Australian businesses are struggling with cash flow, as companies fail to settle their accounts promptly, worsening the already subdued sales activity and conservative consumer sentiment.
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Companies took on average 52 days to pay their bills – 12 days more than their counterparts in New Zealand – and 62 per cent of accounts settled late in the last quarter of 2012, according to trade payments analysis by Dun & Bradstreet.

In D&B’s National Business Expectations survey, 68 per cent of business executives expressed their concerns about cash flow. About a third of executives nominated outstanding accounts receivable as their biggest hurdle to growth.

“Trade credit is an essential form of non-bank finance, and when bills are paid late it withholds essential operating money that businesses need day-to-day, but also to invest and grow,” Dun & Bradstreet chief executive Gareth Jones said.

“If businesses are waiting 52 days to be paid it impacts their ability to pay their own bills, creating an unhealthy cash-flow cycle in the economy that removes million of dollars from the system.”

Mining and forestry companies are the worst offenders when it comes to paying their bills. It takes them an average 55 days to settle their accounts, three days more than the national average.

The forestry industry is under tremendous stress as a result of low pulp prices and the high dollar. Many forestry investment schemes have collapsed in recent years.

In comparison, companies from the transportation sector pay their bills at an average of 49 days – a week faster than the national average.

Small companies that employ between 50 and 199 paid their accounts the fastest in the December quarter, while larger companies continued to pay their bills late.

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BrisConnections, the operator of Brisbane’s $4.8 billion Airport Link toll road, has finally called in the corporate paramedics after the majority of its bankers pulled the pin on restructuring proposals.
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The toll-road operator’s board today elected to place BrisConnections in the hands of voluntary administrators from McGrath Nicol, including Jamie Harris and John Cronin.

BrisConnections board decided in November to enter into “formal negotiations” with its lenders about “potential reconstruction options” after conceding that its debts may exceed the value of its assets.

But last night the board was told that the majority of its lenders was not “prepared to support these restructuring proposals”.

BrisConnections said in a statement today that the directors were “unanimous in their decision” to appoint the administrators after “exhausting the alternatives available” to them.

A group of 10 banks including European heavyweights Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas and Societe Generale lent about $3 billion to BrisConnections

The chairman, Trevor Rowe, said it was “disappointing that the board has had to reach this decision” as the Airport Link was a “world-class piece of transport infrastructure”.

The tunnel will remain open to traffic as usual.

BrisConnections had long been expected to follow a similar path to the failed operators of toll-roads in Sydney such as the Lane Cove and Cross City tunnels, and Brisbane’s Clem7 tunnel.

Traffic on the 6.7-kilometre toll road which connects Brisbane Airport to the central city has been half what Brisconnections was projecting it to be.

In November BrisConnections appointed corporate paramedics PPB Advisory to review its toll-road business. PPB had been looking at “current and anticipated traffic volumes, revenue, costs, forecast liquidity and BrisConnections’ capital structure”.

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BRISBANE Lions coach Michael Voss admits he cannot guarantee allegations of drug use levelled at his former teammates are untrue, but says his club is trying to distinguish between “what’s fact and fiction”.
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Self-confessed drug dealer Jason McGrath, the cousin of Lions forward Ash McGrath, alleges he supplied drugs to Lions players between 2002 and 2009.

The Lions have denied the claims and say they had no reason to believe McGrath’s word.

The AFL says McGrath’s allegations are unsubstantiated and that no investigation “will be undertaken in the absence of credible information or evidence”.

Voss, who led Brisbane to its 2001-03 hat-trick of premierships, played until 2006 and then coached the club from 2009, conceded he could not definitively say his former teammates weren’t using drugs.

“I can’t be naive enough to sit here and say that it hasn’t happened. I couldn’t say that with 100 per cent certainty,” Voss told Brisbane’s Triple M on Tuesday.

“But there’s been a whole bunch of things that have been mentioned and I would really question the validity of those allegations. That’s why we say they’re unsubstantiated. The names that are being thrown around, I haven’t even seen before. Or met (those people).”

Voss said he could not recall meeting Jason McGrath, and that some of his former teammates could not recall meeting him. Ash McGrath, who played in Brisbane’s 2003 premiership win, is still on the Lions playing list.

Voss said there were inconsistencies in Jason McGrath’s allegations and that Brisbane found that “trying to sort through what’s fact and fiction is just a little bit hard at present”.

But he said the club treated the claims “very seriously” and said anyone with information should contact authorities.

“It refers to a previous era at the club and the club has got to treat that very seriously, if there is anything there,” he said.

“Again, there’s the Queensland police to go to, there’s the AFL integrity unit to go to. We encourage that process to happen. We’re not sitting here saying we’re trying to avoid it.”

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SWEET SUCCESS: NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, presents Brian Agnew with the James Busby Trophy for the best wine from NSW.
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BEING presented with two 2013 Sydney Wine Show trophies on Thursday night was part of a highly emotional week for Brian Agnew, chairman of the Hunter’s Agnew Wines company.

Brian took to the stage at the presentation dinner to collect the Dr H.J. Lindeman Trophy for the best aged-vintage white and the James Busby Trophy for the best NSW wine of the show, won by the Audrey Wilkinson 2006 Museum Reserve Semillon.

The Sydney judging brought the wine’s show tally during the past seven years to 12 trophies and 19 gold medals.

Brian and his family had other reasons to be elated last week because he had received an encouraging doctor’s report in the aftermath of a tumour operation.

On top of that on Friday night daughter Jessica had given Brian and his wife Valerie their seventh grandchild, a little girl, and the Hunter vintage had wound up promisingly for the Agnew group’s Audrey Wilkinson, Poole’s Rock, Cockfighter’s Ghost and Firestick brands.

Valerie and Brian, a past chairman of the Moray and Agnew specialist insurance law firm, have owned the Wakefield Thoroughbred Stud at Scone for more than 30years and took the plunge into Hunter wine by buying the beautiful, historic Audrey Wilkinson property in 2004.

In 2011 they boosted their investment by buying the late David Clarke’s Poole’s Rock De Beyers Road, Pokolbin, vineyard and winery, the Cockfighter’s Ghost vineyard at Broke and the Poole’s Rock, Cockfighter’s Ghost and Firestick wine brands.

The Audrey Wilkinson awards were among six trophies and 13 gold medals won by Hunter wines at the Sydney judging, conducted by a panel chaired by Iain Riggs, managing director and chief winemaker at Pokolbin-based Brokenwood Wines. Wines made by gifted boutique winemaker Andrew ‘‘Thommo’’ Thomas won two trophies and five gold medals.

The Andrew Thomas 2007 Cellar Reserve Braemore Semillon won a gold medal in the any vintage named vineyard semillon class and the Len Evans Trophy for the best named vineyard wine and the Restaurant and Catering Industry Trophy for the best small producer’s wine in named vineyard classes.

Winning wines ready to buy

HERE are the 2013 Sydney Wine Show trophy and gold medal wines that can be bought now from Hunter producers:

❏ Audrey Wilkinson 2006 Museum Reserve Semillon, limited stocks at $100 a bottle at the De Beyers Road, Pokolbin, cellar door, by mail order on 49987411 or at audreywilkinson苏州美甲美睫培训.au.

❏ Andrew Thomas 2007 Cellar Reserve Braemore Semillon, $45, and Andrew Thomas 2012 Cellar Reserve Braemore Semillon, $28, both available at thomaswine苏州美甲美睫培训.au and at the Small Winemakers’ Centre, in McDonalds Road, Pokolbin, and at the Hunter Resort in Hermitage Road, Pokolbin.

❏ The Wine Society 2012 Tyrrell’s Hunter Valley Semillon, $14 (to members), at winesociety苏州美甲美睫培训.au or 1300723723.

❏ First Creek 2011 Winemaker’s Reserve Semillon, $40, at the McDonalds Road, Pokolbin, winery or at firstcreekwines苏州美甲美睫培训.au.

❏ Two Rivers 2011 Stones Throw Semillon, $16, at the 2 Yarrawa Road, Denman, cellar door, at tworivers苏州美甲美睫培训.au and in shops and restaurants.

❏ Pepper Tree 2011 Tallavera Limited Release Hunter Valley Shiraz, $45, at the Pepper Tree cellar door at 86 Halls Road, Pokolbin, or at peppertreewines苏州美甲美睫培训.au.

❏ McLeish 2007 Semillon, $65, at the McLeish cellar door in De Beyers Road, Pokolbin, or at mcleashhunterwines苏州美甲美睫培训.au.

❏ McGuigan 2005 Vineyard Select Semillon, $50, at the McGuigan cellar door in McDonalds Road, Pokolbin.

❏ Bimbadgen 2012 Estate Semillon, $22, at the McDonalds Road, Pokolbin, winery and at bimbadgen苏州美甲美睫培训.au.

SWEET SUCCESS: NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, presents Brian Agnew with the James Busby Trophy for the best wine from NSW.

Wine list

Frankland Estate 2010

Olmo’s Reward,

$40

HERE’S a fitting tribute to celebrated Californian viticulturist Professor Harold Olmo, who in 1955 was commissioned by the Western Australian government to recommend new winegrowing areas and came out in favour of Frankland River and Mount Barker. It is fruit-driven and multifaceted, featuring an interesting varietal make-up. It is ruby red and has berry pastille aromas. Plush blackcurrant flavour rolls onto the front palate and briar, licorice and clove fruit characters integrate with vanillin oak on the middle palate. Smooth minty tannins display at the finish.

DRINK WITH: roast beef with a minted bearnaise sauce

AGEING: eight years

RATING: 4 and a half stars

De Bortoli 2008

Deen Vat 5 Botrytis Semillon,

$13.90 (375ml bottle)

THIS luscious stickie won the trophy for the best sweet white at the 2012 NSW Wine Awards and is terrific value at $14. It is gold with amber tints and has scents of quince jelly and pecan nuts. Lush lychee flavour glides onto the front of the palate and apricot, treacle and orange peel characters combine on the middle palate. Nutty oak and a touch of flinty acid show at the finish.

DRINK WITH: soft-set vanilla bean creme brulee

AGEING: seven years

RATING:4 and a half stars

Pokolbin Estate 2012

Hunter Valley Riesling, $28

LAST week, he won 2013 Sydney Wine Show trophies and gold medals with his semillon and shiraz wines, but Andrew Thomas is also a dab hand with riesling from the only Hunter planting of this classic variety. He made this wine and the other Pokolbin Estate rieslings that have brought owners Richard Friend and John Hindman such against-the-odds success in wine competitions. This fresh, crisp 2012 is green-tinted straw and has passionfruit aromas. Vibrant lime flavour zips onto the front of the palate and nashi pear, sherbet and mineral characters chime in on the middle palate. Steely acid comes through at the finish.

DRINK WITH: salt and pepper squid

AGEING: 10 years

RATING: Five stars


The week’s news through the eyes of Herald photographers
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Tina Thompson-Elliott in her shop, House of Elliott, on Perkins Street, Newcastle. Picture by Marina Neil

Brian Purdue, left, with Michael Osborne at the Wetlands near the rail line at Hexham, where a proposed truck facility is to be built. Picture by Marina Neil

Clean Queen Marissa Roberts with her daughters, Sophie Roberts 3yrs and Georgia Roberts 18months at their Shortland home. Photo by Marina Neil

Melody Pool is back in Kurri Kurri after winning the Telstra Road to Tamworth in January. She is using her prize money to head to Nashville to record an album. Picture by Jonathan Carroll

Ray Beadle performing at Lizottes Newcastle. Lambton. Picture by Jonathan Carroll

Hunters interim coach Trevor Gallagher in checked shirt with players after head coach Darren Nichols has abruptly quit. Picture by Jonathan Carroll

Cliff Richard performing at Newcastle Entertainment Centre, Broadmeadow. Picture by Jonathan Carroll

Cliff Richard performing at Newcastle Entertainment Centre, Broadmeadow. Picture by Jonathan Carroll

Cliff Richard performing at Newcastle Entertainment Centre, Broadmeadow. Picture by Jonathan Carroll

Wes Whitworth, right, with his father Kim Whitworth, left, on Stockton Sand Dunes. Land Care Council has closed a large section of Stockton Sand Dunes to four wheel drives claiming that the dunes need time to recuperate. Picture by Jonathan Carroll

Wes Whitworth, right, with his father Kim Whitworth, left, on Stockton Sand Dunes. Land Care Council has closed a large section of Stockton Sand Dunes to four wheel drives claiming that the dunes need time to recuperate. Picture by Jonathan Carroll

Westrac, Tomago, first year Plant Mechanic apprentice, Scott Dawson. Photo by Marina Neil

Scene of accident at Beresfield shows a Toyota Landcruiser on its side on the edge of the New England Highway. Picture by Peter Stoop

Firefighters at scene of fire at Jayco Newcastle at Hexham. Picture by Peter Stoop

A stolen Porsche dumped in bush near West Wallsend at the end O’Donneltown Road. Picture by Peter Stoop

Redhead U/19s during the first of the semi finals at the Australian Surf Rower’s League Australian Open at Stockton Beach. Picture by Peter Stoop

U/15s Softball action at Boomerang Park, Mayfield West Belmont [Blue] V Macquarie [Green and Gold] Softball. Picture by Peter Stoop

U/15s Softball action at Boomerang Park, Mayfield West Belmont [Blue] V Macquarie [Green and Gold] Softball. Picture by Peter Stoop

Hayley Reeves has her head shaved to raise money for Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation during a fund raiser at Speers point Public School. Picture by Peter Stoop

Hayley Reeves has her head shaved to raise money for Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation during a fund raiser at Speers point Public School. Picture by Peter Stoop

The semi finals at the Australian Surf Rower’s League Australian Open at Stockton Beach. Picture by Peter Stoop

Amy Hardingham [Artistic director] and Mitchell Reese [General manager] of Tantrum Theatre in the group’s new home in the old St Philips Presbyterian Church at Watt St Newcastle. Picture by Peter Stoop

Daniel & Jessica Boyson of Lambton with their daughter Mollyjane at her 3rd birthday party Mollyjane has Carnitine-acycarnitine translocase deficiency. Picture by Dean Osland.

Renton Millar at the Australian Bowl Championships held at Bar Beach Skate park Picture by Dean Osland.

William the Fourth Project Manager Bob Cook. Picture by Dean Osland.

Jasmine Duff as Juliet and Harry Gelzinnis as Romeo Play rehearsing for Tantrum Theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet. Picture by Anita Jones

Rosie Murree-Allen of Hunter Bellringers rehearsing in Adamstown. Picture by Anita Jones

Hunter Hurricanes player Matthew Skinner in action. against UNSW Wests Magpies. Picture by Simone De Peak.

Selena Archibald one of the founding members of the Aboriginal Reference Group with a backdrop of a work of Bungaree titled The First Australian by artist Warwick Keen. It is part of an exhibition at Lake Macquarie Gallery. Picture by Simone De Peak.

Jack Fardell at the Hurley Australian Bowl-Riding Championships the Bar Beach Skate Bowl. 7th FEBRUARY 2013. Picture by Simone De Peak.

Trevor Gallacher who has been appointed as permanent Hunters Head Coach. Picture by Simone De Peak.

A Hornet fighter takes off as Williamtown RAAF base hosts 70th anniversary of 41, 42 and 44 wings. Picture by Brock Perks

Suzanna Andric and daughter Lillian (3) watch as Williamtown RAAF base hosts 70th anniversary of 41, 42 and 44 wings. Suzanna’s husband, LAC Ed Andric, was in the parade. Picture by Brock Perks