New Australian Bankers’ Association chairman
David Morgan has demanded an urgent “government-led overhaul” to cut
red tape and simplify taxes in an era of regulation run amok, reports The Australian. He put John Howard on notice that business expected
major reforms from the government’s new senate majority and slammed Canberra’s long-standing ban on big bank
mergers as “pointless.”

Macquarie Bank’s 6,500 employees are divvying up the biggest bonus
payments in Australian history, estimated at $1.1 billion, reports the Fin Review. And the Ozreports that MacBank employees have exercised options
over nearly $62 million worth of shares in the weeks since the
company’s record earnings announcement, generating millions of dollars
of profits as the stock hit a series of record highs.

Margaret River winery Evans & Tate has failed to erase market
concerns about its survival prospects after admitting it was cash flow
negative and had sought an $8.5 million lifeline from ANZ, reports The West Australian. But
the premium WA winery, which also warned that asset write downs would
leave it with a loss of up to $7.5 million this financial year, has yet
to have its request for further credit approved by the bank.

The dawn of the new choice of fund environment tomorrow will
have little impact in the short term. In the longer term, however, it could
change the core nature of the industry funds movement, says Stephen Bartholomeusz in the Smage. The industry funds’ response to choice has been interesting
because they have responded most aggressively to the threats and
opportunities the new environment will pose.

The Australian reports that Amcor is expected to begin court-ordered
mediation next week with a former executive who alleges the company
forced him to engage in an illegal price-fixing cartel operating in the
$1.6 billion cardboard box market.

And the Fin Review reports that the federal government has demanded
the states give up key areas of power regulation and phase out caps on
retail prices in return for the commonwealth fully funding Australia’s
first national energy regulator. Also in the AFR,
Treasurer Peter Costello has ruled out any major reforms to the GST,
saying he will not consider rejecting food “for a nanosecond.”

On Wall Street, US stocks were down overnight as investor caution ahead of the Federal Reserve’s latest interest-rate decision
overshadowed lower crude-oil prices. The Dow Jones closed down 31.15 points at 10,374 – MarketWatch has a full report here.

Peter Fray

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