Roger Garwood started his career in Fleet Street and was a staff member of The Daily Mail London prior to joining the French news magazine Paris Match.
He now works as a freelance reporter and photographer, mainly in SE Asia and Australia. His work has appeared in magazines including National Geographic, The Sunday Times (London), Time, Newsweek, Stern and other European and Australian magazines.
In partnership with Trish Ainslie he published several books which deal with traditional Australian lifestyles. His work is in the collections of The National Library, The Australian National Gallery, The National Gallery of Victoria, The Art Gallery of Western Australia, The State Library of Western Australia and private collections.
Influences on his life stems from Somerset Maugham, Graham, Orwell. And others, in particular reading 'The Autobiography of a Super Tramp' by W H Davies. He now to travel light, taking photographs and recording life as a flâneur.
He is a Fellow of the Art Gallery of Western Australia.
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?
SIRONA CAPITAL : PAYMENT TO COUNCIL FOR $6.65M DEFERRED
The new due date for payment of the Spicer Site was 9th May 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.
Many of us are beginning to realise the leadership of council is rather self centred, thin skinned and demonstrably inept. In fact there is concern as to who is actually directing the city.
DOES THE MAYOR REALLY GIVE A FUCK?
Poor Brad didn’t have his familiar cheesy grin in place when The Herald printed their controversial headline a couple of weeks ago. He delivereda severe rap over the knuckles to The Herald’s editorial team. It must have been like being hit in the kisser with a damp (undoubtably recycleable) nappy.
YET HE WAS SILENT WHEN AN EX SQUEEZE ADVISED YOUNG GIRLS ‘FORGET YOUR PANTS’ WHEN GOING TO CONCERTS’.
A few weeks ago Brad did not say a word, other than provide tacit endorsement, when one of his former ‘squeezes’, City Ward Councillor Rachel Pemberton, encouraged girls who were planningto attend the Falls Festival to wear a recommended dress code:
‘NO KNICKERS, SEE THROUGH BRA (or no bra) and FUCK ME BOOTS”’
Pemberton made the comments on her ratepayer funded blog.
Is there a sniff of hypocrisy in the council chamber? You bet there is.
The Herald team apologised over the juxtaposition of their headline which made it appear the comment was made by indigenous leader Bropho. But the story was solid.
THE TROLLS WERE OUT
It seems obvious that the Cult of Brad was activated over the headline which clearly ruffled the poor possum’s fur and the trolls were sent out to do battle. The Herald’s letter pages were littered with the cult’s self righteous comments.
WHO IS THE REAL HERO?
Fremantle Backchat would like to meet the real hero of this story – the woman who told the Mayor to get fucked.
Here’s the original story from the Herald, sans Mr Bropho.
FREO COUNCILLOR ENDORSES ‘FREE BOOB AND F*CK ME’ DRESS CODE FOR FALLS FESTIVAL GIRLS
Fremantle City Ward Councillor Rachel Pemberton endorsed a sexually explicit dress code for girls attending the Falls Festival in Fremantle last weekend (6th & 7th December). Following a series of alleged sexual assaults at the Falls Festival in Tasmania Pemberton wrote on her blog:
“Women’s fashion tips from Falls – pants are optional, a transparent bra is a visible alternative to a top or you can simply ‘free boob’, and ‘f*ck me’ boots are back in fashion”.
The statement was revealed by Freo Streetwise, magazine edited and published by journalist Carmelo Amalifi. Streetwise is rapidly gaining a reputation for tackling the hard news in Fremantle and calling the City Council to account.
TACIT SUPPORT FOR PEMBERTON FROM MAYOR AND COUNCIL
The story, published on the Streetwise magazines Facebook page, has resulted in condemnation from the community but gained tacit support from Mayor Brad Pettitt, a former partner of Pemberton, and North Fremantle Councillor Doug Thompson. Instead of offering a reasonable explanation for her statement Pemberton, in the face of concerned critics, simply accused them of cyber bullying.
Pemberton, a high profile councillor, had the opportunity to condemn the dress code she publicly endorsed. She had an outstanding chance to support the right of women to wear whatever they wish, wherever they wish, without making themselves targets of sexual predators. She promoted the opposite position, giving credence to predatory sexual behaviour. Thompson, the city’s longest service councillor, made the observation that comments condemning Rachel Pemberton demonstrated the worst aspects of social media.
Thompson’s comment, endorsed by Pettitt, ignored the issue of the City Ward Councillor’s sexually explicit post, thus offering tacit support. Nor, (at the time of writing), has any councillor criticised Pemberton. The comments on the Facebook page of Freo Streetwise presented an opportunity for Pemberton to explain in detail her post, maybe to apologise for it. Her only defense was to accuse critics of bullying. They didn’t. They were shocked, wanted an explanation and called for her dismissal, resignation and an inquiry into council’s code of ethics.The problems faced at Falls in Tasmania were published nationally over a number of days.
PEMBERTON: A QUESTIONABLE ROLE MODEL
Recent Mayoral challenger Ra Stewart said:
“Rachel Pemberton as the mother of two young women attending this event I am appalled at your comments. There was no suggestion about female empowerment in your statement, you provided commentary on a dress code and the inference was most definitely derogative. I would hate to think how your comments are interpreted by young men, let alone my daughters.”
Stewart questioned Pemberton’s position as a role model in the city.
“You’re kidding right… Rachel Pemberton, as a leader in our city, Councillor, and role model (?) for our young women”.
APPALLING & IRRESPONSIBLE:
Claudia Green, an expert in governance – the manner in which all branches of government should operate – and recent City Ward candidate, commented:
“ …Councillor Pemberton is in breach of her role and responsibility as an elected representative and public servant paid from the public purse, apart from the appalling message she is sending.
“She has claimed a conflict of interest to abrogate her duties to represent her electorate in the Sunset development planning application by accepting freebies from Sunset. Now this awful abrogation of responsibility of her duties as an elected representative of public service.
“The CEO and the Mayor need to bring her into line and reprimand her and be brought to the appropriate Committee for discipline. She should be sacked. Once verified, a complaint will be laid. She is bringing the Council into disrepute.”
Green is correct in calling on the Mayor and CEO to refer the matter to a disciplinary committee. Together with other posted comments she asks for Pemberton to be sacked. However the early signs from council indicate that all councillors will offer tacit support to Pemberton’s unconscionable, amoral, advice.
Rachel Pemberton could demonstrate a moral and ethical backbone by admitting her vacuous judgement, apologise and resign immediately. If any councillors have any morality or understanding of professional ethics they will condemn Pemberton, call for her resignation and get on with the job of running a city in crisis.
By not condemning Pemberton’s blog post the mayor and his councillor’s are endorsing an increasing public opinion that they are out of touch with the wishes of the community for higher standards of professional ethics and morality to be demonstrated. At the very least Councillor Pemberton, who receives substantial payments from ratepayers, should be stood down and an independent inquiry, with representation by ratepayers, held. A closed door cover-up will not be acceptable.
NOTE: It appears that Pemberton has recently removed her blog post but no explanation or apology is offered.
SPIN CITY: $650,000 BUDGET FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS
Fremantle journalist Carmelo Amalfi has revealed Fremantle Council has so far spent $650,000 on a public relations campaign.
Ratepayers Face Conflicting Evidence of Visitor Numbers
The Mayor, Dr Brad Pettitt, paraphrasing spin from Sirona, stated in late September that Fremantle has 1,600,000 tourists per year.
He claims this will increase to 3,000,000 when the Myer makeover is completed but quickly contradicted himself, announcing the Fremantle Festival Parade will be cancelled because visitor numbers are not high enough.
The parade will be replaced by a shopping trolley race to held in King’s Square to raise money for charity. There should be no shortage of competitors. Within fifty metres of the mayor’s office there are enough homeless people using shopping trolleys to harness their belongings in their shopping trollies and head for the starting line.
On the 5th October the Mayor quoted conflicting visitor numbers. These show that in the financial years of 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 visitor figures were a little short of 1.3 million per year, 300,000 less than figure of 1.6m Dr Pettitt had previously quoted which he said were obtained from the Department of Tourism.
The Mayors latest statistics show the Festival period of November has a very high visitor rating, only marginally lower than the Christmas and Easter holiday periods.
So why cancel the Festival Parade which has been the highlight of the annual ten day festival for 20 years?
EMERGING DYSTOPIAN SOCIETY
It’s not difficult to spot the city’s emerging dystopian society. Retail trade in the West End is collapsing. Within a stone’s throw of the Town Hall, where rents for a medium size retail outlet are as high as $240,000, homeless people sleep in the empty doorways. Of course the problem is solved easily – move them on. We now have a security team recruited by council to clean up the streets, moving less than fortunate people away. Out of sight, out of mind! A band aid solution for an increasing problem and a clear sign of a city in crisis.
While this is happening Spin City HQ is in full swing. The council are reportedly burning a budget in excess of $650,000 to try and make the Magic Pudding rise. Coincidently this feel good spin is happening during the lead up to an election where challengers to the Koolaid Council, followers of The Cult Of Brad, are fighting for seats and salaries Fremantle ratepayers are funding the spin campaign.
THE ONE EYED MAN IS KING
We’re told that the Myer makeover will see Fremantle’s economy rise, Phoenix like, from the ashes of an eight year autocracy.
The Mayor is commendably one eyed about the city’s future. But in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king. There is also a biblical saying: ” When a blind man bears the standard, pity those who follow.”
FINANCIAL GOAL POSTS MOVED IN A SMOK AND MIRRORS ACT
The city’s overbearing spin has sparse factual substance but when the financial facts related to the King’s Square development were exposed by financial expert Martin Lee and City Ward candidate Claudia Green, they were brushed under the carpet. Those facts, based on figures obtained from council, show Fremantle faces a financial collapse leaving ratepayers to fill a black hole of up to $50,000,000.
This financial collapse was recently endorsed by the Minister who stated Fremantle is a city at financial risk. Fremantle had the worst financial rating on the State’s Local Government website.
Fremantle Council claimed that was not the case explaining they had moved the goal posts in the accounting system, hence the poor showing of 42 points in a statewide list of councils’ finances. 70 points is the benchmark for good financial health.
Within a fee days the goal posts were moved again. Fremantle now has a rating of 85! Questions must be asked about how this smoke and mirrors act came about.
Was the Minister mislead, were Treasury so incompetent they misread the city’s accounts? Did all ratepayers come down with the last shower and believe this overnight turnaround? Was there a moment of panic in the Mayor’s office?
LIPSTICK ON A PIG
The Myer makeover materialised from an architectural competition and is described in Spin City’s publicity as world class. It is not. It is simply putting lipstick on a pig. The style is a Neo Lavatorial throwback to the 60s similar to that used in the in the east end of the city. That too was promised to be a miracle trading area for the city. The area is now little more than a third world eyesore with a promised hotel development put on hold and becoming a temporary car park. The new Woolworth’s site, next to St Patrick’s, which we were told would bring life to the east end of the city, is closed after a few years of trading. At least 80 retail and business premises are now visibly vacant in Fremantle’s CBD alone. The total is probably over 100.
OUTSIDE FORCES BLAMED WITH SMOKE AND MIRRORS SPIN
Outside forces are blamed: the GFC; mining boom collapse; State Government finances et al. Yet other shires flourish while operating under identical state, national and international burdens.
What we are getting is more Spin. Smoke and mirrors distractions: Australia Day; plastic bags; charity collection pillars; speed humps; shopping trolly derby; ‘Yes’ vote. Non of these issues address the core problems facing the city and the spin bait seems to be swallowed hook line and sinker by every member of council.
Does council really need a new administration building? The old one seems to have worn quite well and bears a striking resemblance to the Myer makeover, a carry over from ’60s style architecture. The market in Kings Square has not succeeded in attracting visitors and there is no reason to assume that the glossy spin from Sirona will be any more successful. These lifestyle promotions can result in spectacular failures. An example is the Docklands development in Melbourne which now has retailers and restauranteurs walking away from their leases and apartment owners saying ‘this is not the lifestyle we were promised’.
$1.3 BILLION INVESTMENT MANTRA : ONLY 20% HAPPENING
We are told that investments of $1.3 billion are progressing in the city. They are not. In fact they are nearly all stalled, put on hold. The only visible progress is Sirona’s where we’ll see concrete Botox slapped on Miss Piggy. That is less than 20% of the investments the Mayor claims are happening.
THE ASIAN CONNECTION
Sirona is a company with strong connections to Alvarez and Marsal, a corporation specialising in turning sluggish areas into sustainable growth. Are Sirona a pimple on the back of a massive overseas corporation and can we expect to see a sell out? In that respect council have helped by selling assets at bargain basement prices to Sirona. Many of the ratepayers’ assets at well below market value. We can be 100% certain that the real winners will be the developers. Who negotiated that deal?
￼ NOTE: Dr Pettitt has been asked to clarify the visitor figures and has been asked whether there was any other reason the Festival Parade has been cancelled.
While council deliver a mantra of sustainability the signs of a collapse in the Fremantle economy is glaringly evident in the CBD.
I took a walk around the area and counted in excess of 40 properties which are empty, offered for lease, or moving. The total is probably closer to 60 as the Woolworth’s building houses a number of vacant outlets as does the Coles Woolstore. These pictures were taken within about 250m of the Town Hall
Very recently one new retail outlet, selling high quality home furnishings and decorations, has closed after six months. It was located in the Mall, opposite the Town Hall. The rent was $240,000, higher than similar sized properties in downtown New York.
Shepherd’s News agency have to move from their prime spot. It holds the longest serving tenancy of Fremantle. The original Shepherd’s News Agency was established in this building in 1908 and the current business owners have been there for 26 years. They now have to move aside for developers.
The Woolworths shopping centre, next to St Patrick’s, has been closed for a couple of years. It was gleefully broadcast that this would bring new life to the east end of the city. Opposite them the Hilton site, which used to contain a number of shops, is derelict and scheduled to become a temporary car park.
The centre hosted about 20 retail and office business’s. They were not included in my count of about 40 empty premises.
CODA, a mainstay of council’s PR sustainability spin, have closed shop and amalgamated with a Perth based company. CODA was a foundation stone of the Future Fremantle organisation, established to build a better Fremantle.
And finally, in one vacant shop window the mayor delivers his mantra of a vibrant city.