Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Federal government hits phone companies with huge fees

Guess who'll end up paying. It's a tax by another name

TELSTRA has warned Australia will fall behind other countries in rolling out crucial mobile phone technology if the Federal Government slugs the industry with draconian licence-renewal fees.

The telco giant has told Communications Minister Stephen Conroy that the government risks hampering the development of smartphone and wireless technology, the Herald Sun reported.

In a submission lodged with the government yesterday, Telstra says Australia could suffer the "lemming-like" tumble taken by Europe a decade ago that saw the development of mobile networks stymied.

Under the government's plan, Telstra will have to pay $758 million to renew its 15-year licence for spectrum access. Vodafone would have to pay about $678 million.

Telstra yesterday told Mr Conroy the price was outrageous. "The price is high by current international standards," one industry insider said. "We don't agree with the methodology the government used, we think mistakes were made."

Under the government plan, telcos will pay 50 per cent on top of the base price recommended by consultants. It is understood telcos are pushing to pay closer to 25 per cent. A decision on pricing is expected by March.

Industry experts yesterday said the government was starting negotiations with a high price. "They are thinking 'how high can we go while avoiding an auction'?

"They want to avoid an auction because there are a whole lot of factors like the troubles in Europe casting doubts over the capacity of another player to enter the field."

In its submission, Telstra draws parallels to the prices that were paid in Europe during the tech boom. "Because of the high cost, all the telcos were under financial pressure and it slowed the roll out of technology by three years."

The Telstra and Vodafone licences are set to expire at the end of the year. Vodafone yesterday said it was undertaking continuing "constructive discussions" with the government.

BBY telecommunications analyst Mark McDonnell said all the telcos were "hostage" to the government over the "repricing" of spectrum and prices would inevitably rise if the government leveraged a high fee.

Mr McDonnell said that over the past 15 years the telcos had built multi-billion dollar networks with millions of customers on top of the spectrum access. "The rights of incumbency and lack of right of incumbency is a significant risk for carriers in this country."


Joblessness to rise this year: ANZ

The Labor Party is gradually destroying the healthy economy that John Howard left them

AUSTRALIA is set for a higher rate of unemployment in 2012, new figures show. The number of job advertisements on the internet and in newspapers fell 0.9 per cent in December compared with the previous month, ANZ said today. Total job ads were 2.6 per cent lower than in December 2010 - the first negative annul growth rate since February 2010.

ANZ also reported a fall of 0.8 per cent in the trend measure of total job ads in December.

The bank's head of Australian economics Katie Dean said this "points to, at best, modest employment gains for the Australian economy over the coming months''. "Indeed, the current trend rate of employment growth is unlikely to be fast enough to absorb the forecast growth in the labour force in the short term,'' Ms Dean said. "As a result, ANZ forecasts the unemployment rate to rise to 5.5 per cent by mid-2012.''

She said she expected the unemployment rate to stay at this elevated level for most of 2012, before falling modestly in 2013 as economic activity started to pick-up, in response to strong mining and infrastructure investment and a likely extended period of relatively-low domestic interest rates.

Australia's unemployment rate was last reported to be 5.3 per cent in November.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics on Thursday releases official employment figures for the month of December. The median market forecast is for 10,000 jobs to have been added in the month with the unemployment rate staying at 5.3 per cent.


Increase in temperatures will cut short lives, says "expert"

What a lot of rubbish. It's cold that is bad for you. Deaths are much higher in winter. Another "modelling" exercise, no doubt

A GLOBAL temperature rise of 2C by 2050 would result in increased loss of life, a new Queensland study has found. Scientists from the Queensland University of Technology and the CSIRO examined the "years of life lost" due to climate change, focusing on Brisbane.

"A two-degree increase in temperature in Brisbane between now and 2050 would result in an extra 381 years of life lost per year in Brisbane," lead researcher Associate Professor Adrian Barnett, from the university's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, said.

"A two-degree increase in temperature is the figure in the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is dangerous, but could be reached unless more aggressive measures are undertaken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Prof Barnett said the "years of life lost" measurement gives greater weight to deaths at younger ages instead of focusing only on elderly people. "We suspected that many temperature-related deaths were in the elderly, which would reduce the public health importance of temperature compared with other issues," he said. "In fact, we found the opposite, with a surprisingly high years of life lost figure."

Prof Barnett said that an increase of more than two degrees would be catastrophic. "A four-degree increase in temperature would result in an extra 3242 years of life lost per year in Brisbane."

Interestingly, the study found that a one-degree increase would result in a decrease in the number of lives lost. This is believed to be because the increase in heat-related years of life lost are offset by the decrease in cold-related years of life lost. The researchers said cold-related deaths were significant, even in a city with Brisbane's warm climate.

And many deaths could be avoided if people had better insulation in their houses. "Many houses in Brisbane are built of thin planks of wood and are poorly insulated, which means the occupants are exposed to whatever the temperature is outside," Prof Barnett said.

The researchers believed that while their work was focused on Brisbane, it contained helpful information to decision-makers in other areas as well.

The study has been published in the journal Nature Climate Change.


A beloved fish!

BLUEY'S back. Or is he? The legendary Clovelly Bay groper, famed for befriending many a Sydney snorkeller, may have returned. Or he's spawned a family.

Intriguingly, the new Bluey on the block could also be a female that has changed sex and simply replaced him, a phenomenon characteristic of the eastern blue groper species.

Bluey was thrust into the spotlight in 2002, when he was "murdered" by an unknown spear fisherman. So loved was the fish, the then NSW premier Bob Carr called the killer "a mongrel", before announcing five new aquatic reserves near Sydney beaches to protect marine life.

"I have seen the groper," the premier pronounced at the time. "I have swum with him. I know the groper, he was a friend of mine."

But then a year or so later, Clovelly swimmers sighted Bluey, sparking debate on whether rumours of his death had been greatly exaggerated. And this summer a large bright blue dominant male has been spotted.

A Coogee Pro Dive scuba master, Evan Batten, confirmed a Bluey lookalike was in the area, but said it was impossible to verify whether it was the original. Such sightings are so regular Mr Batten calls Bluey the "Elvis of the sea".

"Bluey is definitely a legend, he was extremely large, 1.2 metres long and a very rich blue. But did he get killed? Was it really Bluey they speared? Maybe he escaped and now has come back?"

To John Rowe, the secretary of the Gordons Bay Scuba Diving Club, Bluey is "the Phantom", named after the comic-strip character who never dies. While he was a long-time fan of Bluey, Mr Rowe said no one knew when the legend began "especially because when the dominant Bluey dies a dominant female becomes the new Bluey," he said.

All eastern blue gropers start life as greenish-coloured females, though some will change sex and colour to become blue males.

Professor Steve Kennelly, the director of fisheries research at the Department of Primary Industries, doubts the original Bluey is still alive and suggested another fish may have simply replaced him. "It's safe to say a Bluey or Bluey's relatives are back but it's definitely not him or his son," he said. "I'd be very surprised if it was the original as he wouldn't have lasted this long."

Professor Kennelly said public outrage over Bluey's death had helped promote a need to protect the species. It has been illegal to spear gropers since 1969 - they can only be fished with a rod and line. In 1998, the eastern blue groper was announced the official fish of NSW.

News of Bluey's possible return excited Mr Carr.

"I snorkelled at Clovelly a few weeks ago and was happy to see a family of gropers enjoying the crystal clear water with me," he said. "Why anyone would spear them is still beyond my understanding."


No comments: