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Teenage death reopens race debate

Written on March 11, 2019 at 15:53, by

On the night of Sunday, February 26, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin walked out the front door of his father’s house in a gated community in Sanford, Florida.


Martin had been watching a college basketball tournament on TV and had headed out to a nearby 7-11 store to buy some Skittles and ice tea.

He made his purchase but never made it home.

Returning to his father’s house, Martin encountered 28-year-old George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighbourhood watch patrolman. What happened next is not entirely clear but for reasons that are somewhat ambiguous, Zimmerman felt compelled to call police, report Martin acting suspiciously, and pursue him.

Minutes later, the teenager was dead. Shot by Zimmerman who was carrying a 9mm handgun.

The story has blown up across parts of America after police released the 911 recordings to the public. You can listen to some of the recordings here.

“This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something,” Zimmerman says to a 911 operator.

“He’s just staring, looking at all the houses. Now he’s coming toward me. He’s got his hand in his waistband. Something’s wrong with him.”

“These assholes always get away,” Zimmerman adds. “Shit, he’s running.”

“Are you following him?” asks the dispatcher.

“Yes,” replies Zimmerman.

“We don’t need you to do that,” the dispatcher says.

In another recording, a witness calls 911 to report a confrontation. There is screaming in the background, the sound of a single shot, and then silence.

There are further layers to the story. Martin’s father reported his son to Missing Persons when he failed to return home. He had no luck there. He called 911 to prompt a visit from police. They produced a photo of his son’s body with blood trailing from his mouth. Martin’s body had been lying in the morgue unidentified.

Zimmerman has not yet been charged in relation to Martin’s death. Not surprisingly, this has caused outrage in parts of the community.

How, it has been asked, does a teenage boy who dreamed of being a pilot, loved sport and music, and took his quadriplegic uncle to see basketball games, end up gunned down by a vigilante while walking to the store?

The answer is simple, according to others. Martin’s crime was being young and black and wearing a hooded track jacket.

The incident has reopened a hot debate about race. It is argued: had Martin carried a gun and killed Zimmerman, he’d already be locked up; the police case is biased; all black teenagers are at risk; Zimmerman was defending himself; Zimmerman is not racist – he’s Hispanic.

“He would be the last to discriminate for any reason whatsoever,” Zimmerman’s father wrote in a letter to the Orlando Sentinel newspaper.

“I just think that sometimes people get stereotyped and I fit into the stereotype as the person who got shot,” said another teenage boy who witnessed the shooting.

The message is brutal and one that many people are not comfortable discussing. But the message is also simple: Don’t be a black teenager and walk to a 7-11 for Skittles and ice team at night.

The debate will continue until this story plays out more fully. It’s also a debate that is not exclusive to Florida or even the U.S. There are, no doubt, parallels in Australia. Trayvon Martin, however, no longer has a chance to take part in it.

Sundance to sign up customers this year

Written on March 11, 2019 at 15:53, by

Sundance Resources expects to sign up customers by the end of the year as it pins its hopes on producing iron ore in west Africa by 2017.


The Perth-based company believes it has turned the corner after shareholders had their investments halved in April following the collapse of a $1.3 billion takeover deal with China’s Hanlong Mining.

Legal action against the company over a 2010 plane crash in west Africa which killed the company’s entire board of directors has also occupied management, with the latest claim coming from the family of an investment banker seeking more than $10 million over his death.

Sundance directors believe the company is not liable for the deaths as it pushes ahead with its 35 million tonne Mbalam-Nabeba iron ore project which has the support of the local governments of Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Chairman George Jones said 95 per cent of the company’s shares had changed hands since the Hanlong deal fell over.

“The damage has already been done,” Mr Jones told the Diggers and Dealers mining conference on Wednesday.

Sundance has been in talks with major banks, Chinese steel mills and contractors over the past two years.

While the Mbalam-Nabeba project still requires financing, Mr Jones said interested parties had labelled the project robust after conducting due diligence.

“All we’ve got to do now is work out the best way to package it,” he said.

He added that a number of legal claims against the company over the 2010 plane crash deaths had not been pursued.

“One confidential report indicates that there’ll be no liability, that there’s no fault of ours,” he said.

Sundance on Wednesday said it had begun issuing tenders for the construction of rail and port infrastructure for the Mbalam-Nabeba project.

The company is in talks with 10 contractors, including six Chinese and four international contractors, about building the massive project, subject to financing.

Managing director Giulio Casello said the project had a proposed debt to equity split of 85 per cent to 15 per cent.

The majority of the debt funding would come from the China import/export banks and the China Development Bank, while the equity would come from investors and the company’s own cash reserves of $20 million.

Labor’s numbers can’t be trusted, says Abbott

Written on March 11, 2019 at 15:53, by

The federal opposition leader Tony Abbott says it’s time to build a strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia.


But in replying to Treasurer Wayne Swan’s budget, Mr Abbott has failed to put a price on the Coalition’s plans for the economy if it wins the election in September.


Tony Abbott says Labor’s budget numbers can’t be trusted and only a Treasury update just before the election will reveal what he calls the emergency rescue that is needed to ease the cost of living and restore Australia’s finances.


Amanda Cavill has the details.


Mr Abbott has delivered his budget reply speech in parliament two days after Labor forecast an $18 billion deficit for 2013/14.

He has laid a plan to restore Australia’s finances, help families deal with cost-of-living pressures, and restore confidence and certainty to government.


Mr Abbott says a Coalition government would keep the current income tax thresholds and the current pension and benefit fortnightly rates while scrapping the carbon tax.


“So with a change of government, your weekly and fortnightly budgets will be under less pressure as electricity prices fall and gas prices fall and the carbon tax no longer cascades through our economy.This will strengthen our economy – because there’ll less tax hitting Australian businesses but not their overseas competitors.


Mr Abbott has given conditional support to a number of measures in Tuesday’s budget, including axing the baby bonus.

He says the National Disability Insurance Scheme has the Coalition’s full support although just how it is funded needs closer scrutiny.


But he’s warned a coalition government could not guarantee the Gonski school reforms would be viable in the short term.

And he says if a Coalition government is elected there would be a two-year delay in the ramp up in compulsory superannuation planned by Labor.


Mr Abbott says everybody would need to contribute to re-invigorating the economy.


“Tonight, I confirm that we won’t continue the twice a year supplementary allowance to people on benefits because it’s supposed to be funded from the mining tax and the mining tax isn’t raising any revenue. As well, we won’t continue the low income superannuation contribution because that’s also funded from the tax that isn’t raising any revenue.”

Mr Abbott says the measures he’s announced would produce nearly $5 billion a year in savings, which would be more than enough for tax cuts without a carbon tax.


And he says a Coalition government he leads would encourage greater engagement in the region that would benefit Australia and its closest neigbours.


“We will establish a new, two-way street version of the Colombo Plan taking our best and brightest to the region as well as bringing their best and brightest here. It will be part of a foreign policy that’s focused on Jakarta, not Geneva. All these commitments are affordable and deliverable.


Mr Abbott’s also pledged to produce a comprehensive white paper on tax reform in the first two years of a coalition government.

He says the coalition would finish the job that the Henry review started and the Labor government failed to complete.


But Mr Abbott says the top priority of an Abbott government would be getting rid of Labor’s carbon tax.


“There is no mystery to how this will happen. What one parliament legislates, another parliament can repeal and thThe Coalition has already announced that we will rescind the increase to the humanitarian migration intake because – until the boats are stopped, and we will stop them – it’s the people smugglers who are choosing who comes to Australia.

Mr Abbott says by working with the states, a coalition government would also produce a white paper on state and commonwealth reform in its first two years.


He says its objective would be to reduce an end waste and duplication between the different levels of government.


And on asylum seeker policy, the opposition leader has repeated his pledge to “stop the boats”.


Russia’s anti-gay law uproar an ‘invented problem’ – minister

Written on March 11, 2019 at 15:53, by

The law, which parliament passed in June, bans “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” and imposes fines on those holding gay pride rallies.


It has attracted international condemnation and cast a shadow over the athletics world championships in Moscow, with questions raised over whether it will apply to athletes and spectators at next year’s Winter Olympics in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

The International Olympic Committee is seeking clarification from Russia while there have already been some calls for a boycott of the Games.

Mutko told reporters before the start of the track and field championships that critics should “calm down”, saying the rights of all athletes competing in Sochi will be respected.

On Sunday, at a news conference before the start of the final day of the August 10-18 championships, he blamed continuing debate on “an invented problem” in Western media.

“We don’t have a law to ban non-traditional sexual relations,” he said. “The mass media in the West have focused much more on this law more than they do in Russia.”

Critics of the anti-propaganda law have said it effectively disallows all gay rights rallies and could be used to prosecute anyone voicing support for homosexuals.

Mutko said the law was intended to protect Russian children.

“We want to protect our younger generation whose physicality has not been formulated. It is a law striving to protect rights of children – and not intended to deprive anybody of their private life,” he added.

Few athletes at the world championships have openly talked about the legislation, although Russia’s world pole vault champion Yelena Isibayeva caused international uproar when she spoke out in favour of it and appeared to condemn homosexuality, before later backtracking and saying she had been misunderstood.

American 800 metres silver medallist Nick Symmonds branded her as “behind the times”, while Swedish high jumper Emma Green-Tregaro made a gesture of support for Russia’s gay community during competition by painting her fingernails in the colours of the rainbow flag used by the gay movement.

After being warned the gesture broke the sport’s code of conduct, Green-Tregaro appeared in Saturday’s final with her rainbow nails changed to red.

Mutko, without referring to Green-Tregaro, said he hoped athletes in Sochi “come to compete and don’t have time for other things”.

He reiterated that athletes’ private lives in Sochi would be safe.

“Russian athletes, foreign athletes, guests, those who come to Sochi will be granted all rights and freedom,” he said. “This law does not deprive any citizen of rights, whether athletes or guests.”

(Editing by Alison Williams)

James Hardie lifts first quarter profit

Written on March 11, 2019 at 15:53, by

Building products maker James Hardie expects profit to be steady as housing conditions in the United States and Australia improve.


Chief executive Louis Gries says sales in the US have increased 10 per cent and those in Australia have risen five per cent over the three months to June 30.

James Hardie on Monday reported first quarter operating profit of $US52 million ($A56.91 million), up 19 per cent from $US43.8 million in the previous corresponding period.

Its net profit of $US142.2 million ($A155.61 million), which includes one-off items relating to its asbestos liabilities and legal matters, was up from $US68.5 million

“Our first quarter results reflect improved sales volumes and average net sales prices when compared to the previous corresponding quarter for both our USA and Europe and Asia Pacific Fibre Cement segments,” Mr Gries said in a statement.

However, the company sounded a note of caution.

“Management cautions that although US housing activity has been improving for some time, market conditions remain somewhat uncertain and some input costs remain volatile,” the company said.

The company expects full year earnings, excluding asbestos and legal items, asset impairments and tax adjustments to be between $US165 million and $US194 million for the year ending March 31, 2014.

This is broadly in line with earnings of $US181 million recorded in the previous year.

James Hardie derives most of its earnings from the US, where it has seen a continuing increase in the number of housing starts as well as improving house values.

Morningstar analyst Nathan Zaia said the company’s sales figures were a little higher than expected, while its margins had also improved.

“After recent margin weakness, partly attributable to costs in adding capacity and improving plant efficiency, it’s comforting to see the benefits start to flow through,” he said.

Recent efficiencies, improvements in cost and price would help the company as the housing market picked up, he said.

James Hardie shares were 19.5 cents, or 2.1 per cent, higher at $9.47.5 at 1343 AEST.

Insight: A pill to cure ageing?

Written on February 11, 2019 at 17:04, by

We can expect to see people live to 120 and beyond within our lifetime, a geneticist has told Insight.


Harvard University’s Professor David Sinclair is working on a ‘cure for ageing’ and believes modern medicine can significantly extend the human lifespan.

“I think there will be a world where people can look forward to living at least beyond 100, and it will be not uncommon where people can live to 120,” he says.

“Every time we say that there’s a natural limit, we develop technology to push us further.”

Simple organisms, even yeast cells and fruit flies, have ‘longevity genes’ that can be switched on by low calorie diets and exercise, says Professor Sinclair. When these genes are ‘switched on’, they can protect the organism and help them live longer.

“We have many of these genes in our bodies and we’re just starting to learn that they do help us live longer and healthier,” he says.

“If we could have a simple pill that our doctor would prescribe to take with breakfast, that could help our lifestyle.” 

He is confident science will know how to switch on these genes within the next 20 to 30 years. Professor Sinclair also tells Insight there are drugs already in clinical trials and, so far, they seem to be safe and showing early signs of success. 

“Instead of just lowering your cholesterol this pill would prevent Alzheimer’s disease, lung diseases, bowel diseases, dementia, a whole list of diseases… That’s what we’re able to do in mice so far. The question is: can we do that in people, and how soon?”

Many health practitioners would argue exercise and a healthy diet is far more effective at prolonging the human lifespan. But Professor Sinclair believes taking a pill is a more convenient way to maintain health.

“No matter how much we say that it’s good for you to be thin and to exercise, it doesn’t seem to help for most people,” he says. “If we could have a simple pill that our doctor would prescribe to take with breakfast, that could help our lifestyle. 

“I’m not saying we should just sit on the couch and get fat and take a pill, that’s not the point. But we can supplement what our bodies naturally are doing to help keep us young.”

When asked if these pills had any side effects, he admits that “we’re just learning as we go”, but says there are no negative side effects yet. 

Would you take a pill to ‘cure’ ageing? Ever wanted to live to 120? If you missed the program, you can watch it online here.

Join the discussion by using the #insightsbs hashtag on Twitter or by commenting on Insight’s Facebook page.



Is exercise the key to longevity?

Party profile: Seeking the conservative vote

Written on February 11, 2019 at 17:04, by

Mining magnate Clive Palmer and Independent MP Bob Katter have both established their own parties ahead of the election.



The right wing vote could be split even further with Pauline Hanson again attempting to make a comeback to federal politics.


Thea Cowie reports.


Colourful Queensland MP Bob Katter is known for causing a stir wherever he goes.


His controversial one-liners often overshadow the political nous which has seen him maintain his seat of Kennedy in north Queensland since 1993.


His father Robert Katter held the same seat for 24 years.


A former National Party member, Bob Katter says he left the party in 2001 after becoming disenchanted with the Coalition’s support of National Competition Policy and economic rationalism.


After more than a decade as an independent he’s now looking to spread his political ideology with his Katter’s Australian Party launched in May.


He says the KAP will give voters the option they’re looking for.


“In the last election, the people of Australia said we’re not going to vote for you any longer. We’ve had enough. You’re just continuing with the same policies, we’re all losing our jobs, we’re all going broke and we’re seeing our country being sold off. We’re not going to do it any longer.”


Mr Katter says his policies include repealing any tax on carbon, making ethanol mandatory to reduce petrol prices and relaxing recreational fishing rules.


Last year Mr Katter called for the federal government to make annual payments to parents of $7,000.


He warned unless the payments were made, Australians would become what he called a vanishing race in ten years.


Representing regional farmers, Mr Katter has lobbied for the restoration of live cattle exports to Indonesia, breaking down the supermarket duopoly and the introduction of food labelling that reflects how “Australian” the contents is.


Mr Katter is also highly critical of Labor and Kevin Rudd’s approach to Indigenous issues.


“They believe that white fellas should go in there and build all these houses for them, and fix everything up for them. You know, I have the exact opposite position. Mahatma Gandhi had it right: ‘Even though we may not be able to run India as well as the British, it is infinitely more important that Indians run India, even though we may not be able to run it as well’.”


Also threatening to split the conservative vote is the newly-established Palmer United Party.


Announcing his bid to enter federal politics, Clive Palmer stated he should be leading the country.


“I thought I should make it absolutely clear to you. The reason I am standing for federal parliament is that I’m standing to be the next Prime Minister of Australia. That’s why we’ve got the United Australia Party. We’re not there to compete with the Katter Party. We’re there to change the government of this country and that’s the reason we’re standing. As far as Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott go, there really is no difference. They’re all controlled by the same lobbyist consultancies who employ former ex-Liberal and former ex-Labor (people) so it doesn’t matter what happens the people miss out.”


Clive Palmer is famous for big, ambitious ideas.


After dropping out of university in the 1970s, Mr Palmer went into real estate and made around $40 million in property development.


In the 1980s his career in mining began with investments in iron ore deposits in Western Australia.


Since then Mr Palmer’s resources portfolio has grown extensively and last year Forbes magazine estimated he was Australia’s 29th richest person: worth around US$800 million.


Mr Palmer’s ambitious plans have included building a fleet of world class luxury liners including the Titanic Two, a 21st-century version of the ill-fated 1912 passenger ship.


He also has plans to build a park full of robot dinosaurs called “Jurassic Park”.


But the 59 year old says his decision to enter politics isn’t about fame or money.


“I think I can offer better service to the community than anyone else. I have no personal interest. I have made enough money in my life. I am not seeking any enrichment or wealth for myself, I am seeking it for the Australian people.”


A long-time financial supporter of the conservatives, Mr Palmer resigned his life membership of the Liberal National Party in 2012 after falling out with the party hierarchy.


Mr Palmer says his Palmer United Party would repeal the carbon tax and refund those who have paid it, ban lobbyists from having roles in political parties, colour-code Australian-made consumables and spend $80 billion on the health sector.


A government under Clive Palmer would also close overseas detention centres for asylum-seekers and process refugees at airports.


Mr Palmer has suggested asylum-seekers should be allowed to fly to Australia at one tenth of the cost of coming on people smugglers’ boats.


At last year’s Liberal Party conference he said asylum-seekers should be allowed to pay their own plane fare into Australia.


“Why have we got to give specific instructions to airlines in Indonesia: ‘don’t let these people travel normally, force them over to the people smugglers, put their lives in danger’? Why do we have to do that? If we’re going to do that then we’re responsible, the Gillard government is responsible for people drowning in the ocean.”


Another candidate seeking the conservative vote will be Pauline Hanson.


Despite once saying she would have to have rocks in her head to return to politics, the former One Nation leader has announced she will take her eighth stab at a parliamentary seat in 17 years.


This time Ms Hanson is running for a New South Wales Senate seat.


Announcing her decision to stand, Ms Hanson told reporters the major parties can’t be trusted.


She says, if elected, she’d work to counter what she calls a constant attack on the Australian way of life.


“If we are to preserve our heritage and our culture, and a decent standard of living, we must stand back and be counted. To stand back and do nothing is not the answer.”


Ms Hanson’s political career stretches back to 1996.


As an independent candidate, Ms Hanson won the Queensland seat of Oxley and wasted no time sparking controversy with comments Australia was in danger of “being swamped by Asians”.


More recently, Ms Hanson has focused her concerns on Muslims.


“We need to look at who we are bringing in here. And I think fundamentalist Muslims, we need to really have a strict look at whether we are going bring them into the country. We are foregoing our beliefs, our way of life to appease other people who come here. If they come here, be Australians. If you don’t want to, then go back where you came from.”


A year into her term in office as an independent, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party was formed and in 1998 the party captured 11 seats and 23 per cent of the vote in the Queensland state election.


Ms Hanson however failed to win federal re-election in 1998.


In 2003 Ms Hanson was jailed in Queensland for fraudulently registering her party and spent 73 days in prison before the charges were overturned.


Now 59 years old, Ms Hanson’s rejoined One Nation and is making a tilt for a Senate seat.


She’s named asylum-seekers, trust in the political system and welfare fraud as the issues she’ll stand on.


Policies include a $5,000 rebate on Australian-made cars, ensuring all government vehicles are Australian-made, labelling food to reflect how much is locally made and axing the carbon tax.


One Nation says it believes in zero net immigration and it doesn’t want migrants bringing in what it calls their problems, laws, culture and opposing religious beliefs.


It also says multiculturalism has failed everywhere, describing it as a negative weight drowning Australia’s once safe and cohesive society.


Both Labor and the Coalition have pledged to put constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians to a referendum some time after the election: a move Ms Hanson opposes.


But with so many new options for conservative voters, Opposition leader Tony Abbott is warning if they don’t vote directly for the Coalition, they’re likely to be stuck with a Labor government.


“If you vote for independents, if you vote for minor parties, if you vote for celebrities you’re likely to end up with either a Labor government or another hung parliament. No-one should want that.”

Nadal routs Raonic for 3rd Montreal title

Written on February 11, 2019 at 17:04, by

Spain’s Rafael Nadal took just 68 minutes to deliver a body-blow to Canada’s biggest tennis week, hammering out a 6-2 6-2 win over Milos Raonic in the final of the Montreal Masters.


The dominating victory, in which the big-hitting Canadian’s serve was all but nullified by precision returns from Nadal, marked the 25th Masters 1000 title for the 12-time grand slam champion who now owns eight trophies this season and 58 in his career.

Nadal showed no weakness on Sunday as he broke Raonic twice in the opening set, broke on a double-fault to start the second and claimed his fourth Masters title of the season after Indian Wells, Madrid and Rome.

“This was an amazing victory for me,” said Nadal, who lost only one point in the opening set on serve.

“I knew my serve would be very important and I felt consistent. My returns were also unbelievable.

“I played a fantastic match against a tough opponent. He just had a few more mistakes today than usual.”

Nadal will move back to third place on the ATP world rankings on Monday while Raonic moves to No.10, becoming the first Canadian to reach the magic number.

Nadal remains undefeated this season on the hardcourts after winning the Indian Wells title in March. He also won in Canada in 2005 and 2008.

Raonic, who was held to just four aces in the final, fell short in his bid to become the first Canadian to win the title since 1958.

“Rafa really gave me a clinic today,” said a deflated Raonic, who has broken new ground all week in the sport for Canada. “This was the most important moment of my career so far.

“I’m happy I could have it here in Canada.”

The rout gives Nadal a 4-0 career record over the rising Canadian star, with three of the victories coming on hardcourts.

Nadal and Raonic are due to head to Cincinnati for next week’s last major tune-up before the August 26 start of the US Open. But Nadal insists he’s not looking too far into the tennis future.

“It was very important to win here. The US Open is not for two weeks. I’ll have time think about it later,” Nadal said.

“It’s been an amazing season for me.”

Nadal stands at 48-3 this year and has reached the final in 10 of 11 events he has entered.

After a slow start, Raonic is showing big progress with new coach Ivan Ljubicic.

The 22-year-old Raonic was playing his first Masters final.

Greens vow to increase vote in Victoria

Written on February 11, 2019 at 17:04, by

The Greens have launched their Victorian election campaign vowing to return Melbourne MP Adam Bandt to the lower house and secure a second Victorian senate seat.


Greens leader Christine Milne said the party can make history again with Mr Bandt being elected and lead Victorian senate candidate Janet Rice joining the team in the upper house.

“We’re certainly going to have Adam Bandt returned in the seat of Melbourne,” Senator Milne said on Saturday.

“I looking forward to Janet Rice coming to Canberra as the new Victorian senator.”

Meanwhile, though, an opinion poll conducted by the Guardian showed the Greens losing support in the inner-city Sydney seat of Grayndler, which Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese holds, undermining any hopes the Greens may hold of voters switching in protest at the major parties’ asylum policies.

The Guardian Lonergan poll, taken on Thursday night, shows the Greens candidate Hall Greenland on 22% of the primary vote, 4 points lower than his 2010 result when he reduced Mr Albanese’s margin to 4.2 per cent.

The poll of 966 voters shows Greenland coming third, well behind the Liberal Cedric Spencer on 28% and Albanese on 47%.

Nationwide polls following leader Bob Brown’s retirement have shown the Greens attracting only 9 per cent, sharply down on the record 13 per cent of the vote that they achieved in 2010 when Adam Bandt won the party its first lower house seat and its upper house representation soared to nine senators.

Former meteorologist Janet Rice hopes to join Richard di Natale, who in 2010 was the first member of the Greens party to be elected to a Victorian senate seat.

The Greens also launched their election television advertisement, “Standing Up for What Matters”.

They will be campaigning strongly on asylum seekers, climate change and university funding.

Mr Bandt, who is also the party’s deputy leader, said the party will be striving to increase their primary vote so they can win the seat without preferences from either of the major parties.

He said published polling indicated they were on track to increase their vote to a point “where it does not matter if the old parties conspire”.

“We had a big boost when Jeff Kennett came out and endorsed my opponent,” Mr Bandt said.

This week former Victorian Liberal premier Jeff Kennett told News Ltd the party should preference the Greens and independents last, even if it meant Labor candidates would win in some cases.

“I’m going to be putting that on my leaflets,” Mr Bandt said.

“When Jeff Kennett says it’s much better we have Labor MPs, you know you must be doing something right.”

Comment: Just my five cents

Written on January 12, 2019 at 00:45, by

Imagine if you walked into your local bank, handed them a five cent piece and asked, “Can I have ten cents for this?” And then the teller said, “Yes.


Well, that’s the world of commerce our friends across the Pacific pond are used to. And soon, we might have to accept the same sort of illogic here in Australia.

In the 2012 fiscal year The Unites States Mint produced and distributed just over 1 billion US five cent pieces, worth a total of US$50 million. But they spent more than US$100 million to produce them! That’s more than US$50 million in losses. And all simply to subsidise the irritating existence of bacteria-ridden disks that you’d be surprised to find someone bothering to pick up off a New York City sidewalk.

Granted, the price of copper and nickel – the main constituents of the US five cent piece – have since lowered slightly, so the same loss might not be incurred today. But since the early 2000’s the price of copper, which also makes up 75% of all silver coins and 92% of all gold coins in Australia, has more than tripled. Compound this with inflation and the increasing costs of energy consumption required by manufacturing and distribution, and it’s no wonder it was reported in 2009 and 2011 by The Sydney Morning Herald that there were plans to scrap our echidna-bearing shrapnel forever.

The real cost to society could be in lost productivity costs, though. Think of all the times you’ve fumbled around for exact change and how the poor soul who has to count them at the end of the day must wish they were elsewhere. The US one cent piece – which is bafflingly still produced – is estimated to cost the US economy US$1 billion in lost productivity annually.

Even if they were affordable to produce or money was no object, for something which is meant to grease the wheels of commerce, the five cent piece really underperforms. Anyone would be rightly shocked to find even a single item in their local supermarket that costs five cents or less. Parking meters don’t take them, vending machines know better and even the infamous Melbourne Myki system can spot such indisputable inefficiency when it sees it.

The truth is that there are even laws to limit how many five cent pieces you can use in an individual transaction. The Currency Act 1965 (section 16) prohibits anyone from ruining the day of a store clerk beyond $5 worth of five cent pieces; any more it’s not considered legal tender. And rightly so, too – that’s 100 five cent pieces!

Our Kiwi cousins scrapped their five cent piece in 2006 after realising what a nuisance they were. Why can’t we do the same? It might not be a sexy topic or have catchy three-word-slogans like ‘Five Cent Wastage’ and ‘Coinage Reform Now’, but couldn’t we afford to be pragmatic for once? In fact, given the economy, how can we afford not to be?

Tom Burns is a blogger, vlogger and self-confessed political junkie.