Monday, November 07, 2011

Chemical company's $1b expansion 'threatened by carbon tax'

A CHEMICAL company that operates in Prime Minister Julia Gillard's electorate says it will shelve a $1 billion world-class expansion because of the carbon tax.

With the Senate set to approve the historic climate change policy tomorrow, Coogee Chemicals says it also threatens the long-term sustainability and jobs at the nation's only methanol factory in Laverton North.

Coogee Chemicals chairman Gordon Martin told the Herald Sun the company had been planning a new $1 billion plant in country Victoria, southern Queensland or in NSW around the seat held by Climate Change Minister Greg Combet.

It would have created 150 high-skilled jobs and export earnings of $14 billion, but Mr Martin said the carbon tax made it "uncompetitive and unviable". "The carbon tax will stop a significant Australian project that would value-add to Australia's abundant gas resource and jeopardise the long-term sustainability of the existing methanol plant at Laverton," he said.

The existing plant is in Ms Gillard's western suburbs seat of Lalor, where she will host Community Cabinet on Wednesday. The Laverton factory takes natural gas from Bass Strait and turns it into clear, colourless liquid called methanol.

Plant manager Grant Lukey said "every home will have something that includes methanol".

It is a critical ingredient for items such as particle board for building, table tops, aerosols, windshield wiper fluid, plastic soft drink bottles, paint, cycling tights and mattress foam.

Overseas it is an alternative to ethanol for car fuel, particularly in China.

Dr Lukey said the Laverton factory had the lowest carbon dioxide emissions per tonne of any methanol plant in the world. He said emissions were four-times greater at coal-based plants in China where 11 were built this year. "We've spent 16 years developing the best technology and now a world-scale project is going to go belly-up," Dr Lukey said.

Opposition climate spokesman Greg Hunt blamed the Government. "There couldn't be a plainer example of the stupidity of the carbon tax than losing a $1 billion investment with all of the associated jobs while sending global emissions up rather than down," Mr Hunt said.

Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan said when the Senate passed the carbon tax it would be "a historic day for Australia". "As well as a cleaner environment, it will deliver better jobs for our children and grandchildren and a more secure economic future," Mr Swan said. "It's not an easy reform but it's the type of responsible, forward-looking policy that this Government is committed to delivering."

A tax of $23 a tonne will be paid by the top 500 polluters from July 1. Industry gets $3 billion a year in compensation and households $5 billion in tax cuts and welfare.


Vicious little thugs in class of chaos as principals and teachers are abused, threatened or bashed in NSW

PRINCIPALS and teachers are abused, threatened or bashed daily in schools by violent students, angry parents or intruders with a grudge.

Almost 460 serious incidents including 130 violent acts against school staff were logged during term one and term two this year in reports to the Department of Education and Communities.

The reports, obtained under freedom of information laws, show educators receive death threats, are forced to disarm weapon-wielding students and sometimes are injured and hospitalised in attacks.

While some of the most serious incidents involve intruders or angry parents, teachers are also threatened and assaulted by badly behaved students in class.

Some children become so out of control at school they throw furniture, smash windows and assault teachers by biting, kicking and hitting, forcing a number to seek an apprehended violence order for protection. Among the cases documented in reports to the department:

A TEACHER was hit in the back by a rock; and

A THREAT was made during a classroom confrontation to use a hacksaw blade from the industrial arts room.

The Department of Education and Communities said the safety of students and staff was its "top priority".

"Close to 90 per cent of the state's schools regularly report no such incidents and the great majority of the remaining 10 per cent report only one incidence of violence each school semester, with the bulk of these not being serious enough to result in anyone being charged by police," a spokesperson said.

"Schools receive information via students' enrolment information which assists them to safely support students once they are enrolled and to contribute to the safety of everyone in the school community.

"Where required, schools implement behaviour support plans for individual students to promote effective learning and manage factors that may impact on behaviour."

Teachers Federation senior vice-president Joan Lemaire also said schools were overwhelmingly safe places but added she was "deeply concerned" about any violence that occurred.

The federation has complained about inadequate staff and resources to cope with problems in some schools and has concerns some students with behaviour issues are still being enrolled without a thorough risk assessment.

Four years ago a survey of beginner teachers found bad behaviour by students was driving many out of the job.


Auditor-General reveals $4 billion blow-out in NSW Solar Bonus Scheme

The controversial Solar Bonus Scheme would have blown out to almost $4 billion - more than 10 times its original estimated cost to taxpayers - had it been left to continue running as it was, a scathing assessment by the NSW Auditor-General has found.

The report by Peter Achterstraat, released this morning, says the scheme "lacked the most elementary operational controls, had no overall plan and risks were poorly managed."

It also found that the previous government and its agencies "grossly underestimated" the cost of the scheme and the number of people who would be encouraged to install solar systems.
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The findings will be embarrassing for the current Labor leader, John Robertson, who was energy minister when the scheme was designed under the former government.

Mr Achterstraat said the likely cost of the scheme to taxpayers is up to $1.75 billion, following the decision by the O'Farrell government to close it to new entrants this year. This was still "significantly more than the original $362 million estimate," he said.

Households who signed up to the original scheme were paid 60 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity their solar panels fed back into the grid.

The Keneally government belatedly slashed the rate paid to customers in the scheme from 60 cents a kilowatt hour to 20 cents last year after the cost blowout was uncovered.

"The New South Wales Scheme was far more generous than other states and contributed to many more people joining the scheme than were expected," Mr Achterstraat said.

In May the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, tried to rein in the blowout by retrospectively cutting the tariff paid to participants from 60 cents a kilowatt hour to 40 cents a kilowatt hour.

The plan caused widespread outrage from existing customers and the solar energy industry and sparked a backbench revolt which forced him to back down and commit to covering the cost in the state budget.

Mr Achterstraat said the Labor government failed to carry out a cost/benefit analysis for the scheme before it was implemented and there was no contingency planning.

"There was no budget for dollars or the number of connections and consequently very little control over the cost of the Solar Bonus Scheme," he said.


Leftist Know-nothings attack union buster

On Friday it was there, live on TV, for anyone who cared to look - an example of why the Gillard government would emphatically lose office if an election were called this year.

In a Senate committee hearing room in Parliament House, Canberra, the government went on the offensive against someone who had directly challenged the power of the unions. Government senators and their Green allies took cheap shots, exaggerated, sneered, distorted, indulged in conspiracy theories, made personal attacks and did everything but exhibit an understanding of how to run a business.

Three Labor senators, Alex Gallacher, Doug Cameron and Glenn Sterle, all former union officials, were joined by two Greens senators, Bob Brown and Scott Ludlam, taking turns putting the boot into Alan Joyce, the chief executive of Qantas. Not one of this pack of inquisitors has ever run a substantial business but all have highly developed ideas of entitlements.

After 83 minutes of inquisition it blew up in the government's face. The opposition industrial relations spokesman, Senator Eric Abetz, asked Joyce what would have happened if the government had invoked section 431 of the Fair Work Act, which entitles the Minister for Transport to stop industrial action if it is damaging the economy. Would that have pre-empted his spectacular action of grounding the entire Qantas fleet last weekend?

"Absolutely," Joyce replied. "Section 431 is very clear. It would have stopped me taking the industrial action I was taking. And would have stopped the lockout."

The great failure in this long-running, slow-burning, highly disruptive industrial dispute was the government's willingness to ignore the multiple pleas from the tourism industry to put an end to the months of industrial guerilla tactics being used by unions representing Qantas engineers, long-haul pilots, baggage handlers and caterers.

Similarly inert was the bureaucratic wing of the Labor Party, Fair Work Australia, which could see no justification for intervening in the dispute. Instead, a Fair Work tribunal found: "It is unlikely that the protected industrial action taken by the three unions, even taken together, is threatening to cause significant damage to the tourism and air transport industries."

Both the government and Fair Work Australia thought it was fair for Qantas to continue losing $15 million a week, continue grounding flights, continue disrupting passengers, and continue to suffer a catastrophic decline in bookings as the unions continued their announced plan to "slow bake" the airline, and its customers, over a period of months.

Problem, what problem? This is how Labor's soft power has been working ever since it passed the Fair Work Act, which enormously expanded the rights of unions to take industrial action about anything they chose.

Fair Work Australia has been stacked with Labor appointments since it was set up in 2009. Of the 11 Fair Work Commissioners appointed by the Gillard government, nine are former union officials or union advocates, and the other two are career public servants.

This is the same Fair Work Australia which has found nothing wrong with the conduct of the former union official and Labor MP Craig Thomson, on whose survival in Parliament the government's fate depends.

Friday's committee hearing was ostensibly about a bill proposed by an independent, Senator Nick Xenophon, which would limit the ability of Qantas to operate subsidiaries using foreign-based staff.

This is what Joyce had to say about the proposal: "It would not make us any more Australian. It would not protect Australian jobs and would have the opposite effect. It would put our business in jeopardy and would threaten Australian jobs. The bill contemplates locking Qantas inside Australian borders. "This is protectionism. No company can hide from the threat and opportunities of globalisation."

I agree. Based on this proposed bill, and his performance on Friday, Senator Xenophon would be better named Senator Xenophobe.

Without a shred of evidence he challenged the veracity of a claim by Qantas that its international division lost $200 million last year.

Joyce responded: "Several weeks ago we offered the ACTU an independent audit … [to] bring the conspiracy theories and the debate over this issue to a close. We are still waiting for a response."

In full xenophobic mode, the senator then raised the spectre of Asian sweatshop workers stealing the jobs of Australian workers. Again, Joyce was obliged to dismiss his scare-mongering: "The $400-a-month contract is a nonsense. These people are making $2000 a month. Our Thai cabin crew are paid 10 times the average salary in Thailand."

Picking up the theme of Asian threat rather than Asian opportunity, Senator Gallacher raised the issue of Joyce's salary, and the decline in the Qantas share price, and linked the cutting of 1000 jobs with a proposal to start a premium airline in Asia.

Joyce responded: "The job cuts … had nothing to do with the creation of an Asian airline, which is not going to lose one single Australian job."

Senator Brown, typically, then ramped up the insults: "You went about deliberately withholding your plan for a lockout from the Prime Minister and the Minister for Transport … "

Joyce: "That's not true, senator … "

Brown: "You were very obscure and devious … "

Joyce: "Sorry, senator, I think that's an absolutely inappropriate thing to say … The lockout wasn't our plan all along, so you're incorrect on that."

Brown: "You had a big stick behind your back and you didn't show it to anybody."

Joyce: "No, it's not true. The Fair Work Act gives us the option of taking industrial action as well. There has to be a balance between a company and its employees. Nobody is complaining about the massive industrial action by unions over an extended period that was killing Qantas. I had to do something."



Paul said...

I still remember Doug Cameron as a sneering abusive, droning, loud-mouthed example of British disease in the Australian union movement, back when he himself headed the TWU. Labor certainly knows how to reward traitors and subversives.

Anonymous said...

If Alan Joyce is not an Australian citizen then make him one immediately also make him the next Australian of the year for standing up to these thugs in government and their union heavies.


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