Weekly Times is offering advertisers cut-price ads. Rep called large Australian boot company offering what I assume was a full page, normally $8,500, now $4,500.

BHP Billiton is up to its old to old tricks of incompetant management. It opened the Beenup mine in south west WA against an environmental report that warned of the enormous problems that the acidic sub soils would present. It cost hundreds of millions to establish, many millions battling acidity many more to close the mine down after just a few years of operations. Thetnthey opened the pellet plant in Port Hedland only to prematurely close it.

Storm Financial. I am a tax accountant in Brisbane. I recently contacted a client who I knew had invested via Storm Financial. The reason I remember the client from amongst 1000 or so, and the name of the financial advisor, was that I had never seen another financial advisor take such hefty fees for advice each year — around $50k per year for my client.

When the news hit about Storm Financial I contacted my client. She advised me she has lost close to $500k. Her husband had passed away and left her a number of rental properties which had since been paid off. Storm advised her to take out significant loans against all of them and invest in shares.

She told me that over a year ago she rang Storm and asked them to get her out of her geared investments as she was worried that the market might drop by the 10-20% or so required for a margin call. The advisor she spoke to told her “that will never happen” and that if it did “we will all lose everything”. My client was not convinced and still wanted to get out. She then received a call from Storm who convinced her to stay in despite her misgivings about the risk. My client only blames themselves but I know that she was led down a path that she didn’t really want to go — she was “pushed”.

WA Premier Colin Barnett’s “consideration” of bitumising the road to Hopetoun for a so-called tourist drive is a load of codswallop contrived by his media advisers who have confided that by the time six months pass and the premier decides it’s not a viable solution, the heat over the Ravensthorpe mine collapse (the other kind of collapse) will be over. And with the new Govt-friendly West Australian the only media agency likely to pay any attention (the regional ABC reporter filed vision from Hopetoun statewide on Monday night that screened like a test transmission from the early 1960s) they are unlikely to be held closely to account.

NSW MPs get a taste of the global financial crisis. With recession biting in the real world, Premier Nathan Rees’s NSW government is taking unprecedented measures to pass on at least some of the burden to parliamentarians. Treasurer Eric Roozendaal has not only cancelled MPs’ free travel passes for rail and bus, but from July 1 users of the Parliament House car park will have to pay more. Permanent passes go up from $950 per year to $2,000. The new charges are market rate for Sydney’s CBD but still a shock to the sheltered population of Macquarie Street, particularly the nominated office holders who currently enjoy dedicated parking spaces at peppercorn prices.

Another memo just circulated to NSW MPs announces further restrictions on the use of the Members’ Dining Room. It has been opened today with a limited menu because of the large number of members in the house for the special ALP caucus meeting and it will then close until the first parliamentary session on March 3. Oh, the pain! No wonder Rees faces mutterings in the ranks.

Peter Fray

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