70th ANNIVERSARY of the BLESSING OF THE FLEET

This Sunday, 28th October, Fremantle’s Blessing of the Fleet opens  Fremantle’s annual festival. A new book celebrates the 70th anniversary of one of the oldest religious  ceremonies in Australia.

The Fishing Fleet Festival Association have published “Blessing of the Fleet” compiled and edited by Susanna  Iuliano and Maria Amato-Gorman. The 224 page book has interviews with leading members of the fishing community as well as photographs taken by  many people who are an intricate part of the festival.

These are few of my favourite pictures taken in  earlier days, from 1976.  They are in  no particular order but  show  the varied and distinctive nature of the city’s oldest celebration. The book will be available from New Edition Bookshop and the Maritime Museum.

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SIRONA MISS DEADLINE

SIRONA CAPITAL MISS DEADLINE FOR $6.65m SPICER PAYMENT

CLAIMING “THERE  IS NO DEBT”

Sirona Capital, after gaining an additional six month extension from Fremantle Council to settle the $6.65m payment  for the Spicer Site did not settle on the amended due date, 30th September 2018. The Spicer site has been described as a part of the The King’s Square Plan  (KSP) a joint venture between Fremantle Council and Sirona Capital and is designed to revitalise the city’s centre. COUNCIL: “SETTLEMENT … NOT YET HAPPENED” On the 8th October Fremantle Backchat  were informed by the council’s administration that: “Settlement of the sale of the former Spicer site has not yet happened, however the agreement for the City of Fremantle to sell the property to Sirona (Capital) remains in place.” A City administration spokesperson continued in an email “… under these circumstance The City and Sirona will now be subject to this process which involves a 30 working day period for settlement to occur”. That takes the settlement day to Friday, 9th November. SIRONA: “THERE IS NO DEBT” A spokesperson for Sirona Capital said in an email to Fremantle Backchat:  “ I understand you have also approached the City of Fremantle on this topic and they have responded. However, I cannot allow your interpretation of the commercial arrangement between the City and Sirona to go uncorrected. We have entered into a contract for sale with deferred settlement terms. There is no debt.” This statement leads to some confusion. Sirona claim “There is no debt”, the City claim the debt has not been paid on the due date but a process, presumably to agree a settlement, is part of a contract. Fremantle Backchat have approached Sirona Capital to clarify the ‘no debt’ statement. There was no reply at the time this story was published. COUNCIL MINUTES DEFINED DATE The date for settlement was stated unequivocally in the Council’s minutes for the 11th April 2018 General Meeting: “COUNCIL DECISION ITEM FPOL1802-12 (Committee Recommendation) Moved: Mayor, Brad Pettitt  Seconded: Cr Dave Hume That Council authorise the Chief Executive Officer authority to approve extension of the settlement date for the former Spicer property for a period up to 30 September, 2018, and amend the Project Development Deed in accordance with this extension.” LACK OF TRANSPARENCY For some years questions have been raised regarding the lack of transparency surrounding the KSP. Financial analyst Martin Lee  together with Claudia Green, a former candidate for City Ward, exposed flaws which indicated the financial plans were not sustainable and that ratepayers could face a debt of up to $50m. In January this year Sirona Capital had a writ issued against it claiming the directors  had acted “fraudulently”,  “negligently” and made “misrepresentations” related to the conversion of a $5m loan into equity. The writ, issued by Cooper and Oxley’s administrators was seeking $5 million plus 15% interest on that sum since late 2011, about $1.2 million, plus unspecified damages. This occurred at the time $6,65m was to be paid to Fremantle Council for the Spicer Site. Sirona Capital instead requested a further postponement of 12 months. Council granted six months. The writ was claimed to have been “settled” by Sirona MD Matthew McNeilly though the administrators for Cooper and Oxley did not confirm that settlement when  Fremantle Backchat requested clarification. SIRONA CLAIMED: “BACKING OF $190m” These events occurred before Sirona announced they had secured financial backing for the King’s Square plan of $190m from superannuation fund managers FSS. The question is why, with this financial backing for the KSP, of which the Spicer site has been named a part, could the company not pay $6.65m on the due date? On 15th June 2018 Fremantle Backchat questioned Sirona Capital’s solvency. <https://wp.me/p3YA9m-zA> SIRONA DIVIDED & LOSE $100m On September 25th 2018 joint statements from Sirona Capital and Harvis outlined that the Sirona’s two managing directors had divided Sirona Capital. Kelvin Flynn left Sirona and formed Harvis taking $100m of assets and a number of Sirona’s principle executives, leaving Matthew McNeilly with Sirona Capital, less $100m in assets.   Roger Garwood Editor editorbackchat@gmail.com

MELLOW YELLOW, THE MAYOR,  DONOVAN AND  AN ELECTRIC BANANA  WHICH WENT PEAR SHAPED

THE TRUE STORY OF A FABLED ARTWORK  WHICH USED THE WRONG RECIPE

Back in the mid 1960s, the days of flower power and a few substances, other than alcohol, which could mess with your head  I was fortunate enough to be living and working in the middle of London. 

Naturally I was cautious about imbibing in substances other than water or eating anything more adventurous than a cucumber sandwich.

At that time, around 1965,  a young troubadour by the name of Donovan was making waves in the music world. His lyrics were a little difficult to understand but a modicum of research has revealed that he may have been the unwitting instigator of the great artwork in Fremantle which is now refusing to leave. 

MELLOW YELLOW

One of his hits from around 1966 was ‘Mellow Yellow’. Nobody has actually been able to work out what it was all about, let alone Donovan himself.  

One verse runs:

Electrical banana

Is gonna be a sudden craze

Electrical banana

Is bound to be the very next phase

Nobody actually knew what an Electric Banana was.  Donovan was unable to offer a clear explanation and there may have been a good reason.

However one story is that an Electric Banana was made by getting a couple of sticks of Juicy Fruit chewing gum and inserting them under the skin of the ‘nana. The fruit was then left to mature over a few days and, in fact, go a little mouldy. Hence ‘Mellow Yellow’ Then, and there are several versions of this, you simply peel the banana and eat it, gum and all. The net results were some pretty wild hallucinations.

Some people say it didn’t work. I confess my memory is not serving me well.

FAST FORWARD TO FREO FESTIVAL 2017

It does appear that our mayor  dreamt that a  lot of banana shaped curves, draped artistically on the walls of the West End buildings, would serve the city well. 

Thus the dream of Brad and Felice the Artist came to fruition (fruit being the operative word). The High Street was decorated with banana peel look-alike graphics. It worked and the world woke up to the dream.

Sadly, or at least amusingly, the artwork is refusing to leave us and true to the legend, going a little mouldy. It’s now supplying endless entertainment. It is, as the mayor likes to expound – a sustainable dream come true. 

MISSING: PAINT STRIPPER AND AN  ELECTRIC DILDO

Those of us who have been around since well before the last rains know the original recipe for the Mellow Yellow bananas didn’t work too well. 

A modified version was derived using Dichloromethane injected into the bananas. It apparently worked wonders. But here’s the real rub – Dichloromethane is  nothing more than paint stripper! Had the Mayor used an up-dated recipe for the idea in the first place maybe the art would disappear immediately, just like any other hallucinogen. (I’m not sure up-dated is the right word)

Of course it doesn’t end there. Donovan did at one time confess he’d heard an electric banana is a yellow, battery powered, dildo. 

The mind boggles but there may be enough of them in the sex shop in High Street to supply council members with a few to strip paint, or whatever moves their fancy. I didn’t use ‘up-dated’ in this paragraph but was tempted.

Here are the lyrics to Mellow Yellow. Maybe they can sing along to them while they work and dream.

MELLOW YELLOW (Written by © Donovan Leith, circa 1965)

I’m just mad about Saffron

Saffron’s mad about me

I’m just mad about Saffron

She’s just mad about me

They call me mellow yellow

(Quite rightly)

They call me mellow yellow

(Quite rightly)

They call me mellow yellow

I’m just mad about Fourteen

Fourteen’s mad about me

I’m just mad about Fourteen

She’s just mad about me

They call me mellow yellow

They call me mellow yellow

(Quite rightly)

They call me mellow yellow

Born high forever to fly

Wind velocity nil

Wanna high forever to fly

If you want your cup I will fill

They call me mellow yellow

(Quite rightly)

They call me mellow yellow

(Quite rightly)

They call me mellow yellow

Electrical banana

Is gonna be a sudden craze

Electrical banana

Is bound to be the very next phase

They call me mellow yellow

(Quite rightly)

They call me mellow yellow

(Quite rightly)

They call me mellow yellow

Saffron, yeah

I’m just mad about her

I’m just mad about Saffron

She’s just mad about me

They call me mellow yellow

(Quite rightly)

They call me mellow yellow

(Quite rightly)

They call me mellow yellow

Roger Garwood

Editor: <editorbackchat@gmail.com

FREMANTLE COUNCIL NOT IN BED WITH AirBnB

PUNITIVE TAX WILL FURTHER DAMAGE FREMANTLE’S ECONOMY

The Fremantle Herald recently published a story related to AirBnB (7th July ’18) which suggested Fremantle Council may have been pressured by hotel industry lobbyists to levy a rates surcharge on small accommodation rentals.

That punitive tax, which  raises only $35,000, will inflict further damage to the city’s battered economy.  Another levy on small business will not help the city or its retailers out of their financial crises and it’s doubtful it will help the ailing hotel market.

Visitors who choose to stay in AirBnB establishments may do so because they prefer not to stay in hotels. The offering of comfortable home accommodation to visitors is not necessarily a great deal cheaper than a hotel. Some travellers, often couples or family groups, may have been attracted to visit the city for something other than another festival but simply to enjoy the sights, the variety of restaurants and cafes and also the remaining retailers. Any saving in relation to accommodation costs frees up expenditure for enjoyment in other city attractions.

Hoteliers have a vested interest in encouraging guests to patronise hotel facilities which frequently include restaurants, cafes, spas, bars and small retail outlets. Visitors’ money spent in a hotel’s  in-house attractions is detrimental to local businesses.

Retailers in Fremantle’s West End who  offer a variety of  particularly funky shops are already paying elevated rates, ostensibly to be used by council to promote their businesses. That differential rate levy , originally established to support the BID scheme, has been diverted to a hand picked Destination Marketing committee by the cash strapped council.

One AirBnB operator, Alison Roberts, told The Herald: “All Airbnb and Homeaway owners already use their websites to promote Fremantle as a destination, recommending local eateries, tourism operators, retail outlets and artists”.

TAX CONCERTS INSTEAD

It would have been expedient and a greater revenue raiser for council to levy music festivals and other large scale ‘visiting businesses’ such as Winter World. Minutes from a SW council indicate Sunset Events festivals in their region were levied $20 a ticket. That’s not done here presumably because it was never considered or, as the Mayor publicly demonstrated, one of the Sunset company directors, David Chitty is a ‘mate’ of his. Also a  Chitty family member placed considerable funds into the mayor’s election  campaign.

A $20 per ticket levy to a music festival which attracts 10,000 patrons would raise $200,000 for council. Even a smaller festival of  2,000 patrons would raise  $40,000, considerably more than the Council’s punitive impost on the AirBnB businesses.

Most companies who operate festivals and other events are not based in Fremantle. They arrive, utilise the city’s amenities, make truck loads of money, and leave.  Festival patrons add little to the city’s retail businesses other than to booze barns, cafes (and possibly drug dealers). They also leave expensive clean up liabilities.

AirBnB hosts  offer friendly alternative accommodation services to the city. They attract people who may have responded to the council’s revised Destination Marketing program which, by coincidence, has hoteliers on its advisory board in addition to Chris Lewis. Lewis is the spin doctor who was instrumental with a few members of the G4F group, including Councillor Sullivan, in organising fundraisers for Brad Pettitt’s mayoral campaign.

ELECTED COUNCILLORS SHOULD ASK “DO THESE CONNECTIONS INDICATE CRONY CAPITALISM?”

Lewis’s company, LewiCorp PLC, was paid $22,000 by Fremantle Council for ‘Strategic Services’ rumoured to have been connected to the Keep Dockers in Fremantle campaign spearheaded by Lewis and his confrère, former WA Inc Premier Peter Dowding.

Lewis, Dowding and Pettitt  appeared unworried that to retain the team in the city would  cost city ratepayers in excess of $100,000,000.  The campaign failed as did Lewis’s attempt to gain a position on the Dockers’ board.

Fremantle has a Council, many of whose elected members appear to be unwilling or incapable of thinking outside The Square but apparent respond to  pressure from ‘mates’ in business or those who facilitate and lobby on behalf of businesses, including developers. It could be Crony Capitalism at its worst, a reflection of the corruption endemic during the governments of WA Inc. It is becoming clear that councillors should investigate who is behind the scenes, driving the city and advising the Mayor and some colleagues.

Note:
Crony Capitalism is defined as: “An economic system characterised by close, mutually advantageous relationships, between business leaders and government officials.”

 

Roger Garwood

Editor: backchatfremantle@gmail.com

ARE SIRONA SOLVENT?

HAVE FREMANTLE RATEPAYERS  SETTLED SIRONA CAPITAL’S DEBT TO BUILDERS COOPER & OXLEY?
In February this year the administrators for Perth builders Cooper and Oxley implemented legal action to recover a debt of  $6.12m allegedly owed by Sirona Capital, the developers of Fremantle’s King’s Square.
   Last month (May 2018) Sirona Capital’s  Managing Director Mathew MacNeilly quietly announced the case was settled. Presumably the debt had been paid.
   It’s reasonable conjecture to ask whether Fremantle’s councillors may have fallen for a well orchestrated smoke and mirrors trick.
   Over a year ago Sirona Capital requested a twelve month extension to pay for one of several properties purchased from Fremantle ratepayers’ assets.
   The 12 month deferred payment of $6.65m was due on May 9th 2018. It is for Sirona Capital’s acquisition of the Spicer site, one of a number of assets sold to the developer by council but not yet paid for.
   On February 8th this year journalists Kim MacDonald and Grant Taylor reported in  Perth Now  that a Supreme Court writ had been issued against Sirona Capital.
   MacDonald and Taylor outlined the writ claimed Sirona Capital’s directors and other executives had acted “fraudulently”,  “negligently” and made “misrepresentations” related to the conversion of a $5m loan into equity.
Cooper and Oxley’s administrators were seeking $5 million plus 15% interest on that sum since late 2011, about $1.2 million, plus unspecified damages.
WERE, OR ARE,  SIRONA SOLVENT?
   If Sirona Capital did pay Cooper and Oxley Councillors must now ask why did they not pay the $6.65m debt to ratepayers first?
If they did not pay money to Cooper and Oxley, nor to Fremantle the question is: “Were, or are, Sirona Capital solvent?”
   If on May 9th, 2018, Sirona could not pay their debt to Fremantle City Council and/or to Cooper and Oxley, they may have been insolvent,  had a legal obligation to stop trading immediately, or seek settlement with creditors. It appears they did the latter when asking for extended time to pay Fremantle Council.
IS THIS A TIMELINE OF INTRIGUE WORTHY OF WA INC?
APRIL 2017
SIRONA CAPITAL : PAYMENT TO COUNCIL FOR $6.65M DEFERRED

The new due date for payment of the Spicer Site was 9th May 2018.

FEBRUARY 2018
BUILDERS COOPER AND OXLEY CALL IN ADMINISTRATORS
7th FEBRUARY  2018
WRIT ISSUED AGAINST SIRONA CAPITAL FOR $6.12m
It was reported  the administrator of Cooper & Oxley , Cameron Shaw of accountants Hall Chadwick, issued writs against Sirona Capital for $6.12m.
11th APRIL  2018
SIRONA CAPITAL SEEK ADDITIONAL EXTENSION FOR PAYMENT OF THE SPICER SITE : GRANTED BY COUNCIL
   Council members unanimously approved a proposal by Mayor Pettitt and seconded by Cr Hume that Sirona Capital be granted an additional 6 months to pay for the Spicer site.
Council minutes record:
  “That Council authorise the Chief Executive Officer authority to approve extension of the settlement date for the former Spicer property for a period up to 30 September, 2018 and amend the Project Development Deed in accordance with this extension.”
This was probably the earliest possible date the application for an extension could have been put before full council since the writ was issued.
19th APRIL  2018
ACTION DROPPED : WRIT ‘SETTLED’
   Immediately after gaining the  extension Matthew McNeilly, Sirona Capital’s Managing Director, announced action by the Cooper and Oxley administrators has been  withdrawn. Had $6.12m claim has been paid?  McNeill described it as  ‘settled’.
   It is reasonable supposition that the $6.65m for the May 9th payment for the Spicer site may have been used to settle the debt claimed by Cooper and Oxley’s administrators.
17th MAY  2018
SIRONA CAPITAL ANNOUNCE $190m FINANCIAL PACKAGE FOR KINGS SQUARE PROJECT

Only four weeks after the Cooper and Oxley case was settled McNeilly announced $190m funding for the KSP.  The company had secured the funding from First State Super (FSS) and Altis Property partners. FSS manage the superannuation funds of 800,000 public service employees. McNeill claimed  banks  had ‘lost out’ on the chance to fund the King’s Square project.

A $190m financial package is not achieved overnight.  Sirona Capital must have been aware they had finance arranged, or were sure of getting it, before they asked for additional time to pay for the Spicer site.

  Fremantle’s Councillors may have fallen for a well planned financial manoeuvre.
SIRONA CAPITAL ARE ‘CASHED UP’ BUT FREMANTLE’S ECONOMY HAS COLLAPSED
   Observers are aware that Sirona had difficulty gaining financial backing from investors for the King’s Square redevelopment.
  There are close to 130 empty or demolished retail premises in Fremantle.   That includes shops demolished to make way for the shelved Hilton Hotel development; the Woolworth’s centre next to St Patrick’s Basilica; shops empty in arcades including the Coles Woolstore centre; shops under redevelopment by Sirona Capital and about 85 visually empty premises in the CBD.
   Faced with that scenario it is not surprising  investors display  caution before funding the construction of retail premises which form a substantial part of the King’s Square Plan.
  Fremantle cannot survive on the smell of coffee beans, hop extracts and festivals. The city is now ranked among the least financially secure shires in Western Australia. In short, the city’s economy has collapsed.
COUNCIL LOSING MINIMUM OF $1,000,000 BANK INTEREST
   Councillors must demand Sirona Capital settle for their purchase of ratepayers’ assets. They owe $6.65m for the Spicer site alone. They could be earning considerable interest on  money which is lost to the city and could be in excess of $1,000,000.
   To cover Sirona’s Capital’s non payment for a number of assets the City’s financial managers have removed $12.65m from the reserve fund, thus losing interest on that deposit. Over  3-4 years that could amount to interest of  $3,000,000. The council have described to cost as insignificant.
   Fremantle’s ratepayers – the real financial lifeblood of the city – must ask for an independent inquiry into the Kings Square Plan which has been shrouded by secrecy and spin.