New York’s commercial tenants won’t face eviction until 2021 if they are unable to pay their rent


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has extended a moratorium protecting commercial tenants from eviction amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Businesses struggling due to lockdowns and social distancing rules can stay in their buildings until at least the end of this year, Cuomo announced Tuesday as a month-long extension of the original order – which expired September 20 – was due to run out.

It gives renters and mortgagors more time to catch up on payments or to renegotiate their lease terms to avoid foreclosure in the future.

Now, like a moratorium for residential tenants, landlords will not be able to kick out those who are unable to pay rent due to issues related to the COVID-19 outbreak until at least January 1, 2021.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has extended a moratorium protecting commercial tenants from eviction. He announced the news Tuesday as the last extension was due to expire

It gives renters and mortgagors more time to catch up on payments or to renegotiate their lease terms to avoid foreclosure in the future. A woman reads a sign at a closed store in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, New York on October 9

It gives renters and mortgagors more time to catch up on payments or to renegotiate their lease terms to avoid foreclosure in the future. A woman reads a sign at a closed store in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, New York on October 9

Last month, Cuomo granted residential tenants the same relief until next year. Demonstrators are pictured October 1 in New York City

Last month, Cuomo granted residential tenants the same relief until next year. Demonstrators are pictured October 1 in New York City

‘The health and economic impacts of this pandemic have been devastating, and we are continuing to do everything we can to support people who are suffering,’ Cuomo said Tuesday.

‘We are going to extend the commercial eviction and foreclosure moratorium through January 1st. That will now align with our residential eviction moratorium so they are both extended to the same date.’

Cuomo granted residential tenants more relief on September 28 to protect people suffering financial hardship during the public health emergency.

The governor announced protections for residential and commercial tenants on March 20, with an executive order against eviction and foreclosure lasting 90 days.

On June 30 signed the Tenant Safe Harbor Act which became effective immediately.

The protections come alongside legislation providing financial assistance to both renters and landlords. However it may not be much help to commercial landlords who remain on pressure as the state relies on businesses to help boost the economy.

In May, Vornado said 80 percent of its retail tenants failed to pay rent in April and May as well as 40 percent of its office tenants. Vornado collected 53 percent of its retail rent but did not give numbers for office rents.

SL Green, another commercial giant, said it collected more than 90 percent but only around 65 percent of retail rent in May. 

Empire Realty Trust collected 73 percent of its rent owed from office tenants in April. The company didn’t specify whether it meant some companies didn’t pay any rent at all or if its tenants only paid partially.

The company boosted its income to 93 percent by using some security deposits to make up the income. Cuomo has said that residential tenants can dip into deposits now and that over time the tenant should contribute more to pay it back.

The expansion of the residential moratorium include cases where a judgment or warrant of eviction was granted prior to March 7, 2020. Demonstrators are shown during a rent strike protest on October 1

The expansion of the residential moratorium include cases where a judgment or warrant of eviction was granted prior to March 7, 2020. Demonstrators are shown during a rent strike protest on October 1

Protesters created Abolition Living Room demanding cancel rent in front of 633 3rd Avenue, Manhattan where the NYC office of the Governor is located

Protesters created Abolition Living Room demanding cancel rent in front of 633 3rd Avenue, Manhattan where the NYC office of the Governor is located

Cuomo’s Executive Order for residential tenants from last month extends the protections of the Tenant Safe Harbor Act to eviction warrants that existed prior to the start of the pandemic.

‘Chapter 127 of the laws of 2020 is modified to the extent necessary to prevent, for any residential tenant suffering financial hardship during the COVID-19 state disaster emergency declared by Executive Order 202, the execution or enforcement of such judgment or warrant,’ the executive order reads.

It adds: ‘Including those cases where a judgment or warrant of eviction for a residential property was granted prior to March 7, 2020, through January 1, 2021.’ 

In August dozens of people marched through Brooklyn to protest the impending expiration of a previous order as 14,000 families risked being homeless, according to Legal Aid Society.

At the time he said he will keep extending it for as long as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the livelihoods of New Yorkers.

‘Until when? Until I say COVID is over,’ he said.

The moratorium puts these proceedings on hold but, once expired, these can be carried out.

Even tenants protected by the Tenant Safe Harbor Act could have been taken to court by their landlords to recover missed rent payments however the executive order could help the tenant fight the case.



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Coronavirus Australia live news: Federal Government could pay $40 million for return travellers’ quarantine


A deal between the Federal and Norther Territory governments to bring Australians home from overseas could cost the Commonwealth $40 million.

Follow today’s events as they unfold on the blog below.

Live updates

By Michael Doyle

Victoria has recorded two case of COVID-19, zero deaths

 

By Michael Doyle

Premier urged to help businesses in easing of restrictions

 

Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp has urged the Victorian Premier to include business in today’s easing of restrictions.
 
As the state’s coronavirus numbers continue to decline, the Premier Dan Andrews is expected to announce significant changes.
 
He has warned it may not be as much as was initially hoped under the state’s roadmap, but has hinted at relaxing the rules surrounding socialising and movement.
 
The Lord Mayor Sally Capp says many businesses are desperate to re-open and can do so safely.
 
It’s just not sustainable to think that so many of those businesses that make up essential services, but also the character of our neighbourhoods and certainly our city are asked to remain close,” she said.
 
“We think there are safe and steady ways to open sooner.”

By Michael Doyle

The five hallmarks of successful contact tracing during the coronavirus pandemic

  

Contact tracing is the process of finding, assessing and managing the people who have been exposed to a disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
  
We do it to prevent more people from getting sick with the same disease.
  
This is what’s made it such an important public health tool for controlling COVID-19.
  
It may be a crucial process and one that public health teams have been using for a long time – but it’s also quite a hard one to get right.
  
Our superstar Yasmin Jeffery has dived into the difficulties on contact tracing.
  
You can read her story here.

By Michael Doyle

Health warnings across Sydney

 

The Oran Park cluster has now reached 18 cases.

 

There were 5 new cases of coronavirus in NSW yesterday, all in the Oran Park area — four were connected to the Greater Beginnings Child Care Centre and one student at the Oran Park High School, which is being deep cleaned this weekend.

 

Anyone who attended the Gregory Hills Hotel near Oran Park on the evening of October 9 and the United Cinema in Narellan town centre on October 10 is considered a close contact and should get tested if symptoms develop.

 

There has also been a health warning for Shellharbour South Beach and Little Park on Sunday, October 11 and Woolworths in Oran Park on October 12.

By Michael Doyle

A big win for Geelong needs a Cats gif

     

Good morning Doyle. I hope your dosing up on some good coffee for todays big announcements.. Fingers crossed for a 0 today. Can you give us a Cat Gif for us geelong fans!

-gif for the cats

 

 

  

By Michael Doyle

Daniel Andrews set to announce eased restrictions today

 
COVID restrictions around socialising and movement in Victoria are expected to be relaxed when Premier Daniel Andrews today announces the next steps out of lockdown.
   
Melburnians have been in lockdown for more than 100 days now after a crippling second wave of coronavirus began in winter. 
   
Many businesses remain closed and residents are still restricted to a five kilometre travel limit, two hours of daily outdoor exercise and limited social interaction. 
   
While those living in regional Victoria have more freedom of movement, they are still subjected to COVID restrictions. 
   
Premier Daniel Andrews has hinted rules around socialising will relax from tomorrow.
   
Victoria recorded just one new case yesterday but health authorities remain concerned about 17 infections with an unknown source.

By Michael Doyle

Key Event

When Daniel Andrews makes a time to speak to us, we will tell you

 

Sit tight blog friends. Just enjoy the ride. 

By Michael Doyle

Key Event

Federal Government could pay $40 million for hotel quarantine

The Federal Government could end up paying $8,000 per person in quarantine costs under a plan to bring stranded Australians home via Darwin.
 
The deal between the Commonwealth and NT Government could see up to 5,000 Australians return home via Darwin from the UK, South Africa and India by the end of March. 
 
They’ll undergo quarantine at the Howard Springs facility on Darwin’s outskirts, and the Commonwealth will pay all costs to the NT Government monthly. 
 
The Department of Health says it expects the cost per person to be $8,000 per quarantine period meaning the Australian Government could end up paying the NT $40 million. 
 
The Federal Government says vulnerable Australians will be prioritised for seating on the initial flights. 

By Michael Doyle

Key Event

Read yesterday’s blog here

 

By Michael Doyle

Hello everyone

 

Good morning Australia.

 

Welcome to Sunday morning and welcome back to the live blog. 

 

It is going to be a big day.

 

Daniel Andrews is expected to announce eased restrictions across Victoria.

 

Grab yourself a coffee and a little cake, this is going to be a busy day.

 

 



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Newcastle Knights rubbish Mitchell Pearce swap rumours but halfback faces pay cut


There has been speculation about a player swap with Parramatta’s Mitchell Moses or even a return to the Roosters. However, neither of those are genuine options as he prepares to bring up the 300-game milestone early next season.

“We hold Mitchell in the highest regard,” Gardner said. “Mitchell is contracted to us until the end of 2021. He’s currently the club captain, we love Mitch, he’s getting married in the off season and his focus is on that.

Rumours surround Mitchell Pearce’s future at the Knights, but Newcastle say he’s going nowhere.Credit:Getty

“We are in agreement not to discuss any contractual issues until the end of the season.

“We will be in discussions with him, he’s a free agent from November 1.

“We love him and will work our way through it from there.”

Gardner didn’t want to provide a running commentary on contract negotiations, but was amused at some of the speculation surrounding Pearce.

“Let me assure you we are not swapping him for Mitchell Moses,” Gardner said. “The speculation I have seen is just hilarious. Player swaps, the Roosters making him an offer. I’m surprised he isn’t playing on the moon.

“He’s a contracted player with us and the moment we do something in relation to his contract, we’ll let everybody know.

“Mitch has been a great player for us up to now and we believe he will be a great player moving forward.”

The Knights, who have just re-signed versatile playmaker Connor Watson for next season, have been battling injuries all season. Gardner said that 10 players, headlined by Ponga, require off-season operations.

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“It’s been an incredible year of attrition of players,” Gardner said. “There’s no secret that the clubs that have had to travel the most have had the biggest issues and we’ve had lots and lots of travel.

“We’ve got 10 now going in for surgery.

“We need to make sure it’s as level a playing field as it can be for clubs, it certainly hasn’t been this year.

“There have been a lot of injuries and there are only a limited amount of players that can play at the highest end of the NRL. If we keep knocking our players around, forget about expansion, we won’t have enough players to support the clubs we’ve got.

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“We need to be careful how we look after the players.

“If you were to look at the number of operations across all clubs, I’d imagine it would be an incredibly big number compared to any other year.

“Shoulders, knees, achilles – we don’t normally get any achilles issues in a year at all.

“That has been a big outtake. Rehabilitation, making sure the players prepare well, will be big.

“Hopefully next year we don’t have the bubble and we don’t have those challenges.”

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Thousands of Australians struggling to pay power bills, as winter stay-at-home rules bite


Money is always tight for Hobart grandmother Kathy Flynn, but never before has a bill brought her to tears.

Ms Flynn lives on a pension in the suburb of Chigwell with her three grandchildren — two teenagers who she cares for and another in their twenties who lives independently in a flat out the back.

The family has spent a bit more time at home in the last few months, with the pandemic causing local sport to be cancelled and many social activities wound back.

But nothing prepared Ms Flynn for her winter power bill, which went up by a whopping $900 compared with last winter, to $2,500.

“I just burst out crying,” she said.

“You don’t reduce me to tears quickly, but that bill reduced me to tears because there was no way I ever thought I’d ever have a bill that huge.”

Consumer advocates have long feared a double whammy of larger winter heating bills combined with higher energy usage due to people spending more time at home during the pandemic.

Now it appears those concerns are being realised.

The industry estimates residential energy consumption has risen between 15 and 20 per cent due to the pandemic.

Craig Memery from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) said many people were reporting bill increases in the hundreds of dollars.

“The nub of the problem is that people have been required to be at home, they’ve lost jobs, they’ve lost income,” he told the ABC.

“And at the same time, people are using a lot more energy.

The combination of winter weather and people spending more time at home has hit household power bills.(ABC News: Brendan Esposito)

“In March, we did some analysis and estimated that some people were going to have energy bill increases in the order of $200 a month, and we have seen that come to fruition since, particularly in the colder winter months.”

He said some people were taking extreme measures to ensure they could pay their bill.

“We see people taking on payday loans and unsustainable loan options to allow them to pay their bills and they often come with exorbitantly high interest rates that place people in worse and worse debt.”

Rising debts, thousands deferring payment

New data from the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) shows almost 200,000 people across six states and territories are on payment plans, or have deferred paying their bills altogether.

The AER introduced deferrals as an industry guideline in March, so people who couldn’t afford to pay their bills during the pandemic could avoid being disconnected.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

Australian Energy Regulator chair Clare Savage says the amount of household energy debt is concerning.

The data doesn’t capture customers in Western Australia or the Northern Territory, which aren’t part of the National Energy Market (NEM).

Western Australia does not have any data available from the pandemic, while NT retailer Jacana said a small number of its 80,000 customers were on payment extensions or had deferred their bills.

The industry and its regulator said despite the challenges of the pandemic, energy retailers had responded swiftly to ensure people stayed connected.

But AER chair Clare Savage said the rising amount of household energy debt was concerning.

Clare Savage stands in a park.
Australian Energy Regulator chair Clare Savage says thousands of people have asked for bill deferments and hardship plans during the pandemic.(ABC News: Amy Bainbridge)

“We look at the 90-day debt data — that’s when you’ve had a bill outstanding for 90 days or more — [and] the average debt for those customers was about $960 in March,” she said.

“It’s increased to over $1,100 now.”

In September, AER data showed more than 45,000 residential and small business customers had deferred their bills due to the pandemic, worth about $23 million in total.

The debt deferrals are in place until at least the end of October.

Sarah McNamara from the Australian Energy Council, which represents the industry, said retailers had so far been able to shoulder the financial burden of the debt deferrals due to various industry measures such as delaying payments on network charges.

But she said if customers could make even a small contribution to paying off their bill, they should.

“Mounting debt levels are bad news for customers and bad news for retailers as well,” she said.

“What we want to say is, when [customers] can pay, that they start paying those bills and get on payment plans, so they’re chipping away at their debt levels over the coming months.”

Ms Savage said the impact of winter bills had not been as bad as had been anticipated, thanks to JobSeeker, JobKeeper and state government concession and support programmes.

Advocates worried about months to come

While the industry and its regulator said the support measures in place softened the blow of the pandemic and winter bills, PIAC said people were struggling much more than the data showed.

“People prioritise paying their household energy bills in much the same way that they prioritise things like rent,” PIAC’s Craig Memery said.

“So what we’ll see is a debt problem … [which] hides a much, much bigger problem of sacrifices that they’re making in other parts of their life.”

He’s worried the true impact will be felt in coming months, as support mechanisms are wound back.

In Hobart, Kathy Flynn said her retailer Aurora Energy didn’t give her a clear reason why her bill had increased so dramatically.

Ms Flynn had received an expensive winter bill back in 2018, but had since had an energy audit on her home and managed to significantly reduce her costs the following year.

She said she was unsure why her bill had gone back up this winter.

“When I asked why it was so high, [the customer service representative] just said ‘because of the COVID-19, everyone’s staying at home and the kids are at home and that’s why the bill has risen’,” she said.

But Ms Flynn said their lifestyle during the pandemic hadn’t changed enough to justify such a large rise.

“She said that ‘the only other thing is that everyone’s threatening to go to the ombudsman, you have a choice to do that’.”

Aurora Energy told the ABC that it was a proud Tasmanian organisation that was committed to helping its customers “during these tough times”.

“Ms Flynn has been provided with significant support from Aurora’s $5M COVID-19 Customer Support Fund, and with tools to ensure she is able to manage her energy usage moving forward,” the company said in a statement.

The company said the major power distributor TasNetworks made the decision to suspend meter readings earlier in the year, to keep customers and crew safe during the pandemic.

“On top of people spending more time at home, this has had an impact on Tasmanians’ bills,” the company said in its statement.

Ms Flynn recently had a meter installed free of charge, which she hopes will go some way towards the family monitoring its energy use in real time and cutting costs.

Industry implores customers to trust them to help

Craig Memery said until recently, energy retailers ranked below banks in terms of consumer trust.

He said many people felt anxious about reaching out for help.

“Trust needs to be earned, and now that’s coming back to bite them in a situation where all of the good intentions that the industry might have are going to be hard for people to actually take on face value,” he said.

He said retailers needed to make sure their customers were on the best deal possible.

“The way the whole energy retail market has worked in recent years has actually relied on people staying on deals that aren’t good for them,” he said.

“If retailers want to earn trust, they’re going to have to reverse that and make sure that people are on the best deal for them.”

Sarah McNamara stand in a park and smiles at the camera.
Sarah McNamara from the Australian Energy Council, which represents the industry, says there are a range of measures to help customers.(ABC News: Amy Bainbridge)

Sarah McNamara from the Australian Energy Council said retailers had been trying hard to reach those in need.

“We don’t think it’s a good result for customers or retailers if debt levels are rising without some customers paying anything at all, that just makes the situation more stressful for everyone,” she said.

“Retailers are working really hard to communicate with their customers and their phone lines are open to have that conversation that will help people start to pay down those bills, even if it’s just a small amount per week.”



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Australia must prepare now for climate-related disasters or pay more later, insurance regulator says | Australian economy


Australia’s banking and insurance regulator has estimated the country should be spending about $3.5bn a year to limit damage from climate-related natural disasters, warning the cost of responding to them after the fact is likely to be 11 times greater.

In a speech on Wednesday, Geoff Summerhayes, an executive board member of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, said the cost of pre-emptive action to avoid the impact of disasters exacerbated by the climate crisis was far cheaper than dealing with the aftermath.

Addressing the issue of rising insurance premiums in northern Australia due to an increasing number of claims caused by storms and cyclones, Summerhayes said Apra was concerned general insurance could become unaffordable or unavailable in parts of the country.

He said it heightened the need to both cut greenhouse gas emissions and increase community resilience to extreme climate events, such as last summer’s catastrophic bushfires.

“Investing in the types of resilience, mitigation and hazard reduction measures needed to better protect Australian communities – and keep insurance affordable and accessible – comes at a cost,” he told an Australian Business Roundtable webinar. “But as we witnessed last summer, failing to take action can be far more costly in the long run, and the price paid is often far more valuable than can be measured in dollars.”

Summerhayes cited research by the business roundtable that predicted the total economic cost of natural disasters in Australia would reach $39bn a year by 2050. Based on evidence from the US that every $1 spent on resilience measures saves up to
$11 in response and recovery costs, he said covering those losses would require the community to invest about $3.5bn a year to prevent the worst impacts.

“That’s an enormous sum, but it’s much smaller than the $39bn cost,” he said.

Summerhayes has previously warned climate change posed a material risk to the entire financial system and urged companies to start adapting.

Australia’s insurers have estimated they faced paying out $5.4bn on almost 300,000 claims related to last summer’s bushfires, floods and hailstorms. Summerhayes said the country’s financial sector and broader economy, backed by government support, were strong enough to absorb and bounce back from this and the additional cost of rebuilding damaged roads, bridges, electricity and water supplies. But he said that resilience would be tested should “last summer’s experience become the new normal”.

“Alarmingly, the clear message from Australian and global scientific experts suggests this may be the case,” he said. “The Bureau of Meteorology says Australia’s climate has warmed just over 1C in recent decades, contributing to a long-term increase in extreme fire weather and the length of the fire season.The Australian Academy of Science warns the link between human-induced climate change and extreme weather is clear, and we must start preparing for a more dangerous future.”

He said residents of northern Australia were already bearing the cost, with average home insurance premiums jumping more than 178% and home and contents packages rising 122% since 2007, prompting the consumer watchdog to warn they were becoming unaffordable. The rate of households without insurance in the north is almost double the rest of the country.

Summerhayes said the cost of claims kept rising, mainly due to storms and cyclones, and rebuilding costs were greater than in the south. It was resulting in a growing reluctance among some insurers, particularly smaller operators, to offer cover in high-risk areas.

He said there was evidence that investment in dealing with natural disasters was already saving taxpayers. The Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre estimated enhanced flood mitigation measures in the Tasmanian city of Launceston saved $240m when major flooding hit the region in 2016.

He praised the “growing number of outstanding examples” of community groups, businesses and other organisations combining resources and expertise to seek to protect community interests, highlighting the mining magnate Andrew Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation for its “audacious” goal of ensuring no dangerous bushfire would burn longer than an hour by 2025.

He noted the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, had foreshadowed more announcements on disaster and mitigation funding following the release of the final report from the royal commission into bushfires.

“While not a substitute for global action to reduce the emissions fuelling rising temperatures, the royal commission provides an important opportunity to make increasing the physical resilience of the community to natural disasters a national priority,” he said. “We either buy now or we pay more later.”

The speech was welcomed by the Insurance Council of Australia, which repeated its call for greater natural disaster resilience funding. “Without mitigation, the damage bill in vulnerable communities – northern Australia in particular – will continue to soar,” the council’s chief executive, Andrew Hall, said.



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GWS, AFLW pay tribute to player Jacinda Barclay following her death at the age of 29


Greater Western Sydney AFLW player Jacinda Barclay, who also represented Australia at five baseball World Cups, has died at the age of 29.

A host of her AFLW counterparts took to social media with tributes while GWS CEO David Matthews said Barclay would “always be a part of our club”.

“Jacinda was a much-loved member of the Giants family and we are all devastated by her passing,” Matthews said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Jacinda gave up a great deal to follow her sporting dreams around the world and we are grateful that she called our club home for four years … Jacinda’s spirit and infectious personality made her a popular and unforgettable member of the Giants family.

“She will always be a part of our club.

“Our thoughts and condolences are with Jacinda’s family and friends during this extremely tough time.”

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AFL head of women’s football Nicole Livingstone also expressed her sadness on behalf of the league.

“There are few words that we can express at this time, other than to convey our sadness and sincerest condolences to the Barclay family,” Livingstone said.

“Jacinda’s loss will be taken very hard by so many people within our game across all levels.

“On behalf of the AFL, I would like to express my deepest compassion to the Barclay family, friends and colleagues.”

AFL Players’ Association chief executive Paul Marsh said they were working with the Giants to ensure Barclay’s teammates are receiving support at this time.

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Barclay’s multi-sport journey

The talented sportswoman made her international baseball debut as a 17-year-old, and won a silver medal at the 2010 World Cup before she played American football in Australia and the US between 2012 and 2016.

She then turned her attentions to AFLW.

Jacinda Barclay kicked 11 goals for the Giants.(AAP: Mark Evans)

Barclay joined the competition in the Giants’ first season in 2017, playing a total of 23 games and kicking 11 goals in four campaigns.

The Western Australian-born Barclay began playing Australian Rules football at the age of 12 but concentrated on baseball in her teenage years.

She represented Australia’s national women’s baseball team, the Emeralds, at World Cups in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016.

Barclay’s American football career included spells with the NSW Surge for the inaugural 2013-14 season of LFL Australia and as a quarterback led them to a title in the competition’s lone campaign.

In 2016, Barclay was scouted by the Chicago Bliss for America’s Legends Football League and won a championship in her first season.

She returned to Australian Rules football when the AFLW began.

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Telstra chairman vows to protect dividend, calls for simpler pay model


Telstra shares have slipped close to 20 per cent since the start of calendar 2020, from $3.58 a share in January to close at $2.89 on Tuesday. They have also almost halved in value over the last five years.

Mr Mullen, who was grilled by shareholders at the AGM about the sharp fall in Telstra’s share price, acknowledged that the telco’s numbers had failed to hit the mark in recent years. However, he added the share price performance didn’t adequately reflect the work done by Telstra’s management.

“Share price cannot be the only metric by which we evaluate management’s performance. I fundamentally reject that,” Mr Mullen said. “External factors can mean you have a reduction in share price despite outstanding management performance just as you can have an increase in the share price despite mediocre management performance.”

MST Marquee analyst Fraser McLeish is confident Telstra will pay the full 16¢ dividend to investors next financial year.

“I thought there were encouraging comments that they made around setting the framework to be able to sustain the dividend and what needs to happen. Quite clearly the intention is to do whatever they can to sustain the dividend, I forecast that they can maintain the dividend at 16¢ a share.”

Mr Mullen, who was re-elected as Telstra’s chairman at the meeting, also called for a simpler model for executive pay after several key leaders including chief executive Andy Penn missed out on $758,000 worth of incentives last financial year because of poor sales practice in several stores primarily with vulnerable customers in the Northern Territory.

“Our view in these matters is that the responsibility ultimately stops with the company’s leadership and the board’s decision on remuneration outcomes for Andy [Penn] and two of his executive team reflected that while there was no specific adverse conduct by them personally, they were ultimately accountable,” he said.

Due to factors related to the crisis, Mr Penn and other executives also missed out on underlying earnings and net promoter score (NPS) targets affected by a fall in customer experience.

“I do wonder if it is time to consider a simpler model going forward,” Mr Mullen said. “I sometimes wonder whether we should not go back to those days and just give senior executives a fixed salary, the majority of which would be paid in shares so that if the company’s shares perform well then the executive would earn more and if they perform badly the executive would earn less.”

When asked directly about Telstra’s intentions with infrastructure arm Infraco, Mr Mullen would not rule out a merger with NBN Co once it is privatised.

“We don’t envisage an enventual merger. but we do envisage a situation where opportunities for Telstra Infraco and the NBN to have some form of interaction, cooperation or even possible merger one day,” he said. “The future of the NBN is in the hands of government and all we can do is be prepared for any eventualities that may occur.”

Mr McLeish said a merger of the two would make sense operationally, but was dependent on the valuation of the two companies and the national broadband network meeting government targets.

“There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge, but ultimately operationally it would make a lot of sense.”

Mr Mullen’s commentary was very different to his presentation last year and in 2018. Last year Mr Mullen slammed critics of Mr Penn’s $5 million-a-year pay packet and argued kids playing popular video game Fortnite, social media influencers and professional athletes are paid similar sums of money. In 2018, Telstra shareholders revolted with 62 per cent voting against the company’s remuneration report.

“It was very pleasing this year to see broad support from proxy advisers and others for our approach to executive remuneration which, as I have said many times, is a responsibility the Telstra board takes incredibly seriously,” he said. Mr Mullen was re-elected as chairman but nearly 4 per cent of shareholders voted against him.

Mr Mullen and Mr Penn both confirmed Telstra would push ahead with its T22 strategy despite the change in market conditions this year.

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Telstra chair calls for simpler pay model after execs lose $750k in bonuses


“This is a discussion for another day but it would greatly simplify the whole executive remuneration debate.”

Mr Mullen said key executives had missed out on their incentive outcomes for underlying earnings because of reduced revenues, decisions to defer redundancies and the introduction of packages to assist customers who were struggling because of the pandemic. Challenges with international call centres related to social distancing restrictions also reduced customer experience, which led to missed NPS targets.

Mr Penn and two other key executives also had payments reduced by $758,000 – 10 per cent – because of bad sales practices that occurred in several stores primarily in the Northern Territory. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission started an investigation last year into the way Telstra’s products were sold to vulnerable customers.

“Our view in these matters is that the responsibility ultimately stops with the company’s leadership and the board’s decision on remuneration outcomes for Andy [Penn] and two of his executive team reflected that while there was no specific adverse conduct by them personally, they were ultimately accountable,” he said.

Mr Mullen’s commentary on remuneration was very different to his presentation last year and in 2018. Last year Mr Mullen slammed critics of Mr Penn’s $5 million-a-year pay packet and argued kids playing popular video game Fortnite, social media influencers and professional athletes are paid similar sums of money. In 2018, Telstra shareholders revolted with 62 per cent voting against the company’s remuneration report.

“It was very pleasing this year to see broad support from proxy advisers and others for our approach to executive remuneration which, as I have said many times, is a responsibility the Telstra board takes incredibly seriously,” Mr Mullen said.

Telstra shares opened up 2.5 per cent to $2.85. As of yesterday, Telstra had lost 20 per cent of its value in 2020.

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NBA champions LA Lakers pay tribute to Kobe Bryant after title win


Bryant retired in 2016 after a 20-year career with the LA Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers paid tribute to Kobe Bryant after winning their first NBA title in a decade.

Five-time NBA champion Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in January alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.

He spent his entire career with the Lakers and led them to their last NBA title in 2010.

“Kobe, I know he’s looking down on us super proud,” said Lakers forward Anthony Davis.

“We miss him, and this is definitely for him.”

The Lakers beat the Miami Heat 106-93 to seal a 4-2 series victory and tie with the Boston Celtics for the most NBA championships on 17.

Davis added: “He had a lot of confidence in our team. He had a lot of confidence in our organisation to go out there and win it this year.”

On several occasions during the play-offs, the Lakers competed in ‘Black Mamba’ jerseys – a strip themed on 18-time NBA All-Star Bryant’s self-styled nickname.

Before their defeat in game five of the finals, the Lakers had won all four play-off matches they had contested when wearing the strip, which was co-designed by Bryant and released in 2017.

“I think Kobe and Gianna have guided this team the entire year,” said Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka.

“Kobe’s voice is always in my head, always, every day, every minute. For us to be able to win this championship doesn’t take away the sting of the loss, but what it does is it helps us add to their legacy.

“Kobe and Gianna’s legacy will last forever. It will impact lives around the world in positive ways, and this Lakers championship in 2020 is partly to build on that legacy and honour them. The moment couldn’t be any more special to do that for them.

“There would be times in my hotel room here – when you’re in a bubble for 100 days, it’s tough – there would be times in the middle of the night, I would hear his voice: ‘Stay the course. Finish the task.’

“He said, ‘I’ll give you two, three years, you’ll fix this. You’ll get the Lakers back on top’.”

Looking to the skies, Pelinka added: “I guess you were right, man. You gave me the energy to do it.”

Bryant’s widow Vanessa posted a tribute to the Lakers on her Instagram story with a photo of her late husband with Pelinka.

“Wish Kobe and Gigi were here to see this,” she wrote.

Lakers fan celebrate on the streets of LA
Lakers fans remembered Bryant as they celebrated in LA

Following the Lakers’ win, fans streamed onto the streets of LA in celebration, despite coronavirus restrictions.

Many wore Bryant’s number 8 and 24 jerseys as well as face masks and jackets adorned with the face of the Lakers great, while photos were taken by a giant mural of Bryant and his daughter and his name was chanted.

“Winning for Kobe has been in my mind for a while,” Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo said.

“To be able to compete with Kobe, understand and learn so much from him by watching his film and by studying him, it’s definitely an honour.

“And to come full circle to win in his honour, his daughter’s honour, unbelievable season that we’ve had. And to be able to prevail and stay focused and continue to get the job done, I know he’s definitely smiling down on us.”





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Commonwealth Bank defends top executive pay ahead of AGM


There has been intense scrutiny over pay for top banking executives since the damaging revelations of the Hayne royal commission. Last week the Reserve Bank of Australia said the banking regulator would soon resume work on ensuring executive pay was tied to targets that encourage good practice and culture.

CBA chief executive Matt Comyn is set to receive a base salary plus short and long-term bonuses totalling over $3.4 million, meaning his total pay for the year will be more than $5.6 million, up from $4.3 million the previous year, according to CBA’s annual report.

ISS figures show Mr Comyn’s bonus would reach $6.2 million, based on 47,957 shares being awarded in November last year. Under this calculation his total take home pay would be more than than $8.4 million.

Mr Kolesnikoff said bank executives should not be paid for “doing their day job”.

“What are you paying for? For fixing stuff you did wrong that caused shareholder losses through fines and legal costs in the first place?” he said.

Executive bonuses are determined by a combination of performance targets spanning corporate culture, profits and customer outcomes. This year, the most heavily weighted measure (30 per cent) for Mr Comyn’s bonus was the bank’s ability to meet milestones set out by the prudential regulator after a 2018 inquiry found systemic failures in CBA’s operations.

CBA has implemented around 70 per cent of milestones set by independent consulting firm, Promontory.

Mr Kolesnikoff said APRA had increasingly encouraged banks to boost executive action on non-financial risks, like culture and governance, but progress on remediation should not be rewarded.

CBA is set to introduce new remuneration framework that would reduce overall pay for the CEO and executives by up to 19 per cent and require them to receive more of their total package in shares.

“These equity grants are subject to significant risk and performance hurdles and take into account additional rules by regulators which govern risk and deferral periods,” a CBA spokesman said.

“They also include measures of how well management is implementing sustained cultural change that is embedded over the long term and greater accountability for their decisions.

“These changes more closely align their interests with shareholders based on the longer term performance of the company, moves that have been recognised by four out of the five major proxy and shareholder advisory groups who have recommended votes in favour for the AGM remuneration motions.”

In April, NAB announced it would cut pay for the board and cease short-term bonuses for executives as the economy reels from the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr McEwan told a public forum this month that bank executives should “only win when our customers and shareholders are winning”.

“We understand the pain that customers are feeling at the moment… the last thing they want to see is bankers winning off the back end of them,” Mr McEwan said.

Around 30,000 CBA staff rejected an enterprise bargaining offer that included annual rises of 1.5 and 2 per cent for some and pay freezes for workers on higher salaries. “If they’re screwing over workers while feathering their own pockets, that’s pretty bad,” Mr Kolesnikoff said.

The negotiations remain ongoing but the Finance Sector Union has described the deal as “unfair”.

“The huge bonuses being paid to senior management should be accompanied by fair and decent pay for staff,” FSU national secretary Julia Angrisano said.

“CBA staff have made a major contribution to the bank’s healthy profit result and it is disappointing that the current pay offer fails to recognise their hard work and dedication.”

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