Monday, November 14, 2011

Australians have an escape hatch from UK woes

AUSTRALIANS are abandoning UK jobs and returning home for work, eager to cash in on the booming Australian economy and escape unfavourable exchange rates.

Figures show the number of Australians entering Britain for work has dropped 35 per cent to 17,100 since 2007; the number of Kiwis fell 40 per cent to 5210, the Guardian newspaper reports.

Many Australians already working in the UK believe there are more opportunities and better wages back home.

Simon Taylor, of recruitment company Venn Group, told the Guardian that the exchange rate was major reason for the fall in Australians seeking work in the UK.

When the pound was strong, Australians knew they "could work and save at the same time. Due to the recent fall in exchange rates there is less incentive for candidates to remain in the UK."

Kevin Ellis, who publishes TNT Magazine, a free weekly for Aussies, Kiwis and South Africans in the UK, said: "The reason Australians are going home is because their economy is booming and some of these professionals can earn a lot more back home."

The ailing British job market is another reason for the Australian exodus - there are simply not enough jobs to go around and competition is high.

Those who get a job can find visa restrictions another turn-off.

The working holiday visa, which allows those aged 18-30 to work in the UK for two years, is still the most popular entry point and has remained unchanged. However, there are fewer options for those who wish to stay beyond their two years.

In April this year the UK Government put a 1000 annual cap on tier 1 visas, which covers those who want to stay in the UK as a highly skilled migrant, and a 20,700 annual cap on tier 2 visas, which covers employer-sponsored visas.


Nameless cab drivers?

Pandering to Muslims again. What if a passenger has a problem with a driver? A name is a lot easier to remember than a number

Photo IDs set to be introduced in Brisbane taxis will no longer include drivers' names, due to a fear passengers may verbally abuse cabbies over their foreign names. From November 30, cab drivers in Brisbane and the Gold Coast will be required to display authorised Queensland taxi driver display cards in their cabs. The cards will include a photo and driver identification number, but not a name.

The government printed ID cards with full names for the Toowoomba roll-out earlier this year, but reissued new licences without names due to privacy and cultural concerns. understands during the Toowoomba roll-out in June, some drivers with names such as Muhammad were the target of racial abuse and harassment from customers.

"The taxi council made representations on behalf of their members to remove drivers' names from the Authorised Queensland Taxi Driver Display Card," a statement from Transport Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk read. "This decision was made for privacy and cultural reasons. This is consistent with other states."

The cultural issue of what name was used on the card was also a stumbling block for the program, with drivers unhappy their preferred common name, or anglicised name, was not displayed.

Taxi Council of Queensland chief executive Blair Davies, who flagged privacy concerns with the identification program with last year, said there had been an issue with what names were being transferred across from government records to the licences.

"The average person born in Australia has a first name and surname but depending on where you come from sometimes the first name is your family name, so it can get complicated, particularly in some cultures," he said.

"So we were seeing some quite strange results coming out on these cards. "They were typically using the first name and that can produce some quite inconsistent results. "But for some drivers their whole names were to be printed on the IDs."

Mr Davies said the IDs would provide an extra level of reassurance for passengers who would be able to match a driver with their photo, as well as use the identification number to report any issues.

But he indicated the current security system for cab drivers was better than those used in others states, with all Queensland drivers being required to enter a pin on dispatch to log on for their shift. Mr Davies said Queensland was the only state using this system.

The licence introduction is part of a raft of reforms introduced under the Queensland Taxi Strategic Plan, 2010-2015.

Ms Palaszczuk said the plan's implementation was progressing well, with the introduction of national training standards for taxi drivers improving customer service and passenger safety. "These standards raised the bar for taxi drivers across driving skills, geographical knowledge, customer service and safety issues," she said.


"Organic" milk fad fails the taste test

A NEW breed of boutique milk is flooding Melbourne's cafe scene - and customers are being charged four times more for it than regular milk. But the Herald Sun has found customers prefer the taste of the regular $1-a-litre full cream milk from Coles.

The new premium varieties are straight from family farms in Victoria. Brands such as Jonesy's and Schultz Organic Milk are becoming increasingly popular with baristas. But they come at a price, in some cases selling for more than four times as much as supermarket varieties. One organic milk is selling for $4.50 a litre, compared with $1-a-litre varieties in supermarkets.

Yet a blind taste test by Herald Sun readers has found most still prefer the Coles $1-a-litre full cream variety over organic brands. Several of our blind tasters said there was very little difference between the milk brands.

Owner of three Melbourne cafes, Marinus Jansen, exclusively uses Jonesy's milk. He said he had a strong personal relationship with the Somerville family of Kerang, who produced Jonesy's, and had received great feedback about the creaminess and taste of the milk from coffee lovers. "The reality is, we're giving our customers a better product, and the money is going back to the local community," he said.

Mr Jansen said independent milk suppliers were more expensive than the multinationals, but the milk's better quality far outweighed the extra cost.

Jonesy's Dairy Fresh owner Rhonda Somerville said her family went independent in December 2009 because of unsustainable milk prices from the big companies, but in the process they embraced a more natural approach. "What comes from the cow goes into the bottle ... we don't pull apart our milk and put it together again," she said.

Simon Schultz, of Schulz Organic Farms in Timboon, said his business had doubled in the past financial year. "The restaurants and cafes are always looking for something different. It's really driven by consumer demand," he said.

Many Australian farmers say the big supermarkets' price cuts on milk are slashing their profits, and in Victoria the export focused dairy industry is experiencing the volatility of shaky global markets. So some family farms have been hitting back by bypassing the big companies, that usually homogenise and pasteurise their milk, and producing it themselves.

United Dairyfarmers of Victoria president Kerry Callow said while global milk prices were volatile, there were significant challenges to striking out alone. "In Victoria we are largely export focused, so the big companies are important players in our industry," she said.

Wayne Mulcahy, of Kyvalley Farms in Kyabram, said he and his brothers had also turned independent to avoid swings in milk prices and had enjoyed success with local markets.

"Customers like to support independent suppliers because we're just a small farming family in Victoria. they want to support Victorians," he said.


Media inquiry is misguided, says Turnbull

MALCOLM Turnbull has hit out at the media inquiry set up by the Gillard Government, saying it was not addressing the right issues.

The Opposition's communications spokesman said the inquiry, led by retired Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein, QC, was a "political stunt". "I'm not sure what it's going to do," he said. "It was designed to have a slap at News Limited (publisher of the Herald Sun) to take advantage of the phone hacking scandal in the United Kingdom."

Mr Turnbull told Channel 10's Meet the Press program the inquiry should look carefully at the profitability of news organisations in a changing media world. "What price democracy, when a big chunk of quality journalism ceases to have a business model that can support it?" he said.

"Can you replace that with a world of tweets and bloggers and Facebook users?" Mr Turnbull also said he would like to see defamation laws more thoroughly assessed. Changing the rules about who could sue media outlets could boost accountability and transparency, he said.

"If (a) newspaper publishes a prompt apology and correction then the person defamed should have no action for damages, unless they have suffered specific financial loss," he said. "If it is just a damage to reputation, they can't make a claim.

"That balances I think, fairly three important public interests - the press's interest in free speech, the individual's interest in protecting their reputation and ... the public's interest in getting accurate information on matters of public importance in a timely fashion."


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