BEIJING: Another savage day on China’s sharemarkets has heaped fresh pressure on the central leadership’s economic credentials amid growing concern the heavy market losses would bleed into the broader economy and hobble its ability to persist with key reforms.

The benchmark Hangzhou Composite Index plunged 7.63 per cent on Tuesday, closing at 2964.97, below 3000 for the first time in eight months. The gauge has now lost 22 per cent in four days, including the 8.5 per cent fall on “Black Monday” – the worst run of losses since 1996.

Investors grasping for reassurance were met with total silence from both the central bank and securities regulator as a number of prominent editorials and news reports signalled the government was backing away from its expensive, unprecedented and ultimately failed attempts to prop up the market.

“It’s panic selling and an issue of confidence,” said Wei Wei, an analyst at Huaxi Securities in Hangzhou.

“The government won’t step in to rescue the market again as it’s a global sell-off and it’s spreading everywhere now. It’s not going to work this time.”

Unprecedented government intervention, including a $US400 billion fund to buy blue-chip stocks and a ban on major shareholders and state-owned enterprises from selling shares, has failed to stem a more than $US4.5 trillion rout in shareholder value since June.

But while reluctant to throw good money after bad, the Communist Party must also balance the risk of growing public anger if it chooses not to intervene again.

Fears remain that the sharemarket fallout could bleed into China’s already slowing economy, which would have an unquestionable negative impact on global growth. The barrage of negative headlines is likely to have an impact on consumer confidence, while the risk of margin loans defaulting is difficult to quantify.

Separately, the government’s move to devalue its currency, in part to bolster its exports, has seen an acceleration of capital outflows.

Most bank economists now consider it a given that China will miss its stated economic growth target of 7 per cent, with the question being how much.

Credit Suisse analyst Vincent Chan said the sharp falls in Chinese shares were reflections of both current weakness of the Chinese economy as well as the “government’s ability to handle the downturn”.

“We increasingly believe that the 7 per cent GDP growth rate would be very difficult to maintain,” he said.

Beyond short-term growth targets, prominent publications in China are now voicing concerns that the central leadership’s much-vaunted economic and financial liberalisation reforms have been derailed.

The China Securities Daily, a financial newspaper, ran a front-page commentary warning the wipe-out of investor confidence threatened the country’s entire economic reform agenda.

A commentary carried by Caixin, a respected financial publication, said any renewed attempts to rescue the market would be met with steep challenges.

“Firstly, the government has limited ammunition. Secondly, market rescue measures last time were very controversial … and the after-effects from it have yet to fade,” it said.

The official People’s Daily – a Communist Party mouthpiece and constant market cheerleader when shares were on a remarkable bull run earlier in the year – carried no mention of Monday’s falls in its pages.

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NSW Parliament House could be in for a new cafe. Photo: James Alcock The Hyde Park Barracks could become the site for a new Museum of Sydney campus. Photo: Bob Pearce

The street that is home to Sydney’s oldest and most important public buildings is quietly being prepared for a facelift, documents prematurely released by the state government show.

The state government is asking urban designers to propose a revamp of the area around six of Macquarie Street’s historic buildings to open them to pedestrians and connect the precinct with the CBD to its west and park land to its east.

But Labor argues the plan shows the government is bent on commercialising Sydney’s institutions and affording them a level of attention not enjoyed by a similarly historic precinct in the city’s west.

The Mint, Hyde Park Barracks and the government lands building on the street’s south-eastern corner could become the site for a new Museum of Sydney campus, the document proposes.

An unpublished “high level” proposal by Sydney Living Museums – a consortium of a dozen of the city’s cultural institutions – propose the “state-of-the-art” campus incorporate facilities for schools, retail spaces and an auditorium.

“No decisions have been made in regards to the revitalisation of the Macquarie Street Precinct,” a spokesman for Government Property NSW said. “The NSW government is committed to improving access to public domain areas”.

No indicative budget has been provided for the “Macquarie Street Precinct Revitalisation” and the proposal is not believed to have yet won approval in cabinet.

The document appears to have been placed online in draft form; the government declined to comment in detail about the plans.

Labor contrasts the planning for Macquarie Street with the development around a similar string of historic buildings in Parramatta.

“It’s a tale of two cities,” said Opposition planning spokeswoman Penny Sharpe.

Some Parramatta community groups have been outspoken against large apartment developments near a number of historic buildings in that suburb including an orphanage, gaol and the Female Factory, a workhouse for women convicts which is under consideration for national heritage status.

Developments of up to 4100 and up to 30 storeys are being proposed by the state government’s development corporation, UrbanGrowth.

“The NSW government has to act in the interests of all of Sydney,” Ms Sharpe said.

Designers are also asked to propose means of improving links between Sydney Hospital and Parliament House and the city centre.

They will be asked to investigate new public access to Parliament and commercial space on its ground floor. The government is understood to be considering a new cafe for public patrons.

Former Victorian Liberal state director Damien Mantach quit his Tasmanian post in 2008 for personal reasons.Senior Federal Liberal, Eric Abetz, has been drawn into the party’s funds scandal with a claim he was briefed on a Tasmanian debt long before disgraced state director Damien Mantach’s alleged $1.5 million Victorian embezzlement.

Senator Abetz, leader for the Government in the Senate, was said to have been told about the $48,000 personal spending debt racked up in 2008 by Mr Mantach when he held the director’s position in Tasmania.

Party colleague, Tasmanian premier Will Hodgman, made the claim in state parliament on Tuesday as he came under heavy attack over the scandal.

Mr Hodgman has admitted he knew the amount of the debt, but he did not know anything about how it was incurred, and defended the Tasmanian Liberals’ handling of the case.

“The facts are that I was spoken to and briefed by the then state president, the then state treasurer and the then state senior vice-president – and appropriately so, as was Senator Abetz as the Leader in the Federal Parliament,” Mr Hodgman said.

Senator Abetz is the ranking power-broker in the Tasmanian Liberal Party, but has been at odds with Mr Hodgman at times over internal party decisions.

Federal Liberal Director Brian Loughnane was also told about the debt, according to the 2008 Tasmanian state president, Dale Archer. Mr Loughnane said he had no reason to believe that Mr Mantach was a crook.

In parliament, Mr Hodgman rejected suggestions by Opposition Leader Bryan Green that a crime may have been committed in 2008 over the $47,981 debt, or that it was covered up.

Mr Green pointed to a newspaper report of the time in which Mr Mantach was said to be quitting the Tasmanian post for personal reasons.

“There is clear evidence you have been involved in a cover-up dating back seven years,” Mr Green said.

“On 16 March 2008 it was reported that Mr Mantach was quitting for – and I quote – ‘personal reasons’.

“I quote the then state president, Dale Archer, who said: ‘He mentioned that his wife and daughters were still living in Victoria and he had been commuting so he had made a decision to move back’.”

Mr Mantach incurred the $47,981.78 debt for personal expenses deemed not to be party expenses, according to a Tasmanian party statement. It was fully repaid upon Mr Mantach’s departure.

Mr Hodgman said: “I was not informed of any criminal activity and the matter was closed.”

A spokesman for Senator Abetz said: “This is an organisational matter and questions should be directed to the Tasmanian division.”

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Justice Dyson Heydon is taking more time to consider his position as royal commissioner into trade unions. Photo: Anna KuceraThe royal commission into trade union corruption would be unlikely to continue if Dyson Heydon disqualified himself from heading the inquiry because of his role in judging the credibility of witnesses when they give evidence, leading law academics have said.

Even so, Prime Minister Tony Abbott vowed on Tuesday that the royal commission would continue if Mr Heydon stepped aside.

“Regardless of what the royal commissioner ultimately decides, the royal commission must and will go on,” he said.

But law experts have warned that it would be difficult to continue because a new royal commissioner will not have had the opportunity to observe and interrogate witnesses who have given evidence.

Greg Craven, Professor of Constitutional Law at the Australian Catholic University, said there was a strong legal argument against Mr Heydon recusing himself from the royal commission because it would threaten its ability to continue after his departure.

“That is actually relevant in law, as well as relevant practically,” he said.

“One of the things the law of natural justice would say is that authorities like royal commissions should actually lean against disqualifying themselves from bias if the results of so doing would be that they could not carry on their inquiry.

“If I were Heydon, that would be part of the reason that I would say I was not going to recuse myself.”

Professor Craven, who is also vice-chancellor of the university, said that if Mr Heydon disqualified himself for bias, “the argument would then be that the royal commission could not go forward under another royal commissioner”.

“That would also be a breach of procedural fairness because they had not heard the parties,” Professor Craven said.

This would also give unions the opportunity to make the $61 million royal commission start again with a new royal commissioner.

Desmond Manderson, a professor of law at the Australian National University, said: “the question of weighing up evidence etc is clearly not just a matter of reading transcripts”.

“Too much about weighing up evidence is about credibility and that’s about personal demeanour, responsiveness and lots of other things that a text can’t adequately capture.

“The judicial system sets a lot of store by first hand and oral evidence.”

Mark Findlay, Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Sydney Law School, said a royal commission is given to an individual commissioner.

“If he rules that he can’t continue he must resign his commission – as such the commission then lapses,” he said.

“[I]f he can no longer continue then the commission has to be reissued.”

Professor Findlay said it was possible for a new commission to be given to someone else who could take all transcribed hearings into account.

“But that would be difficult to manage and the new commissioner might object to not being able to personally interrogate key witnesses,” he said.

Unions made an application on Friday for Mr Heydon to disqualify himself from the inquiry because of an alleged appearance of bias after he accepted an invitation to a Liberal Party event

Mr Heydon said he “overlooked” the Liberal Party connections to the Sir Garfield Barwick Address to be held on Wednesday night and cancelled his appearance in recent weeks after he realised it was a fundraiser.

On Friday, Mr Heydon adjourned the hearing till Tuesday, but he is taking longer to make a decision.

A spokesman for the royal commission said on Tuesday afternoon that Mr Heydon “is taking the time required to consider his decision”.

“A further update will be provided in due course,” the spokesman said.

Attorney-General George Brandis. Photo: Andrew MearesAttorney-General George Brandis has said he cannot say how often he is asked for advice on Islamic State because his department receives so many letters relating to national security issues.

Labor senator Jacinta Collins asked Senator Brandis how often he received letters “seeking advice about contacting IS” during senate estimates in May.

Sydney siege gunman Man Haron Monis asked the Attorney-General in a letter last October whether it was legal for him to contact IS. The department responded almost a month later with a standard reply about the Criminal Code. Months later, Monis – who had sent many letters to ministers in recent years – held customers and staff of the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place hostage. Three people, including Monis, died in the attack.

The Attorney-General’s department this week responded that in the last financial year, “almost 40,000 items of correspondence” to ministers in the Attorney-General’s portfolio had been processed on a range of national security matters.

The letters, from both individuals and groups, included whether it was legal to take “certain action” relating to terrorist organisations including Islamic State.

“Due to the volume and various matters covered by this correspondence, the Attorney-General’s Department is unable, without expending considerable time and resources, to advise how many of these letters may have included a request for advice about contacting this organisation.”

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus, QC, said: “The Attorney-General has still done nothing to change his handling of correspondence of national security concern despite Prime Minister Tony Abbott announcing a higher threat level in September last year, and despite attention having been drawn to the inadequate handling of Monis’ letter.”

Such letters were “something you would have thought should have put the Attorney’s office and department on inquiry that this is something that required special attention. That’s what didn’t happen in the case of Mr Monis”.

Senator Brandis has said that department staff did not regard Monis’ letter as a threat, or him as a person of concern.

Senator Collins said the Attorney-General and his department were avoiding answering the question and “ducking for cover”.

A Senate committee is preparing a report on the Attorney-General’s department’s failure to pass on Monis’ letter to a joint Commonwealth-NSW review into the siege. The department took three days to correct the record, leaving it until the end of a sitting fortnight, when no questions could be pursued on the matter in Parliament.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General’s department said that it had received about 7 per cent more letters last year than the previous year.

“Each item of correspondence received by the portfolio ministers and the department is carefully assessed. Departmental officers liaise with other government agencies, including law enforcement and security agencies, where an item of correspondence raises concerns,” she said.

Department secretary Chris Moraitis​ previously told the Senate committee that the department was “overworked” around the time the letter was received. He said he had discussed with other senior staff possibilities around restructuring the department “to better reflect national security, cyber security and emergency management”.

The spokeswoman would not be drawn on whether the department needed more resources, saying : “The department processes all correspondence within available resources.”

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Jon Griffiths has been a tower of strength in the Broadmeadow midfield. Picture: Peter StoopPLENTY is made of Broadmeadow’s multitude of strike weapons, but co-coach Rob Virgili believes it has been the return of defender-turned-midfielder Jon Griffiths which has made all the difference in Magic’s revival this season.

Early competition leaders Magic scraped into fourth place after recovering from a mid-season slump and head into the second leg of their Northern NSW NPL semi-final against minor premiers Edgeworth on Saturday at Jack McLaughlan Oval on level terms at 3-3.

Competition golden boot Kale Bradbery scored two goals and earned a penalty that Peter Haynes converted last week to keep Magic’s hopes of a fourth major title in five seasons alive.

Before the draw, Magic conceded just two goals in three wins to finish the regular season and pip Weston for fourth place.

Virgili believes the return of Griffiths as a holding midfielder, a role Alex Kantarovski was to play before his season-ending knee injury, has been the key to Magic’s turnaround.

‘‘Since Jonny Grif’s been back we’ve noticed a big difference,’’ Virgili said.

‘‘He’s had a bit of an in-and-out season with injury and suspension.

‘‘He couldn’t take a trick, but since he’s been back he’s been winning man-of-the-match awards and doing that job for us in the midfield.

‘‘He’s been super. He breaks down a lot of play and rarely loses the ball.’’

Griffiths, 24, injured his ankle in a trial game against Maitland and missed the first seven weeks. He then copped a suspension when he returned, restricting him to just 10 first-grade appearances, but he has found form at the right time for Magic and earned two players’ player awards in the closing rounds.

A member of Magic’s hat-trick of grand final wins from 2011-13, Griffiths believes the squad can repeat their premiership-winning feats.

‘‘We’ve stuck in there lately and ground out some results,’’ Griffiths said.

‘‘All the boys have been keen at training and there’s definitely a feeling in the team we can get across the line. We’ve just got to get a result this weekend against Edgy, which I’m sure we can.

‘‘All the boys are up for it, and being down 3-1 last week and coming back to 3-all, there’s definitely a bit of momentum there and confidence.’’

Scott Pettit (illness) and Daniel Casciaroli (wedding) return to Magic’s squad on Saturday, but Chris Berlin is out for the season with rib cartilage damage.

HAMILTON Olympic volunteers were pleased to see the sun come out as they prepare to host the deferred first leg of under-19 and under-22 semi-finals on Wednesday night.

Olympic were set to play Emerging Jets under 18s in under 22s and Magic in under19s on Sunday, but rain prompted officials to postpone the matches at Darling Street Oval in an attempt to ensure first grade went ahead.

Hamilton won first grade 2-1 over Lambton Jaffas, but not before a huge effort, including the use of foam rubber, from people at all levels of the club to help dry the pitch.

Synthetic surfaces at Northern NSW Football headquarters at Speers Point were on standby for the deferred matches, which will go ahead at Darling Street Oval from 6pm (under 19s) and 7.30pm (under 22s) on Wednesday.

■ Football Mid North Coast’s under-13 boys’ side were the most impressive winners as major premierships were shared around in the Northern NSW National Premier League youth and Herald Women’s Premier League junior deciders on Sunday.

FMNC beat Edgeworth 4-0 with goals from Max Lynch, Adam Sherratt, Vaughan Lickley and Josh Gardner.

The NPL youth grand finals were held at Jack McLaughlan Oval at Edgeworth, while the girls’ deciders were at Magic Park in Broadmeadow.

Zac Bailey and Kent Harrison scored for the Emerging Jets under 15s in their win over Broadmeadow Magic in the 17 years boys’ grand final.

Charlestown City Blues beat Weston Bears 5-4 in a penalty shootout after a scoreless draw in the 15 years decider.

Magic won the 14 years title with a 1-0 win over Adamstown thanks to a second-half strike from Andrew Benbow.

In the girls’ grand finals, Valentine beat Football Mid North Coast 1-0 in the 18 years match with a goal from Carson McGovern. Adamstown beat South Wallsend 4-2 in the 16 years decider, and Thornton edged FMNC 5-4 from the spot.



1ST GRADE (3pm)

Edgeworth (1) v Magic (4) (3-3 after first leg)

UNDER 22s (1pm)

Edgeworth (1) v Magic (4) (Edgeworth lead 3-0)

UNDER 19s (11am)

Weston (1) v Edgeworth (4) (Edgeworth lead 1-0)


1ST GRADE (3pm)

Jaffas (2) v Olympic (3) (Olympic lead 2-1)

UNDER 22s (1pm)

Emerging Jets U18s (2) v Olympic (3) (First leg Wednesday night)

UNDER 19s (11am)

Magic (2) v Olympic (3) (First leg Wednesday night)

“What we serve we do so with a clean conscience and with pride”: Linda Lodue from Momo Wholefoods. Picture: Peter Stoop WHETHER it’s their own house-made cheese or almond milk made from scratch each day, open-range biodynamic eggs from the Hunter Valley, organic herbs and honey from Paterson, or organic and free range chicken from Port Stephens, Momo Wholefoods takes pride in sourcing the best produce for their Newcastle cafe.

The cafe opened in mid-July at the former bank building at 227 Hunter Street, Newcastle, a building which once housed Soul Foods and before that KFC.

Try this: The smoked salmon board. Picture: Peter Stoop

The building has been transformed under the guidance of Tenzin and Linda Lodue, the couple also behind Momo Wholefood Cafe at Organic Feast, East Maitland. Flooded with natural light pouring in the huge windows, the space is warm and welcoming with accents of natural wood, pops of turquoise, wicker lights, brightly coloured artworks and living touches of olive trees and plants peppering the large corner site.

The interior at 227 Hunter Street, Newcastle. Picture: Peter Stoop

It’s an understated but beautiful canvas against which Momo’s food and drink can shine. Linda and Tenzin’s menu shows off their long-held mantra of eating unrefined, fresh ingredients grown in clean, healthy soil. They use local produce where possible and support organic and sustainable farming practices.

‘‘We are not just saying that we are seasonal, organic and local, we have really put the effort in to follow it through. It’s not just an idea we have read about, it’s how we are and how we’ve been living for years,’’ Linda said. ‘‘What we serve we do so with a clean conscience and with pride. We know where every single ingredient we serve comes from, which is very important.’’

The Indian Thali plate. Picture: Peter Stoop

The menu is designed to have something for everyone: for those who are gluten-free, dairy-free, vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters (thanks to free-range ethical meat producers).

Momo serves breakfast (quinoa chia porridge with stewed winter fruits, vegetable bowl, egg and bacon roll, eggs on sourdough), an all-day menu (avocado on sourdough, smoked salmon board, vegan board) and lunch (salads, Tibetan momo dumplings, Indian Thali plates, nachos, frittata, polenta bake, vegan burgers), as well as grab-and-go lunches for workers in the CBD.

Enjoy Momo’s traditional handmade dumplings, left, in a relaxed atmosphere. Picture: Peter Stoop

They also serve Five Senses Coffee throughout the day and an array of cold and hot drinks including their own Momo Chai (an Indian-style chai brewed traditionally with whole spice, black tea, Bonsoy and raw ginger), freshly-squeezed organic juices, milkshakes, smoothies (such as the Almond Cacao Smoothie with house-made almond milk, banana, raw cacao and agave) and Zest Kombucha on tap. Stay tuned for a Sunday opening, organic wines and alcoholic drinks and an expanded retail space selling Momo’s own chutneys, relishes and more.

Momo Wholefood Cafe is open 7.30am to 3pm Monday to Saturday. Phone: 9263310. Visit: facebook杭州夜网m/momowholefood, Instagram @momowholefood.

Ben Simmons in action for LSU against the Newcastle All-Stars. Picture: Jonathan CarrollAUSTRALIAN basketball legend Andrew Gaze says the hype about teenage phenomenon Ben Simmons is justified. He compares Simmons’ all-round game to that of LeBron James.

Five-time Olympian Gaze is convinced the 19-year-old former Newcastle Hunters junior is ready to play in the Boomers and contend for a spot at next year’s Rio Games.

Melbourne-born Louisiana State University freshman Simmons starred for his new team in front of packed crowds on their five-match Australian tour which ended at the weekend.

Tipped to be a future No.1 NBA draft pick, 208cm forward Simmons averaged 20 points per game at 52per cent from the field. He also averaged nine rebounds, two blocks and more than three steals a match.

Gaze, who coached against Simmons at under-18 level in Melbourne and played several seasons alongside Ben’s import father, Dave, at the Melbourne Tigers, was among spectators at LSU’s two matches against NBL club Melbourne United.


‘‘He’s just a phenomenal talent that continues to even improve on what we all thought was going to be great,’’ Gaze said.

‘‘The evidence we’ve seen in his first outings with LSU is that the hype around him, which we’ve heard about through his performances over in the United States, is absolutely justified because he’s just an incredible talent.

‘‘His size, his versatility. He’s got the size he can defend the bigger guys, his quickness to defend the little guys, he can put the ball on the floor.

‘‘He’s got incredible passing skills. When he drives into traffic, he’s got good court vision, natural instincts for the game, and package all that up in just a freakish athleticism and you can understand why he is such a highly regarded prospect for the NBA.’’

Simmons, the 2015 male US high school player of the year, is primarily a power forward, but Gaze believed he could also be a fine small forward.

‘‘The three spot [small forward] is well within his capabilities,’’ Gaze said.

‘‘With the way he can put it to the floor … dare I say it and let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, but he’s almost LeBron James-like in the way he can bring the ball up the floor, get to the rack, distribute the ball.

‘‘Right now that’s something that you could say, as bold a statement as this may sound, he’s got that type of capability.

‘‘If he continues to grow, there’s no reason why he can’t have that type of impact.’’

Simmons has played a couple of games for the Boomers but missed this month’s Olympic qualifiers against New Zealand because of his LSU commitments.

Gaze has no doubt the Melburnian can mix it at senior international level.

‘‘From the evidence we saw against LSU he is more than ready, in my opinion,’’ Gaze said. ‘‘Certainly from what I’ve seen he has absolutely got the capabilities to not only play, but make a significant contribution to the Australian team.’’

Spotless chief executive Bruce Dixon is predicting more growth to come. Photo: Luis AscuiHow many ASX-listed companies does it take to change a light bulb? Just one will do, says outgoing Spotless Group chief executive Bruce Dixon who has stumbled upon a lucrative revenue stream.

The cleaning, catering and facility management company posted $2.8 billion in revenue for the 12 months to June 30, a 12.3 per cent gain on the previous year. This excluded costs associated with its return to the ASX in May, 2014.

Mr Dixon is predicting more growth to come in the next 12 months, saying its acquisition of smart reader and installation company, Utility Services Group [USG], in June has delivered unexpected revenue opportunities.

Among these are municipal contracts to change street light bulbs, which Mr Dixon said were worth millions of dollars a year.

“It’s opened up a whole new area for us,” said Mr Dixon about the USG acquisition.

“We were probably lacking in our foresight to see it but that whole energy sector is just huge and it fits our portfolio beautifully.

“There are large players, large contracts and the services are down our line, whether that be meter reading, maintenance of the poles or vegetation management. Going forward that will throw up a lot of acquisition possibilities and also organic growth.”

Spotless’ shares closed 6 per cent higher at $1.85 on Tuesday.

Mr Dixon, who retire at the end of year to help his son manage his pubs, expected further earnings gains in the next 12 months.

He said the company had been able to secure $70 million worth of new contracts since June 1. New customers include Melbourne Airport, Western Australia Department of Housing and the New Zealand Defence Force.

“Last year, we had $350 million of new contract wins and we renewed $950 million. We had a lot of large contracts, and we held every one.

“Revenue is up 12 per cent and we expect to do even better than that because a lot of the new contracts were [signed] in the back half the year, so FY16 is looking very positive.”

He also said the company, which is the third biggest manager of mining towns, was well positioned to combat dwindling investment in the resource sector.

Mr Dixon the Spotless was able to be more competitive when tendering for new resource contracts because it was able to submit an enterprise bargaining agreement that was 50 per cent less than the incumbent provider.

“The incumbents can’t match the price because the unions don’t want to swap to a greenfield EBA,” he said.

“Traditionally these contracts weren’t tendered. The town was built and the contract was awarded but now mining companies are looking to save costs.

“We think that will be a big growth area in the next 12 months.”

Mr Dixon also has cost savings from the four acquisitions it made in the past year contribute to the bottom line.

“Margins remain in line with our global peers and we see further upside as we improve processes and look for efficiencies in the new businesses currently being integrated into Spotless,” Mr Dixon said.

The company will pay a final dividend of 5.5¢ a share on September 25.

Threatened ground: Horses at the Coolmore Stud in the Hunter Valley. Photo: Tanya d’HervilleA controversial Hunter Valley coalmine extension has secured preliminary approval from the Baird government in a move described by horse breeders as the “beginning of the end” for their industry.

The Planning Department has recommended that a scaled-back plan to extend the life of the Drayton South open-cut coalmine operated by mining giant Anglo American can be approved by the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) with conditions.

The mine, which would expand closer to the famous Coolmore and Woodland horse studs, would be able to extract about 75 million more tonnes of coking coal. The open pit, though, would have to remain behind a natural ridgeline and leave a buffer zone along nearby Saddlers Creek, resulting in about 100 million tonnes of coal resource being left untapped.

The department’s “preliminary recommendation is that the revised mine plan is far enough from the nearby horse studs that it can be approved subject to strict conditions especially around dust and noise”, a spokesman said.

The PAC is due to hold a public hearing on September 10. Commissioners will be required to take into account the Baird government’s proposed amendment to the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) that will result in economic factors losing their primacy over social and environmental ones.

However, the Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association said that two previous versions of the mine plan had been rejected by the PAC and the third iteration should also be dismissed.

“This mine remains less than one kilometre from the operations of the Darley and Coolmore horse studs,” the association said in a statement. “Concerns regarding impacts on water, blasting, noise, dust, equine and human health, destruction to lands and threatened species, visual amenity and the reputation of one of the world’s leading thoroughbred breeding industries remain.”

Cameron Collins, association president, said the mine expansion would devastate the breeding industry and put thousands of jobs at risk.

“Despite a rejection last year, Anglo American is allowed to submit any number of applications regardless of their consequences to strategic agricultural lands, industries and our environment while ordinary landholders are stripped of their appeal rights,” Dr Collins said.

Major projects directed by the Planning Minister to a PAC review for public hearings do not have merits appeal rights although they can be challenged on judicial grounds.

Planning Minister Rob Stokes does not normally comment on projects being assessed by the PAC, a spokesman said.

Fairfax Media sought comment from Anglo American. The company welcomed the department’s preliminary recommendation that the mine extension would be approved, according to a report in the Singleton Argus.

The recommendation “agrees with Anglo American’s detailed and peer reviewed assessments which found the project will have no adverse effects on the health of horses” on the nearby studs, the paper quoted Rick Fairhurst, the company’s project director for the mine, as saying.

The department said the mine would require capital investment of about $131 million, generate annual spending of about $213 million and permit the retention of 500 jobs at the mine for another 15 years.

Darley is owned by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Sheikh of Dubai, while Coolmore is Swiss-owned.

“[E]ven if the owners of these operations did decide to leave the area, there is no reason why the properties could not continue to be used to breed thoroughbred horses in the future, albeit in all likelihood by operations without the international reputation of Coolmore  and Darley,” the department said in its preliminary recommendation.

Redoute’s Choice, Fastnet Rock and Exceed are among champion horses produced or sired at the two studs.