Higher costs dent James Hardie’s profit

Higher production costs have contributed to a 34 per cent fall in quarterly profit for building products maker James Hardie.

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The company’s sales in the three months to June 30 were up six per cent from a year ago, but its net operating profit of $US57.4 million dropped from the prior year’s $US87.1 million.

James Hardie said its earnings margins were pressured by manufacturing inefficiencies and higher production costs.

It said it expects to make an operating profit of between $US240 million and $US280 million in its 2017/18 fiscal year, excluding asbestos payments, which is weaker than analysts’ forecasts of $US248 to $US297 million.

James Hardie shares dropped 5.8 per cent to $17.78.

Chief executive Louis Gries said almost all of the company’s input costs in north America, where the majority of its earnings are generated, were higher than a year ago.

Sales of the company’s fibre cement products in north America were up six per cent on the previous first quarter, as capacity constraints dampened demand, Mr Gries said.

Earnings in Australia rose 31 per cent, as stable market conditions and price increases lifted sales.

Mr Gries said the company’s earnings from its Asia Pacific operations rose 10 per cent due to the strong performance of its businesses in Australia and New Zealand.

James Hardie received 146 asbestos claims in the quarter, down five per cent on the same period a year ago, and the average claim settlement of $A228,000 was up two per cent on a year ago.

James Hardie also made a $A135.1 million payment to the Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund, its annual contribution, at the start of July.

JAMES HARDIE HIT BY PRODUCTION COSTS

* First quarter net profit down 34pct to $US57.4 million

* Sales up 6pct to $US507.7m

New documents reportedly show Senator Roberts was a British citizen

Documents have emerged showing One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts once was a British citizen.

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The Queensland senator has denied on several occasions he ever held British citizenship.

“I have never held any citizenship other than Australian,” Senator Roberts tweeted on October 25 last year.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson told The Australian newspaper last week there was “no evidence” her party colleague was ever British.

But Buzzfeed has obtained an immigration department document signed by Senator Roberts and dated May 8, 1974, on which the then 19-year-old notes he is a “British UK and Cols (Colonies)” citizen.

New official documents show that when Malcolm Roberts was 19-years-old he personally signed he was a British citizen 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/e9vF5dycOw pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/2WngichyKJ

— Mark Di Stefano 🤙🏻 (@MarkDiStef) August 8, 2017

Senator Roberts was born in Disergarh in India in 1955 and his family arrived in Australia in October 1962.

In another document, Senator Roberts’ father Leuan, who was born in Wales, signs consent for his son to apply for Australian citizenship.

One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts.AAP

While the documents confirm the Roberts family’s notifications to become citizens were approved by the immigration department, there is no mention of whether the British citizenship was extinguished.

0:00 Senator Malcolm Roberts confirms British renunciation letter received after election (July 28, 2017) Share Senator Malcolm Roberts confirms British renunciation letter received after election (July 28, 2017)

Malcolm Roberts citizenship saga

Activist Yami Lester farewelled

Indigenous rights activist and anti-nuclear campaigner Yami Lester was a man who overcame personal tragedy to serve his community and who opened Australia’s eyes to injustice, Australia’s political leaders say.

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Best known for his fight to clean-up the site of the 1950s British nuclear testing at Maralinga in South Australia’s north, Mr Lester was farewelled at a state funeral on Tuesday, with a large group of mourners gathering on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands.

“He will be revered for rising from personal tragedy to serve his community and to lead his people to ensure that they were recognised and their wrongs addressed,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told federal parliament.

The activist – who died late last month at the age of 75 – was left blind as a young man by the atomic testing, an episode of Australian history Opposition Leader Bill Shorten called a “bleak chapter” in the history of wrongs perpetrated against Aboriginal people.

“In the years that followed there were many who would have preferred to flip past those pages and averted their gaze,” Mr Shorten said.

“It was he, blinded by black mist, who opened Australian eyes to the injustice that had been done.”

Mr Lester was awarded an Order of Australia medal for his services to Indigenous affairs and worked on land rights issues across South Australia and the Northern Territory.

His work to have the Maralinga bomb sites cleaned up helped establish the McClelland Royal Commission and subsequent compensation for those impacted.

His daughter Karina said people travelled from across the country for the funeral at Walatina, with South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill and Opposition Leader Steven Marshall among those to attend.

“Today really is a sad day but a day to celebrate this wonderful man,” Ms Lester told ABC radio.

Mr Weatherill said Mr Lester was a man of immense standing and dignity.

“Stockman and statesman, advocate and activist, husband, father and grandfather – Yami Lester was all these things and more,” the premier said.

“We’ll miss his storytelling, his generosity of spirit, his kindness, his warmth.”

NSW government proposes legislation to dismantle Sydney homeless tent city

The NSW government is proposing legislation that will permit police to dismantle the tent city.

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Gladys Berejiklian is speaking to her Liberal and National Party colleagues about “a plan” to clear the camp in Martin Place outside the Reserve Bank of Australia.

“Last night I heard the mayor say that the tent city would be gone overnight and that hasn’t happened, and I said we would give council until last night, it has not happened, so we’ll be taking action today,” she told reporters on Tuesday in Sydney.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and Lanz Priestley, dubbed the Mayor of Martin Place, agreed that council would help pack up the camp and transfer about 70 homeless people to a “communal safe space” until temporary or permanent accommodation was found.

“The Government has already committed to creating a safe space – all they need to do to resolve this situation peacefully is work with us on an interim solution,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

“Instead the Premier is moving to change the law, potentially setting up the risk of violent conflicts between police and vulnerable homeless people as we saw in Melbourne.

“The City does not have the power to move people on. The police do have these powers.”

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But with no designated “safe place” the tent city remained pegged down on Tuesday morning.

Three council trucks arrived at the site in the early hours of Tuesday to move some of the inhabitants’ belongings to storage, but Mr Priestley said the group wouldn’t move until the safe space was identified.

“I have no address for it. I have no sense of where it is, or anything,” he said at 5am.

Mr Priestley, 72, has since said he was very disappointed by the NSW premier’s threats to take action against the Martin Place site.

“If they act on it today, it’s a clear demonstration by the Berejiklian government, in the middle of Homelessness Week, what the attitudes are to homeless people.”

The site, he says, is about safety for homeless people seeking shelter, many of whom he says don’t qualify for housing and laid the blame at the government’s feet if anyone ended up hurt when forced alone back onto the streets.

“Is it the intention that those people are out there free for anyone to give a kicking, to be robbed, to be raped,” he told AAP on Tuesday.

Ms Moore told ABC Radio on Tuesday that she didn’t want a repeat of the violent scenes that occurred in Melbourne in January when a homeless camp was moved on, but admitted a safe space hadn’t been designated.

“It’s still a work in progress,” she told ABC radio at 7am.

The NSW Department of Family and Community Services and the council were expected to chip in $100,000 each to help set up the space, it was announced on Monday night.

On Monday, Ms Berejiklian warned the City of Sydney that the issue needed to be resolved.

“If they don’t act … we’re going to have to, but I want to stress, they’re powers that are very, very rarely used by the state government,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters in western Sydney.

She warned the powers are “quite direct and quite heavy-handed”.

0:00 Sydney tent city to move after mayor deal Share Sydney tent city to move after mayor deal

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Lost fisherman sheltered in Tasmanian cave

A man lost on a fishing trip has survived a freezing Tasmanian night by huddling in a small cave and eating raw trout he’d caught earlier in the day.

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The relieved angler was picked up by a rescue helicopter on Tuesday morning after a longer-than-expected stay in the state’s central highlands.

Inspector George Cretu said the 21-year-old, known just as Lawrence, got separated from his two mates on Monday morning and became disorientated.

He tried to find them but spent the afternoon and evening walking in the wrong direction, eventually taking refuge in a cave for the night and eating raw fish.

“He said he tried to bite into it Bear Grylls style, found the scales and skin a bit tough so he filleted it with a knife,” Mr Cretu said.

“It probably kept him from being hungry.

“It was 12 hours he got through and it probably helped him sleep with a bit of food in his belly.”

A Victorian-native and student at Tasmania’s Australian Maritime College, Lawrence was only wearing hiking gear as the mercury dropped to zero overnight.

He had set off with two friends at Lake Ada on Monday morning.

But the pair lost sight of him when he went over a hill and they went around.

When they didn’t rendezvous, his friends went back to their car and raised the alarm at 7.30pm.

A rescue helicopter was sent out immediately but turned back because it was too cloudy.

Searching resumed at first light on Tuesday, before the helicopter crew spotted him around 10am.

“He was a bit overwhelmed by all the attention,” Mr Cretu said.

“I gave him a mobile phone to talk to his mother in Victoria who berated him about not having a map.”

Mr Cretu said it was a reminder to plan ahead and take enough resources for the “what-if”.

“This group was out to have a good time and made a mistake.”

Fortescue Metals flags dividend boost

Fortescue Metals is likely to join mining giant Rio Tinto in raising dividends as the price of iron ore remains elevated.

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The miner’s chief executive Nev Power said on Tuesday that with the company enjoying strong margins on the back of improved iron ore prices, it needs to balance returns for debt holders and shareholders.

“We flagged at the time of the interim dividend that we would be reviewing the payout ratio at the time of final dividend. The board will consider this in two weeks,” he said on the on the sidelines of the Diggers and Dealers conference in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.

Fortescue currently has a payout ratio of 30 to 40 per cent of net profit, and declared a sharply higher interim dividend of 20 cents a share in February, representing 38 per cent of profit.

Earlier this month, Rio Tinto paid a record interim dividend after its underlying half year profit more than doubled due to stronger commodity prices.

The higher returns reflect a reluctance among big miners to splash money on new mines or businesses, and come on the back of higher but volatile prices of the steel making ingredient, helped by rising demand from China’s steel industry.

Iron ore currently trades around $US75 per tonne.

“The Chinese steel industry has maintained production consistently around 800 million tonnes and we believe it will do that for decades to come,” Mr Power said.

He attributed the recent volatility in the iron ore price to significantly larger stocks at Chinese ports in recent months, but said he expects those stocks to taper over the next 6-12 months and reduce some of that volatility.

The miner last month said it expects to trim costs further this financial year and is targeting steady iron ore shipments in 2017/18.

Fortescue will release full-year results on August 21.

Its shares dropped 10 cents, or 1.7 per cent, to $5.77 on Tuesday.

UN warns of ‘escalating crisis’ on Manus Island after death

The United Nations is warning of an escalating crisis on Manus Island after the death of a refugee.

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The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says it is gravely concerned by deteriorating conditions at the Manus Island regional processing centre as authorities shuffle detainees around ahead of its October closure.

“The UNHCR is deeply saddened by the tragic death of a young refugee yesterday, which also highlights the precarious situation for vulnerable people on Manus Island,” the agency said on Tuesday.

An Iranian refugee with a history of mental illness took his own life in the township of Lorengau on Monday before he was due to move from detention into the Papua New Guinean community.

Refugee advocates have described the man’s suicide as a preventable tragedy.

The refugees in #Manus are calling for an independent investigation into Hamed’s death. The refugees argue that its suspicious.

— Behrouz Boochani (@BehrouzBoochani) August 8, 2017

Tensions are high on Manus Island, with water and electricity cut off to some compounds at the centre as demolition works gather steam.

The UN believes the looming closure of the processing centre, along with the withdrawal of medical care, torture and trauma support and security services, is exacerbating a highly stressful situation for those on the island.

The agency says many of the nearly 800 refugees on Manus Island fear for their safety outside the centre following violent incidents in recent years.

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Greens senator Nick McKim tried to disrupt parliament on Tuesday to label Manus Island and Nauru unsafe and demand the immediate evacuation of all refugees.

The situation on Manus Island was becoming more dire and dangerous by the hour, he said.

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“The only safe place for these people is to be evacuated from Manus Island and Nauru and brought here to Australia,” he told senators.

Senator McKim read aloud the names of eight people who have died while in offshore detention since 2013, before pausing for a minute’s silence.

Cabinet minister Michaelia Cash labelled his move “way worse than disgusting”.

The UN insists critical services on Manus Island must continue, warning any further reduction of fundamental supports for refugees and asylum-seekers would add to the serious health and security risks of detainees.

The Iranian refugee’s death is being investigated by PNG authorities.

Adding to tensions on Manus Island and Nauru is the release of a leaked transcript of Malcolm Turnbull and Donald Trump discussing a people-swap deal in January.

The prime minister assured the new president the US was not obliged to accept a single refugee, needing only to process those held in detention to honour the bargain.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467. MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.

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60th anniversary of Japan-Aust trade ties

Former prime minister John Howard has hailed the foresight of Australia and Japan’s post-WWII leaders in putting the bitterness of conflict behind them to build trade ties.

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It’s 60 years since Robert Menzies and his Japanese counterpart Nobusuke Kishi – the grandfather of current leader Shinzo Abe – signed the Japan-Australia commerce agreement.

Mr Howard and Trade Minister Steve Ciobo are marking the anniversary at a function with the Japanese Ambassador Sumio Kusaka in Canberra on Tuesday.

Menzies and Kishi signed the deal only 12 years after the end of WWII – a conflict in which Australia had come under attack from the Japanese on home soil on multiple occasions.

Australian soldiers also fought the Japanese in Papua New Guinea and other Pacific islands.

“This was no mean feat,” Mr Howard said of the deal.

“Many members of the coalition government at the time, such as Reginald Schwartz, a senior minister and Alick Downer, father of Australia’s longest serving foreign minister, had been prisoners of war.”

He noted some sections of the Returned Services League opposed the agreement, along with the Labor Party as well as some parts of Australian industry.

“The trade relationship between Australia and Japan immeasurably strengthened our countries’ economic performance over the following decades,” Mr Howard said, adding that it was only in 2008 that China surpassed Japan as Australia’s principal export market.

Mr Ciobo said existing Australia’s economic relationship with Japan was the result of a “grand vision” and “remarkable political bravery”.

“Free trade and open markets are the ticket to prosperity and key to driving future jobs and growth,” he said.

Australia and Japan reached a free trade deal in 2014.

Boyd praised for heart as AFL end looms

Captain Bob Murphy has hailed Matthew Boyd as the self-confessed grump who shone brightest when times were toughest at the Western Bulldogs.

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Boyd is the latest AFL veteran to announce his impending retirement, humbly saying he is embarrassed to be calling it quits at the same time as Luke Hodge, Nick Riewoldt and Sam Mitchell.

But Boyd’s career stacks up in comparison – former captain, three-time All-Australian, three-time club best-and-fairest winner, premiership player.

With 291 games, he holds the record among rookie-drafted players.

Starting on the rookie list meant Boyd did it tough and he developed a well-earned reputation for his intense, driven character.

“The real man is much more rounded than that,” Murphy said.

“The grumpiness is now kind of his badge of honour, but it’s something we tease him with.

“It’s exaggerated, because he has such a big heart and a genuine care for people and this place.

“You can still see the claws occasionally and he has been my attack dog.”

Boyd was a key member of last year’s premiership team, only two years after the club was on its knees – again.

“We’ve gone through a lot of tough times and you need people with the steady hand,” Murphy said.

“When things are at their absolute worst, that’s when Matty is at his absolute best.”

But there was no avoiding that grumpiness on Tuesday, much to everyone’s amusement.

With wife Kate and their three children Chloe, Asher and James looking on, Boyd noted in his retirement speech that their elder daughter had picked up on Dad’s serious side.

“She (Chloe) knows the day before a game, because she says ‘Dad, you’re even more grumpy than usual’,” Boyd said.

He still sometimes pinches himself about last year’s historic flag, but Boyd is also proud about how he has handled himself since.

Boyd has no regrets about going on for another season, even though he has managed only nine games and will miss Friday night’s blockbuster against GWS as he nurses a leg injury.

“I feel really fulfilled with my career, given the year I’m going through now,” he said.

“I’ve been able to handle myself in the right sort of way and let my character show through and handle myself with integrity.

“That makes me feel really good about my career.”

MATTHEW BOYD:

* DOB: 27/8/82 (34)

* No.23 selection in the 2002 rookie draft

* 2003 AFL debut, 291 games (most by a rookie-drafted player)

* 2016 premiership player

* Captain 2011-13

* Three-time All-Australian

* Three-time club best-and-fairest winner

Protest against uni cuts taken to streets

Hundreds of protesters have rallied at events across Australia challenging the federal government’s “deeply flawed” cuts to higher education.

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In Melbourne police watched on as about 200 university students and staff met outside the city’s state library on Tuesday before marching down Swanston Street for a sit in.

The group chanted “no cuts, no fees, no corporate universities” and held up “education is a right, not a privilege” banners and placards as part of the hour-long National Tertiary Education Union demonstration.

The union had called for Australia-wide protests on university campuses in addition to planned National Union of Students rallies in cities centres.

“If the government’s higher education reform package passes the Senate, there will be an immediate detrimental impact on staff and students through job losses, bigger class sizes, less course choice, more support services cut and even more employment insecurity,” NTEU president Jeannie Rea said.

“We are meeting on campuses because we also have a message for our university managements.

“Hard-working staff have had enough of being treated as a soft target every time there are calls for ‘belt tightening’ or ‘budget repair’.”

The Turnbull government wants to impose a 2.5 per cent “efficiency dividend” on universities in 2018 and 2019.

It also plans to increase student fees by up to $3600 over a four-year degree and link a portion of university funding to performance and transparency measures.

Under this plan, the government argues real per-student funding will be $18,958 in 2018 compared with $17,623 in 2009, when all universities had surpluses, or $18,024 in 2011, when all but Central Queensland University did.