Monday, January 23, 2012

"Green" petrol switch to leave 750,000 NSW motorists out of pocket

UP TO 750,000 drivers in NSW will be forced to pay at least $150 more for petrol each year when the government bans regular unleaded petrol in July.

NSW is the only government in Australia to ban regular unleaded petrol and replace it with fuel blended with 10 per cent ethanol.

But modelling by the University of Queensland and the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce obtained by the Herald shows 25 per cent of NSW cars cannot use ethanol fuel and will be forced to use premium fuel instead.

With support from the Liberal and National parties, the former Labor government passed legislation in 2007 banning unleaded fuel, arguing that ethanol-blended fuel was better for the environment.

The Coalition supported the laws despite the fact that among those bearing the extra cost would be nearly 100,000 NSW motorists who drive cars made before 1986, many of whom live in rural Australia.

Almost all motorcyclists in NSW and drivers of several popular makes and models, such as all Ford Lasers and many Mazdas made before 2005, will also have to pay more as their vehicles cannot run on ethanol-blended petrol.

Anton le Rutte, of the Boat Owners Association of NSW, said most boats would also be unable to use ethanol fuel because it absorbed moisture and disintegrated and had a risk of starting fires in older boats.

At an average extra of 10¢ a litre for premium fuel, the average motorist will be paying $150 more a year. For a car with a 60-litre fuel tank, filling up once a week, it will cost an extra $300 a year.

The study was prepared for the ethanol industry. It used data from 2009 to project that, as of last year, only 75 per cent of 3 million passenger vehicles and motorbikes in NSW would be able to run on ethanol-blended fuel.

The extra cost to be borne by motorists was scarcely mentioned in the parliamentary debate on the legislation.

Tony Kelly, then the minister for rural affairs, said motorists who had to switch to premium unleaded would "enjoy a higher-octane, cleaner-burning fuel".

Andrew Stoner, the Deputy Premier, supported the legislation, despite airing industry concerns that some motorists would have to pay 12¢ a litre more for "nothing other than government policy".

The Energy Minister, Chris Hartcher, did not respond to questions about whether he was concerned about the extra costs motorists would face or whether he had considered policies to offset them.

Kathleen Cash, a graphic designer from Rosebery, was totally unaware that regular unleaded petrol was being phased out and that she would have to pay more for premium fuel.

Ms Cash is thinking about trading in her 1998 Daewoo, which cannot run on ethanol-blended fuel, but her son looks likely to inherit it. "I don't really understand why it's going to cost more for older cars," she said. "I think it's really unfair that people who have older cars have to pay more".


Slippery Slipper props up Julia Gillard Government after Andrew Wilkie withdraws support

Another turncoat conservative

PETER Slipper is effectively the man holding up the Gillard Government. And the Sunshine Coast turncoat is set to come under renewed pressure from local voters over his move to accept the Speaker's role now that key Independent Andrew Wilkie has abandoned the Labor ship over pokies' reform.

Mr Slipper has twice declared he wouldn't have taken the Speaker's job if it would "guarantee the Government's endurance in office". He now finds himself in that position, keeping Prime Minister Julia Gillard off the knife's edge, despite 34,000 Sunshine Coast voters sending him to Canberra under the LNP banner.

Labor MPs lined up yesterday to trumpet Ms Gillard's plans for a trial of pre-commitment technology in the ACT - the policy that broke her deal with Mr Wilkie.

Those thrilled with the deal include Labor MPs in club-heavy seats, who were dogged by anti-Labor campaigning from Clubs Australia.

It comes as new figures reveal the 12-month trial will cost taxpayers more than $85 million, including $36 million in "participation fees" for venues and millions more than $50 million for technology infrastructure.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott lashed out yesterday, claiming the PM had secured her spot in The Lodge under false pretences because she ultimately walked away from the deal with Mr Wilkie that originally ensured his vote.

"Andrew Wilkie ... gave the PM the keys to The Lodge, and now he has been betrayed by the person who he helped," Mr Abbott said.

He said the PM's parliamentary majority also rested on besieged Labor MP Craig Thomson, who is under police investigations in two states. However, Mr Wilkie has already said he wants the Government to serve a full term for "stability".

Mr Slipper, who left the LNP in November citing "bullying", took up the Speaker's job as an Independent and boosted the PM's control of the House by returning Labor's Harry Jenkins to the backbench and removing himself from the Coalition benches.

Mr Slipper has only spoken publicly twice since his controversial defection, both times stating he took the job on the understanding that none of the other Independents backing Ms Gillard planned to switch sides.

He said he believed Labor would stay in power "regardless" of whether or not he accepted the promotion.

"I would not have accepted this position if my election to this office was going to guarantee the Government's endurance in office," he said last year. Mr Slipper would not comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Greens will seek to amend or introduce laws imposing a maximum $1 bet on all poker machines.


Fear of deadly rage over yapping keeps dog owners awake at night

In that case they should get their dogs trained

FEW Sydneysiders are unfamiliar with the incessant, high-pitched sound of a dog barking from a neighbouring yard.

While he has a face that could melt butter, Gizmo can make some serious noise. "I'm constantly worried about my neighbours. They all have my phone number and I tell them to call me if he's ever bothering them," said Pippa Williams, who fits Gizmo with a citronella non-barking collar, walks him daily and gives him enrichment toys to minimise his barking.

Luckily Gizmo's neighbours in North Sydney are more understanding than those of another Maltese terrier, Lilly.

She was kidnapped from her north shore home recently and found drowned near the marina in Roseville, an atrocity her owner, father-of-two Tom Quan, believes was committed by an irate neighbour fed up with Lilly's barking. But more frightening was the vitriol it stirred around his Gordon neighbourhood.

"There are few things that send otherwise genteel, peace-loving suburban folk into a murderous rage more than the endless yapping of a little fluffball dog," read one comment in an article about Lilly's death in the local newspaper. "No one minds the occasional woof-woof of a real dog because they at least know when to shut up."

"Many a night I've been awake imagining ways to dispose of [our neighbour's yapping dog] and restore some peace to our lives. And I LOVE dogs," another said.

Lilly's death was just one of many incidents, from poisonings to stabbings, to hit dog owners in urban areas recently amid rising rage against yappy dogs. Higher density living and the popularity of smaller breeds mean dog issues are the most frequent complaints to councils.

Kelpies and German shepherds were the most popular breeds in the '90s. City-friendly Maltese terriers are the most popular these days, a decade-long study by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research found.

The percentage of people whose dog rarely or never shows bad behaviour has fallen from 84 per cent to 77 per cent.

Smaller dogs are not always louder but they are more reactive and owners tend to intervene later as they are deemed less frightening, said Sharon Birrell, a dog trainer with Bark Busters. They are also more likely to live in homes where neighbours are closer and more easily annoyed. "We get a lot of calls out to townhouses," said Ms Birrell. "I've had owners very scared that people will get violent or throw poison over the fence. It creates an enormous amount of anxiety."

Mr Quan spent $500 on a dog whisperer, but it failed to quell the hatred. Ms Williams said she goes to great lengths to be considerate.

But there also needs to be more understanding, said Kersti Seksel, president of the Australian Companion Animal Council, who advocates better housing design to mitigate noise. "We possibly have expectations of dogs that aren't realistic. They're animals and they're going to have emotions and feelings."


Insane NSW education bureaucracy

CROSSING the Murray felt significant. It was sunny and, after years, we were coming home to good ol' Newsouth, where it is always sunny and always Saturday morning, and the unimpeachable joys of childhood dwell in a never-to-be-disturbed bliss. The real significance hit later.

If I were a plumber, accountant or massage therapist, it would have been irrelevant: one could live in Melbourne one week then move to Sydney the next and simply front up to an employer and say: "Yep, I'm fully qualified, vastly experienced and I've just moved interstate." If the paperwork was up to scratch and they fitted the job description, it'd be: "No worries. Start on Monday."

Teachers, however, are different. We are what you might call the professional equivalent of refugees, fleeing the presumed disastrous condition of education of other Australian states.

Of course, before you can set foot inside a school, you're whipped off to the Institute of Teachers, where sniffer dogs investigate your deodorant status. That done, you front up to a corpse-like quasi KGB agent with perfect dentures and an interest in your credentials bordering on the pathological.

Don't get me wrong, I understand the need for caution; I'm cool with the fact that they need to see every piece of documentation I've received since I was 18, potentially even shopping dockets and bus tickets. This is standard bureaucratic fare.

After the interview, I go home and wait. And wait. Five weeks on, there's a letter: "Further documentation required." Nothing wrong with being thorough.

"Mother's birth certificate." Could be tricky. I google "Irish Embassy". Another six weeks and the necessaries are in the mail, with a note confessing how hard it is to feed a family without a job and could they maybe speed the process up a tad?

Ninety-seven days exactly after that fateful river crossing, I receive permission to teach in the state of NSW. My wife and children are too weak with hunger to join in the celebration. I ring the Institute and thank them warmly, but I still have one query concerning the 40 per cent cut in my rate of pay.

"A New Scheme teacher," the officer explains, "is a graduate teacher, or equivalent."

"Then there must be some mistake, because I've been a teacher for 20 …"

"Or equivalent," she repeats. "You haven't taught in NSW for the past five years." "Yes but," I begin. "In New South Wales."

And the articulation of that name is nothing less than the passing of a sentence. I break down and beg forgiveness. She's not sure what the policy is on that, but she'll get back to me.


1 comment:

Seabee said...

There's always another side to a story.

On E10 fuel, there's an interesting observation in a letter in this morning's Sydney Morning Herald.

"...our 2002 V8 Holden Statesman consumption which rose to 23 litres per 100 kilometres when we began using E10 because of the unavailability of "regular" unleaded some time ago. This from a consistent, suburban figure of
15 litres per 100 kilometres.
On advice from a trusted local car servicing engineer who also reported a significant rise in the cost of repairing cars being run on E10 - fuel filters, injectors and pumps, not to mention the loss of economy - we recently started using premium petrol without ethanol. Within a couple of tank fulls, the fuel flow returned to 15 litres per 100 kilometres.

Using James Robertson's 10¢ a litre variation in prices between E10 and premium unleaded petrol, a saving of $10 per 100 kilometres is being realised.

Far from the enforced switch costing us money, it is providing a big saving.