As expected…

Deputy Premier Bryan Green says sale of Tasmanian energy company Aurora’s customer base off agenda after Treasury advice

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RETAIL competition for Tasmanian energy companies is up in the air with the State Government taking the sale of Aurora’s customer base off the table.

Deputy Premier Bryan Green this morning admitted there would not be full retail contestability in the energy market at the start of next year as previously promised.

Mr Green said selling Aurora’s customer base was off the agenda after advice from Treasury.

He said the sale needed to meet three objectives:

DELIVER competition in the electricity market.

OFFER a fair and reasonable price.

MINIMISE the residual risks and liabilities to the state.

“It is with disappointment that I inform the House that I have recently been advised that the divestment of Aurora’s retail customers is unlikely to achieve these objectives at the current time,” Mr Green told Parliament in a ministerial statement this morning.

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“I have been advised by Treasury that it does not believe that the current divestment process will achieve a fair and reasonable price at this time for Aurora’s retail customers.

“In these circumstances, the Government has decided that continuing with the current divestment process would be neither appropriate nor responsible.”

Mr Green said legislation that has already passed Parliament would allow for retail contestability in the future.

The cost of the move toward retail contestability has added up to $36.5 million, a document tabled in Parliament this morning shows.

Opposition Energy spokesman Matthew Groom, who supported the electricity reforms, said it was not the policy that was the issue.

“This is about the Government’s botched reforms – not the policy,” Mr Groom said.

“Tasmania must be bewildered when the minister said it was a core element of reform … and it has failed.”

Both Mr Groom and Mr Green disputed claims made by Greens energy spokesman Kim Booth who said the Tasmanian wholesale energy market should have also been opened up for competition.

Mr Green said the Greens policy could lead to the sale of Hydro.

“If we did what you wanted to do, there is no coming back,” Mr Green said.

“It is too risky to go down that path.

“We want competition in Tasmania but not at any cost.”

Sourced from The Mercury

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Aurora sale in doubt (no surprises)

Power pledge in jeopardy

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THE State Government could be forced to pull the plug on Tasmania’s landmark energy reforms on the back of undisclosed advice from Treasury.

Energy Minister Bryan Green yesterday confirmed bidding by potential buyers of Aurora Energy’s customer base had been closed almost three weeks before the planned October 14 cut-off.

Tasmanians were counting on the sale of Aurora to inject competition into the local power retail market for the first time.

It was expected at least two interstate companies would fight for a share of Tasmania’s electricity market and offer customers cheaper power.

The reform was due to come into effect on January 1 and the Government has already spent $50 million on the process.

Mr Green said there were parties interested in looking at Aurora’s books, but he would not say how many.

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Opposition Energy spokesman Matthew Groom said the process had turned into another costly debacle.

Mr Green said a ministerial statement would tell the public what was going on.

He said Treasury had told Cabinet on Monday that the circumstances surrounding the sale of Aurora’s customer base had changed.

But he said the Government was still committed to the energy reform process.

Mr Green admitted the public airing of issues connected with the reform process by the Tasmanian Liberals had forced his hand to close the bidding room.

The Tasmanian Greens yesterday said any failure to secure buyers for Aurora Energy would be an energy policy train wreck caused solely by the Labor and Liberal parties’ refusal to support the Greens’ proposal to reform the wholesale market.

Greens Energy spokesperson Kim Booth said the sale of Aurora was almost set up to fail.

“We said all along that failure to address wholesale competition will not only wash the value off Aurora, it will make it difficult to sell off Aurora’s customer base,” he said.

Mr Groom said Labor and the Greens had to be dragged kicking and screaming to support the Liberals’ call to introduce competition into the market.

“And now they have completely stuffed it up, leaving Tasmanians with a $50 million bill,” he said.

“This failure has all the hallmarks of the pre-2010 TOTE sale failure, where Labor also bungled the sale process, leaving taxpayers with a $30 million a year funding deed and ultimately selling the TOTE at a fire-sale price.

“Tasmanians would be scratching their heads wondering how Labor and the Greens could stuff up selling a profit-making business like Aurora.”

Sourced from The Mercury

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Return to Van Dieman’s Land?

ASYLUM seeker advocate Julian Burnside QC says Tasmania should be declared a haven for asylum seekers in a move that would save the nation billions of dollars and boost the state’s economy.

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Mr Burnside outlined his proposal of a “Tasmanian solution” to Australia’s offshore asylum seeker processing crisis during a public lecture in Hobart.

Social welfare groups such as the Tasmanian Council of Social Service say Mr Burnside’s “bold and sweeping plan” has serious merit and should be considered by the incoming Abbott Government.

Premier Lara Giddings said she would not be supportive of a series of permanent prison-like detention centres being set up around the state.

“We have been welcoming of the Pontville detainees but we need to be cautious about going down a pathway too far,” Ms Giddings said from Asia yesterday.

Mr Burnside said the Pontville experience had shown Tasmanians were open to having asylum seekers in the community.

He said Tasmania was a logical place for the proposal to be trialled with its island status and historical link to being a place of detention.

“But I am not talking about these people being banged up in detention centres but allowed to live and spend in the community,” he said.

“These new detainees would spend in the community and provide a population boost to struggling rural towns.”

Mr Burnside proposed the Tasmanian Government be offered a $1 billion sweetener to embrace the idea.

“If we did this, and even if every asylum seeker was on Centrelink benefits, Australia would still be saving $2 billion a year,” Mr Burnside said.

“That is a huge amount of money and the solution would be a huge benefit to Tasmania.”

Mr Burnside said he would float the idea with the new Federal Government.

“I cannot believe the Australian people are comfortable with the nation spending $4 billion a year to damage people when we could spend half that and help not only the individual asylum seekers but the state of Tasmania and rural communities crying out for a population boost,” he said.

TasCOSS chief executive Tony Reidy said the incoming Prime Minister should look seriously at the proposal.

“Tasmania is ideally situated to take this on,” Mr Reidy said yesterday.

“Asylum seekers are typically coming from desperate situations and coming here while their applications are being assessed would be like arriving in paradise.

“This is a humane way of dealing with Australia’s asylum seeker problem and it would provide a significant boost to Tasmania, especially if regional and rural settlements were accompanied by the provision of social security benefits and significant resourcing to the Tasmania Government to quadruple its affordable housing efforts.

“We need instant action to keep Tasmania’s builders, shopkeepers and other small businesses gainfully employed and this bold idea could be just the thing.”

Sourced from The Mercury

This has to be one of the most crazy ideas that has been suggested in recent times as a band aid fix to a global problem. Tasmania’s European settlement was established as a penal settlement to rid England’s so called thieves, murderers etc, but that was ceased in 1853 now Julian Burnside wants to essentially return the state to an island detention centre. So does that make the current Australian citizens (Tasmania’s current population) in “detention” making us a 2nd class to those who live in the other states/territories? Clearly should this plan even get off the ground I can see a lot of people who will be forced out of their homes because they won’t want to be in a state of detention!

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Return to Van Dieman's Land?

ASYLUM seeker advocate Julian Burnside QC says Tasmania should be declared a haven for asylum seekers in a move that would save the nation billions of dollars and boost the state’s economy.

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Mr Burnside outlined his proposal of a “Tasmanian solution” to Australia’s offshore asylum seeker processing crisis during a public lecture in Hobart.

Social welfare groups such as the Tasmanian Council of Social Service say Mr Burnside’s “bold and sweeping plan” has serious merit and should be considered by the incoming Abbott Government.

Premier Lara Giddings said she would not be supportive of a series of permanent prison-like detention centres being set up around the state.

“We have been welcoming of the Pontville detainees but we need to be cautious about going down a pathway too far,” Ms Giddings said from Asia yesterday.

Mr Burnside said the Pontville experience had shown Tasmanians were open to having asylum seekers in the community.

He said Tasmania was a logical place for the proposal to be trialled with its island status and historical link to being a place of detention.

“But I am not talking about these people being banged up in detention centres but allowed to live and spend in the community,” he said.

“These new detainees would spend in the community and provide a population boost to struggling rural towns.”

Mr Burnside proposed the Tasmanian Government be offered a $1 billion sweetener to embrace the idea.

“If we did this, and even if every asylum seeker was on Centrelink benefits, Australia would still be saving $2 billion a year,” Mr Burnside said.

“That is a huge amount of money and the solution would be a huge benefit to Tasmania.”

Mr Burnside said he would float the idea with the new Federal Government.

“I cannot believe the Australian people are comfortable with the nation spending $4 billion a year to damage people when we could spend half that and help not only the individual asylum seekers but the state of Tasmania and rural communities crying out for a population boost,” he said.

TasCOSS chief executive Tony Reidy said the incoming Prime Minister should look seriously at the proposal.

“Tasmania is ideally situated to take this on,” Mr Reidy said yesterday.

“Asylum seekers are typically coming from desperate situations and coming here while their applications are being assessed would be like arriving in paradise.

“This is a humane way of dealing with Australia’s asylum seeker problem and it would provide a significant boost to Tasmania, especially if regional and rural settlements were accompanied by the provision of social security benefits and significant resourcing to the Tasmania Government to quadruple its affordable housing efforts.

“We need instant action to keep Tasmania’s builders, shopkeepers and other small businesses gainfully employed and this bold idea could be just the thing.”

Sourced from The Mercury

This has to be one of the most crazy ideas that has been suggested in recent times as a band aid fix to a global problem. Tasmania’s European settlement was established as a penal settlement to rid England’s so called thieves, murderers etc, but that was ceased in 1853 now Julian Burnside wants to essentially return the state to an island detention centre. So does that make the current Australian citizens (Tasmania’s current population) in “detention” making us a 2nd class to those who live in the other states/territories? Clearly should this plan even get off the ground I can see a lot of people who will be forced out of their homes because they won’t want to be in a state of detention!

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“Mirror Mirror – Simon’s Cat”

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"Mirror Mirror – Simon's Cat"

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Australia’s questionable preferences?

Clive Palmer demands voting review amid counting ‘irregularities’ in Fairfax

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Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer is calling for a full review of Australia’s voting system, saying irregularities could cost him the Queensland seat of Fairfax.

Mr Palmer says he has discovered voting and counting irregularities in the electorate on the Sunshine Coast.

Palmer scrutineer Jenny Wellington has described the vote recount in Fairfax as chaotic, with little or no security.

She says votes are strewn across tables and the floor at the Maroochydore office and some ballot papers have been photocopied.

Mrs Wellington says ballot papers were left unattended during lunch yesterday, raising concerns about security.

“Now this is not the returning officer’s fault because there is so much absolute chaos there – I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

“There’s no organisation in that there’s no table here for that, there’s no table there for that.

“It’s just tables littered everywhere full of votes, votes piled everywhere.

“Anyone could do anything – it’s like a Third World country – it’s just amazing.”

Mr Palmer has requested a list of all officials who signed the ballot papers and a specimen copy of their initials.

“So we can check that the ballots that are cast are validly cast and they won’t supply us with that,” he said.

“We’ve found in the ballot box now are ballot papers that are not initialled at all and that these votes have been counted against us.

“One thing about the votes being against you, but it also indicates someone is tampering with the boxes, because the only ballot papers that should be in the boxes are ones that were initialled anyway.”

The ABC has contacted the Australian Electoral Commission

Photo & article sourced from ABC News

Weather you like Clive Palmer or not is irrelevant, the accusation if proven throws a rather large question to the validity of the Australian Electoral system.

I don’t claim to fully understand the preference quota that’s used here in Australia, but I have questioned just how fair it is from the first time I was eligible to vote.

It will be interesting to see what the outcome of this will be, is it just that Clive Palmer is just a sore loser (although the last I heard he was looking good to win the seat of Fairfax)

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Australia's questionable preferences?

Clive Palmer demands voting review amid counting ‘irregularities’ in Fairfax

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Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer is calling for a full review of Australia’s voting system, saying irregularities could cost him the Queensland seat of Fairfax.

Mr Palmer says he has discovered voting and counting irregularities in the electorate on the Sunshine Coast.

Palmer scrutineer Jenny Wellington has described the vote recount in Fairfax as chaotic, with little or no security.

She says votes are strewn across tables and the floor at the Maroochydore office and some ballot papers have been photocopied.

Mrs Wellington says ballot papers were left unattended during lunch yesterday, raising concerns about security.

“Now this is not the returning officer’s fault because there is so much absolute chaos there – I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

“There’s no organisation in that there’s no table here for that, there’s no table there for that.

“It’s just tables littered everywhere full of votes, votes piled everywhere.

“Anyone could do anything – it’s like a Third World country – it’s just amazing.”

Mr Palmer has requested a list of all officials who signed the ballot papers and a specimen copy of their initials.

“So we can check that the ballots that are cast are validly cast and they won’t supply us with that,” he said.

“We’ve found in the ballot box now are ballot papers that are not initialled at all and that these votes have been counted against us.

“One thing about the votes being against you, but it also indicates someone is tampering with the boxes, because the only ballot papers that should be in the boxes are ones that were initialled anyway.”

The ABC has contacted the Australian Electoral Commission

Photo & article sourced from ABC News

Weather you like Clive Palmer or not is irrelevant, the accusation if proven throws a rather large question to the validity of the Australian Electoral system.

I don’t claim to fully understand the preference quota that’s used here in Australia, but I have questioned just how fair it is from the first time I was eligible to vote.

It will be interesting to see what the outcome of this will be, is it just that Clive Palmer is just a sore loser (although the last I heard he was looking good to win the seat of Fairfax)

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Justice (maybe) DPP?

THE Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis, SC, is set to be charged with causing death by negligent driving in relation to a Midland Highway crash in March.

Mr Ellis’s Mercedes collided with a car driven by 27-year-old Natalia Pearn, of West Launceston, near Lovely Banks about 6pm on Sunday, March 24.

Ms Pearn, who was driving a Toyota Hatchback, was killed instantly and Mr Ellis suffered serious leg injuries.

Tasmania Police Crash Investigation Services said yesterday they would charge Mr Ellis by summons to appear at a later date.

The three-vehicle crash, also involving a black Commodore, occurred when Ms Pearn was returning to Launceston from Hobart and Mr Ellis was travelling in the opposite direction.

After the crash police said Mr Ellis’s south-bound Mercedes was on the wrong side of the highway at the point of impact.

Mr Ellis, 58, of Mortimer Avenue, Mount Stuart, has been on leave from his position since the fatal crash and had informed the Attorney General Brian Wightman that he would not return until the investigation was complete.

After the crash Mr Wightman sought to assure Tasmanians that the legal system was perfectly capable of dealing with the ramifications of the crash.

Mr Wightman appointed a New South Wales Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions John Pickering, SC, to oversee the police investigation into the crash.

“I have recommended that the Governor make this appointment on the advice of the acting Director of Public Prosecutions of Tasmania, Leigh Sealy, SC,” Mr Wightman said at the time.

He said the appointment would ensure Mr Pickering could “act independently”, officially and with a Tasmanian Crown law officer’s authority in advising police in the inquiry.

Mr Wightman also appointed a Victorian coroner Judge Ian Gray to conduct a coronial inquest into Ms Pearn’s death.

A spokeswoman for the Pearn family, Sue Szoka, said the family was pleased that a decision had been made. “`Now we need to let the law run its course,” Ms Szoka said.

Police made two public appeals for witnesses during the course of the five and half month investigation.

Police said there would be no further comment on the matter as it was before the court.

Sourced from The Mercury

I hope that justice is dealt with for the sake of the family who lost their daughter. Only time will tell.

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Profit First Service Second

Welfare groups call for power discounts for battlers after Aurora profit announcement

BATTLERS should be given power price discounts after the State Government’s windfall $76.5 million profit from Aurora Energy, Tasmania’s peak welfare body says.

Aurora Energy yesterday announced the record profit amid continuing outcry over mounting power prices in the state.

Tasmanian consumers have endured a 100 per cent increase in electricity prices since 2001, including a 10.56 per cent increase in July last year.

Tasmanian Council of Social Service chief executive Tony Reidy said the State Government should help lower income and disadvantaged Tasmanians with its $25 million dividend from Aurora.

“The cumulative increase in electricity costs over the past decade has placed an often intolerable burden on low-income households,” he said.

Mr Reidy said assistance could include additional resources for emergency relief, provision of additional affordable housing and support for better thermal efficiency of low-income households.

“This would show an increased commitment by the Government to alleviating the impact of electricity costs on the health and wellbeing of vulnerable Tasmanians.”

For its part, Aurora attributed the increased profit largely to a reduction in costs and strong management.

Chief executive Peter Davis said: “Profit before tax for the year increased significantly to $84.5 million and reflects the benefit of prior years’ efficiency and restructuring and increased tariffs partially offset by electricity reform costs.”

The company had 994 staff at the end of 2010, but has slightly more than 1000 now.

Energy Minister Bryan Green said the Government did not have plans to give power discounts from Aurora’s profit, saying the dividends would pay for schools, hospitals and police.

“The Tasmanian Government already has one of the most generous concession schemes and hardship provisions in Australia – worth $38 million last year.”

Aurora’s revenue rose 4.3 per cent to $1.56 billion and energy and transmission cost 5.4 per cent more at $1.063 billion.

Energy from Hydro Tasmania cost $52 million more and distribution from Transend $2 million more.

Electricity prices are set by the Tasmanian Economic Regulator, which has approved a price reduction of 5.23 per cent for next year, saving the average household about $140.

ACIL Allen consulting director Stephen Weston saw nothing too problematic about Aurora’s level of profit.

“Aurora is overseen by an independent regulator and its revenue determinations are in the public domain,” he said.

Mr Reidy said that it was important to remember that a price increase of nearly 11 per cent had prevailed during the period of Aurora’s profit, which was unsustainable for ordinary Tasmanians. He said the recent moves to minimise price increases were welcome but had come after a sustained period of annual increases.

Aurora chairman Geoff Willis said the $76.5 million profit before tax was $20.1 million higher than the previous year.

Total returns to the Government including dividend and taxation equivalent would be $38 million, up 36 per cent.

Liberal energy spokesman Matthew Groom said: “Given that power prices have gone up 65 per cent over the past seven years, it would be a worry if Aurora wasn’t making a profit.

“The Government has had over a decade to put downward pressure on power prices but they had to be dragged kicking and screaming towards reform.”

Sourced from The Mercury

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