They’re pricey, but EVs are on their way

AS IT is on climate change, asylum seekers and Tiger Woods, opinion is divided on electric cars and the impact they’ll have on the fuel-based breed Australians still love.The big hurdle for electric vehicles (EVs) initially is prohibitive prices. Like many new technologies the first models are expensive, effectively limiting them to governments, businesses and cashed-up early-adopters. But EVs are coming.While the Australian government has shown little interest in electric cars, preferring to throw money at more mature technologies (conventional, locally built petrol-powered cars), every car maker around the world is investing hundreds of millions developing vehicles that can be recharged from household powerpoints, potentially using green energy such as wind or solar.Volvo, Audi, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Holden are all lining up to join the electric race and even Porsche and Mercedes-Benz have EVs in the pipeline.Unlike hydrogen cars and hybrids, there seems to be agreement that electric vehicles have potential, although even the most ardent supporters concede the vast majority of vehicles on the roads in a decade or two will still slurp petrol or diesel.EVs will take many forms but expensive batteries and the lack of a high-voltage, fast charging network will limit appeal of vehicles that will cost more than otherwise similar vehicles.Either way, they have the ability to produce zero carbon emissions, if Australia can wean itself off its addiction to electricity produced from coal. This iswhere governments need to take control and make hard decisions that won’t necessarily impress all of big business.
Nanjing Night Net

It’s back to the bowser in the race to the future

THE federal government has ruled out offering incentives for electric cars, preferring to support existing oil-based technology.Consumer subsidies such as those offered by overseas governments are crucial to ensuring Australian buyers can access the limited supply of electric cars, car companies say.The first production electric car, Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV, which will arrive at the end of the year, is understood to cost about $70,000.The federal government instead believes the future of the car industry lies in the development of existing technology across petrol, diesel and LPG engines.”It’s not our intention to run programs to support any particular form of technology,” Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Kim Carr said.”Over the next decade, the most rapid and cost-effective way of improving fuel economy and building more environmentally effective cars is to adapt technologies that are being deployed now.”The government will spend $1.3 billion over the next 10 years to increase production of cleaner, more efficient vehicles. But the money is going to manufacturers, such as Toyota, for the development of the hybrid Camry, rather than consumers in the form of rebates or tax incentives.Senator Carr said the decision would ensure Australia had a sustainable automotive industry that continued to produce Australian-made cars and employ more than 60,000 people.He said the government would not be investing in any infrastructure for electric cars, such as charging stations, and that the rising cost of electricity was a factor.Referring to a US National Research Council report, Senator Carr said the high cost of lithium-ion batteries limited charging stations. Electric cars will make up only 13 million of the 300 million cars in the US by 2030.”We want [to develop] Australian-made vehicles on Australian roads to the highest level we can,” Senator Carr said. ”The evidence at the moment suggests that the economics would have to improve dramatically for there to be a significant change in consumer preference.”Mitsubishi Australia head of corporate communications Lenore Fletcher said the company had high demand for the i-MiEV, mainly from large corporations.It expects to receive about 10 plug-in i-MiEV vehicles a month from October.The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries said electric car sales were unlikely to have an impact on the Australian market in the short term because they were still in the development phase.But the cars had a future in this country and the government needed to start doing more to attract car manufacturers to our shores.”It is important that in the Australian market we look to be part of that emerging trend as early as possible,” chief executive Andrew McKellar said.”Some of those incentives that are being implemented overseas are very substantial. If we are to secure supply in the Australian market in substantial numbers then we need a competitive policy and that needs to be evaluated.”Mr McKellar said incentives built demand which encouraged further investment in the development of technology and the battery.University of Technology Sydney researcher Chris Dunstan said electric cars offered health benefits in terms of local air pollution and, unless they were charged in Victoria, which used brown coal, they were no worse for the environment.Mr Dunstan, the research director at the university’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, said several major issues concerning electric cars were still to be addressed, including if owners would have to use green power and where and when they could charge their batteries.”We need to make sure we are thinking about the energy supply infrastructure and how we manage it. It goes back to not just having the technology right but the incentives also,” he said.Mr Dunstan said 100 per cent renewable power was cheaper than petrol and the price of batteries was coming down.”If Australia was to embrace this technology more, then there’s potential for us to be a significant player in what’s likely to be a multibillion-dollar industry in the next few years,” he said.Dr Peter Pudney, from the University of South Australia, said the more electric cars sold, the cheaper they would become.He is calling for a push towards renewable energy and the need for immediate action.He said incentives did not have to be financial but could be the introduction of low-emission parking spaces and traffic lanes.
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Long way from home: families stranded by volcano chaos

TRAVELLERS to Europe are being told to expect delays of up to 10 days as the thick plume of volcanic ash from Iceland closes airports and creates air traffic chaos.At Sydney International Airport yesterday, stranded passengers were still arriving at the Qantas desk asking for help.Anne Reed, from Leeds in Britain, was in tears after learning the next flight that she, husband Duncan and son Daniel, 10, could take did not leave until April 28.”We were due to fly out at 4pm and now we are stuck here. We are at the end of a three-week holiday and we will have to put the extra [costs] straight onto our credit card,” she said. ”It would be nice if families with children had priority.”Airlines have cancelled more than 20 flights a day between Europe and Australia this weekend.The family of Polish President Lech Kaczynski want his state funeral to go ahead today despite fears the ash cloud may keep world leaders away.
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Councils demand rate rises for cash lost in crisis

A THIRD of all NSW local councils have had their financial accounts called into question amid evidence the $300 million lost in bad investments during the global financial crisis could worsen and push some councils to the brink.Councils said the twin hit from bad investments and rising costs meant the state government must abandon ”rate pegging” and allow councils to impose inflation-busting rate rises to bolster their balance sheets.Councils want a 6 per cent rate increase, adding an average of about $70 to annual household bills. Of the 152 councils, 43 had their 2009 accounts returned with ”qualified” audit opinions, indicating they did not comply with accepted accounting standards. Most relate to the book value of investments in subprime-related securities that took a hammering during the crisis.Auditors of the Wingecarribee Council in the southern highlands raised concerns about $29 million in assets, about half of the council’s $62.8 million investment portfolio.At Kur-ring-gai Council, more than $7 million of its $75 million investments were collateralised debt obligations. Auditors Spencer Steer said there was ”limited market evidence available to verify their reasonableness”. Other councils with question marks over their accounts include Canada Bay, Hornsby, Rockdale and Tenterfield.Opposition treasury spokesman Mike Baird accused the state government of having hung local councils out to dry. He said the government chose not to invest in CDOs but failed to pass on the same advice to councils.The government has issued new investment guidelines for councils and last month announced training workshops for councillors. The opposition plans to take investment and debt decisions out of the hands of local councillors with a pool of advisers in Treasury.The Local Government and Shires Association said councils would be forced to reduce services unless the government agreed to rate rises and to get rid of rate pegging.
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Women want nookie as much as thenext bloke: online poll

WOMEN crave sex nearly as often as men, according to a survey that also suggests the art of seduction has vanished from modern romance.Almost 10,000 Australian men and women, aged between 25 and 45, took part in an online survey of what they think about sex.The results, published in tomorrow’s Men’s Health and Women’s Health magazines, show that when it comes to love, lust and good old-fashioned romance, the genders aren’t that different.The study found that almost 33 per cent of women want sex every day, compared with 40 per cent of men. The reality isn’t quite as exciting, with 25 per cent of women having sex once a week while one in five get lucky just once a month.Olivia Nicolson, 25, an events manager, and Chris Grady, 25, a forensic officer with NSW Police, have been together for four years and have a very healthy sex life – engaging in sex three to four times a week – with both of them initiating it. ”We’re both pretty similar in what we want,” Mr Grady said. ”I probably want it a little more than Olivia, but on the whole we just really enjoy being with each other.”Ms Nicolson said she often wanted sex every day. ”When I’m not tired from work I would say that I would want it almost every day,” she said.When it comes to a date most likely to put us all in the mood, a romantic dinner was favoured by a third of both sexes but according to 61.8 per cent of men and 52.4 per cent of women, there is nothing quite like a cosy night in to ignite passion.Dancing is the unanimous winner for both sexes when it comes to activities most likely to turn us on, with 65.9 per cent of women and 50 per cent of men preferring a boogie over outdoor pursuits and pub-based pastimes such as pool.As for sex itself, the survey suggests we’re all stuck in a bit of a rut. Rushed foreplay was named as the biggest issue for 37.8 per cent of women while 35 per cent of men complained women never initiate sex.More than half of both sexes said the one thing they really wanted, above all else, was to be seduced more often.Sex therapist and clinical psychologist Janet Hall said sex was often reduced to soulless hook-ups. ”The attitude towards sex is now about the outcome, rather than the journey,” Dr Hall said. ”People aren’t making love now, they’re just having sex.””Girls are not telling the guys what they want and as a result the whole art of seduction is just not there any more.”More than two-thirds of both sexes said they would be open to watching porn or engaging in sexy role play games in order to spice things up.Ms Nicolson said: ”We don’t need to mix it up all that often. But we have watched some porn and I sometimes dress up in lingerie.”
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‘Coming to this group has been a great relief’

TRENT PROUT, 4, was diagnosed with autism in last June and attends the PlayConnect Blacktown playgroup.”Since coming to this group, my opinion of autism has changed,” his mother Heidy Marmulla said.”When Trent was diagnosed with autism I was angry, shocked and disappointed that Trent will not lead a normal life like my other two children. But coming to this group has been great relief – where you can meet other parents who have children like yours and discuss how they deal with certain problems.”We don’t feel so . . . isolated. We’re not sure how the future will pan out but we will wait as long as possible before we send Trent to school.”The Blacktown PlayConnect group meets every Thursday and caters for nine children diagnosed with autism. “This group gives parents the opportunity to share stories and strategies with other parents who have children with autism,” said Diana Smith, a Playgroup NSW spokeswoman.
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Rare birds preserved in painstaking detail

SEVERAL of the Australian birds he painted are seriously endangered now: some no longer to be found in NSW. And as for his depictions of the native flowers: when was the last time anyone saw the once-common Christmas bells around Sydney?In Canberra this weekend an exquisite book of watercolours by the long forgotten, self-taught painter E.E. Gostelow will be launched at the National Library.Gostelow died in 1944, aged 78, a modest man whose surname was continually misspelled – including on his birth certificate and in his obituary.But six decades after his death, his genius as an artist and recorder of Australian wildlife is finally being recognised.”Gostelow’s aim was to paint all the known Australian birds of his time,” says an ornithologist, Stephen Debus, of the University of New England. ”He succeeded, painting over 700 species.”Since then, the number of Australian birds has climbed towards 800 species, thanks to the identification of subspecies and the inclusion of species found on remote Australian islands.But Gostelow’s magnum opus was an amazing personal quest, providing an incomparable snapshot of the diversity of wildlife before habitats were as seriously threatened as they are today.Dr Debus says Gostelow’s bird paintings were way ahead of their time: far more lifelike and accurate than popular field guides including Neville Cayley’s best-selling What Bird Is That?”But he never sold a single painting,” says Christobel Mattingley, the author of For the Love of Nature: E.E. Gostelow’s Birds & Flowers.”He just did them for his love of birds and native flowers, and for the Australian people.”All his paintings were bequeathed to the National Library, but they remained unpublished until now. Some have an added poignancy today. His image of the swift parrot shows a bird with an uncertain future.Gostelow taught in 63 different schools in NSW – including Broken Hill during a great deluge in 1920 which saw rare desert flowers suddenly bloom.But Mattingley’s personal favourite is his depiction of the common galah. ”He has one of the galahs hanging upside down, clowning around the way they do.”Gostelow paid great attention to detail, showing birds in their natural habitat and with their natural attitudes. That’s what makes them so outstanding.”
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Back into the closet: gays find few friends in aged care

DAVID URQUHART would rather ”swing from the ginkgo tree in the back yard” than go into a nursing home.The scant acknowledgment of the need for gay-friendly aged-care services worries the 71-year-old photographer, who says he is scared about what the future holds for him.Mr Urquhart lost touch with his family after he came out in 1968, and, without a partner, he wonders what will happen to him if he needs to be cared for or to give someone power of attorney.”Sometimes my mind does run to those things,” he said. ”I think, here I am on my own, who would I turn to?”He wants to see anti-homophobia training in aged-care services, and advocacy services for gay seniors.An Adelaide gerontologist, Jo Harrison, said the aged-care situation for the gay community – with lack of services, awareness and funding – was at crisis point, and problems facing gay seniors had not been acknowledged in government policy.”People want to commit suicide rather than use aged-care services,” Dr Harrison said. ”What the hell is going on? We need to fix it.”The gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender health organisation ACON estimates NSW has more than 35,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people over 55.”Gay and lesbian people do have specific needs as they age, and we’re seeing a large and significant population of older people in our community missing out on services and being discriminated,” ACON’s chief executive, Nicolas Parkhill, said.”Often they don’t have families to access for support; often the service won’t recognise their relationship.”Other people have stories of being stigmatised after staff found out they were gay, with one woman saying her carer would not help her shower any more.Many people felt the need to ”de-gay” their home before case workers visited and others reported hiding their sexuality..These are the problems the director for clinical leadership and research at Riviera Health, Michele Chandler, is addressing in the aged-care service’s 15 nursing homes.Riviera Health forms no longer ask for ”sex” or ”marital status”, but ”gender” and ”partner”, and Dr Chandler is working with the transgender community to develop policies and procedures for their needs.”I’ve heard stories of older people going into nursing homes that they have to go back in the closet,” she said.In 2002 the Australian Medical Association said aged-care policies made no reference to the specific needs of gay seniors and highlighted the need to recognise sexual and gender diversity.Last year’s Alzheimer’s Australia report about the impact of dementia on gay people suggested 46 per cent of gay people lived alone, compared with 23 per cent of the general population.A spokesman for the Australian Coalition for Equality, Corey Irlam, said although the federal government was aware of the issue, there had been no action.Mr Irlam and Dr Harrison recently met staff from the office of the Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot, and said they wanted to see government-funded education for the aged-care industry, advocacy, detailed research and a report into appropriate aged care.”This is another minority group that the government needs to be able to make sure that services are appropriate to that group,” Mr Irlam said.The Alzheimer’s Australia report said some gay seniors might be reluctant to approach aged-care services because of past negative experiences.But this attitude may not be shared by baby boomers, the next generation moving towards aged-care services, who may have been more open about their sexuality – a reason for the government to get policy and funding for services quickly, Dr Harrison said.”The willingness from the industry to change is there,” she said. ”The impetus has to come from the government. There’s an exposed policy vacuum and the government needs to step up.”They have been talking to us, and talking is great, but now what we need is to move on from there to agree for the allocation of significant resources.”
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Marriage shocked philanderer’s girlfriend

GORICA VELICANSKI was looking for liquid paper when she made a shocking discovery at her boyfriend’s Otford home.She believed Des Campbell was single, she told the Supreme Court, but in a desk drawer she found a rate notice addressed to Des and Janet Campbell and a card saying: ”Congratulations on your wedding day.”Mr Campbell assured Ms Velicanski he was not married. He had allegedly murdered his wife, Janet, the month before. On March 24, 2005, six months after they secretly wed, the Campbells went camping in the Royal National Park. Their tent was pitched near an unfenced 50-metre drop. Mr Campbell told police Janet ”got up for a pee” and apparently fell to her death, a jury has heard.Janet, 49, was besotted with Mr Campbell. In March 2004, within days of introducing him to her family, the wealthy widow announced they were engaged.But the Crown alleges Mr Campbell’s marriage was a sham and that the debt-ridden paramedic planned to get rid of Janet once he had secured her money. Mr Campbell, 52, denies accusations that he pushed his wife off the cliff and has pleaded not guilty to her murder.The trial heard evidence yesterday from Ms Velicanski, one of three girlfriends Mr Campbell allegedly had during his relationship with Janet. She said that on April 10, 2005, he came home from a singles party, professed his love and proposed to her.Janet’s funeral – which Mr Campbell did not attend – had been held in Deniliquin five days before, the jury has heard.Ms Velicanski told the court she and Mr Campbell became lovers after he contacted her through a dating website in 2003.”Did he tell you that … he actually got married?” the Crown Prosecutor, Mark Tedeschi, QC, asked.”Of course not,” Ms Velicanski replied. ”He never mentioned anyone else. He was single.”Janet bought a house in Otford and was set to join her husband there once she finalised arrangements at home in Deniliquin. Ms Velicanski spent eight nights in the house with Mr Campbell in March 2005, leaving the day before Janet moved in.Mr Campbell had been widowed for five days when he invited Ms Velicanski on holiday, the jury has heard.Ms Velicanski told the court that until her boyfriend went home after a quarrel on April 4, he had seemed his usual self. He made no mention of a cliff fall or a wife.There was no indication another woman had lived at the Otford house, Ms Velicanski said. She was shocked to find the rate notice and card, and ended the relationship soon after.She recalled Mr Campbell saying that if police ever asked about him, she should deny that she knew him.Earlier this week the defence counsel, Sean Hughes, told the jury his client was not on trial for being a philanderer. He suggested that Ms Velicanski felt hostile towards Mr Campbell because he did not tell her he had a wife.The trial continues before Justice Megan Latham.
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Slow chemical death by rubber duck

COULD that innocent-looking rubber duck, bobbing quietly in the bathtub, eventually kill you?This is not a question often broached, but two Canadian environmentalists set out to answer it and found deadly but invisible toxins lurking in the most mundane places.Mattresses, frying pans, shampoo bottles and dozens of other household objects all contain traces of synthetic chemicals which build up in the human body, slowly crippling health and very likely accounting for rising levels of asthma, attention deficit disorder, fertility problems and many other afflictions.Environmental researchers Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie investigated the phenomenon after finding elevated levels of synthetic toxins in more than 100 people – or almost everyone they tested.”The first questions all of our test subjects asked us was, ‘How did these chemicals get inside me and how can I get them out?”’ Mr Smith said. ”The level of concern about everyday pollutants is growing fast.”The result of their studies is a book called Slow Death by Rubber Duck, which became an instant bestseller in Canada and is striking a chord with readers in Australia, Europe and the US. The pair will speak at the Sydney Writers’ Festival next month.To test their theory that people are being exposed to dangerous levels of synthetic hormone disruptors simply by living ordinary lives, the authors took the step of using their own bodies as laboratories. They sat in rooms breathing in air contaminated by furniture stain remover, repeatedly brushed their teeth and ate tins of tuna. Blood and urine tests showed their bodies soaking up disturbing amounts of chemicals.”My wife thought I was a bit mad,” Mr Smith said. ”But in reality it wasn’t that dangerous – the one rule of all our experiments is that they had to actually mimic activities that hundreds of millions of people do every day in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe.”The rubber ducks of the book’s title have become a symbol of the struggle against unsafe levels of some chemicals in children’s toys. The book’s findings are being contested by pharmaceutical companies and other industries in the US and Canada.”There are class actions already starting to take place,” said Mr Lourie. ”I think we’re going to see a pretty significant movement against these types of pollution developing in the next five years.”
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