Fraser man Paul Lawton prepares for Young Care Simpson Desert Challenge

May 3, 2015 – 11:30PM

Clare Colley

Reporter at The Canberra Times

Paul Lawton, of Fraser, is using Mount Ainslie as one of his training venues before the Youngcare Simpson Desert Challenge to raise awareness of younger Australians with high care needs living in aged care facilities.

Paul Lawton, of Fraser, is using Mount Ainslie as one of his training venues before the Youngcare Simpson Desert Challenge to raise awareness of younger Australians with high care needs living in aged care facilities. Photo: Graham Tidy

Walking for 10 days across 300 kilometres of desert might sound monotonous, but it’s nothing compared to the tedium of everyday life for young people living in aged care homes.

That’s the view of Paul Lawton, from Fraser, who is gearing up for the Youngcare Simpson Desert Challenge to raise awareness and funds for the more than 6000 young Australians with high care needs forced to live with fellow residents decades older than themselves.

Mr Lawton, and 20 other trekkers, will lug their possessions and food supplies in 15-kilogram backpacks, experience day time temperatures of almost 40 degrees, before they rug-up for plummeting temperatures when they sleep under the stars each night from May 6.

He believes the discomfort will pale in comparison to the lack of choice and isolation young people in aged care face.

“The idea behind the trek is being in a harsh environment with limited choice and that monotony of routine and isolation which is trying to be some sort of insight into what a young person goes through in aged care,” he said.

“Nothing against the aged care sector, they do a great job, but it’s for the elderly and they’re not set up for young people with high care needs.

“The stats around that are pretty appalling; the average age is 83 and the average life expectancy is three years so for a young person to be in that environment is pretty debilitating.”

In the ACT 63 people between the ages of 50 and 65 were living across 17 residential aged care facilities as of December 3 last year, according to an ACT government submission to an inquiry into the adequacy of residential care for young people with severe disabilities.

But Mr Lawton said the number of young people living at home with care from their parents was largely unknown.

“While there are 7000 young people in aged care [in Australia] it’s estimated there are another 700,000 living at home and being cared for by parents,” he said.

“It’s an impending issue where the parents at some stage will get too old to look after them and it becomes a question of ‘where will those young people live?’.”

Mr Lawton signed up for the challenge through his work as the ACT’s CTP portfolio manager with GIO, a founding partner of Youngcare.

“We see through personal injury insurance that people’s lives can be changed in an instant through an accident or a debilitating illness and it literally could happen to any one of us,” he said.

To build his strength and endurance Mr Lawton regularly walks Mount Ainslie and the Centenary Trial and on April 19 travelled to Stradbroke Island to meet his fellow challengers for sand training before he tackles more than 1000 sand dunes on the trek.

But he believes the biggest challenge will be the isolation and the lack of home comforts including his mobile phone.

“I know one year they had a mice and rat plague… that’s not something I’d be looking forward to,” he said.

Each of the trekkers is aiming to raise $35,000 for Youngcare.

Mr Lawson said the ACT insurance industry had lent its support and a recent trivia night at Federal Golf Club had raised more $10,000.

He wants to continue fundraising in the ACT after the trek to help boost Youngcare’s grants for young people needing home help and modifications.

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ACTEW Water rebranded as Icon Water

May 3, 2015 – 11:30PM

Canberra's water and sewerage utility ACTEW Water has been rebranded Icon Water.

Canberra’s water and sewerage utility ACTEW Water has been rebranded Icon Water. Photo: Supplied

Canberra’s water and sewerage utility ACTEW Water has been rebranded Icon Water as of Monday.

The name change is an attempt to distance the publicly-owned entity from ActewAGL and“eliminate brand confusion”, a spokeswoman said when it was announced last October.

It cost $2.5 million to rename the utility from ACTEW Corporation to ACTEW Water in 2012, but the latest change was expected to cost about $500,000.

About $220,000 was to be spent on internal interviews and artwork and $300,000 for the rollout expected to take several months.

From Monday bills and other communication from the company would be rebranded Icon Water, but billing and direct debit details will remain unchanged.

Icon Water’s communications manager David Hohnke said the Icon brand would be seen on vehicles, staff clothing and identification, buildings and signage around the ACT.

“At Icon Water, you can expect us to be reliable, efficient and helpful for our community,” he said.

“We have also renewed our commitment to the community that we will continue to enhance the lives of Canberrans wherever we can.”

The company’s website is now


The Canberra Times

Geoff Hewatt recalls what went wrong on Majura parkway

May 1, 2015

John Thistleton

Reporter for The Canberra Times.

Mr Hewatt said rostered days off in April, 2014, for Anzac and Easter, and a souring relationship with head contractor Fulton Hogan worsened his position.

Mr Hewatt said rostered days off in April, 2014, for Anzac and Easter, and a souring relationship with head contractor Fulton Hogan worsened his position. Photo: Matt Bedford

Geoff Hewatt has reached the bottom of the darkest ditch he has ever hit as a bulk earth mover. For him, coming up from the bottom began in March after former employees were paid entitlements after his business collapsed financially last year. He feels badly.  “My heart goes out to the people still owed money,” he said.

In May last year administrators took control of his business which had grown over 23 years from a single grader to a $9 million fleet, using 18,000 litres of fuel a day. A wet winter in 2013 left him in a financial bog on Majura parkway. He says when word leaked out incorrectly he was insolvent, engineers left him. Staff stole anything not bolted down.

He rung his parents in Corryong, Victoria, to assure them rumours he had “topped himself” were just that. “I had to take my kids out of school for over a month because of the rubbish they were getting,” Mr Hewatt said.  “The civil industry loves rumours. The old saying is if you have not heard a rumour by smoko, you make one up. ”

Administrator PPB Advisory’s director Alan Walker say $8 million has since been repaid to finance companies, nearly  $1.5 million to employees, and $1.8 million to ordinary creditors. Another $1 million will go to secure creditors and $1.4 million to unsecured creditors, leaving trade creditors short of $30 million. They elected last year not to put the Hewatt​ companies into liquidation. PPB Advisory will continue overseeing obligations for about six months.

Mr Hewatt said rostered days off in April, 2014, for Anzac and Easter, and a souring relationship with head contractor Fulton Hogan worsened his position. Mr Walker said slim margins had left little room for error, ” and those rains wiped out any margin that the company was going to get,” he said. ” It got to a point where it was losing money monthly on that contract. It could not agree with [Fulton Hogan] on a variation that allowed it to finish, at no profit, no loss situation, so directors were left without any alternative,they could not fund their losses on the contract.”

Two weeks after PPB Advisory arrived, Mr Hewatt rang the ACT government, furious his track record in Canberra had not been enough for anyone to contact him. “I couldn’t believe it,” Mr Hewatt said. “They didn’t even ring me up. I was just a grubby subbie under the fingernail of life. I’m not saying I need a halo above my head, I’m not perfect. [But] give us a break will you, we employed 300 people.”

This adds to his annoyance the government had not acknowledged Hewatt’s heavy dozers and operators who fought the 2003 fires. “My dozer was the first up there when it started and it was the last dozer out. The amount of effort we put in was phenomenal, I couldn’t sleep because I had blokes working up there, I nearly lost blokes up there. I was gutted. We had six or seven graders, water carts, my father nearly lost his life, people don’t hear about it. The thing that ticked me off,  we were never mentioned about putting the whole firebreak around the ACT, the army was.” [A spokeswoman says the ACT government had no contractual relationship with the Hewatt group, declined to comment on the issues raised, except to say Majura parkway is on time to be completed by June,  2016.]

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union’s ACT secretary Dean Hall rang Mr Hewatt, asking if he was OK, a surprise given the battles unions have with employers. Mr Hewatt recalls the late 1990s after winning the earthworks contract for the new Australian National Museum at Acton and meeting for the first time the CFMEU’s Stephen King and a mate, who threw their weight around in his office, making demands.

“Lucky I was sitting behind a desk because my legs were shaking that much it wasn’t funny,” Mr Hewatt said. “But I just sat there and took it all in my stride. They drove off and 15-20 minutes later they rang me back up, and said ‘Can we come and visit again and I said yeah, come back if you want and have a sensible talk, not an idiot talk.” In time Mr King became a good friend.

Mr Hewatt was 19 when he jumped on a D10 dozer, the world’s biggest model at the time. The eldest of plant operator Kevin “Happy” Hewatt’s four children, he began work as a labourer, then a surveying chainman, always with an eye on giant yellow machines. He worked in Queensland’s mines and in Victoria alongside his father for Vic Roads.  “You learned off the hard boys back in those days, you worked hard and played hard, that was the name of the game,”  he says. By the time he was a leading hand on a grader at Lake Crackenback resort and the Skitube, he had $15,000 in his back pocket, enough for a 10 per cent deposit on a Mitsubishi MD-500 grader. He was 28.

He came to the ACT region, helped build roads in Banks and Conder before a major highway project near Bookham and later on the Gunning bypass with Leightons, where superintendent John ‘Macca’ John McKillop asked him on his arrival. “You ever heard of meals-on-wheels?”

“Yeah, why?”

” Well that’s what you’re going to do. You work 12 hours a day.”

His father joined him with a water cart and, aside from roadwork, began redeveloping a 40-acre block near Hall where he has lived ever since. He began building a heavy machine fleet, updating his plant regularly. ” For every $1 million you borrow, for 48 repayments, you are looking at $25,000 a month repayments. What I started off doing, when I owned a machine, for example a D7, I’d buy another D7, it would help pay for the next D7, ” Mr Hewatt said. “I have always brought my machinery on hire purchase over 48 months. Thank God we did because when we went into voluntary administration we had the assets to sell to distribute back out.”

On the Federal Highway duplication at Lake George in the late 1990s, he lost $130,000 overnight when another sub-contractor went under, and was grateful a developer Len Hoyle, who was upgrading the prestigious Capricorn Park thoroughbred stud near Hall paid him crucial cash flow. In Canberra major contracts included Brindabella Business Park and Canberra Airport’s runway extension, a difficult job working around aircraft and passengers.

“We had respect from NSW’s RTA (Roads and Maritime Services] and a track record for bulk earthworks. A lot of people think that’s all we do. Go to the airport there’s a lot of sewer, water services, electrical, pump out stations, lift pits. We changed from Hewatt Earthworks to Hewatt in the last couple of years. ”

Hewatt had worked with Fulton Hogan for eight years on other projects and introduced their key people to the ACT civil construction sector. When the $288 million Majura parkway tender came out he says he headed to their Sydney office for three to four days a week, accompanied by engineers to work on putting in a partnering bid. “I had my own car park in Sydney, I had my own swipe cards to get in and out of their office, I had my own office up there.”

But after winning the project the two civil contractors would not agree on the works program. “You were forever fighting with them. You’d move the dirt over there and move it again at my cost. I remember I went away for two weeks holidays and came back and there was 40,000 cubic metres stockpiled in them middle of the carriageway. What the bloody hell is going on here?

“When we got to the end, Fulton Hogan were supportive, they paid us on time, but didn’t pay variations on time which added up to big money. We had to do variations up front and fight it out later, pay for products, comes out of cash flow. ” [Fulton Hogan declined to answer questions for this article.]

Hewatt plant and operators were also working on a wind farm west of Nimmitabel, a helicopter training base near Nowra​ and airport runway extension and road works at Orange, when Mr Hewatt had to advise he was heading towards insolvency, which triggered a domino of collapses, with key people taking flight. “I had no choice in the end, I lost five engineers, when I lost the engineers, I knew then Fulton Hogan would call up another part of the contract and once they called up that part, I knew I would be buggered.

“I can handle stress to a certain extent. I chew my fingernails. I haven’t heard of too many people dying of cancer from chewing their fingernails. I don’t smoke. Your creditors hold your life. Yes you are going to have pissed off creditors, let’s face it, you have taken money off them, they have worked their guts out, they have put their neck on the line, they have done everything to support you and you have done everything to support them.”

Mr Hewatt said when word spread he was going under some people who had worked for him for many years, who expected a firesale, stole $2 million worth of goods, including a shipping container, vehicle, buckets off machines, GPSs, fire extinguishers, 72 first aid kits, $400 UHF radios and  reversing cameras.

“Whatever wasn’t bolted down went,” Mr Hewatt said.


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