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Lateline Business -

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(generated from captions) more like a marina as elsewhere

on the Coast backed up sewerage

flowed into drains. In

Brisbane, commuters tried to

force their way through Flooded

Anne Street. In the city's

west, homeowners in Keperra oo

cleared up after a temporary

wall in a dam quarry collapsed.

A wall of water went into

properties. I copped like a

million litres plus of water in

15 second came through here.

It's like someone flushed a big

toilet this morning, mate. The

water and silt washed through

this home, damaging precious

possessions and creating an

expensive clean-up. When I

spoke to the cleaners on the

phone, they're going to

decontaminate it. You don't

know what's in this dirt that's

been in the quarry. Despite

widespread falls SEQ water says

water restrictions probably

won't be eased. Papua New

Guinea is running out of

forests. Satellite imagery

reveals the clearing of the

country's pristine woodland is

as bad as the Congo and the

Amazon. Even protected areas

aren't safe and without Government action, scientists

warn half of the forests will

be gone in 13 years. PNG

correspondent Steve Marshall

has more. These latest

high-tech satellite images show

clearly the amount of forest

left in Papua New Guinea. They

also show just how fast it's

disappearing. If current trends

in forests change are

promulgated into the future

well, then in 10-15 years time

we will look back and say PNG

lost most of its forests

through death through 1,000

cuts. Commercial logging and felling by subsistence farmers

are the main causes, and it's

happening nearly three times

faster than scientists

suspected. We're predicting

these rates are going to

increase over the next few

years and perhaps by 2021

something like 80% of the

accessible forest will have

already have been logged. This

is a much shorter timeframe

than anyone's previously

realised. As a landowner the

PNG Forest Minister has seen

the destruction first haen. It

used to be little attention

paid to management of PNG

forest. That is why I'm come

up with an initiative to review

major policies. Such as

increasing the cutting style to

30 or even 50 years. The

minister faces a tough fight

ahead against a forest industry

that wields a lot of power

here. It tried to sue the

minister when he increased

royalties for landowners. The

minister also points to the

recent deal between PNG and

Australia to help reduce gas

emissions from deforestation as

another incentive to slow

logging down. Yes, industry may

be a player in contributing to

the economy of this country,

but I'm more worried about

generations tomorrow, about the

clean air. Conservationists

are urging the government to do

an inventory and implement a

forest plan. That's something

the previous PNG governments

have failed to do. A massive

bomb plas in Islamabad has

killed at least six people and

injured 14 others. A suicide

bomber reportedly detonated the

blast outside the Danish

embassy leaving a metre deep

crater in the road. The

embassy wall was flattened and

the gate blown in. The nearby

home of Australia's defence

attache in Pakistan was damaged

in the blast, but no-one was

hurt. Denmark's embassies have

been receiving threats

following the recent repripting

in Danish newspapers of a

Mohammad. cartoon depicting the Phophet

'Lateline Business' coming up

in just a moment. If you'd

like to look back at tonight's

interview with Julia Gillard or

review Lateline's stories or

transcripts, you can visit our

website. Now here's 'Lateline

Business' with Ali Moore.

Tonight - rich pickings - Shell

teams up with Arrow Energy to

develop its coal seam gas

resources. Shell have taken a

long hard look at our assets.

They've done detailed due

diligence. Just Group rejects

Solomon Lew's takeover

offer. The ball's in their

court. This clearly

undervalues us. We're unique

in the Australian market. And

independent commission -

MetCash comes under scrutiny at

the ACCC inquiry. Don't think

that the profits at MetCash

have led to higher consumer

prices that have resulted in

price gauging. To the markets,

and at the end of a mixed day,

Australian shares ended

slightly higher. The All Ords

nudged up 7 points. Buoyed by

gains in resource stocks, the

ASX200 halted its 2-day losing

streak. In Japan, the Nikkei

closed at a 5-month high. Hong

Kong's Hang Seng added nearly

1.5% and in London, news that

another British bank is in

trouble has sent the FTSE down

sharply. We'll be crossing to

London for more on this story

shortly. Another day, another

deal in Queensland's rich coal

seam gas sector. Hot on the

heels of last week's

multi-billion dollar dollar

agreement between Santos and

Malaysia's Petronas, Arrow

Energy has sold a 30% stake in

its gas projects to Shell for

nearly $800 million. It also

comes just days after Origin

Energy rejected a nearly $14

billion takeover offer from

Britain's BG broup. Desley

Coleman reports. Arrow Energy

holds Australia's biggest

supply of coal seam gas and it

plans to become Asia's largest

natural gas producer. The deal

was 12 months in the making and

Arrow Energy chief nick Davis

says the Shell investment gives

his company's projects

much-needed recognition. Shell

have taken a long hoard look at

our assets. They've done

detailed due diligence. They

understand what we've got and

they've made the investment on

that basis. It very much gives

credibility both to our

upstream business in the

exploiltation of coal seam gas,

but also in the LNG project we

are putting together. Shell's

Australian arm will pay up to

$776 million for the right to

jointly develop ahho's coal

seam gas projects with Shell

gaining first rights to buy LNG

produced. The deal gives Shell

a 30% stake in the fields and

at least 10% in ahho's

international business. The

main challenge for ahho is to

prove up the gas reserves. You

know, it's one thing to sell

the lease as they've done, but

we now, all of us in the

industry are waiting to see the

proving up of reserves to get

these LNG plants up and

running. The deal provides more

certainty and funding for the

Liquefied Natural Gas

development program with ahho

one of four companies proposing

to build a LNG processing

plants. Today's union was

welcomed by the market with

shares jumping 14% to $3.79 by

the close. The rerating of the

rest of the sector continued

with Origin adding another 3%

and ant os gaining a similar

amount. While investors pushed

shares higher on the

announcement, compared to the

price Santos extracted from

Petronas on Friday and the

value Origin now laces on its

sates, UBS analyst David Leitch

says Shell may have got a

bargain. On possible reserves

basis, the Shell deal is

actually cheaper at about 77

cents a gigajoule we calculate

as opposed to over $1.30 or as

much as $1.60. Our focus has

been getting the right

strategic partner. Of course

the money's important, but the

strategic angle is equally

important for us. To that end,

Shell spends $1.5 billion a

year on research and

development and has assigned

five senior technical staff to

ahho's head office in Brisbane.

Centro Properties Group has

been thrown a lifeline. It has

been given 7 more months to

repay nearly $3 billion of debt

to Australian and US investors. But the 15 December extension

has a number of conditions

attached. The company must

make progress on its

restructuring plans, and US

lenders must also agree to

extend a September refinancing

deadline for aeffectivat Centro

Retail, which owes them more

than $1 billion. Centro

Property Group shares closed 5%

weaker at 36 cents. Centro

Retail shares roads. Investors

across Europe have been spooked

by news another British

mortgage lender Bradford &

Bingley is in trouble. For the

latest news on this and other

stories we're joined now in

London by David Jones, chief

market strategist at IG Index.

Bradford & Bingley is not

well-known in Australia. As I

understand it, they lend money

to landlords, a so-called buy

to let lender, and they're in

trouble? Yeah, that's exactly

what it is. They're a mortgage

company but they do specialise

in buy to let mortgages, so for

people who are looking to buy

another home or another couple

of homes to rent them out as

investments that this has been

the area that Bradford &

Bingley have specialised in.

It's been an area under

pressure over the last few

months as cracks have appeared

in the UK housing market. I

don't know what the situation

is in Australia, but over here

in the UK, people have almost

an obsession with how much

their house is worth and over

the last 10 years we've seen

some fantastic gains in UK

property. But weakness has set

in over the last few months and

this has exposed cracks really

in the wider financial system.

None more obvious at the moment

than Bradford & Bingley's announcement today of a

significant drop in

profits. They've said drop in

profits. They've lost their

CEO. They've announced a

restructured writes right and

also sold quite a big stake to

Texas Pacific. Given they've

done all that they would seem

to have friends in the right

places, why the concern about

broader contagion? I think the

concern is maybe not so much

Bradford & Bingley focussed,

but what it could mean for the

wider market. It's only a few

weeks ago, they announced and

writes issue at 82 pence,

they've slashed that today to

55 pence. The chief executive

is leaving because of health

problems. There's a worry out

there - we've also got negative

news out from the UK today that

mortgage lending is at least at

a 9-year low. So everyone's saying well, Bradford & Bingley

are having a tough time of it.

Their share price has dropped

40% over the last month, what

does this mean for the wider

market? Are we going to see

problems spreading out to other

banks. Another big bank has

been hit HBOS, their share

price is down 8%. A similar

business to Bradford & Bingley

is down 7%. Up until the last

few weeks, all the worries

about financials were subprime

focussed which is a real US

problem. What we've seen today

with Bradford & Bingley shows

there's problems within the UK

financial system as well, so

the concern is we're heading

for a much tougher time for

UK-listed banks. Also as I

understand it Bradford &

Bingley have had a very rapid

deterioration in their

position. Is what they've

announced today going to amount

to a sustainable rescue if you

like, or is there still a big

question mark over their

future? I think there's still a

big question mark over their

future. The investor who's

taken the 23% stake has an

excellent reputation and a good

track record. But you only

have to look at the facts of

what the share price in

Bradford & Bingley has done

over the last year. We're down

around 80% from where it was a

year ago. They're definitely

getting it cheap. But of

course as we've found with all

of these financial stocks,

cheap stocks have a habit of

getting cheaper still. The

worry is there's maybe much

worse news to come from at

least the UK financial sector.

There could be more pain ahead

for Bradford & Bingley and

other banks out there. Finally

and briefly against the

backdrop of this, how's the Dow

looking when it opens

shortly? We're expecting a

little drop on the Dow down

about 40 points when it opens.

Very little in the way of

economic da data. Maybe a

quiet day in the US after a

volatile day in the UK this

morning. David Jones, thanks

for talking to us. Thank

you. To the major movers on our

market today:

As consumer spending

continues to drop, it's likely

big discounts will become a

permanent fixture in stores.

Retail sales figures for April

fell as people tightened their

belts due to higher petrol

prices and inflation. On the

eve of the Reserve Bank's

monthly board meeting a private

sector survey has shown

inflation continuing to rise

well above the RBA's target

range. Michael Troy reports.

The Reserve Bank wants us to

spend less and according to the latest retail sales figures

from the Bureau of Statistics,

we are doing just that. It's

really quite an unusually weak

period of retail spending, but

pretty much in line with these

very high levels of petrol

prices and also of the mortgage

rate rises over the last couple

of months. Consumers have gone

back into their shells with

quite a vengeance. Retail sales

fell by 0.2% by April going

against expectations of a rise

by the same am. Sales of food

and recreational goods dropped

while people were buying

clothing and household

products. Over the year,

retail trade growth rose 4.7% -

the lowest for three years with

households cutting back on

non-essential items. Other

economic data out today shows

housing finance has tumbled

with weak sales of new homes in

April according to the Housing

Industry Group. But wages and

company profits have

increased. It looks as if the

Australian consumer is wilting

under basically the fuel and

other price increases and also

mortgage rate increases. Chris

Caton from BT believes it fits

with the Reserve's plan to slow

the economy. The trick is not

to slow it too drastically. There's no clear evidence

they've overdone it yet. Now

having said that, there are

enough signs of weak growth

that I think you won't see a

rate rise Tuesday afternoon.

You won't see a rate rise for

several months in my

view. Figures confirm that

households are feeling the

pinch, whether they're spared

the pain of another interest

rate rise will be clearer with

domestic growth figures on the release of the national

Wednesday. Economists are

predicting a fairly weak

number. Private household

expenditure consumption is

around 60% of the level of the

overall economy. We're

expecting that to be flat to

slightly negative. That's

going to be a significant drag

from the start. We also know

that business investment, plant

and equipment investment was

negative in the first quarter,

as well. So it hasn't had a

good base to start

from. Inflation, though,

remains the big problem. The

T&Cs monthly inflation gauge

has recorded a rise in headline

inflation of 0.25% - that's

above the official rate. We

have an arm wrestle... so there

is debate amongst professional economists about which side is going to win out and how long

that's going to take. With the

Reserve unlikely to move on

interest rates this week, the

market and consumers will be

keenly awaiting the June CPI

figures. Clothing retailer

Just Group has rejected an $830

million hostile bid from

Solomon Lew's Premier

Investments. Just, which owns

brands such as Just Jeans and

Portman's says the offer material undervalues the

company.

Premier owns 24% of Just and

is unlikely to walk away. Just

Group's general manager Jason

Murray joined me earlier from

his Melbourne office. Solomon

Lew's Premier Investments wants

to buy you on the cheap? We've

released our target statement

today and outlined a number of

reasons why our board has

mrnded that shareholders reject

the offer from Premier. So

there's at least 90 cents a

share between what he's

prepared to pay to date and

accept? Well, the number that what you'd be prepared to

the independent expert has come

out, if you look at the mid

points, is 93 cents a share. I

think if the question is, is it

material undervaluing us? Then,

absolutely. What would it take

to bring you to the table? I

don't think that's the right

question to be answering now.

The ball's in their court.

This clearly undervalues us.

We're a unique asset in the

Australian market. We have

growth prospects. We're of a

unique size, seven great

brands. So where we are now is

it's a reject. With this

independent valaution, it's not

being overly optimistic. Your

shares did rise when this bid

was first announced but you

closed today at just $3.90.

That's well below the low end

of that independent valaution,

and again, based on the

independent expert's report,

it's at least 7 cents below the

offer from Premier Investments

and that offer's been in the

market for some two

months? It's important to

remember, it is an independent

expert's opinion and they are

independent. That's their

range but equally as they

highlight a typical control

premium is 30-35%, we're a

unique asset in terms of size,

growth prospects and number of

brand. So even at $3.90 if you

add the 30% premium to that,

you get well within their

range. So it's more of a

question for them, but it seems

a reasonable start. Why do you

think the market's not

responding to the bid? That's

really outside my field. I'm

very happy to talk about our

company and our prospects, I'm

not sure it's right to

characterise " they're not

responding". If the value is on

a portfolio basis rather than a

control basis, then I think our

current share price is within

what the independent expert

talked about as appropriate. My

circumstances you expect point is, usually in these

investors to anticipate a

higher offer if the initial

offer fundamentally undervalues

the company, and yet your share

price has hardly moved. In

relation to today's report it

barely budged? Again, I'm

probably not close enough to

that, especially today. But I

would say that with this

current offer it's clearly not

appropriate in terms of value

and a number of other features

and potentially the market is

not valuabling us on a control

basis because of that. Let's

look at the performance of the

Just Group and I wonder how

hard a sell it is, your

rejection of the Premier offer

in the current economic and

retail conditions. Just today

we got an unexpected dip in

retail sales for April - you're

not feeling that? I think it

actually supports our case

tremendously. The consumer

environment is as it is.

Clearly they softened after the

March interest rate rise. I'd

argue they're on a reasonably

even keel now. That's an

important we can perform very

well in. We respond to economic conditions as they

are. We have great brands, we

have fantastic geographic and

demographic diversity, a very

resill ynt portfolio, and the

fact we've been able to

demonstrate our trading and

growth prospects in this

environment supports our case,

if anything. How long can you

stay immune from broader

conditions, though, the sorts

of condition s that other

retailers are finding

tough? Our entire business is

bill around responding to all

economic conditions and we do

have the size and the diversity

of portfolio, and certainly,

the resilience in our brands to

trade very well in this

environment. You did take the

opportunity today to upgrade

the outcome of your current

strategic review from just over

38 cents earnings per share

growth by 2010 to 40 cents, but

you made it very clear that's a

goal, not a forecast. If

you're confident, why not make

it a forecast? Well, I think

it's important to remember that

that number has been in the

market now for at least 18

months as our goal for 2010.

So the key forecast that is

typical in these circumstances

is the one period out and

that's exactly what we've done.

However, we thought that we

were positive enough about our

prospects to take the number

that was already out there and

upgrade that to something that

sets an even more confident and

realistic base. But not

confident enough to make it a

forecast rather than almost an

aspirational target? My

understanding is a number of

companies in this situation

don't even put out any

forecast. For us to put out a

hard forecast for this year and

then upgrading our goal takes

us to the more proactive end of

companies in this

situation. What are the risks

to your forecast in the shorter

term and your goal in the

long-term? What do you see as

the risks to the business

model? The key part of our DNA,

if I can use that word, is our

responsive. The fact that we

have strong brands that talk to consumers across Australia and

New Zealand. And so anything

that affected our about to spon

to whatever the conditions are

would be a risk. But equally,

that's the nature of our

business and I'd argue, our key

strength. So it's really - as

long as we can stay focussed on

the game - then we'll perform

better than most. How easy is

it to stay focussed on the

game? You've got a company

that's got 24% of you that's

behind this hostile bid. That

company's got two members of

the on the board, as managing

director and as a board member,

how easy is it to stay

focussed? If you asked me is

this my highest priority for

driving the business forward?

Then clearly, it's not. Has it

been a massive distraction?

Than also not. We've had a special committee formed which

has been able to deal with a

lot of matters. I have a

strong team below me. I've

been able to work on this and

keep focussed on the

business. Do you think today's

rejection is going to deter

Solomon Lew? That's really a

question for him I think

Ali. Are ewe expecting -- are

you expecting this to

continue? If this is the bid

and the only bid, on what we've

seen today and talked to the

market about, then I would hope

I can get back to 100% of my

time on the business. If

there's something else, then

again I'd hope we dealt with it

reasonably quickly. In the

interim, though, while you wait

for Premier Investments's next

move, do you personally expect

to have a tough ride? We saw

with Coles how Solomon Lew

perfected the art of the

critique of management performance? You'll I've seen

in this bid today has been an

endorsement of management. I

have a lot of respect for Sol.

I think this is really a

Premier bid and they have been

very complimentary and I would

say appropriately so, in terms

of my team, our brands and the

strength of our business. That

would seem to suggest that if

he does succeed you wouldn't

mind running the company under

him? I think it's fair to say

that right now the offer is a

little bit vague on exactly how

that would happen. So I'd need

to understand more, but I think

I've got one of the best jobs

in the country, so it's a

pretty good starting

point. Jason Murray, many

thanks for talking to

us. Thanks, Ali. Despite optimism, Premier Investments

has issued a statement saying

the 2008 earnings forecasts

provided in today's statement

from Just represent a downgrade

to current broker expectations,

and Premier is disappointed

with Just's second half trading

results. It says it's

reviewing Just's response to

its takeover offer.

Australia's major independent

supermarket network has

defended itself against

criticism it provides little

competition to the two big

supermarket chains - Coles and

Woolworths. MetCash boss

Andrew Reitzer admits

independent grocers do little

to keep every day prices lower,

but says promotions by

independents keep prices down.

He's the latest supermarket

chief executive to face a

griller at the hands of the

regulars. As the Competition

and Consumer Commission

investigation enters its final

day, the spotlight has turned

to independent supermarkets.

It's a landscape dominated by

MetCash. The company

distributes goods to and

markets marketing for

Australia's 2,500 IGA

stores. The question we have to

ask is whether the independents

has led to competitive tensions

you talk about. I don't think

the profits that MetCash's

independent retailers are

making have led to such higher

consumer prices that have

resulted in price

gauging. MetCash says market

share has grown to 1% and the

group accounts for $10 billion

in annual sales. Their stores

make no profit, or even a loss

on the goods they buy through

MetCash. We try to add competitive tension and I think

we do a good job in the

Australian market, and we do

not have 44% market share, we

do not have 33% market share,

so we can't sit across from manufacturers and smash the

table and say give me more.

What we have to do is be

innovative, creative, come up

with all sorts of programs.

They're very much at the mercy

of Woolworths and to a lesser

extent, Coles. So they have to

be competitive. I don't think

they've got much market power

at all. I guess you could

argue in a very small niche

areas that maybe they're not

sort of subject to the same pricing pressure from

Woolworths and Coles. The ACCC

says Franklin supermarkets left

the MetCash network and is

taking legal action in a

dispute over profit-sharing

deal. Counsel assisting the

ACCC, Damien O'Donovan, also

told the hearing that MetCash's

cost of doing business is

falling and questioned whether

those benefits have been passed

onto shareholders instead of

consumers. By getting our costs

down, by making sure they're

competitive, by building

fantastic brands, my

independent retailers have got

a much better business than

they had 10 years ago and guess

what, MetCash's businesses are

will stronger and we've been

able to return higher dividends

every year. Andrew Reitzer

argues if the company was

depriving owners of too much

profit, store numbers wouldn't

be expanding as they

have. Return on investment and

profitability in the

independent sector to the best

of our knowledge and according

to our numbers, has never been

better. The grocery price

inquiry has at times seemed uncomfortable for the chief

executives of Australia's major

surms. But so far, the ACCC is

yet to land a knockout blow.

Some retail analysts believe

there's unlikely to be

compelling evidence of

widespread price gouging within

the industry. From what we can

see, overall the consumer's

benefiting but there's no doubt

that... let's face it, they're

businesses out to make a

profit, as are all businesses,

and at this stage, it looks

like from a price competitive

position, they're offering a

good deal to the consumer. And

if that's the case, it will leave many wondering what was

the point of the inquiry at

all. Now a look at tomorrow's

business diary.

Let's take a look at what's

making business news in

tomorrow's papers.

The Dow has opened down 57

points and the FTSE is trading

down 43. We'd love to get your

feedback. I'm Ali Moore,

goodnight.

Closed Captions by CSI

WOMAN: In northern Paris, one headmaster is gearing up for a fight. TRANSLATION: I don't want to recognise any pupil's religious persuasion in my school. That's it. TRANSLATION: So next year will I be allowed to sit my exams if teachers say my bandanna looks religious? I may even be forced to leave school.

The French Parliament has passed a controversial law banning the Islamic headscarf and all other religious symbols from state schools. As civil servants, head teachers must uphold the law. Religion must remain a personal matter. This is the story of one school, its headmaster and a group of Muslim schoolgirls who found themselves at the centre of a political storm. TRANSLATION: Two windows. Now, here - no veiled girls, no bandannas, no skullcaps. That's fine. That suits me. There's a lot of media attention on this issue, and a lot of tension in the Islamic community, which feels targeted. But it's actually applicable to all religions. Raymond Scieux is the headmaster of Eugene Delacroix School in Drancy,

a working-class suburb north-east of Paris with a big North African population. There are many Muslims amongst the 2,000 students here. 10 are veiled, and those 10 girls may be expelled when the ban on religious symbols comes into effect next term. TRANSLATION OF WOMAN: If you have to choose between your education and your religion, which would you choose? TRANSLATION: That's a very good question, and I really don't know. I can't distinguish between the two because, for me, education is part of religion. I know my parents would advise me to take my veil off. But, personally, I don't know. I don't know if I would have the courage to do it.

TRANSLATION: What does the veil mean to me? some bit of fabric on my head. It's part of me. It's not just It's everything. Looking back on it, I don't know. I couldn't imagine taking it off. I consider to be the minimum. What I'm wearing today If I was asked to take it off I was being put naked I would feel like in front of millions of people. and their supporters Every year, French feminists International Women's Day. take to the streets to celebrate For the marchers, means rejecting religious oppression. support of women's rights is a pillar of the Republic, And here in France where secularism out of public life for 200 years. religion has been kept But last year the Women's Day march and their supporters was joined by Muslims on religious symbols in schools. protesting against the ban are being expelled from school TRANSLATION: Young girls because they're wearing a headscarf. We support women all over the world. We support those girls. The arguments raged for hours. Shameful! TRANSLATION: It's shameful! to argue with them! TRANSLATION: Well, I tried We mustn't argue with them! It's a scandal to treat your wife like that! surrounded by - these bearded men! TRANSLATION: Look who they're Touria is 20 years old. four years ago, She started wearing the veil for what the French call a bandanna. but at school she's already opted

I'm on my way to a meeting and veiled students, between some teachers and some who aren't veiled which is being passed. but who feel concerned by the law this law will forbid everything, I heard on the news yesterday that including bandannas etc. that at least in our school So I hope some kind of compromise. we can manage to find who wear the veil, There are a number of us that some will leave school and I know if the law passes in this way. has rallied around the girls A small band of teachers in their battle to remain at school. they can influence the headmaster They are hoping

to interpret the new rules loosely. In a private flat near the school, the veiled girls and their supporters some kind of compromise. discuss how they can win is a philosophy teacher. Pierre Tevanian the girls feel they have at school. He wants to gauge how much support KHADIDJA: Then there's my teacher, on a school trip. and he was taking us there was to be no drinking, And before we left he said

about any religious stuff - and warned us people to think we're mad." "Because I don't want He says stuff like that sometimes. (All laugh) What about your class in general? doesn't care either way. TRANSLATION: My class why I wear it. To begin with, they asked me But since then they've dropped it.

for all of you as it is. I just wanna say, it's hard enough