New Adelaide hospital to open in September

The new $2 billion Royal Adelaide Hospital will finally open in September, about 18 months behind its original schedule.


Premier Jay Weatherill and Health Minister Jack Snelling say the new hospital’s emergency department will start taking patients from September 5.

Ambulances will begin transporting about 300 patients from the existing hospital to the new facility over three days from September 4.

Mr Weatherill says the move is one of the most significant events in the state’s history.

But opposition health spokesman Stephen Wade said the government can’t be trusted and expects the opening date to be pushed back further.

Mr Snelling says he’s “very confident” the government can stick to the timetable, but admits it could be changed if needed.

“This is something that only happens once every 200 years and it’s important that we get it right,” Mr Snelling told reporters in Adelaide on Monday.

In the six weeks prior to the shift roughly 300 patients will have been transported from the old RAH to other hospitals in Adelaide.

Some services that do not require an overnight stay, like radiation oncology and various outpatient clinics, will be offered at the new RAH from mid-August.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Foundation SA said it’s significant that 2000 nursing staff affected by the move had “a solid date to work towards”, while the Australian Medical Association SA said doctors and nurses needed to be involved in the planning process.

Mr Wade said the new opening date for the hospital, which was originally meant to open early in 2016, was “just not credible”.

“Jack Snelling has never met a predicted opening date and this is the one he is least likely to meet,” Mr Wade said in a statement.

Last year the SA government launched legal action against the hospital’s building consortium after delays in the facility’s technical completion.

Two deaths on the hospital’s building site, in November 2014 and February 2016, have also added to the controversy.

Pressure on banks despite $15.6b HY profit

The balancing act that allowed Australia’s big four banks to lift their combined first-half cash profit to $15.


6 billion is getting more precarious, analysts say.

The quartet lifted cash profit about six per cent from a year ago but high levels of property-related household debt combined with a regulator-engineered slowdown in the housing market mean margins are likely to come under increased pressure.

Westpac, which on Monday became the last of the majors to report its first-half earnings, said recent mortgage rate increases would help lift its net interest margin after a contraction of 0.4 percentage points in the first half.

However, Ernst and Young’s Tim Dring said that won’t mean much if affordability suffers.

“While rate increases benefit the banks’ earnings and margins, they also have the potential to put additional pressure on an already highly indebted household sector,” said Mr Dring, EY Oceania’s banking and capital markets leader.

“The banks’ ability to extract additional margin through differential rate repricing on residential property lending will become even more of a balancing act.”

Announcing a three per cent rise in first-half profit to $4.02 billion, Westpac said mortgage lending was up six per cent on a year earlier – but that growth of five per cent is expected in 2018

Making mortgages too costly to consumers already contending with sluggish wage growth could depress demand.

ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott – whose bank lifted first-half profit 23 per cent to $3.4 billion – said he was specifically gearing his bank for a period of low credit growth, with further regulatory moves to rein in riskier interest-only and investor lending in the pipeline.

“We are seeing mounting regulatory, government and public pressure to curtail housing price growth, particularly in the Sydney and Melbourne markets, and this is likely to continue to build,” Mr Dring said.

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority is expected to outline its definition of “unquestionably strong” before the end of the year.

The majors’ returns on equity increased by 0.28 percentage points to an average 13.9 per cent, according to KPMG, but that will come under pressure should APRA’s definition require the banks to hold more capital to support mortgage lending.

“The majors’ management teams have done a commendable job of building their capital buffers over the past few years, which will need to continue,” Mr Yates said.

“This is putting further pressure on the their ability to grow and will ultimately inform their strategic decision-making around what businesses they wish to remain in over the medium-to-longer term.”

Housing also figured highly on National Australia Bank’s list of concerns.

NAB lifted first-half profit 2.3 per cent to an above-expectation $3.29 billion, but put more money aside for soured loans amid an impending oversupply of east coast apartments.

Commonwealth Bank, which in February lifted its first-half cash profit 2.1 per cent to $4.9 billion, will issue a third-quarter trading update on Tuesday.

TPG proposal adds to Fairfax uncertainty

Fairfax Media’s board has given no indication of whether if will make a recommendation on a $2.


2 billion proposal to split up the company, but has warned that it may not be good value for shareholders.

A consortium led by US-based private equity giant TPG Capital and Canada’s Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board wants to buy Fairfax Media’s Domain real estate classified business, the unit controlling flagship newspapers The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, and its events and digital ventures businesses.

Under the proposal, the remaining businesses – including regional newspapers, New Zealand Publishing, Macquarie Media and the Stan streaming service – would be grouped under a new ASX-listed company called New Media Co, which would also take on 100 per cent of Fairfax’s current net debt.

Investors seemed to be interested in the TPG proposal, driving Fairfax shares up by 3.0 cents, or 2.83 per cent, to $1.08 at 1520 AEST on Monday.

That’s their highest level since March 29.

However, the Fairfax board said a demerger would require the approval of shareholders and regulators including the Foreign Investment Review Board – and may be too complex to carry out anyway.

“This proposed split of businesses may not optimise shareholder value,” the Fairfax board said in a statement to the ASX.

“Fairfax shareholders do not need to take any action in response to the indicative proposal and the Fairfax board will update shareholders when it has been fully assessed.

“There is no certainty the indicative proposal will result in an offer for Fairfax, what the terms of any offer would be, or whether there will be a recommendation by the Fairfax board.”

The media company is going through a trying period with many journalists on a week-long strike following last week’s announcement that 125 jobs would be cut at The Age, The Brisbane Times, The Sydney Morning Herald and WA Today to save the company $30 million.

Fairfax Media last week reported that total group revenue was down six per cent in the 17 weeks to April 23, from the prior corresponding period.

The proposal also complicates the situation involving Domain business, the most profitable arm of the Fairfax, which it preparing to list on the ASX at the end of 2017.

Fusion Strategy media analyst Steve Allen said TPG’s valuation on Domain under the $2.2 billion bid could create difficulty for Fairfax’s board.

The “fairly full” valuation of Domain – estimated by some analysts to be worth about $2 billion on its own – made any float “a much tougher ask”, he said.

Qld govt plays down Com Games train fears

The Queensland government insists it will have enough trains to cope with demand from next year’s Commonwealth Games despite lingering issues with new trains meant to replenish Queensland Rail’s ageing fleet.


The new generation rollingstock (NGR) were ordered under the Newman government in 2014 and were due to be rolled out by 2016.

But the new trains, worth $4.4 billion dollars in total, have been plagued with problems including with braking, line-of-sight issues and disability access.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said they hoped to have at least 15 of the new trains operational in time for the Gold Coast Games, held next April.

“We are doing everything possible to ensure we get these trains on our network as soon as it is safely possible to do so,” Ms Trad said on Monday.

“Everybody thinks that is absolutely possible, and we are working hard to resolve the outstanding issues.”

But opposition transport spokesman Andrew Powell said the issues were of the government’s making.

“Through Labor meddling on behalf of their union mates, we have major design overhauls which have meant that costs and time have blown out,” he said.

Mr Powell was referring to Labor’s adding guards compartments to the trains so guards could take breaks while on duty, even though the NGR problems appear to be inherent design flaws in the new trains.

The government also announced more than 250 applicants had been selected for trainee guard positions at Queensland Rail.

The 255 candidates are 25 per cent more than recommended by the Strachan Report into a series of rostering blunders brought on by insufficient staff.

The updates came on a day which saw another round of long delays for morning rail commuters.

The time of the commute on the Cleveland line was doubled for many.

Charlie Stevens boarded a city-bound train at Manly, a trip that usually takes about 45 minutes.

But he was still on the train after 90 minutes due to a broken down train further up the line.

“The trains frequently break down or are delayed. And I’m still baffled about their decision to use three-car trains during peak hour,” he said.

Just a fortnight ago, Mr Stevens endured another long commute on the same line, when a train was inexplicably held up at a station platform.

New Caledonians take shelter from Donna

A cyclone bearing down on New Caledonia in the South Pacific has been upgraded to a category five storm, the most destructive wind-speed level, prompting local authorities to order people to stay indoors and take shelter.


Gusts close to the centre of Cyclone Donna were estimated to be as strong as 300 km per hour, according to the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-hazards department, with the storm projected to make landfall late on Tuesday.

“There is enormous uncertainty about the speed and trajectory of Donna at the moment, we are unable to tell people how long they will have to stay at home for,” said Olivier Ciry, a spokesman at the Civil Defence and Risk Management agency.

The storm has whipped up huge swells in the Coral Sea, with the centre roughly 200 km north of New Caledonia, and 350 km west of the Vanuatu capital, Port Vila. It was moving southeast at about 12 km per hour.

Schools in New Caledonia were closed for a public holiday on Monday and would stay shut on Tuesday. Domestic flights in New Caledonia and further north in Vanuatu have been cancelled.

Over the weekend the storm skirted to the west of Vanuatu, sparing the most heavily populated islands from any significant damage.

A Reuters journalist in Port Vila said there was torrential rain and hotel staff had given guests candles and matches in case there was a blackout and as well as a sheet to cover windows that might shater in the gales.

Donna is the third late-season cyclone to sweep through the Pacific, after storms called Debbie and Cook pounded Australia and New Zealand.

Stephen Meke, a senior forecaster at the Fiji Meteorological Service said it was “very unusual” to see such a powerful storm well after the summer months have passed, but there was not enough information to determine if climate change was a reason.

New Caledonia is one of the world’s largest sources of nickel, and mining and metals processing plays a major role in the economy. Its main nickel producers, Societe Le Nickel, a subsidiary of French conglomerate Eramet, Glencore Plc and Vale, were not immediately available for comment.