ANZ sacks bankers for drugs, sexual harassment

ANZ Bank has sacked a “small” group of its bankers for taking illegal drugs at a work-related event and recently let another staff member go for sexually harassing a woman from a rival banking organisation at a separate outing.
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ANZ revealed the sackings in an all staff email sent on Monday by the bank’s group executive talent and culture Kathryn van der Merwe that also detailed a massive surge in whistleblower cases at the bank.

Ms van der Merwe described the behaviour in her email to staff as “unacceptable”.

“Earlier this year Shayne (Elliott, chief executive of ANZ) shared with line managers a true story where a small number of ANZ people used illegal drugs at an out-of-hours work-related event,” Ms van der Merwe wrote.

“We took swift action and the people involved are no longer employed by ANZ.”

The action came as banking culture is in the spotlight with the federal government under pressure to establish an inquiry into the entire financial services sector.

Ms van der Merwe said that another recent case involved an ANZ employee who attended an industry event that was not put on by the ANZ.

At the event the employee made “unwelcomed sexual comments and advances towards a female from another bank”, she said.

“The conduct occurred at a bar in the evening. Make no mistake – even though the conduct did not occur during work hours or at an ANZ event – his conduct was found to be work-related and he was dismissed.”

The email also revealed that whistleblower cases were up a staggering 80 per cent in the past 12 months.

Ms van der Merwe encouraged staff to speak up and report behaviour that was outside of the bank’s standards.

“As you have seen recently in the media, speaking up about unacceptable behaviour can have a powerful impact and help generate important change.”

A spokesman for ANZ declined to comment on the email saying it spoke for itself.

He said the increase in whistleblower cases was the result of ANZ making its whistleblower process more transparent to ensure staff were aware of the safeguards and process.

Ms van der Merwe indicated in her email that other staff had been dismissed for behaviour that fell outside of the bank’s policies.

“Sometimes you might see or hear about unacceptable behaviour in the ANZ workplace – and if you don’t hear about the consequence, it’s easy to think there wasn’t one,” Ms van der Merwe said.

“This year, some of our people have been dismissed, others have received verbal and written warnings and we have reduced remuneration for senior leader who were rated inconsistent.”

In 2015 ANZ trader Etienne Alexiou sued the bank for breach of contract under unfair dismissal laws claiming he had been a victim of the bank’s bawdy, drug-fuelled culture which included taking drugs at work events, drinking to excess, boasting of sexual exploits and frequent visits to strip clubs.

He later dropped the suit citing high costs and personal pressure associated with the case.

ANZ at the time denied it had a culture issue.

‘A massive handbrake’: $40 billion industry readies for expanded banking inquiry

‘s $40 billion insurance industry is preparing to face fresh public scrutiny, as an increasingly confident group of Nationals MPs move to push a powerful commission of inquiry into the financial services sector through Parliament before Christmas.
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Much of the focus of the past week has been on banking misconduct, but the spotlight was thrown on insurers on Tuesday after Nationals MP Llew O’Brien said he would cross the floor and support the bill in defiance of government policy on the condition any probe investigates how the industry had treated customers with mental health conditions.

Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan, who will introduce the legislation on Wednesday, is negotiating with the Greens on amendments but both parties are confident the inquiry will pass the Senate and then House of Representatives.

However the momentum has spooked the business community. The former head of the government’s 2014 Financial System Inquiry, David Murray, rounded on the suggestion of a royal commission or inquiry.

“What are the self interests driving this?” Mr Murray told Fairfax Media. “It just begs the question.”

“I think it would be a very bad look for , with the fundamentals of the financial system being so sound, and with the rest of the world being our net creditor.”

His comments reflect the sentiments of many within the business and financial community who worry a royal commission would convey to international markets the impressioin of a banking system beset with faults and vulnerabilities.

The financial services sector contributes 10 per cent of gross domestic product and has already been through 18 government reviews and inquiries.

Financial Services Council chief executive Sally Loane said a commission of inquiry would be a “massive handbrake” on a industry that is now bigger than mining.

“It would put all ongoing reforms on hold and little would be done outside of it.”

The push for an expansive probe followed Fairfax Media reports last year that doctors at the Commonwealth Bank’s insurance arm, Comminsure, had been pressured to change assessments of customers to avoid payout and delayed insurance payouts to terminally ill customers.

Maurice Blackburn principal lawyer Josh Mennen said his firm had thousands of clients that could give evidence of being pushed into an insurance product recommended by a financial advisor only to have their claim later denied.

“As it comes closer to reality we are starting to advise our clients and we will be encouraging any who want to and feel strong enough to tell their stories,” he said.

He said he was encouraged by the expansion of the bill to include subsiduaries, which would help capture offshoots of financial services firms.

“What we don’t want is a situation where the inquiry orders a notice to produce, and the banks say that is held by a subsiduary company that is not covered,” he said.

“They have very complicated corporate structures and we need to make sure there aren’t any locked doors so we can uncover all the skeletons.”

The Greens, who the rebel Nationals MPs will rely on to get the bill through Parliament, have raised concerns that the terms of reference are too narrow, but are prepared to work with Senator O’Sullivan to get the bill passed.

Senator Peter Whish-Wilson told the Greens party room on Tuesday he would push for a broader bill to capture systemic issues including executive remuneration, political donations and lobbying.

He said the inquiry, which will have all the rights of a royal commission including the power to compel witnesses to give evidence under oath, and make it an offence to fail to attend, was necessary to bring financial executives to account beyond the power of conventional Senate hearings.

Out of 21 Nationals, only two MPs and two members of cabinet have stated their outright opposition to the proposal.

Queensland MP Ken O’Dowd said any inquiry would need to guarantee a super-powered banking watchdog to police the sector.

“I need to be assured that we are going to have a watchdog to pull them into line,” he said.

But Mr O’Dowd said he was concerned about the impact of an inquiry on shareholders, many of whom are his constituents.

“Hurting shareholders should be considered by Senator O’Sullivan and I will be putting that case in the party room on Monday,” he said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull categorically ruled out an inquiry again on Tuesday.

“We have made it clear we are not going to establish a royal commission because we want to get on with the job now,” Mr Turnbull said.

Council begins cleaning out illegal boarding houses

Thomas Foods in Tamworth, NSW. 22nd November 2017 Photo: Janie Barrett The foyer of 10 Ebony Close, Hillvue, one of many properties rented by Frank Lin and turned into illegal boarding houses for Taiwanese nationals who are working at the nearby Thomas Foods meat processing plant. 22nd November 2017 Photo: Janie Barrett
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11a Banks St, Westdale near Tamworth, one of many properties rented by Frank Lin and turned into illegal boarding houses for Taiwanese nationals who are working at the nearby Thomas Foods meat processing plant. 21st November 2017 Photo: Janie Barrett

Dozens of migrant workers face losing their homes as authorities move to shut down suspected illegal boarding houses operating in Tamworth.

Tamworth Regional Council said it had begun cleaning out the boarding houses, sending “notices of intention” to the owners of 12 premises “where investigations have led us to conclude they are illegally being operated”.

The notices were sent less than 24 hours after a Fairfax Media investigation revealed a network of potentially illegal boarding houses, the residents of which worked at the local meat processing plant run by Thomas Foods International. Thomas Foods does not operate the boarding houses.

Thomas Foods is Tamworth’s largest employer, supplying lamb and mutton to household names including Woolworths, Aldi, Coles and McDonald’s.

Until Tuesday, the council had acted to close down one illegal boarding house in the past year, but were aware of a further eight, reported in August.

The council’s general manager Paul Bennett said it could be difficult for officers to gather evidence.

“One of problems we have been facing is that, when council officers visit the properties, no one answers the door,” he said.

Owners of the homes will now have 30 days to prove their property is not being used illegally, or apply for the house to be approved as a boarding house.

Thomas Foods profits from using migrant workers. Often starting at entry-level pay rates, many workers must leave after six months and never advance to higher levels of pay. Pay rates start at $17.58 an hour under an agreement signed in September, 2015. A spokesman from the company said pay packets had increased since 2015 and the current rate was “much higher”.

Thomas Foods had previously said in response to questions many of its employees progressed to higher remuneration levels in a short period of time.

The surrounding New England region suffers from high youth unemployment, which is at 19.6 per cent, well above the national average of 12.4 per cent.

Tamworth mayor Col Murray said he would like to see local businesses, including Thomas Foods, “consider local residents when they are looking to employ new staff”.

“However, this is not always practical and council knows first hand it is not always possible to find someone who already lives locally and is the right fit for a specific role with the necessary skill set,” he said.

Many of the workers travel to Tamworth from Korea and Taiwan but, once they arrive, they say they feel trapped.

“If you want to get a job, you have to live in his house … if you didn’t live in his house, you never get into Thomas Foods. You have no choice,” one former worker said.

Fairfax Media has spoken to tenants of boarding houses controlled by local “house master” En-Ting Ling, known locally as Frank. He had previously denied his houses were overcrowded but admitted to possibly “six or eight” being housed in a single dwelling. The legal limit is five.

The council has been supportive of Thomas Foods. Earlier this month it waived four months’ worth of waste water charges and non-compliance fees. At the time Cr Murray said “Thomas Foods had been a really good corporate citizen” and the “largest private employer” in town.

Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union said a “black market labour network” was operating in Tamworth and described it as a national disgrace.

“Thomas Foods is turning a blind eye to local youth who desperately want a job, replacing them with an endless churn of backpacker workers who are exploited,” secretary Grant Courtney said.

Thomas Foods said on Monday the safety and wellbeing of all its staff was its “utmost priority” and that, if allegations about unlawful residential arrangements were proven to be true, it would “immediately terminate its arrangement with the labour hire agency”.

“TFI does not, and will not, condone any unlawful practices by a labour hire agency and will not engage an agency found to be operating illegally in any way,” the company said in a statement.

Woods prepared to ‘get needle’ for England showdown

Kangaroos prop Aaron Woods will need a painkilling injection to play in the World Cup final as brushed off a fitness doubt over Josh McGuire before Saturday night’s decider in Brisbane.
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The Bulldogs-bound Woods, who will butt heads with former Canterbury captain and English firebrand James Graham, is craving a six-week rest arguably more than any other player after aggravating a shoulder injury in the semi-final romp over Fiji.

But he insisted there will be no excuses against Wayne Bennett’s rugged England pack, which will need to bully their opponents to have any chance of engineering a boilover in the final.

“Before the game I’ll probably get a needle and see how it feels,” Woods said.

“I thought I had popped my shoulder out [against Fiji] and I did my AC when I was younger. At the moment I’ve got a separated AC and it just made it a little more separated.

“It can become a bit uncomfortable, but if you have a few painkillers before the game you can’t feel it. A lot of blokes have it and it’s a common rugby league injury. It just needs rest.

“I’ll just get through this game and then I’ve got six weeks off.”

It means Woods will arrive at Belmore fit and firing for a truncated pre-season under new Bulldogs coach Dean Pay, who is already putting the club’s other marquee recruit Kieran Foran through his paces.

McGuire trained in isolation away from the main Kangaroos group on Tuesday morning as he battles an ankle complaint, while Will Chambers is overcoming a toe issue.

Yet most concern rests with McGuire.

“He was off his feet [on Tuesday] morning and I’m sure he’ll be right to train [on Wednesday] and the team run as well,” McGuire’s Brisbane and Kangaroos teammate Matt Gillett said.

Meninga named an unchanged 17 for the final.

Kangaroos skipper Cameron Smith has been the biggest advocate of the one-referee system employed throughout the World Cup, but members of his forward pack have warned it won’t add to a great spectacle in international rugby league’s showpiece.

Smith’s praise came after the Kangaroos’ gritty 18-4 win against England in the tournament opener, but Woods and Gillett are expecting a grinding clash against Bennett’s side.

“It probably won’t be as an exciting football game as everyone wants to see … open and the ball passed around,” Woods said.

“But I suppose whoever gives in one bit, the other team has got to take the opportunity with open hands. It will be like the first time we played each other.”

Added Gillett: “Obviously with the one ref it slows things down a lot. As everyone has seen it makes the ruck pretty slow and it gives you a bit more time to pin them down.”

Gillett laughed at suggestions his Broncos coach, Wayne Bennett, doesn’t think England can beat after comments he made in the wake of the heart-stopping semi-final win over Tonga.

Bennett was an assistant to Stephen Kearney in New Zealand’s 2008 stunner at Suncorp Stadium.

“He said that, but I’m sure everyone realises he doesn’t mean it,” Gillett said. “He’s taking the pressure off them and helps them prepare and do all the right things. Coming here on Saturday night they’ll think they can win.

“I don’t think he would have kept anything up his sleeve. He’s all about training to the way you play and doing it on the training paddock before you go out and perform. For him to throw something in there out of left-field wouldn’t be like Wayne.”

One kilogram of ice found in BMW after crash, police allege

A BMW X5 that caused a multi-vehicle crash in Dundas contained a kilogram of the drug ice, which had exchanged hands at a south-west Sydney hotel on Monday, police allege.
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The vehicle was the subject of a targeted stop, as part of an interstate investigation into the supply of ice.

A man and two women were arrested when investigators from the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad attempted to stop the car on Silverwater Road, Dundas, shortly after 2pm on Monday.

The attempt led to a multiple-vehicle collision when the BMW failed to stop near an intersection.

Shortly after police located and seized a kilogram of ice inside the vehicle.

Both women were later released, pending further inquiries.

The 49-year-old man in the car, from Queensland, was taken to Westmead Hospital, before he was later charged with large commercial drug supply and using a weapon (a car) to avoid apprehension.

He was refused bail to appear at Parramatta Local Court on Tuesday.

Another man, Mohamed Ghanem, 34, was also arrested on Monday afternoon, after police searched his vehicle and his home in Greenacre, seizing mobile phones and almost $2000 in cash.

He was later charged with large commercial drug supply.

Police will allege Ghanem supplied the ice to the Queensland man at a hotel in Greenacre earlier on Monday.

On Tuesday Ghanem did not apply for bail at Bankstown Local Court and bail was formally refused. He will appear via audio-visual link at Burwood Local Court on February 7.

The arrests follow the establishment of a joint investigation by the NSW Police MEOCS and Queensland Police Service’s Major and Organised Crime Squad into the cross-border supply of ice.

As part of the investigation search warrants were also executed at a Queensland home and an automotive repair business on Monday, by Major and Organised Crime Squad investigators.

During the search investigators seized 285 grams of ice and documentation and two people were arrested.

MEOCS commander, Detective Superintendent Peter McErlain, said collaboration between law enforcement investigations was key to targeting organised crime.

“NSW Police Force has strong relationships with our law enforcement partners both here in and abroad, which allows us to track criminal networks across borders,” he said.

“By sharing information and working together, we can better understand how illicit businesses are connected, and ensure we intercept their illegal trades and cut deep into their profits.”