‘A cop out’: Swimming Australia’s glowing assessment of Rio Olympic Games performance

AUGUST 15 2016 – 12:55AM

Roy Masters

A blue field with the Union Flag in the upper hoist quarter, a large white seven-pointed star in the lower hoist quarter, and constellation of five white stars in the fly – one small five-pointed star and four, larger, seven-pointed stars.

Rio de Janeiro: Swimming Australia has been accused of giving its athletes “a cop out” after a glowing review of the team’s performance at the Rio Olympic Games.

SA has awarded itself high marks in its own Olympics report card, despite wining fewer gold medals than at three of the past four Games. The gold medal yield of three was better than London (1) but not as good as Sydney (5), Athens (7) or Beijing (6).

Netherland's Ranomi Kromowidjojo, left, and Australia's Cate Campbell congratulate Denmark's Pernille Blume, right, for ...
Netherland’s Ranomi Kromowidjojo, left, and Australia’s Cate Campbell congratulate Denmark’s Pernille Blume, right, for winning the women’s 50m freestyle final in Rio. Photo: AP

In an email circulated to the board of Swimming Australia, together with state presidents and chief executives, SA president John Bertrand ladled high praise on the culture of the swimming team at the Rio Olympics.

His email came in response to an even more gushing one from Wayne Lomas, SA’s high-performance manager and the team leader in Rio.

High praise: John Bertrand, former sailor and America's Cup winning skipper, now SA president.
High praise: John Bertrand, former sailor and America’s Cup winning skipper, now SA president. Photo: Fairfax Media

Lomas’s email prompted prompted one insider to say: “The swimmers have been given a cop out.” The insider went on to argue the team had been relieved of personal accountability.

The subject of Bertrand’s emails, “Day 1.version 7”, would suggest that in subsequent days the outcomes were similar to the first day when Australian won two gold medals.

Bertrand writes: “We have come a long way. Yes, we are proud and I think the nation is proud of these young men and women.

“There are a 1001 lessons from this campaign. All from the school of hard knocks. This is the Everest of sport. It doesn’t get any higher than this. The best of the very best from around the world…all endeavouring to peak at the same time.

Australia missed out on a medal in the men's 100m freestyle relay final in Rio.
Australia missed out on a medal in the men’s 100m freestyle relay final in Rio. Photo: Joe Armao

“We will put together a world-class review to capture these lessons. Experience at the very top does not come easy. It is a rare and unique opportunity.

“After tonite where our Dolphins take on the world again, we will move fwd, capture every thing we know, plan and implement.

“We are on an exciting journey.

“Go Australia Go!”

Bertrand’s email followed Lomas’ report on the Games, which Bertrand describes as “a brilliant summary of the culture within this team”.

Lomas writes: “As we move toward the conclusion of our Olympic pool competition, it is natural that we begin to reflect on some of the things that we have witnessed this week …

“In doing this, we have heard and read a lot about team culture. Our team promotes and facilitates a values-driven, learning-oriented, process-focused culture.

“What this means is that our values drive who we are and how we treat ourselves, our teammates, our sport and our country.

“We are committed to the personal and professional growth and learning of our people. And we are focused on great processes that enhance performance both in and out of the pool.

“So how does this translate in the team and the pool? The key is our language. We have the courage to tackle difficult conversations in a timely and professional manner. If there is an issue, it’s the behaviour or the action that we confront, not the person. By removing the action/behaviour from the person, we retain value and respect for our teammate, but bring to their attention, and gain understanding on what it is that any member of the team wants to address.

“This allows people to maintain a feeling of value and worth. We don’t allow ourselves to diminish a person’s worth by the language we use.

“Whether someone achieves peak performance or they miss their own goal and dream through a sub-optimal performance, the individual’s value is retained. They retain the confidence and support of their teammates, regardless.

“It’s a small, but important factor. We stay connected and strong as a team as we ride the roller-coaster.”

Is this just management gobbledegook produced to sugarcoat poor performance?

These comments certainly seem to validate the view of SA’s more experienced assistant coaches who believe too much power in Rio has been handed to the team psychologists.

Some believe the athletes have been encouraged to believe that external process, rather than the inner person, is at fault for “sub-optimal performances”.

The change in the Campbell sisters, from laughing and joking in the holding area, pre-competition, to being consumed with anxiety on the blocks, is surely the responsibility of the team psychologists.

There is no doubt Bertrand has unified the assistant coaches under the head coach, no small achievement given they eke out a subsistence living via their own trade secrets.

Under Bertrand, they have been willing to pool, so to speak, their knowledge, sharing tips in order to maximise performance.

He has also increased the revenue to the sport, encouraging Australia’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart, to increase her sponsorship.

But Australia produced 25 performances inside the top three world rankings at the 2016 Olympic selection trials, which were admittedly held before the US, European and Chinese trials.

It is hoped Bertrand’s “world class review” will address this, so that swimmers “can achieve their dream”, no matter how “sub-optimal” it is.


Source : The Canberra Times

Premier Will Hodgman warns Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: Hands off our GST

August 14, 2016 11:00am

alt text for flag

Premier Will Hodgman speaks about the Federal election outcomes. Picture: LUKE BOWDEN

Premier Will Hodgman speaks about the Federal election outcomes.


TASMANIA’S political leaders are gearing up for a new fight, to protect the state’s share of GST revenue worth millions of dollars.

Premier Will Hodgman said the state was on a war footing after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told the WA Liberal conference he planned to change the GST distribution to states.

Mr Hodgman said larger, mainland states posed an ongoing threat to Tasmania’s GST share and his Government would not support any changes “full stop”.

“Tasmanians can be confident that just like we stood up for Tasmania previously and defeated proposed changes to the GST distribution method, GST rate, and the state-income tax proposal, we will fight and defeat this latest proposal,” he said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addressing the WA Liberal conference.

A spokeswoman for Mr Turnbull yesterday said the Prime Minister would negotiate with state and territory leaders about any changes to the redistribution of the GST.

Any loss of GST revenue comes on the back of an $84 million hit after the Commonwealth Grants Commission recommended the state’s share drop from 3.9 per cent to 3.8 per cent in 2016-17.

Other developments after Mr Turnbull’s shock revelation at the weekend include:

JUBILANT WA premier Colin Barnett – who has long lobbied for more GST revenue for his state – said the move would inject billions of dollars into the state’s coffers.

TASMANIAN senator Eric Abetz said he would not support changes to the “fundamental principle” of GST distribution.

STATE Labor leader Bryan Green said Tasmania would be millions of dollars worse off under Mr Turnbull’s plan.

QUEENSLAND Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said that the plan was “absolutely discriminatory”.

ECONOMIST Saul Eslake said WA had squandered the chance to secure its economic future during the mining boom and only had itself to blame.

Tasmanian Liberal senator Eric Abetz. Picture: LUKE BOWDEN

Senator Abetz said he wanted to see more detail of the proposed changes, but they should have the unanimous sign-off of all the states and territories.

“Making the formula more responsive to the current economic circumstances, as opposed to relying on historical data, would benefit all states and territories,” he said.

Western Australia’s share of the GST has dropped sharply in recent years to about 30c back for every dollar it generates, which Federal Finance Minister and WA senator Mathias Cormann describes as “completely inappropriate and unsustainable”.

Under the formula used now, there is a lag of about three years before changes in a state’s financial situation results in compensatory changes to its proportion of the national consumption tax.

Under the federal plan, a minimum percentage floor of GST revenue would be gradually introduced, increasing WA’s share to make up for lower iron ore prices cutting the amount the state collects in mining royalties.

Federal shadow treasurer Chris Bowen dismissed the plan as a prime ministerial thought bubble.

“He’s got no credibility on federalism and tax and now he says he’s got an idea to change the GST distribution where no one loses and everyone wins,” Mr Bowen said.

Mr Green said the Government was punishing Tasmania for voting out three Liberal members at the federal poll.

State Labor leader Bryan Green. Picture: SAM ROSEWARNE

He said Tasmanians could have “absolutely no confidence” in Mr Hodgman’s ability to negotiate and fight for Tasmania’s fair share.

“Malcolm Turnbull is planning to give more to WA and that means Tasmania will be the loser,” Mr Green said.

“If the floor GST plan is altered to benefit Western Australia, of course it will disadvantage Tasmania.

“Every time the Federal Government eats away at GST revenue it affects Tasmania and Mr Hodgman just does not have that ability to put up the fight.

“The Barnett Liberal Government in Western Australia has wasted billions of dollars in mineral royalties from the mining boom and ran up huge debts in recent years.”

Mr Eslake said WA’s low share of GST revenue was a result of the mining boom.

He said that since the early 2000s, WA had been richer than the rest of the country by “an unprecedented margin”.

“There has never been another occasion in Australia’s history where one state has been so much richer than the rest of the country,” he said.

Economist Saul Eslake. Picture: STEVE POHLNER

“Why should the rest of Australia be forced to make up for WA having wasted its windfall gains.”

Tasmanian Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said it was “incredibly cynical base politics” by the Prime Minister.

“Any change to the GST needs to be thoroughly consulted with all the states. I don’t think any party in Tasmania will sit back and allow changes to the GST that would disadvantage Tasmania,” she said.

Tasmanian Labor senator Helen Polley said Mr Turnbull had not provided details behind the new allocation method and Tasmanians should be concerned.

“Malcolm Turnbull needs to rule out any changes to the GST that would hurt smaller states like Tasmania,” she said.

Ms Palaszczuk accused Mr Turnbull of policy on the run.

“Once again [he wants] to give a handout to Western Australia, which I think is absolutely discriminatory,” she said.

Source : The Mercury

Volunteer firefighters promised federal government support in pay dispute

AUGUST 14 2016 – 9:05PM

Emily Woods

alt text for flag

Volunteer firefighters have been assured by the federal government the controversial CFA pay deal will be quashed when parliament resumes.

In a letter written to the Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria’s chief executive, the federal minister for employment, Michaelia Cash, has promised to amend the Fair Work Act to stop enterprise bargaining agreements compromising the operations of volunteer-based emergency services.

The CFA dispute has dogged the Andrews government
The CFA dispute has dogged the Andrews government Photo: JESSICA SHAPIRO

The amendment will be introduced once parliament resumes on August 30, “as a matter of urgency”.

“The amendment will render ineffective any such terms in the proposed agreement, regardless of whether the agreement comes into effect before or after the amendment is passed,” the minister wrote in the letter released on Sunday.

The CFA board on Friday endorsed an amended enterprise bargaining agreement which will now head to employees and union members to be voted on.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria says it has not been consulted over the agreement, and has resumed legal action over the deal.

They filed an extension to an existing Supreme Court injunction on Wednesday.

“The consultation process was a sham – the issues raised by VFBV on behalf of volunteers were in reality ignored,” the VFBV said in a statement on Sunday.

The CFA board denies the claims, saying it “consulted extensively” with the VFBV and has “worked to address their concerns” before making its decision.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull took on the state issue during the election campaign, vowing to block the deal if he won the election.

Victorian Shadow Minister for Emergency Services Brad Battin said he’d been working with the Federal Government to ensure volunteers were “protected for the future”.

“I’m very disappointed that Daniel Andrews and James Merlino have expressed their disappointment in the VFBV going against them,” he said.

“It appears that anyone who wants to have a voice against this government, they will try and silence them.

“We understand that the action of VFBV with the Supreme Court will still have to continue to ensure that no matter the outcome, it will be in the best interests of community safety.”

A state government spokeswoman said Mr Melino had nothing further to add on Sunday night.

With AAP 


Source : The Age

Australian dollar exchange rates can squeeze far more out of your holiday

AUGUST 14 2016 – 2:43PM

Flag of the Australian Capital Territory

Shrewd travellers can squeeze far more value out of their holidays just by comparing the performance of the Australian dollar against the local currencies.

 You will get a bigger bang for your buck in Peru compared to neighbouring Chile, South Africa over Morocco and South Korea over Hong Kong, according to an analysis of exchange rates by online travel company Expedia.”People usually focus on the price of flights and accommodation, and overlook and underestimate the value of the dollar,” said Expedia’s Australia and New Zealand head, Georg Ruebensal.

The average price of hotels in Sri Lanka has nose-dived.
The average price of hotels in Sri Lanka has nose-dived. Photo: Supplied

“Instead, the answer should be to travel smarter by keeping an eye on currencies to give you the most value out of your trip.”

If your eye is on Central America, opt for Mexico over Guatemala. The dollar has shot up 14 per cent against the Mexican peso in the past year.

On top of that, the average airfare to Guatemala has increased by 25 per cent and the average nightly hotel room price has gone up by 26 per cent.

To compare, Mexico’s hotel rates have remained stable at $127 on average per night.

Fiji offers a better deal than Malaysia for Asian travellers.
Fiji offers a better deal than Malaysia for Asian travellers. Photo: Bill Morris

Another destination swap to consider is China over Japan. While they offer vastly different experiences, it’s worth taking into account the value of the dollar has dropped by 19 per cent against the Japanese yen but grown by 4 per cent against the Chinese yuan.

Thrifty travellers will also save on accommodation, with the average cost of a hotel room in China just two-thirds of the cost in Japan.

Peru offers far better value than neighbouring Chile, plus you get to enjoy the wonders of world-heritage listed Machu ...
Peru offers far better value than neighbouring Chile, plus you get to enjoy the wonders of world-heritage listed Machu Picchu. Photo: Supplied

“Each and every destination is unique. But sometimes it’s about timing – if you’re flexible and can swap China for Japan, now’s a good time to do it,” said Mr Ruebensal.

Al Jedlin, 24 from Newtown, is planning a beach holiday escape for the end of the year. On his list is Vietnam and Indonesia.

Al Jedlin (right), holidaying in New York City earlier this year.
Al Jedlin (right), holidaying in New York City earlier this year.  Photo: Supplied

But on finding out that the dollar has grown 5 per cent against the Sri Lankan rupee, and hearing his friends rave about the travel spot, Sri Lanka is now a contender.

The average price of hotels in Sri Lanka has nose-dived by 14 per cent to $152 a night, and the average return airfare has gone down by 7 per cent to $576.

In contrast, the price of flights to Vietnam have shot up by 29 per cent in the past year.

“I’ve gone to Japan three times to ski, and during the latest trip to Niseko earlier this year, there was definite bill shock,” said Mr Jedlin.

“I don’t usually consider the value of the Aussie dollar, but it’s something I want to be more cautious of.”

Expedia’s other swap suggestions, based on the fluctuating value of the Australian dollar and the prices of flights and accommodation, are:

  • Swap Brazil for Argentina
  • Swap Singapore for Thailand
  • Swap Malaysia for Fiji
  • Swap Indonesia for New Zealand

Source : The Canberra Times

Two or three-car families new norm in Sydney despite public transport increase

AUGUST 14 2016 – 5:00AM

alt text for flag

More Sydneysiders than ever might be opting for trains and buses to get to work on weekdays or events at weekends but their obsession with owning four wheels shows no sign of ending.

In fact, the number of households with two or more vehicles is surging.

The latest Household Travel Survey shows almost 36 per cent of Sydney homes owned two vehicles in 2014-15, and 15 per cent three or more.

Sydney passed a significant milestone a year earlier when just over a half of households were recorded as owning two or more vehicles for the first time.

Mt Druitt residents Warren Purdie and daughter Shannyn symbolise Sydney's love affair with car ownership.
Mt Druitt residents Warren Purdie and daughter Shannyn symbolise Sydney’s love affair with car ownership.  Photo: Michele Mossop

Before then, the majority of households had just one car or none at all.

The Purdie family in Mount Druitt in north-west Sydney symbolises the city’s love affair with car ownership.

Alana, husband Warren and daughter Shannyn own five vehicles between them – three for getting around and two to sate their passion for Fords.

Alana Purdie said families owned multiple cars for a variety of reasons, ranging from the need to get to work to a lack of regular public transport in some suburbs.

“We all work at different times and my daughter also babysits. There are so many reasons why people have more than one car in the family,” she said.

“The availability of buses to get to the train station in our area is near impossible. It is not increasing in the areas where it’s required. People also go for the bigger car as well because of the kids’ sports.”

People are doing everything on Saturdays and Sundays, and that is reflected in the congestion people experience.

NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury.

The Purdies are members of local car club FTF, which recently held its annual Fords in the Park event.

The latest figures from the NSW Bureau of Transport Statistics show that total household vehicle ownership has risen by 26 per cent to 2.85 million over the past decade.

In 2003-04, almost 56 per cent of households had just one vehicle or none at all.

The surge in vehicle ownership comes despite more people travelling on public transport than ever before. The kilometres travelled on trains, buses, ferries and rail rose 29 per cent to 24.7 million in the decade to 2014-15.

The growth in the use of public transport outpaced a 16 per cent rise in Sydney’s population to 4.7 million.

NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury said Sydney was a tale of two cities in which vehicle ownership was soaring at the same time as more people opted for public transport.

“With people living in the inner suburbs of Sydney you will find car ownership per household is less because they have better public transport options,” he said.

“Once you start to get out into greater Sydney, the options of public transport are fewer and people will become more reliant on their vehicles.”

Mr Khoury said the use of public transport was increasing on weekdays because of significant investment in roads and new rail projects such as the South West Rail Link.

“As we continue to invest in public transport, those journeys will increase.”

However, Mr Khoury said congestion on the city’s roads on weekends – especially Saturdays – was becoming worse than weekdays because that was when many Sydneysiders chose to drive.

“People are doing everything on Saturdays and Sundays, and that is reflected in the congestion people experience,” he said.

“Saturday congestion is increasing but is a different kind of congestion to week days. It is around sports and shopping centres. And it is going to continue to get worse.”

The motoring group advocates a range of solutions to weekend congestion such as clearways on key arterial routes and more parking at train stations to encourage people to use public transport.


Source : The Sydney Morning Herald

Government may miss out on Uber fines windfall

AUGUST 13 2016

alt text for flag

Uber drivers have been pinged $2 million in less than four months but the Queensland government looks likely to miss out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in fine revenue.

More than $700,000 in fines to Uber drivers from the latest enforcement spree had already flowed into state coffers by the time Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced plans on Thursday to legalise the service.

But it’s understood the government won’t hunt down the remainder of the fines issued for illegally providing a taxi service, leaving a shortfall of more than $1.2 million from the $2,014,380 total.

The latest figures come as the government defends a $100 million assistance package for the taxi industry from attacks on both side

For Taxi Council Queensland it’s not enough, at the end of a “farcical” review. But the LNP, which has yet to broadly outline its own response, has criticised the payout as another raid on the “cookie jar”.

Taxi drivers rallied outside Parliament House on Friday, amid some claims the ride-share rival’s legalisation from September 5 would mean the end of the industry.

“The Transport Minister just made us bankrupt,” said driver Manjit Boparai, who bought his taxi licence for $310,000 four years ago.

Average licence values in Brisbane have halved from a high of $519,000 in 2014 and owners are generally unhappy with the $40,000 “one-off” payments for existing licence owners.

Queensland Taxi Council is continuing to pressure the state government over legalization of Uber.

Yellow Cabs general manager Bill Parker said the industry would survive but “it’s going to get worse before it gets better”.

“When the banks decide what a licence value is, some of them have used their houses … to buy the licence,” he said.

“There’s going to be some very difficult situations for them.

“Some of them will basically lose their home and there are quite a lot of people doing it tough right now because they have mortgages to pay and school kids and all the rest of it.”

Translink officers, who were unable to undertake any covert enforcement for months until new laws passed in April, were understood to have stopped targeting Uber drivers for taxi offences on Wednesday but would continue policing car safety issues.

Ongoing enforcement captures a range of offences, with many infringement notices issued for safety and other non-taxi related regulations,” a Translink spokesman said.

“Enforcement will continue, and infringement notices will be issued at the discretion of enforcement officials.”

Since the Katter’s Australian Party-led laws drastically increased fines and made issuing fines easier, 943 infringement notices have been issued to 738 drivers, with several fined more than once.

The vast majority (855) of those were for providing a taxi service without a taxi but other fines included failing to carry a Driver’s Authorisation, failing to produce a licence and driving an unregistered vehicle, according to Translink.

Total fines issued to Uber drivers, including for non-taxi offences, hit $2,051,525 on Wednesday, with $755,178 paid to date.


Source : Brisbane Times

Darwin City Council commits $100k to spark business in city centre

August 13, 2016 10:37pm

alt text for flag

Darwin City Council wants to “activate” the city centre and lure more businesses to fill empty shopfronts. PICTURE: Clive Hyde

MORE than 230 commercial properties are up for rent in the Darwin CBD, including at least 83 empty shopfronts on main roads and in arcades.

Visitors to Smith Street will find almost 30 empty shops in the Mall and arcades alone, and on Cavanagh Street there are more than 25 arcade shops looking for a lessee.

Darwin City Council has committed $100,000 for 2016/2017 to “activate the city centre” but what this will entail is unclear.

“Council is currently in the process of meeting with key stakeholders to work together and develop a plan to address these issues,” Lord Mayor Katrina Fong Lim said.

Property Council of Australia NT director Ruth Palmer said some of the issues facing the CBD included a reduced tourist capacity on flights due to FIFO workers, an oversupply of shop spaces and a lack of government support.

“Darwin City retailers and investors have not seen any government investment occur in the city centre for several years and the Northern Territory Government has not committed to improving the amenities and infrastructure in the CBD,” she said.

“Recent government policies have encouraged commercial development and activity outside of the Darwin city centre which therefore draws activity out of the CBD.”

Herron Todd White director Terry Roth said Darwin needed a drawcard.

“In any other capital city in Australia, their core CBD is also their core retail area,” the property valuer said.

“We don’t have a major attractor that’s going to draw people in.

“In fact, due to other factors including the weather, the city is in competition with places like Casuarina Square where there is controlled tenancy and airconditioning.

“The problem you’ve got with the CBD is there are so many different owners that there is no plan as to what goes where. So shoppers may have to traipse all over town, in the heat, whereas at the shopping centres the similar products are near each other and it’s all air-conditioned, making them a better choice for shoppers.”

Despite commercial activity in the Top End trending downwards over the past 12 months, Ms Palmer said the tough times had created better relationships between building owners and retailers.

“Owners are aware of the tough trading conditions and, to their credit, in many instances have worked with their tenants when lease renewals have come due to ensure that they remain open and trading,” she said.

“Owners are prepared to share some of the pain now and have made good decisions that keeping a tenant is better than having an empty shop.

“There is one positive comment that can be said about Darwin retailers – they are resilient. While faced with tough market conditions, many have still invested in new fit-outs and upgrades to their shops.”

The Lord Mayor is calling for a City Summit in October to “work with stakeholders for a bright city future”.


Source : NT News

Shock results for Aussie women in the pool at Rio


August 12, 2016

alt text for flag


Shock results for Aussie women in the pool at Rio

Australia’s Cate Campbell and her sister Bronte have both missed out on medals in the Olympic 100m freestyle, while Emily Seebohm failed to make the cut for the 200m backstroke final.

Bronte finished fourth and Cate came sixth in the medal race.

Cate led and Bronte was second at the turn but American Simone Manuel overtook them to win the gold medal.

The shock placings for the Australian sisters came after compatriot Mitch Larkin earlier won a silver medal in the 200m backstroke final.

But the misery has continued for Larkin’s girlfriend Emily Seebohm, who was inconsolable after missing the cut for her 200m backstroke final.

Seebohm, who earlier in the Games finished seventh in her 100m backstroke final, came a lagging sixth in her semi-final, while fellow backstroker Belinda Hocking secured a spot in Friday night’s medal race.

Earlier, Larkin was coming to terms with winning his first Olympic medal moments after his partner Seebohm’s latest failure.

“To come away with a silver, I am pretty happy,” Larkin said.

“Coming into this week the goal was to get a gold. But to realise I am a silver medallist is pretty amazing.”

Larkin said his partner Seebohm’s disappointment wouldn’t end her competitive swimming career.

A bawling Seebohm stormed past waiting reporters after her swim.

But she’s not the only Australian swimmer grappling with disappointment: Cameron McEvoy couldn’t rebound from his unexpected seventh in the 100m freestyle final on Thursday night, missing the cut for the 50m freestyle final.

McEvoy was 11th fastest in the semi-finals and then agreed with Australian swimming’s head coach Jacco Verhaeren’s assessment that he suffered stage fright in the 100m final.

“It is always hard as an athlete to admit that you didn’t deliver mentally, you always like to think you have some level of mental toughness,” he said.

Australian Taylor McKeown finished fifth in the women’s 200m breaststroke final.



Source : In Daily

Fears over GoFundMe boom in fundraising for funerals

AUGUST 13 2016

Within hours of watching police dig out the corpse of murdered 18-year-old Aaron Pajich from a fresh slab of concrete in a Perth backyard, onlooker Lian Trip Kerton had set up an online crowdfunding page to pay for a funeral for a teen she had not met.

A month later, 424 people had donated $15,707 to Ms Kerton’s GoFundMe page to cover the costs of Aaron’s funeral where six white doves and balloons were released as a final goodbye.

About the same time in Queensland, a GoFundMe page was launched to fund the funeral of 15-year-old Breyton Horomona who suffered a fatal allergic reaction to calamari at school.

In the past 27 days, 444 friends and family – including a 12-year-old who gave $5 because he suffered similar allergies – donated $35,860 to the funeral fund started by his uncle Jamie Elkington that paid for the funeral, a three-day wake in the Maori tradition, and assistance for Breyton’s surviving six siblings.

Like most people, neither Mr Elkington in QLD or Ms Kerton in WA realised that regulators in their state believe that fundraising for a funeral should only be done by a licensed charity, yet experts say this area of the law is unclear.

It is one example of how the growth in online fundraising has outpaced the law, say experts. State and Territory fair trading commissioners agreed in February 2016 to establish a working party of senior officers to review regulation of fundraising, including online crowd-sourced fundraising.

About the same time in Queensland, a GoFundMe page was launched to fund the funeral of 15-year-old Breyton Horomona who suffered a fatal allergic reaction to calamari at school.

In the past 27 days, 444 friends and family – including a 12-year-old who gave $5 because he suffered similar allergies – donated $35,860 to the funeral fund started by his uncle Jamie Elkington that paid for the funeral, a three-day wake in the Maori tradition, and assistance for Breyton’s surviving six siblings.

Like most people, neither Mr Elkington in QLD or Ms Kerton in WA realised that regulators in their state believe that fundraising for a funeral should only be done by a licensed charity, yet experts say this area of the law is unclear.

It is one example of how the growth in online fundraising has outpaced the law, say experts. State and Territory fair trading commissioners agreed in February 2016 to establish a working party of senior officers to review regulation of fundraising, including online crowd-sourced fundraising.

The explosion in online fundraising had starkly highlighted the “messy state of fundraising law in Australia,” said Sue Woodward, who specialises in not-for-profit law with Justice Connect, itself a non-profit organisation.

“Unfortunately the law hasn’t keep up to date, ” she said. “And when there is a gap between what the law contemplates and the activities happening now, there is a potential for confusion and for people to do the wrong thing.”

The death of 15-year-old Breyton Horomona sparked many tributes and online fundraising.
The death of 15-year-old Breyton Horomona sparked many tributes and online fundraising.  Photo: Supplied

Fundraising for a funeral is one of the fastest growing areas on crowdfunding sites, ranging from YouCaring, MyCause, Pozible and FuneralFund. American research estimates crowdsourcing funeral expenses has grown twice as fast as any other category, and they often receive 50 per cent more page views because the stories – like Breyton’s and Aaron’s – are tragic and in the news.

A funeral page has become the “new obituary”, said Adrienne Gonzalez, the founder of GoFraudMe, a critic of GoFundMe. Often memorial and funeral pages were launched before the body was even cold, she said.

Breyton Horomona suffered a fatal allergic reaction.
Breyton Horomona suffered a fatal allergic reaction. Photo: Facebook

GoFundMe, launched in 2010, has doubled in size this year alone, and with $2 billion in donations, is the largest. In Australia its fee combined with online payment processing charges total 6.75 per cent plus 30¢ on every donation to an individual campaign.

A campaign starts every 18 seconds on GoFundMe to pay for health costs, someone’s dream trip, a funeral or a memorial. In Australia, where GoFundMe has raised $60 million in the past two years, funding funerals and memorials is the second most popular category.

It is just about the default move. There will be an outpouring on Facebook and someone puts up a GoFundMe site.

Dave Hillyard, acting WA consumer protection commissioner

Breyton’s father, Bishop Horomona of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said fundraising had been the last thing on his mind when his brother-in-law had proposed it. “We were hurting and didn’t want everyone to feel sorry for us. But they went ahead, and in the end, it was such a help for us.” He was warned by other members of the church, though, to be wary of online fundraisers and people attending the funeral who may expect a free flight home.

Even with the best of intentions, it is easy to upset donors as Ms Kerton discovered. Some donors were alarmed to see their bank accounts listing the donation to Aaron’s funeral as “Misty’s vet fees”. That was a reference to a previous fundraiser by Ms Kerton for her dog that she hadn’t fixed in the rush to put up the page after Aaron’s body was discovered.

Aaron Pajich's father Keith Sweetman says he should have loaded receipts online earlier than he did.
Aaron Pajich’s father Keith Sweetman says he should have loaded receipts online earlier than he did. 

Other donors queried why Aaron’s father Keith spent money on new suits. Some asked why the family had not approached established government programs, such as those helping victims of crimes. Mr Sweetman told Fairfax he was “absent-minded with grief”, and should have loaded receipts online earlier than he did.

“With so much grief. I forgot about everyone. I was very much concerned about my son, my son was taken away from me,” he told Fairfax. “We’ve had such a good response from most of the public, yet of course, naturally, you do get a few who are unhappy. At a time of grief, it doesn’t seem right that some people feel animosity .. but some people do.”

M s Kerton ended up pulling the plug on the fundraiser: “When it hit $15,707 I stopped it because it was getting out of control,” she said. She had set up the account to help Aaron’s aunts, who were afraid the funeral would bankrupt the family, yet the fundraising had left “a sour taste”. Ms Kerton also lost money from additional bank fees when some donors asked for their money back.

WA Government’s consumer protection officials also tried unsuccessfully to transfer the fundraising for Aaron’s funeral to a licensed charity because the online appeal breached the state’s law on charities.

Setting up an online fundraising site following a tragedy was routine, said WA’s acting commissioner for consumer protection Dave Hillyard.

“It is just about the default move. There will be an outpouring on Facebook and someone puts up a GoFundMe site to deal with the outpouring of emotion and financial support,” he said.

“There will be flurry of activity, and money will start pouring in,” he said. It is not unusual for donors to query how money is spent. Yet donors who ask whether the case is legitimate are often attacked for daring to ask in a time of grief.

Mr Hillyard said without independent and objective decision making and accounting by a licensed charity, fundraising often became very difficult. “People blurt things out, and it gets very negative.”

Australia’s laws had “not kept up with the development in technology” that has seen crowdfunding explode.

While crowdfunding sites cross borders, Australia’s charity laws differ from state to state.

For instance, WA Government’s consumer protection officials tried unsuccessfully to transfer the fundraising for Aaron’s funeral to a licensed charity because the online appeal breached the state’s law on charities.

While raising funds for a funeral requires a license in WA and QLD, it does not in NSW. In South Australia, people collecting money for individuals or their families for specific causes (eg funeral costs, health expenses) are not considered charities and, as such, do not require a licence. In Queensland, donations from the public for a charitable or community purpose, regardless of whether the fundraising is done by ‘crowd-funding’ or simply by donation, may only be done by a licensed fundraiser or an individual can apply for an exemption.

GoFundMe’s CEO Rob Solomon told Australian media last month that the “platform is built to empower people to help people all around the world, and that’s not limited to family members.” Fraudulent campaigns were very rare, taking place less than one tenth of one percent of the time.

Funds weren’t released in cases where there wasn’t a direct, personal connection between the campaign organiser and beneficiary, until the beneficiary was verified. “We pride ourselves on protecting donors, campaign organisers, and the beneficiaries of GoFundMe campaigns … If there is a case where someone is trying to take advantage of donors’ generosity and they create a fraudulent campaign, we take action, remove the campaign, ban the user, and refund the donors.”

Yet critics like Adrienne Gonzalez, who established GoFraudMe to highlight scammers, says GoFundme doesn’t do enough to screen people setting up funding pages, especially for a funeral. While there have only been a few scams in Australia, her site includes a growing list of scam funeral fundraisers preying on grieving families.


Source : WA Today