US woman adopts dying dog so his final days are full of happiness

Nicole Elliot decided to take Chester the dog home from US-based shelter, Animal Ark Rescue when she discovered the small pooch was dying from cancer.

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The animal foster parent wrote on her Facebook page that it was a tough decision, but she wanted to give Chester “normal doggy experiences” and to make him as happy as possible. 

“I slept on it, and woke up knowing it was the right thing to do,” she told WTVM, a US television news program. “I knew that it would be my responsibility to make his final days the best I could, to mine and his ability.”

“I am trying to give him normal doggy experiences that he may have never had the chance to do before, and a ton of spoiling.”

She added that Chester had cancerous lumps all over his body and was heartworm positive, but “still so sweet and as perky as he could be.”

Ms Elliot wrote on Facebook that she was creating a bucketlist for Chester. Some experiences the US mother has already treated Chester to include: riding in the car with the windows down, eating a hot dog, a doggy sundae, swimming, and even an oatmilk spa bath. 

“I am wanting to do a sort of bucket list for Sweet Chester and give him and awesome final ride. I am open to suggestions and ideas. Today I took him on a shopping spree, and gave him a soothing oatmeal milk bath. He really enjoyed the bath.”

In her latest Facebook post, Ms Elliot wrote that Chester had to visit the vet.

Chester’s story has attracted widespread media and online attention, with more than 20,000 people liking Ms Elliot’s Facebook page. She has since encouraged users to donate to the non-profit organisation Animal Ark Shelter. 

Post by Chester’s final journey on Monday, 6 July 2015.

Post by Chester’s final journey on Saturday, 4 July 2015.

Post by Chester’s final journey on Sunday, 28 June 2015.

 

Govt agency takes CFMEU to court

A major trade union and its representatives allegedly broke the law 822 times after shutting down two Queensland work sites, a federal government agency says.

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Fair Work Building and Construction says the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union and 21 of its officers and agents committed the offences as part of a prolonged campaign to force the sites’ head contractors into signing an enterprise agreement.

The sites, a $60 million Queensland University of Technology project and a $770 million redevelopment of the Enoggera Army Barracks in Brisbane, were shut down for a combined 97 days in 2013.

FWBC alleged CFMEU official Anthony Kong told a contractor at the Enoggera site whether the agreement was going to be “fixed soon or am I going to be here for another one or two weeks?”

The operations manager allegedly responded: “It’s hard to fix it with a gun pointed to your head.”

In another instance, FWBC alleges workers voted to return to work, but CFMEU assistant state secretary Jade Ingham replied by saying, “Look, I’m running this meeting, keep quiet.”

During that time, the CFMEU instructed workers to down tools at various points despite a Fair Work Commission order preventing the union from organising industrial action at the sites.

The FWBC alleged the industrial action affected the QUT site on 48 days and the Enoggera site on 49 days.

The agency has accused the union of breaking the law 411 times and 21 representatives, including state secretary Michael Ravbar, of committing a combined 411 breaches as well.

FWBC director Nigel Hadgkiss said it was in the public’s best interest to take this matter to the courts.

“All building and construction industry participants should have the right to work,” Mr Hadgkiss said.

“Reports of workers being told to be quiet when they express an interest in going to work are extremely concerning.”

The matter is listed for a directions hearing on August 7.

Comment from CFMEU has been sought.

Vic mine owners refusing to pay fire bill

A company ill-prepared for a devastating Victorian coalmine fire could end up in court after refusing to pay an $18 million bill.

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GDF Suez said it was surprised to get an invoice from the Country Fire Authority for the Hazelwood mine fire, which blanketed nearby Morwell in toxic smoke and ash for 45 days in early 2014.

“We believe the fire services levy – which is in effect an insurance policy – is designed specifically to cover fire suppression activities, whether they be large or small,” GDF Suez said in a statement on Tuesday.

But Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the company owed Victorians.

“We had 7000 volunteer firefighters who rallied together for 45 very, very long days, risking their own health and safety in a voluntary capacity to bring that devastating fire under control and save that town,” she said.

Ms D’Ambrosio said GDF Suez had been found to be ill-prepared and didn’t respond quickly enough to the bushfire.

“If GDF Suez had been prepared and responded quickly, then things may have been very different,” she said.

Ms D’Ambrosio said the fire services levy covered the day-to-day operations of emergency services, not events like the Hazelwood fire.

Acting Premier James Merlino said the bill was a “conservative” amount, given the effort that went into fighting the blaze.

“If they do not (pay it), the government will consider all options, including court proceedings,” he said.

An official inquiry into the mine fire, chaired by Bernard Teague, was reopened in May and is expected to report on health-related effects by December.

Last week, arson detectives charged a 20-year-old man, who cannot be named, with arson and recklessly causing a bushfire over the blaze in the Latrobe Valley that spread to the Hazelwood mine.

He was bailed to return to court in September.

Housing competition to benefit consumers

Australia’s banks are tipped to fiercely compete for the business of owner occupiers in the next year, meaning even better deals for consumers.

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Australia’s largest mortgage broker AFG’s managing director Brett McKeon predicts already aggressive competition will intensify as banks focus on the owner-occupier market, saying the banks are quite liquid at the moment and wanting growth.

“I think the owner-occupier end of the market’s going to be quite fiercely contested over the next 12 months and that’s probably where most of the focus will be,” Mr McKeon told AAP.

“It’s hard to see better terms than what you’ve got but I think it might be possible.”

Mortgage holders are already benefiting from record low interest rates, with the Reserve Bank of Australia keeping the cash rate on hold at two per cent on Tuesday.

Mr McKeon said he would not be surprised if the banks undertake further discounting in areas such as upfront rates, application fees and ongoing fees.

Where the discounting has stopped is in the investment loan area.

“That’s been very evident in the last quarter,” he said.

Many banks have tightened their guidelines for lending to housing investors, either making loans tougher to get or more expensive.

Loans to investors have been driving growth in lending for housing, with the investor segment running at about double the growth rate for owner occupiers.

CommSec chief economist Craig James notes, however, that Australia is not witnessing unprecedented interest by investors in the housing market.

He said from 1991 to 2008 the annual growth of investor home loans was consistently stronger than it is today, peaking at 39 per cent in 1991, almost four times the current growth rate.

“Clearly people do the sums and they realise that they’re getting value for their money going into the housing market rather than going into other assets,” Mr James said.

“There’s still a degree of wariness about putting your money in the share market after the global financial crisis.”

Mr James cautions that a large influx of new homes coming on to the market in the next two years will likely mean supply exceeds demand and a possible substantial fall in prices.

“The bottom line is we’ve got demand exceeding supply, the new homes are being built and in 18 months/two years, those homes are going to be coming on to the market. No doubt in some regions of Australia there’s going to be indigestion problems as that new supply has to get absorbed.”

INVESTORS DRIVING GROWTH IN HOUSING LOANS

* Investor housing credit up 0.8 pct in May; annual rate 10.4 pct

* Owner-occupier credit up 0.4 pct; annual rate 5.7 pct

* Investment loans 36.9 pct of AFG loans in June (April peak 43.1 pct)

Source: RBA, AFG.

$3.2 trillion lost as China’s market sinks

More than $US3 trillion has gone up in smoke in less than a month in China as the country struggles to stem the bleeding from its plunging share markets.

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Despite a highly publicised intervention from authorities at the weekend, China’s main stock exchanges in Shanghai and Shenzen have remained on a rollercoaster ride this week.

Chinese shares surged in early trade on Monday before paring their gains and then suffering heavy falls on Tuesday.

Since mid-June, the indexes have lost around 30 per cent and 38 per cent, respectively burning up a combined $US3.2 trillion ($A4.27 trillion) in wealth.

That’s more than double the size of Australia’s stock market and 13 times the entire Greek economy gone.

But the colossal slides have been largely overlooked in Australia, where the market gained almost two per cent on Tuesday, as investors focused on the turmoil in Greece, which appears to be headed for a messy exit from the euro zone.

IG Market Strategist Evan Lucas says that’s unfortunate because China is Australia’s largest trading partner and any weakness in the economy there could have some nasty knock on effects here.

He said concerns about the fallout from the market collapse had played a key role in the slide in oil and iron ore prices in recent days.

“You can see already that oil is collapsing, clearly that comes down to China, and iron ore is already falling back to levels we saw earlier this year and that is a big risk to small and mid cap miners,” he said.

West Texas crude price slumped seven per cent overnight on Monday to $US52.50 a barrel, while iron ore prices tumbled another 5.4 per cent to just over $US52.

Chinese authorities have done all they can to put a floor under the market: short selling has been banned, more than 700 shares have been suspended from trading, new initial public offerings have been cancelled, and the country’s largest brokers have agreed to buy 120 billion yuan of blue chip stock.

But the moves have so far failed to calm investors and wild swings have become the norm on markets.

Mr Lucas said the government’s lack of success could undermine investor confidence further.

But Credit Suisse Australia chief investment strategist David McDonald said the market slide wasn’t completely unexpected, given the sharp rise in Chinese stocks in the past year.

And he downplayed the risk to the rest of the Chinese economy.

Despite its multi-trillion dollar size, the share market is still a relatively small part of China’s economy compared to most developed nations, which may help to limit any fallout from the recent slide.

Mr McDonald expects China’s growth trajectory – the economy is expected to grow about seven per cent this year – to remain in tact.

“We are still confident in the growth outlook for China,” he said.