Festival fun boosts local economy

Heather Milley, Helen Tuntar, Sharon Brinkman and Sue Shields enjoyed the Africian food from Helen’s Big H African Kitchen at the Swan Hill Food and Wine Festival on Saturday. Picture: PAMELA BLACKMANSwan Hill’s Pioneer Settlement was packed with locals and visitors alike for this year’s Swan Hill Food and Wine Festival.
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The main day, held on Saturday, saw about 2000 people flock to the venue to enjoy local food and wine.

Swan Hill Incorporated marketing coordinator Julie Wiggins said the feedback they had received from both stall holders and visitors was “very positive”.

“I think we hit around the 2000 people mark, which was a little bit more than last year,” Ms Wiggins said.

“People really enjoyed Russell Morris’ performance and Matthew Butcher’s cooking demonstration went down really well. The grape stomp was also a bit of a buzz.”

Ms Wiggins said she thought the festival had an amazing selection and variety of quality food.

“The Prickly Moses bus added an extra unique touch to the event,” she said.

“This was also the first time craft beer had been incorporated into the festival.”

Huge numbers of tourists flocked to the region for the event, with many staying for the weekend.

“At the moment we predict that the event has put about $400,000 to $500,000 into the local economy,” she said.

“It’s estimated that people who stayed overnight in town would have spent on average between $150 to $200 a day.

“However it’s hard to tell how many people were locals or visitors.

“A lot of hotels were full or close to full, I don’t think there was one that wasn’t packed.”

Quo Vadis’ signature event for the festival was sold out and Java Spice did very well.

“The closing night cruise went down great, despite the bit of rain we had on Sunday night,” she said.

Festival chairperson Jessica Warburton said it was great to have so many people through the site.

“Crowd numbers were good and people looked like they were having a great time,” Ms Warburton said.

To read more about this story, grab a copy of Wednesday’s Guardian (March 15).

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Rally to promote Gonski benefits

Teachers are rallying for a continuation and increase in Gonski funding.A rally supporting Gonski funding will be held in Port Macquarie on Wednesday.
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The rally will be used to ramp up support from teachers and parents for the needs-based model.

NSW Teachers’ Federation regional organiser Ian Watson said the state government had recognised the vital contribution education makes to the community and had committed to lifting education funding in line with the Gonski model.

But he questioned the attitude of the federal government.“Why isn’t the federal coalition supporting Gonski needs-based funding?,” he said.

Local Federal Nationals MP’s Luke Hartsuyker (Cowper) and David Gillespie (Lyne) represent electorates which are receiving some of the largest shares of Gonski education funding.[1]

“Mr Hartsuyker met with a local delegation just yesterday, yet these same MPs support the Turnbull Government’s plan to rip billions of dollars out of the education budget,” said NSW Teachers Federation Regional Organiser Ian Watson.

“That will cut funding to schools in their own electorates and cut funding to needy kids in schools across Australia.”

These are the key messages teachers, principals and parents are delivering to rural and regional Australia during a national Gonski campaign bus tour that began on March 1 and will eventually finish with a protest event outside Parliament House, Canberra, March 22.

“Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce want to get rid of Gonski needs-based funding after 2017 which would cut $3.8 billion in extra funding from our schools.”

“Gonski funding is providing targeted literacy and numeracy help for kids who are falling behind, there is greater one-to-one support in the classroom and some schools have used the extra funding to reduce class sizes.”

“We need Malcolm Turnbull to abandon his education funding cuts and deliver on the final two years of Gonski funding which is designed to bring all schools up to a minimum educational resource standard.”

“Malcolm Turnbull should go to April’s COAG meeting with a plan to invest in the future of Australian education instead of funding a $50 billion tax cut for big business.”

Mr Watson said that by the end of 2017, NSW schools will have received only 36 per cent of Gonski funding, with the remainder due to be delivered in the final two transition years, 2018-2019.

The rally is on Wednesday March 15 at the Short Street end of Town Green from 4pm.

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Low overall crop quality boosts price for sorghum

Peter O’Connor in his crop of Buster sorghum at “Korinivia”, Blackville. Mr O’Connor was hoping to finish harvest this week. Photo by Ruth SchwagerAN OVERSUPPLY of sorghum two grain in Queenslandhas led to an increase of $40 a tonne at port for sorghum one since the beginning of harvest.
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Sustained dry weather since planting has led to lower crop production overall, and a higher proportion of second grade grain than expected.

Australiansorghumplanting was at a 24-year low this year, with just 441,000 hectares planted according to ABARES.

Nidera Australia origination manager Peter McMeekin, Toowoomba,said there was less sorghum one being harvested, but sorghum two was also down by 10 per cent in test weight.

“There’s some evidence of downgrading on the Liverpool plains but we’re expecting it’s not going to be as drastic as what we’ve seen in Queensland,” Mr McMeekin said.

Sorghum one grain is currently fetching $269/t at Brisbane port or $246/t to Newcastle,with sorghum two about $40/t cheaper going into the silo, and between $20/t and $30/t cheaper delivered.

“That’s a reflection of hopefully more sorghum coming off the Liverpool Plains,” Mr McMeekin said.

According to ABARES,exports of Australian grain sorghum are forecast to fall by about 40 per cent, reflecting a39pc fall in production and lower feed demand from China.

“We’re seeing a little bit of container interest for the alcohol market in China,” Mr McMeekin said.

“And we’re about $US25 to $US35 dearer than the US crop for feed.”

Most sorghum in the Moree area went to sorghum two, with high temperatures at flowering and filling leading to small grain with light test weights.

Agronomist Garry Onus, Landmark Moree, said harvest had finished in the area, with crops yielding from 1.5 tonnes a hectare to 3t/ha.

“We’ve had a terrible growing season –too hot and too dry,” Mr Onus said.

“The yields are good with the season we’ve had but quality haslet the crop down.”

Harvest has begun on the Liverpool Plains, while some of the later sown crops are yet to be desiccated, according to Pursehouse Rural Quirindi agronomist Ben Leys.

Last year’s wet winter led to more back-to-back sorghum, but there’s been limited disease pressure.

“There’s still a fair bit to be sprayed out, especially on the southern end of the plains,” Mr Leys said.

“We haven’t had any disease problems, only a bit of heliothis at the start of the season, but it’s been a tough season moisture wise, but

“The ones that got under rain were alright but anything that’s missed out has done it tough. The hot weather in January knocked every crop around.”

Price improves for Blackville harvestIT’S been a tough season for sorghum, but Liverpool Plains farmers who are able to harvest sorghum one grain are looking at better prices than northern NSW and Queensland growers.

For Blackville farmer Peter O’Connor, the price increase for sorghum one over the past month is very welcome considering the difficult growing conditions at “Korinivia” this year.

The 250 hectares of Buster and Taurus sorghum was planted on a full moistureprofile at two kilograms a hectare, with 55kg/ha of starter fertiliser, in early November.

The hot, dry conditions have resulted in small grain across northern NSW, but Mr O’Connor’s cropwas expected to make sorghum one grade.

“The three summer months were particularly dry, with no general rain,” he said.

”It’s been a very difficult season. I’ve been hearing that some growers have had very high screenings, but ours have been safely within acceptable limits.”

Rain came when it was too late, with Mr O’Connor planning to start harvesting early last week.

He hoped to finishharvest this week, depending on the weather,with the crop expected to yield7.3 tonnes a hectare.

Mr O’Connor will store some sorghum on farm, with the rest going to silos at Willow Tree.

He’ll make marketing decisions once he’s finished harvest.

“In this climate I’d be inclined to store more on farm butwe haven’t got enough room for it.”

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Uproar after another Perth child rapist allowed back at school

Two boys accused of separate child rapes continue to attend a Perth religious school with teachers, students and parents unaware of their alleged offences – again calling into question a state law that effectively gags schools from being able to warn parents of a student’s criminal history.
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The heartbroken mother of a nine-year-old boy allegedly raped by a 12-year-old boy has pleaded for more government support after it was revealed the 12-year-old and another boy, aged 17 – who is a convicted child sex offender – continued to live within the community and attend a private school south of Perth.

The 17-year-old was last month sentenced to a 12-month intensive youth supervision order in the Perth Children’s Court in relation to three counts of sexual penetration of a child under 13 and four counts of indecent dealings with a child under 13.

WAtoday understands most of the offences related to a 12-year-old male victim at the same school as the teenager, who he groomed over an extended period.

The 12-year-old victim has also been charged with one count of sexual penetration against the nine-year-old boy and is expected to enter a plea to the charge next month.

The nine-year-old’s mother told WAtoday her family was planning to move away from the area after receiving little support from the government and living within minutes of the two other children.

She said her young son had become suicidal since the alleged incident and was struggling to attend his school, which is a different school to the 12-year-old and 17-year-old.

“No one knows who they are,” she said.

“I’ve told friends of mine to keep their kids away from [the 12-year-old]…. it’s so secret, so quiet what’s happened.

“We have to pack up our whole lives and move away while these people get protected by some stupid law… our lives have fallen apart.”

The south of Perth case comes less than a month after it was revealed an 11-year-old boy in Perth’s northern suburbs had been charged with the rape of an eight-year-old boy, but continued to attend school.

After learning of the boy’s offences through social media, concerned parents threatened to take their children out of the school if the offending child was not removed, leading the Department of Education to find alternative schooling for the boy away from other students.

A parent whose child attends the same school as the two boys accused of child rape south of Perth said she believed parents would start removing their children from the school if they were made aware of the situation.

“I am really concerned they are able to return to the school without any protection for the other children,” she said.

“I’m not saying let’s destroy 17-year-old and 12-year-old children… there’s the potential for rehabilitation – but if the legal system is not putting in place protective measure for other children, something’s wrong with that.

“We feel it has to change at a policy level… the education department has a responsibility with convicted sex offenders to remove them from the school.”

The comments echoed those made last month by a father whose child attended the same school as the 11-year-old northern-suburbs child rapist.

“When it comes to someone at such a young age, everybody in the government, police etc, just really don’t know how to handle it,” he said during a meeting of concerned parents on February 21.

“Just try to get the rules and law balanced a bit more, balanced a bit more to the victims, to the innocent and the community rather than the perpetrator.”

Under state government laws, juvenile offenders’ identities are protected and schools are often left with their hands tied if a child has a violent conviction against their name.

A Department of Education spokeswoman has previously said it is an offence for anyone, including a school, to publish information which could lead to the identification of a child involved in court proceedings.

“WA’s School Education Act guarantees the right of every child to an education, irrespective of a range of factors, which may include criminal charges,” she said.

The nine-year-old victim’s mother claims she has been unable to source much information about her son’s alleged attacker and had received minimal support from government agencies.

“They don’t tell me anything to protect [the accused] because he is so young – it doesn’t matter who I ring, they don’t give me anything,” she said.

“I’ve had to find my own private psychologist because my son was going to commit suicide.

“[The only support I have had from the government] was when the Department of Child Protection rang a couple of weeks later to make sure my son was in a safe environment.”

Department of Child Protection director general Emma White said the agency did not have the authority to remove a child from a school if they were a risk to other students.

The Department of Education also confirmed it has no authority over Catholic schools to request a student be schooled in an alternative environment.

Catholic Education Western Australia executive director Tim McDonald said any alleged child protection matter in a school was distressing.

“Our schools are safe places that support each student to achieve their full potential in an engaging and supportive learning environment,” he said.

“It is saddening when students or parents believe this is challenged, and we are aware of the burden this places on the entire school community.”

Dr McDonald said WA Catholic schools were fully compliant with all mandated government requirements, backed by stringent child protection policies and staff training, but did not directly respond to questions about whether the two students were being supervised.

Under the Children’s Court of Western Australia Act, a child’s conviction cannot be disclosed to anyone other than “a court of law, a person acting in the performance of duties under any written law, to a person who as part of the person’s duties is concerned with the custody or welfare of the child” or a health department officer for use in a research project.

A spokeswoman for the Department of the Attorney General said the act prevents child witness service officers from referring to the accused by name when speaking to clients.

The service provides victims with support and counselling throughout the court process.

The incoming WA Labor government has been contacted for comment. Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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Rate debate

Balranald Shire Council is just one of the three smaller councils in our area struggling to recoup outstanding rates.A percentageof ratepayers across the region have failed to pay their rates for this financial year leaving smaller councils exposed financially.
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Balranald Shire Council, Murray River Council and Buloke Shire Council are struggling to recoup outstanding rates which they rely on to run their day-to-day operations.

At the most recent Balranald Shire Council meeting, an audit was conducted that revealed 14.8 per cent of rates were outstanding.

As of February 15, the total amount of outstanding rates amounted to $214,193.

This figure included water and sewer rates as is the statutory requirement in NSW.

Balranald Shire Council general manager Aaron Drenovski said rates were critical for council’s income.

“We are reliant on the income rates generate,” Mr Drenovski said.

“When it gets beyond a certain amount, council can pursue legal action.

“There is a policy that talks about processes we will take to retrieve unpaid rates and is available for the public to view on our website.”

Currently Balranald Shire Council have 13 separate instances of ratepayers owing debts of more than $5000, two of which they have sought legal action towards.

“People pay interest on any unpaid rates which is an incentive to pay rates on time,” he said.

“Grants are our main source of income, however rate income is still extremely important.”

Carl Millington of Pitcher Partners — an accounting, audit and advisory firm — conducted the audit for Balranald Shire Council and said the results were not uncommon for small councils.

“It’s always a challenge for regional and country councils to get the number of rates outstanding down,” Mr Millington told the meeting.

“What councils need to do is look at what prompts these numbers and what can be done to explain them.

“It is high, but council are going to struggle to get (the debt) much lower than that.”

Buloke Shire Council currently has $2.4 million worth of rates outstanding, compared to $1.5 million this time last year.

A spokesperson for the council said it should be noted that the last instalment of rates still needed to come in at the end of May.

Buloke Mayor David Pollard said rates were crucial for the council’s finances.

“The big issue the small councils have is that rates are our biggest income, along with grants,” Mr Pollard said.

“If we don’t get rates and grants, we don’t exist.”

He said there were many options for people to pay their rates.

“People can pay on either a monthly, quarterly or annual basis, there are always options for them,” he said.

Murray River Council’s recent amalgamation between Wakool Shire Council and Murray Council has greatly affected their outstanding rates.

Due to the timing of the amalgamation, the most recent reporting period ended before the due date for the fourth instalment of rates.

As a result, the amount of outstanding rates in June 2016 was 20.49 per cent, compared to 6.23 per cent in June 2015.

While smaller councils have experienced difficulties in recouping outstanding rates, Swan Hill Rural City Council has projected to have a rate determination surplus of $224,900 — better than their projected forecast for the 2016/17 financial year.

Swan Hill Rural City Council chief executive officer John McLinden said unlike some of the smaller councils, rates were not a big concern for council.

“Because our rates are relatively low, we find that we have a pretty high compliance with people paying their rates,” Mr McLinden said.

“For people who do have large outstanding debts, we have legal avenues we can follow which have been really effective.”

Mr McLinden said only a small proportion of Swan Hill’s rate payers failed to pay their rates.

“Some have financial difficulties, others just forget, so the number isn’t overwhelming.

“But we should absolutely be chasing up unpaid rates. It requires every other ratepayer to pick up the slack.”

To read more about this story, grab a copy of Wednesday’s Guardian (March 15).

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Dogged by problems, but group fights back

FORUM: Bathurst Merino Association ewe competition winner Murray Wykes of “Mount Top”, Euchareena takes part in a “forum in the sheepyards” on judging day.
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LAST Sunday’s meeting of the Turon Wild Dog Control Group was very well attended and producers across their region are united in their attempts to control wild dogs that continue to kill livestock.

Once again, Local Land Services ranger Paul Medway gave up his Sunday to help the group.

A few key points that were made at the meeting were:

A deputation from the group will request a meeting with senior management of Central Tablelands LLS in the very near future.A training day for users of 1080 baits and/or ejector baiting tools will be held on Friday, April 21.This year’s group baiting day will be held in early May.The Chemcert accreditation does not enable use of the canine ejector tool.The Turon meeting heard many reports of sightings and photos of marauding wild dogs on River Hills properties.

All landholders in the area are urged to join the control group.Don’t forget that wild dogs also kill lots of young birds and defenceless baby wallabies.

Please ring Jodie or Mal Healey ifyou wish to join the community group.

Aerial sprayUPPERMacquarie County Council will be carrying out an aerial weed spraying program during March in the area covering Bathurst Regional Council, Blayney, Lithgow and Oberonareas.

The main target weeds are blackberry and serrated tussock and landholders who wish to register for the spraying program should do soASAP with the County Council on 6338 2875.

The spread of blackberry bushes is obvious across our district as many landholders are inclined to only operate drive-through management and many don’t seem to own either weed spray equipment or a mattock.

Drying timesEACH day our lovely Central Tablelands looks sadder and drier and it’s really obvious that a big percentage of surface water supplies on farm haveevaporated.

A lot of hay and grain feeding is now taking place and some difficult decisions on stock selling or agistment are being made.

There is still a lot of the autumn growing season ahead of us, but prospects for general rain are not promising in the medium term.

Staffers at Central TablelandsLocal Land Services have arranged a “dry weather planning” workshop at Bathurst LLS on Friday,March 24 from 9.30am to 3pmand some useful advice and opinions should be given.

Bookings [email protected]论坛.​

Laugh lines​THEcop stopped our farmer friend on the highway and presented the breathalyser. Farmer asked what it was and was told: “It’s a bag that tells you when you’ve had too much to drink.” Our farmer said: “Gawd, eh,I used to be married to one of them.”

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Te Mania $9282 average

Hamish McFarlane and Tom Gubbins, Te Mania, flank Tony Dowe, Sydney, and volume buyer Dennis Power, Minnamurra Pastoral Co, Coolah.VICTORIAN stud Te Mania Angus sold a record 156 bulls in a full clearance, and also set a record average for the stud at $9282 at their Mortlakesale on March 1.
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Jodie and Shane Foster, Boonaroo Angus, Casterton, Victoria, bought the top-priced bull again, after having bought the equal highest selling bull last year.\

They secured Te Mania Lackey L27 (AI) for $30,000,$7000 more than what they paid last year.

Lackey L27 weighed 788 kilograms at 19 months. He was in the top one per cent of the Angus breed for all four profitability indexes – with an Angus Breeding Index of $153, Domestic Index of $133, Heavy Grain Index of $176 and Heavy Grass Index of $140.

His estimated breeding values (EBVs) for fertility, IMF and docility were in the top 5pcfor 2015-drop Angus cattle, as well as growth figures all in the top 5pc including of +52, +99 and +127for 200-day, 400-day and 600-day weight.

Mrs Foster said they picked this bull, their sole purchase for the day, as it would continue the calving ease of their herd, while having the growth, structure and temperament to complement their cattle.

She said they continued to useTe Mania genetics for their predictability and great industry benchmarking through Team Te Mania.

The Fosters will join about 400 cows this year and plan to collect from Lackey before joining him to heifers for a spring calving.

Te Mania Lakewood L119 (AI), sold to Curracabark and Pathfinder Angus studs for the second highest price of $28,000.

Long-time Te Mania supporter Dennis Power, Minnamurra Pastoral Company, Coolah,bought seven bulls, including two at $26,000, for an overall average of $17,400.

Te Mania Lambrusco L155 (A) was the first bull purchased for $26,000.

The Te Mania Jerome J131 (AI) son was out of a Te Mania Mittagong heifer, and had an impressive, balanced set of EBVs including those in the top 1pc for intramuscular fat at +3.8, carcase weight at +81and fertility indicators, including scrotal size at +3.6 and days to calving at -9.9.

He hadEBVs in the top 5pc for eye muscle area at +8.8 and 200-day growth at +52. He was in the top 1pc for the four profitability indexes.

Mr Power also secured a son of Te Mania Gaskin G555 (AI) for $26,000.

At 18 months, Te Mania Legwork L697 (AI) weighed 792kg, making him one of the heaviest bulls in the draft.

He said they started using Te Mania genetics nearly 20 years ago and continued to do so for the “quality of the cattle”.

A great demonstration of how well the Te Mania genetics work for the operation is Minnamurra, who had three teams of steers in the top 10 of the Beef Spectacular Feedback Trial, receiving reserve champion, fifth and eighth, as well as thechampion Teys Premium Quality Carcase.

The new Te Mania bulls will go to “Cortina”, Mudgee, where the Minnamurra team joins about 2500 Te Mania-blood females for a spring calving. Mr Power said he’d likely buybulls at Te Mania’s Walgettsale later this year.

The account to take home the most bulls was a client of Brodie Agencies, Winton, Queensland, who secured 15 bulls through AuctionsPlus.

This represented half of the 30 bulls sold through AuctionsPlus, and its market operations staffer Anna Adams said there wereeight successful bidders who secured the 30 bulls that came from five states – Vic, NSW, Qld, South Australia and Tasmania.

Ms Adams said AuctionsPlus bidders were active on all but four bulls.

​Te Mania stud co-principalHamish McFarlanesaid the average sale draft weight was 720kg, which was some 40kg heavier than last year, and was evident throughout the offering.

He said as well as the bulls presenting well this year, improved commercial cattle prices had boosted buyer confidence in the industry.

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No pricing silver lining for sorghum producers

Australian sorghum producers have not only had a markedly below average season production-wise but demand is at its lowest ebb for many years.GENERALLY, the consolation for growers in years impacted by adverse weather conditions is that what little product they have attracts a significant drought premium.
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However, that will not be the case for sorghum growers in northern Australia, forced to market the smallest Australian sorghum crop in 20 years against a glut of feed grain across the globe.

There is currently a small premium in place for Sorghum 1 over feed wheat and barley in Queensland.

However Dan Basse, president of Chicago-based agricultural research business AgResource, said strong competition globally would keep a lid on upside.

“The sorghum story is fairly grim, a change in Chinese agricultural policy has meant they have gone from being big importers of the grain to big producers in just two years,” Mr Basse said during a recent visit to Australia as a guest of Rabobank.

“It means that at present, sorghum is not a terribly profitable crop, not only in Australia, but also in the US.”

In its most recent estimates, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) backed up Mr Basse’s comments, by raising its forecast for Chinese sorghum production to jump to 3.8mt, the highest figure for nearly 20 years.

Nidera Australia origination manager Peter McMeekin said Australian sorghum producers were faced with low demand for their product.

“The high sorghum price relative to wheat and barley has driven domestic sorghum demand to its lowest level in many years,” he said.

“There is certainly enough grain in Australia this season to satisfy domestic demand, regardless of the size of the sorghum crop.”

He said many feedlots in southern Queensland had switched to white grain and were not planning to reintroduce sorghum into their rations, leaving the poultry and biofuel sectors as the major buyers of sorghum domestically.

And the story is not much better on the export front.

Mr McMeekin said there was some interest from China for sorghum for use in alcohol manufacturing, but added this would only be a niche opportunity.

“We will probably see containers exported but it will not be on a scale requiring bulk shipments,” he said.

“It is not priced into use in the Chinese feedlots.”

Brendan Taylor, sorghum producer at Warra, north-west of Dalby, said he believed the relative strength to now of Sorghum 1 prices must be due to some amount of Chinese demand and the downgrading of this year’s crop.

“Perhaps the market didn’t realise how small this year’s crop was and also how much of what was harvested would be downgraded to Sorghum 2 quality.”

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Competition boss flags action to tackle big electricity profits

Australia’s competition boss has flagged further action to tackle electricity retailers gouging excessive profits from households.
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A report from the Grattan Institute this week estimated that Victorian households would save as much as $250 million a year if the profit margin of electricity retailers was the same as for other retail businesses.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said there were concerns about how electricity retailers were marketing their products.

“There may well be more action we need to take looking at enforcement options,” Mr Sims said.

He said in NSW and Queensland, where power networks remain in public ownership, there had been excessive spending on poles and wires, whereas in Victoria the privately owned networks had not overspent.

“There is a cost driver in NSW and Queensland that you wouldn’t have had in Victoria because the network costs did not go up anything like they did in NSW and Queensland,” he said.

The Grattan Institute report said competition in electricity in Victoria had failed to deliver what was promised: lower prices. It found the steep rise in prices over the past decade had not been justified, suggesting government intervention could be needed to rein in excessive profits.

The Andrews government has come under increasing political pressure over power prices and energy security, with Hazelwood power station, which supplies up to one-quarter of the state’s electricity, to close at the end of this month.

Premier Daniel Andrews, who on Tuesday chaired a new cabinet taskforce examining electricity prices and security, said it was impossible for the government to seize back control of energy pricing.

He said the energy market was not working for ordinary Victorians.

“It is favouring very large companies who are making significant profits while it does not necessarily benefit and support those who need it most,” he said. “This is after all an essential service.”

Mr Andrews said the government would do anything possible to improve transparency and make the retail energy system simpler for consumers.

The state government has also launched a review of retail pricing, with a report to be delivered in May.

Australian Energy Council chief executive Matthew Warren rejected the Grattan Institute’s report, which he said failed to reflect the commercial reality of retail electricity.

He said if retailers were making the margins discussed in the report then other major retailers would be attracted to the “rivers of gold”.

“In reality they don’t exist. In reality retail electricity remains a tough place to make a living,” he said. “Retail margins are being constantly squeezed by wholesale prices and the cost of government schemes and programs.”

He said re-regulating electricity would not lead to any major changes in prices but would flatten the range of deals for consumers.

“In a state like Victoria, customers can and do shop around to get the best deal,” he said.

In March 2015 the Federal Court ordered Origin Energy to pay $2 million in fines because of unlawful door-to-door selling practices.

And in April 2015 the court ordered AGL South Australia to pay penalties of $700,000 and to offer refunds worth $780,000 to 23,000 consumers for making false or misleading representations about the level of discount residential consumers would get under energy plans.

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Codes to stop CFS callouts

THE South Australian Country Fire Service (CFS) has developed a number of codes of practice to provide guidance around the safe use of fire and equipment and hopes the new codes will reduce the number of callouts during the non-fire danger season.
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Fire agencies attend about 300 fires outside of the fire danger season each year largely caused by lack of attention to safety provisions.

CFS preparedness operations directorLeigh Miller said the codes of practice would help clarify any ambiguity around these activities both during and outside of the fire danger season.

“Fires starting from mowing and slashing activities for example could be reduced if people take simple precautions, like ensuring no rocks are in the area they are cutting grass,” Mr Miller said.

“As a general rule, when grass is green (less than 40 per cent cured) these requirements will not apply as it is not considered to be flammable,” he said.

He said backyard fires were another common cause of emergency call outs, with the use of fire drums, braziers, chimineas and domestic fires increasing in the last 20 years.

The CFS has also released a code of practice for solid fuel fires as well, heavily relating to the Environment Protection Authority’s Environment Protection (AIR Quality) Policy 2016. This policy regulates the use of fires across the state throughout the entire year, particularly with regard to the type of fuel that can be used.

“The code states if you do have a comfort fire there must be a four metre clearance, someone in attendance with a means to extinguish the fire, and it must be fully extinguished before you leave (cold to touch).”

The CFS developed codes of practice for pizza ovens, broad acre burning, practice use of prescribed tools and vegetation rubbish pile burning two years ago are due for review and open for public comment.

A consultation period is openuntil March 31. To read the draft codes of practice and provide feedback visit the CFS website梧桐夜网cfs.sa.gov419论坛.

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