Thursday, November 19, 2009

QANTAS again (1)

Who gives a damn about passengers? They were made to wait 90 mins. on the plane for nothing and then just dumped over an hour's drive away from their destination. No help. No explanation and no apology

Disgruntled passengers say Qantas deserted them at the Gold Coast Airport last night after their flight into Brisbane was diverted due to bad weather. The QF 665 flight was also struck by lightning during its descent into Coolangatta.

Passenger Denis Gailey said the plane landed about 7.50pm but passengers weren't allowed to disembark until 9.35pm.

A Qantas spokesman said the airline didn't have engineering support at the airport, as it was no longer a Qantas port, and had to wait for an engineer from Brisbane to arrive. "That explains why people had to stay on board for that long. "They stayed on board in the expectation we'd get them up again. But unfortunately the plane was declared unserviceable by the engineer," he said.

But Mr Gailey said there was no communication. "When we got off, we were told to follow the staff in yellow safety vests and that buses were on their way. But we never saw anyone in yellow safety vests. "Passengers found their bags themselves. There was no co-ordination," he said. Some passengers organised hire cars while others waited for buses which arrived after 11pm. "We had no food, no direction and no-one to ask.

Qantas spokesman admitted passengers might not have had access to shops or food between the meal served onboard at 6pm and arriving in Brisbane after midnight. "The opportunity to provide refreshments just didn't eventuate unfortunately. "I think our focus would be on getting our passengers to Brisbane as quick as possible," he said. [It was obviously a "focus" that didn't succeed]

Mr Gailey said Qantas crew avoided the group of passengers after disembarking and refused to make eye contact. "The cabin manager had a moral obligation to take control of (the situation) and stay with us." There was no apology or offer of compensation, he said. "It was a complete sham," Mr Gailey said.

The Qantas spokesman said "cabin crew essentially did their job for the day when the flight landed". "Ultimately the crews have responsibilities as far as the flight was concerned and they hand it over to ground crew once they're on the ground. He said he would talk to the customer care department about compensation, but said the event was unavoidable due to the weather conditions. "We certainly regret any inconvenience the incident might have caused our customers but our focus was on getting our customers to their destination as quickly as possible.''


QANTAS again (2)

Cost-cutting has undoubtedly hit maintenance, as well as customer service

A QANTAS passenger plane taking off from Hong Kong was brought to a screeching halt after a pilot heard "a loud bang" from the engine. QF30, a 747 Jumbo with 313 passengers onboard, was heading to Melbourne from Hong Kong International Airport at 9.55am local time yesterday (6:55am AEDT yesterday) when it came to an abrupt halt.

Clasina Cue, a Melbourne grandmother and former airport worker, was aboard along with her friend, Lisa Taliana, also from Melbourne with both returning from a Hong Kong holiday. Both say the plane was nearing taking off speed. “The plane's nose was a bit up in the air,” Ms Cue said. “There was a big bang and a shudder. The pilot slammed the brakes and stopped the plane. It had been close to the point of no return.”

Both Ms Cue and Ms Taliana said they could smell smoke in the cabin. Ms Cue believed it was from the “screeching” tyres. Ms Cue and Ms Taliana both praised the pilot. “It was the pilot’s quick thinking. We could have gone up in the air. It could have been a lot worse,” said Ms Cue. “I’m just thankful we’re not dead,” said Ms Taliana. “The pilot did an awesome job. Not taking off was the best thing he could have possibly done.”...

The Qantas spokesperson said there had been no cockpit indications of engine failure but it was later found that the engine needed new compressor blades. The spokesperson could not say why there was no cockpit indicator of a problem before the bang alerted the pilot.

Qantas planes have been bedevilled with numerous incidents over the past couple of years. There have been union claims that safety is being compromised with maintenance work being outsourced to overseas terminals. The Qantas spokesperson however said the plane in question had been maintained in Sydney.


School defies parents; kills boy; no penalty

Sounds like teachers getting full of themselves again. Maybe a big civil lawsuit will get some questions answered and the guilty parties identified. You don't send your kid to school to have him come home in a coffin. My son is not a good swimmer. It could have been him. But I was told when he was due to swim and was there to watch him

THE parents of a Tasmanian student who drowned say they had no idea he had been going on a school excursion. "We had no knowledge of any excursion to Bells Parade, no permission slip was signed," Sera Levi, the mother of Latrobe High School teenager Rene, told The Mercury. His father Laupule said he had told the school his son was to be excluded from school trips. "He was not a strong swimmer and we did not encourage him going in the water," Mr Levi said.

Tasmania Police spent a couple of hours with the family yesterday afternoon, but Rene's parents were still unsure exactly what had happened at the Mersey River near Devonport on Monday afternoon.

"There were five teachers with 120 students," Mrs Levi said. "Some of the children were swimming. They went under the trees when it started raining. "A boy saw splashing, but no one was there," Mrs Levi said.

Rene's parents did not know their son had drowned; they only knew he was late returning from school. "We went looking for him and turned up at the school, and no one had anything to say," Mrs Levi said. "I was asked to wait for the principal. Phil McKenzie said he was sorry. I asked what for and then ran from the building screaming. "When we arrived at Bells Parade there was no sign of life. He had just been found and he was dead."

Tasmania Police said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the teenager's death. The Department of Education, he said, would be asking Latrobe High School staff some more probing questions about the incident in days to come.


Big watchdog bungle -- at the taxpayer's expense

THE corporate regulator has suffered a crushing defeat and been left with a $35 million legal bill after its pursuit of One.Tel founder Jodee Rich and former finance director Mark Silbermann was yesterday thrown out of court.

After one of the biggest cases ever brought before the NSW Supreme Court, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission was criticised for running a civil suit that was "too wide" and "produced an excessively long and burdensome proceeding". The regulator had wanted Mr Rich and Mr Silbermann to pay $92m in compensation for allegedly misleading the board about One.Tel's true financial position ahead of the telecommunications company's collapse in May 2001. It also sought orders banning the pair from managing corporations. Instead, ASIC was told it had "failed to prove any aspect of its pleaded case".

Judge Robert Austin said he did not agree with ASIC's submission that businessman James Packer - a director and financial backer of One.Tel - was "an impressive witness".

To add to the injury, ASIC will pick up Mr Rich's legal bill, which is more than $15m. ASIC is believed to have spent a further $20m during its eight-year pursuit of Mr Rich. Justice Austin said in his mammoth 3000-page judgment that "ASIC's contentions have a superficial appeal". "But time and time again they were shown to be unpersuasive when the underlying financial detail was investigated," he said.

Mr Packer and businessman Lachlan Murdoch, a director of News Corporation, publisher of The Australian, gave evidence in the case, which ran for 232 days from September 2004 to August 2007. Mr Packer's PBL and News Limited, News Corporation's Australian arm, were majority shareholders in One.Tel and jointly invested close to $1 billion in the company. The pair, who proposed a $132m rights issue to recapitalise One.Tel in May 2001, claimed to have been "profoundly misled" about the true state of One.Tel's finances before its collapse.

"Essentially Mr Packer Jr appeared to misunderstand the purpose of cross-examination, and treated it as an opportunity to attempt to `put his side of the story' by argumentative and non-responsive answers, and even occasionally evasive answers; and that was coupled with an inability to recollect important matters," Justice Austin said. The judge said Mr Murdoch had a "poor recollection" of the events, and his evidence should therefore be "treated with caution". He made no adverse findings against the pair in terms of their credibility.

One.Tel's special-purpose liquidator, Paul Weston, said yesterday he was likely to launch legal action against Mr Packer and Mr Murdoch over the collapse of the company within weeks. With interest, Mr Weston said the claim would now top $230m.

Mr Rich told The Australian yesterday he had twice been close to settling the case with ASIC over the years, and claimed he had been placed under political pressure not to fight it. Mr Rich claimed that in 2001 his father was called by Stan Howard, the brother of then prime minister John Howard. "The PM was sending a message through Stan Howard; it was very important that I settle and didn't defend the case," Mr Rich said. "And I thought that was just extraordinary." Last night, John Howard emphatically denied the claims. "I have no recollection of any discussion of that kind," he said. "I didn't do it and I am absolutely certain my brother would not have done that."

Mr Rich kissed his wife, Maxine, after the verdict yesterday. Both had tears in their eyes. Outside court, Mr Rich said he was "absolutely delighted" with the result. The hardest moment was being in the witness box for 33 days, which Mr Rich likened to "climbing the most amazing mountain".

Mr Silbermann was not in court yesterday but was very happy with the outcome. "It is such a good feeling to kick ASIC in the balls," he said. However, he said the damage to his reputation had been done "years ago". "We were crucified without anybody giving us the benefit of the doubt," he said. "I have lost everything, everything."

Justice Austin made a number of criticisms against ASIC in regard to the arguments put before the court and "aspects of its conduct of this case".

"Amongst the more serious are my views that . . . the scope of the case, endeavouring to prove the financial circumstances of a large multinational corporate group over each of four months, was far too wide and produced an excessively long and burdensome proceeding," Justice Austin said. "In a substantial number of significant ways, ASIC's final submissions were outside its pleaded case."

ASIC launched the court case against former One.Tel chairman John Greaves, joint managing directors Brad Keeling and Mr Rich and Mr Silbermann. Proceedings were settled against Mr Keeling in 2003 and Mr Greaves in 2004.



Three current articles below

The usual Greenie people-hatred

Birth control should be used to cut "greenhouse gas" emissions

INVESTING in birth control to reduce population growth could be more effective in cutting greenhouse gas emissions than building wind turbines or nuclear power stations, according to a United Nations report. Taking action to prevent one billion births by 2050 would save as much carbon dioxide as constructing two million giant wind turbines.

The UN Population Fund report predicted that the global population could reach 10.5 billion by 2050, up from 6.8 billion today, unless urgent action was taken to reduce fertility rates. It said that even its medium-growth forecast of 2.3 billion more people by 2050, which assumes a fall in average fertility from 2.56 to 2.02 children per woman, would make it much harder to achieve the cuts in carbon emissions needed to prevent catastrophic climate change.

The report said that reducing population growth would allow the 2050 target for global average emissions per person to be increased significantly above the 2 tonnes recommended by Lord Stern of Brentford, the author of an influential government report on global warming in 2006. Living standards would be higher because each person would be able to emit more CO2.

The report said: "No human is genuinely carbon neutral. Therefore, everyone is part of the problem, so everyone must be part of the solution in some way. Each birth results not only in the emissions attributable to that person in his or her lifetime, but also the emissions of all his or her descendents."

The report rejected the idea of Chinese-style laws to control population but said that a similar result could be achieved by promoting contraception and better education for women. It said that 215 million women, mainly in developing countries, wanted contraception but had no access to it. Funding from donor countries for the UN's birth control program has fallen from $723 million at its peak in 1995 to $338 million in 2007.

The report also said that the longer women remained in education, the fewer babies they had. Women who had never gone to school had an average of 4.5 children. Those who completed one or two years of university had 1.7. "Dollar for dollar, investments in voluntary family planning and girls' education would, in the long run, reduce greenhouse gas emissions at least as much as investments in nuclear or wind energy," the report said.

It revealed that, contrary to received wisdom, rates of unintended pregnancies were higher in rich countries than in poor ones. In Europe, the US, Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand, an average of 41 per cent of pregnancies were unintended, compared with 35 per cent in developing countries.

However, most of the projected increase in population would be in developing countries. The population of Africa was expected to double to two billion by 2050. The population of all developed countries was likely to rise only 3 per cent, though this masked big differences, with the US population expected to rise by a third to 400 million and Japan's expected to decline by a fifth to 100million.

The Population Fund acknowledged that reducing population growth in developing countries would have little immediate impact on emissions because their inhabitants have relatively small carbon footprints. But it said that the savings would increase as the economies of developing countries grew and levels of consumption - and, therefore, emissions - rose.

The report said that population growth was only beginning to be recognised as an important topic in international negotiations on climate change. It will not be discussed at next month's UN summit in Copenhagen. "Fear of appearing supportive of population control has, until recently, held back any mention of 'population' in the climate debate."

A spokeswoman for Cafod, the Catholic aid agency, said it did not support the promotion of birth control in poor countries, where the "underlying causes of large families ... are lack of education of women and unequal power relationships between men and women".


Up to 30 conservative parliamentarians may vote against Warmist laws

UP to 30 Liberal MPs and senators are set to defy their leader Malcolm Turnbull on emissions trading, one of the party's prominent climate change sceptics said. More than a third of the party would "probably cross" the floor of Parliament to vote against the scheme even if Labor agreed to Coalition amendments, backbencher Dennis Jensen said. "I don't want to name them but there are 30 MPs," he told AAP.

Coalition MPs and senators were expected to consider the outcome of negotiations presently underway with Labor when they meet in Canberra next Tuesday. A Senate vote was expected late next week and any changes the upper house makes to the legislation would need the support of the Lower House, where Labor has a majority. In the Senate, Labor needs the support of at least seven Liberals to win parliamentary approval for its scheme.


Enterprise is not the enemy

A conservative political advisor looks for a middle ground below

Georges Clemenceau, the French prime minister during World War I, said that war is too serious a matter to entrust to military men. In the same vein, the environment is too important to be left to the Greens. Bob Carr made the point recently that the Greens are not the environmental movement, they are a political party.

Environmental issues are mainstream and not a luxury. They go to the heart of how we sustain our growth and living standards in the face of rising population and resource depletion pressures. Environmental costs are not always incorporated in market prices but there is now ample evidence that market approaches, including appropriate property rights, have an important role to play in conservation regimes. They can reduce pollution at lesser costs than regulatory approaches, as the acid rain cap and trade system showed.

There is no incompatibility between private enterprise or capitalism and the environment. The success of capitalism in raising living standards has been used by some Greens to equate it with environmental degradation. The poor state of the environment in Eastern Europe when the Berlin Wall fell demonstrates that there is no corollary between social and economic systems and the condition of the environment.

The Greens have often used environmental issues to peddle an anti-capitalist and populist agenda, focusing on renewable energy sources as good, soft power while rejecting nuclear energy as hard power that is the dirty product of multinational corporations. These attitudes are not shared by many of those who vote Green.

In the previous federal election Labor made a good fist of owning the environment and climate change. In the public mind concern for the environment has come to be equated with action to address climate change. Kevin Rudd focused on the Coalition's failure to sign the Kyoto treaty as evidence of its lack of credentials on environment and climate. The issue was used to define John Howard as backward-looking and not interested in the future.

So Labor now has equity in the issue. Every day that the Coalition spends discussing, and dividing on, climate change is a day lost to other issues more to the Coalition's advantage. The party should neutralise these issues and move on or risk alienating a whole constituency of voters, not restricted to the young, who genuinely feel strongly about these matters but who do not wish to embrace Stone Age living standards.

So does that mean that climate change sceptics should just shut up? No, because scientific inquiry that improves our knowledge and uncovers errors must be encouraged. Scientists should have the moral courage to change their position as ugly facts slay beautiful theories. But as a layman, how do I know who is right in the climate change debate? Is it the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or the scientists who claim that the IPCC has been too timid in its projections of global warming? Is it celebrities jumping on the bandwagon or more isolated scientific voices such as that of Ian Plimer?

How is a politician to make a principled decision on such a weighty matter? The French mathematician and religious philosopher of the 17th century, Blaise Pascal, tackled a related issue. He formulated a wager to guide those wrestling with the concept of faith. Because faith was beyond reasoning he proposed that one should weigh the consequences of belief v unbelief. If you believe and hence lead a virtuous life on earth but there is no hereafter, what have you really lost (apart from a good time perhaps)? On the other hand, if you act as if there is no hereafter and God does exist, you have consigned yourself to purgatory and worse. The cost of unbelief is literally infinite compared with the cost of belief in these circumstances.

Applied to climate change, what are the costs of belief v unbelief? If you act and climate change turns out to be the new Y2K, it is true that resources will have been invested in the transition to a less carbon-intensive economy and there is the opportunity cost of locking up our remaining fossil fuel supply. But provided that there is genuine market in emissions trading the carbon price should crash and restore relativities with fossil fuels and other energy sources.

If climate change is genuine, urgent and otherwise irreversible, then early action pays off while late or no action results in mounting economic and social costs. The most rational strategy for a climate sceptic is to short the carbon market and wait for the big crash.

The recent Lowy poll picked up on a slide in the ranking of climate change as an issue of concern to Australians. Securing jobs was the No. 1 issue. This is the real challenge with polls and governing. People want climate change tackled but they want to do it without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Howard faced up to this dilemma in the 2004 election when he wrestled with what do about old-growth forests in Tasmania. On the eve of the election his advisers were urging him to tuck away a very substantial compensation package to pay for locking up significant forest reserves. The then-Labor leader Mark Latham had highlighted the issue during the year with a high profile visit to Tasmania and the recruitment of Peter Garrett to run in the seat of Kingsford Smith.

For the campaign, Latham put together a big forests package and according to Tim Gartrell, the then ALP national secretary, it polled well. Howard played cat and mouse with Latham during the campaign.

Early on in the campaign in the seat of Richmond on the NSW North Coast, Howard alluded to his dilemma. He was worried about sacrificing the jobs of timber workers in isolated communities with few alternative job prospects. He wanted a fair go for them and the environment. His chance came when Latham finally blinked and went down to Tasmania at the start of the last week of the campaign. The images of him being driven into an underground car park and virtually throwing his plan across the table in a "take it or leave it" attitude said it all.

Howard moved to finalise his policy in consultation with affected communities and in the middle of that week turned up at the Albert Hall in Launceston to announce it. He was rapturously received by the timber workers and their families; he had looked after them and had the courage to meet them and address their concerns. It sent a message to other affected communities on the mainland that Howard was about balancing jobs and conservation.

In a recent welcome development, Bob Brown, the leader of the Greens, and John Gay, the executive chairman of Gunns, have met to discuss the proposed paper mill that has caused no end of controversy in Tasmania. It is good that they are at least talking and perhaps will find a practical outcome to this long-running saga.


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