Recall suitor Iron Mountain pays $US45 million to settle with regulator

Brambles spun Recall Holdings last year.Iron Mountain, the Boston-based paper storage giant stalking Recall  Holdings, has paid $US44.5 million to settle a claim that it overcharged US government customers.
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In the lead-up to Christmas, Iron Mountain and its subsidiary Iron Mountain Information Management LLC settled allegations made under the False Claims Act that the company failed to meet its contractual obligations to US government entities.

The US Department of Justice said that Iron Mountain had provided the relevant entities with record storage services from 2001 to 2014 through General Services Administration contracts.

During this time Iron Mountain was alleged to have failed to “provide GSA with accurate information about its commercial sales practices during contract negotiations, and failed to comply with the price reduction clause of the GSA contracts by not extending lower prices to government customers during its performance of the contracts”.

Iron Mountain has maintained a deferred revenue liability based on estimates of the GSA pricing adjustment and said there would be no material impact on its fourth quarter result.

The case was filed in the Eastern District of California under whistleblower provisions that allow private parties to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims and receive part of the recovery.

The lawsuit was brought by former Iron Mountain employee Brent Stanley and another former worker in the records management industry, Patrick McKillop.

Mr Stanley and Mr McKillop will share $US8 million of the settlement.

Iron Mountain, the global leader in information storage and management, made a $2.2 billion cash and scrip bid for ASX-listed Recall Holdings earlier this month.

Recall was spun out of logistics group Brambles last year and is Iron Mountain’s only listed peer. Recall rejected the $7 a share offer, saying it failed to adequately share with Recall shareholders the value created by a combination.

After the knock-back Iron Mountain boss William Meaney poured cold water on pursuing further talks with his target, claiming Recall had grossly overestimated the synergies that could be extracted.

There has been no movement on the takeover deal since Mr Meaney’s response, but Recall shares have continued to trade above the $7 offer price, suggesting investors expect another offer will be forthcoming.

Iron Mountain is being advised by Goldman Sachs. Recall is being advised by UBS and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Another hot, dry year for Canberra and more of the same to come

Joel Patton, of Woden, swings over the Murrumbidgee River as he tries to cool off in January. Photo: Jeffrey Chan A late start to the ski season brought some winter snow to the Brindabellas in June. Photo: Melissa Adams
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Canberrans sweated through another hot, dry year in 2014, which weather-watchers say was the ACT’s seventh warmest on record.

The city also had an equal record of three days in which the temperature reached 40 degrees or more – all in January.

The Bureau of Meteorology will not release its official annual review until next week though the trends are already apparent.

The ACT’s total rainfall this year (569 millimetres) was only 8 per cent less than the annual average, but almost a fifth of that fell in a very wet December.

And whereas the year was neither as hot nor dry as record-breaking 2013, Weatherzone meteorologist Rob Sharpe said Canberrans should brace for more heat in coming months.

“Looking ahead, across January and February, we’re expecting warmer than average temperatures as the most likely scenario,” Mr Sharpe said.

“It’s also slightly more likely that it will be drier than usual.”

 

The bureau says there is a 70 per cent chance that 2015 will be an El Nino year, which in Australia is associated with droughts, high temperatures and bushfires, particularly across the eastern and southern states.

Mr Sharpe said “we’re teetering on the edge” of declaring the climate event.

“We’re experiencing what we call El Nino-like conditions. It’s pretty much an El Nino but not officially. And that generally means we’re likely to see drier than usual conditions here in the east.

“But the other factor working against that is we have warmer sea surface temperatures off the coast at the moment. Because of that, you see more evaporation than usual, and therefore you have more moisture in the atmosphere.

“That’s a fairly large reason why we’ve seen a wetter than usual December throughout NSW, with a lot of thunderstorms.”

Earlier this month, the ACT government released the first detailed projections of how climate change was likely to affect the Canberra region.

The joint NSW-ACT project found the city would experience hotter summers, drier springs and a significant increase in severe fire-weather days.

The warming trend projected for Canberra was worse than that projected for NSW regions.

Environment Minister Simon Corbell said the modelling provided “a very clear and stark warning about what our future will be”.

“This is a marked change in our city’s climate, in our region’s climate and the implications are far reaching.”

Weatherzone is owned by Fairfax Media, which publishes The Canberra Times.

Sydney eccentric: James Fowler Wilcox

Thirty years before Sydney’s first public zoo opened at Billy Goat Swamp in Moore Park, James Fowler Wilcox had opened a zoo of his own in the heart of the city.
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The enterprising naturalist arrived in Sydney in 1850 aboard the HMS Rattlesnake. The ship, under Captain Owen Stanley, had spent several years surveying the north and south-east coast of Australia, and the south coast of New Guinea, and Wilcox was kept busy collecting specimens for museums in England. Once discharged, he began amassing his private collection, and in 1851 opened shop at 30 Hunter Street.

His menagerie was part zoo, part museum, part emporium, where stuffed specimens were exhibited alongside their still-breathing cousins.  One June afternoon the Herald paid a visit to Wilcox’s establishment, and described “…a small but unique collection of Australian and Indian beasts, birds, and reptiles, from the inspection of which we derived much gratification”.

In far-flung colonial Sydney, the collection must have been a magnet for both the scientifically minded and seekers after novelty. For a small fee, visitors could see such exotic creatures as a cheetah, an orangutan, and a guynee (“a small cow with a hump, which the Hindoo regards as a sacred object”) housed with a Persian sheep. A favourite with the punters was a “formidable” boa constrictor, whose pen was kept humid with a jar of boiling water. “Young ladies declare it be a ‘love of a snake’, but are quite angry that it is not folded up in blankets,’ the Herald reported.

Wilcox had the instincts of a scientist and showman combined. The press made great play of the arrival of a “monster Moruk”, an emu-like bird…lately imported from one of the South Sea Islands and purchased at a high figure by the spirited naturalist of Hunter-street.” The latter announced that the Moruk had swallowed the key to its cage and was not, therefore, likely to escape.

Visitors could purchase live “budgerygars”, stuffed birds and animals “mounted in unequalled taste, and in strictly natural and anatomical positions” and, presumably for those wishing to accumulate their own collections, a range of firearms (including a “walking stick percussion gun”).

The menagerie was also home to Wilcox and his young family during his three-year stint as proprietor, and his wife regularly placed “servants wanted” ads in the papers. Unsurprisingly perhaps, there was a high turnover of housekeepers at the Wilcox residence.

Unhappy new year looms for Australia’s public servants

Public Service Minister Eric Abetz has left himself little room to manoeuvre. Photo: Andrew Meares Public Service Minister Eric Abetz has left himself little room to manoeuvre. Photo: Andrew Meares
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Public Service Minister Eric Abetz has left himself little room to manoeuvre. Photo: Andrew Meares

Public Service Minister Eric Abetz has left himself little room to manoeuvre. Photo: Andrew Meares

The nation’s 160,000 federal public servants, the ones who still have their jobs, will limp into their Christmas breaks, punch-drunk from the toughest year the service has seen in a generation.

And things will probably get worse in 2015.

The redundancies that have been racking the Australian Public Service for three years now show no signs of letting up, making life ever harder for those who are left behind, they haven’t had a payrise in 18 months and probably won’t get one before two years have  passed.

Even then, they’ll get nothing without a fight, never a welcome prospect for one of the more mild-mannered workforces in the Australian industrial landscape.

The only bright spot, and it’s not real bright, is that the Abbott government has admitted, in its recent MYEFO budget update, that it has cut as deep as it dares to for fear of causing economic slowdown.

But that doesn’t mean that things aren’t going to get rough in 2015.

The battlelines for an industrial war were drawn more than 12 months ago.

It’s just that, in true public service style, the opposing sides are taking forever to deploy on the front line.

To recap: the government’s “APS bargaining framework” rules out absolutely any wage increases that are not paid for with cuts to conditions and entitlements.

(The official euphemism “productivity offsets” is a fiction. They are cuts.)

While the Department of Human Services got crazy-brave in July and offered 1.2 per cent, at most, with $250 million worth of cuts, senior bosses across the bureaucracy winced.

“If I made an offer like that, my staff would lynch me,” one agency chief confided while he and others bided their time, waiting to see if something might give.

Something did, sort of. The offer collapsed before a vote could be taken, well and truly sabotaged by the Community and Public Sector Union, whose ambit wage claim is 4 per cent per year. Remember that?

The offers that have made it to the ballot stage in recent weeks, at Employment and the Australian Financial Services Authority, have been run out of town in landslide results. If offers were people they’d have been tarred-and-feathered too.

And AFSA was offering 4 per cent over three years, albeit with swingeing cuts to conditions.

The margins of the no-votes – 95 and 82 per cent respectively – gives us no reason to believe those deals would be palatable anywhere else.

The problem for departmental bosses is that they haven’t been able to cobble together cuts-and-wages packages tough enough to get past the Public Service Commission, Finance Department, and  minister Eric  Abetz, who all need to approve any offer before it can be put to workers.

The effect on all of this of having a new Public Service Commissioner, John Lloyd, who thinks job security is a quaint anachronism, remains to be seen.

Public servants at big workplaces, such as Defence and the Tax Office, are getting restless. There is no sign of an offer for them, they were expecting something at least this year and, because the bargaining framework bans back-pay, they’re facing an open-ended wage freeze.

It’s starting to look vindictive.

The CPSU has been warning  for weeks about “spreading unrest” but what is unclear is the union’s ability to harness the unhappiness that is so clearly present in public service offices around the country.

The union, for sheer numbers, is not what it used to be.

Even where it is strong, DHS for example, any meaningful industrial action like disrupting Centrelink, Medicare or Child Support Agency payments pretty much guarantees a nasty public backlash.

Besides, it’s just not that sort of union.

On the other side, Abetz hasn’t left himself much room to manoeuvre either.

The minister’s tough rhetoric has worked him into a corner where anything less than a complete acceptance of his demands will be seen as a failure.

In recent weeks, the minister has resorted half-truths, circulating figures showing public servants’ pay has increased 42 per cent in the past 10 years, against consumer price index figures of about 28 per cent.

“The Australian community will have little sympathy for industrial action taken” by public servants who have enjoyed those pay rises, Abetz said, not bothering to mention that 42 per cent is about the same as everybody else has had over the last decade.

The rhetorical shift suggests that Abetz has given up trying to persuade public servants to see it his way and is now tailoring his message to the broader public, painting the bureaucrats as greedy and out of touch.

Digging in, it appears, for a long fight.

As 2015 dawns, we have a minister who can’t or won’t compromise, a union that lacks the strength to force the issue and a workforce wondering where this is all going to end.

None of it points to a very happy new year.

AirAsia flight overshoots runway in Kalibo, Philippines

Jet Damazo-Santos tweeted this photo of passengers leaving the plane via emergency slides. Photo: Twitter南京夜网/@jetdsantosBodies pulled from AirAsia wreckageThe victims on board AirAsia flight QZ8501
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Passengers on an AirAsia flight landing in the Philippines have been forced to use emergency exit slides after the aircraft overshot the runway amid bad weather.

AirAsia Zest flight Z2272 was flying from Manila to Kalibo, in the central Philippines, with 159 passengers and crew members on board. No one was hurt in the incident.

“AirAsia Philippines confirms flight Z2272 from Manila skidded off the Kalibo International Airport runway at 5.43pm (8.43pm AEDT) upon landing,” AirAsia said in a statement on Tuesday night.

“All 153 passengers and crew were able to disembark safely, no injuries reported. All passengers are now at a hotel assisted by AirAsia staff.”

Giovanni Hontomin, who is in charge of AirAsia Zest’s operations, said crew members activated an emergency slide to help passengers disembark safely from the Airbus A320-200.

In pictures posted on Twitter, the plane appears to have landed on a grassed area at Kalibo Airport. Airasia plane overshot runway at kalibo pic.twitter南京夜网/6E4hWUJbS0 — Jet Damazo-Santos (@jetdsantos) December 30, 2014Rappler – a news website based in the Philippines – tweeted the events of the emergency landing, but said no one had been injured.

“Nobody seems to be hurt. Weather was bad because of #senangph Plane came to a very abrupt stop,” she tweeted.

“Engine was shut immediately, we were told to leave bags, deplane asap. Firetruck was waiting. Seems handled well.”

Parts of the Philippines, Malaysia and southern Thailand have been battered by heavy rain and flash floods in recent days, killing dozens of people, although it was not immediately clear if the weather had caused the incident at Kalibo.

Reports said Kalibo Airport had closed after the incident.

According to pictures tweeted by Ms Damazo-Santos, elderly passengers on board the flight had their blood pressure checked after they disembarked the aircraft.

AirAsia Zest is a domestic carrier in the Philippines, partly owned by AirAsia Philippines.

On Tuesday afternoon, the mystery of AirAsia flight QZ8501 was solved with the news from Indonesian authorities that the wreckage of the plane had been found in shallow water, with all 162 passengers presumed dead. Just landed in kalibo on an AirAsia flight that overshot runway — Jet Damazo-Santos (@jetdsantos) December 30, 2014 Shoe-less AirAsia flight attendants on the windy, cold tarmac in Kalibo. Can’t wear heels when sliding down. pic.twitter南京夜网/PZNTXgLirc — Jet Damazo-Santos (@jetdsantos) December 30, 2014

with AP