Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dubai's own Big Thing

Oz is known for Big Things - The Big Pineapple, Big Banana, Big Merino, Big Prawn etc etc. We stumbled across something similar right here in Dubai last evening.

We went round to The Walk at JBR for dinner (to India Palace for top quality, authentic  Rogan Josh, Chicken Biriani, Makai Khumb Masala. I wish the Indian restaurants back in our home town were even half as good).

One of the roundabouts has sprouted a Big Bucket of Kentucky Chicken Nuggets.



Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Speeding and speed

A couple of weeks ago in one of my posts about the trucking industry I said:

"We should be astonished when something that's common knowledge is completely unknown to the authorities.

Sadly we're not at all surprised because it's par for the course.

What's known to the public is a complete mystery to those who should be in control of it.

I bring it up now because in the continuing operation against criminally dangerous trucking practices, the NSW operations commander of the Traffic and Highway Patrol Command, said  "It has become obvious that safety breaches are more widespread than initially suspected.''

Not more widespread than the general driving public knows it to be though, commander. It's common knowlege down here in the real world. It's a surprise only to the authorities which are supposed to keep our roads safe.

In the latest operation police targeted two companies, Fred's Interstate Transport and Damorange, after trucks in their fleets had been caught speeding. Police say the speed limiter of the trucks had been tampered with, allowing them to exceed the 100 kph legal limit.

Forty-one trucks were inspected, with eleven revealing ''serious issues'' which included tampering with speed limiters and electronic control units plus cracks to brake air chambers.

That's a quarter of the trucks with serious issues.

Separately, during the day police also randomly checked twenty-five truck drivers for drug use. Two tested positive.

That's eight percent of drivers.

Summary: a quarter of trucks and one in twelve drivers tested are not only breaking the law, they're a potentially fatal danger to the rest of us.

By the way, to give some context, a B-double truck of Fred's Interstate Transport was caught travelling at 130 kph while carrying 65 tonnes of beer. That would have taken some stopping in an emergency.

Sydney Morning Herald has the story here

Monday, March 26, 2012

Back to Dubai

I'll be posting from Dubai for the next month; flying out tonight and coming back on April 25.

We're hoping to catch up with a good friend from our first period in Dubai, way back between 1977 and 84, who's in town for a couple of days.

Apart from that I'm looking forward to real Indian food, rather than the Europeanised version we usually get here, some half-decent Mexican food and in particular my favourite Lebanese food.  All fantastic and compared with Oz as cheap as chips.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Solutions stupidity

Over on my earlier blog, Life in Dubai, I've been I've been complaining for the past four or five years about the use of the word solutions in company names or 'descriptions' of what they do.

In fact it hides what they do.  But its use is ever increasing, most business people being sheep who simply follow what they think is trendy.

I came across another one yesterday...

'Environmental solutions'.  Solutions to what?

They have the solution to climate change? To habitat destruction? They have the solution to loss of species, to the melting ice cap, to rising sea levels?

No. They're garbage collectors.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Quality debate

In our federal parliament yesterday:

''I apologise for describing the Treasurer as a scumbag.''

Christopher Pyne. Manager of Opposition Business

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Who watches the watchdogs?

A few days ago I posted about the ACCC (our competition watchpuppy) being asleep at the wheel over the control the big two retailers have over our economy.

It also applies to another of our alleged watchdogs - bodies established to protect our interests - the Australian Securities & Investments Commission.

Our richest person, Gina Rinehart's, billion-dollar resources company hasn't filed annual accounts for the past two years. The Corporations Act states that a company is required to lodge annual accounts within four months of the end of the financial year.

The report in Sydney Morning Herald gives us the responses from both the company and the ASIC...and you'll never guess:

A spokesman for Mrs Rinehart said the company had no comment.

A spokesman for the Australian Securities & Investments Commission said it declined to comment on specific companies.

What do we pay these people for?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

More truck deaths, more tampering.

We should be astonished when something that's common knowledge is completely unknown to the authorities.

Sadly we're not at all surprised because it's par for the course.

What's known to the public is a complete mystery to those who should be in control of it.

The current big one is a subject I've posted about a couple of times recently, killer trucks on our roads.

We other drivers, and people living beside our highways, have been complaining for years about trucks speeding, tailgating, and about the agressive driving of so many truck drivers.

'Not true' said the politicians, the trucking industry, the RMS (ex RTA) and the police. 'A handful of cowboy drivers only, and we're weeding them out'. 'Anyway, trucks are mechanically limited to 100kph'.

We knew that was rubbish, we could see what was really happening every day on our roads.

Only when three people were crushed by a B-double , coming as it did soon after another  B-double smashed into houses on the Pacific Highway,   did the authorities start to take any action.

A surprise to the authorities, but well known to the rest of us, was that it's a widespread problem, trucks routinely speed, aggressive truck driving is not limited to a handful of rogue drivers.

Not only are individual drivers guilty but major trucking companies are involved. After the blitz on Lennons which revealed that company's involvement, police have decided to raid another company, Scott's Transport Industries, after one of its trucks was clocked at 142kph.

The investigation is ongoing but so far eighteen of their trucks have been found to have had the speed limiter tampered with.

And there was yet another double fatality involving a truck a couple of days ago.

On the M5 motorway a car braked to avoid a ladder which fell off a van. The semi-trailer behind it smashed into the back of the car, killing two of its female passengers.

The truck, laden with pipes, finally came to a stop in the grass median strip, metres from crashing
head-on into traffic on the other carriageway.

Can't stop? You're driving too close - tailgating.

 As I've said so many times before, we need serious ongoing inspections of trucks, we need inspection stations open 24/7, we need random checks of drivers for drugs and alcohol.

And we need rail freight to replace road freight to get these huge trucks off our roads.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Competition it ain't

The alleged competition watchdog, the ACCC,  has either been asleep at the wheel or has deliberately been  turning a blind eye over the past few years to the increasing domination of our retail sector by Wesfarmers (Coles) and Woolworths.

Research shows that 40% of the total $242 billion in retail sales last year went to the big two. They control more than 70% of our grocery spend.

It's not only supermarkets, they have an increasing stake in our alcohol shops and petrol stations, hardware outlets, office supplies.

They hide this increasing ownership by keeping the names the businesses had when the big two bought them. For example Wesfarmers has Coles, Bi-Lo, Liquorland, Vintage Cellars, Ist Choice liquor, Bunnings Warehouse, Target, K-Mart...

At the same time as killing off wider competition they're fighting each other for market dominance, which they're doing by simple discounting - standard Australian business practice as a replacement for marketing.

Lower prices are good for us, but it's only a short term win.

A lot of the lower prices come from their suppliers, not from the retailers themselves. That's unsustainable and as the big two increase their stranglehold on our retail sector the prices will creep up again.

Federal independent MP Nick Xenophon hit the nail on the head when he said: "These companies fake the appearance of competition by using all these different retail brands but ultimately the dollars go back to the same two companies. The current set-up ... gives the two supermarket giants unacceptable power over suppliers, because if you don't supply to Coles and Woolies on the terms the supermarkets want, suppliers can be effectively locked out of the market."

Added to that, they're reducing our choice dramatically by replacing more and more branded goods with their own house labels.

Analysts from Goldman Sachs estimate that Woolworths will replace about $4.5 billion worth of household brands sales with the supermarket's own labels, after they announced that they will double house brand sales in the next five years.

I'm sure it's too late because no-one is going to insist that the big two divest themselves of some of the companies they bought and no-one will stop their onward march to total market dominance in so many retail areas.

But there's a glimmer of hope that, just maybe, they will at least have to answer for their actions.

Various supppliers have complained to the ACCC about ''unconscionable conduct'' by Coles and Woolworths. The ACCC has received ''approaches from suppliers relating to allegations about the behaviour of the supermarkets''.

I suppose it may get them to back off a little from what suppliers say are bullying tactics. But such is their dominance of our retail economy, I have my doubts.

There's more in the Sydney Morning Herald   and the Brisbane Courier Mail

Friday, March 02, 2012

Letting them get away with it

Back to the subject of trucks and truckies being allowed by authorities to get away with endangering other road users, which I talked about it in one of   my earlier posts  on the Hume Highway triple fatality.

Bits of information are dribbling out in relation to that crash. The latest is that the B-double which crushed three people had the day before been caught speeding at 133kph, in spite of trucks having 100kph speed limiters fitted by law. Driver Vincent George was fined but allowed to carry on driving.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, police were following guidelines, never made public, from the Roads & Maritime Service (the old RTA).

The policy gives police the discretion not to issue a defects order if the truck is speeding downhill in neutral.

Twenty-five metres long, fifty tonnes, freewheeling downhill at over 130kph. That's professional, responsible drivng!

Which idiot wrote that policy?  Which idiots approved it as policy? And why didn't the police ignore it?

Wrong again

Our tabloid-style gossip-obsessed 'journalists' have got it wrong again.

The opposition has egg on its collective face too, after days of childish questions and comments.

The subject this time is the appointment of our new Foreign Minister following Kevin Rudd's resignation. Ex-NSW Premier Bob Carr will join the senate to replace Mark Arbib, who resigned his seat, and become our new Foreign Minister.

We've had days of the Prime Minister being ridiculed in the media and the House, the gossip being that she had offered the job to Carr but been overruled by members of her cabinet, in particular by Stephen Smith who wanted the job.

The stories were that only a day or two after her resounding leadership contest win she still had no authority and was being controlled by the real power, the 'bogeyfaceless men' the Opposition keep rabbiting on about.

Speculation, predictions and gossip. Even the so-called 'quality' media has plunged down to that level of 'journalism'.

Do they just make it up or do they believe 'sources' without realising the 'sources' have their own agenda? Whichever it is it's poor, lazy journalism.

In the reshuffle, Robert McClelland lost his front bench position.  A spokesperson said he will confer with his family and will issue a statement regarding his future intentions later today.

I feel a tearful 'it's been an honour to serve the people'  press conference' coming on.