Browsing articles in "Regulation"
Thursday 1st September 2016 - 7:01 pm
Comments Off on Consumer watchdog taking VW to court

Consumer watchdog taking VW to court

by Alan Thornhill

A leading motoring body has welcomed the consumer watchdog’s move to take Volkswagen to court  over allegations of misleading conduct, in dealing with  emissions from its diesel engines.

 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it would challenge the German car maker  in the Federal Court.

 
The Australian Automobile Association said this is an important step in delivering clarity to affected owners.

 
Its Chief Executive Michael Bradley said: “The Volkswagen Group has been shown to have misled millions of consumers globally and is being pursued for alleged breach of laws in other countries.

 

 

“It’s fitting the legality of the company’s actions be tested against Australian law.”

 

US authorities found that Volkswagen had intentionally programmed turbocharged direct injection diesel engines to activate certain emission controls only during laboratory tests.

 

They ordered VW to pay each of its customers an average of $5,000 each in compensation.

 

The company has said it won’t be making similar offers in Australia.

 

 

“But irrespective of whether or not the Federal Court finds the company guilty of a breach of law, Volkswagen Group is clearly guilty of breaching the trust of the Australian owners of tens of thousands of vehicles,” Mr Bradley said.

 

He said, too, that Australian authorities need to do more to protect motorists and the environment.

 

 

“More broadly, the actions of Volkswagen Group have called into question Australia’s emissions compliance regime and highlighted the fact that no independent vehicle compliance testing is performed in Australia to protect consumers, or the environment,” he said.

 

Mr Bradley said the AAA itself would be undertaking critical work in this area.

 

“Amid growing concerns that laboratory emissions testing is susceptible to manipulation and does not reflect the true emissions or fuel usage profiles of vehicles on Australian roads, the AAA is investing $500,000 to conduct an on-road emissions pilot test program of 30 vehicles on the Australian market,” he said.

 

Initial test results are due next month.

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Tuesday 16th August 2016 - 12:18 pm
Comments Off on South Australian families “ripped off” on electricity bills

South Australian families “ripped off” on electricity bills

by Alan Thornhill

South Australian families are paying hundreds of dollars  a year more for their electricity than those in other parts of the country, according to a new report.

 

The report by the research group GetUp says that’s because the big three energy companies have been exploiting their market power in that State.

 

It says AGL, Origin and Energy Australia regulate what retailers can charge their customers.

 

Miriam Lyons  of GetUp   says the report, written by Bruce Mountain, reveals the hidden costs of big three’s stranglehold on the South Australian retail market.

 

And she said South Australian families, in particular, are being “ripped off. “

 

“Many South Australians are just keeping their head above water, and they shouldn’t be being ripped off by companies who are taking advantage of their oligopoly position to rake in massive profits,” Ms Lyons added.

 

“How is that, after deregulation, retail charges went from next to nothing to a huge 38 per cent slice of the average customer’s bill?” she asked.

 

The report says AGL, Origin and Energy Australia have a stranglehold on the state’s retail market.

 

 

“How is that, after deregulation, retail charges went from next to nothing to a huge 38 per cent slice of the average customer’s bill?” she asked.

 

This has huge impacts for people struggling to pay unaffordable energy bills.

 

 

Ms Lyons said the three companies are still  lining the pockets of  their energy executives “at the expense of Australian families.”

 

 

“Companies like AGL, Origin and Energy Australia are big enough that they should be able to undercut new entrants to the market ,”  Ms Lyons said.

 

“Instead the new players are much cheaper and the big guys have been able to overcharge customers whatever they want,”   she added.

 

 “When this kind of behaviour was revealed in the UK, there was a huge public outcry – yet their retail charges are a fraction of what the Big Three charge here.”

 

So far, none of the three companies has replied to these allegations.

 

 

 

Friday 15th July 2016 - 12:31 pm
Comments Off on Australian property investors “less confident” NAB

Australian property investors “less confident” NAB

by Alan Thornhill

Confidence in Australia’s property market has eased since the Reserve Bank cut the nation’s interest rates in May.

 

A survey that the National Australia Bank published today shows that the easing is particularly pronounced among property professionals.

 

In the first NAB Residential Property Survey since the RBA cut the official cash rate in May this year, housing market sentiment amongst property professionals softened.

 

The bank said its residential Property Index fell to +3, from +6 in Q1 2016, to remain below its long term average of +13.

 

“Sentiment moderated in all states except SA/NT, which rose 19 points,” it  added.

 

New South Wales joined Victoria as the best performing state, followed by Queensland, the bank said.

 

“Confidence has however improved, with the national index rising to +29 next year, and +36 in two years’ time,” it added.

 

The bank   said its residential Property Survey for Q2 2016 also found that respondents expect Victoria and Queensland to provide the best capital returns over the next one to two years.

 

“It’s still a mixed picture across Australia, with house price expectations for the next 12 months holding up well in the eastern states whilst staying flat in SA/NT and continuing to fall sharply in WA,” the bank’s Chief Economist Alan Oster said.

 

The bank said it had also revised its national house price forecasts for 2016 upwards to 5.1 per cent (from 1.5 per cent). Unit price forecasts were revised up to 3.6 per cent for 2016.

 

“Our upwards revisions in price forecasts reflects the strength in prices to date.

 

Over the last six months, Sydney and Melbourne prices have increased by an annualised rate of nearly 19 per cent and 12 per cent respectively,” Mr Oster said.

 

“However, while there is significant amount of uncertainty over the outlook for prices, we expect that this renewed momentum in the housing market is unlikely to be sustained over the longer term.”

 

Looking out to 2017, NAB forecasts prices to be flat across most capital cities, with falls particularly in Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane.

 

While the declines in Perth largely reflect economic conditions, the falls in Melbourne and Brisbane can be partly attributed to added supply and weaker investor demand.

 

“NAB is forecasting a much softer residential property market, with 0.5 per cent  growth in house prices and nearly 2 per cent decline in unit prices in 2017,” Mr Oster said.

 

NAB Economics continues to hold the view that residential property prices are unlikely to experience a sharp ‘correction’ without a trigger from a shock that leaves unemployment or interest rates sharply higher.

 

The Residential Property Survey series also measures foreign buyer activity in the Australian housing market.

 

Market share of foreign buyers in new Australian housing markets fell for the third straight quarter in a row – to 10.4 per cent.

 

A sharp fall in foreign buyer activity in Queensland was offset by growth in Victoria and a modest rise in NSW.

 

Market share of foreign buyers in established markets was unchanged at 7.2 per cent.

 

About 230 property professional participated in the Q2 Survey, the bank said.

Tuesday 12th July 2016 - 4:48 pm
Comments Off on Borrowing “not immoral” RBA chief

Borrowing “not immoral” RBA chief

by Alan Thornhill

 

Too little credit can present risk to an economy, a Reserve Bank chief warned today.

 

Luci Ellis,who heads the bank’s financial stability department said this is something policymakers need to keep in mind.

 

Addressing a seminar in Sydney, Ms Ellis said the dangers of too much credit are well known.

 

“Over-exuberant lending and borrowing can mean that some people are getting loans that they have little prospect of being able to repay even in good times,” she said.

 

But she added:  “Less well appreciated are the costs of having too little credit available.

 

“The point here is simply that in recognising that too much credit can be dangerous, we should not instead fall into the trap of thinking of all borrowing as illegitimate or somehow immoral,” Ms Ellis said.

 

“Less credit isn’t always and everywhere better.

 

“ The low levels of credit available in economies in the regulated era of past decades are not the benchmark we should be evaluating ourselves against now when we try to assess the risk in the system.”

 

“ Some activities can and should be financed with at least some debt, even in bad times – even though there are plenty of others that should not.”

 

Ms Ellis then said:  “in their efforts to protect the real economy, policymakers need to ensure that credit is still being supplied to good borrowers even in bad times.

 

A healthy and resilient banking sector can help achieve that;” Ms Ellis said

 

“Indeed, it would be difficult to manage it without one,” she added

 

She said though that Australia is not facing a credit squeeze.

 

“Let me be clear that Australia is not anywhere near having this problem,” Ms Ellis said.

 

“Whatever the concerns about concentration and competition in the Australian financial system, there is plenty of finance readily available to lower-risk customers.

 

“ But some recent examples overseas show the damage that can be done when there isn’t enough credit available

Monday 4th July 2016 - 8:46 am
Comments Off on Australia’s next PM? The one who is better on the blower

Australia’s next PM? The one who is better on the blower

by Alan Thornhill

Australia’s political leaders will be hitting their phones this week, trying to scrape together enough support to give the country stable government for the next three years.

 

The main rivals, Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who heads a conservative coalition and Bill Shorten, who leads the Labor party both found themselves short of the 76 seats they would need, in the House of Representatives, to govern in their own right, at the end of the initial, but still incomplete, count.

 

Late yesterday, Labor had 67 seats, the Coalition 65, others 5 and 13 were still in doubt.

 

The Australian Electoral Commission had counted 78.2 per cent of the votes cast, at that point.

 

It will not resume the count until Tuesday, and the final result, for the House, will probably not be known until some time next week.

 

Mr Turnbull had made much of the need he saw for stability, during the late stages of the eight week election campaign, particularly after Britain’s vote to leave the EU.
However the swing to Labor, evident in Saturday’s election, showed that voters were more impressed with Mr Shorten’s warning that only Labor could be trusted to protect Australia’s health insurance system, Medicare.

 

Mr Turnbull had sought support for a plan centred on tax cuts for big companies and high income earners.

 

He had warned that a big spending Labor government could not be trusted to manage Australia’s economy responsibly.

 

And, at a news conference today, he welcomed a question from a reporter who asked him if the election result could threaten Australia’s TripleA credit rating.
He thanked the reporter and said: “This is why it is very important … for me to explain what is happening at the moment.”

 

“We are simply going through a process of completing a count,” Mr Turnbull said.

 

The Prime Minister also said that he could still form a new government, for the next three years.

 

However Bill Shorten greeted the initial count with a triumphal declaration.

 

He conceded that the public might not know the outcome of Saturday’s election : “…for some days to come.”

 

“But there is one thing for sure – the Labor Party is back.” he said.

 

But which of these two men is likely to be Australia’s Prime Minister over the next three years?

 

The answer to that question will depend, very much, on their relative telephone skills.

Monday 20th June 2016 - 6:19 pm
Comments Off on Shorten startles Turnbull

Shorten startles Turnbull

by Alan Thornhill

Analysis

For the first time in the present election campaign, Bill Shorten appears to have seized the initiative.

He did that on Sunday, when he declared that the vote July 2 would be “a referendum on Medicare.”

In doing so, he greatly increased his chances of becoming Prime Minister.

But he still has to win 21 seats to do that.

The Prime Minster’s response, to this challenge from the Opposition Leader, was to say – very forcefully – that it was based on “a lie.”

Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in Sydney today that Labor had been ringing older people  in the evening, saying “Medicare is going to be sold off.

“Medicare will be privatised.

” This is the biggest lie of the campaign.”

“I want to be very clear. Medicare will never ever be privatised,” Mr Turnbull said.

“Every element of Medicare services that is currently being delivered by government will continue to be delivered by government. Full stop,”  Mr Turnbull said.

Labor strategists remained  cool, saying simply that their charges are “biting.”

A reporter had asked Mr Turnbull why voters should accept his  latest promises  on Medicare when his predecessor,  Tony Abbott, had not kept his.

The Medicare debate has caught fire, among voters.

Reports in Fairfax newspapers today help to explain why.

The headline on one, in The Sydney Morning Herald, says: ‘Narcissistic’ surgeons charge cancer patients exorbitant out-of-pocket costs without disclosing

alternatives .”

It quotes chief executive of Cancer Council Australia, Sanchia Aranda, saying : “the most brazen example was robotic surgery for prostate cancer.”

She said these cases attracted out-of-pocket fees of between $15,000 to $30,000, even though there is no evidence to suggest robotic surgery offered patients better cancer or functional outcomes than a standard prostatectomy when performed by a surgeon of equal skill.

 

“We know of patients who are mortgaging their houses because they are being led to believe that these flashy new types of procedures are the best way to have their cancer treated,” Professor Aranda added.

Tuesday 14th June 2016 - 6:11 pm
Comments Off on Need to vote early?

Need to vote early?

by Alan Thornhill

Early voting for the upcoming federal election has begun.

 

Voters, who can’t make it to a polling place on election day, Saturday July 2,might be entitled to an early  vote instead.

 

But the Electoral Commissioner, Tom Rogers, said that neither personal  preference alone, or personal convenience is a valid reason for early voting, under the Commonwealth Electoral Act.

 

Mr Rogers added, though, that qualified people could vote early either by visiting an early voting centre, or applying for a postal vote.

 

To find your closest early voting centre visit www.aec.gov.au or call 13 23 26, he said.

 

He said voting is compulsory for all enrolled voters.

Monday 13th June 2016 - 1:27 pm
Comments Off on Disbelief greets reef plan

Disbelief greets reef plan

by Alan Thornhill

There has been a sceptical response to the Federal government’s offer to spend $1 billion to save the Great Barrier Reef.

 

The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull,   and his Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, made the offer official today, with a joint announcement in Queensland.

 

Mr Turnbull said the reef had long been “…a great passion for both Greg Hunt and myself.

 

“As one of his predecessors as Environment Minister I took a great interest in the Great Barrier Reef years ago and always have done,” the Prime Minister said.

 

“Now what we are announcing today is the largest single investment in protecting the reef in particular in addressing these land side problems of run off,” he added.

 

“This is to allocate a $1 billion fund from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation which will be available for projects that will both reduce emissions, use clean energy and, of course, protect the ree,” Mr Turnbull said.

 

But  Labor’s environment spokesman, Mark Butler, was not convinced.

“Malcolm Turnbull claims he has made the biggest ever investment in the Great Barrier Reef,” Mr Butler said.
“But it is really just the biggest ever con job.

 

“It provides no new investment.

 

“It is just a redirection of existing resources.

“This is spin and political desperation on a grand scale.

 

“For three years we have seen the Abbott-Turnbull Government duck, weave and avoid doing anything meaningful to address climate change,” Mr Butler said.

 

The Greens and a citizens’ organisation shared  that view.

 

The Deputy Leader of the Greens, Queensland Senator Larissa Waters, said: “this is a sneaky attempt by the Turnbull Government to try to distract from the damage it is doing to the Reef by approving coal mines to export out through the Reef and cook its corals.

 

“All of this money is taken from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the government hasn’t specified how much will go to clean energy and how much will go to water quality,” Senator Waters added.

 

The Solar Citizen’s organisation was also unimpresse3d.

 

“No matter what they try and tell the Australian public, this government has no coherent plan for the shift to clean renewable power beyond 2020.

 

“These sort of politically driven, piecemeal policies will end up with us responding to emergencies rather t saidhan building a decent plan for our future energy needs,” Claire O’Rourke, National Director of Solar Citizens.

 

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