Taste the freedom that comes with bicycling

WHEN the Danish urban designer Thomas Ermacora sat down to study global bicycle culture, he began by making a world map of cycling capitals. Unfortunately, Australia didn’t make the grade.

杭州桑拿

"Australia doesn’t really have a cycling city," he says.

According to Ermacora, whose love of bicycles began as a child, cycling cultures in cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam are multilayered. "Even if you threw money at making cycle lanes, it wouldn’t create a bike culture on its own," he says. It’s a holistic approach that makes the difference, starting with encouraging children to ride, providing lanes for them when they are adults and making cycling attractive, he says.

As curator of the Dreams On Wheels exhibition at the University of Technology, Sydney, Ermacora had an opportunity to show how design diversity and city planning have combined to help Denmark revive its bicycle culture.

"The idea was to show that you need to grow up with your bike, but you also need a design to fit your lifestyle. This is where Denmark is fairly flamboyant," says Ermacora.

For Danes, style and bicycling go hand in hand. "There is a design for each group of people. There’s one for the elderly, one for mums, and one for the guy who works in a bank and needs to be elegant," Ermacora says.

"It’s a bit like how having a car is a status symbol in some countries – do you have a red Porsche or a white Peugeot? In Denmark, if you have a Christiana bike (a trike which can carry children, weights and loads), or a Biomega cycle, you’re saying who you are."

Ahead of a United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen next year, the Danes are encouraging bicycling as part of the movement towards sustainable cities. In Copenhagen, bike pump posts are helpfully located across town, cyclists have their own lanes (separate to cars and pedestrians) and bike traffic lights sense riders approaching and switch to green to make riding quicker.

In Denmark, bikes aren’t just for those who can’t afford cars: 200 bicycles are regularly parked outside the Danish Parliament, and government officials across the country are often seen cycling.

While Dreams On Wheels features designs from the high-tech to the family-oriented, it also shows off Copenhagen’s City Bikes.

These are on loan in the city centre; renters simply deposit a 20 kroner coin (about $4), which is refunded on the bike’s return, and they can travel throughout the inner city. To reduce temptation to thieves, City Bikes have specially designed parts – their seats, wheels and other parts don’t transfer to other bicycles, and special tools are required to take them apart. The program has been so successful it has inspired Paris to adopt its own scheme.

Once people taste the freedom that comes with cycling, says Ermacora, they quickly change their habits. "Instead of your bicycle being something you keep in the closet and take out of weekends, it becomes your natural companion."

The Dreams On Wheels exhibition is on until Sunday.

Read more

Satellite on mission to catch speeding tide

AN ORBITING version of a police speed trap is ready to be hurled into space on a mission to reveal whether the global rise in sea levels is accelerating.

杭州桑拿

Named after the leader of the mythical Argonauts, Jason 2 will transmit results that will be analysed by teams of scientists around the world, including in Australia.

It has been estimated that during the 20th century the world’s sea levels rose by an average of about 1.8 millimetres a year.

However, data from two pioneering ocean mapping satellites – an experimental craft called Topex-Poseidon, sent into orbit in 1992, and the first operational sea-level tracking satellite, Jason 1, launched in 2001 – reported a very different picture.

Their findings suggested that between 1993 and 2003 sea levels rose by an average of slightly more than 3 millimetres a year.

"That is not quite double the average annual sea-level rise over the 20th century," said the CSIRO’s John Church, a former chairman of the Geneva-based World Climate Research Program.

"Is this a temporary increase or a sustained increase? That’s the question," Dr Church said, adding that resolving it would be one of Jason 2’s goals.

The other goal of the joint French and US project will be to plot sea-level heights around almost the entire world.

Circling the Earth 1336 kilometres up, Jason 2’s radar will pulsate 20 times a second. The time it takes for the signals to bounce back will reveal the distance between the surface of the sea and the planet’s centre.

The leader of Australia’s Jason 2 team, the CSIRO oceanographer David Griffin, said: "Its radar will work exactly the same way as a speed camera."

Mapping 95 per cent of the world’s ice-free oceans every 10 days for at least three years, and ideally up to five, its target is to record annual global sea-level variations to an accuracy of 1 millimetre.

Dr Griffin said Jason 2 would routinely take far more measurements than was possible using the world’s tide gauges.

Further, tide gauges were fixed to the land, which was in constant movement because of geological forces such as plate tectonics, vulcanism and even the continuing rebounding of the continents crushed during the last ice age.

Dr Griffin and his Jason 2 team, which includes scientists from the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and the University of Tasmania, will gather in Hobart on Friday to follow the 510-kilogram satellite’s launch from the US Air Force’s Vandenberg base in California.

Read more

Economy under control: RBA

Homeowners are unlikely to face more mortgage pain as the Reserve Bank emphasised the current interest rate of 7.25% is high enough to cool the economy by the degree needed to harness inflation.

杭州桑拿

In the minutes from its June meeting, the RBA also backed Labor’s first budget in 13 years, revealing it believed the accrued surplus would have a contractionary effect on the economy in the year ahead.

The RBA said the surplus, as a ratio of gross domestic product, was higher than expected and should not add to the demand forces in the Australian economy.

The Australian dollar dropped from 94.34 US cents just before the mintutes were released, to 94.10 US cents as investors trimmed their forecasts for higher rates.

The budget stance is a turnaround from recent years, when the Coalition budgets were questioned by the bank’s governors for creating fresh stimulus to the economy via generous tax cuts.

The RBA said the surplus was surprisingly higher, at 1.8% of GDP, than had been earlier forecast before the election.

“At that time (October) a surplus of 1% of GDP had been projected for both years,” the RBA minutes said.

“Measured in terms of the change in surplus, fiscal policy was expected to impart a mild contractionary effect on the economy in 2008/09.”

The tick of approval from the RBA will be seized upon by the government, which has faced criticism for delivering the pre-election $31 billion worth of tax cuts over four years.

The first round of tax cuts, worth about $7 billion, will come into effect on July 1.

In the minutes, the RBA said the board recognised the Australian economy was now slowing after 12 interest rate rises in the past six years.

The central bank has forecast employment growth could begin to slow as a side-effect of the drop in business spending, confidence, credit growth and the broader economic contraction.

“Labour market conditions, on the other hand, had remained strong to date,” the bank said. “This could be explained by lags, in which case a moderation in employment growth could be expected soon.”

The recommendation to the board was to maintain the official cash rate at 7.25%, and the minutes show the board could be moving towards a neutral stance on interest rates.

“On balance, the board’s assessment continued to be that on current policy settings the necessary moderation in demand growth was likely to occur,” the bank said.

The financial markets were priced for another 36 basis points of rate rises over the next year, before the minutes’ release.

The RBA emphasised wages breakouts, as a result of the high inflation rate, could trigger another interest rate rise.

“Should demand not slow as expected or should expectations of high ongoing inflation begin to effect wage and price-setting behaviour, the outlook and the stance of policy would need to be reviewed,” the bank said.

BusinessDay

Read more

Killer sues over access to knife

WHEN a 16-year-old girl assaulted her mother with a knife, she was sent to juvenile detention.

杭州桑拿

She was just eight the first time she threatened her mother with a knife. She had also similarly threatened her foster carer, attacked a teacher and stabbed a fellow student. She appeared to have a fascination with knives, the Supreme Court heard yesterday.

Now 25, the woman is suing the state for allowing her access to the knife she used to kill a teacher, Scott Bremmer, in a cooking class at the Yasmar detention centre.

The court heard she was allegedly sexually abused as a child, had been assessed as retarded and suffering from intermittent explosive disorder. Since she was sent to Yasmar at 16, she has assaulted her solicitor, doctor, psychiatrist and two teachers, one of whom was attacked with a leather working tool in July 1999. Two days later, she was allowed to participate in the cooking class, despite staff allegedly raising concerns that she appeared "hyped up". Her handcuffs were removed and she was given cooking implements, including knives.

During a break, she allegedly showed "heightened interest in knives", and after returning to class, she fatally stabbed Mr Bremmer. She was charged, and eventually sentenced to a limiting term of 10 years under the Mental Health Act. She has been held in isolation for most of that time, has assaulted guards and tried to harm herself in custody.

Yesterday, in what Justice Stephen Rothman acknowledged was an unusual claim, the woman’s foster mother began suing the state of NSW, on the girl’s behalf, for compensation for her imprisonment. It was argued that government organisations knew she was violent, had a history of using knives and needed to be restrained. She was owed a duty to ensure she was adequately supervised and not given access to knives, her lawyers argue in their statement of claim. A psychiatrist found she failed to understand the offence or that it was wrong.

In 2001 the state pleaded guilty to breaching occupational health and safety rules at Yasmar in the supervision of the girl. It was fined $294,000. Staff training had since been changed, the court was told. The case continues.

Read more

What would you rather: a holiday or money?

WORKERS will be able to cash out their annual leave in return for higher pay, subject to safeguards to prevent employers coercing them into such deals.

杭州桑拿

And new fathers will be entitled to take a year of unpaid parental leave on top of the 12 months available for mothers, allowing working couples to put together a total of two years of unpaid leave to care for children.

The more flexible approach to annual leave and the increased parental leave entitlements have been confirmed in the Federal Government’s new national employment standards.

The standards, which will be included in the Government’s next tranche of workplace relations legislation, will legally entrench minimum employment entitlements in 10 areas, ranging from hours of work to jury service leave, for employees covered by federal industrial law.

But small business is worried that the parental leave entitlements would increase the number of employees opting to take a year off.

The chief executive of the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia, Tony Steven, said the Government had to be careful to get the balance right between union demands and business capacity to pay.

"Small business will find [the new parental leave entitlements] an extra burden and in these times of skills shortages now is not the time to introduce measures which will reduce productivity in the workplace," Mr Steven said.

Releasing the final version of the standards yesterday, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said they would help workers facing cost of living pressures by providing a more generous safety net than the previous government’s Work Choices system.

"A cornerstone of a fair and flexible industrial relations system of course consists of a basic safety net," Mr Rudd said.

"What you get in your pay packet, in penalty rates, in overtime and basic add-on conditions in the workplace are very important to your ability to cope with cost of living pressures from petrol, from groceries, from food, from rents and from mortgages."

The standards would be simpler for employers, he said. He contrasted Labor’s 50 pages of new provisions setting out 10 employment entitlements with the nearly 150 pages in the Work Choices legislation setting out five entitlements.

The main areas where Labor’s standards are more generous for employees are parental leave, and a new right for parents to ask their bosses to provide more flexible arrangements such as part-time work or more flexible hours.

The standards also legally entrench entitlements covering work hours, redundancy pay and public holidays, removing the scope under Work Choices for such entitlements to be traded away.

The changes on parental leave in effect double the combined amount available for a working couple. Previously the combined amount of unpaid leave taken by both parents could not exceed 12 months.

Under Work Choices employers and staff could cash out up to two weeks of an employee’s annual leave each year. Labor’s standard will allow individual industrial awards to include provisions for cashing out annual leave with no ceiling on the amount that may be paid out each year.

The standard on community service leave will make employers pay for the first 10 days a worker is required to serve on a jury.

The chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Peter Anderson, said this would be an extra burden on industry and represented cost-shifting from state governments to employers.

He said the new standards would increase costs and inflexibility in areas such as parental leave, redundancy pay and rostering arrangements.

"But the changes are not extreme and the Government has made some concessions to address concerns raised by business," Mr Anderson said.

The secretary of the ACTU, Jeff Lawrence, said the standards were an important step in plugging the gaps in employee entitlements created by Work Choices.

However, Mr Lawrence said the ACTU believed the Government should have gone further on the right for employees with children to request more flexible working arrangements by allowing workers to appeal if employers refused such requests.

Read more

‘I thought I was dead’: skydiver

A first-time skydiver who lost two friends when their plane hit a tree and crashed to the ground near Ipswich two years ago has told of how she prayed to God in the moments before impact. Gold Coast woman Amanda Best suffered a broken neck, shoulder, ribcage and arms when the Cessna 206 dropped from the sky moments after taking off from a Willowbank airstrip on January 2, 2006. The crash, which killed five people including Ms Best’s friends, Barbara McLelland, 40, and Sessane Williams, 49, is believed to have been the result of partial engine failure. The exact cause will be determined by an inquest, currently under way in Brisbane, which is also expected to examine the safety of the flight by operator Brisbane Skydiving Centre, and the experience of 22 year-old pilot Anthony Winter, who was among those who perished. Ms Best today recalled her terror and "the sounds of bones breaking" as she and her friends, along with three Brisbane Skydiving Centre instructors, Brian Scofell, 57, Colin Hicklin, 41, and Nigel O’Gorman, 34, were tossed around the plane’s cabin as it flipped and plunged into a farmer’s dam. The right wing had been ripped off after clipping a 23 metre-tall tree. Mr Scofell was the only other survivor. "It just didn’t have the power in it to get any higher," Ms Best said of the Cessna seconds after it left the ground. "The engine started to cut out. My girlfriend and I began to pray. "I remember thinking ‘This is going to hurt’ and then we hit the water. "I thought I was dead." The Coroner’s Court heard Ms McLelland had organised the 14,000-feet tandem skydive to celebrate her 40th birthday. Ms Best said she had agreed to take part but had "not been particularly keen", and became even more concerned with the level of training and safety equipment provided by the company on the day of the jump. She said her requests for a helmet had been "fobbed off" and claimed she was told it didn’t matter that her jumpsuit was torn. She also said paperwork, effectively waiving the company’s responsibility for any accidents or injuries, was not properly explained or instructions given on what to do in the event of an emergency. "You knew that we were being rushed through the process," she told State Coroner Michael Barnes. "I didn’t know what I was about to sign. "It wasn’t worth the paper it was written on." The court heard the Cessna made a "putting" sound soon after takeoff, prompting Mr Scofell to shout instructions to Mr Winter in the cockpit, including "don’t stall it, keep it up, give it some throttle". Ms Best said she then looked out of the window and saw what she thought at the time was a power pole. It was, in fact, the tree. After the collision, the aircraft crashed to the ground with none of the parachutists restrained inside. Ms Best managed to escape the submerged wreckage and swim to the dam’s edge as her tandem partner, Mr Hicklin, floated dead in the water nearby. Despite her horrific injuries, she walked several hundred metres to get help. "I asked them to cut my clothes off me because the (plane’s) petrol was burning me," she said. "I just know that someone was looking out for me." Before concluding her evidence, she asked Mr Barnes to consider a letter allegedly penned by Mr Hicklin to his family one month before the crash in which he highlighted his own safety concerns with Brisbane Skydiving Centre’s operations. "They’re very poorly equipped here with training," Ms Best quoted from the document. The inquest continues.

杭州桑拿
Read more

Bills soar as water plant hits home

SYDNEY residents will be hit by price rises of more than 20 per cent next year after the pricing regulator granted Sydney Water permission to increase its charges by more than the corporation itself requested.

杭州桑拿

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal said water prices for households would rise by 17 per cent, plus a further increase for inflation – suggesting a rise of more than 20 per cent next financial year.

Over the next four years, household water prices are to rise by a combined 41 per cent for households using 200,000 litres of water a year. When inflation is included, the final amount could rise by more than 50 per cent. Households using 300,000 litres of water a year face a rise of 45 per cent, plus inflation costs, while households using 400,000 litres will be hit by a rise of 48 per cent, plus inflation.

Sydney Water’s chief executive, Kerry Schott, said price rises beyond 2011 would be in line with the consumer price index. "It will be close to the CPI – depending on our capital spending program," Dr Schott said.

The tribunal decided to give Sydney Water a higher price rise than it asked for following the recent rises in interest rates.

The head of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Robin Banks, said the fixed service charge element of the water bill would double under the planned price rises. This would affect low-usage and low-income consumers because there was "nothing discretionary about the service charge", he said.

"The rises are to pay for the desalination plant, which won’t be used during this determination period.

"Sydney Water’s decision sends no message other than that the cost of desalination will hit everyone," he said.

Read more

Cut fuel price, demand voters

ALMOST 80 per cent of voters want direct Government intervention to cut petrol prices, the latest Herald /Nielsen poll finds.

杭州桑拿

Among those demanding action, three times as many support a cut in fuel excise, as proposed by the Opposition, than support the Government’s FuelWatch price information scheme.

——————- YOUR SAY: Do you want action? ——————-

But with skyrocketing petrol prices a global phenomenon, the poll finds that Labor is slightly more trusted than the Coalition to handle the crisis, although most voters are dissatisfied with the job Kevin Rudd has done so far.

Amid riots and strikes over petrol prices in other countries, Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, said that it plans to increase its output next month to its highest ever level.

As it becomes increasingly nervous about the global political and economic effect of high prices, King Abdullah told the United Nations chief, Ban Ki-moon, that they were "abnormally high" and he was willing to do whatever he could to bring them down.

The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, returning yesterday from a Group of Eight finance ministers meeting in Japan, said: "There’s no doubt that global inflationary pressures – particularly rising food and oil prices – have become the most significant challenge currently facing the global economy."

Of the 1401 people polled by Nielsen from Thursday to Saturday, 56 per cent were unhappy with the Prime Minister’s handling of petrol but 38 per cent said Labor was best suited to handle it, compared with 34 per cent for the Coalition.

Petrol prices have become a key economic factor and the poll finds Labor’s economic credibility has grown in Government. Before the election, Labor trailed the Coalition by 29 percentage points on the economy but has now closed the gap to eight points.

Despite dominating domestic politics, petrol prices have yet to inflict significant damage on the Government. The poll shows primary and two-party support for both parties is virtually unchanged since a month ago when the petrol issue flared. Mr Rudd’s disapproval rating rose 5 points to 27 per cent and his approval rating slipped 2 percentage points to a still-lofty 67 per cent. The Opposition Leader, Brendan Nelson, who advocated a fuel excise cut of five cents a litre and successfully exploited Labor’s internal divisions over FuelWatch, was mildly rewarded. His approval rating rose 4 points to 38 per cent.

The poll finds 78 per cent want the Government to do something about petrol. Of these, two-thirds want fuel excise cut while fewer than a quarter back FuelWatch.

Last week in Japan, Mr Rudd put pressure on oil-producing nations to lift production and accused them of distorting the market by refusing to do so.

The Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner, criticised petrol subsidies and caps on prices in Asian countries, saying they distorted the market and delayed the development of new technology.

"What we are seeing here … is a once-in-a-lifetime transformation in Asia where hundreds of millions of people are moving up from very basic peasant lifestyles into lifestyles that are much more resource-intensive, like ours."

That benefited Australia by driving the mining boom but also drove up petrol prices, he said. "It is important for Australia to put pressure on these other countries but of course we can’t force them to make those changes."

The Opposition agreed fuel subsidies were unsustainable but said Australia had no right to lecture neighbours.

 

 

Read more

Step right up: Property spruiker hits streets

A New Farm real estate agent is stopping people in the streets in search of potential buyers, in a desperate attempt to curb a slump in Brisbane’s unit and townhouse market.

杭州桑拿

"Do you want to buy an apartment?" LJ Hooker principal agent Brett Greensill asked a passerby on Brunswick Street.

"It’s fact, buyers just aren’t as thick on the ground and it’s getting harder and harder to sell," Mr Greensill said.

In sharp contrast to the market high in last year’s first quarter, demand and price growth has slowed, leaving properties stranded on the market for more than three months in inner-city Brisbane suburbs.

Hiking interest rates, volalility in the stock market and trends in overseas’ markets have deterred buyers according to figures released by the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ).

REIQ figures released today indicated a 1.5 per cent drop in median unit prices between January and March this year.

"We have had an apartment in Newstead Terraces on the market since January and over that time the price has reduced from $500,000 to $485,000 and finally to $450,000," Mr Greensill said.

However REIQ chairman Peter McGrath said current figures reflect historical averages for the year’s first quarter.

"Brisbane is coming down off a high, so to speak … the market is simply returning to normal," Mr McGrath said.

Yet Mr McGrath conceded investor demand has cooled recently as servicing increasing loan repayments becomes more difficult.

"Investors appear to be staying out of the market until rents reach a level where they match the increase in interest rates and they are confident that the market has definitely stabilised," he said.

The trend has been felt hardest within the CBD, where apartments in complexes on Charlotte Street have remained unsold for four months.

"It is taking 30 days longer to sell inner-city apartments because investors are bowing out," LJ Hooker Brisbane Central principal agent Alexandra Rutherford said.

Prices have been scaled back accordingly Ms Rutherford said.

"We have had apartments priced at $480,000 reduced to $460,000 and some reduced to $420,000."

However, Mr McGrath warned real estate agents against judging the current market against last year’s anomoly.

"I don’t think some agents realised how good it was last year, thinking. it could last forever. Now we are just moving back to a more traditional market," he said.

Read more

Brisbane man jailed for ‘despicable’ deed

A Brisbane man who repeatedly molested his fiance’s six-year-old son over several hours blamed the abuse on alcohol and pornography, a court has heard.

杭州桑拿

The 31-year-old man, who cannot be named, pleaded guilty yesterday to eight counts of indecent treatment of a child under 12, under care.

Brisbane’s District Court heard the man had been living with his fiance and two children for three months when he abused the boy on June 8 last year.

The child’s mother had started working night shift and entrusted the man to care for children while she was away, prosecutor David Nardone said.

On the night the offences took place, the man had been drinking and watching pornography before he repeatedly molested the boy over several hours, the court heard.

He confessed to the boy’s mother the next day and blamed his actions on alcohol consumption.

Defence barrister John Hutton argued his client should receive a shorter prison term because of the treatment he would likely receive from fellow inmates.

"He’s going to go to jail and he’s going to do it tough," Mr Hutton said.

He quoted Oscar Wilde and said that in prison, "a day feels like a week and a week feels like a year".

The man had no prior criminal history and was receiving on-going treatment, the court heard.

A victim impact statement prepared by the boy’s mother and tendered to the court was described by Judge Wally Tutt as "one of the most poignant" he had ever read.

The "disturbing" statement showed the "despicable and nauseating" abuse would likely have a lasting impact on the child, Judge Tutt said.

"Your actions were as revolting and sickening as they were criminal … your conduct was evil," he told the man.

Judge Tutt sentenced him to four years’ imprisonment and set a parole release date of June 13, 2009, taking into account the man’s apparent remorse and cooperation with authorities.

The boy’s family, who were seated in the public gallery, heckled the man as he was led out of the courtroom.

Read more