Tag Archives: fears

Drop in new homes prompts fears

21 February 2013 Last updated at 18:30 GMT Home under construction It is still a challenging environment for builders The government needs to act now to make sure enough affordable homes are being built, campaign groups have said, after figures showed the number of housing starts in England fell 11% in 2012.

Housing charity Shelter said the government faced a “housing crisis” unless immediate action was taken.

The National Housing Federation also said more needed to be done to meet the huge demand for affordable homes.

A spokesperson for the government said ministers were “far from complacent”.

The Home Builders Federation said it was “still a challenging environment” in which to build homes.

“A lack of mortgage finance is the most important short-term issue and if buyers can’t buy, builders can’t build.

“But we have seen a much more positive start to the new year with an easing in lending and schemes like the government’s NewBuy enabling people to get a 95% mortgage,” the group said.

‘Unlock finances’

Latest figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) showed the number of new builds started in England fell to 98,280 in 2012.

The number of housing starts peaked at 183,000 in the year ending March 2006, but fell sharply in the downturn to a low of 75,000 in the year ending June 2009.

Since then starts have recovered somewhat to about 110,000 per year, but DCLG said recent quarters had seen them slip back again.

However, the most recent quarter, ending in December, saw a 1% rise compared with the previous three months.

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “Despite the current tough economic environment, the small signs of increased house building are encouraging – but more needs to be done across the whole sector to meet the huge need for more affordable homes.

“We expect housing associations, who are dealing with a radically new investment framework and a huge cut in funding for affordable housing, to continue finding innovative new ways to meet that demand.”

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, urged the government to use next month’s Budget to unlock the finance to deliver more affordable family homes.

“Unless action is taken now, it’s hard to see our housing crisis improving any time soon,” he said.

A DCLG spokesman said the latest figures showed “steady improvement” compared with the previous quarter.

He said: “The government is far from complacent, which is why, despite the need to tackle the deficit, we’re investing £19.5bn public and private funding in an affordable housing programme set to deliver 170,000 homes, putting £1.3bn into unlocking stalled sites and building the infrastructure we need and making enough formerly used, surplus public sector land available to deliver 33,000 new homes.”

Lobby group fears Alpha coal mine water impact

Updated February 20, 2013 11:57:11

A rural lobby group says central Queensland landholders are opposed to the development of the proposed Alpha coal mine due to water concerns.

GVK Hancock posted its notice of application for a mining lease last month and the community has until today to lodge objections with the Queensland Land Court.

Lock the Gate Alliance spokeswoman Ellie Smith says a study of cumulative effects is needed to fully understand what could happen.

“The modelling shows that there will be drawdown of groundwater up to 10 kilometres away from the mine, but the expert scientific committee has said that the modelling that they have done does not allay their fears with regards to potential impacts to the Great Artesian Basin,” she said.

“Comprehensive modelling needs to be done.”

She says landholders are calling for written legal guarantees from the company that their water supply will not be affected.

“There are some people who are concerned by dust impacts on their properties, the impact on surface water,” she said.

“This mine means that 42 kilometres of creeks and streams will be diverted.

“It’s going to have a huge impact on the way that water flows through the region.

“They’ll be harvesting water from creeks and streams which means there’ll be less water downstream.”

Topics: mining-environmental-issues, water-management, activism-and-lobbying, federal—state-issues, public-sector, mining-rural, mining-industry, alpha-4724, rockhampton-4700, mackay-4740

First posted February 20, 2013 10:52:37

Grounded far north Qld airline fears closure

Grounded Queensland-based airline Barrier Aviation says it has been pushed to the brink of collapse because of an official investigation into its operations.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) grounded the Cairns-based airline in December last year amid serious safety concerns.

It has put a halt to all of the airline’s operations between Cairns, Horn Island, Darwin, Gove, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands.

The matter is going before the Federal Court today.

Barrier Aviation managing director and part-owner David Kilin says there is a real risk it will have to close its doors unless it is allowed back into the air soon.

“Just on the basis of allegations people can find themselves unable to trade,” he said.

“Basically it’s a bit of a David and Goliath-type battle where the opponents have almost unlimited resources and they’re very well aware of the fact that any smaller company has a very finite amount of time it can survive without income.”

Mr Kilin says Barrier is losing an estimated $28,000 a day and all staff have been stood down without pay.

“It’s getting more difficult with every passing day,” he said.

“It’s a bit hard to predict how much longer we can stay afloat.

“It’s been a fairly stressful period of time – there’s a very real risk we’ll have to close our doors.

“Basically had to cancel Christmas – it’s taking a fairly heavy personal toll on quite a lot of our staff too.”

The Federal Court will hear today if CASA intends to extend the suspension.

The regulator declined to comment ahead of the hearing.

Topics: courts-and-trials, air-transport, rural-tourism, tourism, cairns-4870

Moody’s shares fall amid legal fears

Continue reading the main story Shares in the US credit rating agency Moody’s fell 7.7% in trading in New York on Friday amid fears of legal action surrounding rating agencies.

Moody’s shares have now fallen more than 20% since Monday, when it was revealed rival agency Standard & Poor’s was being sued by the US government.

Moody’s chief executive said he had no knowledge of any impending lawsuits.

The share price fall comes despite Moody’s reporting a 66% jump in net profit for the last quarter of 2012.

Net profit rose to $160.1m for the quarter, from $96.2m a year earlier.

The company also said it expected results to be strong in 2013 despite “ongoing economic uncertainty”.

But the positive news was overshadowed by concerns that the US Department of Justice’s actions against S&P could spread to other agencies.

Three firms – S&P, Moody’s and Fitch Ratings – dominate the credit ratings industry, which involves rating assets by risk for the benefit of investors.

S&P is being sued over ratings it gave to some mortgage-backed assets in the run-up to the global financial crisis in 2007, which subsequently fell dramatically in value.

So far, Moody’s has only faced legal action from private investors, including Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, over losses related to the financial crisis.

But fears of wider legal action continue to weigh down share prices, investors say.

“If the question has become when, and not if, a lawsuit will be filed against Moody’s, then the shares are simply unbuyable, in our view,” an analyst at US investment firm BTIG, Mark Palmer, told Reuters.

Moody’s chief executive Ray McDaniel told analysts he had no knowledge of “any impending complaint from the Department of Justice raising similar claims against Moody’s [as those against S&P]“.

Large-scale irrigation fears aired for Channel Country rivers

A western Queensland Mayor says she is open to the idea of exploring small-scale irrigation projects in the Channel Country.

The State Government wants to remove Wild Rivers declarations for western Queensland rivers and replace them with a new management framework.

Barcoo Mayor Julie Groves is a member of the Western Rivers Advisory Panel, which is advising the Government on a new way to manage the rivers.

She says extensive consultation in the shire last year found that residents did want the chance to investigate small-scale irrigation possibilities, and new technology would help.

“It was just another opportunity that people were looking at,” she said.

“People were just looking to the future and not closing off all prospects.

“It will be something our council need to consider but at the present time under our community plan that expresses the current views of the people of the Barcoo Shire.

“I just think it is really important that for the future of our whole region, that we are open to those differing opportunities that technology might bring.

“At no time, no time ever, have I called for or would I like to see large-scale irrigation anywhere in the western rivers catchment.”

A local landholders’ group says it is worried about the potential for irrigation to damage the iconic rivers in the region.

Bob Morrish from the Cooper Creek Protection Group says a recent meeting at Windorah rejected the idea and people are even concerned that small-scale projects could escalate down the track.

“A number of speakers addressed that question and said they didn’t trust that either, because small-scale irrigation has a terrible tendency to grow into large-scale,” he said.

“One landholder who has had family experience close to Cubbie Station down Dirranbandi way – he expressed the view that Cubbie began as a small-scale project growing a bit of stock feed and look where it’s grown now.

“The outback Channel Country rivers are iconic rivers and among the last in the world that are free-flowing and not really tampered with by large-scale commercial projects that use a lot of water.

“The meeting at Windorah absolutely denied the idea that irrigation would bring economic improvement to this country.”

The Government says the door is not open to large-scale irrigation in the Channel Country.

Queensland Natural Resources Minister Andrew Cripps says they have asked the advisory panel to be open to the possibility of small-scale irrigation but the Government can control the volume of water it makes available through other legislation.

“So when we say small-scale irrigation, we are not saying that the door is open to escalation of irrigation activity in the future or large-scale,” he said.

“I think it is unfortunate that some people are trying to scare certain stakeholders in the community by saying that that is a possible outcome.”

Topics: regional, regional-development, rivers, environmental-policy, irrigation, longreach-4730, mount-isa-4825, toowoomba-4350

First posted February 07, 2013 12:37:06

Fears Lockyer Valley community facing weeks of isolation

Posted January 30, 2013 13:54:10

The Lockyer Valley Mayor says the council may have to airlift supplies for months to a flood-affected community in southern Queensland.

The clean-up is continuing this morning in Grantham and Laidley.

But Steve Jones says there is no access to Mount Sylvia, south-west of Gatton.

“The damage up there and the isolation of people is quite extreme,” he said.

“In fact, the damage is probably a huge amount, more than 2011 and people will be isolated there for a long time, so we’re looking to supply them by chopper at least for many weeks, if not months.”

Many Lockyer Valley residents and business owners are hard at work cleaning up after the flood.

A number of valley communities were hit, including Laidley where about 100 homes and businesses were flooded.

Local business owner Toni Teuthof says she is dealing with a different mess than in 2011.

“It’s a lot more thicker and gluggier, more dirty more this time than the 2011… the 2011 [flood] throughout the shop was more water, whereas this is think mud which has obviously ruined a lot more stock than what we thought,” she said.

Communities on Queensland’s southern border are being warned they could be isolated for several days as record flooding continues downstream.

The Goondiwindi Regional Council says flooding in the Weir River and Wyaga Creek is at levels never seen before.

Mayor Graeme Scheu says residents in Talwood need to resupply now.

“The areas out there are going to be isolated and we need to urge people, particularly in the Talwood area, the roads are open to St George at the moment and to stock up quickly because it is going to be isolated and it looks like it will be for quite a while,” he said.

Flooding in Chinchilla appears to have peaked overnight.

The weather bureau say Charleys Creek reached a major height of 6.5m overnight and has fallen slightly this morning.

Eight businesses were inundated when the creek rose on Sunday but the Western Downs Mayor, Ray Brown, says a check is being done to see if any more shops and homes have been affected.

“Obviously additional business houses have been inundated in Chinchilla overnight from yesterday,” he said.

“We’ll verify that, also verify what if any houses had inundations, so obviously some concern there this morning.”

Business owners say they are playing a waiting game for floodwaters to recede in Chinchilla so that they can begin the clean-up.

Jim Strongman’s property development firm has been impacted.

“Our company, for example, has four offices in Chinchilla, one of those has a couple of feet of water through it but because we had plenty of warning that there was a high risk of flooding we managed to empty it on Sunday,” he said.

Condamine locals are settling in for a wait with floodwaters expected to isolate the town.

Access to the town could be cut tonight if the Condamine River exceeds the major flood height of 10m.

The river is expected to peak later this week at 12.5m – about 3m short of the record flood that forced the evacuation of the town two years ago.

Resident Andrew Smith says locals are ready.

“I’ve spoken to quite a few people that have made the trip into Miles stocking up the fridge and what have you just in case that we would be isolated and it does look as though at this stage that will happen,” he said.

“We are ready and we’re experienced now too I think as a lot of places across Queensland are.”

The Warwick Chamber of Commerce and Industry says it fears some shops may not open after being flooded for the second time.

About 20 businesses are continuing to clean up today after the Condamine River peaked at 7.45 metres on Monday night.

Chamber president David Littleproud says some businesses had only just completed repairs and reopened after the 2011 floods.

“I would like to think that they’re resilient enough to do it again because all those businesses that have been affected [are] very popular local businesses, so I’d really like to think they’re resilient and Id like to think with the support of the local community that they’ll stand up and go through it one more time,” he said.

Topics: road-transport, small-business, regional, floods, activism-and-lobbying, local-government, regional-development, chinchilla-4413, talwood-4496, st-george-4487, condamine-4416, toowoomba-4350

Competition fears for regional air services

Posted December 21, 2012 10:35:07

The Queensland Government says it will meet Virgin Airlines early in the new year to discuss regional routes.

The airline and local government authorities have raised concerns about the lack of competition on routes including Cairns to Weipa and Brisbane to Roma.

Exclusive contracts with QantasLink on those routes and several others were recently extended until the end of 2014.

A spokeswoman for Tourism Minister Jann Stuckey says she has scheduled a meeting with Virgin Australia to discuss regional flights in the new year.

Topics: air-transport, regional-development, regional, public-sector, community-development, rural-tourism, tourism, cairns-4870, weipa-4874, roma-4455, toowoomba-4350, brisbane-4000

Safety fears hit more Dreamliners

Leithen Francis, Aviation Week: ‘Some 787 operators will ask for compensation from Boeing’

Boeing’s troubled 787 Dreamliner continues to face problems as more global regulators and airlines grounded the plane on safety concerns.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered US airlines to stop using 787s temporarily after a battery fault caused an emergency landing in Japan.

Airlines in Chile and India quickly complied by grounding their Dreamliners.

Boeing said that it stood by the integrity of the 787.

A string of issues have raised questions about the 787′s future.

In recent weeks Dreamliners have suffered incidents including fuel leaks, a cracked cockpit window, brake problems and an electrical fire. However, it is the battery problems that have caused the most concern.

On Wednesday, an All Nippon Airways (ANA) flight made an emergency landing because of a battery malfunction. That caused them to ground all 17 of their Dreamliners and Japan Airways followed suit.

The FAA said that airlines must demonstrate battery safety before flights can resume.

Continue reading the main story Air India: 6All Nippon Airways (Japan): 17Ethiopian Airlines: 4Japan Airlines: 7LAN Airlines (Chile): 3Lot Polish Airlines: 2Qatar Airways: 5United Airlines (US) 6Total: 50

Source: Boeing

‘Every necessary step’ The FAA added that it had alerted the international aviation community of its airworthiness directive so that other authorities could take parallel action to cover the fleets operating in their countries.

Leithen Francis, from Aviation Week, said that could mean more bad news for Boeing in the coming days.

“When the FAA issues an airworthiness directive civil aviation and airlines around the world have to follow the FAA airworthiness directive, particularly in regards to the 787 because it a US-designed and developed aircraft,” he told the BBC.

Boeing said it supported the FAA but added it was confident the 787 was safe.

Chief executive Jim McNerney said: “We will be taking every necessary step in the coming days to assure our customers and the travelling public of the 787′s safety and to return the airplanes to service.

“Boeing deeply regrets the impact that recent events have had on the operating schedules of our customers and the inconvenience to them and their passengers.”

Boeing shares closed down more than 3% on Wall Street on Wednesday.

Complying airlines Continue reading the main story

15 January: ANA flight NH 692 from Yamaguchi Ube is forced to land shortly after take-off due to battery problems. The airline grounds all its 17 Dreamliners. Japan Airlines follows suit, grounding its fleet of seven 787s

11 January: ANA reports a crack in the window on the pilot’s side of the cockpit on a Tokyo to Matsuyama flight. It causes no problems but the return flight is cancelled. The same airline says another Dreamliner flight is delayed due to an oil leak from a generator inside an engine

9 January: ANA cancels a 787 flight from Yamaguchi to Tokyo because of a brake problem

8 January: Japan Airlines cancels a Boston to Tokyo flight after about 40 gallons (151 litres) of fuel spills

7 January: An electrical fire breaks out on board a Japan Airlines Dreamliner shortly after it lands in Boston, following a flight from Tokyo

13 December: Qatar Airways grounds one of its 787s after several manufacturing faults cause electrical problems

4 December: A United Airlines flight is forced to make an emergency landing in New Orleans because of an electrical problem

United Airlines, the only US airline currently operating Dreamliners, said it would immediately comply with the FAA’s directive and would begin re-accommodating customers on alternative aircraft.

Chile’s LAN announced it would suspend usage of its three Dreamliners in co-ordination with the Chilean Aeronautical Authority.

Indian aviation regulators also complied by ordering Air India to stop operating its 787s.

“The FAA has issued an advisory to ground the Dreamliners. We took a decision after that,” said director general of civil aviation Arun Mishra.

“As of now there is no clarity on when the Dreamliners will be back in service. Boeing has to satisfy everyone with safety standards.”

Poland’s Lot Airlines, which was due to launch its 787 transatlantic service this week, has also been affected. It went ahead with its first flight from Warsaw to Chicago on Wednesday afternoon, but cancelled the return flight following the FAA’s directive.

All together with the Japanese airlines, who are the Dreamliner’s biggest customers, more than four-fifths of the 787s in use are now not flying.

Mr Francis said this could have an effect on airlines currently considering ordering 787s, causing them to choose rival Airbus’ A330 instead, which is a comparable aircraft and a proven product.

Under investigation

Late on Wednesday, the FAA said it would work with the manufacturer and carriers on an action plan to allow the US 787 fleet to resume operations as quickly and safely as possible.

“The in-flight Japanese battery incident followed an earlier 787 battery incident that occurred on the ground in Boston on January 7, 2013,” the regulator said.

“The AD (airworthiness directive) is prompted by this second incident involving a lithium ion battery.”

It said the battery failures resulted in the release of flammable electrolytes, heat damage, and smoke, and the cause of the failures was under investigation.

“These conditions, if not corrected, could result in damage to critical systems and structures, and the potential for fire in the electrical compartment,” the FAA said.

MLCs raise more forestry future fears

There are already calls for more information about each forestry area marked for protection under Tasmania’s forestry peace deal, just days after they were defined.

Tasmania’s Upper House is investigating legislation crucial for the deal to reduce native forest logging.

Just hours before the start of the public hearings, the State Government unveiled almost 160 pages of amendments to legislation needed to enforce the historic agreement.

The inquiry’s chairman Paul Harris is worried about green groups’ reactions to the amendments approved on Monday night which would let MPs exclude forest areas from protection on a case-by-case assessment.

Liberal MLC Vanessa Goodwin is already asking for more in-depth detail.

She wants to know which areas have different conservation values, such as threatened habitat, which would lead them to being split up.

Ms Goodwin says the public wants to know what is special about each of the 295 individual lots, now they have been defined.

Elwick MLC Adriana Taylor says she is worried there will not be enough wood to fill the industry’s sawlog quota of 137,000 cubic metres.

“I’m just concerned that if 137,000 is not, doesn’t provide a viable industry then the agreement is going to fall over in the end.”

Upper House MPs are criticising the Wilderness Society for not trying to rein in fringe groups which have been damaging markets.

The society is one of the key environmental signatories to the deal, but comments from its Tasmanian spokesman Vica Bayley today have come under fire.

Mr Bayley says he will not seek to control the fringe groups who are taking their protests to overseas customers.

“I’m not going to try and seek to control Jenny (Webber) or Markets for Change, that’s not my job and it is my view that they are perfectly within their right to do what they are doing, should they choose,” he said.

That has worried Launceston MLC Rosemary Armitage who wants assurances the society has not watered down its support for peace.

She says the refusal to control fringe elements differs greatly from previous promises by the national head of the Wilderness Society to actively rein in groups.

“I remember him quite clearly sitting over here and saying ‘if we have to follow them around the world, we will’.”

After being pressed on the issue Mr Bayley clarified his position to say he would pursue fringe groups in their international campaigns.

“I’ll present my view as to perhaps why they’re (the fringe groups) taking the wrong tack and why this agreement is a better approach to the one that they were advocating.”

“That’s what I would be doing, I’m not going to try and seek to squash their ability or their right or their voice but I will, and we have publicly, backed the agreement.”

But Mr Bayley says the fringe groups are within their rights to do what they choose, even if it goes against the deal he signed.

Liberal MP Peter Gutwein says it is proof there are cracks in the deal and they’re starting to show.

“What we’ve heard today, is that you simply can’t trust the Greens,” he said.

“They’re not going to demand that people stop protesting, they’re going to allow anything to occur.

“This is simply madness, it’s a farce.”

The forestry union has told the inquiry there is no real alternative to passing the legislation.

Jane Calvert from the CFMEU told the hearing timber processor Ta Ann will leave Tasmania if the deal is not passed.

“We’ll not only lose all those jobs and that will be devastating for workers and the communities they live in, but that will have a domino effect in the industry as I’m sure you area aware and have been briefed about.”

Upper House MPs have been told not to be overwhelmed by the amendments.

Environment Tasmania’s Phill Pullinger says the proposed changes are not as significant as they might appear.

“Twitter feeds in some of the media saying ‘oh there’s 160-pages of amendments to the legislation’ and my reaction to that story was ‘what’s going on there’,” he said.

“But when you actually look at the substance, it’s actually one change to table all the details of the protection order… which the Legislative Council wanted to see those details.”

One of the industry signatories says proposed amendments fundamentally alter the agreement.

The Tasmanian Forest Industry Association’s Terry Edwards has told ABC Local Radio the last-minute amendments have removed critical aspects.

“This fundamentally changes the first tranche of reserves, where now 380-odd thousand hectares of reserves can be made without there being a durability report provided to the parliament,” he said.

The Premier, Lara Giddings, has defended the timing of the release of proposed changes to the legislation.

“We had fires last week and this was the earliest that we could actually get all of that information together and we’ve released it as quickly as we possibly could,” she said.

Topics: forestry, timber, states-and-territories, tas, hobart-7000, launceston-7250

First posted January 16, 2013 12:27:01

Apple hit by iPhone 5 order fears

the main story Shares in technology giant Apple have fallen 3.5% after reports suggesting that orders for its iPhone 5 have been lower than expected.

Apple is reported to have halved its orders for the display panel featured on the phone for the January to March quarter, according to the Nikkei Japanese news service.

The reports have heightened fears that demand for Apple’s iPhones has fallen in the wake of increased competition.

The iPhone 5 came out in September.

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek trimmed his iPhone shipment estimates for the January to March quarter in December, saying that the technology company had started cutting orders to suppliers to balance excess supplies.

There are fears that Apple is struggling to compete with Asian rivals, including South Korean based firm Samsung Electronics.

Samsung has already overtaken Apple as the world’s largest smartphone vendor by market share.

Earlier on Monday, Samsung said that global sales of its flagship Galaxy S smartphones had topped 100 million since the first model was launched in May 2010.

Analyst firm Strategy Analytics has forecast Samsung will sell 290 million smartphones in 2013 compared with iPhone sales of 180 million.

Apple did not reply to calls or emails asking for comment.

Apple’s share price has fallen 28% since closing at a record $702.10 in September.

Tax credit debt collection fears

6 December 2012 Last updated at 13:22 GMT Tax credits document Changes to claimants circumstances can affect their tax credits award Campaigners have called on the government to ensure debt collectors have high standards when collecting tax credit overpayments.

The Autumn Statement documents reveal that the collection will be outsourced on a payment-by-results basis.

The pilot scheme, which will see debt collectors retrieving money that may have been claimed in good faith, has sparked some worries.

Overpayments are common as claimants’ circumstances change.

‘Great care needed’

Tax credits are payments from the government to those on low incomes.

People who are responsible for at least one child or young person may qualify for child tax credit. Those who work, but are on a low income, may qualify for working tax credit, or both.

The system is based on an assessment of what each individual may receive in income. If they get a better paid job, or another income boost, then tax credits may be overpaid and so the money may be clawed back.

At present, this is done by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), but the government wants to test to see whether private companies can take the job on. This has concerned the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group.

“Overpayments and underpayments often arise naturally as an integral part of the system. They are an inevitable feature of the design of tax credits,” said Robin Williamson, the group’s technical director.

“We must seriously question whether dealing with tax credit overpayments just like any other debt, by outsourcing recovery to commercial debt collectors, is an appropriate or proportionate response to the problem.

“If HMRC persist in this course of action, they must take great care to impose the same standards and safeguards as they would themselves when recovering these highly sensitive and untypical debts.”

The Autumn Statement documents also reveal that old tax credit debt may be recovered with lower current tax credit awards. Claimants might also have to provide evidence of any high childcare costs as part of their tax credits claim.

Fears Great Keppel resort proponent will ‘walk away’

Posted December 04, 2012 10:44:15

The tourist industry has warned developers may walk away if the proposed new resort at Great Keppel Island, off the central Queensland coast, is rejected again.

Two earlier applications by Tower Holdings have been rejected on environmental grounds and it is still waiting for a decision on a third scaled-down version.

Mary Carroll from Capricorn Enterprise says the company cannot keep lodging applications forever.

“If Tower Holdings don’t get approval for this third application they will walk away most probably,” she said.

“That is tragic to say but it is the truth.

“They have spent in excess of $50 million on this proposal and holding costs.

“They really need an approval soon so that they can start this development next year.”

Ms Carroll says approval would be an ideal Christmas present for central Queensland.

“We’ve got international destinations like Bali and Fiji offering prices that we just can’t compete with,” she said.

“The only way that we can compete in Queensland in our tourism industry is best product, best service and best experience.

“Gee wouldn’t it be a nice Christmas present to get the announcement of Great Keppel, the finalisation of the dual sector university.”

Topics: rural-tourism, tourism, company-news, activism-and-lobbying, great-keppel-island-4700, rockhampton-4700

Gold down for week on recession, fiscal crisis fears

New York: Gold eased on Friday and posted a sharp weekly loss as signs of global economic slowdown and fears of a US recession dented bullion’s inflation-hedge appeal.

The metal posted a 1 per cent drop this week and has fallen in five out of the past six weeks. News that the Eurozone swung into a recession, disappointing US economic data and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s negative outlook on the housing recovery all kept pressure on gold.

Gold sagged as the S&P 500 equities index was on track for its largest two-week drop in about six months. Fears that the United States could lapse into recession if a combination of scheduled tax hikes and spending cuts is allowed to go forward weighed on all markets, analysts said.

“The severity of the recent equities decline has cast a shadow of fear over gold investors that continued capitulation in the stock market will force leveraged accounts to sell gold,” said Jeffrey Sica, chief investment officer of Sica Wealth, which manages over $1 billion (Dh3.67 billion) in assets.

Article continues below

Spot gold edged down 0.2 per cent to $1,712.60 an ounce by 3:04 PM EST (2004 GMT), after it hit a one-week low of $1,704 on Thursday.

On the options front, heavy selling of a call spread between $1,700 and $1,670 an ounce for a low premium suggested dealers expected the market would not fall much lower, TD Bank precious metals strategists said in a note.

US equities edged up on Friday after Congressional leaders vowed to find common ground on taxes and spending that would allow them to head off the looming fiscal crisis after their meeting with President Barack Obama.

Gold’s safe-haven status could shine in the case of failed talks and political paralysis, analysts said. Extreme fears over the first fiscal crisis last year and a downgrade of the US credit rating ultimately sent gold to its record high of $1,920.30 an ounce in September.

Also underpinning gold was rising geopolitical tension in the Middle East due to escalating rocket attacks between Israel and Palestinian fighters.

US COMEX gold futures for December delivery settled up 90 cents at $1,714.70 an ounce. Trading volume was in line with its 30-day average, preliminary Reuters data showed.

Silver dropped 1.1 per cent to $32.22 an ounce.

Physical, investment demand eyed

Gold fell this week after a report from trade group World Gold Council showed that global gold demand dropped 11 per cent in the third quarter from record levels in the same period last year.

Gold investment demand, however, remains resilient. Holdings of the SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s No 1 gold-backed exchange-traded fund, rose to a level just shy of the record high hit in October.

Platinum group metals also fell after the end of strikes that swept South Africa’s mining sector.

Platinum was down 0.9 per cent to $1,555.74, while palladium dropped 0.8 per cent to $623.97.

US, European shares fall on cliff fears

By finance reporter Justine ParkerUpdated November 15, 2012 10:24:40

Stock markets in the United States and Europe were under pressure overnight, as the impending budget squeeze in the US continues to worry investors.

On Wall Street, tech stocks rallied after networking company Cisco reported better than expected profits.

But the fiscal cliff of spending cuts and tax hikes is weighing on trade, after US president Barack Obama gave his first press conference since his re-election last week.

Mr Obama said voters have sent a “very clear message” that they want the debt impasse resolved, and he urged Congress to pass key tax measures urgently.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 1.5 per cent to close at 12,571, the S&P 500 index lost 1.4 per cent to 1,355, while the Nasdaq Composite Index fell 1.3 per cent, to 2,847.

Across the Atlantic, figures show industrial output in the eurozone had its largest fall in more than three years last month.

In London, the FTSE 100 lost 1.1 per cent, to 5,722.

The CAC 40 in France and the DAX in Germany both dropped 0.9 per cent.

Futures trade domestically is pointing to a dismal start on the Australian share market – the ASX SPI 200 index was down 42 points to 4,358.

On commodity markets, spot gold has risen to $US1,732 an ounce.

West Texas crude oil jumped to $US86.30 a barrel, after an Israeli airstrike killed a Hamas leader, stoking fears about tensions in the Middle East.

To currencies, and the Australian dollar is down against the euro, as hopes that Greece will get its bailout funds boost the single currency.

At 6:50am (AEDT) it was buying around 81.4 euro cents, 103.9 US cents, 83.3 Japanese yen, 65.5 British pence and just over $NZ1.28.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, markets, currency, futures, stockmarket, united-states, australia, united-kingdom, european-union

First posted November 15, 2012 09:00:24

Electrical union raises Ausgrid asbestos fears

Posted November 06, 2012 14:17:26

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) says the number of workers with electricity distribution company Ausgrid who become sick from asbestos will rise.

The ETU says 49 asbestos-related illnesses have been detected over 20 years at Ausgrid and under its previous corporate identity as part of Energy Australia

Ausgrid recently discovered asbestos in its underground substations in central Sydney.

Company spokesman Anthony O’Brien says most of the hazardous material has been removed.

“In the Sydney CBD asbestos has been present in some substations for a long time. We have removed the asbestos from 90 per cent of those stations, so more than 30 have had asbestos removed,” he said.

The union says work has been suspended on the remainder because Ausgrid does not want to pay overtime for night work.

It says the work has been carried out after hours to avoid worrying the public.

The ETU is calling for the industry to develop an urgent asbestos removal plan.

The union’s state secretary Steve Butler says the State Government should take action, and is threatening work bans.

“The company’s wiped their hands of them. They’re now entering their golden years, they retire and a couple of years into their retirement they get a bit of a cough, they go down and get an X-ray done and all of a sudden they’re in the gun. Their life is going to be over real quick and everyone else has wiped their hands of them,” Mr Butler said.

“I don’t believe its a problem restricted to Sydney. I don’t believe its a problem restricted to New South Wales.

“I think it goes countrywide. I’ve got no doubt this problem exists in New South Wales, it exists in Victoria, it exists in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.”

NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson agrees the State Government should intervene.

“This company has an obligation to deal with it and if it doesn’t the Government should be stepping in,” Mr Robertson said.

“The electrical industry is an area where asbestos used to be used quite frequently and this company should be doing more to protect those workers from exposure.”

Topics: unions, states-and-territories, asbestos, electricity-energy-and-utilities, sydney-2000, nsw

Fears foreign disease will cripple Australia’s pineapple industry

Posted November 16, 2012 21:05:00

Many Queensland pineapple growers say biosecurity officials should conduct more research before allowing Malaysian imports into Australia.

Pineapple growers say they are a picky bunch, as they spend hours walking through thick spiky crops everyday looking for the best fruit to pick.

However, at this time of the year they have to be particularly choosy.

Growers say spring is a tough time to harvest because limited sunshine in winter means fruit can ripen earlier on some sides of the patch.

On the central Queensland coast in Yeppoon, Ben Clifton is leading his team of pickers.

It is a hot day and the work is hectic.

“Most other times of the year if it’s got yellow on it you pick it, but spring fruit is tough,” he said.

As growers push on through the harvest, they have bigger concerns on their mind.

The industry has spent more than two years fighting a request from the Malaysian Government to import fresh decrowned pineapples.

A Senate committee is preparing to hand down its final report later this month into the risk of the imports.

Growers fear the Asian imports could introduce a deadly disease strain, known as dickeya.

Tropical Pines chief agronomist Col Scott told ABC TVs 730 Queensland program says dickeya has devastated crops in Hawaii after Malaysian imports were allowed in.

“The plants just totally collapse, the fruit totally collapses,” he said.

“The worst part about it is that it can be present in a latent form, which is undetectable.”

Dickeya has been nicknamed the “ghost” disease because during the night farmers have reported hearing the infected fruit exploding.

In Malaysia, the disease has destroyed up to 40 per cent of the crop on some farms.

“If we lose 40 per cent of our production, we lose 100 per cent of our growers – it’s that simple as that,” Mr Scott said.

About 30 minutes drive away from Mr Clifton’s farm, Col Stevens and his son Nathan walk through their farm where 1.5 million pineapples are planted each year.

Nathan Stevens says the farm grows enough pineapples in Queensland to supply the demand for the Australian market.

“I’m not too sure why they would want to bring pineapples in from Malaysia,” he said.

“Secondly, why they would want to risk ruining our industry by importing diseases which we haven’t got here now.”

Australia’s biosecurity watchdog has conducted several investigations into the request from Malaysia.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) released its final risk analysis in June.

It also identified the risk of four mealybug pests and recommendation a raft of quarantine measures including methyl bromide fumigation and inspections both in Malaysia and Australia.

DAFF chief plant protection officer, Dr Vanessa Findlay, says there is a latent form of dickeya but is confident there will be enough safeguards in place.

“A small proportion that are infected will exhibit the latent bacterial presence and it’s through our inspection regime that we will eliminate a proportion of those as well,” she said.

However, Mr Scott says once dickeya sets in there is no way to eradicate it.

Dr Findlay says there are still important steps to take before the final go ahead is given to the imports.

Australian authorities will be working with biosecurity officials in Malaysia to check if they have the correct check points for export shipments.

Many in the pineapple industry argue the very method or risk matrix used by Australian scientists to assess import risks is flawed.

Tropical Pines general manager Derek Lightfoot says the matrix is geared towards producing low risk findings.

“When we look very carefully at the risk assessment that’s undertaken by DAFF Biosecurity, it became very clear that it’s quite an unusual risk assessment,” he said.

“We looked at the detail of that and noticed there seems to be an extremely heavy bias to an outcome of negligible or very low risk.

“My biggest concern about this is that risk assessment is not just used for pineapples, but for ginger, for potatoes [and] for any other product or import.”

Tropical Pines says it applied a widely used risk estimation method then compared it to DAFF’s analysis.

They found that of 36 possible outcomes, 18 were of moderate to extreme risk giving an overall rating of high risk.

DAFF’s analysis found nine were of moderate to high-risk and 16 were deemed insignificant.

The overall result was very low.

Senator Ron Boswell says the committee overseeing the inquiry has now requested an independent audit of the Department’s method.

“[DAFF] say it’s all right – everyone else says it’s too high,” he said.

“All the independent scientists say the risk is high, but when you put it through the matrix it comes out low.

“The whole decision on this relies on checking whether the matrix is bias or isn’t biased.”

The Senate committee is due to hand down its findings at the end of November.

Topics: fruit, crop-harvesting, quarantine, federal—state-issues, activism-and-lobbying, trade, yeppoon-4703, rockhampton-4700

Asian markets hit by US fears

Hong Kong: Asian markets were mostly lower on Thursday after Barack Obama challenged Republicans to accept tax hikes for the rich as part of any deal to averting a fiscal cliff.

Japan’s Nikkei surged thanks to a weakening yen after the leader of the country’s opposition vowed unlimited monetary easing to kickstart the economy if, as expected, he wins a general election slated for next month.

A close eye was also being kept on Beijing, where China unveiled its leaders for the next 10 years, with investors hoping for some clarity on future policy in the world’s number two economy.

Sydney shed 0.89 per cent, or 39.2 points, to 4,349.2, and Seoul slumped 1.23 per cent, or 23.32 points, to 1,870.72.

Article continues below

But Tokyo climbed 1.90 per cent, or 164.99 points, to 8,829.72.

Hong Kong fell 1.55 per cent, or 333.06 points, to 21,108.93 and Shanghai lost 1.22 per cent, or 25.13 points, at 2,030.29, as investors bet the new-look Chinese leadership unveiled earlier in the day was unlikely to embark on any economy-boosting measures any time soon.

Obama, in his first news conference since re-election,on Wednesday laid out his terms for a deal on avoiding the fiscal cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts that are due on January 1 and could tip the US back into recession.

He said he wanted to extend tax cuts for 98 per cent of Americans but insisted any agreement could not include breaks for the wealthiest two per cent, a position most Republicans have rejected.

Wall Street reacted negatively on fears the president’s position could spell out a long, bloody battle between the bitterly divided Republicans and Democrats that could end with no compromise.

The Dow tumbled 1.45 per cent to its lowest close since June 26, while the S&P 500 lost 1.39 per cent and the Nasdaq fell 1.29 per cent.

However dealers welcomed confirmation by the ruling party of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of a national poll on December 16, bringing an end to months of speculation.

The election is expected to be won by the Liberal Democratic Party, whose leader Shinzo Abe – a former prime minister – Thursday said he would seek more control of the central bank and push for unlimited monetary easing to spur the economy and lift inflation to 2-3 per cent.

“Only by implementing unlimited easing to achieve this target will the market show reaction,” Abe said.

An equity trading director at a foreign brokerage told Dow Jones Newswires: “A potential LDP return to power may bode well for a slew of industries, including nuclear power, consumer finance, and others in light of business-friendly comments already made regarding taxes and regulations.”

On forex markets the dollar and euro added to gains made in New York on Wednesday.

In the afternoon the euro was at 102.94 yen and the dollar bought 80.78 yen, compared with 102.19 yen and 80.23 yen in New York. They are both well up from 101.11 yen and 79.50 yen earlier Wednesday in Asia.

The European single currency traded at $1.2743 Thursday, compared with $1.2734 late in New York.

In China there were few surprises as Xi Jinping was unveiled as the new head of the Communist Party and the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, the top decision-making body.

“The major good thing about (the change in leadership) is that it takes away at least one of the major uncertainties about China,” said David Chang, regional head (Greater China) at Franklin Templeton Investments in Hong Kong.

Investors are now hoping for some clarity on future policy for the world’s number two economy.

But BOC International analyst Shen Jun told AFP: “It’s unlikely the new leaders will introduce fresh macroeconomic policies and market-moving measures in the short term.”

Eurozone fears remain in place as anti-austerity strikes kicked off around the continent, hitting Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.

Adding to worries was another steep fall in gross domestic product for Athens and Lisbon, while dealers nervously await data for Germany, Spain, Italy, France and the Eurozone later in the day.

On Tokyo’s Nikkei Sony slumped more than almost nine per cent to more than 30-year lows on the Nikkei after it said it would issue bonds worth 150 billion yen to raise cash for investment and repay debts, fuelling fears of stock dilution.

Oil was slightly higher. New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in December gained eight cents to $86.40 a barrel in the afternoon and Brent North Sea crude for December delivery fell 81 cents to $108.80.

Gold was at $1,724.70 by 0810 GMT compared with $1,725.78 late Wednesday.

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PM will aim to ease German fears over France in talks

BERLIN: French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault will try during a visit to Berlin Thursday to soothe German fears that Paris will fail to push through decisive economic reforms.

“The point of this visit is above all to speak with Chancellor Angela Merkel and tell her that we take France’s competitiveness seriously,” an aide to Ayrault, Jacques-Pierre Gougeon, told AFP.

A close Merkel ally, Volker Kauder, had said last week that Germany doubted that its closest ally in the Eurozone and the European Union’s second biggest economy was ready to turn over a new leaf on growth and fiscal discipline.

“It would be good if the Socialists really committed themselves to structural reforms,” Kauder, head of the conservatives’ parliamentary group, said Friday. “That would be good for the country and Europe.”

The comments came as feathers were already ruffled over media reports that Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble had ordered Germany’s so-called “Five Wise Men” of independent economic advisors to draw up reform proposals for France.

The panel and the German government quickly denied they had any such plans.

But the confusion was widely interpreted as a sign of Berlin’s displeasure that France could again fail to respect the EU’s public deficit limit of three percent of GDP in 2013.

“Hollande without a compass” the conservative daily Die Welt wrote Monday, referring to Socialist President Francois Hollande and echoing a headline in the mass-market daily Bild two weeks ago: “Will France Become The New Greece?”

However German officials have quietly cheered reform proposals unveiled by the French government last week including major tax breaks for businesses, financed by a combination of cuts in public spending and a hike in sales taxes.

A close observer of German politics noted that the country’s general election next year was likely already sharpening the tone between Berlin and Paris, leading Merkel’s conservatives to talk tough.

The chancellor had openly backed Nicolas Sarkozy for re-election in the French poll this year as she saw a fellow politician from the right as being more steadfast on the kind of fiscal discipline she is preaching for Europe.

Indeed Ayrault, who speaks fluent German, will take time to meet with the main opposition Social Democrats on Friday morning before returning to Paris. “Nobody is taking umbrage,” Gougeon insisted.

Analyst Ulrike Guerot of the European Council on Foreign Relations said the relationship between the countries long seen as the twin engines of European integration could benefit from a little friction.

“It is when (Germany) fights with France that it is most creative,” she said, seeing a potential opportunity to get at the heart of the issues ailing the European economy.

Crude down in Asia on US fiscal cliff fears

SINGAPORE: Crude prices fell in Asia Tuesday as traders fretted over the looming US “fiscal cliff”, analysts said.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in December, shed 29 cents to $85.28 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for December delivery fell 37 cents to $108.70.

“The oil market is falling on fears of slowing growth and the possibility of going off the fiscal cliff,” said Phil Flynn, energy analyst at 321energy.

Rival US politicians must reach a deal to avoid a fiscal cliff of deep spending cuts and huge tax hikes which would come into force on January 1 and which observers say would tip the country back into recession.

Eurogroup head Jean-Claude Juncker said Monday that Greece had made progress on its debt bailout targets but eurozone finance ministers will have to meet again on November 20 to clear the way for its next aid tranche.

Union fears FIFO workers favoured in LNG boom

By Marlina Whop and Megan HendryPosted October 22, 2012 09:50:31

A union has accused large global companies of choosing fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workers instead of locals in Gladstone’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) boom in central Queensland.

Several thousand workers are helping to build LNG plants on Curtis Island.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AWMU) spokesman Phil Golby says he has a waiting list of hundreds of local construction workers looking for work.

“Bechtel is the main company out there at the moment,” he said.

“We have CB&I out there at the moment that is bringing in workers.

“We believe that they are planning at this point in time to bring in quite a number of fly-in, fly-out workers.”

He says the union has a couple of hundred people on a list that have finished up on local construction jobs.

“People that have now come out of work that have been working for local companies trying to get onto the construction jobs,” he said.

“They’ve had their letters of interest with the companies, resumes and application forms.”

Meanwhile, a central Queensland training group, Gladstone Area Group Apprentices Limited (GAGAL), says it will be difficult for out-of-work coal miners to move into jobs in the expanding LNG industry.

A number of coal companies have shed contractor jobs in the Bowen Basin in recent weeks.

GAGAL spokesman Kerry Whitaker from says while there may be positions available in the construction phase, the operational jobs are usually highly specialised.

“Once those gas trains go operational, they’re only going to employ between 120 and 200 people each,” he said.

“A lot of them are going to have to be very highly skilled in certain areas and the others will be support staff.”

Topics: activism-and-lobbying, unions, mining-industry, oil-and-gas, mining-rural, community-development, regional-development, regional, gladstone-4680

Prices off on improved homes data, ebbing Spain fears

Thursday, 18 October 2012 04:33 Posted by Abdul Ahad

NEW YORK: US Treasury debt prices fell for a third consecutive day on Wednesday after stronger-than-expected housing data pointed to an improving economy and after Spain avoided a ratings downgrade, reducing demand for safe-haven US debt.

Prices fell overnight after Moody’s Investors Service affirmed Spain at the lowest investment grade rating, giving a reprieve from a downgrade that would have driven its debt out of some bond indexes and prompted selling by investors who track them.

Losses by Treasuries accelerated after data showing groundbreaking on new US homes surged in September to its fastest pace in more than four years, another sign that the housing sector’s budding recovery may be strengthening.

“Bond investors are admitting that the economic data is getting better and that the economy could grow near 2 percent in the fourth quarter,” said Tom di Galoma, managing director at Navigate Advisors LLC in Stamford, Connecticut.

Benchmark 10-year notes traded 24/32 lower in price to yield 1.80 percent, the highest since Sept. 19 and up from 1.72 percent late Tuesday. Benchmark yields were on track for the biggest two-day rise since late July.

The yields were nearing their 200-day moving average, di Galoma noted, and are widely expected to bounce off that level near 1.81 percent.

Thirty-year bonds traded 1-9/32 lower in price to yield 2.98 percent, up from 2.92 percent late Tuesday.

The data is the latest sign that the US housing market is turning and further improvement should help boost the economy, and send longer-dated Treasuries yields higher, said Wilmer Stith, who helps manage that $300 million Wilmington Broad Market Bond Fund in Baltimore, Maryland.

Mortgage purchases made by the Federal Reserve as part of its third quantitative easing program should help drive down borrowing rates further, and more economic improvement is likely once uncertainty around November’s presidential election and the fiscal cliff pass.

“If businesses start to feel more confident once the political clouds are past we will see long term interest rates start to rise as inflation rises, and as the economy starts to improve,” he said.

Stith said he is overweight the five- to seven-year notes, which he says offer the best risk-adjusted returns, and sees longer-dated debt as most at risk of yield increases.

Two-year swap spreads also continued to tighten on Wednesday, likely reflecting an uptick in lending as investors search for higher-yielding assets due to the very low interest rate environment.

The two-year swaps spread tightened by over a half a basis point to 8.5 basis points.

Copyright Reuters, 2012

Fears coal port plans threaten reef

Posted October 18, 2012 09:51:21

A central Queensland conservation group says there is no way a proposed coal port development south of Rockhampton could be built without damaging the Great Barrier Reef.

The Mitchell Group is due to release the environmental impact statement for its proposed Fitzroy Terminal within the next two months.

The project includes a system to transfer coal from barges onto ships with a capacity to export 22 million tonnes of coal a year.

However, Ginny Gerlach from the Keppel and Fitzroy Delta Alliance, says it will have major consequences on the environment.

“The UNESCO report clearly indicates that the Port Alma Fitzroy Delta area is not considered an existing major port,” she said.

“It has never shipped coal – iit’s the last in tact estuarine feeding into the Great Barrier Reef.

“This is not an area we should be messing with.”

She says there are enough coal ports in the region already.

“We understand that the resources boom is critical to our region and it does provide financial security to many of our residents,” she said.

“However, we are saying be sensible about this, optimise and maximise existing port facilities before you even think building any new ones.”

Topics: great-barrier-reef, coal, activism-and-lobbying, federal—state-issues, mining-rural, mining-environmental-issues, mining-industry, sea-transport, port-alma-4699, rockhampton-4700

Fears Qld gas export boom may spark local downturn

Posted October 17, 2012 13:29:39

A report released today indicates Queensland’s gas export boom could cause a slowdown of the national economy.

The report, compiled by the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research, suggests the price of gas in Australia’s eastern states will increase significantly over coming years because not enough gas is being set aside for domestic use.

It warns that will lead to a reduction in usage and a local industry downturn which will not be offset by the economic benefits from liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports centred on Gladstone in central Queensland.

Innes Willox from the Australian Industry Group, which commissioned the report, says local business will suffer.

“We’re a high cost economy, we have high unit labour costs, rising input costs, all of these issues are at play and go to the heart of our competitiveness,” he said.

He is urging further debate on gas policy.

Topics: oil-and-gas, trade, economic-trends, community-development, regional-development, regional, gladstone-4680

Fears mining boom limits caravan tourism

By Eric Tlozek, Brock Taylor and Kim KleidonUpdated October 16, 2012 12:33:33

Queensland’s caravan and camping industry say the mining boom is proving a serious threat to rural tourism.

The Campervan and Motorhome Club is warning mining bookings are causing accommodation and camping area shortages in regional destinations.

Club spokesman Ken Kipping says the State Government and local councils should open up more land for caravans and motorhomes or tourists will simply opt for other states.

“They’ve got to open up more areas – full stop, that’s the bottom line – certainly for the self-contained vehicles,” he said.

“They’ve got to just open up some more land where they can stop and shop and stay in that area for a few weeks or whatever time they need.”

Mackay Tourism general manager David Phillips says his region needs to do more to capitalise on the growing caravan market, during the mining boom.

Mr Phillips says unused sites such as the Mackay Showgrounds should be utilised to attract travelling retirees.

“It’s a logical place and it’s central in the city,” he said.

“It always baffles me that we can accommodate a circus full of caravans for a week, but we turn people away when the commercial caravan parks are full – we can’t take them there.

“I think that should be a temporary or overflow situation that we should kick into action.”

Topics: rural-tourism, tourism, activism-and-lobbying, mining-rural, toowoomba-4350, rockhampton-4700, mount-isa-4825, mackay-4740, longreach-4730, gladstone-4680

First posted October 16, 2012 09:08:38

Cubbie sale prompts Indigenous job fears

Updated October 11, 2012 11:11:05

An Aboriginal elder in south-west Queensland says she fears the sale of Cubbie Station to overseas investors because they are unlikely to continue schemes to encourage Indigenous job creation.

Australia’s largest cotton grower at Dirranbandi went into voluntary administration three years ago.

The Federal Government has recently approved the station’s sale to a Chinese-led consortium.

The previous managers had a program supporting Indigenous training and employment, but Aboriginal elder Judy Young doubts that will continue.

“It was training them how to be farmers and things like that,” she said.

“How to help them at work and to better themselves, instead of sitting at home drinking grog all day – that’s what they were doing.

“They know they’re not going to get the work that they were getting before.”

However, St George district cotton grower Ian Todd says locals should have nothing to fear from Cubbie Station being bought by an overseas investor.

Mr Todd says foreign ownership is preferable to the station being run by administrators.

“I would just as soon as see the spoils of what they do go to an investor who cares about commodities with an Australian entity running it,” he said.

“[Rather] than I would see the profits go to bankers who are charging exorbitant interest rates and administrators, who are charging fees that are just taking all of the cream out of the business for them.”

Topics: federal—state-issues, activism-and-lobbying, cotton, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, company-news, community-development, regional, regional-development, dirranbandi-4486, longreach-4730, toowoomba-4350, st-george-4487

First posted October 11, 2012 09:57:02

MP downplays Greenpeace Abbot Point coal terminal fears

Posted October 10, 2012 11:05:56

Mackay Federal MP George Christensen says Greenpeace is clutching at straws in its latest attempt at stopping the proposed expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal in north Queensland.

The environmental group says documents obtained under freedom of information showed Hancock Coal Infrastructure did not recognise the importance of the nearby Caley Valley wetlands.

However Mr Christensen, the Federal Member for Dawson, says conservation groups have been involved in community reference groups throughout the process.

He says Greenpeace’s concerns are deeper than issues about the wetlands.

“These are not new issues and I find it almost vexatious that it comes out at the 11th hour,” he said.

“The reason it’s coming out now is that we hope that within the next month the Environment Minister is going to give the federal approval to the expansion of what’s going on at Abbot Point.”

Topics: federal—state-issues, mining-rural, mining-environmental-issues, mining-industry, coal, mackay-4740, bowen-4805, townsville-4810

Fears CSG threatens north-west minerals investment

Posted October 12, 2012 11:07:50

The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) says the state’s north-west minerals province risks being overlooked for new investment due to focus on coal seam gas (CSG) activity and coal in the central region.

Industry representatives have been meeting in Mount Isa this week for a mining conference.

QRC spokesman Andrew Barger says the north-west produces a range of different minerals and products and needs a more united front to promote itself as a region of opportunities.

“It’s very easy for the region to be overlooked for an investor based in the south-east corner when you’ve got all the coal seam gas activity,” he said.

“I think it is just that sense of being seen as a province, being seen as a real engine room of the Queensland economy, and people starting to realise how much value is driven out of this part of the world.”

Topics: mining-rural, oil-and-gas, mining-industry, coal, activism-and-lobbying, federal—state-issues, mount-isa-4825, longreach-4730, toowoomba-4350, bundaberg-4670

Fears exploration permits policy to create inequity

Posted October 10, 2012 11:26:53

The group representing mineral exploration businesses says a new Queensland Government policy will give unfair advantage to large mining companies.

The State Government plans to introduce a competitive cash bidding process for exploration permits on coal, petroleum and gas tenements.

Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) spokesman Bernie Hogan says the changes will make the process less competitive.

“They have to prove already that they have the wherewithal, the funds, the technical expertise to explore those areas,” he said.

“All this process really does is ensure that the most prospective land will end up with those with more funds in the bank.”

He says the policy creates inequity.

“AMEC expects that this will further disadvantage the mid-tier miners because they just simply cannot compete with multinationals in a straight-out cash bid,” he said.

“It definitely hands the tenements to the larger end of the industry.”

Mr Hogan says he is also concerned the policy could be expanded to other commodities such as gold.

Topics: activism-and-lobbying, public-sector, mining-rural, mining-industry, mount-isa-4825, longreach-4730, mackay-4740, rockhampton-4700, toowoomba-4350

Innovation fears over smartphone ‘patent wars’

Updated October 11, 2012 23:21:52

They’re known as the ‘patent wars’ – a series of high stakes legal battles being fought between some of the world’s biggest tech companies, vying for a share of a global smartphone market worth $200 billion a year.

In the latest salvo, a California jury awarded more than $1 billion against South Korea’s Samsung for illegally copying features from Apple’s iPhone and iPad.

For an industry where the launch of a smartphone or tablet has become an eagerly awaited event, and software changes and designs spark vehement debate, that decision has proved controversial.

Matthew Swinn, IP Partner from Corrs Chambers Westgarth Lawyers says in a fiercely competitive market, innovation – and protecting that innovation – has been the key to success.

“Apple has made its mission to create products which are good to look at and easy to use,” he said.

“That’s its marketing advantage, that’s the reason it can charge more for its devices than other competitors, so I think it’s entirely to be expected that Apple will use every tool at its disposal to defend that turf.”

One of the biggest of those tools is a combative approach to patent claims – an approach revealed by a New York Times investigation as a deliberate strategy.

In 2006, just before the release of the first iPhone, Apple agreed to pay $100 million to a Singaporean firm, Creative Technology, to settle a claim against the iPod.

Apple’s then-CEO, the late Steve Jobs, was said to be bruised by the experience.

Steve said ‘we want to patent it all’ – and this is paying off, because the breadth of patents they have is enabling them now to dominate.

Ross Dawson, Technology analyst

Technology analyst Ross Dawson says Jobs told his lawyers that from then on, they should patent everything Apple could come up with.

“Steve said ‘we want to patent it all’,” he said.

“And this is paying off, because the breadth of patents they have is enabling them now to dominate, to potentially pick up $1 billion from its arch rival Samsung, and to dominate the landscape.”

That $1 billion pay day came courtesy of a Californian jury, which found that Samsung had infringed six of the seven patents in dispute.

Matthew Swinn says the patents related to both functionality and design.

“On the one hand, there were patents for the way things work – overscroll bounce, tap to zoom, and pinch to zoom,” he said.

“And there were three design patents, one for the look of the iPhone, one for the look of the iPad, and one for the appearance of the icons on the iPhone homescreen.”

Samsung is the world’s biggest smartphone maker, while Apple is the most valuable company in the world, and together they control more than half the global market.

“It is a big award of damages,” Mr Swinn said.

“In the context of the smartphone sales though, and in particular in the context of Samsung’s larger business, it’s still a drop in the bucket.”

Samsung has been just as aggressive in its response – counter-suing Apple for allegedly infringing its own patents and alleging juror misconduct.

All up, the world’s two biggest smartphone makers are battling it out in 10 courtrooms around the world.

The final ruling in the US case is still to come, but Samsung says if the verdict stands, consumers can expect fewer choices, less innovation and potentially higher prices.

With 200,000 patents covering the smartphone market alone, there are growing concerns the ‘patent wars’ are stifling innovation, especially among smaller start-ups.

Technology analyst Ross Dawson says some of the patents are so broad and so vague, it’s become difficult for software designers to avoid overstepping the mark.

“More and more true innovation in the start-up space is being stymied because there are large companies that are blocking that, or suing small companies that don’t have ability to respond,” he said.

“So clearly we’re seeing the current patent landscape detrimental to start-ups, and [to] a lot of innovation that would be greatly beneficial to consumers and society.”

But Matthew Swinn is more sceptical of the impact – particularly to the larger companies.

I think that large companies like Samsung when faced with patent blockers, whether Apple or not, will use that as an opportunity to innovate around them

Matthew Swinn, Intellectual Property lawyer

“I think that large companies like Samsung when faced with patent blockers, whether Apple or not, will use that as an opportunity to innovate around them,” he said.

“[We] will continue to see better, new devices come to the market which is probably good for consumers.”

It’s estimated that buying and litigating over patents have cost the smartphone industry as much as $20 billion in the last two years, and Ross Dawson says that needs to change.

“It’s clear that the patent system today is broken, and one radical proposal which merits consideration is doing away with patents altogether,” he said.

“We do need to be able to find innovation that rewards companies, but we also need to be sure their ideas can be taken and built out – so patents need to be an enabler, not a blocker of innovation.”

Topics: mobile-phones, electronics, international-law, copyright, korea-republic-of, united-states, asia

First posted October 11, 2012 21:41:56

Fears Qld’s gas export boom threatens carbon emissions

Updated October 09, 2012 11:35:04

Analysts say central Queensland’s developing gas export industry could increase Australia’s carbon emissions.

It is estimated Gladstone’s liquefied natural gas plants will produce more than 30 million tonnes of gas per year for export within the decade.

The LNG will be shipped to Asia where it is valued up to four times higher than domestically.

CQUniversity economics professor John Rolfe says that will impact on domestic prices.

“Gas prices could increase two to three times if current world prices stay at their levels at the moment,” he said.

“That is quite worrying for those businesses and industries that are currently sourcing gas in Australia.”

Corporate analyst Peter Strachan says higher domestic prices as a result of exports could discourage local power producers from using gas.

He says the proposed development is counter-intuitive to emission reduction efforts, because LNG has lower carbon dioxide emissions than coal.

“Power producers are going to be forced to move away from gas, which is a cleaner burning, more efficient source of energy,” he said.

Gas exports from Gladstone to Asia are expected to start in 2014.

Topics: oil-and-gas, trade, pollution, mining-environmental-issues, mining-rural, greenhouse-gas, gladstone-4680

First posted October 09, 2012 10:57:29

China exports data eases fears of global recession

Beijing: China’s exports rose at the fastest pace in three months in September, easing concerns that the global economy is heading for the first recession since 2009.

Overseas shipments increased 9.9 per cent from a year earlier, the customs administration said on Saturday in Beijing. That was more than the 5.5 per cent median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of economists and a 2.7 per cent gain in August. Imports rose 2.4 per cent, leaving a $27.7 billion trade surplus, the biggest since June.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned this week of an alarmingly high risk of a deeper global slowdown unless officials in the US and Europe address threats to their economies. China’s widening surplus may provide ammunition to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who pledges to designate the nation a currency manipulator if elected, a step the US government hasn’t taken since 1994.

“We could see China’s export growth maintained at 8-9 per cent in the fourth quarter,” said Liu Li-gang, a Hong Kong-based economist with Australia & New Zealand Banking Group, citing improved US consumer sentiment and favorable year- earlier bases for comparison. “But growth of more than 10 per cent is unlikely as a recession in Europe won’t change China’s export outlook there.”

Article continues below

Anti-China rhetoric may become stronger in the lead-up to the presidential election on November 6, said Liu, adding that the yuan, near a 19-year high against the dollar, may appreciate until then in response to the pressure. The Chinese currency closed last week at 6.2672 per dollar.

World outlook

“Recession in the Eurozone, the possible fiscal cliff in the US and the dispute with Japan will likely cap the upside” for China’s exports in the months ahead, said Ding Shuang, a Hong Kong-based economist with Citigroup Inc., referring to looming US spending cuts and tax increases, and a dispute between China and Japan over the ownership of islands.

The IMF’s steering committee yesterday added to cautions on the global outlook, saying in a statement in Tokyo that policy makers “need to act decisively to break negative feedback loops and restore the global economy to a path of strong, sustainable and balanced growth.”

The trade report was after data that showed slower-than- forecast loan growth in September and ahead of inflation and gross domestic product numbers next week. Banks extended 623.2 billion yuan ($99.5 billion) of local-currency loans, the central bank said October 12. That compared with the median estimate of 700 billion yuan in a Bloomberg News survey of economists.

Money supply

At the same time, China’s M2 money supply gained 14.8 per cent in September, the fastest pace since June 2011, a central bank report showed yesterday. The nation’s foreign- exchange reserves, the world’s largest, rose to $3.29 trillion at the end of September from $3.24 trillion at the end of June, it said.

Premier Wen Jiabao is struggling to reverse a slowdown without swelling bad loans or fueling inflation as the Communist Party prepares for a once-a-decade leadership transition starting next month. The central bank has refrained from cutting interest rates since July, in contrast with its counterparts in South Korea, Brazil and Australia.

The IMF this week reduced its estimate for China’s growth this year to 7.8 per cent, which would be the weakest pace since 1999, from 8 per cent. Alcoa Inc., the largest US aluminum producer, meanwhile, cut its forecast for global consumption of the metal on slowing Chinese demand.

US trade

The trade data indicated that the value of China’s exports to the US exceeded its imports from the nation by about $21 billion. US Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said in Tokyo that while “some progress” has been made toward a more balanced economic relationship with China, more is needed.

Also in Tokyo for IMF meetings, Chinese central bank Deputy Governor Yi-gang said that the absence of a credible plan for fiscal consolidation is slowing the US recovery and hurting the rest of the world. Yi said that China’s growth remains “robust.”

China’s gross domestic product probably expanded 7.4 per cent in the third quarter from a year earlier, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey, the seventh quarterly deceleration.

The nation’s exports climbed to a record last month as sales to the US increased at the fastest pace in three months. Shipments to Japan rose for the first time since June and those to Southeast Asian nations jumped 25.5 per cent. The gains helped counter a 10.7 per cent drop in exports to the European Union.

Copper shipments

Copper imports climbed to a four-month high in September while purchases of iron ore were the biggest in volume terms since January 2011, customs data show.

The trade surplus was higher than the $20.5 billion median forecast in a survey of analysts and compared with a $26.66 billion excess in August. The surplus for the first nine months rose 38 per cent from a year earlier to $148.3 billion, customs data show.

Import growth compared with the median estimate in another Bloomberg News survey for a 2.4 per cent gain. Inbound shipments recorded the first non-holiday drop in August since 2009.

PrintEmail a friend More from Economy China’s central bank says inflation is priority China exports data eases recession fears Balance austerity with growth: IMF China September trade bounces

Asian markets lose ground on Europe fears

HONG KONG: Asian markets fell on Monday as concerns over the eurozone debt crisis overshadowed surprisingly good jobs data from the United States showing unemployment almost at a four-year low.

An underwhelming return for Shanghai after a week-long holiday added to the glum outlook for the day, while the euro erased gains made in New York on Friday.

In early trade Hong Kong was 0.71 percent lower and Shanghai lost 0.33 percent, while Sydney eased 0.34 percent and Seoul fell 0.70 percent.

Tokyo was closed for a public holiday.

Wall Street provided an anaemic lead despite figures from the Labor Department showing the official jobless rate fell to 7.8 percent in September, down from the previous 8.1 percent and the lowest level since January 2009, the month that President Barack Obama took office.

The data from its establishment survey was less buoyant, showing a modest 114,000 net new jobs produced, but previous months were revised higher, underpinning the better showing in the September data.

US investors initially sent shares soaring after the numbers were released before those gains were wiped out. The Dow closed up 0.26 percent, the S&P 500 ended flat and the Nasdaq eased 0.42 percent.

And while the closely-watched jobs data provided some hope for the world’s number one economy, the ongoing crisis in Europe continued to take its toll on sentiment.

There was a cautious tone as the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) was to launch later Monday with an inaugural board meeting, and European Union finance ministers were to meet.

Benchmark JGBs rise as fears of slowing growth hit stocks

Wednesday, 10 October 2012 12:16 Posted by Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui

bond TOKYO: Benchmark Japanese government bonds rose on Wednesday as slumping stocks offset the supply concerns that weighed on longer maturities ahead of the next day’s 30-year sale.

The Nikkei share average skidded 2 percent to a two-month closing low on fears that slowing global growth would hurt upcoming corporate earnings results.

The JGB yield curve steepened as investors sold superlong debt to make room in their portfolios to buy at the auction, with the spread between the 10-year and 30-year yields rising as high as 1.165 points, its widest since March 2008.

The Ministry of Finance will offer 700 billion yen ($8.9 billion) of 30-year bonds on Thursday with an expected coupon of 1.90 percent, matching that of the previous sale which was set below the 2.0-percent level for the first time since July 2003.

Despite the lower coupon, demand was decent at last month’s sale, and many investors and expect a smooth sale this month as well with the 30-year bond at its current levels.

“I’m not pessimistic. I think there is enough value in the 30-year bond,” said Tadashi Matsukawa, head of Japan fixed income at Pinebridge Investments in Tokyo.

“The 30-year sector has underperformed a lot versus the 10-year sector, so I think there’s value at this level, and investors are willing to buy,” he said.

JGBs also got support from firm US Treasuries prices, which rose after the International Monetary Fund warned about slowing growth on Tuesday.

With the risk that Japan’s gross domestic product growth will turn negative over the next few quarters, and in the absence of any fiscal stimulus activity, strategists at RBS Securities Japan say it is unclear whether monetary policy can sustain inflation expectations.

“Investors, hence, might at least prefer bull flattening in anticipation of deflation concerns. We expect sharp movement in a reversal because steepening appears to be the existing consensus position,” they said in a note to clients on Wednesday.

The 10-year yield fell half a basis point to 0.765 percent, moving back towards an eight-week low of 0.755 percent hit last week.

Ten-year JGB futures ended up 0.03 point at 144.18, after rising as high as 144.23.

Futures briefly broke below their 14-day moving average on Tuesday for the first time since pulling above it on Sept. 24. But they retook it before the close and on Wednesday they remained solidly above that technical level, now at 144.09.

Superlong maturities drooped, with yields on 30-year debt adding 1.5 basis points to 1.930 percent, and those on 20-year bonds rising 1 basis point to 1.660 percent.

Copyright Reuters, 2012

Asian markets lose ground on Europe fears

HONG KONG: Asian markets fell on Monday as concerns over the Eurozone debt crisis overshadowed surprisingly good jobs data from the United States showing unemployment close to a four-year low.

An underwhelming return for Shanghai after a week-long holiday added to the glum outlook for the day, while the euro erased gains made in New York on Friday.Sydney eased 0.28 percent, or 12.5 points, to 4,481.9 while Seoul closed 0.67 percent, or 13.28 points, off at 1,981.89.

In afternoon trade Hong Kong was 0.61 percent lower and Shanghai lost 0.84 percent.Tokyo was closed for a public holiday.Wall Street provided an anemic lead despite figures from the Labor Department showing the official jobless rate fell to 7.8 percent in September, down from the previous 8.1 percent and the lowest level since January 2009, the month that President Barack Obama took office.

The data from its establishment survey was less buoyant, showing a modest 114,000 net new jobs produced, but previous months were revised higher, underpinning the better showing in the September data.

US investors initially sent shares soaring after the numbers were released before those gains were wiped out. The Dow closed up 0.26 percent, the S&P 500 ended flat and the Nasdaq eased 0.42 percent.

And while the closely-watched jobs data provided some hope for the world’s number one economy, the ongoing crisis in Europe continued to take its toll on sentiment.

There was a cautious tone as the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) was to launch later Monday with an inaugural board meeting, and European Union finance ministers were due to meet.

Last-minute disagreements over key ESM commitments have surfaced with Germany, the Netherlands and Finland arguing that the fund should not be used to help banks already bailed out before it became operational.

This represents a potential blow for the likes of Ireland, which went bust after trying to keep its lenders afloat, and for Spain, which has also recapitalised some of its banks and secured 100 billion euros from its Eurozone partners to do more.

There are concerns Greece will not get its next tranche of much needed bailout cash as it struggles to resolve differences with its EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund creditors over its austerity budget.

And despite its parlous finances Spain continues to refuse to ask for a rescue that would also allow the ECB to enter the debt market to lower Madrid’s borrowing costs.

“We saw on Friday the jobs data come out that was in line with expectations in terms of the payrolls, and US unemployment ticked down… Focus has moved back towards Europe,” Jason Hughes, head of premium client management for IG Markets Singapore, told AFP.

“It looks like we’re still going to have a wait-and-see approach from Spain. There isn’t much pressure in the secondary bond markets at the moment to cause them to need to really act quickly,” Hughes added.

The euro was trading at $1.2975 compared with $1.3031 late Friday in New York, while it was at 101.96 yen, from 102.48 yen. The single currency lost the advances it had made on Friday in the wake of the US jobs data.

The dollar fetched 78.53 yen from 78.64 yen.Shanghai’s negative return also weighed on Hong Kong dealers, with expectations dashed that a slight uptick in manufacturing activity would spur buying on the mainland.

On oil markets New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in November, shed 72 cents to $89.16 a barrel in the afternoon and Brent North Sea crude for November fell 62 cents to $111.40.

Gold was at $1,769.70 at 0625 GMT compared with $1,789.90 on Monday.In other markets: Taipei fell 0.97 percent, or 74.76 points, to 7,615.89.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. shed 2.09 percent at Tw$89.1 while Hon Hai Precision was 1.88 percent lower at Tw$88.7.

Wellington rose 0.49 percent, or 19.05 points, to 3,923.91.

Contact Energy was up 2.43 percent at NZ$5.47 and Fletcher Building gained 0.13 percent to close at NZ$7.48.

Pharma industry’s fears: Free trade may bring inferior drugs from India

PPMA former chief says Pakist­an’s medici­nes are of far better qualit­y than India.  Pakistan’s pharmaceutical exports were over $150 million in 2011, and are now touching the mark of $200 million a year. PHOTO: FILE


The bigwigs of the pharmaceutical industry are upset with the government. On the one hand, they claim, it has wreaked havoc on local drug manufacturers by passing the 18th Amendment, which turned the health sector from a federal subject into a provincial one.

On the other hand, they say, the government is about to destroy their businesses by lifting trade restrictions that have so far protected local players from their Indian counterparts.

“Out of India’s roughly 25,000 drug manufacturers, only a 100 or so are foreign accredited, with state-of-the-art facilities and standardised, quality products. They produce high-value drugs and export to developed countries only,” said Dr Kaiser Waheed, former chairman of the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) while speaking to The Express Tribune.

“It’ll be silly to think that those 100 companies will export to Pakistan once Pakistan-India trade barriers are lifted. What Pakistan will be importing in the name of free trade with India is substandard and spurious drugs produced by the overwhelming majority of the pharmaceutical industry of India that is, by and large, unregulated,” he added.

Explaining his argument, Waheed stated that unlike Pakistan’s pharmaceutical industry, which is regulated by a national body called the Drug Regulatory Authority, India’s drug manufacturers operate without a central regulatory framework. “Each state in the Indian federation has its own rules, regulations and regulatory body. Sometimes rules are adhered to, sometimes not. There is no standardisation and no central authority to streamline the pharmaceutical sector.”

While shortages of everyday medicines in Pakistan’s drugstores are not unusual, the fact remains that the country’s pharmaceutical exports have been rising steadily. Although the World Trade Organisation (WTO) says Pakistan’s exports of pharmaceutical products were over $150 million in 2011, the PPMA says they are now touching the mark of $200 million a year.

So how exactly has Pakistan managed to increase its pharmaceutical exports by an annual rate of 7% for the past five years, even though it sometimes fails to meet the local demand?

“Pakistan does not export pharmaceutical products to regulated markets. We export to countries whose pharmaceutical sectors are either semi-regulated or unregulated,” says Waheed.

His bold acknowledgement of the underlying factor that is driving Pakistan’s pharmaceutical exports upwards is backed by revealing statistics. The biggest export destination for Pakistani drugs is Afghanistan, which has a considerably weak regulatory framework. With a share of almost one-fifth in Pakistan’s total exports of pharmaceutical goods to the world, Afghanistan received Pakistani drugs worth $29.1 million in 2011.

It is noteworthy that Pakistan’s pharmaceutical exports to Afghanistan have grown by 30% per annum for the last five years. Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sudan are other major export destinations for Pakistan-made drugs.

It is mainly the fear of substandard medicines flooding Pakistani drugstores that the pharmaceutical industry is opposed to unconditional easing of trade restrictions with India, says Waheed.

Currently, a large proportion of pharmaceutical products that Pakistan imports every year comes from developed countries with heavily regulated pharmaceutical sectors. Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and France are the top five exporters of pharmaceutical goods to Pakistan, according to the WTO.

Drugs coming out of the unregulated pharmaceutical sector of India will replace existing medicines of far better quality if Pakistan eases the trade policy without providing the local industry with a level playing field, says Waheed.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2012. 

Asian markets lose ground on Europe fears

HONG KONG: Asian markets fell on Monday as concerns over the eurozone debt crisis overshadowed surprisingly good jobs data from the United States showing unemployment almost at a four-year low.

An underwhelming return for Shanghai after a week-long holiday added to the glum outlook for the day, while the euro erased gains made in New York on Friday.

In early trade Hong Kong was 0.71 percent lower and Shanghai lost 0.33 percent, while Sydney eased 0.34 percent and Seoul fell 0.70 percent.

Tokyo was closed for a public holiday.

Wall Street provided an anaemic lead despite figures from the Labor Department showing the official jobless rate fell to 7.8 percent in September, down from the previous 8.1 percent and the lowest level since January 2009, the month that President Barack Obama took office.

The data from its establishment survey was less buoyant, showing a modest 114,000 net new jobs produced, but previous months were revised higher, underpinning the better showing in the September data.

US investors initially sent shares soaring after the numbers were released before those gains were wiped out. The Dow closed up 0.26 percent, the S&P 500 ended flat and the Nasdaq eased 0.42 percent.

And while the closely-watched jobs data provided some hope for the world’s number one economy, the ongoing crisis in Europe continued to take its toll on sentiment.

There was a cautious tone as the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) was to launch later Monday with an inaugural board meeting, and European Union finance ministers were to meet.

Legal speed bump: SSGC fears new LNG import project may come to a halt

Sugges­ts settle­ment with 4Gas to push ahead with the projec­t. 1bcfd is the volume of LNG planned to be imported under the new programme. CREATIVE COMMONS


Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) has expressed fears that a new initiative to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) may come to a halt because of fierce opposition from Dutch firm 4Gas, who was originally awarded the Mashal LNG import project.

In a communication to the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet, SSGC has suggested that the Mashal project should be referred to the attorney general for settlement with 4Gas before undertaking the new integrated LNG import project, which would be tabled before the ECC scheduled to meet today (Tuesday).

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources has sent a summary to the ECC, proposing import of one billion cubic feet of LNG per day in a fresh programme to meet pressing energy needs.

The multi-billion-dollar Mashal project had been stalled following the law ministry’s call to reissue the tender. However, 4Gas termed the ministry’s advice ‘flawed’ and said now a new team was working in the ministry, so fresh advice should be sought.

“SSGC is of the view that the new initiative may come to a halt due to the Mashal LNG project, therefore, the opinion of the law ministry should be sought before pushing ahead with the new project,” said a source quoting the SSGC communication in the ECC meeting held on August 7.

According to sources, the federal government had earlier asked SSGC to convey the cancellation of Mashal project, but the company did not do so, fearing legal complications as 4Gas had warned that it would approach the international court if a new project got under way.

In Tuesday’s meeting, the ECC will seek briefing from the minister for law and justice about possible litigation by 4Gas, which has written a letter to ECC Chairman Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, saying it would file a case in the international court.

Talking to The Express Tribune, a senior official of the petroleum ministry said the law ministry’s opinion that a fresh tender should be floated for the Mashal project was valid and no recommendation would be sought from the attorney general.

A sub-committee, constituted by the ECC, has proposed phased import of LNG. Under long-term projects, 400 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) of LNG should be imported in the first phase and the same quantity in the second phase. Separately, the committee has recommended import of 200 mmcfd on fast track from international sources through direct negotiation, competitive bidding or spot purchases.

US government agency Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has proposed a long-term deal for 15 years with a gas price review after 10 years. However, the ECC sub-committee wants to strike deal for 10 years with price review after every five years.

The gas price will be determined on the basis of weighted average selling price. Gas distribution and power companies will open back-to-back letters of credit for LNG imports. Gas firms will open revolving standby letters of credit for up to three months while LNG consumers – mainly the power companies – will open the same LCs to back up LCs of gas companies.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2012.