Archives - May, 2019



13 May 19

HAPPIER TIMES: The body of Renee Mitchell was found by walkers in Bangalay Reserve at Windale on November 12, 2014. Graham Anthony George Sloane has pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but not guilty to murder. Picture: SuppliedA MAN accused of brutally murdering an aged-care worker and dumping her body in a Windale park has raised a defence of substantial impairment, claiming he couldn’t control himself at the time of the woman’s death.
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There is no dispute that Graham Anthony George Sloane, now 68, was the man who took Renee Mitchell, 38, from her kitchen while she was cooking dinner for her family on November 11, 2014, Newcastle Supreme Court has heard.

There is also no questionthat Mr Sloane took Mrs Mitchellto nearby Bangalay Reserve andstabbed her four times in the chest and once in the neck.

And it’s not disputed that those injuries caused her death and that Mr Sloane intended to kill Mrs Mitchell.

But what a jury will be asked to decide is whether Mr Sloane was suffering from an “abnormality of the mind” at the time of the killing, meaning his capacity to understand events, judge right from wrong or control himself wassubstantially impaired by mental illness.

If they make that determination, then the jury will be asked whether his capacity to control himself –which both sides acknowledge is the central issue to the case –was so substantially impaired that it would reduce what was otherwise murder to manslaughter, the court heard.

“Not guilty to murder, but guilty to manslaughter,” a frail-looking Mr Sloane told a jury panel during his arraignment on Monday.

Barrister Janet Manuel, for Mr Sloane, told the jury of nine women and three men that Mr Sloane was showing “clear signs of mental illness in the days, weeks and months” leading up to Ms Mitchell’s death.

Mr Sloane had began telling people he was a stand-up comedian or a musician, that he was embarking on a national tour or heading overseas to “entertain the troops” and had even hired a “showbiz manager”, Ms Manuel said.

None of these things were true.

“But that didn’t stop Mr Sloane,” Ms Manuel said. “Because he not only spoke about these things, he acted on them.”

Mr Sloane bought thousands of dollars worth of musical and electrical equipment as well as a new car to use during the tour, making repeated visits to Musos Corner, Harvey Norman and a car dealership on the day he killed Mrs Mitchell.

During his opening address, Crown prosecutor Lee Carr submitted that, ultimately, the jury would reject the defence of substantial impairment and find that Mr Sloane had the capacity to control himself.

The trial, before Justice Helen Wilson, is expected to run for two weeks.


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13 May 19

Volatility on share markets can be a reminder to make sure you are in the right super fund investment option. Photo: Peter BraigStrap yourself in, 2017 is set to be “volatile” in financial markets. That’s the view of many fund managers and other investment experts, and you can see why it seems a pretty safe prediction.
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With Donald Trump in the White House, market-moving comments are just a presidential tweet away. A host of European nations also hold elections this year, which could open the door to more anti-establishment leaders, adding to the many unknowns in the world economy.

It’s easy to get the impression of a more turbulent world – which is reinforced by a 24-hour media cycle that naturally emphasises the more dramatic events.

But what’s the hard evidence that the financial world is more volatile than it used to be?

And if markets are becoming even more or a roller coaster, how does this affect your superannuation?

For all the talk about volatility, it is certainly not reflected in what market insiders call the “fear index”.

The VIX, or volatility index, is traded on the Chicago Board Options Exchange, and viewed as a global benchmark for volatility, because it shows the price investors pay to insure against wild market swings. Yet last week, the VIX fell to the lowest level in its 27-year history.

The VIX did spike when Trump was elected, but remained well below the recent 2015 highs reached when China’s sharemarket was tumbling, and even those highs were a fraction of the genuinely scary peaks of the global financial crisis in 2008-09.

The low level of the VIX suggests the recent market swings are more a case of share prices bouncing around, rather than investors being deeply uncertain or worried.

However, it is also true that investment returns for super funds have been getting bumpier.

SuperRatings has measured the rolling volatility over one and three years for balanced funds – where most of us have our super.

They did this by measuring the funds’ percentage change in returns, compared with its longer-term average. The message is that things did indeed get more volatile in 2015-16 financial year, after five or so years of greater consistency. Yet returns have still been positive, averaging 9.5 per cent a year over the past five years.

Yet it’s important not to overstate the significance of volatility for superannuation, the ultimate long-term investment.

SuperRatings chairman Jeff Bresnahan says market volatility itself is not necessarily a problem for super fund members – the more important issue is making sure you are in the appropriate investment option for your situation.

“If there is market volatility this year, which you would expect, the important thing for ns is that they are in the right investment option, and that’s the thing a lot of us don’t look at,” he says.

The basic rule here is that younger people, such as those in their 20s, can withstand greater volatility in their super fund because these short-term changes should be outweighed by longer-term gains.

“A 25-year-old with money in super can be 100 per cent in shares that bounce around like crazy for 12 months and it should not bother them,” Bresnahan says.

As you get closer to retirement, however, volatility can make a meaningful difference to the size of a nest egg you’re left with. The problem is that most people don’t think about whether they are in the most appropriate option, because most of us are not especially interested or motivated in checking out such things.

So while volatility might not be as scary as it can look on the news, it’s probably a useful prompt for people to ensure they are taking the right amount of risk with their savings.


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13 May 19

Cessnock Jail.
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INMATES at a mental health unit where an Indigenous man was found unconscious in 2013 were often kept locked down in their cells for 23 hours a day, Newcastle Coroner’s Court has heard.

David Wotherspoon, 31, was in a “safe cell” under constant video surveillance at Cessnock Correctional Centre on April 5, 2013, when two correctional officers found himunconscious with a cordaround his neck.

He never regained consciousness and died in John Hunter Hospital nine days later.

An inquest being held in Newcastle Coroner’s Court this week is examining a number of issues, including mental health treatment and referrals for inmates in custody, procedural, staffing and training practices, among others.

Mr Wotherspoon, who had a history of mental illness, self-harm and suicide attempts, was referred to the mental health screening unit (MHSU) at Silverwater on March 15.

But the inquest is exploring why that referral was delayed for nearly a week,leaving Mr Wotherspoon at Cessnock.

Laurel Kibble, a mental health nurse at Cessnock Correctional Centre at the time of Mr Wotherspoon’s death, was asked how much time inmates in that unit had outside of their cell.

“They were locked in their cell most of the time,” Ms Kibble said.

“It would vary, but up to 23 hours a day, I would estimate.”

When asked what effect that would have on someone with mental health issues, she replied: “It’s not good for someone’s mental health to be isolated for such long periods.”

The inquest heard on Tuesday that Mr Wotherspoon was not found to have any “suicidal ideations” at a risk intervention team (RIT) review only hours before he was found unconscious.

However, the team conducting the review was without a Justice Health representative, despite it being required under the guidelines.

The inquest, before State Coroner Michael Barnes, continues on Wednesday.


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13 May 19

The Shane Warne foundation closed last year after it was revealed it was only donating 16 per cent of its income. Photo: Jesse MarlowDespite the enormous number of charities in the world, more are established every year – and many also disappear. n Charities and Not-for-profits Commission data shows that, since 2012, 8,500 charities have been registered and more than 13,500 have been revoked.
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Former tennis player Pat Rafter’s Cherish the Children Foundation, which closed in 2011, is just one of many examples of a charity that has come and gone. Rafter has a long history as a philanthropist. He donated half the prizemoney from his US Open wins to the Starlight Children’s Foundation as well as starting up his own foundation in 1999.

But, unable to compete against established foundations, Cherish the Children was forced to close.

Why, then, do so many celebrities attempt to start their own charity, when they add to an already fragmented and competitive sector?

Whatever the motivation, the stated rationale is often that this new charity can offer something not in the market. However, our research shows these charities compete head-on with other charities. The public sees them as near look-alikes. Sharing is caring?

Charities share supporters with other charities in line with their size. For example, a medium-sized n charity will share more of their donors with the Salvation Army or the Red Cross than with Parkinson’s .

We see the same pattern when looking at how charities share donors. We surveyed 570 ns who reported supporting 393 distinct charities. They gave to the Queensland flood relief and established charities, such as Cancer Council , during the 12 months to April 2011.

Examining many people donated to each charity (percentage of donors). the Salvation Army (32 per cent) and Red Cross (26 per cent) dominate the market.

They were followed by the Queensland Floods and Cancer Council (each 9 per cent), the RSPCA (8 per cent), World Vision (7 per cent), Vinnies and Guide Dogs (each 6 per cent), the Heart Foundation (5 per cent) and Oxfam (4 per cent).

The interactive graphic below shows donors support multiple charities, with sharing largely occurring as predicted, based upon the size of the charity.

[Story continues after graphic.]


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13 May 19

Eggs are identified for retrieval in preparation for a sperm injection at a clinic in California. Photo: New York Times Low cost competitors have hit Virtus hard.
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Shares in fertility clinic operator Virtus Health slumped Tuesday following a profit downgrade as lower priced competitors muscle in on the industry.

In the process, it has become the latest in a growing list of former small cap market darlings falling out of favour as earnings have faltered. On Monday, for example, shares in construction services outfit Aconex dived 40 per cent on a profit warning.

Virtus shares were down 16.4 per cent at $5.19, after touching a low earlier of $4.98 as investors dumped the shares on the downgrade.

Monash IVF was collateral damage, with its shares marked down 10 per cent to $1.65.5c It is the second largest domestic player in the IVF market, with a quarter share.

In particular, Primary Healthcare has targeted the fat margins in IVF services, opening clinics in Melbourne, Sydney and more recently Brisbane, which appears to be causing problems for Virtus, the country’s largest IVF provider.

Last November, Virtus said it was experiencing weaker than expected IVF cycle volumes, and this morning it pointed to recent Medicare data for the December quarter which indicated a 6 per cent decline in volumes in the states in which Virtus operates.

Virtus confirmed its sales volumes fell 7.2 per cent in the December half, blaming low cost competition, most notably in NSW where volumes have slumped by 19 per cent.

“The level of this volume shortfall, should it continue in the second half will have a material impact on Virtus full year financial results compared to prior year,” it warned investors this morning.

“The exact level of the shortfall is highly dependent on fresh cycle activity in the second half of the financial year, and in particular, activity in the final quarter. We anticipate that volumes and margin in our [fertility clinics] in Queensland will come under pressure in H2FY17 as a result of increased low cost competition.”

Primary has made it clear the high margins on offer had drawn it to the IVF sector, with anecdotal evidence it can cost up to $10,000 per cycle. It’s most recent clinic was opened last November, in Brisbane.

Virtus has sought to meet some of the lower priced competition in the fertility market by competing head on, by unbundling some services, although analysts have warned that this could also serve to undermine margins.

Virtus has made a series of offshore acquisitions, expanding into Ireland, Singapore and most recently Denmark in a bid to reduce its reliance on the n fertility market.


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