Open day to celebrate brigade’s 100th birthday

THE Wynyard Fire Brigade is inviting the public to celebrate its 100th birthday by opening the station’s doors to the public.

The station will be open on Saturday, July 26, from 10am until 3pm for visitors to walk around and get an insight into what it’s like to be a firefighter.

Visitors will be able to inspect vintage fire trucks, old equipment and uniform displays, and talk to members of all the fire brigades in the district.

Wynyard Fire Brigade chief Bruce Corbett said the brigades will conduct a street parade and perform firefighting displays.

“It’s a great opportunity to see what we’ve got and what we do,” he said.

“Everyone knows there’s a fire brigade, but it provides a special insight into the equipment we use, our training and the work we do.”

Mr Corbett said a common misconception is that the fire brigade only attends fire call-outs.

“Fires are our least common type of call-outs,” he said.

“We attend alarms, motor vehicle accidents, assist ambulances and conduct pet rescues.”

Mr Corbett said he hoped for up to 400 people to attend the open day and urged any potential members to head along and find out more about the fire brigade.

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Drought over for the Blues

PENGUIN’S 18-year premiership drought is officially over after the Blues came from the clouds to win a drama- filled NWBU women’s grand final against Latrobe last night in Ulverstone.

Spurred on by a sickening head injury to Hayley Shephard early in the third quarter, Penguin rallied behind its young star to steal victory from the jaws of defeat.

Penguin players celebrate their grand final win. Pictures: Stuart Wilson.

The Demons appeared as though they would coast to victory when they led by 17 points at half-time.

But the 15-minute break in play in which Shephard was stretchered from the court and taken to hospital after a heavy fall, galvanised the underdogs.

The Blues cut the deficit to just six points at the final break courtesy of 12 three-quarter points from star drive-in Lauren Mansfield.

Mansfield, who had an opening half well below her lofty standards, then found a new gear in the final period to literally will her club to its first women’s premiership since 1996.

She hit another 10 points on top of hauling in seven rebounds to steer Penguin home by five points, 75-70.

Teammate Danielle Dunstone also rose to the occasion after a cold start to the night, chiming in with 11 last-quarter points in a term that had a total of seven lead changes.

Penguin officials confirmed after the game that Shephard was conscious and talking, and she was taken to hospital for precautionary reasons.

“The injury to ‘Shep’ was pretty frightening and we had to get the girls away from it,” Blues coach Damon Kingshott said post- match.

Penguin’s Hayley Shephard on the floor.

“But it was at that time our leaders Danielle, Bre [Breanna Russell] and Tamika [Medcraft] got together and said `let’s do this for Shep now’.

“And grand finals are built on things like that. They’re built on emotion and it was a pretty special comeback by the girls.”

Latrobe’s experienced heads guided the club to a 40-23 buffer at half-time, with import Kathleen Scheer leading the way with 16 points and 14 rebounds.

Penguin was struggling from the floor, converting on only 8 of 43 field goal attempts.

But while it seemed to the casual onlooker that the result was all but a formality at the main break, Blues coach Kingshott said he knew his troops had what it took to fight back.

“We had come back from large deficits a couple of times throughout the season, so we had the belief we could do it,” he said.

“At half-time we just spoke about taking the deficit off in small pieces. We knew if we could get it [the deficit] under 10 at three-quarter time then we were a big chance.

“The crowd came into the game in the last quarter and we started to feed off them with every point we scored. In the end I think I was probably the biggest cheerleader for us.”

Mansfield finished with 27 points, 22 rebounds, six assists and four steals in a best-on-court performance.

The Demons were gunning for their sixth grand final win in eight seasons, but will be left to rue “the one that got away” after letting their big half-time advantage slip.

Latrobe coach Bruce Robinson said the long break in play when Shephard left the court didn’t help his team’s cause.

“That kind of stopped our momentum a bit and we had to start again,” he said.

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Creating new industries

THE mine is closing at Queenstown and a working group is forming to create a new industry in the town.

Queenstown mine

Hopefully a new industry will help transition the town to allow it to maintain and support residents in the area.

They are also looking at mining being a secondary employer in two or three years, should the mine reopen. But these questions need to be asked, Where was the contingency plan? Where was the transition model? If you can have mining as a secondary industry why wasn’t an alternative secondary industry established as an employer already?

It has been argued for years that we need to look to the future. If Queenstown had a contingency plan in place before now, we wouldn’t be chasing the tail looking for a new employer. Hopefully, other towns see this as a wake-up call and start looking to the future.



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Electricity options

WHEN the Gordon-below- Franklin power development was shut down by a High Court ruling in July 1983, the federal government promised to compensate Tasmania to the tune of $500million.

My recollection is that some $220million was provided to the Hydro Electric Commission to offset the higher unit cost of building the King and Anthony- Henty schemes over the following 10 years.

Funds were also granted for other infrastructure projects to help employ labour and equipment displaced from the Gordon-below-Franklin scheme, but I believe that more than $200million remained unspent.

CPI inflation has increased by a factor of 3.0 over the past 30 years, so these uncommitted funds would now be worth over $600million.

While I am not suggesting that we should reignite the Gordon- below-Franklin debate, there are several smaller projects that could be implemented immediately.

One of these is the Langdon Dam off Bradshaws Road near Queenstown.

Site preparation for this dam began in 1988, but work was suspended by the Hydro Electric Commission to reduce overall capital expenditure on the Anthony-Henty scheme.

The design drawings should still be on file, and so work could commence as soon as ACDC approval is granted.

Water from the Langdon catchment was designed to be picked up at Newton Pump Station, which had already been built to accommodate the additional flow.

This water would then generate power at Tribute, MacIntosh, Bastyan and Reece power stations, thus earning value for all Tasmanians for generations to come.

– DAVID TANNER, Kingston Beach.

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Delay not amusing

WATCHING the news recently, I noticed many journalists and TV presenters found humour in Clive Palmer’s antics in blocking the repeal of the carbon tax.

I ask those journalists just what is amusing about a tax that is costing the nation’s homes and businesses $11.8 million a day on our power bills?

One cold storage facility operator interviewed stated his business is paying $60,000 a month, a cost going onto the food it stores.

Every purchase we make has become dearer because of the carbon tax, particularly our groceries as supermarkets use a lot of power for their freezers and fridges, and that cost is passed on to you the customer.

What rubs salt into the wound is the fact this tax has achieved nothing except make our hip pocket a lot lighter, so the sooner it is gone the better.

– K. FOLEY, Launceston

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Reining in corruption could prevent Third World child deaths

Poor countries are losing almost $1 trillion a year to illicit financial flows like tax evasion, money laundering and bribery, which would be enough to put an end to all preventable child deaths by the end of next decade, a new report says.

If the money from those illicit flows was invested in better healthcare, the easily preventable child deaths now common in developing countries could be eliminated 20 years ahead of the present prediction of 2050, the analysis by aid agency Save the Children shows.

The Tackling Tax and Saving Lives report says half the countries in sub-Saharan Africa collect less than 17 per cent of their gross domestic product in tax revenue, whereas in rich countries the average is 35 per cent. If all developing countries were to mobilise 20 per cent of GDP in tax, 287,000 child deaths could be averted each year, and an additional 72 million people could have access to clean water. Often tax revenues provide far more financing than overseas development aid, particularly in middle-income countries. In sub-Saharan Africa only eight out of 34 countries receive more aid than they generate in tax revenues.

The powerful G20 group of nations, which Australia is presiding over this year, has drawn attention to weaknesses in the international tax regime costing governments billions in revenue. The Save the Children report underscores how the world’s poorest countries, which often have weak tax collection systems, are disproportionately affected by this global problem.

Using ”conservative scenarios”, the report estimates that as much as $946.7 billion left developing countries in illicit financial flows in 2011.

Save the Children chief executive Paul Ronalds said the billions of dollars being taken out of developing countries each year through illicit financial flows was reducing governments’ abilities to help the poorest and most vulnerable members of society.

”If these illegal processes were stopped, the funds saved could result in getting to zero preventable child deaths two decades sooner than currently expected,” he said.

The Australian government has made international tax reform one of the priorities of its leadership of the G20 this year. Business leaders are participating in the B20 summit in Sydney, which started on Wednesday as a precursor to the G20 leaders summit in Brisbane in November.

In May Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan revealed that rough estimates by the Tax Office show the Australian government could be losing more than $1 billion in potential revenue each year because of the international tax minimisation strategies used by multinational companies.

Co-operation to combat tax evasion received a fillip in February when a G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Sydney signed off on a global standard for the worldwide automatic exchange of tax information.

The Tackling Tax and Saving Lives report calls for an international agreement on ”country-by-country” reporting by multinational corporations that would require them to disclose profits made and taxes paid in every country they operate in. This would make it more difficult for big companies to shift taxable profits to tax havens.

”Of the largest corruption scandals found, 70 per cent involved anonymous shell companies with the majority of malevolent activity occurring in the British Virgin Islands and the US State of Delaware,” the report says. ”Transparency would help governments, journalists and citizens crack down on this corruption.”

The report also recommends that wealthy countries provide more technical assistance to low income nations to improve tax compliance.

”If the international community works together we can stem illicit financial outflows and recoup millions of dollars for global development,” it says.

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Clive Palmer deal saves Tony Abbott’s reforms

Labor Senator Sam Dastyari slams the wind back of financial advice laws in the Senate. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer has struck a deal with the Abbott government to wind back reforms to financial advice laws. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Super system could face revolutionary changesComment: Cormann can’t escape conflictsThe Pulse Live with Judith Ireland

The Abbott government has rescued its financial advice laws through an 11th hour deal with the Palmer United Party but the changes have drawn harsh criticism for increasing red tape and diminishing the rights of investors.

The regulations will allow financial planners associated with banks to continue to receive payments for directing customers towards the banks’ own products.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann revealed in the Senate that the government had agreed with the balance-of-power senators to introduce further protections as a condition of their support for the unravelling of changes made under the previous Labor government.

It capped a tumultuous few days during which Labor tabled the government’s reforms against its wishes and Clive Palmer said negotiations with the Coalition were not taking place when they obviously were.

The deal, first reported by Fairfax Media on Tuesday, caught Labor and the Greens by surprise and saw them attempt to block the changes with a motion of disallowance in the Senate.

The final Senate vote of 31-34 for disallowance meant the attempt to strike down the changes failed.

Labor has argued its Future of Financial Advice reforms were aimed at stopping the kind of fraud that ruined the retirement plans of investors who sought the advice of the Commonwealth Bank’s financial services arm and lost their life savings.

In a letter from Mr Cormann to Mr Palmer, the government agreed to require financial advisers to act in the best interests of their client and prioritise their client’s interests ahead of their own.

It also requires advisers to disclose to clients any payments they receive from product providers, give clients the right to return financial products under a 14-day cooling-off period, and change instructions to their adviser if they experience a change in their circumstances.

The regulations also specify that any instructions to alter or review instructions must be in writing, signed by the client, and acknowledged by the client.

The government has also agreed to establish an “enhanced public register” of financial advisers, including employee advisers, which includes a record of each adviser’s credentials and status in the industry.

The head of the government’s financial system inquiry, David Murray, expressed dismay on Tuesday that there wasn’t already a public register of approved financial advisers.

His inquiry recommends a register and higher trading standards.

The chief executive of National Seniors, Michael O’Neill, said the deal would do nothing to help investors or fix problems in the industry.

“On the surface it adds nothing to the issue at all, except potentially another layer of red tape, which was the reason why the government made its changes to start with. This was a grubby deal and Clive Palmer has treated older Australians with contempt the way he’s dealt with this today,’’ he said.

Mr O’Neill on Wednesday expanded on his comments casting doubt over Mr Palmer’s claim that he was a friend to pensioners.

”I think they’ll be looking long and hard and wondering whether Mr Palmer is all that he claims to be,” he told ABC radio.

But Mr Palmer rejected suggestions he should have consulted with groups such as National Seniors.

”I’ve been dealing with banks for 40 years, and lobbyists and advisers,” Mr Palmer told ABC radio.

”I didn’t become a billionaire by listening to advisers tell me how to do it who don’t earn half as much.”

Treasurer Joe Hockey on Wednesday defended the changes, saying Labor’s protections were a red tape ”mess”.

The government’s changes reduced red tape by $200 million a year, he said.

”I see that as a good saving for consumers and at the same time they’re getting better regulation,” Mr Hockey told ABC radio.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said Tuesday’s developments had ”humiliated” the government and let down consumers.

”We saw the chaos of Mathias Cormann being humiliated, forced to read a letter out into the parliament with Clive Palmer sitting in the Senate watching the deal that he’d done be implemented by insisting that Mathias Cormann read his letter out into the Hansard of the Senate,” Mr Bowen told ABC radio on Wednesday .

”I mean, for a government that said there would be no deals with minor parties under any political movement I lead, this just shows there’s no election promise he won’t break.”

Mr Bowen said the government’s changes to the FoFA regulations had scored a ”daily double” by reducing consumer protections from unscrupulous financial planners and increasing red tape.

”They’ve emasculated the requirement to work in the best interests of the client,” he said.

“They have wrecked it. They watered it down so far that it is, in our view, no where near as effective as it was under our administration and needs to be going forward.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Prime Minister Tony Abbott had put the interests of the Palmer United Party leader ahead of Australian investors.

Mr Abbott had promised not to deal with minor parties, he said. ”This is the mother of all backroom deals and it’s Australian investors and families who’ll pay for it,” Mr Shorten said.

The head of the Financial Services Council, John Brogden, said the amended regulations would make financial advice more accessible and affordable.

David Whiteley, of the Industry Super Association, said the changes would not prevent bonuses and other forms of conflicted remuneration being paid to financial advisers.

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Qantas to remain in Australian hands thanks to hostile Senate

Qantas: Airline to stay locally owned. Photo: Michele Mossop/Getty ImagesQantas will remain majority Australian owned after the federal government was forced by a hostile Senate to back down on its ambitious plan to open up the airline to foreign investment.

In an admission its plan to repeal section three of the Qantas Sale Act would not win support from Labor, the Greens or the crossbench, federal cabinet approved a compromise proposed by the ALP on Monday night.

The compromise deal was ticked off by the Coalition party room on Tuesday and comes despite Transport Minister Warren Truss declaring in March the government had ”no plan B” to help the airline if it failed to repeal the sale act.

In June, Labor announced it would allow the foreign ownership restrictions on Qantas contained in section three of the act, which limit an individual investor to 25 per cent ownership and a foreign-owned airline to 35 per cent, to both rise to 49 per cent.

That move is designed to trigger an inflow of investment but falls short of what the airline wanted.

A vote could go ahead in the Senate as soon as Wednesday in the Senate, with the bill then to be sent to the lower house for approval.

Other changes that could have flowed from repeal of the act, including requirements that two-thirds of the board are Australian citizens, its headquarters be in Australian and that maintenance, catering and other operations are conducted primarily in Australia, will not proceed.

The federal government’s original proposal had sparked fears among Labor, the Greens and the union movement that thousands of Australian jobs could be sent overseas by the airline.

Labor transport spokesman Anthony Albanese welcomed the government’s decision to agree to the ALP’s proposal. ”This reform will ensure that Qantas will remain majority Australian owned and that Qantas will still call Australia home, while making minor changes in accordance with the aviation white paper I released in December 2009,” he said.

A spokesman for Qantas said it was a positive that there was general political agreement that Qantas was put at a disadvantage by the sale act and that change is needed. ”While removing all restrictions that apply only to Qantas remains our preference for levelling the playing field, changing the 25 and 35 per cent limits would represent an improvement on the status quo,” the spokesman said.

Qantas has been pushing for the Qantas Sale Act to be repealed, arguing it does not face a level playing field with its major competitor Virgin, which is majority foreign-owned and does much of its heavy maintenance overseas.

In February, Qantas announced a $252 million half-year underlying loss and plans to cut 5000 jobs and close routes.

Soon after in March, the government announced it would not give the airline a debt guarantee but would instead push to repeal section three, but Labor and Greens opposed that move.

Mr Truss said the government still backed its plan to repeal section three of the Qantas Sale Act.

However, he said it was clear that this would not be able to pass the Senate and so it had decided to accept Labor’s proposals.

”The amended bill will go some way to easing restrictive ownership provisions. Qantas will still operate under restrictions that do not apply to any other Australian airline, but will have greater capacity to attract new investment,” Mr Truss said.

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Coalition gets gun-shy after week of procedural acrobatics

Changeable: Clive Palmer and government leader in the House of Representatives Christopher Pyne confer in the lower house. Photo: Alex EllinghausenTony Abbott’s hopes of quickly scrapping the carbon tax under a more compliant Senate have again been put on hold with the repeal bills not brought before the upper house until Tuesday night for fear of another mishap.

That was despite amended legislation being passed in the House of Representatives on Monday.

But the Senate has extended its hours to try to pass the Abbott government’s repeal – whether that takes hours, days or a weekend or two.

The government kept senators in the upper house late into the evening on Tuesday as it debated the carbon tax repeal, and could keep the chamber open much longer if it doesn’t get its way.

Senators will need to remain in Canberra every single day until the carbon tax is repealed and other bills considered.

The repeal legislation was delayed by last-minute backroom talks between the government and key crossbench senators, but eventually got underway in the upper house.

With the patience of Coalition MPs wearing thin and just two scheduled days of sittings left before the long winter break, the drawn-out process is straining government morale. The package has been listed among an ambitious suite of bills the government now says it wants debated to completion by the close of the session on Thursday, or it will go into an unusual Friday sitting, and possibly beyond.

That has angered some crossbenchers who say they are being ”baffled with bullshit”.

The carbon tax delay has also wreaked havoc on other priorities, such as consideration of tens of billions of dollars of budget savings bills – some now unable to be debated in this sitting. Legislation for a planned increase in federal fuel excise due to take effect from August is one bill not able to be debated in time to be enacted.

The ongoing uncertainty has shredded the government’s budget and political strategy, turning its special two-week sitting of the Senate – called expressly to capitalise on the new cross-bench antipathy to the carbon and mining taxes – into a political own-goal.

After last week’s surprise failure when the Palmer United Party withdrew its support and sided with Labor at the last minute, the government was moving ultra-cautiously on Tuesday despite professed backing of the PUP.

It was concerned that while all eight cross-bench senators say they are committed to consigning the carbon tax to history in a final vote, as many as three might baulk at the use of a guillotine to bring an end debate and force that vote.

In a further sign the government had lost exclusive control of the legislative timetable, the Climate Change Authority bill was removed from the list of those to be considered, supposedly at the insistence of the PUP.

Sources said the CCA bill, the purported vehicle for Mr Palmer’s proposed ”dormant” emissions trading scheme, will not be presented this week.

Fairfax understands there is also last-minute discussion over Mr Palmer’s belated inclusion of India in the basket of countries to which the CCA would be required to look when recommending that Australia should activate its dormant ETS.

New senators are unhappy at being told to get across vast numbers of bills in a short time.

As one insider said, ”they want to keep the new kids in school as long as possible to ram through legislation”.

”I think a decision was taken at some time to smash the new guys, baffle them with bullshit and quantity – and it’s backfiring.”

With Lisa Cox, AAP

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Top Chinese general meets PM for talks on military links

A top Chinese general will hold high-level military talks with the Abbott government on Wednesday in a move that an expert says shows the relationship with Beijing remains on a steady course.

Despite harsh words towards Australia from some of Beijing’s mouthpiece media outlets over the past week, General Fan Changlong, the second-top Chinese military official, will press ahead with meetings on Wednesday with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and senior members of his cabinet.

General Fan will discuss joint exercises with the Australian Defence Force as part of deepened defence ties between the two countries, it is understood.

The meeting follows strong criticism in the Chinese official press of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s remarks that the Abbott government would stand up to Beijing over liberal values and the rule of law, and also of Mr Abbott’s perceived playing down of Japan’s militarism during World War II.

Richard Rigby, director of the Australian National University’s China Institute and a former head of the North Asia desk at the Office of National Assessments, said the visit showed the relationship was ”not broken”. He described it as ” a very substantial relationship”.

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