Sunday, May 22, 2011

LOL! "Nearly all" Solar panel installations faulty

THE NSW government has ordered a statewide safety audit of solar panels after nearly all rooftop installations inspected were found to be faulty.

A Fair Trading report, obtained by News Limited, found nearly every installation under the contentious Solar Bonus Scheme was faulty and one third suffered from serious electrical defects.

Inspectors would be conducting further audits, particularly in Sydney and the Blue Mountains, Fair Trading deputy commissioner Steve Griffin told News Limited.

NSW Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts has ordered the review, comparing the solar panel installations to federal Labor's failed pink batts scheme. "Not only was Labor's solar bonus scheme a financial disaster for the state, it has clearly resulted in significant problems for people who raced to get panels on their roofs to cash in on the lucrative rates being offered," Mr Roberts told News Limited.

The audit by Fair Trading focused on installations in Port Macquarie, uncovering 29 per cent had potentially life-threatening electrical defaults and 64 per cent were in breach of the Home Building Act.

Premier Barry O'Farrell faces an uphill battle in parliament to push through legislation to slash the feed-in tariff for subscribers to curb a $759 million budget blowout to the scheme.


Muslim radio stays on airwaves

A MUSLIM group accused of having links to a "radical cult" will keep broadcasting on radio in a ruling that mainstream Islamic groups have condemned.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has renewed 2MFM's community radio licence for five years, angering Muslims who say it is linked to a "fringe group that promotes extremist views".

Muslim Community Radio Incorporated, the operator of 2MFM, has ties to the Islamic Charity Projects Association, which is associated with the group Al-Ahbash.

Al-Ahbash was founded in Lebanon and critics say it is a violent cult, but members deny the claim and say they promote Islamic pluralism.

Station manager Malek Jouddawi said criticisms of the station were "utterly wrong … whoever listens to our radio station can tell very clearly that we're moderate … We don't want to waste time responding to these people."

The endorsement by the authority was "evidence that 2MFM is serving the community responsibly".

The authority approved the licence renewal on the condition the station encouraged greater participation by "members of the wider Muslim community".

But Keysar Trad, the president of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, said the condition would change nothing "because no Muslims in the wider community want to have anything to do with them - no one will go near them."

Mustapha Kara-Ali, a founder of 2MFM who has distanced himself from the group, said the condition could work but it was crucial "for the [Muslim] community to overtake the Al-Ahbash and run the radio station for the whole community."


The Labor party's education "revolution" again

It certainly is revolutionary -- but not in a good way. NSW has been ground zero for these bungles

GOVERNMENT officials have admitted to a giant "stuff-up" after a pole was erected in the middle of a stairwell of a $3 million classroom complex, funded under the Building the Education Revolution scheme.

Teachers at Chatswood Public School are demanding an urgent safety inspection be undertaken of the building, claiming the pole is just one of a litany of defects in the building, which was completed in mid-March.

They say cracks have begun appearing in the walls, the stairs are incorrectly fitted, electrical fittings have fallen off walls, while gaps are evident between the lino and the walls.

Teachers were forced to buy 12 electric heaters as the gas was not connected to any of the six new classrooms.

Teachers have strapped gym mats around the pole - which supports a veranda - amid fears children walking down the stairs could slam into it.

NSW BER program director Angus Dawson admitted there had been a "stuff up", describing the bizarre placement of the pole as an error in "clash management". "It's clearly a stuff-up. It will be fixed at no cost to the taxpayer," he said. "We've had engineers look at the building and are happy to pass on their findings to the school."

Two existing demountable classrooms will be used if the building is found to be unsafe. Construction issues were identified last year, when the building was 60 per cent completed, by a BER Implementation Taskforce.

Its report found "a number" of defects, particularly in the roof, and recommended the NSW Education Department follow up with a certifying engineer.

Forty concerned teachers last week voted for a separate, independent safety inspection to be undertaken.

Opposition spokesman for education, Christopher Pyne, said a judicial inquiry was needed into the scheme.

A NSW Teachers Federation's spokeswoman said there were concerns for the welfare of staff and students.


Real estate fraud unpunished

Why not some time in the big house?

A BANKRUPT real estate agent has been "reprimanded" for his failure to complete a $25,000 prize draw promotion used to sell 50 properties in 2006.

The Queensland Civil and Administration Tribunal, in a just-published two-page judgement, reprimanded, but did not further punish, Terry Hubert Little after he "failed to fulfil" the promotional prize draw.

QCAT member Professor Adrian Ashman last month reprimanded Mr Little under section 529(1) of the Property Agents and Motor Dealers Act 2000 after action instigated by the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation.

"It is alleged that he (Mr Little) failed to fulfil a 2006 promotional obligation to complete the draw for a prize of $25,000, participants in the draw being owners of 50 properties sold and settled through Mr Little's agency," Prof Ashman said.

"(The department) asserts the draw was never held and ... the prize money was subsequently withdrawn, along with other monies from the agency's general account."

Prof Ashman said a former business co-director, David Colston, in August 2007 did not deny the allegations levelled against Mr Little.

"Mr Little had at least six months to fulfil obligations arising out of the agency's promotion but he failed to do so," he said. "The delay in completing the promotion and awarding the prize money provided the opportunity for Mr Little's co-director to withdraw the money ... and move it elsewhere.

"I am satisfied that Mr Little did not act in a conscientious way to fulfil his obligations to the property owners who qualified for entry into the draw."

Mr Little, in his submission to QCAT, said he was "experiencing personal and financial difficulties" at the time.

The department submitted to QCAT that Mr Little be fined $1000, reprimanded and ordered to pay the costs of the proceedings.

Prof Ashman said there were significant "mitigating circumstances" which warranted only the reprimanding of Mr Little.

"First, Mr Little admitted his shortcomings and did not seek to contest the matter," he said. "Second, he is an undischarged bankrupt and employed on a commission-only basis, which is at a subsistence level.

"It would seem to be a pointless and overly severe act to impose a further burden upon an individual who is already experiencing serious financial hardship."

Mr Little's agency and location was not revealed in the judgment.


Note: I have two other blogs covering Australian news. They are more specialized so are not updated daily but there are updates on both most weeks. See QANTAS/Jetstar for news on Qantas failings and Australian police news for news on police misbehaviour

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