Monday, November 10, 2008

Carmakers get $6.2bn of taxpayers' money

This is insane. We can get all the cars we want from Japan without it costing the fisc a cent. And the idea that we can compete with Japan is a fantasy

THE Federal Government's $6.2 billion automotive industry package will support jobs at a time of a global financial crisis and into the future, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says. The nation needed a green-car industry that would create high-paid, high-skilled green jobs for the future, he said launching the Government's new car industry plan in Melbourne today. The plan sets aside $500 million - double the amount recommended in former Victorian premier Steve Bracks' inquiry into the industry - for a green car innovation fund. It also confirms a reduction in the automotive tariff to 5 per cent will go ahead as planned in 2010.

"In the time of global financial crisis the Government today has taken further decisive action to support Australian industry, to support Australian jobs, because we believe this industry has a future,'' Mr Rudd said. "We take decisive action to build an international, competitive green economy for the future. "Australia needs a green car industry that manufacturers the fuel efficient, low-emissions vehicles of the future and creates the well paid, high skilled green jobs of the future.''

The choice was not between having a growing economy in the short-term and a green economy in the medium to long-term. "We can work effectively to develop both, and that's what a large part of today's package is all about. The automotive industry was part of Australia's future, Mr Rudd said. Building a low-emissions economy was the next step in the Government's response to the global financial crisis. "By implementing a green investment strategy today we can transform our industry and create green jobs for tomorrow,'' he said. "It's a future in which we should have absolute confidence - fuel-efficient technologies, low-emissions technologies, better designed and safer vehicles.''

Australia could be world leader in green car technology, Mr Rudd said. The automotive industry faced a whole new set of market, economic and environmental changes and challenges. "The domestic market for cars has become more fragmented. Australian car makers do battle in a very crowded field, with 60 other car brands, Mr Rudd said. "Consumer preferences have shifted away from sedans, to both smaller vehicles on the one hand and four-wheel drives on the other.'' Higher petrol prices had driven consumer demands for more fuel-efficient vehicles, he said.

Mr Rudd said the automotive industry had a key role to play in climate change and faced a complicated set of industry challenges. "Some might say it's not worth trying to have a car industry, that is not my view, it is not the view of the Australian Government and it never will be the view of any government which I lead,'' he said. "I don't believe that car making is yesterday's business or something better left to the Germans and the Japanese. "But I also don't believe that industry policy is about 'saving' the automotive industry, it's about helping to transform the industry to meet the challenges of the future. "It's not about passive assistance, it's about active support for innovation and change.''


School bullying victim sues for $2m

I hope this guy wins. It might motivate the schools to take discipline seriously

A MAN who says his teachers stood by and did nothing while he was violently bullied by his classmates is suing the state for $2 million. David Gregory went to his teachers in tears during six years of "consistent and systematic bullying" at the hands of his classmates and the school did nothing, the New South Wales Supreme Court was told today.

Mr Gregory, now 30, from Mollymook on the state's south coast, suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder and agoraphobia and is unable to work, which he blames on the years of humiliation and isolation he endured at Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School in Tamworth in the state's north. He is seeking upwards of $2 million in lost earnings from the state, arguing that the school's failure to look after him caused his psychological problems.

Giving evidence before Justice Elizabeth Fullerton today, Mr Gregory described a system designed by students which had been in place while he was there in the 1990s. All younger boys had to obey older boys or risk being "nicked" - hit across the knuckles with a steel ruler, or "broomed" - when they had to bend over and be hit with a broom. "The teachers just accepted it at Farrer," he told the court.

When he criticised the system he was ostracised and the name-calling and physical abuse began. Called "sterile", "faggot", "midget", "loser" and "Nazi", Mr Gregory said he was forbidden to socialise with his peers and had rocks thrown at him regularly. When he complained to his year master and other teachers, his fears were ignored, he said. "I was upset and in tears when I (told them)," Mr Gregory told the court.

Eventually he developed obsessive compulsive disorder, washing thoroughly in hospital strength disinfectant because he felt "dirty", his lawyer Russell McIlwaine told the court. He also began self-mutilating, Mr McIlwaine said.

The school has acknowledged in court that it should not have allowed the system to operate and that it failed to implement "adequate control so as to protect and prevent abusive conduct by the students".


Superheroes good for kids

SUPERHEROES outlawed by Victorian kindergartens have been thrown a lifeline by the Federal Government. The caped crusaders have been banned in many individual kinders and childcare centres for encouraging rough play by groups of boys. Parents are sent letters at the beginning of the year advising of a ban on superhero dressing up and toys.

But new research from the Government argues superheroes such as Superman, Spiderman, Buzz Lightyear, Ben 10, and Batman play the same role as fairytales for past generations. An article in Putting Children First, a journal published by the federally-funded National Childcare Accreditation Council, argues superhero play leads to complex, imaginative games.

Childcare consultant Heather Barnes said there were many reasons why early learning teachers adopted a zero-tolerance approach to superhero play, including the risk of accidents and themes of war, violence and masculine strength. But she argues superhero play can instead be seen as a way of releasing tension and giving children a feeling of courage. "Preschool-age children seem drawn to the power, strength and special attributes of superheroes, and when engaged in this type of play, it helps them to feel in charge of their world," she writes.

Kristy Bianchin, 24, of Pakenham, who is the mother of Lewis, 2, and Max, four months, encourages her older son's superhero play. "He loves Sportacus . . . and I don't mind because it's fun, active play that encourages interaction with others and encourages healthy eating," she said.


Financial crisis good for Queensland's beautiful old houses

The economy may be faltering but our desire to live in the home of our dreams has never been stronger and renovations are going strong in Queensland. Financial storm clouds have Queenslanders bunkering down and redirecting resources to the lifestyle area closest to our hearts: the family home.

Housing Institute of Australia statistics show that in the three months to August, the value of approvals for alterations and additions to buildings in southeast Queensland was $271 million - 22 per cent higher than for the same period last year. HIA chief economist Harley Dale said spending on renovations was rising while new home construction was falling. "The global economic turmoil has generated considerable uncertainty but the profile for building approvals suggests that in the southeast ... the renovations sector will prove to be resilient," Mr Dale said.

Demographer Bernard Salt told The Sunday Mail that people were now looking to live more within their means. "I think there has been a mood shift. Whereas before the dream homes may have been inspired by McMansions, I think that's all now becoming politically incorrect. Those excesses of the past are now seen as immoral," he said.

The Parker family of Wilston have just finished building in underneath to add another two bedrooms, lounge, laundry and bathroom. Mum Michelle Parker said she and husband Stephen had bought and sold several houses but were now staying put. "We had thought about buying a bigger house," Mrs Parker said. "But we wanted to be able to add our own personal touch."


Nothing wrong with Australian banks

NAB capital raising oversubscribed. Seeing I have 2600 NAB shares, I am pleased about this expression of confidence

NATIONAL Australia Bank will place shares with institutions at $20 each, after its offer was oversubscribed following "overwhelming'' demand, the head of the bank's Australian operations Ahmed Fahour told AAP. NAB announced the $2 billion placement to institutions and sophisticated investors earlier today.

It took just one hour to build the book from the fixed price offer of $20 per share, said Mr Fahour. The pricing is equivalent to a 9.7 per cent discount to NAB's closing share price on Friday of $22.15.


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