Archive for: ‘June 2019’

They’re coming after your frequent flyer points

13/06/2019 Posted by admin

Qantas is fighting back by beefing up its cyber security. Photo: Peter BraigHere’s something else to worry about: the legion of cyber fraudsters and identity thieves are trying to steal your frequent flyer points – and they’re succeeding.
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The scumbags have stolen some of mine and would have grabbed more if Qantas hadn’t picked up the fraud.

Qantas won’t divulge just how common frequent flyer identity theft is, but it’s common. (The airline, like the banks being a bit vague about the extent of credit card fraud, says it’s a security issue, not wanting to encourage the criminals. I suspect it’s also a little embarrassing.)

Qantas is fighting back by beefing up its cyber security. Starting from Thursday, it’s rolling out a trial of “a second-factor authentication process” – geek speak for texting you a code before you can log on to your account, the same way banks SMS a security code for many online payments.

OK, having your frequent flyer membership identity stolen is not like losing the deeds to your house or having your life savings cleaned out, but it’s still annoying, can represent a considerable loss of value and could be part, or the start, of a broader identity theft.

In my case, when I was getting on a Qantas flight from Los Angeles to Sydney earlier this month, a low life used my points to buy a ticket from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh city on Jetstar Pacific. An alarm rang in Qantas and the ticket was cancelled, but the fraudsters had another crack closer to flight time and got away with it.

And here’s the thing – it was Qantas that told me about it. There are 11.5 million Qantas frequent flyer accounts – how many of us ever check the points unless we’re about to try to use them?

Satisfied that it was a fraud, Qantas quickly refunded the points and is happy to give tips about protecting your identity.

Yes, you should change your PIN often and, no, it shouldn’t be your postcode or birthday. One of the dumbest things you can do is post a photograph of your boarding pass – it has enough information on it to give an identity thief a flying start. (No, I didn’t do that.)

A Qantas spokesperson said the airline was continually investing in people, processes and technology to protect frequent flyer members’ security and accounts. As well as the second-factor authentication trial, Qantas has introduced SMS alerts to members to confirm account changes.

How did the bad guys steal my Qantas identity? It’s impossible to be sure, but it’s usually through compromising a computer or mobile phone when a victim goes online via a public network. Qantas recommends using only secure networks to access accounts, rather than public Wi-Fi hotspots.

But, come to think of it, I had written my account number on my baggage tag, believing it would help find the bag if it went missing. It could also help someone steal my identity. D’oh.

So consider yourself warned. Check your points regularly – and be smarter than me.

China Post chief executive Ahmed Fahour resigns after seven years in the top job

13/06/2019 Posted by admin

Post CEO Ahmed Fahour. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones Post chief executive Ahmed Fahour – who was criticised by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for his $5.6 million salary – has resigned from the job after seven years.
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Mr Fahour, who began the job in 2010, tendered his resignation to the Post board on Wednesday.

Speaking at the company’s half-year results at a press conference in Melbourne, Mr Fahour said: “With the business now poised to start a new transformation, I believe that it is appropriate and time to hand over the reins as the head of Post.

“This has been a difficult and emotional decision for me and my family, but I have come to the conclusion that the timing is right.”

Mr Fahour said: “I have been in this job for seven and a half years; it’s time.

“CEOs have to know when to go.

“My job is done – I’ve achieved everything I needed to achieve.”

Mr Fahour said that he had taken the recent controversy about his salary into “consideration” but that he began planning to step down at the end of last year.

It was “completely not true” to say he had resigned because of the salary issue, he said.

He said he had only planned to serve as chief executive for around five years when he began the job and that he was looking forward to a break after the “unrelenting” demands of the role.

He took a shot at One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, who had criticised his salary, by saying that running Post is a “little bit more complicated than running a fish and chip shop”.

Mr Fahour said there were doomsday predictions about the future of Post when he took over but the company had successfully transformed itself from a letter and stamps business into a parcels and e-commerce giant.

Mr Fahour’s successor can expect to receive a reduced salary given the Turnbull government has given the independent Remuneration Tribunal oversight of the chief executive’s salary and conditions.

The Post board had previously set the chief executive’s salary independently.

Post chairman John Stanhope said in a statement: “By any measure, Ahmed has done an astounding job in transforming the business.

“When he started, he was set the challenge to ‘write the next chapter in the history of Post’ – and he certainly rose to that challenge.”

In the six months to December 31, Post reported a net profit of $131 million, up from $16 million last year. Strong parcel growth and increased revenue from higher stamp prices helped offset an 11 per cent fall in letter volumes.

“This is one of the strongest first half results in recent history and it demonstrates that we are on the right path to ensuring the future of Post for our people, the community and our important stakeholders,” Mr Fahour said in a statement.

When Mr Fahour’s controversial salary was revealed earlier this month, Mr Turnbull said he had spoken to Mr Stanhope to say it was “too high”.

Liberal Senator James Paterson, who chairs the committee that forced Post to reveal Mr Fahour’s salary, said: “Ahmed Fahour’s resignation gives Post the opportunity to reset its executive remuneration policies and adopt a new approach to transparency.

“They should do so bearing in mind that Post is owned by taxpayers, who expect it to be well run and don’t mind the executive team being generously remunerated, but not beyond community expectations.

“They are also entitled to the absolute best standards of transparency, not the bare minimum required by law.”

Investa upgrades full-year earnings and signals stronger office rents

13/06/2019 Posted by admin

Investa Office Fund has issued an earnings upgrade for the full-year of 3 per cent based on improving fundamentals for the national office market.
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With rising tenant demand and new developments, such as 151 Clarence Street in Sydney, net effective rents are rising, as the level of incentives declined over the six months to December 31, 2106.

Investa is also engaged in a battle for control with its largest shareholder, Cromwell Properties, and said at its results presentation that the IOF manager is willing to continue in discussions with Cromwell, but will only provide additional information to Cromwell if it signs a confidentiality agreement.

Cromwell, which reports on Friday, has 9.84 per cent of Investa and has said it sees value in IOF of $4.45 per IOF security, being Cromwell’s initial proposal and up to $4.75 per IOF security. However, it has not made a formal offer.

“Following the determination not to grant Cromwell comprehensive due diligence, the independent directors have been in regular discussions with Cromwell and are willing to provide Cromwell with limited confidential information in order to facilitate Cromwell being in a position to provide IOF unit-holders with an all cash proposal which is compelling and attractive,” IOF’s manager said.

For the half, IOF’s statutory profit declined by 20.2 per cent, to $224 million, but was  higher than usual revaluations in the 2015 half due to some foreign exchange movements and derivative fluctuations.

Excluding the one-off charges and large comparative revaluations, the funds from operations, being the more accurate measure for real estate investment trusts, rose 1.4 per cent to $91.3 million.

IOF’s fund manager Penny Ranson said due to the solid office markets of Sydney and Melbourne, like-for-like net property income growth is anticipated to exceed 5 per cent.

Combined with a lower debt balance, the full year 2017 FFO guidance has been upgraded from 29¢ to 29.5¢ per unit, a 3.1 per cent increase on 2016. Distribution guidance has been increased from 20¢ to 20.2¢ per unit, being an increase of 3.1 per cent in the previous year.

The interim distribution was 10¢.

Ahmed Fahour’s bizarre press conference to announce departure and defend his legacy

13/06/2019 Posted by admin

”I don’t know how relevant I am any more.” Photo: Stefan Postles Ahmed Fahour: ”My job is done. I have achieved everything I need to achieve.” Photo: Stefan Postles
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”I am yesterday’s man now.” Photo: Stefan Postles

In a large room in Post’s newish headquarters in Melbourne, outgoing chief executive Ahmed Fahour held a bizarre and sometimes rambling press conference on Thursday afternoon.

Ostensibly called to talk about the company’s half-year results, news broke that Mr Fahour was resigning while journalists were en route.

For 15 minutes Mr Fahour provided an earnest and animated presentation of the numbers, which include a $197 million pre-tax profit thanks to a 16 per cent increase in parcel profits. The letters business is now breaking even, despite declining volumes.

Then the press conference became a speech about Mr Fahour’s legacy, delivered by Mr Fahour.

While it is true Post has turned into a profitable parcels business and started to break even on letters, according to its results, his defensive and aggressive demeanour was a little strange.

He said his departure has nothing to do with outrage over his salary, but rather because he has finished the job he set out to do.

“I have achieved everything I need to achieve.”

“I can put my hand on my heart and say to you, that this is a terrific organisation with a terrific set of people that work here day in and day out and it is through their efforts that we have achieved the unthinkable.”

While cutting costs and saving jobs, Post has also given $4 billion back to taxpayers (as long as you count company tax) to support schools, education and police. It had also saved the country from a $6.7 billion bailout, he said.

Mr Fahour repeatedly referred to Post as a global parcels and e-commerce delivery giant competing against multibillion-dollar logistics firms.

He criticised the media for failing to recognise how successful Post’s parcel’s business is today.

“We, humble old  Post, is now the parcels e-commerce company of . And the taxpayer now has a business that is worth more than $5 billion competing commercially out there in the marketplace.”

This top-down view of the company explains why Mr Fahour was never able to understand the outrage about his salary. He compares himself to the chief executives of Japan Post and DHL and other billion-dollar international companies.

He should not be compared to the chief of just a letters business like the US Postal Service, which by the way loses $20 billion a year, he pointed out.

It was plain to see that Mr Fahour does not care about rising complaints about slow delivery and lost letters. He doesn’t see Post as responsible for providing any kind of social function for the country.

Birthday invitations, condolence letters, Christmas cards and other letters make up just 3 per cent of Post’s mail volumes. And it doesn’t make any money.

He pointed to numbers showing delivery performance is now running at 98.5 per cent when the company is required to deliver only 94 per cent of letters on time.

Towards the end, Mr Fahour even downplayed the importance of money.

“I don’t really care that much about my own livelihood. Because, you see, three years ago I foregoed [sic] my incentives. Two years ago, when we lost money, I took no bonuses at all.”

“The thing that was most clear in my mind is not the compensation. The thing that is most clear in my mind is to save this company”.

When asked about his wealth, Mr Fahour tried to deflect with humour.

Will it be a relief not to have to drive his Maserati over the speed bumps at Post’s car park? Well, he has heard about that rumour, but it couldn’t be him because  he does not own a Maserati.

“But secondly, If I did [own a Maserati], I definitely would object to that speed bump”.

When asked what he thought of chairman John Stanhope describing Mr Fahour’s salary as an inherited problem, he said:

“The chairman was referring to the fact that he couldn’t convert me to a Geelong supporter. And so he just had to cop it that I am a tragic Carlton supporter and there is nothing he can do about it”.

But under repeated questioning about whether his salary was too high, Mr Fahour eventually took the theoretical route out, saying wages are just like any other investment.

“At the end of the day, the issue around pay is not one around absolutes. The issue around pay is about: what do you pay, and what do you get?”

“All corporates around the world, all CEOs around the world, there is always this question of relativity and so forth,” he said.

“You make your own judgment on whether the return on investment was good enough or not.”

Mr Fahour will leave in July, which means he receives a full year’s salary. However, this year the annual report will provide full details of executive remuneration, Mr Stanhope promised.

And both men are still due to appear at Senate estimates on Tuesday.

“I don’t know how relevant I am any more,” Mr Fahour said when asked if he will still appear at estimates.

“I am yesterday’s man now. I always love seeing the senators and I am sure it will be good fun, but I am not sure what we are going to talk about now. I am not going to really be around into the future.”

Mr Fahour said he was looking forward to reacquainting himself with his family later this year, then hinted he will soon return to corporate life.

“While I am hanging up the footy boots in this match, the footy boots are not staying off for long. Watch out, because I will be back in 2018!”

Loud quiet loud: Shrill author Lindy West finds her voice

13/06/2019 Posted by admin

US author Lindy West visits for the first time in February and March. Photo: Supplied In 2015 West helped start the Twitter hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion, an effort that went viral. Photo: An Rong Xu/New York Times
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Lindy West is anything but shrill.

The American feminist, activist, comedian and columnist is soft-spoken, exceedingly polite and seems almost shy when we speak by phone ahead of her n tour.

Yet the Seattle writer has very much found her voice in her debut book Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman.

Even so, she seems tentative to ascribe a particular genre to it.

“I think of it as a memoir,” she says. “I was nervous about the word at first, because it seemed so presumptuous. I didn’t really understand what it meant. What makes this 34-year-old person qualified to write a memoir? But it’s things that are about [my] life. It is also a collection of essays.

“It’s definitely a reflection of who I am right now. As a fat woman, a woman in comedy, as a feminist; the way that society sees me.”

West lays herself bare in her book, from her vivid description of getting her period in her teens to having an abortion in her 20s, as well as documenting break-ups, the death of her much-loved father, and her relationship with her husband Aham Oluo.

After working at The Stranger and Jezebel in the US, West came to the attention of the wider world when she wrote about her wedding (unapologetically titled My wedding was perfect – and I was fat as hell the whole time) in 2015 for Britain’s The Guardian, where she now has a regular column.

Is anything off limits? I say.

“[The book] gave me the licence to write in ways that would seem self indulgent in a different format,” she says. “I’m constantly aware of how every single word is perceived, it does make me hold back. Am I prepared to reveal that much about myself?

“Writing a book is more solitary. It made it easier to be vulnerable and take risks, without feeling that feeling of panic.

“There’s definitely stuff I’ve pulled back from. You don’t present exactly the real you … you have to hang on to some little bit of privacy, that’s just for you.”

West has been prominent on social media, particularly Twitter, and has copped a huge amount of abuse via that platform. “I was eating 30 rape threats for breakfast at [one] point,” she quips in her book.

She confronted and even made peace with a troll who impersonated her late father on Twitter and details that extraordinary encounter towards the end of Shrill.

Last month she deactivated her own account, declaring Twitter “unusable for anyone but trolls, robots and dictators”.

“A huge motivator for me getting off Twitter [was the] feeling of being so accessible, and being picked at, even by nice people,” she says. “It does get exhausting talking to people all the time.

“I really like Twitter, I miss Twitter, I miss getting info from Twitter. It’s a really interesting resource [for] taking the temperature of issues … I miss that.”

But it’s not necessarily just the users who troll her that prompted the decision. Rather, it was the platform’s biggest troll of all – the US President.

“I would really say the thing that keeps me off Twitter is Donald Trump. It’s not like I was spending a bunch of time reading his … feed, but [given] the way he uses Twitter to terrorise people and potentially start wars, I don’t want to share a platform [with] him.

“I didn’t want to be part of the same community, with that kind of behaviour and a community that enables that behaviour. It just felt gross to be there.”

Trump’s success has made it clear how ubiquitous misogyny still is, she says.

“The people who voted for him voted for misogyny, happily: for a person who has bragged about sexually assaulting women, for racism and xenophobia and Islamophobia and transphobia. They voted to destroy the lives of millions of people.”But for the most part they think they’re good people, normal nice people. They’re not monsters, they’re just people with bad ideas who have been manipulated or misled or in some cases have been raised to believe that America is a white, Christian country.

“They want their country back. Those ideas exist in the minds of nice normal Americans, just like [someone] in your office who pretends to be your dead dad.

“I think people just have a lot invested in the system as it stands. Hierarchies – like that men are in charge ??? action is masculine and passivity is feminine; it’s men’s job to rule and women’s job to nurture and assist. That feels very safe for people, it’s comforting. If you’re the person benefiting and if you’re in a country that’s set up to secure your success and dominance it’s great. It’s very threatening [though] when someone who is supposed to be your subordinate is insisting they happen to have as much power as you do …

“That’s why some people are so threatened by black lives matter … People make a lot of money out of it, if you can keep these systems going. When it’s a woman’s job to be hairless and thin: these are billion-dollar industries.”

In Shrill, West references a school project in which she was asked to prepare a presentation about what she wanted to be when she grew up. She stayed up all night editing together a video tape of snippets of her favourite pop culture references. While her project was poorly received by her fellow pupils, unwittingly it rather presciently predicted her career as an adult.

“It was definitely not conscious,” she says of her professional trajectory. “I was definitely just following the things that I like and it feels like an accident that any of this became my job. I never had the confidence to be driven. You have to think that you’re good enough to be a writer. I started doing it because I didn’t have any other skills. People responded to my writing.”Following the things she loves has resulted in another major opportunity: making a TV series. West is coy about its content and at pains to point out that it’s in the very early stages. “[It’s] a TV show that involves my secret dream that I did not have the confidence to say out loud. I feel really fortunate.”

It seems West has already been trolled in person about before her first visit here, by an Antipodean cab driver in the US who warned the arachnophobe about our supposedly giant, omnipresent spiders.

“I’ve never been there, I’m excited. I’m a bit afraid of the spiders though.”

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman is out now through Hachette . Lindy West will speak at Perth Writers Festival on February 24; at Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre on February 27; the State Library of Queensland on March 1; All About Women at Sydney Opera House on March 5 (sold out) and Adelaide Writers Festival on March 8.