April, 2019

Precision strikes earn PTAM multiple honours

MAJOR WINNERS: The team from Precision Taxation Accounting & Management. Pictures: Martin Sully DesignPrecision Taxation Accounting & Management (PTAM) have been recognised at the 2018 Lake Macquarie Business Excellence Awards for their no-nonsense and precise approach to helping small business owners and individuals.
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The Warners Bay business took out three awards at last Saturday’s gala dinner including Excellence in Digital Technology, Excellence in Customer Service by an Individual for their chief operations officer, Kelly Eke, and the team also won the coveted Business of The Year award.

Founder and Principal, Peter McCarthy is grateful for the recognition of their hard work and customer-focused approach.

Peter lives by the popular Simon Sinek quote, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”

“This recognition from the business community highlights the rewarding aspect of what we do each day, and that is, making a difference in people’s lives,” he said.

The independently judged awards are open to the 10,000 plus businesses in the Lake Macquarie region.

“Lake Macquarie is such a supportive business community and having the ability to interact and create relationships with other businesses is a highpoint of the awards process,” he said.

“The awards are a recognition of the journey we have been on.”

Excellence in Technology combined with a passion for customer service are some of the reasons PTAM, who embrace cloud-based technology,took home the top prize on Saturday night.

“Technology is not just something we use; it is a concept that underpins everything our firm does,” Peter said.

“At PTAM we consider our applications as an extension of our team. We implement, develop and embrace digitial technology within every aspect of the business.

“The rapport that Kelly has developed with customers across a broad range of industries has enhanced our firm’s relationship with them.

“They trust her, they respect her, and they have absolute comfort in the knowledge that she is taking care of their affairs.

“As an employer, I find Kelly’s passion for delivering such a high standard of customer service inspiring, and this has had a massive impact on the exceptional growth PTAM has experienced since commencement.

“Kelly is a leader through and through and brings out the best in our team. She inspires and supports those working with her and the local business community.”

PTAM has a strong corporate culture with a team-focused strategybased on an inclusive, fun, encouraging, and supportive workplace.

“One of the best things about owning a business is that you can design and implement the culture you want to have,” Peter said.

PTAM’s commitment to the community, customer service, business practices and overall corporate culture has proven to be the successful recipe that has led the accounting firm being named the 2018 Lake Macquarie Business of the Year.


US conspiracy theorist seeks end to case

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones (C) is trying to have a defamation lawsuit against him dropped.Lawyers for US conspiracy theorist Alex Jones have asked a Texas court to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought against him and his InfoWars website by the parents of two children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre.
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Jones, from Travis County, Texas, has used the platform to call the mass shooting in Connecticut that killed 26 people a hoax.

He also suggested a political cover-up took place by left-wing forces seeking to advantage of the shooting to promote gun control.

Jones’ lawyer Mark Enoch has described his client as a political commentator expressing his views and played a 2017 broadcast where Jones said he did not believe the Sandy Hook shooting took place. Jones was not in court.

“Maybe it’s fringe speech. Maybe it’s dangerous speech, but it is not defamation,” he told Judge Scott Jenkins in the Texas court.

In 2013, Jones called the massacre “staged” and continued to stoke his conspiracy theory for years.

“Sandy Hook is a synthetic, completely fake, with actors, in my view, manufactured,” he said in a January 2015 broadcast.

Although Jones’ theory is false, people who believe him have for years harassed and taunted families of the victims, court papers showed and the families have said.

The lawsuit filed in April by Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa seeks at least $US1 million in damages. They claim they were subject to harassment that forced them to move seven times after Jones claimed the parents were liars and frauds who helped in a cover-up, according to court documents.

Mark Bankston, an lawyer for the parents, told the judge that InfoWars viewers understood Jones was alleging that the parents were part of a criminal conspiracy and subjected the parents to years of threats.

A gunman killed 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, in an attack that ranks among the five deadliest mass shootings by a single gunman in US history.

Facebook last week suspended Jones from its social network for bullying and hate speech, after Google’s YouTube removed four of his videos from its site.


Beauty and the bucks

A couple of years ago twoglobal companies battled it out in Australia over the patent of a cosmetic“filler”product.
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If you haven’t been on the internet for the past five years orpaying attention as you’ve wandered around your local shopping centre recently, a“filler” is material injected into people’s faces–reportedlyto reduce wrinkles and helprecipients“turn back the clock without surgery”.

And when I say people, it’s probably more accurate to say women. Some men go down the“filler” path, but they’re in the minority.

“Fillers” and anti-wrinkle products can take many forms. Submissions to a NSW parliamentary inquiry have citedbotulinum toxin, a“neurotoxic protein” sold as Botox;the now not-so-commonly-used collagen; fat transfers from one part of the body to the face;andhyaluronic acid, a lubricating fluid found in the human bodyand a component of cartilage.

You can walk into any number of outlets these days–sometimes in your local shopping centre –throw your money down and have one or a number of these products injected into your face.

I’d rather hit my head with a brick a few dozen times if it came down to it, but each to his or her own. The issue is about whether it’s safe for people to have the procedures, over and above the usual caveats about all interventions and procedures carrying risk, and whether Australian regulators are keeping up with the rise of the cosmetic procedure industry.

There are big bucks in it.

The Australian Medical Association’s NSW branch told the inquiry Australians spent $350 million on Botox injections alone in the past year. That figure has been consistent for a number of years and is only available because it is a prescription drug.

Because the cosmetic procedure industry is largely unregulated, and some of the materials being injected aren’t prescription drugs or are being imported illegally,we don’t have solid figures on how many people are receiving other injectables or how much is being spent.

We do know people have died in this unregulated field, which is why regulators and governments are scrambling to respond.

For the past fouryears I’ve been writing about the pelvic mesh scandal and the failure of regulators, the medical profession, health departments andgovernments to protect women implanted with devices that might have been approvedfor use, but where too many devices had very little credible evidence to back their safe use.

It was quite shocking to discover how much pharmaceutical industry money sloshed through that device approval and marketing process, and how profoundly the health system failed women despite their complaints about the devices from a very early stage.

The rise of the cosmetic procedure industry –fuelled by the internet and operators able to advertise directly to consumers, and largely unregulated because doctors are only involved with some aspects of it –mirrors the pelvic mesh scandal in one main respect.

Everything boils down to consumers or patients giving“informed consent” in situations where too many people believe that if a product or procedure is legally available to them, then it must be safe. Our health system wouldn’t let anything that’s a riskbe out on the market, right?

Let’s go back tothe patent dispute between two global companies. Company A was challenging Company B over the granting of a patent for a filler with a “non-sulphated glycosaminoglycan” to reduce wrinkles, an anaesthetic, and a compound to reduce bruising and bleeding. Company A objected on a number of grounds, including that combining the three chemical compounds wasn’t a new product at all, but just a combination of existing compounds.

My favourite part of the decision, that ultimately went Company B’s way, relates to a study or studies involving rabbits that was cited in some of the material before the Australian Patent Office.

The studies found the filler product with its enhanced capabilities reduced inflammation and irritation when injected into rabbits. Leaving aside concerns –fine, possibly just my concerns –for the poor bunnies, Company A objected to Company B being able to claim the filler product would be effective in humans, based on the bunny studies.

The Patent Office helpfully noted that “a rabbit is not considered to be an individual in need of treatment with a dermal filler”, but for various other reasons found in Company B’s favour. Its product was patented.

The decision didn’t have to consider the efficacy of the product and whether it isfit for purposeor safe. Other agencies do that. It didn’t have to consider whether medical supervision is required. Other agencies consider that. It simply had to consider whether one company’s product could be distinguished enough from another company’s to be registered as a completely different product, presumably to be marketed in Australia.

We’ll go back to the issue of informed consent becausein the end, and sometimes even when things go wrong, it is the consumer’s willingness to pay for a service and incur the risks that is the only protection.

As the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission put it in a warning issued in September, 2017: “Individuals seeking cosmetic procedures or cosmetic surgery should be vigilant in their research prior to proceeding.”

That includes checking what exactly is in the compounds someone’s proposing to put in your face; what recognised evidence is available supporting its safe use; what emergency procedures are in place if things go wrong; the complaint history of the person holding the injection, and the list goes on. And if it sounds like it’s more than a person should reasonably be expected to know or be able to find out, that’s exactly the point.


New national soils research centre established at Newcastle uni

Australia’s largest collaborative soil research initiative, aimed at enabling farmers to increase their productivity and profitability, has been established at the University of Newcastle.
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Partnership: Zed Seselja (L) and Soil CRC chief executive Dr Michael Crawford at the University of Newcastle on Thursday. The CRC aims to provide farmers with knowledge and tools to improve the performance of their soils.

The Soil Collaborative Research Center brings together scientists, industry and farmers to find practical solutions for the nation’s underperforming agricultural soils.

Chief Executive Officer of the Soil CRC, Dr Michael Crawford said the new research centre held enormous promise for Australian farmers.

“Our research is led and shaped by farmers. We are listening to what they want, and our research programs are designed to address the issues outlined by them, our participants,” Dr Crawford said.

He said the Soil CRC was uniquely placed to make a difference because of its collaboration across a wide variety ofdisciplines and between farmers, industry and science.

“We are not just about soil science,” he said.

“The Soil CRC is bringing together research across a range of disciplines including social science, economics, chemistry, biology, agronomy and soil science to find practical solutions to the problem of underperforming soils.”

Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation, Zed Seselja, said the launch of the Soil CRC was a great example of the possibilities of industry and research collaboration.

“CRCs have a proven track record in delivering tangible benefits for industry. By linking industry expertise with our world-class research capability, CRCs generate new knowledge, solve problems and offer opportunities to commercialise new ideas” MrSeselja said.

“As the Australian Government’s longest-running grant program, the CRC Program is at the heart of our effort to bring researchers and industry together to focus on solving industry-related problems and offer opportunities to commercialise new ideas.”

The practical, real-world outputs will allow farmers to optimise their productivity, yield and profitability, and ensure the long-term sustainability of their farming businesses.

The Soil CRC aims to provide farmers with knowledge and tools to improve the performance of their soils. It is a collaboration of 39 partners including eight universities, 20 farmer groups, three state government agencies and eight industry partners.

The Soil CRC is funded until 2027 with $40 million from the Australian Government, $20 million from Soil CRC partners and $104 million in-kind contributions.

The Soil CRC is headquartered at The University of Newcastle and UON is a leading science contributor to its programs.


Cops seize cars, close in on Hawi’s killer

The killers of former bikie boss Mahmoud “Mick” Hawi have been warned police are closing in after investigators seized four cars connected to his execution.
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“At the moment we would say there would be a number of people feeling very uncomfortable, and we would like them to feel uncomfortable,” Detective Superintendent Deb Wallace said on Thursday.

Strike force investigators swooped on six properties in Sydney’s south on Thursday morning and seized four cars believed to have been used in planning the brazen daylight shooting of the former Comancheros president outside a Sydney gym in February.

Investigators in March seized a stolen silver Toyota Aurion believed to be one of two getaway cars.

Forensic evidence found in the car made Thursday’s raids possible, police say.

A total of six cars – including a burnt out Mercedes found near the crime scene a few hours after the attack – have now been seized.

“This was well coordinated and well planned … a number of vehicles were used in the movement around that time of the murder,” Det Sup Wallace said.

Investigators say the Aurion was driving near the Fitness First gym in Rockdale on the morning of the murder in convoy with a black Toyota Prado.

After the shooting it’s believed the attackers fled on foot before getting in the Mercedes – it was later abandoned and set on fire. They then jumped in the Aurion and fled the area.

The Aurion was seen two days later on a tow truck in Botany and was seized by police in Beaconsfield in March.

The seizure of the cars makes up “important pieces of the jigsaw puzzle,” Det Supt Wallace said.

“We believe this involves a number of people involved in the planning, the facilitation, the execution – so we’re closing the net.”

Along with the cars impounded on Thursday – which police say weren’t stolen – authorities seized $22,000 in cash, mobile phones, documents and a radio capable of monitoring police activity.

The properties targeted had no specific links to the Comancheros motorcycle club which Hawi once led, NSW Police said.

Footage of the shooting aired in March shows the 37-year-old getting into his four-wheel drive parked outside Fitness First before a gunman – dressed in black – runs towards the driver’s side of the car.

The gunman – at arm’s length from the car – appears to fire multiple shots at Hawi in the driver’s seat.

The attacker then leans into the car and continues firing before running from the carpark. Hawi died a few hours later in St George Hospital.

His luxury 4WD was peppered with at least half a dozen bullets.

Hawi, himself a convicted killer, was imprisoned over the 2009 bashing death of Hell’s Angels associate Anthony Zervas in a wild brawl at Sydney Airport.

He was released in 2015 and mainly flew under the radar until he was murdered.