Incentive for seniors to shift from family home

A STAMP duty exemption to encourage the over-65s to downsize to new dwellings has been labelled “an assistance package to builders rather than home owners”. But it has been welcomed as smart policy by property developers and some seniors groups.For the next two years seniors selling their home and buying a newly built dwelling worth up to $600,000 will pay no stamp duty. The measure is designed to remove the disincentive to downsize from the family home to a smaller dwelling.Savings could be worth up to $22,490, but purchasers must live in the new dwelling for at least 12 months to be eligible for the exemption.Developer lobby groups endorsed the initiative, saying it showed the government had listened to the industry on its proposals for tackling the housing supply shortage.Seniors groups welcomed the changes but said it should be extended to cover all housing stock, not only new dwellings.”We understand the rationale behind it, but if the government was serious about encouraging people to downsize they would apply it to all homes,” said Charmaine Crow, from the Combined Pensioners & Superannuants Association of NSW.The president of the Real Estate Institute of Australia, David Airey, commended the initiative but said its attractiveness would be limited by the restriction to new dwellings.”In many ways it is an assistance package to builders rather than home buyers generally, but . . . even if it’s a marginal increase in the supply of property, it’s got to have some benefit,” Mr Airey said.Paul Versteege from the National Seniors Association said the $600,000 cut-off was “very reasonable” because it was close to the state’s median house price of $546,000.Kath Brewster, a retiree in the process of selling her family home at Coffs Harbour, also welcomed it. She has lived in the home for 23 years but plans to downsize to a unit in the area.”It’s a very emotional time for older people when they do decide to leave the family home, because of the networks, the community, the social capital they have there,” said Ms Brewster, who is also president of the NSW Council on the Ageing. “We welcome it for those people who are buying into new properties, but it really would have been better had it been available to all buyers over 65.”

Officials insistent on Crean demand

SENIOR public servants have insisted the Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, did ask them to improve their connections with other officials so he did not get ”surprised” by government policies.Mr Crean said yesterday he was ”disappointed” a report of the remarks to a ”retreat session” for senior Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials on May 10, conducted under ”strict Chatham House rules”, had been leaked to the Herald.He confirmed that he had ”asked the department to engage more closely with other departments” but denied he had told the public servants he found out about the details of the Henry tax review and the emissions trading scheme delay in the newspapers.In a short and carefully worded statement, he did not respond to the report’s central assertion that one reason he wanted his officials to be better connected with other senior public servants was so he could avoid being ”surprised” by policy developments in his own government.Sources confirmed he did make the remarks in his address to the retreat and that he urged his bureaucrats to liaise better with his office and to not be afraid of offering ”frank and fearless” advice.The Coalition seized on the report as more evidence the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, kept his ministers in the dark and had given Mr Crean ”the mushroom treatment”.The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said ”the government as a whole has chronically bad process”.There has been disquiet inside Labor that ministers have been shut out of critical decisions by the so-called ”kitchen cabinet” that have contributed to the party’s plummeting popularity but some ministers said cabinet had begun functioning more as a decision-making body in recent weeks.The Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon, has admitted the Prime Minister’s department had not informed her beforehand that it was disclosing a significant element of the health reform plan was to be ditched.But she denied opposition claims she was not involved on the decision to dump plans for a national funding authority.

Stamp duty cuts set to boost supply

THE housing and construction industries are to receive a significant boost from the budget. One of the measures taken by the government to increase housing supply is cutting to zero stamp duty for those buying dwellings off the plan.Additionally, those aged over 65 years will pay no stamp duty on a new dwelling, as long as they live in it for more than 12 months. In both cases, the new dwelling must cost less than $600,00.None of the budget measures here involve a large amount of money but, taken with other measures to cut developer contributions to local councils announced last week, will give the housing construction industry a substantial lift.The government has budgeted $120 million over two years to fund the off-the-plan stamp duty costs, with a further $20 million, also over two years, to finance the stamp duty cuts for those over-65s who are selling the family home to move into smaller housing.To qualify for zero stamp duty, new dwellings most be at the “pre-construction stage” – that is, before the laying of foundations has begun, although site preparation such as demolishing existing buildings is permitted.For off-the-plan dwellings where building is under way, stamp duty will fall by 25 per cent.”What this is about is allowing project finance to be accessed,” the NSW Treasurer, Eric Roozendaal, said of the stamp duty cuts to increase off-the-plan sales. “This is a well constructed plan . . . to get a lot more housing stock into the market.”Since the global financial crisis, property developers have found it difficult to obtain the financing for new developments. A higher level of pre-sale is expected to ease financing pressures, helping developers to get projects off the ground.The chief executive of Urban Taskforce, Aaron Gadiel, said: “This is a fundamental re-shaping of the stamp duty regime so that it supports new housing development.”Coupled with the measures to increase housing supply outlined late last week by capping developer contributions to councils for infrastructure, while also paving the way for councils to raise rates beyond the present rate cap, the stamp duty cuts detailed yesterday will result in a boost in the amount of new housing stock being offered for sale.The NSW acting executive director of the Property Council of Australia, Glenn Byres, said: “The [stamp duty changes] break the back of some of the impediments to bringing housing demand though.”In pre-budget lobbying, his organisation argued for the government to follow Victoria in cutting stamp duties for dwellings bought off the plan. NSW went a step further, in abolishing stamp duty altogether in some cases.Treasury expects the additional measures to boost housing stock by 8000 units, twice the estimate arrived at by BIS Shrapnel based on concessional cuts to stamp duty introduced earlier in Victoria.After the initial two years of stamp duty cuts, they would be reviewed, Mr Roozendaal said.The $600,000 threshold might also need to be assessed, property industry officials said. “The thresholds may need to be reviewed in 12 months time, to see if it is acting as an impediment to some stock being brought to market,” Mr Byres said. Even with the stamp duty cuts, the state government is budgeting for a $400 million increase in stamp duty revenues from property transactions in 2010-11 and again in 2011-12.

Alarm grows as used US boats flood in

Ships come and go but those arriving on our shores are unloading more preloved American-made boats than we’ve seen before. Capitalising on the favourable exchange rate and apparent arbitrage – that is, the price difference for the ”same” boat in different markets – would-be skippers are lining up for what, at face value, appear to be real bargains. But talk with local industry players and they paint a different picture.Marine consultant Ken Evans, who worked for Mercury for more than 30 years, says while parallel importing was about in the 1980s, it was a drop in the ocean compared with what’s going on today.”One reason is that some of the boats are bloody cheap,” he says. ”They’ve been bought at no-reserve auctions and are distressed sales.”Evans wants buyers to beware. “If people bring in boats with engines in or on them [inboard or outboard power] they are on their own as there is no factory-backed warranty. Only established dealers complying with the manufacturer’s sales structure get factory backing.”Evans says it’s the responsibility of the boat dealer or importer to supply parts and warranty for seven years. So boat import agents could be legally bound to back their customers’ buys.The Outboard Engine Distributors Association is reeling over the number of engines (and parts) being imported outside the manufacturers’ authorised dealer networks.”What’s happening is that people are finding great deals, usually via the internet, on engines which are being brought in from overseas,” said OEDA executive officer Lindsay Grenfell.”But deals that look too good to be true usually are. We don’t want people taking their family to sea with engines which could have come from anywhere and which haven’t been properly checked. There could be any number of serious issues.”Authorised local dealers conduct pre-delivery programs, using specialised diagnostic equipment, to ensure all engines are properly prepared and work as they should. And they also ensure engines are fitted correctly.But it’s not just marine engines that are driving the trade deficit in this area. Parallel or grey imports are considered the biggest threat to the industry.A ship recently docked in Newcastle carrying 62 boats – but just one was a new model heading to an established Sydney dealership – and we hear of 80 second-hand American boats being unloaded in Melbourne. Doubtless, more are on the way.If you must apportion blame then point the finger at the economic downturn in America. At the recent Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show, guest speaker Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, said new-boat sales in America were down 80 per cent to 135,000 units last year, compared with 523,000 in 1998. In the first quarter of this year they fell a further 20 per cent. So desperate dealers are looking overseas to offload stock and banks are highly motivated.Then again, one man’s loss is another man’s gain. With the American boat market in tatters and the Aussie dollar soaring, it’s been the perfect mix for importers. Enter Steve Lazarides from his eponymous boat-importation company based in Sydney. He says “business is booming.” Of the abovementioned shipment of 62 boats to Newcastle, 48 were preloved American craft destined for his customers.”I’m a delivery boy … I deliver dreams,” Lazarides says. “Compared with the same local boat of the same year model in the same condition, there are minimum savings of 30 per cent.” There are a lot of boats coming into the country and there does not seem to be an end to it. But it’s not Lazarides’s fault – ”It’s the end user that is deciding the market,” he told Tidelines.Lazarides says the boats he sells are generally out of warranty and buyers do not really care about that anyway.”There are people out there trying to scare buyers who don’t know any better,” he says. ”Dealers are scared because they have to pay rents. And Riviera must be kicking themselves to see their [exported] boats coming back home. At the end of the day, it drives second-hand prices down.”But when all this settles down you will have a lot of boats in the country. All the boats that are selling are 2000- models and up. For those with pre-2000 boats, god help them.”At least it will allow a lot of people with $100,000 to buy a 35-footer in future. But the dollar won’t stay up there forever.”Stephen Milne, director of brand and communications at Riviera, was optimistic.”It was inevitable, considering the dollar structure, but providing people buy a Riviera we’re happy. Second-hand sales are a strong part of the industry and we’re happy to support our owners at the end of the day. Besides, it’s only a certain kind of person chasing these deals. There are always the bargain hunters.”But an apparent bargain is not always the bargain you think. “Some of the boats coming back from America haven’t been looked after and there’s the possibility of horrendous storm damage,” Milne says. “We had a 58-footer in Texas that was lifted over a two-storey building and thrown on its side. It was repaired and then put back on the market. You just don’t always know what you are buying.”Mike Joyce, a boat dealer from Riviera’s R Marine offices at Rushcutters Bay, says the recent imports don’t concern him because he couldn’t supply the boats – 56- and 60-footers – in the first place.”They just weren’t available second-hand here,” he says. “Besides, I’ve imported a specialised boat from America before, a Cigarette for my own uses, and I struggle to understand how anyone could make money out of it. You need to find the boat, inspect it, get a surveyor, have it packed on a ship, organise to have unpacked here, then prepare the boat, swap the electrical systems, radios, lights, and so on … “Meanwhile, online boat sales sites such as Boatpoint and the classifieds in marine magazines are getting more ads for second-hand American craft. Restraint-of-trade laws prevent publishers from rejecting ads, much to the chagrin of local dealers, but the market for big boats, say above 20 metres, has always been international. It’s just that it’s come back to the 30- to 40-footers.”You’re buying a boat off someone on the other side of the world, that you don’t know, who you will never see again, and are relying on the report of a surveyor you also don’t know,” says Tony Poole from Bluewater Power Yachts, the importer of the American-made Luhrs offshore fishing craft in the 30-40 foot league.”Then there are all the issues with compliance, quarantine and quality. The boats have aluminium and not stainless steel rails, old firefighting equipment, TVs that don’t work. They might be hurricane damaged.”You also have to convert the boats from 120 volts to 240 volts with a transformer, maybe add an inverter, but then appliances blow up, and it’s just an electrical nightmare.”At the end of the day, caveat emptor – buyer beware. What you’re buying from your local dealer is peace of mind. If something doesn’t work, call for help. Dealers keen on keeping your custom will dispatch free advice or send someone out to help. And off you go.Making Waves returns next [email protected]南京夜网

Training just the ticket for PNG boatmen

AT HOME, they learned to navigate by the stars. But after six weeks in Australia learning to handle commercial vessels, 12 young men from Papua New Guinea can also steer by GPS, if need be.The men are in Australia to obtain their coxswain’s ticket to work on motor vessels, in a program sponsored by their local MP for Kimbe Island, Francis Marus.All 12 men took their on-water exam with NSW Maritime at Rozelle this week. It will give them an internationally recognised qualification to operate small commercial vessels or crew larger ones.They hope to gain skilled jobs transporting cargo or equipment for the PNG government or the burgeoning mining industry back home.The 12 students, aged 20 to 25, were selected from a large field of hopefuls to come to Sydney. Their MP, Mr Marus, who is also Deputy Speaker of the PNG parliament, sponsored the trip.Their training in Sydney and Newcastle was supervised by Eric McCarthy from the NSW Fishing Industry Training Committee.”It’s been a wonderful experience. They’re super people, some of the best students I’ve ever had,” Mr McCarthy said.Gaining the certificate was an issue of self-determin-ation. ”They want to see the jobs over there go to them, not to somebody from another country,” he said.Still, not all the training was strictly relevant. ”We were practising going in and out of jetties, and one guy said ‘Why are we doing this? We don’t have any jetties, we just go up on the beach’,” Mr McCarthy said. ”I said, you’ve got me there.”Mathias Loi, 23, hopes to become the skipper of a boat when he returns home to Kimbe Island, also known as West New Britain, which is off the north-east coast of Papua New Guinea. The exam would ”test our skills on handling and manoeuvring the vessels in rough weather, in the ocean, safety precautions and the safety of passengers on board,” Mr Loi said. ”Everything we need to know.”In his home town, unemployment is very high and most skilled jobs are taken by foreigners, he said. The NSW certification would give them all the opportunity for a better job.”They’ve been looking after us very well, especially that bloke over there, Eric, he’s like a father to us,” Mr Loi said.The trip is the first time the men have left their country. Mr Loi was missing home, and feeling the cold, but Jeremy Iko, 22, also from Kimbe Island, loved being in Sydney. ”It’s very great, I’m feeling grateful for being here,” he said. ”One day I want to come back.”

Not so much a fizzer as just plain flat

COMMENTIF, AS the polls predict, this is Eric Roozendaal’s last budget, he has gone out with a whimper. Devoid of big new spending measures and nasty new taxes, the Treasurer’s second full budget is marked by its ordinariness.In a word, it is unexciting; but deliberately so: it is a pre-election budget, but not as we know it.At his press conference yesterday Roozendaal was at pains to paint himself and his Labor government as fiscally responsible managers. The pitch: NSW has weathered the global financial crisis better than any other economy and now it is time to rebuild the budget bottom line in preparation for any future economic turmoil.The problem is few will believe him. With an election just around the corner and a couple of state assets up for sale, no one believes the Keneally government will resist the temptation to spend up big to do what they can to avoid an electoral massacre.With an eye to the March election, the Treasurer has not forgotten to spend some money in the right places to look after some of the government’s mates.In his budget speech to Parliament, he avoided any mention of the generous poker machine tax cut that was leaked to sections of the media last week. Then it was pitched as a measure to help struggling country pubs. In reality, the introduction of a $200,000 tax-free threshold on poker machine profits will deliver a gift to an estimated 60 per cent of pub owners in NSW, including some already raking in millions of dollars annually.Members of another influential industry, the property developers, had been lobbying hard for the measures they received. In the end, the government went further than even they expected, with a two-year program of stamp duty cuts.They might have enjoyed top billing as the important centrepiece of the government’s recovery measures, but the reality is that the measure will have limited impact and comes relatively cheap.The main stamp duty cut will cost the government only $60 million a year while the package is estimated to deliver a modest 8000 new homes.In between the assorted scandals and ministerial resignations that dominated state politics before the budget, the government has been busy playing down expectations. It turned out to be telling the truth.But whether we can believe the rhetoric about continued fiscal responsibility until the March election is entirely another matter.

Djokovic launches blistering attack on French Open officials

Novak Djokovic launched a blistering, bitter attack on French Open officiating on Wednesday after he squandered a two sets lead to crash out of Roland Garros against Austrian journeyman Jurgen Melzer.The Serbian third seed slumped to a shock 3-6 2-6 6-2 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 quarter-final defeat to the 29-year-old left-hander who had never got beyond the third round of his previous 31 grand slam appearances.In a tense conclusion to the four hour and 15 minutes tie, which had seen the Serbian commit 62 unforced errors and face 24 break points, Djokovic believed he was the victim of a bad call in the 10th and last game of the deciding set.With Melzer serving for the match, Djokovic believed a passing shot which was called in by the line-judge had given him a 30-0 lead.But chair umpire Carlos Bernardes overruled the decision and awarded the point to the Austrian.”From my side and from my perspective, it was looking good. There was no space between the line and the mark, and that means the ball is good,” said Djokovic, who was trying to reach a third French Open semi-final.”I don’t know why the chair umpire got that decision. The umpire has so many years and years experience, and to make such a mistake at that point is unbelievable.”I don’t know what was going on with him, but the ball was looking good from everywhere. Even on the TV you could see it was good. I can’t blame him for losing this match, of course. But maybe if that call came in my favour and (Melzer) would feel a little pressure.”But I should have done my job earlier. That’s definitely my fault, and I paid the consequences.”Despite his anger, Djokovic does not believe the Hawk Eye system, used at the other grand slams, should be introduced.”No, I don’t think there is any sense on getting Hawk Eye on clay courts. You can see the mark.”Djokovic, who has followed top seed Roger Federer and fourth seed Andy Murray in making an earlier than expected exit from the tournament, praised Melzer, who now faces four-time champion Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals.”I made a big mistake. I let him come back into the match with my unforced errors, and then he caught the momentum and he was playing really well, especially on his service games,” said the Serbian.”But this is tennis. These are grand slams. You always have to play up to the end, because these things happen.”AFP

Zero stamp lure in NSW

NSW retirees are being coaxed into selling their oversized houses and downsizing to newly-built residences, in a NSW budget plan aimed at boosting the new homes industry.

Home owners aged over 65 are being offered stamp duty savings up to $22,490 to encourage them to move.

The discount applies to purchases of newly-constructed houses and units, off-the-plan acquistions, and house and land packages.

The senior downsizers will pay zero stamp duty on property purchases costing up to $600,000 in what is billed as a policy-first for the housing market.

About 70 per cent of NSW sales are under $600,000.

NSW houses have a $546,000 mean price, and units a mean of $457,000, according to the most recent Housing NSW data.

The state government scheme extends stamp duty cuts from the traditional preserve of first homebuyers, who have preferred to buy established residences, as part of its concerted attempt to kickstart the ailing residential construction industry.

The budget also offers zero stamp duty – and the potential saving of $22,490- to all home buyers and investors, albeit with a strict restriction.

It will only be available if they put a deposit down for an off-the-plan purchase or house and land packages costing less than $600,000.

There will also be a 25 per cent stamp duty cut for home buyers and investors – and a potential $5623 saving – if construction is already underway.

The stamp duty discounts will be available for the next two years.

NSW Treasury expects between 1000 and 2000 seniors to take up the offer annually following its July 1 start date.

Another 5000 to 6000 investors and home buyers are expected to take up the wider off-the-plan offering, at an annual $60 million cost to revenues.

The government has budgeted for the seniors zero stamp duty initiative to cost $10 million in each of the next two years.

The seniors must sell their primary place of residence to move into the newly-constructed house or unit.

“For people aged over 65, it won’t matter at what stage of construction the home is – they will pay no stamp duty,” NSW Treasurer Eric Roozendaal said.

The newly constructed homes for seniors must not have been previously occupied or previously sold.

For couples, at least one of the parties must be aged 65 or over to be eligible.

The initiatives are designed to help lift the NSW housing construction out of the doldrums.

NSW housing construction has been trailing Victoria for the past five years and Queensland for the past four years.

Last June, NSW housing construction fell to record lows when just 422 units and townhouses were approved, compared with the previous 10-year June average of 1400 approvals.

“The zero transfer duty for people aged over 65 will contribute both to the goal of helping older home owners seeking to downsize their home, and the goal of encouraging new home construction,” the budget papers said.

“The greater concession for purchasing off-the-plan will assist the financing of new developments.”

Jonathan Chancellor is The Sydney Morning Herald’s Property Editor.

Boy ‘born into captivity’ to detained asylum seekers

A BABY boy has been born to Sri Lankan asylum-seeker parents at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre. Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the birth two months ago highlighted concerns about the length of time detainees were being held.”It’s extremely sad this baby has been born essentially into captivity and is living in captivity,” she said yesterday. ”It’s a depressing place. There’s no doubt it is a jail.”A Department of Immigration spokeswoman confirmed the infant was living with his parents in residential accommodation at the centre.Opposition Leader Tony Abbott cut short a media conference outside Villawood yesterday after being heckled by the Refugee Action Committee. Earlier he denied suggestions his asylum-seeker policy was cruel, saying the Rudd government’s policy was not compassionate.”The cruellest thing you can do is put in place policies that encourage people smugglers to put desperate people’s lives at risk in leaky boats on the open sea,” he said.Legal experts say asylum seekers who develop mental illness in detention could seek compensation through the courts.Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre co-ordinator David Manne said there would be a case for seeking redress under Australian law if detainees could show their mental health had been damaged by time in immigration detention. ”If someone is subjected to conditions which are harmful … then there is no doubt they could seek redress under Australian law,” Mr Manne said.Australian Lawyers Alliance director Greg Barns said this would affect taxpayers. ”The detention of asylum seekers, particularly women and children, is not only legally dangerous for the Commonwealth but will cost taxpayers millions in claims,” he said.Ms Hanson-Young said the government was ignoring the ”human cost” of detention.”The only conclusion that can be drawn from the government’s dogged pursuit of a policy of suspended claims, desert prisons and indefinite detention is that it does not care about the emotional and psychological damage,” she said.But a spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Evans rejected the claim. ”People in immigration detention are treated fairly and humanely,” he said. ”They are provided with appropriate services.”

Universities will pay dearly when boomers cash in

THE state’s university campuses are preparing succession plans and bracing for the financial impact when baby-boomer academics start retiring.One-quarter of academic staff employed in NSW universities are 55 or over, and 41 per cent are 50 or older.The proportion of older baby boomer academics is markedly higher at the University of Western Sydney, University of Technology, Sydney, Southern Cross University and University of New England.In his annual report to Parliament on the state’s 10 public universities, the Auditor-General, Peter Achterstraat, warns that universities face financial risks due to the ageing workforce.The cost of employing disproportionately large numbers of ageing staff is dragging down their finances as they must provide for escalating long-service costs, superannuation liabilities and rapidly accruing holiday leave entitlements.Mr Achterstraat said universities also would face greater financial commitments when recruiting to replace the ageing staff who will retire en masse from the workplace, with further costs involved in competing for limited talent.In 2008, an analysis by demographer Professor Graeme Hugo found the entry of baby boomers into higher education, together with increased participation rates, resulted in a rapid expansion of universities in the 1960s and 1970s, when entrants to the academic workforce were typically aged in their 20s and 30s.He said slower growth in academic numbers since then, and particularly in the past decade or so, has resulted in a rapidly ageing academic workforce with a ”missing generation” – younger academics under 40.Rhonda Hawkins, the University of Western Sydney’s deputy vice-chancellor, said it had been actively addressing its ageing workforce problems since 2006, targeting recruitment of under-40s.She said the university was planning an international ”Preparing for Academic Practice” conference next year to attract early career academics.”We have embarked on a major academic staff recruitment campaign which will see 100 new staff appointed. This recruitment will target early career academics to boost numbers in key areas of demand,” she said.Sharon Farquhar, Southern Cross University’s human resources director, said it had a comprehensive plan to deal with the ageing academic workforce.”The university is building an academic leadership development program to ensure there are successors for academic management positions and to ensure academic managers are skilled to manage our key resource, our staff,” she said.SCU had an active succession plan for key roles and was increasing its focus on planning for anticipated retirements.The Greens MP John Kaye said universities faced a massive challenge maintaining quality while replacing retiring academics over the next five years.For the past decade, he said, observers of Australian universities had predicted ”a tsunami of retirements with large scale financial and reputational risks”.RETURN THE TENURE : IT’S ACADEMICProportion of academics over 50:Southern Cross 55%Western Sydney 54%New England 53.6%UTS 46%Charles Sturt 44%Macquarie 42.1%Newcastle 41%Wollongong 39.8%UNSW 35.2%Sydney 35%SOURCE: NSW AUDITOR-GENERAL