$42m of your money for Ford green duds
TAXPAYERS have pumped $42 million into two Ford "eco" cars that fail to meet the environmental criteria for some state government fleets.
In a major embarrassment to the Federal Government's "Green Car Fund for a Greener Future", the four-cylinder Falcon and the diesel Territory fall outside the purchasing requirements for many state government departments because their emissions are too high or too toxic.
It means the government isn't buying a car that it invested heavily in.
Ford employees bought more than twice as many four-cylinder Falcons than has the government (300 versus 115 cars) - and private buyers have also outspent public office (121 sales), according to confidential figures to the end of November.
Rather than investing to upgrade the cars, Ford is leading the charge to scrap the Green Vehicle Guide star-rating system - the benchmark used by business and government fleets when assessing which cars to buy.
Ford is getting a fraction of the government business compared with its Australian car making rivals Holden and Toyota.
The most recent figures show Ford sold 3300 locally-made cars to state governments across Australia compared with Toyota’s tally of 4100 deliveries and Holden’s order book of 9200 cars.
That's presumably because most of Ford's locally-made models fall below the cut-off as they have higher air pollution ratings.
Ford sold 14,000 Falcons last year; Mitsubishi sold 11,000 sedans in its last full year on sale before its Adelaide factory closed in 2008.
Only one of the three new Fords developed with $42 million taxpayer dollars - the most basic LPG Falcon - earns a high enough rating to make it onto the purchasing lists for some government departments across Australia.
For example, NSW state fleet has a minimum "pollution" and "greenhouse" score of 13.5 (out of 20) for all but emergency vehicles.
But the four-cylinder Falcon (13 out of 20) and diesel Territory (9 out of 20) don’t make the cut-off. The new LPG Falcon does comply, scoring 15 out of 20.
Government fleets are allowed to buy vehicles below this score, but if they do they won't meet their environmental targets.
Late last year the Federal Government appointed William Angove, the former boss of Ford in Indonesia, to encourage government departments to buy more locally-made cars.
In its submission to Federal authorities, Transport NSW said it has "concern regarding the proposal to abolish the GVG star ratings system and would encourage the Department of Infrastructure and Transport to reconsider its proposal”.
Sophie Mirabella, the shadow minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, said the proposal to drop the star rating system was another example of the government's "disastrous ad-hoc approach to green policy and cars."
"The current scheme was started by our government, and [as with] a lot of policies [the Federal Government] just want to get rid of it for the sake of it," Ms Mirabella told News Limited.
The office of Anthony Albanese, the federal minister for Infrastructure and Transport, issued a statement to News Limited: "The government is considering the feedback received from the community in response to the discussion paper."
The statement also mistakenly said a number-based rating system would be introduced. It already exists.
Our young aren't marrying. Here's Y not
YOUNG Australians are putting marriage and children on the backburner, as they concentrate on their careers and travel.
Social researchers are warning the result could be a generation who have fewer children and less time to spend with those they have.
"Starting families later means less kids," Mark McCrindle, director of McCrindle Research, said. "Parents may be more established in their careers and have double income, but they are also busier and have less time for activities and volunteering."
An exclusive analysis by News Limited, comparing Australian Bureau of Statistics census and birth data between 1991 and 2011, shows so-called Generation Y - born 1980 to 1994 - is waiting significantly longer to get hitched and start a family than their predecessors, Generation X born 1965-1979).
In 1991, more than 181,000 (13.4 per cent) of Gen X females and 97,000 (6.9 per cent) Gen X males had said "I do" by the age of 24.
But the 2011 census paints a dramatically different picture for Gen Y. At the same age, just under 60,000 (4.71 per cent) Gen Y females and 32,000 (2.13 per cent) Gen Y males were hitched.
It seems Gen Y is waiting longer to embrace parenthood as well. In 1991, 25.59 per cent of babies born in Australia were to a mother under the age of 24. By 2011, this had dropped to 17.61 per cent.
Monash University researcher Samantha Smith said members of Gen Y still want the traditional trappings of adulthood, but just not until they are well and truly ready.
"Marriage and children are definitely on their list of things to do. Just not yet," she said.
"Gen Ys are motivated by the desire to experience new things. Unlike their parents, who may have lived to work, their emphasis is more on working to live."
Professor Lyn Craig, from the Social Policy Research Centre, believes Gen Y is simply not ready for marriage and children by their mid-20s.
While 30 years ago it was common to start work and leave home at the age of 17, today it is more common for people to be continuing schooling and living with their parents well into their 20s.
"The cost of housing and education debt has resulted in them living at home longer," Professor Craig explained. "Approximately 50 per cent go on to do tertiary education and many do multiple degrees. This means they are not starting their working career until their mid-20s."
Mr McCrindle said with parents getting older and kids living at home longer, there is concern that Australians will be retiring while still supporting their adult children at home.
"The parental financial pinch will continue longer as there is a decline in income but household costs to maintain," he said.
Voluntary voting idea puts Libs in poll position
WHEN Campbell Newman's government discussed abolishing compulsory voting this week, it incited a debate that played out in the high-minded language of rights and democracy.
But which political party would fare better under a voluntary electoral system?
An analysis of a survey of Australian voters provided to Fairfax Media may suggest Mr Newman's party would benefit.
In the 2010 Australian Election Study, about 2000 voters were asked whether they would still vote if it were voluntary.
About 83 per cent said they "definitely" or "probably" would. But responses varied according to which political party people identified with.
Nearly 90 per cent of people who identified with the Liberals said they would vote. But on the ALP side the figure was just 85 per cent. And only 64 per cent of those who did not identify with a party said they would vote.
"In the short term, the electoral effect [of voluntary voting] would be to advantage the conservatives," said Clive Bean, a professor of political science at the Queensland University of Technology and director of the study on which the independent analysis was based.
Professor Bean is a director of the study, which an ANU political science honours student, Luke Mansillo, used to compile data on voting intentions.
Professor Bean says the figures reflect a tendency for Labor supporters to turn out in fewer numbers.
When a Liberal government introduced compulsory voting in 1922, the ALP packed on an additional 4 per cent in votes. "This is looking less than that," he said.
Professor Ian McAllister from the ANU, who directs the study with Professor Bean, said decades ago voluntary voting might have given conservative parties a two-point lead but that gap has closed sharply.
Political strategists yesterday said voluntary voting would be a test of the major parties' adaptability.
Mark Textor said Labor's union base would help mobilise votes. But how well parties narrowed their platforms to make them attractive to core supporters would also determine elections.
Labor strategist Bruce Hawker said the pulling power of unions was overstated and that a voluntary system could make the National Party more vulnerable to contests from independents.
"Both parties would have to create a sense of momentum and enthusiasm," he said.
Mr Hawker said recent low voter turnout in local elections portended the effects of a party failing to energise its base.
Despite voting being compulsory, the proportion of people who voted in last year's local elections fell to 82 per cent, down 10 per cent from 2004.
More than 630,000 people stared down a $55 fine.
The NSW opposition spokeswoman for local government, Sophie Cotsis, advocated trialling online polling booths to reach out to voters.
The state government's whip in the Legislative Council, Peter Phelps, advocated a more punitive approach. "The fines for not voting are pathetically small," he said.
O'Farrell told to man up and quit the 'sexist slurs'
PREMIER Barry O'Farrell is under fire from the state's female Labor MPs who claim he repeatedly undermines women by making snide and sexist remarks.
Acting Opposition Leader Linda Burney said Mr O'Farrell continually singled out women for abuse during parliament and had referred to her as a "witch" and a "hooker" during a series of stinging personal attacks.
The Canterbury MP said Mr O'Farrell had also called fellow Labor MP Carmel Tebbutt a "puppy" and that it was time for Mr O'Farrell to "behave like a Premier" and treat women with greater respect.
But a spokesman for the Premier dismissed Ms Burney's claims.
"Debate in the NSW Parliament has always been robust," he said.
"It is a shame Linda Burney doesn't put the same effort into policy development that she seems to put into trying to find issues to take offence at when there are none."
On October 24, the Premier told parliament Ms Burney could "keep casting her spells; they will have no effect".
In June, 2011, Mr O'Farrell said there had been some criticism of the NSW rugby league team's front row and said the team could use a new hooker "perhaps the member for Canterbury".
"He said it in reference to rugby league, but everyone knows what kind of hooker he was really referring to," Ms Burney said.
She said his attacks on former premier Kristina Keneally as the "Kim Kardashian" of NSW politics had been equally offensive to the state's women.
"To imply that Kristina Keneally was somehow vacuous and superficial is offensive; she is a highly accomplished woman and the state's first female premier," she said.
"He seems to save these things up for women. Using gender abuse, particularly in the light of the debate federally, is not on."