Backlash over plan to demolish Federation Square building to make way for Apple shop

The decision to demolish a large building in Federation Square to make way for a new Apple store has unleashed a torrent of criticism.
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On Wednesday the Andrews government confirmed the tech giant had finalised a deal with Federation Square management to build the new “flagship” shop where the Yarra building now stands.

The announcement triggered a spat with a Melbourne City councillor who said the decision was “appalling”, and prompted an avalanche of criticism on Premier Daniel Andrews’ Facebook page.

Hundreds of people condemned the decision in a torrent of negative comments and Facebook posts, with many urging the government to reconsider the move.

An artist’s impression of the view from the new Apple store. Photo: Supplied

Agereaders have described the plan as “absolutely disgraceful”, a “monstrous carbuncle” and an “appalling use of public space”.

Former premier Ted Baillieu was also drawn into the fray, criticising the plan in a radio interview.

Wednesday’s announcement follows more than a year ofspeculationabout the deal. Construction is set to start in 2019 and finish the following year.

How Federation Square might look from the air.

The company will lease the building but the terms of that arrangement were not made public.

Mr Eren said the Yarra building needed commercial tenants to ensure the entire precinct was viable.

“It does need to generate some money through commercial ventures,” he said.

Mr Eren confirmed negotiations had been underway for about two years.

Apple retail senior vice-president Angela Ahrendts said the company was thrilled to move forward with the plans and was honoured to “call the world-class galleries and museums of Melbourne our neighbours”.

There are large Apple stores in suburban shopping centres across Melbourne as well as a shop selling Apple products directly opposite Federation Square.

How the new Apple store will look at Federation Square Photo: Supplied

The government insisted the redevelopment would create 200 jobs.

But Melbourne City councillor Rohan Leppert slammed the plans, accusing the government of failing to consult the public or councillors.

“It has radically different architecture and converts cultural space to commercial space – but [planning minister] Richard Wynne has made that change to the planning scheme by exempting himself from the normal public participation requirements,” Cr Leppert, a Greens member, toldThe Age.

“The bottom line is that this is Melbourne’s civic square and Melburnians deserved to have their say.”

The new Apple store replacing the Yarra building at Fed Square is radically different architecture and converts cultural/civic space to commercial. And despite this being a public centre, the changes to the planning scheme have already been approved without any public process. pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/9JkfjRGgiL

— Rohan Leppert (@RohanLeppert) December 19, 2017

In response, a government spokesman said advice had been sought from Victorian government architect Jill Garner and Federation Square’s original architect Donald Bates.

“Mr Bates said the location was suitable for a commercial development and designed as such, and commercial and retail uses has always been part of its vision,” he said.

The architect himself said the Yarra building had not been particularly successful in its “various iterations”.

“I don’t have a huge problem with it being replaced with something that would be more viable,” Mr Bates said.

He also said it was appropriate that the new construction look substantially different from the Yarra building rather than mimicking the current “aesthetic”.

Ex-premier Ted Ballieu, who is also an architect, described the plan as a “bananas idea”. He told radio station 3AW said it was “completely incongruous” with the square’s existing buildings.

“It could only be a financial solution to a financial problem,” he said.

Mr Baillieu said he did not have a problem with commercial activity in public places, including restaurants and cafes. But handing part of Federation Square over to Apple was going “way too far”.

Federation Square and Apple were both powerful “brands” but only one could survive in the proposed arrangement, Mr Ballieu said.

“I don’t think Fed Square is going to have an easy time with Apple on top of it.”

Mr Baillieu said the deal would allow Apple to, in effect,”own the square in terms of the way the space is used”.

The Koorie Heritage Trust moved into the Yarra Building just two years ago.

But its chief executive Tom Mosby said it was already outgrowing its current space and had been assured there would be a new, larger site within Federation Square.

“In terms of our location it’s been fantastic. We’ve certainly more than doubled visitation,” he said.

“[But we’re] starting to feel the constraints of the space.”

Federation Square chief executive Jonathan Tribe said the new building would take up less space than the Yarra building.

The Age

Have yourself a merit little Christmas: Turnbull’s reshuffle a logic-free zone

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One of Michaelia Cash’s final acts as the outgoing minister for women was to announce the latest data on gender balance on government boards.

On Wednesday morning, mere hours before Malcolm Turnbull’s new ministry was sworn in, she trumpeted the news that almost 43 per cent of government board positions were now held by women.

“The report highlights just how seriously the government takes its commitment to gender balance and promoting women into leadership,” Cash said, with not a skerrick of irony to be seen.

Maybe irony was too distracted by other government news this week.

While there were about 18 promotions involved in Turnbull’s ministerial reshuffle, only four involved women. And in terms of new female faces within the ministry, there were only two. One of these was Bridget McKenzie, who got an automatic cabinet gig as the new Nationals deputy leader. And given the recent loss of former Nationals deputy, Fiona Nash, the number of women in cabinet stays static at five.

The lack of wins for women – who for years under the Coalition have been held at bay by the argument they need to get to the top on “merit” – was underscored by some very heady promotions for the boys.

The two that stand out are John McVeigh and David Littleproud: two Queenslanders (one from the Liberal side of the LNP, the other from the Nationals), who leapt from the backbench straight into cabinet. Not only are the two men first-termers in federal politics, but they have also kept decidedly low profiles since coming to Canberra. It’s not a joke that many press gallery journalists had to Google these guys when their names were read out by the Prime Minister on Tuesday afternoon.

To be fair, McVeigh will already be familiar to Queenslanders, as he had a brief stint in state politics, including as Campbell Newman’s agriculture minister. Littleproud (an agribusiness expert), was previously best known as one of the four MPs who voted “no” on same-sex marriage. People also had to remind themselves about Damian Drum, another first-term National, who made the junior ministry as Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister.

These hasty elevations are terrifying not just because of the double standard they perpetuate (women have to wait and wait, while men are automatically deemed competent), but because of what it means for the highest decision-making body of government.

You may think that being a minister is easy: something that any two-bit megalomaniac can manage, as long as they can string a sentence together and carry a folder. It’s more complex than that. And there are good reasons why people tend to spend some time on the backbench before heading to the front.

For starters, you need to learn how to be a parliamentarian and local member: how legislation and the chamber work; what committees do; how the party room functions; how to handle the deluge of electorate requests and questions that come in. And in the meantime, maybe get your melon on TV and get used to having a public profile.

Then you need to learn how the rest of government functions: the cabinet and budget processes; how the political side interacts with the public service; how to take responsibility for policies, starting with a small chunk of them; and how to handle a hostile opposition and hostile journalists.

So it’s fairly terrifying to think Turnbull has just put three people into cabinet with no previous federal frontbench experience (though at least McKenzie has been in Parliament for a couple of terms).

For example, in Littleproud’s case, he’ll jump from having a personal staff of about five to having an office of about 20 and a department of more than 5000 people working for him. He’ll have to answer questions in question time, take agriculture and water resources through the budget process (that has already begun without him), and generally be across all the details and decisions in a huge area of policy.

Of course, the reasons for these whopping promotions have precious little to do with merit and everything to do with Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce’s logic about what’s best for them and their parties. But they make a mockery of the heartfelt explanations from Coalition figures about why progress is so glacial on gender balance.

It also shows how “merit” may be a great concept in theory, but a highly subjective one in practice (one person’s “merit” is another person’s “ridiculous”). And that it can so easily be ignored anyway for more immediate political reasons.

It’s worth noting that the “women on government boards” success that Cash celebrated did not happen by accident. In 2010, Labor introduced a target of at least 40 per cent women on government boards. In 2016, the Coalition upped this to 50 per cent.

While the conservative side of politics is traditionally opposed (allergically so) to the idea of targets and quotas, the Liberal Party has set a goal of 50 per cent female representation in Parliament by 2025. Given the week’s decisions by the party’s leadership, this not only seems unrealistic, but laughable.

Put your bids in, the Big Potato is up for sale

Big Potato builder Jim Mauger with the iconic landmark. If you’ve always wanted to own Robertson’s iconic Big Potato, now’s your chance.
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Owners Heather and Neil Taithave put the land homing the iconic potato up for sale.

The Robertson couple opened the Family Grocer 27 years ago and purchased the neighbouring potato-land just four years ago.

“We decided to buy the potato from Jim Mauger after another grocery shop intended to open in competition,” Heather said.

“But to open they needed to buy the potato land and turn it into a carpark.”

So, Heather and Neil decided to buy the potato to save their business and keep the Big Potato around for the community.

Heather and Neil are both 65 and decided it was time to retire.

“It’s just time for us to finish up,” she said.“But we won’t sell the shop without the potato.”

STARCH FOR SALE: Current potato-land owners Heather and Neil Tait with the Big Potato, now up for sale! Photo: Michelle Thomas.

If you’re not familiar with the Big Potato, it was built around 1975 by Jim Mauger, and is the focal point of the tiny Highlands town.

Robertson used to be a strong potato-growing town, and the Big Potatorepresents that time in history.

“The potato is a local icon, it’s not the prettiest thing but it’s so unusual it’s a joke,” Heather said.

In fact it’s so unusual that people from right across the country have visited Robertson to see the giant starch in person.

“We sell Big Potato t-shirts and mugs and stubby holders and things and you should just see people,” Heather said.

“They run in and buy a whole bunch of shirts, put them on and then go and get a whole bunch of photos with the thing!”

Heather and Neil have already had two offers on the potato, but both have been refused.

“We won’t sell the land before the shop,” Heather said.

Heather and Neil hope the fun and enjoyment of the potato will continue for years to come.

“The town would be devastated if it were ever to be taken down,”

“It’s such a ridiculous monument that it’s eye-catching and a it brings a lot of pleasure to the community.

“It’s one of those things that people love to look and laugh at.”

Southern Highlands News

Racing industry ‘nervous’ over digital gambling tax hit

New online betting taxes risk blowing out the cost of punting and eroding millions of dollars in crucial funding to the racing industry if they are set too high, Victorian horse-racing officials warn.
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Multiple n states have now moved to introduce a 15 per cent “point-of-consumption” tax, meaning that for the first time the state where an online bet is placed will receive revenue on gambler losses.

So far, the tax has come into force in South , before it begins in Western in 2019 and in Queensland. Victoria and New South Wales are both expected to introduce similar taxes.

But concerns are swelling within the racing industry about the potentially damaging impact a tax could have on betting turnover if it is introduced at the 15 per cent rate in Victoria.

The companies to be hardest-hit by the tax are ‘s rapidly growing online corporate bookmakers, such as Sportsbet, CrownBet, Ladbrokes and William Hill, who are licensed in the lower-tax Northern Territory.

Racing Victoria chief financial officer Aaron Morrison said the state racing industry had become heavily reliant on funding from online wagering operators, including lucrative sponsorships and the “race-field fees” they pay for the use of racing information.

In Racing Victoria’s past financial year, funding from the corporate bookmakers accounted for nearly as much revenue as its joint-venture with TAB, Mr Morrison said.

“The risk we see is that if the corporate bookmakers are all of a sudden faced with an increase in their cost base because of the introduction of a new tax, what are they going to do, how are they going to respond?” he said.

“Anything that’s going to negatively impact on wagering turnover … is going to present a real risk for us.”

Mr Morrison said very few corporate bookmakers were profitable enough to absorb a 15 per cent hit to their margins, and would likely be forced to wind back marketing and sponsorship investments with Racing Victoria and individual racing clubs, or pass on the cost to punters through “higher prices, worse odds”.

He said Racing Victoria’s funding was “100 per cent reliant” on wagering, and the risk of a price hike that encouraged punters to bet on sports with better returns was “probably the impact we are most concerned about”.

“If a punter says, ‘I’m going to bet less because it’s more expensive and I’m not getting the same return for the dollar I used to invest’, then they might bet on alternative products that are relatively less-expensive,” Mr Morrison said.

“We could see a decline in wagering on horse racing and a shift to other sports other sports, like NBA and EPL, for example, where there are no product fees levied.”

Officials from Victoria’s horse racing, greyhound racing and harness racing bodies had been meeting the Andrews government, which was engaging and consulting with them on their concerns, Mr Morrison said.

“We don’t know exactly what the impacts of this are going to be, but these are the things we are nervous about,” he said.

“There will be direct and indirect impacts to our sustainable funding, and when we are engaging with the government, what we are trying to work out is a scenario where the government takes account of the risks to our funding sources.”

‘s online bookmakers have recently ramped up efforts to sway government leaders in Victoria to consider introducing the new tax at a lower rate than 15 per cent.

But supporters of the tax say it is crucial to “level the playing field”. TAB operator Tabcorp, which has to pay vastly higher taxes than the online-only bookmakers, said it would continue lobbying governments to adopt nationally consistent digital taxes.

Mr Morrison said the Victorian and NSW were considering alternative rates. He said Racing Victoria was not seeking a specific rate, but he believed a 15 per cent tax would be too onerous.

“Fifteen per cent doesn’t have any great science behind it and could lead to material adverse unintended consequences,” he said. “If the number settles at less than that, we’re likely to all get a better outcome.”

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the WA point-of-consumption tax was due to be introduced in January 2018. The WA tax takes effect in January 2019.

Energised: PM’s renewables gamble gets green light in study

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in a tunnel near the Tumut 2 power station. Photo: Alex EllinghausenThe nation-building project in the Snowy Mountains to create a $2bn pumped hydro scheme has won approval after an intensive feasibility study, giving Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull a huge fillip before Christmas.
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The study found the scheme was feasible, both technically and economically, with the scheme’s ability to power 500,000 homes as a back-up to renewable energy in other parts of the country.

If the scheme gets the final approval mid next year it will create more than 5000 jobs.

The feasibility study found that:

The project is technically feasible – it can be built and Snowy Hydro hasa base-case design and detailed construction schedule;The project is financially feasible as it meets Snowy Hydro’s investment hurdles;• Snowy Hydro can finance the project itself using retained earnings and borrowing;Snowy 2.0 will start operations from 2024 and will underpin the reliability and stability of the National Energy Market for decades.The Turnbull Government welcomes Snowy Hydro’s release of a feasibility study into the expansion of the energy generation and storage scheme, a release from the PM’s office said.

The drilling site near Kiandra above where the giant generation chamber is to be built.

“The feasibility study clearly demonstrates that Snowy 2.0 is a viable pumped hydro project that will future-proof the National Electricity Market (NEM), helping stabilise the system and deliver lower prices.

“The project involves linking two large dams – Tantangara at an elevation of 1233 metres and Talbingo at 552 metres. When energy is cheap, in the middle of the night for example, water is pumped to the higher reservoir, and then when energy is in high demand and prices rise, energy is generated by releasing water downhill.

“The project will act as a giant 2000MW battery in the centre of the NEM providing enough power for 500,000 homes and much needed backup for the increasing amount of wind and solar coming into the system.

“Given the size of the two connected reservoirs it has the potential for future expansion of generation capacity.Snowy 2.0 will make renewables reliable.”

The Government says Snowy 2.0 will also lessen the volatility in the wholesale price of electricity and reduce the current reliance on gas generation as the main form of backup for intermittent renewables.

The release said Snowy Hydro acknowledged “geological challenges” for the project but said “these can all be overcome as the 27 kms of tunnels and the underground powerhouse cavern are constructed”.

The Land

The slow take down of an alleged foreign fighter

It was on his alleged return from the Syrian war zone in late 2015 when authorities ramped up their investigation into young Sydney father Belal Betka.
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Some 10 months beforehand, the Minister for Foreign Affairs had declared the Syrian province al-Raqqa as an area where a listed terrorist organisation was engaging in hostile activity.

Commonwealth legislation made it illegal for any n to be in a “declared area”.

And for two years after Betka first arrived home, the NSW Joint Counter Terrorism Team – comprising of representatives from state and federal police, the n Security Intelligence Organisation and NSW Crime Commission – continued the in-depth investigation into allegations of money laundering and proceeds of crime being used to help fund terrorist organisations.

One branch of the investigation saw three men, including 26-year-old Fouad Moussa, arrested in raids in October and charged with money laundering after more than $1 million was allegedly seized.

Then on Tuesday, investigators swooped on Betka at the Mount Lewis home he shared with his mother and took him into custody.

Betka, now aged 25, would become the first person in to be charged with “foreign incursion offences”, including that he entered Syria with the intention of engaging in hostile activities, a offence carrying a maximum of life imprisonment, and entering or remaining in a declared area.

Authorities allege Betka had entered the “declared area” of al-Raqqa via Turkey in March 2015 and aligned himself with the so-called Islamic State, before returning to seven months later.

Betka is also facing a charge he dealt in the proceeds of crime (money or property worth $1million or more).

Authorities have not seized any cash in relation to the Betka allegations, which are believed to form a separate branch of the investigation from that which made the October arrests and is not directly linked.

When Betka’s matter came before magistrate Elaine Truscott in Bankstown Local Court on Wednesday, there was a delay as he was assessed by paramedics at the local police station.

However, no details of his condition were revealed.

His lawyer, Ivan Sayed, requested the matter be adjourned to Parramatta Local Court on Thursday for a release application.

Mr Sayed said he was waiting for a response from a government agency following “a request for information that may assist our case”.

Outside court, he declined to elaborate on whether his client had a medical issue.

“Any of these questions will be answered tomorrow during the release application,” Mr Sayed told reporters.

A court document outlining police reasons for denying bail revealed he also had a domestic-related offence before the courts.

There was “significant evidence” supporting Betka’s active involvement in the terrorism offence, according to the file.

“There is an unacceptable risk that the accused person, if released from custody, will endanger the victim, individual or the community,” it said.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said Betka was the 81st n since 2014 to be charged with a terror offence.

“We face a very real risk – as people do in the United Kingdom, or the United States or Canada or any other Western democracy,” he told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

Betka’s bail application is due to be heard on Thursday.

With AAP

Sydney Morning Herald maintains largest audience with digital upswing

The trend towards digital continues, with the majority of ‘s top-read newspaper titles offsetting moderate declines in print readership with a surge in online interest.
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The most-read newspaper in the country in the 12 months to October 2017 continued to be Fairfax Media’s Sydney Morning Herald, the latest Enhanced Media Metrics (EMMA) survey results show.

Over the year, 5.42 million people picked up a copy of the paper or read the title digitally on any device.

While print readership was down by 60,000 year-on-year, the overall audience for the title fell by 15,000 on the EMMA measure.

Much of the print drop was offset by a 150,000 recorded growth in readership on digital platforms.

The second most-read title was News Corp’s Daily Telegraph with overall readership of 4,575,000, up from 4,281,000 in 2016.

It experienced a significant increase in its digital readership at 2,567,000, compared to 2.03 million a year prior.

But the title also slumped in its monthly print circulation at 2,667,000 compared to 2,776,000 in 2016.

Rounding out the top five were News Corp’s Herald Sun with 4,276,000 and The n, 3,265,000, followed by Fairfax’s The Age, with 3,049,000.

While most of the top five titles saw a decline in print readership and an increase in digital, not all aligned with this trend.

The n increased both print and digital readership, while The Age’s readership decreased across both measures.

Of the 15 titles that were measured in both October 2016 and 2017, seven recorded overall increases in readership.

Eleven recorded increases in digital readership, while 12 recorded declines in print readership.

NewsMediaWorks chief executive Peter Miller said the solid figures across the group of newspapers, coupled with the strong takeup of digital, was a positive sign for the industry.

“There is an evolution across multiple platforms … newspapers are becoming multi-platform businesses,” Mr Miller said.

By 2018 he expects these changes to continue.

“Some publications will moderate their negative growth in print readership and some will drop further,” he said.

He expected there would be a continued increase in digital readership leading most newspapers with “commercially viable” audience outcomes.

He said the digital growth was lending itself to an audience that switched between titles, including some who likely read one newspaper in print but opted for another digitally due to better apps or online presentation.

News Corp spokeswoman Liz Deegan said the growth in total cross platform audience was evidence of the strong community connection with its brands.

“We are providing a range of channels and mediums for people to consume our content in whichever way they like,” she said.

Fairfax Media was approached for comment.

The once struggling school where 100% of students go to uni

Just a few years ago, student numbers at Sir Joseph Banks High were dwindling; it was far from the first choice of school for many and its reputation meant neighbouring high schools attracted the best and the brightest.
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But within three years, the dedicated team of teachers, led by principal Murray Kitteringham, have turned the school around and for two years in a row, every student from the Revesby school who has applied for a university place has been accepted.

The school expects the same exceptional result this year when the University Admissions Centre (UAC) makes a large round of NSW university offers on Thursday.

Mr Kitteringham said when the school’s population dipped below 500 students, the staff knew they had to make big changes.

“What we wanted was to be the school of choice and it was wasn’t that,” Mr Kitteringham said.

He said the school had a reputation of being a “rough school” and the local Arabic population favoured single-sex schools over Sir Joseph Banks.

But while the school is still dominated by boys, the number of girls is rising and there has been an overall growth in enrolments of 10 per cent in 18 months. It is also the top school in its area for student growth – the most important measure in education.

The school has used some of its federal Gonski funding to employ a youth worker for years 7 to 10 students as well as a senior studies coordinator, Amaney Khazma Roumieh, who develops a personalised learning plan for every senior student.

Her job is to ensure every student knows the pathways available to them, from traineeships and apprenticeships to university.

“For many of our students, they will be the first person from their family to go to university,” Ms Roumieh said.

About half the year 12 cohort, or about 35 students, have applied for university each year for the past two years and all have been offered a place in an undergraduate degree.

The school works closely with the University of Technology Sydney, with university students coming to the school as tutors.

It also has partnerships with Western Sydney University and Sydney University, which makes offers under its Early Offer Year 12 Scheme (E12) for students from a disadvantaged background.

Mr Kitteringham said the teachers’ dedication, including working with students before and after school and during the school holidays, had changed the school.

UAC will release its December offers at 7.30am on Thursday via the UAC app or its website.

‘A minute’s silence for your career’: Abdel-Magied roasted on ABC’s Hard Chat

Sometimes laughter is the best medicine.
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Engineer and former ABC presenter Yassmin Abdel-Magied has faced off with Tom Gleeson on his hilarious Hard Chat segment.

The comedian poked fun at Abdel-Magied for the year when she became, in her own words, ‘s “most publicly hated Muslim”. Those seven words she wrote on Facebook eight months ago still fuel social media comments and column inches in the Murdoch press.

Gleeson began the roasting by asking the former Queenslander of the year whether every ANZAC Day ns should “hold a minute’s silence for her career”. The ABC axed the Wide program Abdel-Magied hosted a month after she made her controversial Facebook comment.

“I think that’d be a little disrespectful to the diggers,” she quipped.

The pair then joked about how next ANZAC Day, Abdel-Magied should start a hashtag called “Lest we forget to write stupid shit on Facebook”.

The zinger that got the strongest reaction from the former TV presenter, though, was when Gleeson asked: “When you’re in London, do you hang out with Rolf Harris so you’re not the most hated n?”

At the end of the segment, which aired on Wednesday night’s special year-end episode of The Weekly with Charlie Pickering, Gleeson offered Abdel-Magied an ANZAC biscuit and remarked that they’re halal.

“Are they though?” she asked.

“Well, I don’t know, but I pointed them towards Mecca when I killed them,” the comedian fired back.

Abdel-Magied recently departed for London, but has been back to catch up with friends and front the media on a few occasions. Last month, she told The Project her time in was “like dating an abusive guy”. Her seven words obsessed the n media. Now Tom has a few words of his own.#[email protected]_a vs. @nonstoptom

Catch all of #TheYearly on @ABCiviewpic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/ucHgT4n8aw??? The Weekly (@theweeklytv) December 20, 2017

Retail Food Group’s debt level comes into focus as shares fall further

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Retail Food Group’s share price has continued to tank in the fallout of a profit downgrade and media reports that have raised serious questions about the company’s business model.

The stock fell 17.9 per cent on Wednesday to $1.62 – their lowest value in almost eight and a half years.

Shares had tumbled 25 per cent on Tuesday after the company behind brands including Gloria Jean’s, Donut King and Brumby’s said it expected its half-year profit to fall by $11.5 million to $22 million.

The stock has now shed 63 per cent of its value in less than a fortnight, after Fairfax Media published a series of articles revealing that RFG’s sharp business model was driving some franchisees to the wall.

The collapse is a victory for short sellers that have been betting that RFG shares would fall.

RFG is the sixth most shorted stock on the ASX, according to monitoring website Shortman, with 13.4 per cent of shares held in a short position.

Ben McGarry from Sydney-based fund manager Totus Capital, which has been shorting RFG, said the “elephant in the room” for the company was now its debt levels.

RFG had net debt of $240 million and total liabilities of $250 million at the end of the 2017 financial year, according to its annual report.

RFG’s market value is now $297 million, after falling more than $520 million in the past fortnight.

“With the share price collapse, it’s getting more expensive to raise money in the equity market, the franchisees are obviously unlikely to want to sign up and buy franchisees off them at the moment, and the bankers I suppose will be nervous given the deterioration in earnings and the share price,” Mr McGarry said.

RFG said on Tuesday it was negotiating with lenders to extend a three-year loan of $150 million that was set for repayment in December 2018.

Mr Garry would not disclose how much his fund had in a short position but said it had increased its holding last week.

“The share price could go anywhere in the short term, but until the debt or the business model problems are addressed I don’t think any bounces will be sustained,” he said.’Head office is not perfect’

Fairfax Media found that hundreds of stores across RFG’s brands – which also include Pizza Capers and Crust – have closed in the past year, and that at least 200 stores are up for sale.

The company has since moved to appease franchisees, with its director of bakery and cafe business, Geoff Cockerill, writing to Brumby’s franchisees last week pledging RFG would do more to support their businesses.

Mr Cockerill said this would start with a new advertising campaign and new uniform packs paid for by head office. But he conceded that would not be enough to alleviate the challenges some franchisees faced.

“Head office is not perfect,” he wrote in the the letter, obtained by Fairfax Media.

“There are key areas we must, and can, improve in terms of the support we provide to you all.”

RFG would release an “action plan” to store owners early in the new year, followed by support and cost-saving initiatives, he said.

In its trading update on Tuesday, RFG said three of its key brands – Michel’s Patisserie, Brumby’s and Gloria Jean’s – were trading worse than expected, which was consistent with other retailers’ performances.

Negative media coverage was leading to more franchisees leave the network and making it harder to find new store owners, RFG said, which would also hurt its earnings as signing new franchisees agreements is a major revenue steam.

The bigest losers from the share price collapse is Canadian investment firm Invesco, which is RFG’s largest investor with 6.2 per cent of shares. Invesco declined to comment overnight.