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August 16th, 2011:

Timothy Fok tops Legco no-show list again

South China Morning Post – 16 August 2010

As the Legislative Council heads into its last session before elections in September next year, its least active lawmakers have failed to show any sign of revival from their torpor.

Timothy Fok Tsun-ting remained the most reluctant lawmaker in the legislative year just ended. Fok, who has represented the sports, performing arts, culture and publications functional constituency since 1998, had the worst attendance and one of the worst voting records of the 60 lawmakers. While that echoes his previous record in analyses conducted by the South China Morning Post (SEHK: 0583announcementsnews) , his participation on some panels has shown further deterioration.

Fok topped the absentee list for full council meetings for the sixth consecutive year: he attended 22 of its 35 meetings, or 64 per cent, compared to the 96 per cent attendance average of Legco members.

The Legco session that ended on July 13 also marked the ninth year of his 13 as a lawmaker in which Fok had the worst attendance. He also missed or failed to vote in 122, or 65 per cent, of the 187 votes cast in full council meetings in the past year, compared with the average of 25.4 per cent.

The member who lodged the fewest votes was finance sector lawmaker David Li Kwok-po, who missed 90.3 per cent of votes.Medical sector representative Dr Leung Ka-lau was next, at 66.3 per cent.

Fok’s poor performance was consistent across chamber business. He had the lowest attendance on five of the nine major panels and committees he joined. He attended fewer than a third of the 32 meetings of the House Committee, on which all lawmakers except the Legco president sit – a slight deterioration on his performance the previous year.

Repeated attempts by the Post to contact Fok for comment failed. In response to the Post’s analysis of attendances in 2009 – when he was also bottom – he said attendance records were “too simple a tool to judge a lawmaker’s performance”.

While Fok’s average participation at meetings of the seven panels to which he belonged was 39 per cent – up from 33 per cent the previous year – he was among the worst three lawmakers in terms of attendance on all seven panels.

His average was improved slightly by better performance in attending meetings of the home affairs panel, the business of which corresponds most closely with that of his functional constituency. While last year the Post reported that Fok did not show up at a single meeting of the panel, this year he attended eight of its 15 meetings, or 53 per cent, bettering two lawmakers, People Power’s Wong Yuk-man (27 per cent) and pro-government lawmaker Philip Wong Yu-hong (40 per cent).

While it is unsurprising that lawmakers from functional constituencies tend to be less keen to attend meetings and vote on motions or bills than those from geographical constituencies, some directly elected lawmakers also have poor records.

Independent pan-democrat Leung Yiu-chung was either absent or did not press the voting button for 104 of the 197 votes, or 56 per cent – more than doubling the 25 per cent of votes he missed in the previous year.

Independent pan-democrat Andrew Cheng Kar-foo attended just 13 (or 36 per cent) of the 36 meetings of the Public Accounts Committee, the group that stirred heated debate by criticising government figures over 2009’s East Asian Games and directly subsidised schools. Cheng, a solicitor, said being a lawmaker was not his only job. “The [Public Accounts Committee] clashed with many of my other meetings.

“I will withdraw from it in the coming session,” he said. “And I do not only work for one job only… I may not seek re-election next year.”

The Civic Party’s Ronny Tong Ka-wah had the poorest record of attending meetings on Lehman Brothers minibonds issues. He turned up at just four of the 51 hearings of the Lehman Brothers minibond subcommittee, only surpassing in attendance the no-show of the medical sector’s Leung, who quit after four meetings.

Tong said he deliberately skipped the meetings because he thought the purpose of the hearings was to study the structure of the minibonds, not to hear complaints from the victims.

Leung was not available for comment.

Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said that while different lawmakers may have their reasons to skip Legco, “both functional and geographical lawmakers should work equally hard”.

Airport Authority Hong Kong issues eagerly awaited tender for core category concessions

HONG KONG. Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK) will this week issue tenders for its core category duty free concessions at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA), setting in motion what may be the most hotly contested bids in industry history. [UPDATED STORY – The tenders were formally issued this afternoon (Monday, 15 August) Hong Kong time..]

On offer are the highly valued Liquor & Tobacco concession currently operated by Sky Connection, and the Perfumes & Cosmetics and Airside General Merchandise concessions, held by Nuance-Watson (HK). The bid deadline is 28 October.

The Moodie Report estimates liquor and tobacco sales last year at HKIA to have reached around US$200 million, with perfumes & cosmetics a little higher at about US$225 million.

But what really makes the contracts so attractive is HKIA’s passenger mix. AAHK noted that over 70% of its passenger base stems from Asia. Critically, 27% are from Mainland China, a booming market that has become an increasingly vital driver of the sector’s growth in recent years, particularly at HKIA.

Other high-spending nationalities are also to the fore: Taiwan accounts for 18%, South and Southeast Asia for 15%, Japan 7% and South Korea 5%. Such a mix amounts to a retailer’s dream.

The Liquor & Tobacco duty free licence, currently operated by Sky Connection, comprises 15 units across Departures and Arrivals. The space on offer covers around 2,730sq m, with stores measuring 20sqm up to 770sq m coming under this contract.

High rents hit bosses more than wage floor

South China Morning Post — 16 August 2011

Only 8pc of businesses polled say the minimum wage has raised operating costs

High rents rather than the minimum wage represent the biggest threat to small and medium-sized businesses, a study shows.

Just 8 per cent of the businesses polled said the minimum wage had increased their operating costs, while more than 90 per cent said ever-rising rents hurt them more.

The survey casts doubt on claims by some businesses that the HK$28 per hour minimum wage, which came into force in May, had increased their operating costs.

The Catholic Commission for Labour Affairs polled the bosses of 100 stores employing fewer than 50 people in shopping malls owned by The Link, which owns 180 properties on public housing estates, and developers Cheung Kong (Holdings) (SEHK: 0001), Sun Kung Kai Properties and Henderson Land Development (SEHK: 0012). It interviewed in more depth about a dozen businesses to gather their views on the minimum wage.

More than 70 per cent of respondents said the wage law had not put them under greater economic pressure. Some 80 per cent said rent was their largest single expense, with 65 per cent saying it accounted for more than 40 per cent of revenue.

More than 90 per cent said staying in business was tough, and most of them attributed their problems to rent.

Law Pui-shan, the commission’s policy research officer, said the findings proved that most small and medium-sized enterprises had not suffered as a result of the law. “Since many such businesses see high rent as unavoidable, they shift their attention to their workers’ wages, sometimes without justification,” she said.

She urged the government to release an assessment of how the minimum wage had affected businesses. She also called on it to find ways to tackle the growing power of property developers. “If not, we don’t see how rents can go down.”

Property developers have been the target of protests in recent months. Organisers of the annual July 1 march made “toppling property hegemony” – the dominance of property developers over the economy and politics – one of its key themes, while activists brought a ParknShop to a standstill in March in a protest against the chain’s owner, tycoon Li Ka-shing.


Great Hall, University of Sydney
16 August, 2011

The motion ‘we need a nanny state’ was carried at this debate.

Pre-debate poll: For 28%, Against 50%, Undecided 22%,

Post–debate poll: For 67%, Against 27%, Undecided 6%

From internet filtering to junk food advertising, everyone has an opinion on how much government should be able to regulate our lives. Does government edict save lives, improve our social well-being and protect the vulnerable; or does it interfere with our fundamental freedom and the incentive to take responsibility for our own actions? Does it hamper our need to experiment, take risks and the challenges that ensure we mature as individuals and as a society? Should regulation to protect or curb a minority be imposed on the majority? Where do we draw the boundary between private choices and public obligations?


  • Dr Simon Longstaff has a PhD in Philosophy from Cambridge. Prior to becoming the inaugural Executive Director of St James Ethics Centre in 1991, Dr Longstaff worked in the Northern Territory in the Safety Department of BHP subsidiary, GEMCO; lectured at Cambridge University and was a consultant to the Cambridge Commonwealth and Overseas Trusts. His book Hard Cases, Tough Choices was published in 1997. Dr Longstaff was inaugural President of the Australian Association for Professional & Applied Ethics and is a Fellow of the World Economic Forum. He is Chairman of Woolworths Limited Corporate Responsibility Panel and AMP Capital Socially Responsible Investment Advisory Committee


  • Simon Chapman is Professor in Public Health at the University of Sydney. His current research involves examining how health and medical issues are covered in the news media; the implications for tobacco control of web 2.0 technology; and characteristics of public health research (and its dissemination) which impact on public health policy. His book Public Health Advocacy and Tobacco Control: Making Smoking History (2007) outlines his leadership in the tobacco control campaign, its success and the work still to be done.
  • Christopher Zinn is the Director for Communications at CHOICE, an independent publisher of consumer information, an active advocacy group and the public face of the Australia Consumers’ Association (ACA). Choice has more than 200,000 subscribers who receive independent and expert advice on the products and services available in the marketplace, while the wider community benefits from campaigns that champion consumer rights.
  • Patrick Bateman is currently completing his Law degree at the University of Sydney. He was President of the Student Union from 2009 to 2010 and remains on the Board. Pat is a winner of the University’s Justice Kirby Plain Speaking Competition, the Intercol Oration and the World Universities Public Speaking Championship. He has represented the University in three World Universities Debating Championships and three Australasian Intervarsity Debating Championships. Pat recently won the Jessup International Law Moot in Washington D.C. The founder of the University’s first Public Speaking Society, Pat is one of several volunteer coaches who spend each week training international students in public communication.


  • Chris Berg is a Research Fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs, a public policy think tank “dedicated to preserving and strengthening the foundations of economic and political freedom.” He is a regular columnist with the Sunday Age and ABC’s The Drum, covering cultural, political and economic issues. His published works include The Growth of Australia’s Regulatory State (2008) The National Curriculum: A Critique (2011) and 100 Great Books of Liberty (editor, with John Roskam, 2010).
  • Eleanor Jones is a fourth year Arts/Law student, currently undertaking Honours in History. She is writing her thesis on the legal history of abuse allegations against the Catholic Church in America. Elle was the Director of the USU’s Debates Program in 2010 and has been involved in judging the Kirby competition for the past two years. Elle has just been awarded the Best Speaker at the Australasian Debating Championships held in Korea in July 2011. In 2010, she competed in the finals of both the Austral-Asian and World Debating Championships. She was awarded the 4th Best Individual Speaker in Austral-Asia and 12th Best in the World. She is also a Secretariat member of the Australasian Intervarsity Debating Association.
  • Rowan Dean is Executive Creative Director for Euro RSCG, a global integrated marketing communications agency. He is an advertising media specialist who also runs his own company Rowan Dean Advertising. As a junior copywriter in London he launched Fosters Lager (and Paul Hogan) onto the British public in the most successful UK alcohol launch of the 80s. He is a regular social media commentator with his own blog, and is a frequent guest panelist on The Gruen Transfer, the ABC TV panel show about “advertising, how it works and how it works on us.”