Vic sawmill on the brink, staff blindsided

A sawmill’s sudden warning that it might close with the loss of 160 jobs in the Latrobe Valley is an “act of bastardry”, the CFMEU says.

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Carter Holt Harvey is consulting with workers about the “possible closure” of its mill in Morwell, which is facing a reduced supply of sawlogs because of the Black Saturday and 2014 bushfires.

The company says fires since 2003 have burnt 15 per cent of supplier Hancock Victorian Plantations’ pine estates and new trees will take at least 28 years to mature.

Employee Julie Smith, a single parent, burst into tears when asked about her job prospects in the region.

“Where am I going to get a job? Where is any of us going to get a job?” she told Channel Nine from Morwell on Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re all competing against one another and competing against Hazelwood.”

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union says the announcement came as a “bolt out of the blue” despite the company knowing for some time its timber supplies were uncertain.

“We think the way they’ve conducted themselves demonstrates the company is ruthless and we are calling for urgent talks,” Michael O’Connor, CFMEU National Secretary said.

“The company is heartless the way they’ve gone about this. They’ve hidden the problem. It’s like being hit by a train that’s coming at you at one mile an hour.”

The union says CHH has breached its industrial obligations by failing to formally notify the union before announcing an impending closure.

CHH says a final decision hasn’t been made but at this point the mill isn’t “viable into the future”.

“The absolute priority of CHH is to work closely with employees to ensure the best possible outcome for all staff,” chief executive Geoff Harvey said.

“We are distressed by our predicament and more importantly, are extremely conscious of the distress of our workers whose livelihoods are now uncertain and threatened.”

The company says if it does close, it will seek to “redeploy staff where possible”.

The Andrews government says it’s “deeply disappointed” but has been told by the company it may be “unavoidable” given the poor sawlog quality.

Minister for Regional Development Jaala Pulford said the government would work with Carter Holt Harvey to ensure every effort to connect impacted workers to support services.

The CFMEU says it’s likely the company will close and make its workforce redundant in August or September.

The union is seeking a meeting with the company to discuss the timetable.

NSW bill gives terminally ill right to die

A terminally ill mother of two has told her emotional story in NSW parliament, leaving politicians in tears as they push for a new bill that would give her and others like her the right to die with dignity.

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Battling motor neuron disease, Anne Gabrielides, 53, joined MPs on Tuesday to show her support for the controversial legislation.

Slightly slurred speech less than a year ago has snowballed, leaving Ms Gabrielides struggling to talk and in fear she will be “trapped in her body” without the option to end her own life, she told journalists with the aid of text-to-speech software on her iPad.

“Ten months ago I only had a mild speech slur, now it’s all gone,” she said.

A cross-party working group of five NSW MPs led by National Trevor Khan released a draft bill for public consultation on Tuesday and expect to introduce it to parliament in August.

If passed it will give people over 25 and expected to die within 12 months, access to medically assisted euthanasia.

Mr Khan said current laws don’t stop people trying to end their lives and the legislation would encourage discussion of euthanasia with a doctor, providing more humane options.

“Is it fair and reasonable that a person has to choose to starve themselves to death to bring an end to their suffering? That’s an appalling choice that’s presented to people now,” Mr Khan said.

Safeguards in the bill include a 48-hour cooling-off period and the right of close relatives to challenge patient eligibility in court as well as a requirement that two medical practitioners approve the final decision.

A professional speech pathologist, Ms Gabrielides, from the Blue Mountains, has been given a 12-month prognosis and is terrified of an undignified, drawn out and painful death.

The “bastard of a disease” had made daily tasks a struggle and speaking, using her hands and eating almost impossible, Ms Gabrielides said.

Her husband, daughter and son joined her at Parliament House.

Paul Gabrielides said the decision for his wife to end her own life had been made more than 35 years after watching his mother die a horrible death.

“We had decided right there and then that we were not going to experience the same thing,” Mr Gabrielides said.

A change长沙楼凤, petition seeking support from MPs for assisted dying laws has received more than 51,000 signatures.

Nobody in the family wanted Ms Gabrielides to die but they supported her choice, daughter Eleni, 20, said.

“It was never a question for me. Our family has always been about supporting each other and loving each other no matter what,” she said.

Euthanasia is not legal in any Australian state or territory despite being briefly legalised in the Northern Territory.

Victoria is also working on a bill to legalise assisted dying and it is expected to vote on it later this year.

Elliott wants a review of BHP petroleum

Activist hedge fund Elliott Advisors has called on BHP Billiton to conduct an independent review of its petroleum business, saying it has found broad support from other shareholders for unlocking its value.

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Elliott, which claims a 4.1 per cent stake in BHP’s UK-listed unit, says it prefers a full or partial demerger of the unit, but recognises there are other possible solutions to unlock the latent value of the petroleum business.

“Our shareholder conversations have revealed extremely broad and deep-rooted support for proactive steps to be taken by management to achieve an optimal value outcome,” it said in a letter to BHP’s board, released publicly on Tuesday.

The logical next step would be an in-depth, open and timely independent strategic review of the business, Elliott said.

The statement is part of a public campaign launched by Elliott in April, urging the miner to spin off its US petroleum business for listing in New York and to return more cash to shareholders through buybacks.

It had also asked BHP’s board to improve returns by merging the UK and Australian entities into a single Australian-headquartered and London-listed company.

Elliott has seemingly backed down on the restructure, saying on Tuesday it was open to a unified company that would retain its full share market listing in Australia and London.

It said it had listened carefully to feedback on the collapse of the dual-listed structure, including the regulatory sensitivities, and believed the solution lies in a unified business remaining Australian-headquartered and a fully Australian tax resident, with a full ASX listing and a full LSE listing.

Earlier this month, federal Treasurer Scott Morrison threatened court action to prevent Elliott’s original plan for BHP to have a primary London listing and its shares still traded on the ASX through CHESS Depository Interests.

Elliott also said it had seen a significant groundswell of dissatisfaction among BHP shareholders because of the company’s chronic underperformance, and accused its board of not being open to suggestions and misleading in its response to the original proposals.

“We reject both claims,” BHP said in a statement, adding it will review Elliott’s revised proposal in full and formally respond as appropriate.

Speaking at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Metals, Mining & Steel Conference in Spain, chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said BHP had made consistent progress in the last year on its plans to improve shareholder value.

“We are confident that continued delivery of these plans, from our stronger base today, could grow the value of our company by up to 50 per cent and almost double the return on capital,” he said.

BHP has cut costs, invested in major growth projects, and has options to increase production capacity across its portfolio, Mr Mackenzie said.

All options to realise the value of BHP’s shale acreage, including further appraisal, new technology, asset sales and swaps will also be pursued, he said.

Healthe Care grows in Aust, looks to Asia

Hospital operator Healthe Care has cemented its position as one of Australia’s biggest operators following its latest acquisition and now the Chinese-owned group is aiming to be a dominant player across the Asia Pacific region.

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Healthe on Tuesday finalised its acquisition of 12 Australian and one New Zealand hospitals from Pulse Healthcare, a month after buying three hospitals from Evolution Healthcare.

Healthe now has 34 hospitals, including Westmead Rehabilitation Hospital and Bega Valley Private in NSW and Mackay Rehabilitation Hospital in Queensland.

The homegrown group, established in 2005, is Australia’s third-largest hospitals network behind Ramsay Health Care and Healthscope.

China’s Luye Medical, owned by Chinese billionaire Liu Dian Bo, acquired Healthe Care for $938 million in April 2016, adding it to a portfolio of health care services in China, South Korea and Singapore.

Healthe Care chief executive Steve Atkins says Chinese ownership gives the company he co-founded 12 years ago an edge over other healthcare companies wanting to do business in China.

Mr Atkins says the Chinese government has introduced health care reforms in the past four years which make it easier for private hospitals to grow and for international players to enter the market.

“China is an emerging market for private hospitals,” he said.

“We expect it will be the biggest market in the world at some stage in the future and it forms a big part of our growth strategy.”

Mr Atkins said previously doctors in China were only allowed to work at one site but now can work at multiple hospitals.

Also public “VIP suites” that offer hospital beds – usually single rooms with more staffing – at extra cost have been restricted, paving the way for the private sector to take up that demand.

“Things happen very quickly in China especially now that the reform agenda has taken place,” he said.

A report by research firm IBISWorld said ongoing health reforms will lead to an increase in private and foreign hospitals in China and forecasts total revenue for the sector to hit $492.4 billion by 2020.

People over 65 years old accounted for about 10 per cent of China’s population in 2014 and this is expected to grow.

Mr Atkins said Healthe wants to be a “Pan-Asia business” providing services through the Luye Medical group.

In the past 12 months, Healthe has provided a team of executives to work with Luye Medical on bringing Australian standards of health care to its Chinese hospitals and eventually the companies will share medical expertise.

Bulldogs’ AFL stars set to return for Cats

The Western Bulldogs are set to regain a swag of AFL stars for Friday night’s match against Geelong, with Bob Murphy, Travis Cloke and Mitch Wallis all in the mix to return.

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Star recruit Cloke hasn’t played since round four, while Jordan Roughead and Wallis are yet to feature this year for the reigning premiers.

The fifth-placed Cats host the eighth-placed Bulldogs in a pivotal match that will shape the top eight, with the defending premiers last beating the Cats in 2009 and not having won in Geelong since 2003.

While the Bulldogs will be bolstered by those key personnel, they have lost forward Stewart Crameri, who will undergo surgery on his injured hip and will be sidelined for at least a month.

“It’s just a little bit of a clean out, as it’s just been impeding him a little bit and giving him a fraction of grief,” Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said.

“Hopefully, that will help free him up and, in the back end of the year, he’ll find (his) best form.”

All Australian defender Dale Morris is almost a certainty after recovering from a broken leg suffered in round one, while Wallis should also front up at Simonds Stadium after impressing in three VFL matches since his badly broken leg.

Cloke has been out with broken ribs since the Bulldogs’ Good Friday win over North Melbourne.

Ruckman Roughead (hamstring) is likely to spend another week in the VFL as he builds up his match fitness.

“It’s probably the most (fit players) we’ve had for a quite a while,” Beveridge said.

“It’s always a trade off with boys coming back – have they got the match fitness? Are they re-acclimatising to the level, especially players who have been out for a while like Dale?

“So we need to make studious and informed decisions around selection to make sure we go in fit and healthy and ready to be at our best,” Beveridge said.

While the Bulldogs fell last round to West Coast, Geelong were disappointed with their opening three quarters which resulted in a shock loss to Essendon.

Beveridge said he expected them to be at their best at home as the Cats tried to continue their dominance over his side.

“I imagine they will be stinging a bit,” Beveridge said of the Bombers loss.

“We’ve been on the end of their very best for a long period of time now and they’ve found it within them to beat us nine out of the last 10 times so there’s (a) challenge … to finally beat them.”