that is the crux of what we do,” he said. “As much as I want to make it work, it doesn’t work.”

Mr Jacka said he had sold what remained of the business and the property to the local Toyota dealership in a “bittersweet” deal which retained jobs for about half his staff.

“We sold it at less than building value only, we have basically given the business to them,” he said. “It’s sad. I’m glad my old man is not here to see what has happened to the brand. I have never driven anything but a Holden car and I don’t know what I will drive now.”

A spokesperson for Holden said the company had considered all matters raised during its discussions with dealers and remained of the view that its offer to dealers was fair and reasonable.

“We will continue to work with dealers who wish to transition their businesses and access our transition support package,” a spokesperson for Holden said.

“Our broader focus is with our 1.6 million Holden customers.”

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Recorded drug offences rise by a third during lockdown as dealers make ‘risky’ home deliveries | UK News


Recorded drug offences in England and Wales have risen by nearly a third during lockdown, figures suggest.

Data obtained by PA news agency shows thousands more crimes linked to illegal substances were recorded by police between 23 March and 25 May compared to the same period last year.

The Metropolitan Police has said some drug dealers have started providing home deliveries during lockdown, which has made them more vulnerable to getting caught.



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Police want help with drug gangs

A previous report by Sky News found many street dealers had stopped selling drugs because police were checking more vehicles on the roads while “stay at home” advice was in place.

The 26 forces who provided data recorded a total of 25,297 drugs offences, including trafficking and possession, in the nine-week period. Between the same dates last year, 19,840 drug-related offences were recorded.

A total of 23,113 drug crimes were recorded between 20 January and 23 March this year.

The figures are despite total recorded crime dropping by a quarter in the four-week period to 10 May, according to the latest national figures from the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said: “We know some of the drug dealers, both in county lines and beyond, have adapted the way they operate. They have had to.

“There has certainly been talk of more home deliveries to people’s houses by those who are brave. That’s certainly what my local officers are telling me, that they are seeing more of that.

“People who aren’t going out are asking for the drugs to come to them. That’s putting the drug dealers more at risk and making them more obvious.”

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Some dealers have been using creative ways to disguise themselves, including wearing hi-vis clothing and operating from supermarket car parks to appear like key workers, according to National Crime Agency director Lynne Owens.

Gangs expert Professor Simon Harding also said some were dressing as joggers and using fake NHS ID badges to move around freely.

Between 16 March and 20 May, Scotland Yard made 800 more drug arrests compared with the same period last year (1,431 to 2,232).

Officers also seized £22.4m worth of cash through freezing orders and confiscations – all thought to be linked to drug crime.



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Jaden Moodie: ‘Chances missed’ to protect boy groomed by dealers


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Jaden Moodie moved from Nottingham to London with his mum for a “new start”

A boy who was “butchered” in a drugs turf war after being groomed by drug dealers had been arrested in a crack den months earlier but police did not contact child exploitation staff, a report has found.

Jaden Moodie was 14 when he was knocked off his moped and stabbed to death in east London in January 2019.

A serious case review found chances to protect him were missed by agencies.

Ayoub Majdouline was jailed for his murder.

Three months before his death, Jaden was found with an older boy in a county lines flat in Bournemouth with 39 wraps of crack cocaine, two packets of cocaine, a mobile phone and £325 in cash.

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According to the review, the appropriate adult who sat in on his police interview said he appeared to be “a vulnerable young person frightened by what he was being groomed and coerced into by others”.

He gave the impression that “he definitely wanted to find a way out of the mess he was getting into,” they said.

Following his release, two Dorset Police officers drove him home to London but did not involve specialist child exploitation workers.

In the 12 months to August 2019, Dorset Police found 36 children from London in Bournemouth in similar circumstances to Jaden.

Jaden’s school in Waltham Forest was not told about the arrest but excluded him for a separate incident.

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Jaden pictured wearing his school uniform on his first day in Nottingham

At the time of his death Jaden was living with his grandmother in Leyton.

His mother, Jada Bailey, had been sleeping on friends’ sofas while she waited to be rehoused.

She had told housing officers she was trying to keep her son out of trouble and was keen to find somewhere for them to live in Waltham Forest, the report said.

She was allocated a flat two weeks before Jaden was stabbed to death.

The review found Ms Bailey and Jaden’s housing needs “could have been handled in a timelier manner”, especially as his vulnerability to exploitation became clear.

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The 14-year-old was stabbed to death in Bickley Road, Leyton

Jaden’s father Julian Moodie was convicted of drug dealing in 2009 and deported to Jamaica a year later, when Jaden was a young boy.

He began getting into trouble after starting secondary school in Nottingham in 2015, the report said.

He ran away from home, was accused of bullying and Ms Bailey was threatened at knifepoint when someone came looking for Jaden.

The report said Jaden had only spent three of his last 22 months in school.

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Ayoub Majdouline was found guilty of Jaden’s murder

In November 2018, he was excluded from school in Waltham Forest after he was seen in a Snapchat video in his school uniform holding what appeared to be a gun.

Jaden pleaded guilty in court to possession of an imitation firearm in a public place.

By the end of December Jaden had been offered a place at a pupil referral unit and had committed social workers and youth offending workers trying to help him.

But “tragically none of these people were provided with that opportunity”, the report concluded.

The review was led by John Drew, the former chief executive of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales.

Mr Drew highlighted poor communication between Waltham Forest Council’s social services, Dorset Police and the Met Police.

He called for a national system for responding to exploitation of children by county lines gangs, saying that every area needs a “rescue and response” system to protect young people.

Mr Drew concluded that “no-one knew how little time” there was to change Jaden’s thinking.

Jaden’s death “could not have been anticipated on the basis of what was known about [his] life at that time,” Mr Drew said.

“So while it is clear that [Jaden] was not protected either by the council, or its partners, or by any other person, from the ultimate danger that engulfed him, I do not find any major fault in the response to his circumstances.”



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