Sunday, February 07, 2021

Taxi service under fire for ‘Australian’ driver requirement

I use Taxis a fair bit and most drivers I encounter are Indians with very limited English. It can be very frustrating when you are trying to give directions and keep them on the right path. So having drivers who spreak good English would be a relief

But we should nonetheless be thankful to the Indians. It is a dangerous job and not many "old" Australians are willing to risk it. I was myself a taxi-driver many years ago and, although I was wary enough to avoid getting hurt, there were some hairy incidents. Something like half of one's customers are drunk

A taxi company is under fire after revealing it only hires Australian drivers whose first language is English.

Eureka Taxis launched its service in Ballan, about 78km northwest of Melbourne, on Monday, announcing the news to locals by posting in a community Facebook group. In the post, Eureka Taxis’ Matthew Matters said people in Ballan would be able to book a taxi and “be picked up by an Australian driver”. “All drivers are: Australian drivers, fully insured (and) have current working with children checks,” he wrote.

The majority of commenters seemed excited about having a new taxi service but not everyone was impressed with the prerequisite for drivers. “Up your arse I’m a wog,” one person wrote.

Co-owner Vivian Wilson responded to the man, pointing out she is from a European background and has no problem with the requirement for drivers to have English as a first language. “I have no issues when businesses ask for drivers to have English being your first language. I personally don’t take offence to it,” she said.

On another post Mr Matters made about Eureka Taxis, a few other locals questioned what the “Australian drivers” requirement meant. “Australian drivers means that English is their first language and they hold an Australian driving licence (not an international licence),” Mr Matters responded.

Ms Wilson clarified to The Ballarat News that English as a first language was a strict requirement for drivers but they could come from any background.

She said there are a lot of “multicultural drivers” where the company is based in Ballarat and Eureka Taxi’s requirement for their drivers to hold an Australian licence was based on customer demand.

“You’ve got drivers that will sit there and talk their own language while they have customers in the car which is quite rude,” she told the publication.

“The attention to the customer isn’t 100 per cent, so we are fulfilling that gap.”

Phony emission targets

Lofty emission reduction “plans” are to virtue-signalling governments what positive life-affirmation mantras and essential oils are for trainwreck alcoholics.

You can wear all the crystals and dreamcatcher tattoos you want – but it won’t clean the back of the taxi after last night’s shenanigans.

After winning the 2019 election by promising not to follow Labor’s path on climate policy, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has now started musing on Australian carbon neutrality by 2050.

A closer look at our nearest neighbours reveals their emissions plans are bulk ambition, a bit of pragmatism and doused in so much positivity gibberish that it would challenge even Oprah.

New Zealand, where 43.5 per cent of emissions are from the country’s dairy and sheep herds, celebrates “net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases” – except for the methane produced by cows and sheep.

New Zealand’s methane emissions are higher per capita than ours in Australia (5.83 t per capita versus 4.95 t per capita).

But we are the bad guys according to New Zealand because we haven’t adopted a net-zero emissions policy – even though they haven’t either.

Being the positive-thinkers they are, New Zealand legislators have kept their target open for review every few years on the chance that scientists find a way to stop cows burping.

Fiji, which slammed nations who hadn’t signed up to the net zero 2050 target when it did as “selfish”, has just 117,561 vehicles in the whole country and doesn’t expect all households to swap open fires for electric ovens until 2030. And they conveniently exclude emissions from international flights full of tourists that buoy its economy.

We can see what Fiji looks like without tourists. COVID-19 closed international borders and left 115,000 people newly unemployed or on reduced hours. That’s a third of Fiji’s workforce, with around a third of those women.

And who picked up the bill? We did. Australia provided $304.7 million to help Fiji run during COVID-19. And they call us selfish …

Fiji’s climate change strategy includes costings of USD $600 million to buy efficient new planes and notes it will need “international help” to pay for them.

If Fiji can exclude international flight emissions to protect their biggest industry (tourism), and New Zealand can exclude methane emissions to product their nation’s dairy industry – then Australia can sign up to a 2050 “net zero emissions” too – so long as we ignore all emissions from the industries that make us money, primarily mining and agriculture.

Wollongong Council, which launched its net zero policy with the ABC headline “Australia’s steel city commits to be carbon neutral by 2050”, actually only commits to reducing emissions from council operations by 25 per cent.

Their own policy says: “That Council is submitting this target on behalf of the community … and that Council is not solely responsible for the implementation of actions to achieve this target.”

Wollongong, still the home of the steelworks, is expanding a gas capture system over the town dump.

It’s a tangible development that could have been celebrated without pretending to magic away all emissions.

Sydney City Council, which in 2008 launched plans to be an urban oasis by 2030, has promoted its ”zero-waste city” for more than a decade – but the actual target, buried in the fine print, is just 70 per cent recycled waste.

You can profess all the holiness you like, but you are not emissions free, or greenhouse gas free, or even “net zero”.

It’s the equivalent of showing off your kale and gratitude smoothie on social media in the hope your mates forget you were thrown out of the pub again the night before.

NSW Minister for Carbon Tax Matt Kean leans on Norway’s electric car case studies for his net zero by 2050 strategy, but fails to mention that the Norwegian taxpayer subsidises them by nearly $20,000 a car.

Norway, about four per cent the size of Australia, hiked taxes for other new vehicles to the world’s highest, while subsidising tolls, parking and road taxes for EV drivers.

But Kean blames NSW’s limited public charging points, the $45,000 price tag for the cheapest barebones Hyundai hybrid, and that “most garages in Norway are powered to prevent vehicles from freezing during winter”.

He also doesn’t mention that an electric car in NSW is in fact a coal-powered car because our grid is 70 to 80 per cent coal.

If we can learn anything from the “net zero” commitments of councils, states and neighbouring countries, it’s that they believe the universal laws of attraction free them of their emission addiction as long as they repeat it enough.

Universities facing $2 billion loss as job cuts total more than 17,000

Australian universities axed at least 17,300 jobs last year and more losses are expected this year, as the sector braces for a further $2 billion revenue shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Peak body Universities Australia, which has calculated the financial hit to the sector over the past year, will use the new figures to urge the Morrison government to develop a long-term plan for research funding ahead of the May budget.

Chief executive Catriona Jackson said the scale of job and revenue losses varied between universities but no institution was spared financial pain, with the decline in international student revenue the major cause of budget pressures.

“As a sector, universities have gone from being $2.3 billion in surplus in 2019 to being $369 million in deficit in 2020,” Ms Jackson said. “Budgeting was really tough right across the sector. A very large city university with lots of international students will have had a big hit. In some universities in regional areas there are very serious challenges around delaying really important capital works.”

Universities Australia, which represents the country’s 39 universities, calculated at least 17,300 jobs were shed from Australian campuses in 2020 - slightly lower than the 21,000 jobs it estimated were at risk in April. The figures comprise full time and casual positions.

It found universities’ operating revenues fell 4.9 per cent, or $1.8 billion, compared with 2019 figures, and predicted a further $2 billion decline this year.

Foreign students’ fees are a highly lucrative revenue source for universities, which collectively banked $10 billion from these fees in 2019, accounting for 27 per cent of their total operating revenue.

But the ongoing uncertainty around Australia’s international border, which has been closed for 10 months, has exposed the over-reliance by universities on the fees to cross-subsidise research programs.

In December, many universities reported steep declines in early applications and enrolments for semester one, fuelling concerns Australia was at risk of losing market share to rival countries such as Canada and the UK, which have opened borders to offshore students.

Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge warned the sector last month that it would be “very difficult” for international students to return in large numbers to campuses this year as he appealed to offshore students to begin their studies online.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews similarly described the prospect as “incredibly challenging, if not impossible”, while NSW has shelved plans to return 1000 international students each week.

Elite research universities, including the University of Sydney, the University of Melbourne, and the Australian National University, were among the institutions that slashed hundreds of jobs through voluntary or forced redundancies programs last year.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack says the Government might consider excluding agriculture from future long-term climate change targets

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared his goal is to reach net zero emissions "as soon as possible, and preferably by 2050", although he has not committed to it.

Mr McCormack said Australia could follow New Zealand's lead in exempting emissions from the agriculture sector.

"Indeed, that could well be one of the options, but as I say, it's a long way off," the Nationals leader told Sky News.

"New Zealand, well yes they've said that 2050 is a target but they've also had that caveat with their agriculture.

"Well if that's what it takes, well that's what it takes, but we're not going to hurt regional Australia, we're not going to hurt those wonderful people who've put food on our table."

New Zealand has set a 2050 target of reaching net zero emissions "of all greenhouse gases other than biogenic methane".

McCormack 'not worried about what might happen in 30 years'
Mr McCormack said he did not want to see regional areas disproportionately affected by Australia's climate change response but argued his immediate focus was on other issues.

"There are huge challenges in 2021 and we're not worried, well I'm certainly not worried, about what might happen in 30 years' time," he said.

"The concentration at the moment indeed for me, for the National Party and indeed for regional Australia is getting back on our feet after what's been a very challenging year."

Asked whether agriculture should be exempted from a potential 2050 target, Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said Australia needed to reach carbon neutrality "across the economy".

"That's what Paris requires and that's the commitment that we have made," he told the ABC's Insiders program.

"Labor has made a commitment, we didn't hear that from the Government this week.

"I'm not sure what he heard from the Prime Minister, it might have been a hope, an aspiration, 'inching' I think is the word, but what we did not hear was a commitment."




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