Gina Rinehart has consolidated her position as Australia’s wealthiest person with the prominent magazine Forbes saying the mining magnate’s net wealth jumped to $US15 billion ($19.4 billion) over the past 12 months.
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In what was a record year for the number of uber-wealthy around the world, Forbes said Ms Rinehart’s position on their annual index skyrocketed from 127 in 2016 (with a fortune of $US8.8 billion) to the 69th spot in 2017, making her the only Australian in the top 100. According to the index, her wealth has climbed by $US6.2 billion ($8 billion) over the last year.

It was a different story for the newly minted US President Donald Trump, whose wealth shrunk to $US3.5 billion on the back of a softening New York property market. It sees Mr Trump tumble more than 200 spots to no.544 on the list.

The magazine said Ms Rinehart was the female billionaire who had the “best year” but noted that with Ms Rinehart’s wealth built on iron one, “her fortune can either jump or plummet depending on the price of the commodity.”

“Unlike all the other women ahead of her, Rinehart also has bragging rights for actively building her fortune. Rinehart took her late father’s bankrupted estate and rebuilt it into something much larger,” says Forbes.

Ms Rinehart is the daughter of late iron-ore developer Lang Hancock. She owns shares in the Ten television network and cattle stations in Australia’s north.

But the West Australian is a controversial figure in Australia because of her links to prominent right-wing politicians and support for lower wages for Australian workers citing international competitiveness. Last year Ms Rinehart praised Mr Trump’s election and called for a replica of his policies in Australia, in a speech delivered on her behalf by the former Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella.

Ms Rinehart is a personal friend of the deputy prime minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and attended his maiden speech when he switched from the Senate to the lower house in 2013. In 2011, Ms Rinehart flew Mr Joyce and the deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop and another coalition MP to India to attend a wedding in the wealthy Reddy family.

Property developer Harry Triguboff was Australia’s second highest ranked billionaire at number 153 with a net worth of $11 billion.

The founder of the Australian software firm Atlassian debuted as the youngest on the Billionaires List. Mike Cannon-Brooks is said to have a net worth of $2.7 billion.

Forbes says it calculates the wealth of the listed billionaires by using stock prices and exchange rates to calculate their net worth as of February 17, 2017.

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates topped the list for the fourth time in a row with a net worth of $112 billion. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg moved up into fifth position.

The magazine said it was a “record year” for the world’s richest, with the number of billionaires increasing by 13 per cent to 2,043 and their combined value jumping by 18 per cent to $9.9 trillion.

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Insurance companies are charging up to $1700 more than each other for home and contents policies covering identical houses in the same suburb, prompting calls for greater transparency.
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But the industry argues the variations are due to different types of coverage and are evidence of healthy competition.

Research by the Emergency Services Levy Insurance Monitor, which surveyed premiums across 11 suburbs, found an average variation of $1100 between insurers for “basic home and contents polices”.

In Medlow Bath, the highest quote of $2794 was from GIO, two-and-a-half times larger than the lowest quote of $1106 from Coles.

In East Gosford and Bradbury, near Campbelltown, the maximum quotes were 2.4 times more than the lowest, a difference of $1461 and $1700 respectively.

The monitor, Professor Allan Fels, said suburbs have different characteristics “and you would expect to see price differences across locations”.

“But it’s very concerning there are such big differences in prices quoted for the same property,” he said. “It suggests that competition is not fully effective in this industry.”

Professor Fels says insurers “are ignoring” calls to list the previous year’s policy cost in their renewal insurance notices – a measure being introduced for UK general insurers from April.

Insurers had also resisted establishing home insurance price comparison websites.

Insurance Council of Australia chief executive Rob Whelan branded the monitor’s comparisons “misleading” and said that “each insurer’s policy is different”.

“They offer varying inclusions and exclusions, with different limits,” he said.

“Further, several insurers quoted offer total replacement, which usually has a higher premium, while most insure for agreed value.”

Mr Whelan said insurers are “exploring the feasibility” of listing last year’s premium on renewal contracts and the council had organised a trial.

He said comparison websites “do not best serve the interests of consumers” but the council will conduct an “industry review of product comparability options” to improve customer understanding of differences.

However Susan Quinn, senior policy officer with the Consumer Action Law Centre, said a comparison website “would be a good first step and an improvement on transparency for consumers as it is”.

“What’s really needed from the industry is to accept the onus for consumers being able to compare policies,” she said.

Professor Fels has been appointed to oversee the change in funding the NSW fire and emergency services budget from a levy on insurance contracts to an annual tax on property from July 1.

The monitor is charged with ensuring insurers drop residential insurance premiums by up to 20 per cent and can apply penalties of up to $10 million to companies breaking the rules.

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When is the gender pay gap, the correct gender pay gap?
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Australia seems to lack consistency when it comes to reporting the difference between what men and women are paid – that is, the gender pay gap.

Often the underlying figures and methodologies are not well explained.

As it stands, the data most often used to reflect the national gender pay gap is based on average weekly full-time earnings data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

From this we get a 2016 gender pay gap of 16 per cent.

This figure comes from a sample of about 5700 employers, designed to represent 8 million full-time workers, of which only 2.9 million are women.

While the ABS does not produce its own gender pay gap, it’s easy to calculate from its figures. The 16 per cent gap is recognised by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and is also used in the Financy Women’s Index.

But it’s not the same figure reported globally by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which has Australia’s latest gender pay gap at 15.4 per cent, based on 2014 data.

The difference comes from the fact that OECD uses the latest available median data and they take non-managerial adult ordinary times hours from the ABS.

Why? Because the OECD likes medians – the middle point – more than averages. The median tends to be closer to typical, while averages can be distorted by outliers.

However, most management positions in Australia are held by men across most industries. This means the data is skewed by a concentration of women in non-management roles, and the absence of higher earning workers in management or top level roles.

WGEA on the other hand, also promotes another gender pay gap figure on the front page of its website that stands at 23.1 per cent.

This is based on its own research from more than 12,000 organisations and 4 million employees, which is less than half the number of people in the ABS figures.

WGEA says it produces its own gender pay gap figure because the ABS data does not cover total remuneration.

“The agency uses our own data, based on non-public sector organisations with 100 or more employees, to calculate gender pay gaps using base salary data and data for total remuneration,” says Andrew McMahon, executive manager of research and analytics at WGEA.

“The advantage of the agency’s data is that it allows us to look at the gender pay gap when discretionary pay, such as bonuses and allowances, are included. When these payments are included, we see the gender pay gap in favour of men increase to 23.1 per cent.”

For about a decade, Australia’s national gender pay gap based on average full-time weekly earnings has been sitting in the range of 16 to 18 per cent in favour of men.

The latest 16 per cent figure is the lowest it’s been over this period, but the best result was in 2004, when it fell to 14 per cent.

ABS experts suggest this is because wages took off with the mining boom and the gap expanded as more men took to the industry.

Even today, more than eight out of 10 people working in mining are men.

Mining is Australia’s highest paying sector. The average advertised wage for people working in mining is about $115,000, according to 2016 data obtained by jobs website SEEK.

By contrast, health and education, which are female-dominated, pay an average of $88,000 and $78,000, respectively.

Bianca Hartge-Hazelman is the founding editor of women’s money website financy南京夜网419论坛.

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addresses the media after his tour of the Snowy Hydro Tumut 3 power station in Talbingo, NSW, on Thursday 16 March 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Photo: Alex EllinghausenI don’t know what sort of juice they’re drinking over at the Treasury, but I sure wish I could get some. Perhaps they just delight in watching normally intelligent people treat economic forecasts as if they’re actually based on something more than political wistfulness or a stab in the dark. It’s easy to imagine the chatter over cappuccinos in the morning.
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“Can you believe it? They’ve swallowed our projections whole,” the first says.

“Yes,” the person next to him in the queue responses, slapping his thigh in delight. “Wages growth (currently the lowest on record at just 1.9 per cent, although Australian Bureau of Statistics data only goes back to the late 1990s) has been stuck below 0.6 per cent a quarter for the past three years. Then, without bothering to give any reason for the change (other than suggesting it will ‘revert to the long-term average’), we assert it will suddenly zoom up and almost double. By 2020, it’s more than 1 per cent higher than inflation, yet no one bats an eye. The figures are quite literally incredible!”

A woman behind them isn’t so sure they’ve done the right thing. “But aren’t you worried we’ll be exposed? After all, the Australian National University’s Dr Anthony Swan pointed out (to the aid budget breakfast) that the last five budgets also confidently predicted a line to recovery using almost exactly the same 60-degree angle. Of course it’s never happened. Isn’t there a danger someone will twig and we’ll become a laughing stock?”

This conversation would never happen, of course, because, first, people don’t speak using parentheses and, second, no one need worry that the Treasury will be exposed. After all, it’s not in anyone’s interest to do so because pulling one card from the pile would risk seeing it all collapse.

That’s why the banks, the housing industry and Labor are engaged in reinforcing this conspiracy of silence over the great property swindle, each for their own reasons. The opposition doesn’t want to expose the fragility of the data because it would ricochet back to hit them.

And the banks need to keep lending. Last weekend, a Melbourne apartment above a busy restaurant in Collingwood sold for $740,000. Fair enough, except that exactly the same apartment sold in 2007 for $497,500. Because I’m not mathematically gifted, I can’t be bothered working out how this converts to an annual inflation rate. Nevertheless, what is obvious, even to me, is that these numbers bear no relationship whatsoever to official inflation statistics.

Yet housing forms the foundation of family finances. That’s why it weighs far more heavily in our perceptions of economic security than the part it plays in the composition of the mythical basket of goods and services used to calculate inflation statistics. Is it any wonder most Australians treat these as a joke?

Last weekend, the national auction clearance rate rose slightly to 77 per cent, while Sydney recorded a $9.3 million sale. In Canberra, a Red Hill house that sold for $1.38 million two years ago went under the hammer for $1.54 million. Are you surprised no politician wants to touch negative gearing? The backlash if anything happened to the housing market would be horrific. It means those with money – the very people who are doing increasingly well out of the current system – will continue to benefit from everything remaining exactly the way it is.

The system is broken. The only way this will change is if someone from outside the establishment, a non-politician politician, comes to change it. That’s the appeal of the Donald Trumps of this world.

But the people who’d vote for him aren’t buying this newspaper or paying my salary. So let’s move quickly on from their concerns and worry instead about the other substantial problems with the budget’s accounting.

Both Shane Wright in The West Australian and Peter Martin in Fairfax Media have already exposed the Treasury’s ludicrous pretence that, for some completely unspecified reason, government spending in 2019-20 will suddenly plunge by $6.3 billion compared to the previous budget. This deus ex machina arrives just in time to deliver Scott Morrison’s much-hyped path to surplus.

The problem is it relies on national disability insurance scheme spending dropping by $2 billion; pensions plunging another $2 billion; and the remaining savings coming from slashing carer support and defence equipment spending. The final saving is, perhaps, plausible, if not something this government would wish to boast about. The other savings rely on discovering both the fountain of youth and also an elixir to heal the lame. It’s difficult not to conclude such figures are pure fantasy.

Once again, no Treasury officials has leapt to back the predictions by wagering even a small portion of their salary on the integrity of these forecasts. They won’t, either, because they know full well exactly what witches brew the politicians have churned out.

I certainly don’t want to be the one destroying this heroic chimera. After all, look at what the budget’s promising me: wages up 2.5 per cent next year, 3 per cent the following year, and 3.5 per cent the year after that. I just hope someone’s told the editor. In the meantime, let’s have another cup of the Treasury juice. No substance perhaps, but plenty of froth and bubble.

Nicholas Stuart is a Canberra writer.

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Architectural styles that are modern classicsMelbourne architects share concern for rapid city developmentCould apartment living be the key to happiness?
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What sold out a new residential building in one of the hottest spots in St Kilda was not its benchmarking embedded energy efficiencies that sheet back cost-savings to the body corporate and therefore the residents, but, admit the developers upfront, “it’s the location”.

That’s a no-brainer. For the nine-level, 151 apartment building – known as “181” because that’s the address – has a long north-facing frontage to Fitzroy Street, opposite Junction Oval.

And that means “never to be built out” views to Albert Park and the city. But that’s just one of the brochure boasts that became redundant virtually as soon as news of Pace Development Group’s “lifestyle destination” project got around three years ago.

“The building,” according to PDG’s operations manager, Ian Burke, “sold itself, and quickly”.

Indeed, aside from being on the ever-gentrifying boulevard that’s becoming Melbourne’s mini version of New York’s Park Avenue; the high end design courtesy of S.J.B Architects – for the building, and Carr Interiors – for the fitout, it was a high representation of property industry insiders who lined up to pay from $425,000 for one-bedroom units to $1.7 million for three-bedroom penthouses.

One buyer combined two penthouses, and another was one of Pace’s corporate bosses, which is quite the endorsement considering how many buildings the company has in creation around the town.

Location was the biggest drawcard for many buyers.

The brochure images of the rooftop’s infinity swimming pool and the building’s reverse outlook, over the entire southern bayside, are also virtually superfluous marketing tools now, given that only five apartments came back onto the market after the December settlement, and that only two of those remain to be resold.

And though the photographs show a movie-worthy setting, they don’t do justice to the pool and barbecue deck’s 360-degree panorama that makes the viewing platform possibly the best of any residential building in Melbourne. And I’ve seen a few. Yet outlook and irresistible market appeal is not all we are here to discuss about this revolutionary building.

The pool and barbecue deck’s 360-degree panorama make its possibly the best of any residential building in Melbourne. Photo: Jonathan Bermann

Aside from the to-be-shared red and electric-powered four wheel drive vehicle charging up in the basement garage and belonging to the body corp, 181’s energy performance marks, the developers believe, the first occasion in which a network provider, Origin, was roped in from the get-go to help Pace build in now invisible attributes that, according to Ian Burke, “was about getting the best energy and financial pay-offs for our end users, the tenants”.

With photo voltaic panel capacity, half of the power used for the common area lighting and for charging the electric car is coming in free of charge.

Only five apartments came back onto the market after the December settlement.

With Pace negotiating highly competitive bulk energy buy in rates with Origin, Origin’s Stuart Osbourne says “having gas hot water, gas cooking and electricity all supplied as part of a centralized energy really benefits the residents.”

While such a close working partnership is a novelty, and while Pace says it did have appeal to 181 buyers interested in lower costs and lower carbon footprints, Osbourne says such value-adding energy initiatives in the context of multi-residential buildings are still very much in their infancy.

The ever-gentrifying boulevard is fast becoming Melbourne’s mini version of New York’s Park Avenue. Photo: Jonathan Bermann

“But the energy market is moving so fast at the moment that while the development of battery storage for a building like this is a work in progress, it’s evolving.

“Energy autonomy for large buildings,” he adds, “is a way off but we keep moving closer to greater and greater efficiencies because there are so many more renewable things that we’ll be able to do.”

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