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Hanson makes her mark and leaves

ONE Nation party faithful mourned the loss this week of founding leader Pauline Hanson, after she quit the party to focus her attention on upcoming court battles for fraud.

One Nation shocked the political establishment in the 1998 Queensland elections when 11 of its candidates won seats, forcing the major political parties to acknowledge the deep discontent within the electorate over policy direction.

But it was Ms Hanson’s maiden speech in Parliament as a new recruit Liberal MP for which she will be best remembered, particularly her comments regarding Australia “being swamped by Asians”.

Billion dollar buster

SHARE registry management group Computershare copped a battering last week as investors wiped more than $1 billion from the company. Its shares fell below $4 for the first time in more than three years – well below its recent peak of $9.20.

Institutional investors led the charge to the exit door, with Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs among the biggest sellers.

The sell-off was prompted by a profit warning. Computershare is now expected to post earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, of between $150 million and $160 million, compared with earlier expectations of more than $180 million.

We’ll win, one day

AUSTRALIA has made its worst start to the domestic one-day international series in recent years losing its opening two matches, to New Zealand and South Africa.

While the Australians were expected to take their winning test match form into the one-day series, there are suggestions that the Australian Cricket Board’s strategy of choosing different players for the different styles of cricket has disrupted the team’s preparation.

Followers of the sport, meanwhile, have been kept well entertained by the grandstand antics of an inebriated minority of Melbourne sports fans.

Keep it clean

NIGHTCLUBS and hotels were the focus of a clean-up campaign by both the Australian Hotels Association and the Health Minister Bob Kucera with the announcement of a review of WA’s three-year old smoking laws. The review, to be completed in 12 months, will investigate whether insurance companies would continue to insure workplaces that exposed employees and customers to passive smoke.

While AHA director Bradley Woods denounced the call for tougher restrictions, he was in full support of the hotels in the Northbridge precinct adopting new regulations from Liquor Licensing. The new laws require security cameras in place for liquor licence holders who trade after 1am. Mr Woods encouraged Northbridge hoteliers to install the cameras as soon as possible.

Exposure hurts

AN Auditor General’s report released this week unmasked the present Howard Federal Government as Australia’s highest taxing government ever, with its consideration of the GST as a Commonwealth tax.

The Federal Government also was exposed as not having revealed a terrorist plot, planned for late last year against the Australian High Commission in Singapore.

Charges mobile

TELSTRA was in the news this week, with warnings of increased mobile phone charges following a planned review this coming weekend. Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Allan Fels also called for change in the Trade Practices Act governing telecommunications access, in view of Telstra’s market power restrictions on competition. This appeared to spark renewed interest in the Federal Government’s plans to sell-off the remaining 51 per cent of Telstra, tipped for sometime during the next three years.

Standing firm

WHILE US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan warned against upbeat talk of a US recovery, Australian analysts debated a possible further cut in Australian Reserve Bank rates and decried the effect of the US comments on the value of the Australian dollar. Meanwhile, a Japanese Government council warned Japan’s economy would remain in recession until 2004 – not good news for Australian coal and iron ore exporters.

Regulators in tune

REGULATION news continued with the public inquiry into Australia’s Trade Practices Act also hearing Professor Fels’ case for fine-tuning the merger law, and the ACCC announcing it had joined forces with 12 other national regulators to form a steering group for the establishment of the International Competition Network. Worldwide there are 80 competition regulators.

Pricing review

THE Australian Tax Office advised a review of transfer pricing for the Australian subsidiaries of multinational companies. As part of the review, which will focus on the smaller end of the market, the ATO plans to visit 40 wholesaler/ distributor companies in March.

Latest bid

IN other news with an international flavour, the battle between Newmont Mining and AngloGold for Normandy Mining continued, with AngloGold extending its bid to the end of this week, and the values of both bids coming closer.

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