Monthly Archives:May 2019

Report prompts calls to speed up car plan ( admin posted on May 17th, 2019 )

The federal government is again being pressured to fast-track more subsidies for Australia’s loss-making car industry, following warnings its collapse could cost the broader economy.

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Modelling commissioned by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) showed there would be a $7.3 billion reduction in gross domestic product growth if the sector shut down in the next five years.

The economic pie was already much larger because of the industry, despite it receiving a relatively low level of government subsidies by international standards, advisory firm Allen Consulting found.

The government currently subsidises the industry by about $500 million a year but the new coalition regime has ordered the Productivity Commission to review the viability of the payments. A final report is due next year following the interim report before Christmas.

Ford already plans to end manufacturing in Australia by 2016, while Holden’s US owner General Motors could reach a decision on the fate of the local operations before Christmas.

South Australia and Victoria would be severely affected, given the states are major bases for car making plants and related vehicle auto parts manufacturers that support thousands of jobs.

SA Manufacturing Minister Tom Kenyon said the federal coalition government, which has previously questioned the feasibility of throwing more funds at the industry, needed to quickly make up its mind.

“The federal government should stop hiding behind the Productivity Commission report and get out and make a decision,” Mr Kenyon told AAP on Monday.

Independent South Australia senator Nick Xenophon said the impact of a local car industry shutdown would be “chilling”, given the report’s findings.

“Make no mistake – while the closure of the car industry would have an impact of earthquake proportions in Adelaide and Melbourne, those tremors would be felt right across the country,” he said.

The federal Labor opposition’s industry spokesman Kim Carr said the government’s indecision was threatening more than 200,000 jobs.

“Gross regional product in Adelaide and Melbourne would not recover for almost two decades until 2031,” he said.

“If the Prime Minister is serious about the budget bottom line and protecting jobs then he would realise he has to act to ensure the future of this critical industry.”

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said the Productivity Commission should be left to do its job.

“The inquiry will provide the government with necessary information to respond … in a measured way that focuses on long-term sustainability and identifies options that are sustainable, accountable and transparent,” he said.

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Danish cyclist asked dad to donate blood ( admin posted on May 17th, 2019 )

Retired Danish professional cyclist Michael Rasmussen, who earlier this year admitted to doping, said on Sunday he even persuaded his father to donate blood as part of efforts to conceal doping.

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“It felt like stepping over the line,” Rasmussen said about approaching his father, Finn, about donating blood to be used for blood doping.

“It was not easy,” Rasmussen said about the conversation with his parents.

“But they were aware I took medicine to race faster.”

Danish public broadcaster DR was to air the exclusive interview on Sunday evening.

Rasmussen said he felt he needed to use the same methods as his rivals to keep pace.

In 2003 he discussed various blood doping with his cycling team’s physician, who mentioned the method known as homologous doping where blood from a second person is used.

The following year Rasmussen’s father went to Belgium where his blood was analysed in a hotel room after the La Fleche Wallonne race, the former cyclist said.

“The blood samples were analysed and we discovered they were not compatible,” Rasmussen said.

“It (the blood doping) never took place.”

DR News said team Rabobank, which Rasmussen raced for at the time, declined to comment about the allegations.

Rasmussen’s parents told DR while they were shocked over the extensive use of various substances in cycling, they hoped his disclosures would help clean up the sport and help him move on.

“It is wrong that he is the only person to be branded a cheat,” Finn Rasmussen said.

“Our impression was that there was a culture (of doping).”

Rasmussen in January admitted to using a wide range of performance-enhancing drugs over a 12-year period from 1998, and has since cooperated with the Danish anti-doping agency.

Rasmussen was forced to pull out of the 2007 Tour de France, while seemingly heading towards an overall victory amid controversy surrounding the non-disclosure of his prior whereabouts to cycling officials, preventing them from conducting doping tests.

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Comment: The mobile generation – a communication breakdown? ( admin posted on May 17th, 2019 )

Parents will do almost anything to limit the tears at bedtime.

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That’s why when an acquaintance said she lets her 18-month-old go to sleep in his cot with an iPad, I almost understood. Almost.

I also sort of felt sad for her boy. Gone are the times when a snuggle, a cuddle and a bedtime story will do. This boy instead has an episode of his favourite TV show played on the iPad, which he watches before falling asleep next to the device. “And there are no tears,” his mother says. But at what cost?

A recent survey released in America has shown that kids’ usage of mobile devices and tablets have gone through the roof. 72% of under 8’s and almost 40% of under 2’s have used a mobile device to engage with some kind of media, such as videos, games and apps.

It used to be that television was the regular babysitter in most households. It still is to a great extent. But now we have mobile devices so these electronic babysitters can travel with us. These days it’s a regular sight to go out for a meal and see the adults at the table engaging in conversation – while their children are engaged with their devices.

There have been many studies that have shown that screen time, including watching TV and the use of mobile devices, is bad for children. It’s been recommended that under 2’s have no screen-time at all and that for young children’s screen-time is limited to an hour or so per day. Too much screen-time for kids has been linked to obesity, behavioural issues, sleeping problems and impaired academic performance.

Yet despite all this, parents can’t help themselves when it comes to letting children use these devices.

I have two young children so I understand the amount of guilt and pressure being put on modern parents. Nothing we do is adequate enough. And I know, sometimes it’s easy to go with the flow; to choose the path of least resistance. Both my kids have used apps and watched videos on mobile devices – and I’ve found them a godsend at times when they have to stay in one place for extended periods of times – like in GP’s waiting rooms, or on flights. But I’m conscious of limiting their usage, and I’m also aware that the use of these devices will have consequences.

As adults we have all lived in a time where communicating through a mobile device wasn’t the norm. We had landlines that we used to call and – gasp –  speak to people. We went to school without mobiles in our schoolbags. We switched off our computers at work and left, and that was the end of the working day. There was no nagging feeling to check emails when at home, on the bus, on the toilet…

How quickly and easily things change. Fastforward to the present day. It’s a time where, it seems, the preferred mode of communication for most people is a non-verbal one. Send a text, a tweet, an email – just don’t call. And if you have to call, most of us are secretly hoping for voicemail. Come on, aren’t we? Well, unless you’re trying to sell something.

If it was that easy for us to transform into what we are today, ask yourself: what’s it going to be like tomorrow? What does it mean for Generation Z – for  the kids being born today, who might never have to get used to verbally communicating in the first place? Who will never have to call up someone up for a date? Or call a company to see if they’re hiring? Or endure the awkwardness of making friends IRL?

Every one of these tasks can be done online. Are we raising a generation of kids who don’t really have to learn to speak?

Perhaps. What’s certain is that in our rush towards technological advancement little heed is being given to such concerns. Despite all the warnings about screen-time, tablets and other devices are being used more frequently in our schools, and even in our pre-schools, as learning aids. Some researchers, such as the ones trialling the usage of iPads in kindergartens in Queensland think it’s a good thing that young children use these devices. They are now a fact of life and the earlier our kids can use them, the better they can advance – in school, in work, in life.

Perhaps instead of trying to change our kids, the onus will be on us. To re-evaluate our own values. To think of a Facebook message wishing us a ‘Happy birthday’ as holding the same intrinsic value as a phone call (let’s be honest, it really doesn’t). Perhaps our relationships, too, will become more distant, always guarded through the defence of a screen.

But hey, at least we’ll be technologically savvy, right? Which is good for the economy – so maybe it’s not all bad. Or is it?

Saman Shad is a storyteller and playwright.

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Analysis – Japan glimpses rays of hope in All Blacks defeat ( admin posted on May 17th, 2019 )

For Japan, though, the 54-6 loss was far more significant, evidence that the wheels of progress, backed by a professional environment and infusion of international expertise, were turning in a country that will host the 2019 World Cup.

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Their previous two test encounters with the All Blacks, both at World Cups, had been lopsided defeats of 83-7 in 2011 and 145-17 in 1995 – the latter one of the lowest points in the history of Japanese rugby.

A similar defeat on Saturday for the ‘Brave Blossoms’, currently ranked 15th in the world, would have been highly detrimental to their build up towards the 2015 World Cup, not to mention the even more important tournament four years later.

As it was, though, Saturday’s tenacious and combative performance against the toughest of teams greatly excited a 21,000 crowd at Tokyo’s Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium and proved a point or two.

“New Zealand is undoubtedly the best team in the world,” said general manager Kensuke Iwabuchi.

“But we wanted to show ourselves and our fans that they are no longer a presence above the clouds, but a team to beat.”

Apart from anything else, it showed Japan’s win in June against Wales, albeit an inexperienced Welsh side without its British and Irish Lions, was no fluke.

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Many credit the progress in Japanese rugby to the establishment a decade ago of Top League, a semi-professional competition which has drawn coaching staff and top players from around the world.

All Blacks Sonny Bill Williams and Jerome Kaino as well as Springbok Jaque Fourie are among those who have been drawn to Japan by generous salaries.

The Top League has undoubtedly raised the level of rugby and there have been early signs of a trade going the other way with scrumhalf Fumiaki Tanaka and hooker Shota Horie signing for Super Rugby teams.

The hope is that a two-way interaction between imports and exports to Super Rugby and New Zealand’s National Provincial Championship (ITM Cup) will provide Japan with the constant exposure to top level rugby that is key to further development.

“Currently we have a few players playing Super Rugby, and we would like more. It’s the same with the ITM Cup. We would like more players playing ITM Cup,” said Scott Wisemantel, the technical director who stood in on Saturday as coach for Eddie Jones, who suffered a stroke in October.

“The level of Top League has improved, it’s just that week in week out competitive rugby our players need.”

The appointment of former Wallabies coach Jones last year represented a continuation of a policy that began in 2007 when the Japanese Rugby Football Union (JRFU) appointed its first national coach from overseas in former All Black John Kirwan.

Kirwan and Jones have not only provided the JFRU with some needed clout in the international rugby community but have helped infuse the national team with a high level of technical expertise.

That was especially evident in the Japanese scrum on Saturday, which surprisingly pushed back the New Zealand pack on a few occasions and were clinical at the lineout where they also contested the opposition’s throw.

Australian Wisemantel credited the improved performance to the tutelage of scrum coach Marc Dal Maso, a former France hooker and one of a number of foreign advisors drafted in by Jones.

One of the biggest problems facing Japan has always been that of stature, with the country producing plenty of pacy backs but few players with the sort of physique necessary to compete up front and increasingly in the midfield in test rugby.

Imports have helped – the back row on Saturday was made up of players who qualified for Japan by residency – but there has also been progress on developing homegrown hulks and the tight five that played against the world champions were all Japanese born and bred.

If official statistics are to be trusted the combined weight of the Japanese starting front row on Saturday was 335 kilos, 10 kilos heavier than that of the New Zealand trio.

A competitive scrum is hugely important for Japan as the backs have so often spent large portions of tests against top nations starved of the ball as their forwards struggle.

Japan will have another chance to test its scrum on Saturday when they face Scotland at Murrayfield, just the sort of fixture they will have to start winning if they are to fulfil their ambition of getting into the top eight in the world by 2019.

“The short turnaround time before Japan faces another top team is a simulation before the World Cup in 2015,” Iwabuchi added.

“We lost to New Zealand but if this was the World Cup, we have to win our next match.”

(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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Nine TV parent’s float set to be worth $2b ( admin posted on May 17th, 2019 )

The company that owns the Nine Network will make a $2 billion debut on the local share market in December – less than a year after it almost went into receivership.

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Shares in Nine Entertainment Co, which owns the Nine Network, Ticketek and ninemsn, are expected to be issued at between $2.05 and $2.35 each.

If the higher price is achieved, chief executive David Gyngell would hold a $10.7 million stake in Nine, and will also be paid a cash listing bonus of $2.5 million.

That would come on top of his $2 million base salary, plus up to $2 million in annual bonuses.

Nine is expected to be worth between $1.93 billion to $2.17 billion when it lists on the Australian Securities Exchange on December 6, with new investors to make up one third of its shareholder base.

Steve Allen, the founder of media planning business Fusion Strategy, said institutional investors would be wary about paying more than $2 a share, considering that a year ago Nine owed $2.3 billion to US hedge funds Apollo and Oaktree, and another $1 billion to investment bank Goldman Sachs.

“I don’t think the big investors will be rushing towards this,” he told AAP.

“Most of the big investors don’t feel the media sector’s got much to offer.”

Still, Nine has been busy bulking up its business since a Federal Court judge in January approved of a debt-for-equity deal that ensured its immediate future.

It has bought WIN’s TV stations Adelaide and Perth, and just three weeks ago purchased Microsoft’s 50 per cent stake in digital group Mi9, which runs ninemsn.

In late January, a $3.4 billion refinancing deal ended private equity group CVC Asia-Pacific’s stewardship of Nine, and wrote off a $1.9 billion investment loss.

This gave Apollo and Oaktree major shareholdings in exchange for debt.

Mr Allen said smaller, retail investors were more likely to buy Nine shares, with signs the advertising market would recover during the next two to three years.

“Television’s a mature business but its outlook is quite reasonable,” he said.

“Many people have said `television’s terminal, it’s going to be dead’. That hasn’t proven to be the case.”

Mr Gyngell said the listing would help Nine maintain its market position as a leading free-to-air network, and expand its events and digital businesses.

“A listing on the ASX will help us to continue our strong momentum,” he said.

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Mehsud’s death brings Pakistan little joy ( admin posted on May 17th, 2019 )

The Pakistani Taliban leader killed in a recent US drone strike was behind hotel bombings, assaults on political rallies, beheadings of policemen and suicide attacks on soldiers.

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But his death elicited little joy in the country where he wreaked most of his havoc and instead stirred widespread anger and suspicion.

At the time of Friday’s strike targeting Hakimullah Mehsud, the Pakistani government was engaged in efforts to negotiate a peace deal with militants.

Frustrated at years of military campaigns that have failed to end the bloodshed, many Pakistanis had high hopes for this latest peace effort and blame the US for fouling it up.

Mehsud “should have been given the chance to negotiate, and now the consequences have to be borne by Pakistan, not the US”, said Syed Ahmed, a small business owner in the southern port city of Karachi.

Also contributing to the anger are fears of a bloody backlash, plus a web of complex conspiracy theories, including the idea that militants such as Mehsud are American or Indian pawns intent on weakening Pakistan.

For years, Pakistan has been fighting militants in the tribal areas that border neighbouring Afghanistan, with thousands of civilians and security forces dying in bombings and shootings at the hands of militants.

Mehsud, who had a reputation as an especially ruthless warrior, was the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, as it calls itself. The TTP is an umbrella group encompassing militant organisations across the tribal areas. It has called for the overthrow of the Pakistani government, the implementation of hard-line Islamic law and an end to cooperation with the Americans in Afghanistan.

In many ways, people across Pakistan are echoing what they are hearing from politicians and top government officials. During a news conference on Saturday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan lashed out repeatedly at the US, which he said was trying to scuttle peace talks.

There is also suspicion that the US and neighbouring India – a longtime enemy – are directly promoting and funding militants as a way to weaken the country. In the eastern city of Lahore, where that feeling is especially prevalent, lawyer Masood Wattoo blamed the US and India for a recent string of bombings in the northwest, including a suicide attack on a church full of worshippers.

“It was the handiwork of America and India,” he said.

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Confident consumers in post-poll spend up ( admin posted on May 17th, 2019 )

Monthly consumer spending breached the $22 billion mark for the first time as confidence continues to build since the federal election and a new coalition government.

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However, one business group has warned the post-election euphoria may quickly evaporate if the Labor opposition damages the government’s plans to repeal its carbon pricing laws.

New data showed retail spending ballooned to $22.1 billion in September, 0.8 per cent higher than August and double the expectation of financial markets.

Retail trade volumes also rose by a stronger-than-expected 0.7 per cent in the September quarter, creating a handy contribution to growth in the third quarter.

“Consumers have now started taking their wallets out of their pockets,” Treasurer Joe Hockey said.

The numbers cement expectations the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) will leave the cash interest rate unchanged at an all-time low of 2.5 per cent when its board meets on Tuesday.

However, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) acting chief economist Burchell Wilson said non-mining investment remains quite weak and unless there is a pick up, the central bank may have to cut the cash rate early in 2014.

Other figures released on Monday show inflation remained contained, while demand for workers was still subdued – indicating the labour market was operating a long way from full employment.

“There is certainly scope for another rate cut,” Mr Wilson said.

The TD Securities-Melbourne Institute monthly inflation gauge rose 0.1 per cent in October to an annual rate of 2.1 per cent, which was at the bottom end of the RBA’s two to three per cent target.

Meanwhile, ANZ job advertisements data showed a 0.1 per cent fall in October and a 12 per cent decline from a year earlier.

ACCI’s business expectations survey for the September quarter showed its general business conditions index mired at 42.8 points, well below the 50-point mark that separates expansion from contraction.

However, expectations for the December quarter rose to 53.2 index points.

“What we are failing to see at the moment is an improvement in expectations translating into an improvement in actual trading conditions,” Mr Wilson said.

“Given that improvement in sentiment is so fragile, the decision of the opposition to oppose the repeal of the carbon tax is a threat to that improvement in sentiment.”

The Labor opposition announced last week it would only support repealing the carbon tax if the government moved to an emissions trading scheme rather than implement its so-called direct action plan, which relies on carbon abatement measure such as tree planting to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Still, the banking sector continues to go from strength to strength.

Westpac – the last of the big four banks to report its latest results – announced an eight per cent rise in full-year profit to $7.1 billion.

Australian Bankers’ Association chief executive Steven Munchenberg said the sector is an important contributor to economic activity and growth, paying out a record $21.2 billion in dividends this year and $12.1 billion in tax to the federal government.

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