Dec 18

Gilligan’s Island to get movie revival, starring Josh Gad

The original cast of TV series Gilligan’s Island.One of television’s most iconic programs, Gilligan’s Island, is to be turned into a big-budget feature film.

The series, which aired originally between 1964 and 1967, was a comedy about a group of castaways stranded on an uncharted desert island after their “three hour tour” on a yacht hit rough weather.

For almost five decades the series has been in perpetual repeat and the show’s characters – hapless Gilligan, the Skipper, billionaire couple Thurston and Lovey Howell, the Professor, film actress Ginger Grant and American girl-next-door Mary-Ann – have become cultural icons.

News of a big-screen reboot first surfaced in 2010. Assuming this latest rumoured version is ever produced by Warner Bros, it will function as a “star vessel” for actor Josh Gad, who starred in the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon.

Gad will co-write the film with writers Benji Samit and Dan Hernandez.

The project will be produced by Lloyd Schwartz and Ross Schwartz, the sons of the show’s creator Sherwood Schwartz, and Tracey Silvers and Cathy Silvers, the daughters of iconic US comedian Phil Silvers.

In addition to creating Gilligan’s Island, Sherwood Schwartz was behind another iconic comedy, The Brady Bunch.

Cathy Silvers, in a curious footnote, is best known to TV viewers for playing Jenny Piccolo in another iconic ’60s sitcom, Happy Days.

The original series is remembered for its catchy theme tune, which began: “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip, that started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship …”

It is also remembered for its cast, who all became inextricably linked to the characters they played: Bob Denver as Gilligan, Alan Hale Jr as Skipper Jonas Grumby, Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer as Thurston and Lovey Howell, Russell Johnson as Professor Roy Hinkley, Tina Louise as Ginger Grant and Dawn Wells as Mary Ann Summers.

Of the original cast, only Johnson, Louise and Wells are still alive.

In addition to 98 television episodes, the series spawned a series of telemovies and spin-offs, including 1978’s Rescue from Gilligan’s Island, 1979’s The Castaways on Gilligan’s Island and 1981’s The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island.

Two animated series, The New Adventures of Gilligan and Gilligan’s Planet, were produced in the 1970s and 1980s.

In the early 1990s, Lloyd Schwartz was behind Gilligan’s Island: The Musical, which toured in the US for several years.

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Dec 18

Tony Abbott signals he may be open to negotiations on paid parental leave

Tony Abbott’s paid parental scheme offers primary carers six months leave at full salary, including superannuation contributions. Photo: Alex EllinghausenTony Abbott has hinted he may be willing to change features of his generous paid parental leave scheme to get the legislation passed through the Senate.

The Prime Minister had, until now, refused to budge on his signature policy, which will cost $5.5 billion a year. It is loathed by many of Mr Abbott’s colleagues, who are concerned about the pressure the policy may apply to an already stressed budget.

Nationals MPs and senators have threatened to cross the floor over the policy, which they view as fundamentally unfair – while some working mothers will earn $75,000 under the policy, stay-at-home mothers will be left on the minimum wage.

The policy, which Mr Abbott introduced as a “captain’s call” without consulting his colleagues, will still go ahead despite a bleak outlook revealed in the mid-year economic update, the Prime Minister insisted on Wednesday.

At a press conference at Parliament House, Mr Abbott was asked whether he was willing to “set an example” of fiscal rectitude by trimming back his paid parental leave scheme.

“Well obviously it has to get through the Parliament and that may well involve some negotiation,” Mr Abbott replied.

“But I am committed to the scheme that we took to the election. And believe that’s a fair scheme.”

If the Abbott government is to negotiate on the PPL, the most likely deal would be struck with the Greens.

Like the Coalition, the Greens’ policy offers primary carers six months leave at full salary, including superannuation contributions. Both schemes will be funded by a 1.5 per cent tax on companies’ taxable incomes above $5 million.

But while the Coalition’s policy is capped at incomes of $150,000, the Greens have lowered the cap to $100,000, which they argue is fairer. The Greens are also offering an extra two weeks of leave to the secondary carer at full wage, capped at salaries of $100,000.

Under Labor’s existing scheme, paid parental leave is set at the national minimum wage of $622 a week. For the primary carer, that amounts to a payment of about $11,000 over18 weeks.

Representatives of Family First, Palmer United, the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Labour Party have all said the Coalition’s scheme lacks fairness.

Family First’s Bob Day has said: “All mothers should be treated equally. There’s got to be some equity and equal pay when they are all doing the same job of caring for a baby.”

Nick Xenophon opposes the Coalition plan because it does not address the wider issue of childcare costs. Mr Abbott’s scheme covers the first six months of a child’s life.

Clive Palmer believes all new parents should receive a flat-rate $25,000 for six months no matter what their line of work.

On Wednesday, Labor leader Bill Shorten slammed the paid parental scheme as an unnecessary luxury.

“Mr Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme is a $22 billion gold thought bubble,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

“For a small portion of that money, we would have tens of thousands of men and women working at Holden and component companies with secure futures for the next decade.”

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Dec 18

Tony Abbott accuses Labor of scaremongering over NDIS funding

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has accused Labor of trying to scare people with disability as he vowed his government would deliver the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The Prime Minister’s comments came as the Disability Discrimination Commissioner urged against any cuts to the scheme, warning any scaling back of support for people with disability would be a ”false economy” because it would hurt workforce participation.

The Assistant Minister for Social Services, Mitch Fifield, who is responsible for the scheme, told the National Press Club last month that the average cost of care and support plans in the first three months of the scheme was more than 32 per cent higher than the average cost modelled by the Productivity Commission in designing the scheme.

If this trend was replicated across the 460,000 people the scheme is expected to cover when it is fully rolled out, it would add more than $5 billion to the annual cost of the scheme, which is already forecast to reach $22.2 billion in 2019-20, its first year of full operation.

Treasurer Joe Hockey told ABC radio on Wednesday this ”massive blowout” in the scheme’s initial costs showed Labor had bungled its introduction. Mr Hockey flagged possible changes to the design of the scheme, saying the government was in discussions with states and territories to ensure it was delivered as efficiently as possible.

In comments that some have interpreted as preparing the way for cuts, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said funding needed to be ”better targeted” so the scheme was as cost effective as possible.

Labor’s spokeswoman on disability reform Jenny Macklin said it was ”a total disgrace” that the Coalition was ”thinking about cutting the National Disability Insurance Scheme”.

”I think it’s outrageous that the government would suggest that there needs to be limits on support to people with significant disabilities, permanent disabilities, people who have not had the care and support that they so desperately need,” she told ABC TV on Wednesday.

”We designed the National Disability Insurance Scheme to deliver this care and support and it is nothing short of just devastating for people with disability that the government is talking in this way so soon after the election.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said while some Coalition members including Senator Fifield were committed to the NDIS, others were not.

”I don’t trust the cabal at the centre of the government, including Treasurer Hockey and Finance spokesperson Cormann. Their hearts, in my opinion, are not interested in fully funding the National Disability Insurance Scheme,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

But Mr Abbott returned fire on Wednesday, accusing Labor of scaremongering and declaring his government was ”absolutely” committed to the NDIS.

”The easiest thing in the world is to scare people and I think it’s a little disappointing that some people in this Parliament have been running around the place today trying to scare vulnerable people,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Canberra.

”We will deliver the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

”We’re at the very beginning of this process but we will have a National Disability Insurance Scheme and it will be fair and it will be generous and it will be appropriately targeted and it will be sustainable.”

Responding to Mr Abbott’s comments later, Mr Shorten accused Mr Abbott of running his own scare campaign.

”I am very wary of Mr Abbott running a classic negative scare campaign against the NDIS, saying to people it’s all too expensive and too hard, and then what they will do is they will eventually start cutting back the scheme,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Melbourne.

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes said the scheme would increase workforce participation among people with disability and their families, but these gains would be eroded if there was any reduction in support for people with disabilities.

”Any scaling back of the NDIS would be… a false economy because it would have an impact on the other side of the ledger,” Mr Innes said.

”There is an economic risk, not just to the families of people with disabilities but an economic risk for the economy as a whole if we wind this scheme back.”

Mr Innes said the ”signals” being sent by Abbott government ministers through their public comments were ”certainly concerning”.

”This is not a good Christmas present for people with disabilities and our families who thought that the NDIS was locked in this year,” he said.

”I can tell you my phone and Twitter and Facebook have run hot this morning.

”But I’m relying on Tony Abbott’s commitment and passion for this area to ensure that the NDIS does what it’s promised to do.”

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Dec 18

Pact’s lacklustre IPO casts shadow over Orora’s ASX debut

Analysts expect more selling of Orora shares in the coming weeks. Photo: John WoudstraThe underwhelming sharemarket debut of packaging company Pact Group Holdings has weighed on the demerger of Amcor and its $2 billion Australasian packaging and distribution business, Orora.

Orora shares opened at $1.16 and reached $1.20 before settling around $1.19, with more than 29 million of the 1.206 billion shares on issue changing hands.

Amcor shares fell by a commensurate amount, down $1.185 to $10.175.

Analysts expect further heavy selling in Orora shares over the next few weeks because most of Amcor’s international shareholders – who received one share in Orora for every Amcor share – are not considered “natural” or long-term holders of the stock.

Before the demerger, analysts had valued Orora shares between $1.40 and $1.75.

This suggested that Amcor shares would trade between $9.61 and $9.96.

Pact Group’s unimpressive debut on Tuesday, when the shares closed at a 12.6 per cent discount to their $3.80 issue price, appears to have dragged down the price of Orora stock.

Pact shares closed on Tuesday at $3.32, which represented a multiple of 11.7 times forecast 2014 earnings per share and a multiple of 7.8 times EBITDA.

Commonwealth Bank analyst Michael Ward said that applying a similar multiple to Orora implied a valuation of 97¢.

Pact Group chairman Raphael Geminder, who reduced his stake to 40 per cent, was forced to defend the timing of the Pact IPO, which raised $649 million.

Both Orora and Pact operate in mature or low-growth packaging markets, which generally grow in line with GDP growth, but Pact is focused on plastic food and beverage packaging and Orora on fibre, glass and metal packaging and distribution.

Pact has managed to grow sales more than five-fold over the past ten years through multiple acquisitions. Under a so-called Five Cubed strategy, Pact wants to become a $5 billion company operating in five regions within the next five years and is eyeing another half-dozen acquisitions, some of which are related party deals involving Mr Geminder.

However, analysts believe Orora offers greater earnings growth potential in the short term as the company benefits from recent “self help” strategies including cost cutting and capital investments.

Orora’s management, led by Nigel Garrard, expect to realise $30 million to $40 million of cost savings in 2014/15.

Broker CIMB has forecast net profits of $103.4 million this year and $134.1 million in 2015, compared with $73.4 million in 2013.

The demerger leaves Amcor free to focus on its higher growth and higher margin flexible, rigid plastic and tobacco packaging operations, in the Europe, the Americas and emerging markets in India and Asia.

Orora accounted for 22 per cent of Amcor’s sales and 13 per cent of earnings.

Deutsche Bank expects Amcor’s operating margins to rise 100 basis points to 11.5 per cent after the demerger and return on capital to improve by 150 basis points to 21.9 per cent.

The Australian Financial Review

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