THE ACCC will not oppose Australia Pacific LNG’s (APLNG) proposed acquisition of the Ironbark coal seam gas project from Origin Energy (Origin).

APLNG is a large gas producer with significant gas tenements in eastern Australia. It supplies almost 30 percent of the gas going into the east coast market, and processes the balance of its gas for export at its LNG facility near Gladstone, Queensland.

Origin is a 37.5 percent shareholder in APLNG and is the upstream operator for APLNG, responsible for the development of its CSG fields in the Surat and Bowen basins and the main transmission pipeline that transports the gas to the LNG facility near Gladstone.

Ironbark is an undeveloped coal seam gas permit held by Origin, located in the Surat Basin. It has expected reserves of around 129 PJ of 2P reserves, which is approximately 0.34 percent of total eastern Australian reserves.

In reaching its decision, the ACCC considered the effect of the acquisition on domestic gas supply and the level of competition between suppliers of domestic gas.

“We had regard to the relatively small size of the Ironbark project. We also considered the alternatives available to Origin to either sell Ironbark to someone else or develop the project itself,” ACCC Commissioner Roger Featherston said.

“In our view, neither of these alternatives would lead to a significantly different outcome for domestic gas users from that of the sale of Ironbark to APLNG.”

The ACCC concluded that the proposed acquisition would be unlikely to substantially lessen competition in any domestic gas market.

“However, we have long voiced concerns about the challenges facing east coast domestic gas users and will continue to closely examine the acquisition of further gas reserves by major LNG producers and the likely impact on competition,” Mr Featherston said.

Further information is available at APLNG - proposed acquisition of Ironbark gas project.

Background

Origin Energy ATP 788P Pty Ltd, also known as Ironbark, is an Authority to Prospect held by Origin. It is a proposed coal seam gas project located north of Tara, Queensland, in the Surat Basin.

Ironbark is in the exploration and appraisal stage, and is not currently producing. Origin estimates Ironbark has 129 PJ of 2P reserves and 192 PJ of 3P reserves.

APLNG is a joint venture between Origin (37.5 percent), ConocoPhillips Australia Pacific LNG Pty Ltd (37.5 percent) and Sinopec Australia Pacific LNG Pty Limited (25 percent).

It has significant gas tenements in the Surat and Bowen basins and processes CSG into LNG for export from its facility near Gladstone, Queensland. It is also the largest supplier of gas to domestic customers and in 2018 supplied close to 30 percent of total east coast gas.

Origin is an ASX-listed major Australian energy retailer, supplying customers with electricity, natural gas and LPG.

Origin is the upstream operator for APLNG and is responsible for the development of its CSG fields in the Surat and Bowen basins and the main transmission pipeline that transports the gas to the LNG facility on Curtis Island near Gladstone.

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THE Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has welcomed a commitment from the Liberal National Party to keep the rate of royalties on the Queensland resources industry stable for the next five years.

Speaking from Mackay, QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said LNP Leader Deb Frecklington has responded to the industry, union and small business calls for no change in rates of royalties to provide investment and employment certainty for the resources sector in Queensland, which already supports the jobs of more than 315,000 Queenslanders.

The QRC has secured the commitment that if the LNP win the next State election in October next year that royalty rates will be stable for that first four-year term.

“I welcome the commitment of the LNP.  They have listened to business, workers and resource companies and they have responded," Mr Macfarlane said.

“The commitment from Deb Frecklington today is a commitment of confidence in the resource sector, in resource communities and most importantly resource jobs.

“Annastacia Palaszczuk and Jackie Trad need to match that commitment," he said.

"The resources industry will already pay the Palaszczuk Government a record $5.3 billion in royalties this financial year. We remain concerned Treasurer Jackie Trad will increase royalties in the State Budget on June 11 as part of an anti-mining agenda.

“An increase in royalties undermines new and existing jobs. The CFMEU knows that and they have called on the Palaszczuk Government to rule out royalties increases.

"A royalty increase undermines investment and saps confidence in those 14,000 Queensland businesses who supply the resources industry.  The Mackay-based Resources Industry Network knows that and they too have called on the Palaszczuk Government to rule out increases.”

A survey of more than three quarters (77%) of resource company CEOs, released before the Federal election, found that uncertainty about Queensland Government royalty rates affected the likelihood of their projects proceeding.

www.qrc.org.au

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THE Palaszczuk Government would jeopardise Queensland coal exports to Japan if it increased the rate of royalties on resource commodities when it delivers its State Budget next month, according to the Queensland Resources Council (QRC).

On the eve of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk visiting Tokyo, QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said US coal exports to Japan were at five-year highs and a royalty hike could make US coal more attractive than Queensland coal in the Japanese market.

"Coal is Queensland's biggest export commodity and Japan is one of our longest and most important markets," Mr Macfarlane said.

"When we have supply problems, such as in the wake of damaging cyclones, US coal often fills the shortfall.

“US coal exports to Japan increased by 35 percent between 2017 and 2018.  Let’s not help US coal miners.  Let’s not help Donald Trump steal mining jobs from Queensland.

“Our royalty rates and taxes in Queensland are among the highest in the world already.  The Palaszczuk Government is set to take a record of almost $4.5 billion in coal royalties this financial year based on the current rates," Mr Macfarlane said.

“If we make Queensland coal even more expensive, key markets like Japan may look elsewhere. That means a loss of exports, employment and investment for Queensland.

“With Queensland’s unemployment rate of 5.9 percent among the nation’s highest, Queenslanders - particularly in the regions - cannot afford more attacks and more tax on the resources industry from the Palaszczuk Government.," he said.

“On behalf of Queenslanders, we urge the Premier to rule out changes to royalty rates. We also urge the Premier, as Trade Minister, to reassure Japanese coal investors and importers in Tokyo that there will be no royalty change and encourage them to continue to buy Queensland coal and support Queensland jobs and Queensland communities.”

Mr Macfarlane said while Victorian voters and the likes of Bob Brown might not support the resources sector - yet rely on it for their everyday lives - all Queenslanders do.

In 2017-18, the resources industry supported more than 315,000 jobs in Queensland.  The coal industry alone supported more than 200,000 full-time equivalent jobs or 9 percent of Queensland’s total workforce.  The sector also contributed $43.4 billion to the State’s economy, supported more than 6000 local businesses and more than 560 community organisations. 

www.qrc.org.au

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“OFFICIAL figures for the first quarter of 2019 show that construction activity across Australia dropped by 1.9 percent compared with the end of 2018 – but there were signs of growth in some important areas,” Master Builders Australia’s chief economist Shane Garrett said.  

“During the March 2019 quarter, civil construction activity dropped back by 3.9 percent although commercial building saw growth of 3.6 percent to reach a new all-time high

“The re-election of the Morrison Government will boost confidence in our industry and is being welcomed by the hundreds of thousands of small firms active in building and construction,” Mr Garrett said.

“Unfortunately, the decline in civil construction activity during the opening quarter of this year will not be a surprise to the industry. The time taken for government infrastructure announcements to translate into real, visible activity on the ground is often far too long.

“We don’t want to see projects languishing on lists. We are hopeful that the government’s renewed mandate will drive new energy in getting more projects shovel ready and construction work started,” Mr Garrett said.

“Turning to the commercial building space, it is encouraging to see the continuation of modest yet consistent growth. Population and employment increases continue to be robust in most parts of Australia. This creates the need for more offices, schools, hospitals and shops. Today’s figures indicate that this demand is indeed being matched by the building industry,” he said.

“Not surprisingly, residential building moved backwards by 2.3 percent during the March 2019 quarter. Despite the fact that Australia’s population expanded by almost 400,000 over the past 12 months, fewer new homes are being built due to the negative impact of micro factors including the slow motion credit environment post-Royal Commission.

“We look forward to the quick implementation of the government’s election pledges around First Home Buyer home loans and support for small businesses,” Mr Garrett said. 

www.masterbuilders.com.au

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THE FOCUS on the small business sector in the lead-up to the election was a major factor in the win for the Coalition government, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), Kate Carnell said today.

“A Sensis report a few weeks ago showed 35 percent of small to medium enterprises were undecided on who to vote for before the election, but they made their voice heard on the day and will expect the Coalition to act on its pre-election policy commitments,” Ms Carnell said.

“The returning government can start by responding to the review by Treasury of the unfair contract term legislation.

“ASBFEO, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and others have strongly recommended significant changes to the current unfair contract term legislation, backed by the Treasury report," Ms Carnell said.

“The major changes are making unfair contract terms illegal and punishable; increasing the contract size threshold to $1 million for contracts up to 12 months and $5 million for contracts greater than 12 months; and increasing the number of small businesses protected – those with a turnover of up to $10 million.

“The government should also require departments to comply with unfair contract term legislation," she said.

“The Coalition must re-introduce the legislation to address illegal phoenixing activity and provide some protection for small businesses, who often hurt the most when this happens.

“Action on payment times for small businesses will lift confidence, particularly the government’s undertaking to force the country’s top 3,000 big businesses to publish payment information annually on a reporting framework.

“We are pleased the government committed to move to pay small businesses within 20 days from July 1 and then develop a plan to introduce payment terms of five days when small businesses use e-invoicing," Ms Carnell said.

“Addressing the mental health of small business owners is also something we support. Earlier this year, Minister Cash convened two roundtables with key stakeholders were held, with the commitment to develop a small business mental health portal specifically for business owners. This is significant as much of the workplace mental health focus has been on employees," she said.

“There was a range of commitments made to small businesses during the election campaign and in the Budget and we look forward to working with the government to deliver on these to ensure SMEs continue to be the ‘engine room of the economy’.”

www.asbfeo.gov.au

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LEADING financial services education provider Kaplan Professional has engaged Dr Deen Sanders OAM, Deloitte leader ethics and professionalism, to help build and deliver the three bridging courses required by the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA).

The bridging courses are aligned to FASEA’s curriculum and will combine Kaplan Professional's deep industry understanding and education calibre with Deloitte’s global expertise, insight and capability.

Due to such high demand from licensees and their financial advisers, Kaplan Professional is intending to offer enrolments for Ethics and Professionalism in Financial Advice in July if FASEA approval is granted. Pending FASEA approval, the education provider is preparing for September enrolments into the two other bridging courses: Financial Advice Regulatory and Legal Obligations and Behavioural Finance: Client and Consumer Behaviour, Engagement and Decision Making.

Kaplan Professional chief executive officer Brian Knight said he was delighted to work with Deloitte and especially Dr Sanders, Partner Deloitte, as he wanted to work with the very best people available to set the benchmark for adviser education.

“Together, we have assembled a team of market-leading academic and practitioner experts to build out these bridging courses," Mr Knight said. "This includes Sydney University behavioural scientists, and legal and professional ethics leaders from both Sydney University and the University of New South Wales.

“The involvement of Deloitte will ensure these bridging courses are best-in-breed – unprecedented, innovative and cutting-edge, and will significantly contribute to the fabric of adviser education. We wanted to go ‘above and beyond’ the norm and transform what is available in the market.

“FASEA has placed great importance on these three knowledge areas. This is a strong indication it sees improvement in these skills as integral to the future of the profession and to advisers’ performance.

“All advisers will have to complete a least one bridging course to meet the requirements, so we want to make this a valuable and engaging experience. It is imperative advisers gain practical and relevant outcomes that will benefit their career in the years to come … for the betterment of not only themselves, but the Australian public they serve,” Mr Knight said.

He added the fundamental contribution of Dr Sanders in the development of the bridging courses would be an enormous asset for the credibility of the content.

“Dr Sanders is renowned as a global leader in the field of ethics, trust and regulation and its impact on professional behaviour and conduct," Mr Knight said. "He has a deep and profound understanding of Australia’s financial services sector.

“In addition, he brings an unrivalled insight from his time at FASEA, understanding the vision for the professionalisation program in the Corporations Act to encourage sustained change in behaviour, to align with professionalism, and to champion a positive and long-term future for trusted financial advice,” he said.

Expressions of interest to enrol in Ethics and Professionalism in Financial Advice are open to advisers and scheduled to start as soon as July 8, 2019 when Study Period 4 commences.

Kaplan Professional is also hoping to offer Financial Advice Regulatory and Legal Obligations and Behavioural Finance: Client and Consumer Behaviour, Engagement and Decision Making in Study Period 5, which commences on September 2, 2019.

If approved by FASEA, all bridging course subjects will form part of Kaplan Professional’s Graduate Diploma of Financial Planning.

www.kaplanprofessional.edu.au

 

About Kaplan Professional

Kaplan Professional is one of Australia’s leading providers of financial planning, real estate, mortgage broking, insurance and leadership education. Kaplan Professional delivers education and training services to over 45,000 professionals each year. This includes over 1,500 corporate clients, encompassing the majority of financial services organisations in the country. 

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THE Palaszczuk Government must immediately reaffirm its support for the resource industry and resource jobs, with a commitment for long-term royalty stability and a fair go for all projects, Queensland Resources Council (QRC) chief executive Ian Macfarlane said today.

Mr Macfarlane said the message was clear after Queenslanders across resource communities voted so overwhelmingly for the Federal Coalition Government’s pro-mining and pro-jobs agenda and record.

“Queenslanders have spoken and their message is clear.  They support mining jobs and they expect their Governments to support them too,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“For the past 18 months, there have been too many mixed messages from the Palaszczuk Government when it comes to resources jobs. 

"The goal posts have been moved for projects like the Adani mine, and the Government has yet to rule out new royalty taxes on all coal mines, which would risk future projects and future jobs.

“Queenslanders don’t want a bet each way.  They want a future that includes resources jobs and the resources investment that is so important to regional Queensland," Mr Macfarlane said.

"They’ve got the backing of the South East corner too, including in Brisbane which is Queensland’s biggest mining town.

“You don’t need to work in a mine to depend on a strong resources industry. Our industry supports 315,000 Queenslanders into work, generates more than $60 billion for the economy and delivers 80 percent of the State’s exports. We also support more than 14,000 small businesses across the State, including across south-east Queensland,” he said.
 
“Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the LNP, particularly through Resources Minister Matt Canavan, were unequivocal in their support for the resources industry. Queenslanders responded to that. They voted for jobs.

“Prior to the election, Bob Brown and his convoy of cars drove around Queensland telling mine workers and people living in regional Queensland that they were wrong and that they should reskill.  There was no defence of these Queenslanders from the Queensland Government.

“The fact is Queensland needs resources and renewables.  We need to have a strong energy mix and we need to be able to give the world the resources they need to deliver their own energy mix," he said.

“Prior to the Federal election, QRC, the CFMEU and the Resources Industry Network called for certainty from the Palaszczuk Government on royalties imposed on the mining industry as it was sapping confidence from the sector.

“The QRC will be seeking to meet as soon as possible with the Premier to discuss the long-term future of the resources sector.”
 
Mr Macfarlane said the QRC would continue to seek commitments from the Palaszczuk Government on:

  • no changes to the rates of royalties on all resource commodities, including coal, to ensure future investment in proposed resource projects and jobs are not put at risk;
  • assessment and approval processes of all projects based on science, free from political interference, and overseen by the Office of the Coordinator-General;
  • confirmation the Government will oppose, as the Parliamentary Committee recommended, the Greens’ legislation prohibiting mining in the Galilee Basin in central Queensland;
  • and genuine consultation with the QRC on any changes on policies or programs that will have material impact on the industry.

www.qrc.org.au

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THE executive director of the Australian Retailers’ Association, Russell Zimmerman, said today the re-election of the Morrison Government was “a win for retailers” that was warmly welcomed by the retail sector.

Commenting on the election – in which ongoing counting appears to have re-elected the Coalition with an outright majority – Mr Zimmerman said the outcome would provide certainty for retail businesses, whilst offering opportunities for the sector to engage and address issues of concern with government.

“On behalf of Australia’s $320 billion retail sector, we’d like to offer our warmest congratulations to the Prime Minister and his team on their victory in a hard-fought contest at Saturday’s federal election,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the government on a raft of issues affecting our members."

Mr Zimmerman singled out Labor’s promise to legislate to reverse penalty rate reductions in retail, hospitality and pharmacy, and emphasised the ARA would continue to resist any move to implement such a policy.

“The independent umpire – the Fair Work Commission, set up by Labor – makes evidence-based determinations regarding issues such as penalty rates, and its independence must be respected,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“We hope the election result puts an end to attempts to interfere politically with bodies such as the FWC.”

Mr Zimmerman said that with retail growth in 2017-18 being the lowest on record, it was crucial the retail sector and government were in lockstep on issues that affected the trading environment in which retailers operate.

“Governments don’t determine trade or turnover, but what they administer dictates the conditions with which our retail member businesses must work to be profitable, to make a living, and create jobs,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“The Morrison Government has signalled a commonsense approach to workplace relations, business energy costs, lower taxes, cutting red tape, and taking a rational view on climate change, and we welcome its re-election to office,” Mr Zimmerman concluded.

 

About the Australian Retailers Association

Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association, representing the country’s $320 billion sector, which employs more than 1.3 million people. As Australia’s leading retail peak industry body, the ARA is a strong pro-active advocate for Australian retail and works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,800 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.

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MASTER Builders Australia is calling for Labor politicians to take a stand against what it calls "construction union bullies".

“Every politician understands that the modern Australia says no to bullying, thuggery, coercion, intimidation and threats of verbal and physical violence. Bullying is not acceptable to the community – whether it's at work, in the street or in a park – it's simply not tolerated,” Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn said. 

“Yet Labor, which wants to abolish the ABCC (Australian Building and Construction Commission), has offered no explanation of how they will respond to the overwhelming evidence of construction union bullying and lawlessness if they scrap the ABCC,” she said. 

“They have offered no explanation as to why previous politicians, including Paul Keating, Bob Hawke, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard were wrong when they promised to maintain strong compliance with workplace laws in the building and construction sector and crack down on building unions who didn't play by the rules like everyone else,” Ms Wawn said. 

“And they have offered no alternative plan to protect the 1.1 million workers and 370,000 small and family businesses from the bullying and intimidation that will surge if the ABCC is abolished.

“The ABCC is the only independent watchdog who tackles the bullying and thuggery that has plagued the building and construction industry for decades. 

“Four separate Royal Commissions, dozens of independent reviews and inquiries, and countless Federal Court judgements have all said the same thing – the ABCC is essential in making sure that the rules that apply in everyday communities are upheld on building sites.  The unfortunate reality is that construction unions think they are above the law and believe they don't have to play by the same rules that everyone else in the community accepts,” she said. 

“The evidence is there for everyone to see – construction unions are responsible for nearly 90 percent of breaches of Anti-Coercion, Freedom of Association, and Right of Entry rules. They are 10 times more likely to break coercion laws than any other union, 45 times more likely to break Right of Entry laws than any other union and are responsible for every breach of Freedom of Association laws from 2017 to the present,” Ms Wawn said. 

“Without the ABCC there is every reason to fear a surge in construction union bullying which will undermine the significant community contribution made by the nation’s second largest industry and biggest provider of full time jobs. Worse, the entire Australian community will pay more for much needed public and community infrastructure, like hospitals, schools and roads,

“Abolishing the ABCC will lead to dramatic increases in union power and strike action will be rife. Construction projects will be drawn out and protracted, resulting in massive blow-outs in costs. We can expect militant unionism to rule construction sites. History tells us that increases in strike action and industrial dislocation are inevitable without the industry watchdog and the industry-specific legislation which it enforces,” Ms Wawn said. 

“Bullying is not tolerated in the community so it should not be tolerated on construction sites. That is why Master Builders will continue to fight to keep the ABCC." 

Ms Wawn also quoted the words of former Labor Prime Minsters on the issue which, she said, backed up the stance of Master Builders Australia.

Kevin Rudd in a speech at the WA ALP State Conference, June 2, 2007:  “And as Labor indicated this week, when it comes to the construction industry, we support a strong cop on the beat. It is why we will continue with the current Australian Building and Construction Commission arrangements until the 31st of January 2010, when these responsibilities will move across to the specialist division of the inspectorate of Fair Work Australia. Certainly it is critical for the future of the construction industry and we will not tolerate the return of any unlawful practices.”

Julia Gillard, on ABC News Radio – Batholomew on august 2, 2007: “Obviously, what the building and construction sector is looking for is that they want a tough cop on the beat. They want to make sure there is strong compliance in the building industry with industrial law and we will be ensuring that by keeping the Australian Building and Construction Commission until January 2010 and then ensuring a seamless transition to a specialist division of Fair Work Australia which would be tough on compliance. We want to make sure that no one is engaged in improper conduct in the building industry, whether employer, union or employee.”

(Julia Gillard, in a speech in Melbourne, August 1, 2007:  “We will be tough by ensuring that the Australian Building and Construction Commission and, when its time comes, Fair Work Australia, are properly staffed and resourced to do the job they were established to do – to eradicate unlawful behaviour in the industry, whether it be perpetrated by unions, employees or employers. We have always said that Fair Work Australia needs a specialist inspectorate to deal with unlawful behaviour in the building and construction industry. But we will keep it as simple as possible.”

www.masterbuilders.com.au

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THE Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has welcomed ASIC’s announcement of a raft of measures to strengthen the complaints handling process within financial firms.

ASIC has today announced its intention to require financial companies to supply standardised data on their internal process for handling customer complaints. ASIC has signaled its intention to publish this information, naming the firms and their performance.

AFCA Chief Ombudsman and CEO David Locke welcomed the proposed changes, “Increased transparency is good news” he said.

“It will help firms to continuously improve, and that will be good for the firms and their customers alike.

“We also welcome the idea of requiring firms to provide a standard set of data – this will help companies know how they compare to their competitors and help to inform consumers about the companies they’re dealing with.

“In this digital age, the move by ASIC to require firms to include complaints made on social media platforms, is entirely appropriate” he said.

Noting that ASIC is consulting with industry about the proposed changes, Mr Locke observed the timeliness of the process and the proposed regulatory changes.

“ASIC’s aim to match dispute resolution data with AFCA data will provide a robust and accountable way to make sure the system is fully transparent.”

www.afca.org.au

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MINE WORKER and employer representatives have warned the Queensland Government that uncertainty about the royalty rates it applies to the resources sector is creating job uncertainty.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane and CFMEU Mining and Energy Division Queensland District president Stephen Smyth said the Queensland Government should rule out any increase in royalty rates applying to resource commodities, such as coal, metals and LNG, this week.

“Unemployment in Queensland is rising.  The resources industry, particularly coal, has been creating jobs and paying record royalties to the Government,” Mr Macfarlane and Mr Smyth said in a joint statement.

“Now is not the time to increase taxes on the industry, because increasing taxes creates uncertainty for investors and ultimately that means uncertainty for those men and women working in the resources industry.

“The Palaszczuk Government will receive more than $5 billion in resource royalties this financial year.  That’s a record Budget contribution from our industry.

“Instead of getting credit for generating record royalty revenues and record exports for Queensland, the men and women working in the resources sector are being told by southerners like Bob Brown to abandon their careers and reskill.

“The Queensland Government should give those mine workers, their families and their communities a commitment that it supports the industry and that it rules out increasing taxes and royalties that hurt the industry and force it to review planned investments and employment.”

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