Finance: Tesla Appoints Robyn Denholm as Elon Musk’s Replacement in Chair Role

Tesla has named Robyn Denholm as its new board chair, replacing Elon Musk.

Denholm, who has been a Tesla board member since 2014, will leave her post as chief financial officer and head of strategy at Telstra.

Denholm has held leadership roles across multiple Silicon Valley technology companies, such as Juniper Networks and Sun Microsystems, as well as a number of finance roles at automotive giant Toyota.

“Robyn … has made significant contributions as a Tesla Board member over the past four years in helping us become a profitable company,” said Musk. “I look forward to working even more closely with Robyn as we continue accelerating the advent of sustainable energy.”

In September, the US Securities and Exchange Commission sued Tesla and Musk for fraud after the latter announced on Twitter that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private at $420 per share. The case was settled with a US$40 million payment and an agreement for Musk to leave his chairman role for at least three years.

Musk stays in the company after the settlement, keeping his position as the chief executive officer.

Observers have expressed their scepticism over Denholm’s ability to keep the CEO in rein. “With all the crazy stuff going on, she was there,” said Rohan Williamson, a finance professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. “She couldn’t control him before. Is anything going to change?”

International: Trump Asks for Khashoggi’s Murder Evidence

US president Donald Trump has asked Turkey for any audio or video evidence it had related to the disappearance and alleged murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi “if it exists”.

Khashoggi was last seen entering Istanbul’s Saudi consulate on October 2. Turkish officials said they believed Khashoggi was murdered in the building. Saudi Arabia has denied killing the Washington Post journalist.

Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he had requested evidence of the murder from Turkey. “We have asked for it, if it exists,” said Trump. “I’m not sure yet that it exists, probably does, possibly does.”

Trump denied giving cover for Saudi Arabia, which is one of Washington’s closest allies. Only a day before, Trump compared the murder allegations to sexual assault accusations against Brett Kavanaugh. “Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”

Turkish government leaks and press reports have raised claims that Khashoggi was tortured and killed in the consulate building, where he expected to arrange paperwork for his marriage. Sources told CNN that the death was a result of an interrogation that went wrong, with the original plan being to abduct Khashoggi from Turkey.

Reports also said that 15 Saudi Arabians arrived at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on diplomatic passports only a few hours before Khashoggi went to the consulate. These 15 people left the same night.

In response to the news, more figures from high-profile organisations have withdrawn from an investment conference in Riyadh, including the International Monetary Fund’s Christine Lagarde, Google’s Diane Greene, CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, Credit Suisse’s Tidjane Thiam, JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon and Uber’s Dara Khosrowshahi.

National: Queensland’s Dwelling Values Now Worth $1T

The housing market value in Queensland has surpassed the trillion dollar threshold for the first time ever, thanks to the recovering economy and a rise in buyer interest.

The Sunday-Mail reported that according to CoreLogic figures, the value of the state’s residential sector hit $1.004 trillion in September, marking a 10 percent increase from $910 billion in 2016.

“Overall, due to the improved economy, increase in employment and population, $15 billion construction boom and the Advance Queensland Business Development Fund, Queensland is projected to deliver good long-term capital growth,” said Doron Peleg, chief executive at RiskWise Property Research.

This rise in value also coincides with real estate revivals in some parts of regional Queensland as towns recover from mining busts.

Valuer Herron Todd White said prices of real estate Cairns, Emerald, Gladstone, Townsville and Mackay have grown by 40 percent in the last 12 months due to surging capital works projects and coal value.

In particular, median house price in Mackay grew 2.5 percent to $335,000 over a year to June. “This market is benefiting from a jobs boom in the region and currently has the lowest unemployment rate in the state,” said Antonia Mercorella, chief executive at Real Estate Institute of Queensland.

CoreLogic’s head of research Tim Lawless said mining towns could expect an increase in home values following rebound from the sector’s downturn. “Coming into 2019, markets like Mackay should start to see some growth, we expect Toowoomba to move back into positive growth and Cairns to see a bounce higher,” said Lawless.

However, Peleg said buyers should “proceed with caution” in these areas.

Technology: LG Integrates Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa

LG has integrated Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa into its smart televisions.

“LG’s vision is to become a major name in all things AI based on our philosophy of open platform, open partnership and open connectivity,” said Brian Kwon, president at LG Home Entertainment Company.

Last week the company rolled out all functionalities and software updates for its 2018 LG OLED TV and LED LCD TV range to Australia, Canada, France, Germany, South Korea, Spain and the UK.

The Alexa integration is limited to TV-specific functions, including volume and input control, whereas the Google Assistant integration goes further. Users who have configured the latter with their TV will be able to use voice command to access Google Assistant-compliant apps, answer search queries, and display homes for sale on web as well as shopping platforms like eBay and Woolworths.

Technology: Amazon Promotes Own Brands on Competitors’ Listings

Amazon appears to be testing a new feature to promote its own products under the listings of competing brands.

CNBC reported that users could find the link “Similar item from Our Brands” under search results for a variety of products, which connects to the product page of Amazon’s private brands. For example, users looking to buy body wash from Dove could find under the listing a link directing them to a product page of P.O.V., an Amazon-owned personal care brand. Similarly, the link underneath the listings for Bounty paper towels connects to Amazon’s household brand Presto.

Vendors voiced out their complaints on Amazon’s seller forum, raising questions over the fairness of competition on the platform.

“If you’ve got Amazon brands competing against you, it’s just become that much more difficult to be competitive in the marketplace,” said Jeff Cohen, chief marketing officer at Seller Labs, an agency that helps sellers advertise their business on the online marketplace.

Amazon has not announced any new features on the platform, nor has the company responded to media enquiries on the matter.

A report by TJI Research released last week expected Amazon’s private labels to contribute $7.5 billion in sales this year. “Private label is one of the highly under-appreciated trends within Amazon, in our view, which over time should give the company a strong ‘unfair’ competitive advantage,” the report said.

Technology: Singapore to Embrace Cloud for Government IT Systems

The Singaporean government will move most of its IT systems to commercial cloud services over the next few years, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has announced.

In the Stack 2018 Developer Conference on Tuesday, Lee said the government would need to “re-engineer” its systems and processes to provide better public service.

“With technology, we can … reduce bureaucracy and simplify our processes significantly,” said Lee. “We have done a preliminary study, and concluded that many government systems can in principle exist in the commercial cloud.”

Lee said some systems will be migrated to the commercial cloud infrastructure over the next few years, with plans to create “our own government cloud” for systems that cannot be transferred.

He also emphasised the government’s concern for security and data protection, mentioning the recent SingHealth cyber-attack that saw hackers steal 160,000 medical records and 1.5 million patients’ personal information. “The latest SingHealth incident only drives us to redouble our efforts,” said Lee.

Singapore isn’t the first government to introduce commercial cloud solution. In February, the Australian government unveiled Secure Cloud Strategy to allow agencies to use cloud services more easily.

International: Brett Kavanaugh Lies under Oath about Drinking, Former Classmates Say

A former classmate of Brett Kavanaugh has accused the US Supreme Court nominee of lying under oath about his drinking behaviour during his university years.

In a testimony to the judiciary committee on Thursday, Kavanaugh denied ever blacking out from drinking. The statement was part of Kavanaugh’s response to the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who accused the judge of sexually assaulting her while drunk in 1982.

However, Charles Ludington, who had been a friend of Kavanaugh’s at Yale called this claim into question. In a statement, Ludington said he was “deeply troubled by what has been a blatant mischaracterisation by Brett himself of his drinking at Yale.”

Ludington said Kavanaugh often became “belligerent and aggressive” when drinking, and at one point threw a beer in a man’s face, “starting a fight that ended with one of our mutual friends in jail.”

“I can unequivocally say that in denying the possibility that he ever blacked out from drinking, and in downplaying the degree and frequency of his drinking, Brett has not told the truth,” said Ludington.

The North Carolina State University professor said the problem was with lying rather than the “heavy drinking” during the judge’s youth. “If he lied about his past actions on national television, and more especially while speaking under oath in front of the United States Senate, I believe those lies should have consequences.”

Ludington was not the first classmate to challenge Kavanaugh’s statements on his drinking habit. Liz Swisher said Kavanaugh was “a partier” who “drank heavily.” She said, “There’s no problem with drinking beer in college. The problem is lying about it.”

Kavanaugh’s former roommate at Yale, James Roche also said the judge was “a notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time” who “became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk.”

Lying under oath counts as a perjury and will end Kavanaugh’s candidacy for the Supreme Court.

Technology: Apple Removes the Home Button from New iPhones

Apple is getting rid of the home button on its upcoming iPhones.

In an event at Apple’s Cupertino headquarter last night, the company revealed that its new handsets would not have the home button as the Touch ID biometric authentication system is removed. The upcoming models – namely iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR – would use Face ID instead, where users can swipe up the screen or give a look to unlock the phone.

“You look at it to unlock it,” said Phil Schiller, marketing chief at Apple. “Your phone knows what you look like and your face becomes your password.”

Apple first introduced home button-free device last year with iPhone X.

In the same night, the company also unveiled a few upgrades for the Apple Watch. The Series 4 range will have edge-to-edge screen and a health feature where the device can start an emergency call upon detecting the user’s irregular heartbeat.

Local councils put affordable housing supply in the too hard basket

Alan Morris, University of Technology Sydney and Catherine Davis, University of Technology Sydney

Public concern about housing affordability in Australia is well documented. It would be reasonable to assume our local governments are giving the supply of affordable housing the attention it deserves. However, our national survey reveals that while it’s a growing concern for many local governments across the country, especially in metropolitan areas, most councils do not view the provision of affordable housing as a priority for them.

The survey results strongly suggest that local governments do not feel they have the capacity to intervene in a meaningful way.

The survey included a range of questions about local governments’ engagement with housing-related activities in their area. We asked about the priority given to housing issues, how important housing is relative to other council issues, and what kinds of policies and initiatives they plan to implement to help resolve the problem.

All 546 local governments in Australia were invited to participate in the survey. We received 213 responses. The majority, 72%, came from non-metropolitan areas (there are a lot more non-metropolitan local governments).

Do councils think it’s a problem in their area?

Almost all the metropolitan councils saw housing affordability as an issue (Figure 1). Half saw it as a very substantial or substantial issue. Only 13.5% said it was not an issue.

In contrast, only 26.6% of non-metropolitan councils responded that housing affordability is a substantial or very substantial issue.

Author provided

 

The responses to the question about what proportion of housing stock in the council area is affordable were remarkable (Figure 2).

Half of the metropolitan councils said only 5% of the housing in their local government area (LGA) was affordable. Three-quarters said 10% or less. Even in the non-metropolitan areas, 43% of councils said only 15% of housing was affordable.

Author provided

What are councils doing about it?

Despite recognising the problem, very few councils appear to be making the provision of affordable housing a priority. Just 13.5% of respondents from metropolitan areas and 15.5% from non-metropolitan LGAs said their councillors gave housing affordability a substantial or very substantial amount of attention (Figure 3).

Author provided

 

Linked to this lack of attention, few councils viewed “finding ways to provide adequate affordable housing” in their LGA as a priority (Figure 4). Not one metropolitan council answered to a “very substantial extent”. Only a quarter said to “a substantial extent”.

About four in ten metropolitan councils and over half of the non-metropolitan councils viewed finding ways to provide adequate affordable housing locally as a non-priority. These councils had put this on the far backburner.

Author provided

Local governments were also asked what priority had been given to housing relative to other council issues (Figure 5). Just 1.8% of respondents in metropolitan areas and 5.2% in non-metropolitan areas said housing had been given “very high” priority.

More encouraging was that about four in ten councils in metropolitan areas did say they had given it high priority relative to other issues. Very few non-metropolitan councils, about one in five, said housing was a high priority or very high priority relative to other issues.

Author provided

Do councils have policies, targets or strategies in place?

Fewer than half of those surveyed said they had a “housing policy, housing plan or housing strategy” in place (Figure 6).

Author provided

 

Those that reported having a formal policy said it focused on such issues as housing affordability, residential land development, population change, urban design, social and public housing, and energy efficiency.

However, our survey reveals that those policies are not perceived as being particularly extensive. Figure 7 shows just one in four local governments in metropolitan areas and 10% from non-metropolitan areas believe their council’s housing policies are “comprehensive” to a very substantial or substantial extent.

Author provided

The data suggest that having an explicit housing affordability target was viewed as unrealistic. Only 17.3% of metropolitan councils and 10.1% of non-metropolitan councils said they had an explicit target (Figure 8).

Author provided

Whose responsibility is it to provide affordable housing?

It’s noteworthy that, out of 213 councils, only one felt local government should be primarily responsible for “addressing the problems associated with housing in Australia” (Figure 9). The overwhelming sentiment was that state government or a combination of all levels of government should be responsible.

Author provided

 

The results suggest that improving housing affordability in a meaningful way is beyond the remit of local government. State and federal governments need to take the lead.

Although many councils are well aware that housing affordability is an issue in their area, they feel unable to respond in a meaningful way. An explanation for this is a unanimous view that Australia’s housing affordability problem is beyond the capacity of local governments to resolve. Almost all councils believe the provision of affordable housing is the responsibility of state and/or federal governments.

This is not surprising when we consider that local government accrues only 3.5% of all tax revenue. Local councils lack the fiscal capacity to develop affordable housing.

Further, state governments often override local governments’ efforts through the planning approvals to ensure all new developments have an affordable housing component.The Conversation

Alan Morris, Research Professor, University of Technology Sydney and Catherine Davis, Research assistant, University of Technology Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

National: Melbourne and Sydney Lead Housing Market Fall

Australia’s housing prices continue sliding, with Melbourne and Sydney driving the decline.

According to data from CoreLogic, national dwelling values have fallen for the eleventh consecutive month, leading to a 2 percent decline over the past year. Sydney prices fell 5.6 percent year-on-year, while Melbourne dipped 1.7 percent.

CoreLogic research head Tim Lawless said markets in “higher value cities” such as Sydney and Melbourne suffered from tighter credit conditions due to the higher gaps between house prices and median household incomes.

The only segment to improve over the past 12 months was the most inexpensive quarter, the firm found. Lawless said “more robust housing market conditions” could be found where affordable properties are, such as Hobart and parts of Adelaide and Brisbane real estate. Prices in Hobart, Brisbane and Adelaide have grown 0.9 percent, 1 percent and 10.7 percent respectively since last year.

“Stronger market conditions across Australia’s more affordable areas are likely attributable to a rise of first home buyers in the market as well as changing credit policies focused on reducing exposure to high debt-to-income ratios,” said Lawless.

CoreLogic’s head of Australian research Cameron Kusher said sellers should “be very realistic about the market” and set prices accordingly.

“For potential buyers, you don’t really need to be in a hurry in this market, there’s lots to choose from, there’s not as much competition out there in the market,” said Kusher.

“Be aware that the cost of housing is falling, so if you hold off you might be able to get that property or a similar property at a lower price point a little bit further down the track.”