Friday, December 30, 2016
Man unable to read takes University of Sydney to anti-discrimination board after they reject him as PhD candidate
Would ANY university want to graduate a man who can't read? And non-readers don't seem to be a protected group
A student who suffers from dyslexia has claimed three universities rejected him as a PhD candidate because of his disability.
James Bond said his Doctor of Philosophy application for a place at the University of Sydney, Macquarie University and University of Newcastle was turned down.
The man with an IQ of 150 has lodged a complaint with the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board alleging there was lack of support services at the University of Sydney for people with dyslexia, Fairfax Media reported.
He claims the university was discriminating against students with dyslexia after he was unable to complete his enrolment because there was no access to a scribe.
Students are required to submit a full research proposal to apply for a PhD.
Mr Bond, who struggles with reading, had used audio recordings and a scribe to complete his Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Research at Macquarie University.
The University of Sydney penned a letter to Mr Bond, encouraging him to resubmit his application with a scribe provided by institution.
Going out with a burn! Sydney to swelter at 42C today as the east coast heatwave rolls on - and it will stay above 40C until New Year's Day
This is a pissant heatwave. The 42 figure is for Sydney's West only. Coastal Sydney is 37 degrees. Coastal Sydney was 42 degrees in 1790
Sydney's extreme heatwave will continue on Thursday as temperatures climb to 42C in the city's west - making it the hottest year in more than 150 years.
The sweltering heat has triggered NSW Police to activate a state heatwave plan for the next five days, advising people to stay hydrated and in air-conditioned rooms.
The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast severe heatwave conditions across all of coastal NSW, with the unbearable heat tipped to linger through to New Year's Day.
After enduring its hottest night this year, Melbourne is set to be battered by thunder storms and heavy rain with a chance of flash flooding on Thursday.
Penrith in Sydney's west is expected to hit a 42C maximum on Thursday.
BOM duty forecaster Neale Fraser said it would be a few degrees cooler in the CBD, where a sea breeze expected around 1pm is expected to cap temperatures at 37C.
Pension cuts spark ACTU, One Nation war on Turnbull
The ACTU is going into bat for rich people??
Malcolm Turnbull faces a war on two fronts with aggressive campaigns from the ACTU and One Nation aimed at unwinding his January 1 pension changes that will cut payments for more than 330,000 [rich] Australians.
ACTU president Ged Kearney said the union movement was prepared to force the issue to an election showdown while One Nation warned the move was a "sleeper issue” that could destroy the Prime Minister’s leadership.
The battle over the Age Pension follows a demographic analysis of 8508 voters in Newspoll surveys from October to December showing a seven-percentage-point drop since the July 2 election in the Coalition’s primary support among those older than 50.
Labor has also warned the overhaul will mean those moved off the pension will be denied key discounts linked to the pensioners’ concession card, which it is labelling a "double hit” for older Australians.
It is estimated about 171,500 part-rate assets-tested pensioners will receive an average of $30 a fortnight extra under the changes. Of those, about 50,000 will now qualify for a full pension.
But about 91,000 pensioners will lose access to the pension altogether and 236,000 will have their pension reduced. The changes to the assets test will affect three main social security pension types — the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension and the carer payment.
One Nation senator and pension spokesman Brian Burston yesterday argued that the changes to the assets test punished older Australians who had saved for their retirement in a similar fashion to the effect of the government’s superannuation crackdown at the election.
"I think the government’s attacking older Australians rather than those who are ripping the system off," Senator Burston said.
"I think there is a potential disincentive in the future to save for your retirement — similar to the superannuation changes. We’re getting a lot of calls from pensioners who are scared shitless.”
Special Minister of State Scott Ryan said the pensions shake-up was accepted by Labor going into the last election. He accused Bill Shorten and the unions of running a smear campaign.
"There’s a dishonest scare campaign being run by Bill Shorten and his union mates despite the fact that these are policies they took to the election,” he said.
Analysis prepared by Labor from information obtained at Senate estimates hearings shows that of the top 15 electorates where part-pensions will be cut entirely, 14 are Liberal-held seats. They include Mackellar, Cook, Menzies, Deakin, Corangamite, Flinders, Gilmore, Chisholm, Bradfield, Lyne, Robertson, Goldstein, Berowra and Mitchell.
The government’s January 1 pension changes were part of the Abbott government’s 2015 budget and were expected to claw back a budget saving of $2.4 billion over five years.
They passed the Senate that June with Greens support when One Nation was not represented in the parliament. Labor accepted the savings from the government’s pension changes in the lead-up to the July election.
Opposition Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen yesterday linked the pension changes to the drop in support for the Coalition among older Australians but argued that it still remained difficult for Labor to reverse the cuts.
"We made it clear we couldn’t repair all the damage,” he said.
"The Liberals and the Greens voted for it. This is not something that we would have done in government.”
Opposition social services spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said330,000 Australians would be worse off. She also railed against the introduction of "disincentives for people to save for their own retirement”. "We need a review into the pension means test,” she said.
Ms Macklin has also seized on the prospect that those moved off the pension in Victoria will miss out on a 50 per cent reduction on council rates, a $50 fire services levy reduction and a 50 per cent reduction on the transport accident charge.
Social Services Minister Christian Porter responded by saying the treatment of concessions for those moved off the pension was a matter for state governments.
The government has defended its shake-up by saying that 90 per cent of pensioners will not be negatively affected, but it has conceded that about 91,000 part-pensioners will lose access to payments and 236,000 will receive a reduction in payments.
Senator Ryan said "170,000 of our most vulnerable pensioners (will) see an increase to the support they receive”. They are due to receive an increase of $30 to pension payments.
The January 1 changes to the pension assets test will lift the income thresholds for access to the full pension but also impose a lower ceiling on access to the part pension by accelerating the taper rate.
While pension payments are currently reduced by $1.50 for every $1000 assets owned over the assets threshold (excluding the family home), the thresholds will change on January 1 and payments will be reduced by $3 for every $1000 owned over the threshold.
For couples who own a home, the new rules mean the income cut-off for the part pension will be reduced from $1,178,500 to $816,000.
At the same time, access to the full pension will be improved by lifting the assets threshold from $296,500 to $375,000.
For single homeowners, access to the part pension will be cut off at $542,500 instead of the current threshold of $793,750.
Ms Kearney accused Mr Turnbull of "using middle-income Australians to balance the budget” and said the changes would hurt nurses, teachers and tradespeople.
"This is conservative economics at its worst," she said.
"And yes, we will be campaigning on this until we get a response and, if not, it will be an issue at the next election."
The Association of Super Funds of Australia conducted an analysis last year of the government’s changes showing that a couple with assets (outside the family home) of $400,000 would receive an income of nearly $45,000 a year, assuming a 3 per cent rate of return.
This would include a sizeable pension payment, with the increase in the asset threshold to $375,000, making them about $2000 a year better off.
But a couple with $800,000 in savings would cop about a $13,590 reduction in their annual income and finish the year with an income stream of only $27,700 instead of $39,000 — about a 34 per cent reduction — because of the lowering of pension payments.
The government says those who lose part or all of their pensions will only have to draw down 1.8 per cent on their existing high asset base per annum to offset the changes.
Some Coalition MPs are also acknowledging the pension changes represent a tough political sales job, but have defended the need to make budget savings.
Liberal MP Craig Kelly conceded that the key difficulty with the changes was "that a couple with a million dollars in savings can appear to be worse off than someone with no savings who are getting a full pension.”
He argued that those with larger incomes could still draw down on their savings, noting that Australia remained better off than other countries in a negative interest rate environment.
One Nation’s Mr Burston said the pension cuts were like throwing "a large rock” into water. "It’s just like throwing a pebble in the water. It’s only a small ripple, but you throw a large rock in and you get a large ripple," he said.
"Turnbull cannot afford to lose any more ground. Not only will his leadership collapse, but his government may well collapse.
He said One Nation could "exert pressure” to drive changes once the new pension arrangements were in place.
Renewable energy push to hit Labor’s heartland
Labor’s traditional working-class supporters will bear the brunt of spiking electricity prices and power failures in the fallout from the South Australian, Victorian and Queensland governments’ push towards ambitious renewable energy targets.
Energy experts have warned the shutting down of more coal-fired power plants and the rise of renewables risks leading to a future where wealthier households can pay for better reliability of supply while others are left in the dark.
Most of the impact of the nation’s rapidly changing electricity market would be on vulnerable consumers who do not have the resources to invest in technologies to reduce their demand on the grid or generate their own electricity.
Australia’s Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, has warned that a class of consumers could be prevented from adopting new technologies — such as rooftop solar PV or battery storage — by a limited ability to pay large up-front costs or to obtain finance.
Dr Finkel, who is conducting a review of the electricity market for the federal government following the statewide blackout in South Australia in September, said people who rented properties or lived in apartments were limited in their ability to install new technologies.
Migrants with limited English, people with poor financial literacy and those struggling to make ends meet were at risk of paying increased costs to subsidise households or businesses able to invest in new technologies. Passive or loyal consumers who were not engaged in managing their electricity demand and costs were vulnerable too, Dr Finkel added.
The danger was that, as more consumers took greater steps with the aid of technological advancements to rely less on the grid, the cost of building and maintaining the network would be spread over a smaller number of “vulnerable” users.
The Australian Energy Market Commission has warned that electricity prices are set to surge during the next two years, largely driven by the close of coal-fired power stations in South Australia and Victoria and ongoing investment in wind generation.
Australian Stock Exchange data showed yesterday that base future contract prices for March were highest in South Australia, which yesterday had its third major blackout in four months. For companies to buy a megawatt of electricity in March, it would cost South Australian buyers almost $152.91, compared with $100 in Queensland, $63.75 in NSW and $54.50 in Victoria.
South Australia, under Labor Premier Jay Weatherill, has a renewable energy generation mix of more than 40 per cent, the highest of any state. The state’s last coal-fired power station closed in May.
Several peak industry groups canvassed by The Australian agreed that, without the correct policy settings in place, there was a danger of large numbers of consumers relying less on the grid.
Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Brendan Pearson said renewable energy targets hit low-income households harder, while the wealthy were able to access solar and other incentive schemes, the cost of which was then loaded on to other users.
“This is a double whammy for the poor,” Mr Pearson said.
Victoria’s Labor government has set a 40 per cent renewables energy target for 2025 and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has a 50 per cent target by 2030. The federal Labor opposition has a renewables target of at least 50 per cent by 2030 compared with the Coalition’s target of 23.5 per cent by 2020.
Grattan Institute energy director Tony Wood said that, while consumers would not realistically be able to pay directly for more reliable supply from the grid, those with the means could install some form of back-up behind the meter, most commonly a generator. “Of course, some consumers can pay more to have their own supply via solar PV and batteries or via gas as did the Coopers Brewery that saved them during the (South Australian) blackout,” he said.
“The critical issue is how the grid is priced as consumers change the way they use it. Volume-based charging just isn’t fair and yet moving to demand-based charging is highly controversial.
“The extreme version is that homes and businesses are charged for the grid being there even if they never use it at all. These are questions that governments and regulators are grappling with and the answers are messy.”
Climate Institute head of policy Olivia Kember said there was a real risk of large numbers of households leaving the grid, which likely would be the result of ongoing policy failure by federal and state governments. “It’s not just a problem for lower-income households, but also apartment dwellers and large industry that needs grid-based power,” she said. “Currently we are seeing coal stations close with only six months’ notice, and no signals to tell the market what is needed to replace them.”
Australian Energy Council chief executive Matthew Warren said all consumers ultimately would want to be connected to the grid, even as a form of back-up, although there was a risk more would be less reliant on it. “The reality is if we are going to have a decarbonised system that is going to be reliable, it will cost more and we’ve seen that in South Australia — it is living proof,” he said. “There are a lot of inequities in the system and they are difficult to answer. The inequities can get worse.”
Mr Warren agreed there was a risk that those with the means to invest in new technologies would become less reliant on the grid and leave behind other more vulnerable groups.
“There is evidence that the largest household energy consumers are by far the poorest,” he said.
Warnings by Dr Finkel and the Australian Energy Market Commission that power prices are expected to begin rising is being blamed for generator closures, gas supply constraints and international parity gas prices.
The AEMC warned that, by 2018, the national electricity market would be divided into two price regions: cheaper in the north, Queensland and NSW; more expensive in the south, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.
Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said energy security remained “our number one” energy policy priority. “Australians expect access to reliable and affordable electricity and that is what the federal government is determined to provide through the COAG Energy Council,” he said.
“Yes, we have to meet our emissions reduction targets, but it can’t be at the expense of the lights going out or Australians not being able to afford their power bill.”
South Australian opposition cost of living spokesman Corey Wingard said: “The surging price of electricity in South Australia is creating two classes of consumers for this essential service: the haves and have-nots. Sadly many will struggle to keep their airconditioners on this summer … The more consumers that withdraw from the grid the greater the cost that will be borne by those still reliant upon it and the greater number of households will be cut off.”
Australian Power Project chief executive Nathan Vass, said national energy policy must focus on a low-emissions future that included clean coal technologies as well as renewable generation to keep energy prices in check and supply stable. “The closure of the Northern Power Station in SA and Hazelwood in Victoria are driving up power prices and destroying regional economies,” Mr Vass said.
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