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World Investments CEO casts doubt on $433m Xinja deal


“All those things that have been in the news,” he said. “There is no $433 million.”

Mr Bin Aweidha confirmed there was a contract between the parties and negotiations were ongoing but could not comment on the details, citing confidentiality concerns.

“We did not sign for $433 million. Not at all.”

Xinja provided an excerpt of the contract to The Age and Sydney Morning Herald that showed the World Investment deal was highly conditional and subject to further negotiations.

An initial investment of “no less than $US100 million” would be transferred “should all the conditions of this contract be met” and a further $US150 million could be available after further negotiations, the excerpt stated. Xinja declined to provide details on the conditions of the contract.

While Xinja’s announcement acknowledged the deal was “subject to approvals” it did not raise the prospect that the money may not come through, rather claiming an initial payment of $160 million would be transferred “immediately”.

A Xinja spokesman said it had been “clear at all times” the deal was subject to due diligence and regulatory approval and suggested the contract was in US dollars so the investor could be “confused”.

At the time of Xinja’s announcement, the neobank was crowdfunding through online capital raising platform, Equitise.

Xinja emailed shareholders on March 25 to extend the capital raising to “allow potential investors the opportunity to access this investment in light of the news announced yesterday: Dubai’s World Investments Invests $A433 million in Xinja Bank”.

An Equitise press release dated March 31 told investors Xinja had “secured a whopping $433 million investment from Dubai’s World Investments”.

A blog post by World Investments cited the $433 million figure and social media posts in late March also indicated it was a done deal.

But in April, World Investments posted to Facebook that COVID-19 had created challenges, adding the team was striving to prepare and complete the Xinja deal.

Rather than being a finalised deal, Mr Bin Aweidha said he had engaged lawyers and cyber security firms to probe Xinja as part of its due diligence.

One of the firms that claims to be enlisted was Defensury – a Las Vegas headquartered firm that The Age and Sydney Morning Herald revealed this week warned World Investments of “red flags” with Xinja’s technology, including security risks that exposed its customers to cyber attacks.

Defensury director Luca de la Torre claimed he recommended a “complete remake” of the mobile application due to security and usability concerns. “The app was never really user friendly and was lacking features compared to other Australian banking apps,” he said.

Mr de la Torre said Xinja’s statements were misleading and designed to encourage more investment in the company that auditors had cast doubt on its ability to continue as a going concern.

“Obviously if I announced that Microsoft, a big tech company invested in Defensury, I could easily raise funds. I would trust the due diligence Microsoft had conducted.

“I believe this is close to share manipulation, investment fraud,” Mr de la Torre said.

A Xinja spokesman denied any wrongdoing. “Xinja considers the allegations made in these questions to be very serious, and completely without foundation.”

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Twitter CEO says Trump ban was right, but sets a ‘dangerous precedent’


Dorsey’s statements – the first time the CEO spoke about the decision – arrived on the heels of an emotional week in which right-wing figures disavowed the power of Silicon Valley companies, while employees and the public had begged the company for more explanation of its actions in response to the violent January 6 pro-Trump rally at the Capitol. At the same time, Twitter continued to suspend tens of thousands of problematic accounts.

Twitter’s Trump ban drew criticism from some Republicans who said it quelled the US president’s right to free speech. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also warned through a spokesman that legislators, not private companies, should decide on potential curbs to free expression.

Dorsey said he believed Twitter had made “the right decision”, adding that the company “faced an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all of our actions on public safety.”

But the action, he noted, came with perilous consequences in terms of fragmenting the online conversation as people flee to use different services that suit them politically, and giving companies like Twitter enormous unchecked power.

“This moment in time might call for this dynamic, but over the long term it will be destructive to the noble purpose and ideals of the open internet,” he wrote. “A company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access, yet can feel much the same.”

Twitter has introduced a series of measures over the last year like labels, warnings and distribution restrictions to reduce the need for decisions about removing content entirely from the service.

Dorsey has said he believes those measures can promote more fruitful, or “healthy,” conversations online and lessen the impact of bad behaviour.

Twitter banned Trump’s account last Friday after first suspending him for 12 hours the day of the Capitol siege. On Friday, Trump again tweeted that he wouldn’t attend the inauguration, as well as saying that his supporters would not be disrespected “in any way, shape, or form.”

Twitter immediately dismantled his account, saying the tweets could incite violence.

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Facebook has also banned Trump indefinitely, as has Amazon-owned video platform Twitch. Snapchat banned him permanently, while Google-owned YouTube did so for seven days. Amazon’s web services division cut off the Trump friendly social media site Parler, which was also removed from the Google and Apple app stores.

The Twitter CEO explained bans by social media companies on Trump after last week’s violence were emboldened by each other’s actions, even though they were not coordinated.

Supporters of Trump who has repeatedly made baseless claims challenging Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the November election, stormed the US Capitol last week, trying to halt the certification by Congress of Biden’s Electoral College win.

On Wednesday, Trump became the first president in US history to be impeached twice.

The Washington Post/Reuters

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New Rio Tinto CEO faces big task


Camille Simeon of Aberdeen Standard Investments, one of Rio’s largest shareholders, supported the appointment of Mr Stausholm, whom she described as “focused, disciplined and hard-working”.

“He is not external, but he’s only been there a couple of years so he doesn’t have a very long tenure. Yet he still has some corporate knowledge of Rio so there’s probably quite a good balance there,” Ms Simeon said.

Although some investors and politicians such as federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg had called for the dual-listed miner’s board to choose an Australian as the next CEO, Ms Simeon said Aberdeen was more concerned about whether the candidate had the “right skills and experience” to rebuild Rio’s reputation with the investment community, regulators, governments and traditional owners.

“They have to build stakeholder relationships across a number of groups,” she said. “It’s having the skills to be able to do that that’s important. We feel like he does have the right skills and experience.”

Mr Stausholm will be based in London, but he intends to spend a significant amount of time in Australia as international travel restrictions begin to ease.

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Although he is not Australian, Mr Stausholm is a former non-executive director of ASX-listed oil and gas giant Woodside Petroleum and used to come to Australia on a monthly basis.

Colleagues of Mr Stausholm have described him as a strong “relationship-builder” and a “good listener”.

Prior joining Rio Tinto in 2018, Mr Stausholm held senior roles with AP Moeller-Maersk, facility service provider ISS, Statoil and Shell, where he worked for 19 years in roles spanning Europe, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific.

Analysts have foreshadowed the risk of Rio’s internal CEO selection being perceived in the market as indicating little change in the company’s overall strategy.

“We think criticism could potentially come from some investors and the media that this wasn’t a big enough change following the magnitude of Juukan Gorge,” Royal Bank of Canada mining analyst Tyler Broda said. “However we would counter that by noting Jakob’s approach appears to be collaborative and he has strong beliefs around environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and the need for mining companies to continue to progress. We think his understanding of what’s come before and especially of what needs to happen following the last six months will help Rio to re-emerge.”

Mr Stausholm’s appointment was widely welcomed on Friday, with many investment banks highlighting his strong financial background and disciplined approach to capital allocation.

“[Mr] Stausholm is an excellent, cool-headed and sensible appointment,” BMO Capital Markets’ Edward Sterck said. “We do not expect an immediate change in Rio Tinto’s corporate strategy, but we do anticipate a transformation in corporate culture over time.”

The departure of Mr Jacques, announced in September, followed months of escalating investor pressure to ensure accountability over blasting of the Juukan Gorge. Although legally sanctioned, the site’s destruction went against the wishes of the traditional owners, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, who were left devastated and said they were not aware of Rio’s plan to destroy the site until it was too late for the explosive charges to be removed. Rio Tinto has apologised and conceded multiple failures in its engagement with the PKKP in the lead-up to the blast on May 24.

Mr Stausholm will assume leadership of Rio Tinto’s response to the federal parliamentary inquiry investing the circumstances surrounding the disaster and the wider mining sector’s treatment of traditional owners.

Rio Tinto investor HESTA, a $52 billion superannuation fund, said investors would be “watching closely” how Rio’s board and new senior leadership team take action to improve governance and oversight and respond to the federal inquiry.

“Investors have an expectation of significant and lasting change,” HESTA chief Debby Blakey said. “A vital first step is opening up all agreements with traditional owners to an independent review.“

HESTA has been leading a push among other prominent shareholders for Rio’s board to commit to an independent external audit of all its agreements with First Nations people.

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Rio Tinto names Jakob Stausholm CEO after Aboriginal cave blast crisis


Rio Tinto chairman Simon Thompson has not discussed the appointment of Mr Stausholm with the company’s major shareholders, Mr Frydenberg or Prime Minister Scott Morrison, but plans to do so over the coming days.

The head of Rio Tinto shareholder HESTA, a $52 billion superannuation fund, said investors would be “watching closely” how the company’s board and new senior leadership team take action to improve governance and oversight and respond to the federal parliamentary inquiry probing the Juukan Gorge disaster.

“Investors have an expectation of significant and lasting change,” HESTA chief Debby Blakey said on Thursday. “A vital first step is opening up all agreements with traditional owners to an independent review.”

HESTA has been leading a push among other prominent shareholders for Rio’s board to commit to an independent external audit of all its agreements with First Nations people.

Mr Stausholm, who joined Rio in 2018 as its chief financial officer, assumes the top job on January 1. Prior to Rio Tinto, Mr Stausholm held senior roles with AP Moeller-Maersk, facility service provider ISS, Statoil and Shell, where he worked for 19 years in roles spanning Europe, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific.

“I am truly delighted and humbled to be given the opportunity to lead this tremendous company,” Mr Stausholm said on Thursday night.

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“Rio Tinto’s purpose is to produce the materials essential to human progress and I remain deeply committed to this after the difficult times we have faced during 2020.

“I am also acutely aware of the need to restore trust with traditional owners and our other stakeholders, which I view as a key priority for the company.”

Mr Stausholm will assume leadership of Rio Tinto’s response to the federal parliamentary inquiry investigating the circumstances surrounding the disaster and the wider mining sector’s treatment of traditional owners.

The departure of Mr Jacques, announced by the board in September, followed months of escalating pressure from Aboriginal groups, large institutional shareholders and government leaders.

The board said at the time that Mr Jacques, 48, would stay on as CEO until the appointment of his successor or until March 31, whichever was earlier.

Rio Tinto’s chairman Simon Thompson on Thursday said Mr Stausholm’s strategic and commercial expertise, strong values and a collaborative leadership style were “ideal qualities for our next chief executive”.

“Jakob has already made a significant contribution to the performance of the group in his role as chief financial officer,” he said. “He has a proven track record as a senior executive with deep industrial and resources experience spanning strategy development and technology, as well as financial and risk management.”

As a result of Mr Stausholm’s appointment, Peter Cunningham will be appointed interim chief financial officer from January 1. Mr Cunningham was previously Rio’s group controller and has held several senior finance and leadership roles across a 27-year career with the company.

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CEO key to a company’s culture otherwise ‘get them off the bus’, directors say


The report is based on interviews with ASX 50 directors conducted on behalf of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) and one of the most powerful shareholder representatives, the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI).

Almost all directors said the ultimate tool influencing company culture was how they selected and monitored the performance of the chief executive. The directors agreed they also need to act swiftly if their expectations were not met.

“If someone is a good executive, but turns out to have significant negative character traits, you might want to counsel them and give them an opportunity to change,” QBE deputy chair John Green said.

“But if they can’t or won’t, getting them off your bus might be a very wise option.”

QBE director John M. Green. 2020 has become a year of reflection for many board directors after a slew of cultural scandals across major ASX listed companies.

QBE director John M. Green. 2020 has become a year of reflection for many board directors after a slew of cultural scandals across major ASX listed companies.Credit:sasha@sashawoolley.com

It’s a scenario Mr Green knows well after Mr Regan abruptly left the company after a complaint by a female employee at the insurance giant.

Mr Green said boards should consider the soft skills of CEO candidates as well as their financial performance before making appointments and should reach out to more junior staffers such as director reports or executive assistants to assess the character of an incoming CEO.

Leading company director David Gonski, who recently retired as chair of ANZ Bank and is a director of Sydney Airport Corporation, believes a company’s culture should be set by directors and regularly monitored through board and executive committees.

“If the board doesn’t ‘walk the talk’, management will pick up on it very quickly, and it will permeate through the organisation” he said in the report.

But another senior director at an ASX top 50 company who declined to be named in the report gave the impression there was only so much a board could do to stamp out poor conduct. “The most important person in any organisation is not the CEO or chair; it’s your immediate boss. If your immediate boss is a bully, that’s the culture in which you operate,” the unnamed senior director said.

Commonwealth Bank chairman Catherine Livingstone knows this too well having overseen a cultural review at the bank sparked by a series of scandals over the bank’s dealings with customers.

CBA chair Catherine Livingstone leaving the Banking Royal Commission in 2018 after giving testimony.

CBA chair Catherine Livingstone leaving the Banking Royal Commission in 2018 after giving testimony. Credit:Louise Kennerley

“If the infrastructure is not working well, people have to work around imperfect processes, policies and systems,” she said. “That’s when mistakes or the wrong outcomes happen.”

AICD managing director Angus Armour said during COVID-19 it was clear many boards had strong cultural foundations in place to successfully manage changes in workplace operations. “Now, it is just as important as ever that boards make clear statements about what they are doing to understand the culture and practices of their organisation, as well as taking the necessary steps to ensure effective oversight.”

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ACSI chief Louise Davidson said investors welcomed the increased focus on cultural issues by boards. “Investors have long understood the link between company culture and long-term value creation, and the damage poor culture can have on company performance,” Ms Davidson said.

“The ACSI/AICD research shows that directors overwhelmingly see that culture isn’t just a job for management. The role of the board is crucial. That wasn’t a common view five years ago.

Investors would value greater disclosure to discern companies’ cultural strengths and weaknesses. Yet the report found there was a wide variance in public disclosure and a lack of market consensus regarding the most valuable metrics to report against. In the meantime, some companies are actively including cultural metrics as part of the remuneration framework for senior executives.

But some directors think those metrics need to flow through an organisation to ensure the cultural aims of a company are adhered to. “Pay is overrated in terms of its capacity to do good. There is more potential to do evil. We’ve seen that. It’s amazing what people will do to get relatively small amounts of additional money,” an unnamed senior director told the survey.

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Qantas CEO says vaccines might open borders sooner than ‘travel bubbles’


Even with promising news on the progress of several vaccines, Qantas warned it still expects international flying would remain at a “standstill” beyond June next year, and then take years to recover.

Qantas has previously said it would be quick to add new services to destinations such as Korea and Taiwan if Australia opened a “travel bubble” with those and other countries that have successfully suppressed the virus.

The potential for vaccines to be rolled out […] faster than the bubbles happening is probably real at this stage.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce

But Mr Joyce on Thursday said vaccinations might come quicker, pointing to the slated Hong Kong-Singapore bubble that has been delayed several times due to renewed outbreaks.

“The potential for vaccines to be rolled out maybe faster than the bubbles happening is probably real at this stage,” Mr Joyce said.

Travellers from New Zealand currently do not have to quarantine when arriving in Australia, but it is necessary for those passengers flying in the opposite direction, and Mr Joyce said there was the potential for that to open up to two-way travel now that Australia’s state borders were open.

Within Australia, domestic travel is recovering faster than expected, with Qantas’ scheduled capacity back to almost 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels for December and set to hit 80 per cent early next year following the reopening of state borders, the airline said.

The rapid return to flying is an improvement from the airline’s outlook in October when it expected to be at just 50 per cent capacity at Christmas, and comes after it plunged to 20 per cent mid-year when the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to ground almost its entire fleet.

“Overall, we’re optimistic about the recovery, but we’re also cautious given the various unknowns,” Mr Joyce said in a trading update released to the ASX in the morning.

“It’s unclear what shape the domestic economy will be in next year, particularly once broader government support winds back. Until a vaccine is rolled out, the risk of more outbreaks remains.”

Qantas has announced 8500 redundancies since the start of the pandemic, or close to a third of its workforce, in an effort to cut costs – including 2000 job losses this week when it confirmed it would outsource all ground handling work to third-party providers.

Around 13,500 staff remain stood down from work, but the increase in domestic flying meant 11,500 were now working again, compared to 9000 in October. That is expected to rise to 14,000 by March.

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The group said on Thursday that while it was still on track for a “substantial” loss this financial year, it now expected to be close to break even at an underlying earnings level in the first half and net free cash flow positive in the second half, excluding redundancy payments.

That was based on the assumption that state borders remained open and international flying beyond New Zealand did not resume materially until after June.

Mr Joyce said COVID-19 would blow an $11 billion hole in the group’s revenue this financial year alone. That’s why Qantas had to remain focused on its recovery program, which involved “hard decisions” such as redundancies, he explained.

The cost cutting drive is aiming to save $15 billion over three years and shave $1 billion off Qantas’ annual cost base from 2023 onwards.

Qantas said its liquidity stood at $3.6 billion, made up of $2.6 billion in cash and $1 billion in an undrawn debt facility, which it intended to increase by $500 million to provide “additional standby liquidity”.

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Pfizer CEO confident of having ‘more vaccine doses than we will need’ by end of 2021


The British Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) granted emergency use approval just 23 days after Pfizer published the first data from its final-stage clinical trial. The vaccine is due to be rolled out next week in Britain.

US and EU regulators are sifting through the same Pfizer vaccine trial data, but have yet to give their approval. The Australian government has signed a deal to buy 10 million doses of the vaccine for Australia.

On Wednesday evening, Australia Health Minister Greg Hunt welcomed the emergency approval for the vaccine in the UK.

He has spoken with the Australian chief executive officer of Pfizer and the company remained on track for vaccine delivery “once it was approved for use in Australia by an independent regulator.”

“Pfizer continues to work with the Therapeutic Goods Administration, providing data for safety and efficacy as part of the approval process,” Mr Hunt’s statement read. “Our advice remains that the timeline for a decision on approval is expected by the end of January 2021, and our planning is for the first vaccine delivery in March 2021.”

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Bourla said governments need to ensure that other measures are not relaxed in the meantime. “I think that it is important to use the vaccine as one tool,” he said, adding that “undeniably it’s going to be the most effective, with the most permanent impact.

“The time that we can go back to normality is not far away, but definitely it is not now,” he said.

Bourla, who is Greek, told a roundtable discussion of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, which included Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, that the distribution strategy of governments was key.

Governments “have to move in a very strategic way and they need to listen to the experts,” Bourla said.

Pfizer shares are up more than 3 per cent in late trade on Wall Street.

More to come

Reuters

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State athletics chiefs pen scathing letter about Athletics Australia and call for CEO to undergo leadership coaching


The race to Tokyo is in the final straight, but an explosive letter suggests Australia’s athletics administration is struggling to keep the sport on track.

In October, eight state presidents penned scathing correspondence to the Athletics Australia board accusing the national body of lacking thought leadership, failing to support coaches, not completing commercial agreements and even calling for CEO Darren Gocher to undertake leadership coaching.

The letter is the latest in a succession of hiccups for the sport that have included:

  • the loss of its head of high performance to the UK;
  • a board member quitting a year into their post;
  • the country’s top heptathlete reporting nobody from Athletics Australia had contacted her in more than six months.

The October letter, from all eight presidents of the state member associations, raised specific issues and expressed their “concerns with the current leadership of Athletics Australia”.

“It is the view of the presidents that leadership practices are at the core of these issues and we ask that this be addressed through performance management, development and coaching.”

President of Athletics Australia Mark Arbib downplayed the significance of the letter, telling the ABC it was “standard practice” to prepare for an annual meeting of presidents.

“This year’s letter helped focus us on administrative areas that needed attention and effort; from my perspective it was extremely helpful and gave the meeting real purpose.”

He said the Athletics Australia board continues to work with management and had put in place an independent review of culture and staff practices before the letter had been received.

Letter details problems in athletics

Mr Arbib, a former NSW Labor senator, said the postponement of the Olympics, cancellation of events and the closure of Melbourne offices due to COVID restrictions “has created great stress and disappointment for our athletes, coaches and team”.

“I am proud of the way our athletics community have responded to the challenges, it has tested us at every level of the organisation and we will emerge stronger in the future,” he said.

The letter sets out issues the state presidents wished to “escalate” to the board, including a snap 30 per cent rise in insurance premiums and employee attrition estimated at 75 per cent since the appointment of the current CEO, Darren Gocher.

A statement provided by Athletics Australia said it has reduced insurance rises to 10 per cent and attrition was much lower after redundancies and terminations were taken into account.

A man in a suit smiles at the camera surrounded by a group of Australian athletes
The administration of Athletics Australia, led by CEO Darren Gocher (centre), has been criticised by state athletics presidents.(Supplied)

The letter describes management of and support for coaches and officials as “sub-par”, and stated commercial and digital agreements “remain outstanding”.

Athletics Australia responded by saying “we have this month appointed a senior corporate services manager to assist management and our staff in these areas.”

The letter also recommended “leadership coaching and development” for senior leaders including the CEO.

According to Athletics Australia’s statement, Mr Gocher “has undertaken significant leadership and coaching programs in his current role and throughout his career”.

It also noted his salary had been “significantly reduced at Mr Gocher’s request” during the COVID period.

Two state presidents contacted by ABC declined to elaborate on the letter.

Recent Athletics Australia dramas

On Friday, Mr Arbib released a statement announcing that Eugenie Buckley resigned from the Athletics Australia board. Her departure came in the week following the Annual General Meeting.

Ms Buckley is a lawyer and consultant who has previously held CEO roles at Brisbane Roar FC, ICC Women’s World Cup 2009 and the Australian Professional Footballers’ Association.

“Eugenie has a great intellect and outstanding administrative knowledge, she will be missed,” Mr Arbib said.

She did not respond to requests for comment.

Former CEO of Sport Australia, Kate Palmer, has joined the board.

A man at a podium speaks to a crowd
Athletics Australia President Mark Arbib said the organisation was addressing concerns of state associations.(Supplied: Athletics Australia)

In September, Christian Malcolm departed as Head of High Performance and Coaching to take up a role coaching the UK athletics team.

“Christian Malcolm ultimately left Athletics Australia after being offered the role of Head Coach at UK Athletics,” Mr Arbib said.

“Christian is originally from the UK and he felt his decision would better impact his family.”

A woman clears a bar in high jump
Tori West is Australia’s top ranked heptathlete and wants more contact from Athletics Australia.(Supplied: Facebook/Athletics North Queensland)

Last month, 25-year-old Queensland heptathlete Tori West told The Townsville Bulletin she had not been contacted by anyone from Athletics Australia for six months, despite being the top-ranked Australian.

Athletics Australia recently announced 152 athletes would receive funding under the National Athlete Support Structure (NASS), which supports athletes who have demonstrated the greatest potential to achieve medals.

Ms West was overlooked for selection despite scoring 6028 points earlier this year, above the performance level set out in the NASS policy.

“[She] is unfortunately not a NASS member, and therefore not an athlete we see in contention for the Olympic Games, but all our selection materials are available online and we will ensure she and her coach have the information they need,” Athletics Australia said in a statement.

Mr Arbib added the hardest part of 2020 for athletes has been uncertainty.

“Thankfully we are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel and the 2021 Aussie track and field season is going ahead with the calendar released. This should help provide certainty and ensure our athletes can focus on the task ahead.”

Ms West declined to comment.

Athletics Australia is currently undergoing a merger with Little Athletics.

It receives more than $10 million each year in taxpayer funding.

Do you know more? Email jack.snape@abc.net.au or message securely through the Signal app on +61439695398.



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Nine appoints recruitment firm Spencer Stuart to search for new CEO


Spencer Stuart did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Several internal candidates have put their hands up for the job but the CEO of streaming service Stan, Mike Sneesby, and Nine’s chief publishing and digital officer Chris Janz are considered the strongest contenders.

Former Nine managing director and current Foxtel executive Amanda Laing, former SBS chief Michael Ebeid and FetchTV boss Scott Lorson have all been mentioned as possible external candidates for the role.

The resignation of Mr Marks and the process to find a replacement has exposed tensions on Nine’s board, which is made up of three directors from Nine’s legacy television business and three from publishing company Fairfax Media, with which it merged in 2018.

The Nine directors are chairman Peter Costello, Samantha Lewis and Catherine West; the ex-Fairfax directors are deputy chairman Nick Falloon, Patrick Allaway and Mickie Rosen.



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News Corp Australasia CEO Michael Miller and Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci call on nominations


Still reeling from Black Summer, Australians were plunged into the global pandemic before catching a breath. So how do we rebuild after a year like 2020? We can start by saying thank you, one million times over.

Today’s launch of Thanks a Million: Pride of Australia invites all Australians to publicly express our gratitude. A partnership between Woolworths and News Corp Australia, Thanks a Million will gather one million names between now and Australia Day – declared a national day of thanks by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“We are proud to announce this significant partnership with Woolworths to support our Pride of Australia campaign,” said Michael Miller, executive chairman of News Corp Australasia.

“This year, the check-out staff, shelf stackers, newsagents and delivery drivers went from everyday workers to everyday heroes. It seems only appropriate that our two companies join together to say one big thank you.

“Not just to our teams, but to all the teams of frontline workers around Australia who kept us fed, informed and looked after,” he said.

Mr Miller called on other corporate and community leaders to participate.

“Thank you to your teams, to the unsung heroes, to the quiet achievers and especially to those who found themselves on the frontline, often unexpectedly, during this pandemic and who stood up and stood strong for their communities,” he said.

Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci said mental rather than physical fatigue was the issue for many. He was personally moved to receive thoughtful messages on R U OK Day, just one example of what he calls “Team Australia.”

“That extended team (includes) our competitors – Coles, Aldi, Metcash. It (includes) the states and the federal governments (and) different charity partners, whether it’s OzHarvest, FareShare, Foodbank or Meals on Wheels.

“If we can take these wonderful learnings out of what has happened to us and replicate it in some modest way going forward, that’s unbelievably powerful,” he said.

News Corp Australia community ambassador Penny Fowler said Pride of Australia has shone a light on Australians making a difference for the past 16 years.

“This year, so many people’s daily jobs became truly extraordinary acts and we are asking our readers to call out all those people in their community – their neighbour, newsagent, health worker or local supermarket team – and say thank you.

“Thank you for all they have done for their communities, because in 2020, every Australian is the Pride of Australia,” Ms Fowler said.



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