Mar 13

How fast exactly? ACCC tackles confusion over broadband speeds

The ACCC will begin monitoring providers’ speed claims. Photo: Glenn HuntFinding it difficult to make sense of providers’ broadband speed promises? You’re not alone in , and the ACCC has promised to help.

Recent research by the ACCC reveals that 80 per cent of fixed broadband consumers are confused by the jargon around speeds offered by retail service providers (RSPs) such as Telstra, TPG and Optus.

In the consultation of more than 400 participants, consumers suggested they want broadband speed information in a simple, standardised format so they can more easily compare providers.

The research was motivated by a 48 per cent increase in complaints to the ombudsman over fixed and mobile broadband speeds, which became the largest issue for complaints during 2015-16, the commission said.

“The ACCC is concerned that the use of vague speed claims is not providing consumers accurate, comparable, or useful information … causing a high level of complaints, confusion, and dissatisfaction,” chairman Rod Sims said.

The commission has published guidance principles and promised to consult further on the implementation of findings to help ensure RSPs don’t mislead consumers under n Consumer Law.

It has also said it will begin monitoring providers’ speed claims, with mixed responses from telcos.

In their submissions many providers were, unsurprisingly, not pleased with the prospect of intervention by the ACCC.

Telstra deemed the monitoring of its speeds unnecessary, instead suggesting accountability via a market solution, while TPG flatly opposed any regulation at all.

Other players in the industry, however, have been more welcoming.

“We are delighted that the ACCC has called the traditional telcos to account for fudging their internet download speeds. ISPs need a complete rethink and an “un-telco” approach,” said Luke Clifton, group executive at Macquarie Telecom.

The dissatisfaction among consumers comes amid growing unease around the NBN network roll-out.

At the start of the year, NBN removed speed guidelines from its website.

Since then, NBN providers have been less confident to specify available speeds when spruiking their services, further heightening confusion for consumers.

In response, Telstra announced it will begin publishing the speeds of its NBN service in April.

“Not all experiences are the same, not all NBN services are the same,” Telstra chief executive Andy Penn told News Corp recently.

“The industry should be publishing the speeds that they are delivering. What’s critical is that the industry comes along on that journey so there’s no game-playing.”

   Feb 13

Ron Medich trial: Witness Lucky Gattellari denies he was the murder mastermind

Ron Medich has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Michael McGurk. Photo: Peter Rae Lucky Gattellari is the key Crown witness against Ron Medich. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Crown witness Fortunato “Lucky” Gattellari has denied he alone ordered a murder after stealing millions from Ron Medich, the property developer now on trial as an alleged mastermind of the shooting.

Mr Medich, 68, has pleaded not guilty to ordering the contract killing of Michael McGurk, 45, a former business partner gunned down in the driveway of his Sydney home in 2009.

Gattellari, 66, a former boxer turned business partner of Mr Medich, has pleaded guilty to arranging the murder and became the Crown’s principal witness in exchange for a much shorter prison sentence.

After seven days of cross-exmamination, Mr Medich’s barrister, Winston Terracini, SC, put it to Gattellari that he paid for the murder on his own.

“You were the one who organised the murder and nobody else,” he said.

“No, that’s not correct,” Gattellari replied.

The murder victim had embroiled Mr Medich in a series of costly lawsuits in 2008 and 2009 before he was shot in the back of the head outside his Cremorne home on September 3, 2009.

But the defence case suggested Mr Medich had been robbed by Gattellari, who denied he “milked him for years”.

Mr Terracini spent several days asking about large sums of money described by Gattellari as undocumented, interest-free loans from Mr Medich that had no repayment term.

On Tuesday morning, the court heard Mr McGurk had made comments at a lunch about Gattellari’s management of companies that relied on millions of dollars of Mr Medich’s financial backing.

“You were very, very concerned that monies you had stolen from Mr Medich would be uncovered weren’t you?” Mr Terracini said.

Gattellari denied it. He rejected suggestions he and his physically imposing driver Senad Kaminic turned up to Mr McGurk’s office to intimidate him into silence.

“I’ve never threatened anybody,” he said. “Mr Kaminic has never threatened anybody on my behalf.”

Gattellari said he had simply told Mr McGurk that he should mind his own business.

In other evidence, Gattellari was asked about the $600,000 Mr Medich allegedly gave him to arrange the murder of Mr McGurk and the subsequent intimidation of his widow, Kimberley McGurk.

Gattellari said he had transferred around $450,000 of that money to Mr Kaminic while the remaining $150,000 was fed back into company holdings to be used for other jobs Mr Medich wanted done.

He has told the jury he was handed Cryovac bags of cash by Mr Medich at the Medich home on two separate occasions while in the presence of Mr Kaminic.

Asked how certain he was that Mr Kaminic was in fact present, he said: “I think I’m pretty definite he was there.”

After 11 days of evidence from Gattellari, the trial was set to hear from Mr Kaminic, a former Bosnian solider, on Wednesday.

   Feb 13

Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman defiant in the face of Islamic State threats

Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman is featured in the Islamic State video giving a sermon in which he dismantles the idea that violent extremism will get a person to heaven. Photo: Supplied The Grand Mufti, Dr Abu Ibrahim Mohamed, is pictured in the Islamic State video shaking hands with inter-faith advocate and Anglican minister Father Rod Bowers. Photo: Supplied

Police chaplain, Sheikh Ahmed Abdo (centre), features in the Islamic State video alongside Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione and the Grand Mufti, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed. Photo: Supplied

A western Sydney sheikh placed in the crosshairs of Islamic State has defiantly vowed to continue his work and says he is “unconcerned” by threats on his life.

Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman, who works with young people to steer them away from crime, was one of three n Muslim leaders named in an Islamic State propaganda video released on Sunday night.

The terrorist group called on its followers to kill the trio and other Muslim leaders worldwide because they had discouraged violence in the name of Islam and encouraged people to follow the laws of the land.

The Grand Mufti, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, and the NSW Police Force chaplain Sheikh Ahmed Abdo were criticised in the video for working with government and police.

Sheikh Shady responded on Tuesday, saying he was not surprised that Islamic State labelled him “an apostate” and called on followers to “murder me”.

“[It] confirms in no uncertain terms, that the beliefs, teachings, and ideology of this group, ISIS, are not in harmony with the religion of Islam,” he said.

“Many n imams, including myself, have publicly denounced and preached against the hateful and murderous teachings of ISIS – stating publicly on countless occasions that the ISIS way is not the Islamic way.

“I am heartened to hear that ISIS themselves agree – confirming that mainstream Islam, which the vast majority of the world’s Muslims adhere to, is not what they preach and the recent video is a big proof of that.”

He said he was undeterred in his mission to teach and practice “true Islamic teachings” and the principles of humanitarianism, including sharia’s teaching to respect and abide by the laws of the land you live in.

“As for the threats on my life – I am unconcerned,” he said.

“I have complete faith and trust in almighty Allah (God), who will choose a suitable time, place, and method of my departure from this world. This is a matter for Allah (God), over which, no one else has authority.”

**RESPONSE TO THE RECENT ISIS VIDEO CALLING FOR MY KILLING** In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful …Posted by Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman on  Monday, 13 February 2017

   Feb 13

RSL NSW council will stand aside over financial scandal – but only on its own terms

Former NSW RSL president Don Rowe at Sydney’s Hyde Park war memorial. Photo: Ben Rushton The RSL NSW council says it is prepared to stand aside en masse and have a caretaker put in place while claims it mishandled financial misconduct allegations are investigated – but only if it gets to choose the caretaker.

The condition set by the beleaguered NSW leadership has sparked an angry response from some RSL members and deepened a stoush with the league’s national board.

A message sent out to RSL members says the state council agreed at a meeting on Monday that it “will voluntarily stand aside on an interim basis pending the results of a board of inquiry into allegations of financial misconduct”.

The move follows months of reporting by Fairfax Media on financial concerns plaguing the league.

But the council will only stand aside if the national board withdraws disciplinary charges that the NSW state council failed to deal properly with questions surrounding former state president Don Rowe’s corporate credit card spending.

Those charges would instead be dealt with by a NSW board of inquiry.

NSW is also demanding that the caretaker appointed is retired Major-General David McLachlan, who retired from the role of Victoria RSL president two weeks ago. Under the NSW demands, Mr McLachlan would set the terms of reference for the inquiry, which would have to report within the tight timeframe of one month.

NSW president John Haines said the council wanted a “neutral” person to ensure that “we get a fair go”.

Acting national president Robert Dick said the national board had proposed a month ago to drop the disciplinary charges and turn them over to board of inquiry if the NSW council would stand aside.

He said the national board had only on Tuesday seen the NSW counter offer and had to consider it, but stressed “the national board will not allow the RSL NSW state council to set their own conditions”.

As things stood, the charges were not dropped and a disciplinary hearing against NSW would go ahead next week, he said.

Mr Rowe spent $475,000 in six years, including $213,000 in cash withdrawals, and paid the mobile phone bills for five family members. Among the cash withdrawals were $2300 in 17 days over the 2013 Christmas and New Year’s period in his home town of Armidale.

Mr Rowe was allowed to resign for health reasons in November 2014 but audit firm Grant Thornton was hired to investigate a year of Mr Rowe’s spending and concluded there was “potentially a prima facie case of fraud”.

The council was briefed on the audit in January 2015 but no further action was taken and RSL members were not told that Mr Rowe resigned for reasons other than ill health until two months ago following a forensic audit by another firm, KordaMentha.

However, the conditions set by the NSW council have provoked fury among some members. James Brown, vice president of North Bondi sub-branch and a candidate for state president in the next election, branded the move “the dying gasp of a dysfunctional council facing multiple allegations of wrongdoing, including a criminal investigation into fraud and misuse of charity funds”.

“Half the council have resigned in protest. The remainder now emerge from weeks of secret meetings and propose handing control of our organisation to someone who is not a member of RSL NSW and has not been elected to any leadership position,” he said.

He welcomed the council’s offer to stand aside but said the chief executive and his staff, rather than a caretaker, should run the organisation until the election at the end of May.

Support meanwhile is being drummed up for a motion to call an extraordinary congress which would dismiss the NSW council and appoint a trustee company RSL Custodian to oversee the organisation.

One RSL member with knowledge of the inner workings of the league said that about 70 of the state’s roughly 360 sub-branches had already pledged support to the motion.

The member said that the NSW demand was “unacceptable and does not alleviate the concerns of members”.

Mr McLachlan said he would be happy to take on the role and would conduct himself independently.

“Anybody that knows me on the national board and anywhere else knows that I’m a very impartial person when it comes to matters of this kind and my integrity is the most important quality I own,” he said.

A board of inquiry has already been flagged to look at a range of broader financial concerns within NSW, including the payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars to councillors in consulting fees by the league’s aged care arm in the state. Mr Rowe was one of those councillors, as was former national president Rod White who recently stood aside.

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   Feb 13

‘Doesn’t make sense’: New guidelines threaten booming home storage market

Companies such as Tesla have been increasing sales in as consumers look to reduce reliance on the grid. Photo: David MariuzThe booming market for home solar storage could be thrown into disarray if proposed safety guidelines force owners to move their battery units outside.

Draft guidelines to be released by Standards within weeks are expected to place restrictions on where battery packs supplied by companies such as Tesla and Alpha-ESS can be installed, with industry fears that placement within homes and garages will be banned.

“If reinforced, more than half the current players will be made bankrupt or they will pull out of ,” Dong Lin, managing director of Alpha-ESS. “It doesn’t make sense… will be way behind the rest of the world.”

Mr Lin, who sits on a sub-committee that represents storage companies, said confidentiality rules limit what can be discussed publicly before the guidelines’ release. Still, indications are that Standards will require battery units to be housed in a costly “bunker” outside even though the materials used are safer than those in mobile phones and lap tops, he said.

“The risk is very minimal that [the units] will catch fire or explode,” he said. If such safety rules were taken to their logical conclusion, “all lithium batteries would have to put outside, and in a bunker”.

Standards , the nation’s peak standards body, said in a statement that the new rules “will enable the safe installation of battery energy storage systems”.

Provisions would cover all battery types and the mitigation of hazards, and would be open for comment over nine weeks from April, although the feedback period may be delayed further. Before a standard is applied, feedback would be considered, a ballot taken among stakeholders, and then it would be up to governments to choose to reference it.

Standards members declined to rule in or out any provisions, and said the aim was to “get some level of harmony” before the guidelines were put to the public for comment. ‘Bunker worries’

Industry insiders, though, remain concerned that rules setting standards for “on-site” installation may preclude placement of batteries inside homes or garages, and will require them to be stored within a costly external “bunker”.

Any disruption of the nascent storage industry would hamper the take-up of batteries at a time when consumers are increasingly anxious to curb reliance on grid-supplied electricity amid soaring energy prices and reduced reliability in parts of the country, such as South .

The new standards, if imposed as feared, could deter people adding storage to their solar systems, and may deter others from taking up both. For those batteries, they may have to undertake expensive modifications to meet the new requirements.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has installed batteries and solar panels at his house on Sydney Harbour, on Monday criticised Labor for advocating higher renewable energy goals without promoting storage too.

According to Alpha-ESS’s Mr Lin, installed about 6500 storage units in homes last year, with his company providing about 800 of them. There have been no reported incidents.

The market was expected to grow to 20,000-30,000 this year, with demand rising at the 300 per cent so far in 2017.

“A lot of customers are calling to ask about the potential changes,” Mr Lin said.  50 per cent jump

The draft guidelines appear likely to be much more restrictive than other nations. Germany, for instance, has installed 50,000 such units inside homes, he said.

A typical household system with 5-kilowatt of solar panels and 5 KW-hour storage capacity costs about $12,000-$13,000.

Early estimates of the cost of building outdoor cages to house the storage are about $5000, potentially lifting the system’s costs by 50 per cent, he said.

Placing lithium-ion batteries outside home may also reduce their performance.

“Ideally, they should be installed where you have control over the environment,” and shielded from extremes of cold, heat and humidity, Mr Lin said.

Glen Morris, vice president of the n Energy Storage Council, said there was no evidence of battery faults triggering fires in homes.

Mr Morris said the “whole process has been rushed” and the industry had not been allowed enough time so far to give adequate feedback to the proposed standards.

   Feb 13

Jess Fishlock could be back in hunt for threepeat with Melbourne City

Melbourne City’s history making captain-coach Jess Fishlock could yet return to try to lead the team to a third consecutive W-League title next season, although no new deal has yet been confirmed.

“It’s not a done deal right now, but probably,” she says when asked if she will be returning. “Coming back here next season is an option, for sure.

“We will sit down and see what it looks like. I have to weigh up right now what’s best for me, the whys and whats of coming back here. There’s an element of me that likes a new challenge in a different way and different environment.

“However, I still believe that from my coaching and developing future this club is absolutely where I want to be.

“The City Football Group, Melbourne, Manchester, New York, but right now, out of the whole CFG, Melbourne is absolutely where I want to be, it’s the right fit for me in terms of my coaching experience,” the 30-year-old says.

On Sunday night Fishlock was holding aloft the W-League trophy after leading her team to an historis back-to-back championship in a 2-0 win over Perth Glory

On Wednesday she will be flying out to Europe to link up with her international team, Wales, to be a key part of the squad for the Cyprus Cup, an international tournament that kicks off on March 1.

“After that I go to Seattle for our pre-season before the season proper starts in the NWSL (National Womens Soccer League) in America.

“My main season is in Seattle, after that I have to figure out what is best for me. It’s not solely about football. It’s about the game, life and the future.

“I am now 30 … it’s not young in the footballing world. I think I could stay playing until I was 35 if I really wanted but I want to transition to coaching, but in the right way. I don’t want to cut corners. It’s not how I believe it should be done.

“I have to learn and develop and be mentored and just really put the work in to be the coach that I want to be, because that’s what I did to be the player I wanted to be. There are no short cuts.”

Fishlock has been a big advocate for women’s sport throughout her career, and the Cardiff-born soccer star believes that the huge start made by the AFL Women’s competition is good for all women’s sport, not just footy.

Nor, she says, does it represent a big threat to soccer, as some are claiming, because football has something n Rules doesn’t have – the chance to play for your country and follow your dream around the world.

“The pull of that, of being able to play what you love worldwide for me is a huge thing. But AFL Women’s is really good for women’s sport and if you are a girl growing up here and you have all these options to be a successful sportsperson then I think it’s brilliant what they have done.

“From a soccer perspective if you want to play soccer you want to play it. If you love it you will play it … If you are an athlete you are an athlete, but it’s the love of the game – it’s the whole reason why the W-League even exists.

“In season one there wasn’t much money, exposure, media or anything, but the girls did it anyway. That’s what it is, the love of the game.

“I do think in a good way the AFL might push the W-league and the FFA to make a few changes to ensure that the growth of the league is the No.1 priority and we don’t rest on what we have managed to achieve to this point.”

   Jan 14

Matildas’ newbie Galabadaarachchi has bright future if she works hard

Her name – Jacynta Galabadaarachchi – might be too long for her shirt and hard to pronounce, but that will be the challenge for fans and commentators of women’s soccer after the 15-year-old Melbourne City midfielder was called into the Matildas’ camp in Canberra this week.

The teenager, who had to overturn a ruling preventing her from playing in a boys’ team, has made an impact with the W-League title-winners this season and could become the next big thing – if she keeps her head down, works hard and makes the expected development.

Matildas boss Alan Stajcic saw enough this season to give her a taste of what it’s like to be involved with the national team.

City captain and coach Jess Fishlock agrees the sky could be the limit if Galabadaarachchi works hard.

“We just call her Jacynta although she has her full name on her shirt,” Fishlock said.

“She’s a good little player. She has huge potential to be a good player if she develops in the right way.

“There are a lot of positives to her game, but there are a lot of things she needs to learn and understand to make her attributes really hurt teams.

“She’s a good dribbler, but at the moment she struggles to figure out when to dribble, when not to dribble, when to pass, when to move and what to do in defending situations. She just wants to play and get on with it, in a freestyle manner, with no structure to it,”

Had City been coasting to the W-League finals, as they did last year, then the youngster might have had more game time. But few risks could be taken this season, Fishlock said.

“Because of the situation we were in and it was a fight to the very end, when you have someone who is such a good player but doesn’t quite understand it as of yet, it can be quite detrimental  to what you want to achieve.

“It was just her inexperience that kept her out really, I am very happy for her to be called up to the national team camp. It’s always an honour.”

   Jan 14

James Pattinson forced to pull out of Prime Minister’s XI due to foot infection

James Pattinson is on the comeback trail from injury and is one of the best bowlers in . Photo Jay Cronan Photo: Jay CronanThe James Pattinson injury curse has struck again.

Luckless n fast-bowler Pattinson has taken another injury hit and been forced to withdraw from the Prime Minister’s XI clash against Sri Lanka at Manuka Oval.

In a blow to one of the fixture’s marquee men, Pattinson has an infection in his left foot and will be replaced by NSW bowler Harry Conway.

Pattinson joins former n one-day international captain George Bailey on the high-profile withdrawal list for a match that doubles as Adam Voges’ farewell to international cricket.

It’s a fresh injury blow for Pattinson, who has been taking a long and slow road back to the top level as back, shin and hamstring injuries delayed his career.

The Victorian quick took 5-27 on debut for in 2011, claiming 70 scalps in 17 matches. But injuries have forced him to miss 40 Tests and he’s taken another hit in the PM’s XI match.

Pattinson concedes he has to prove himself again, but has put his faith in the selection process.

“I wanted to get a fair bit of first class cricket in before I play any Test cricket again,” Pattinson said.

“Obviously [I want to] try and put on some performances for the selectors to pick me. It’s about all the process.

“It’s been frustrating, but hopefully now I can just keep getting more cricket, and keep playing, getting that continuity and consistency into my game which I’ve obviously lacked over the last two or three years.

“Hopefully that can happen and take it game by game, and hopefully play a few more games.”

Pattinson was in Canberra on Tuesday and will watch the reformatted PM’s XI, which will be played as a Twenty20 match for the first time.

An ACT XI will play against Papua New Guinea in a curtain-raiser and Cricket ACT general manager of high performance Aiden Blizzard wants Canberra players to use it as a career launching pad.

“We’re really excited. I think it’s a great opportunity for the boys to get some experience against an international team, but also to kick off what an event it will be here at Manuka Oval for the PM’s XI,” Blizzard said.

“[Twenty20] cricket is going gangbusters at the moment, particularly the BBL so it’s a really good opportunity. Number one for our boys to get some experience, but number two to put their hand up and really work hard to get a BBL opportunity.”

Despite a long list of n players being unavailable for the PM’s XI match and three withdrawals, there is no Canberra player in the marquee match.

“Ideally we would have a Canberra guy in the XI, however we’re really happy with Matt Gilkes getting the opportunity to be 12th man,” Blizzard said.

“In an ideal world, yes [we’d like one in PM’s XI], but we’re really proud of being able to host this time and time again, and to be able to give players exposure to international teams and to push their case for the next level.”

   Jan 14

Sweep or dance: Renshaw faces dilemma in India

The n Test side is shaping up for the toughest test in the modern game, playing India in India.

The powerhouse from the sub-continent made short work of England late last year and have piled on the runs against Bangladesh.

Queenslanders Matt Renshaw and Usman Khawaja will be tasked with batting for long periods and scoring runs.

Renshaw starred for in his debut series, proving to be a savvy thinker of the game. But playing in India is a different beast.

In the lead-up to the tour, the Brisbane product has worked on National Centre of Excellence pitches that mimic the sharp turning spin of the sub-continent. He’s also picked the brains of England spinner Monty Panesar, showing a maturity we’re coming to expect from the 20-year-old.

Pundits have suggested his tactics should mimic Matthew Hayden’s method of playing across the line.

Hayden’s method has not been replicated by many n batsmen over the past 10 years as the sweep shot has slowly gone out of vogue. The Michael Clarke approach of batsmen using their feet and running down the wicket seems to be the “proper” way to play spin in modern cricket.

But is the sweep the best option for Renshaw? The tall left hander Renshaw has extraordinary reach with the bat, allowing him to easily hit balls off a good length. But is it the right method to lump a hyper aggressive unfamiliar tactic on one of ‘s newest players?

In a throwback to his country of birth, Renshaw should adopt the patient approach of England’s Alastair Cook.

This method of batting long periods of time with a low strike rate would of course trigger criticism from past players who feel the need to “take the game on”.

But Renshaw has proven he has a capacity to bat long periods of time and soak up balls. Why is there a call for him to go away from this game plan to start attacking bowlers in some of the most difficult conditions in the world? Why would you want the 20-year-old to move away from a plan that has brought him to the highest level of the game in such a short space of time?

In his first trip to India, surely it would make sense to see more Cook than Hayden in Renshaw’s style.

Khawaja has had a torrid relationship with the sub-continent, both on and off the pitch. ‘s number three has toured three times with an average less than 20. Off the field he was involved in the infamous “homeworkgate” situation under former coach Mickey Arthur, and most recently in 2016 when the team toured Sri Lanka he lashed out at selectors saying himself and Joe Burns were being made scapegoats after being dropped.

With the bat in hand, Khawaja has struggled against the moving ball. His performance over the summer scoring over 500 runs against South Africa and Pakistan might alleviate some of this concern but there is some belief he will struggle against a spinning, reverse-swinging ball.

Khawaja is described as a traditional player, but in this upcoming series success might be just around the corner if he is a little more “unconventional”. Due to the spinning nature of the pitches and the high caliber of the indian spinners, Khawaja will be surrounded by close in fielders around the bat.

These close catchers provide a worry for a traditional style players, who often play spin with bat and pad close together. Players like AB De Villiers and Kevin Pietersen has been successful in India against the spinning ball. Albeit in two different styles.

Pietersen’s aggression towards the spinners forced the Indians to remove catchers from around the bat in a bid to stop runs. Pietersen could then toy with the field without worrying about knicking a ball onto his pad.

De Villers had the same intent, a aggression of taking balls pitched outside off stump and hitting them through the legside. Plans like this, that might ruffle a few feathers of commentators, could be the answer for Khawaja’s success in  the subcontinent.

For Khawaja to get past the most difficult part of his innings, the start, he might need to change his plans and move away from the traditional methods.

India is a vastly different, alien place for an n cricketer. This is confirmed by performances over the past 10 years, India needs to be a place for players to try different things, a place for an individual to figure out what works for them – whether this is throwing the batting handbook out the window or sticking to it rigidly. It is going to be a tough test for these Queenslanders, but it sure will be exciting to see what they come up with.

   Jan 14

Steel Horse limousine service founder Peter de Mey has had a mixed career but found his professional calling

Polished performer: Peter de Mey with one of his luxury Steel Horse vehicles. What was your first job?

I had always been keen on drawing and designing things, so it was a natural progression for me to work in the graphic design/advertising area.

I remember at high school drawing caricatures of mates and teachers as ducks. They became so popular I had requests from other teachers. I had to tread a fine line there I can tell you.

What appealed to you about the sector, which obviously changed radically with computerisation?

Back in the Eighties, computer graphics came to with high resolution and great colour so I just had to be in on it.

I was the first Aussie to be trained in the new technology. Of course, today a simple desktop computer can doimmeasurably more than those computers which occupied a whole room and looked like a row of wardrobes

Why did you move into corporate hospitality and what was your role?

I needed the flexibility of time to spare for the project of first building then running the country retreat on the land I had bought up in Lambs Valley. I worked in a number of skyscraper offices in Sydney for major law firms, insurance companies and building and development companies which had their own commercial kitchens and client entertaining facilities. There I gained the experience of working with a lot of very high profile and influential business people.

When you have to be in the room where deals worth many millions of dollars are being brokered, you quickly learn when to be invisible and when to be friendly and personable.

It was great customer service experience.

What led you to build a luxury B&B in the Upper Hunter?

At the time it was my goal to set up and run a high quality country retreat. It was a lifestyle choice I guess.I found a 100-acre property in Lambs Valley in the northern Hunter and built an architect designed, three pavilion building with log fires, spa bathsand of course king-size beds and commanding spectacular valley views. I opened for business at the beginning of 200 to both local and overseas guests

What did you learn from running a B&B before selling it in 2006?

First and most importantly, by setting a goal and breaking it down into manageable pieces with a realistic time-frame, you can achieve anything you want.

Build a friendly rapport with customers and enjoy the satisfaction of providing them with a wonderful experience which they remember afterwards.

What led to you founding your limousine service in 2015?

When I arrived in Newcastle 10 years ago, I had a painful back injury which made most work options, once I recovered, out of the question. Driving a luxury car seemed fairly low impact so that’s how I got into the hire car industry. After a few years, I thought I should branch out on my own offering my own brand of customer service with a high-end luxury vehicle.

What is your point of difference in your competitive market?

Friendly, professional and attentive customer service coupled with a prestige limousine. Then, build in options and packages that the competition can’t or don’t want to provide.

My regular customers have become like friends to me.

What are the biggest challenges to your business at present?

Developing business and regular work in very uncertain financial times and of course the ever increasing cost of fuel.

What do you think the Hunter tourism industry needs to do to be more attractive to visitors from here and abroad?

Customer service is key to everything. For instance the wineries I take my customers to are the ones which provide a superior customer experience. Wines for the most part are good to excellent, so the experience of going there has to be special

Peter De Mey

You’ve had some famous clientele in your car. What have been the most interesting VIP journeys you have made?

Well, the prime minister’s car broke down on the RAAF runway while we were alongside the prime minister’s jet, so I stepped in to drive Mr Rudd on the first day of his second term as PM.

Also Peter Garrett (then Education Minister) sang for me as I drove him into Sydney.

What do you enjoy most about your current role?

Oh gee … lots of things. Not being in an office 9 to 5. Meeting lots of really interesting people. Everyone has a great story to tell.

Driving through the country at dawn … beautiful!

If you had your druthers, where would you live and work?

Oh that’s a hard one. I kinda like where I am at the moment.

If money wasn’t a consideration I would love to be living somewhere near the sea with plenty of nature around me for growing things and being able to share it with great people.