VIDEO: Australia bushfire ‘out of control’

A bushfire burning out of control in Australia’s Blue Mountains has destroyed at least one house and threatens more, according to Australian media.

An emergency warning has been issued by the Rural Fire Service for residents to monitor the situation after strong winds fuelled the blaze.

Authorities have said there are up to 50 firefighters in the area being assisted by helicopters dropping water.

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VIDEO: Australia marks Anzac centenary

Thousands of people gathered in the Australian town of Albany to mark the departure of 30,000 Anzac troops 100 years ago during World War One.

The remote town in Western Australia was where many of the Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) soldiers set sail for Europe on 1 November 1914.

Phil Mercer reports from Sydney.

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Australia marks Anzac centenary

Members of Australia's armed forces lower their naval flag during events to mark the centenary of the Anzac departure for WW1 - 31 October 2014More than 800 members of Australia’s armed forces are taking part in the centenary events in Albany

Thousands of people gathered in the Australian town of Albany to mark the departure of 30,000 Anzac troops 100 years ago during World War One.

The remote town in Western Australia was where many of the Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) soldiers set sail for Europe on 1 November 1914.

The commemorations featured a re-enactment of the convoy’s departure.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key attended the events on Saturday.

Australia’s entry into World War One began with the departure of the soldiers on 38 troop ships, protected by Australian, New Zealand and Japanese battle cruisers and warships.

The Japanese Defense Ship Kirisame docked in Albany ahead of the Anzac centenary events - October 2014Japan, which helped protect Anzac troops in 1914, sent a warship to take part in the centenary events

Many were sent to fight in the disastrous Gallipoli campaign of 1915, during which thousands of lives were lost.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told those attending the service that the Anzac troops would never be forgotten. “The scale of sacrifice and loss was beyond anything imaginable,” he added.

Australia’s governor-general Peter Cosgrove said the soldiers would have been unaware of the horrors of World War One.

“There would have been excitement, trepidation”, he told the BBC. “I think there was also a sense of exhilaration because the rumour at the time was that this war would be over quite quickly.”

The military re-enactment on Albany’s King George Sound waters featured five Royal Australian Navy warships, two from New Zealand and one from Japan.

Chief of defence force air chief marshall Mark Binskin, AC and commanding officer HMNZS Te Kaha, commander Dave McEwan, RNZN, salute in Albany, Western Australia on 1 November 2014.Senior military officials attended Saturday’s commemoration service

About 800 soldiers took part in a march through Albany’s streets ahead of Mr Abbott’s commemorative address.

Colin Barnett, the premier of Western Australia, and Mr Key also gave speeches before wreaths were laid at Albany Peace Park.

It is estimated that over 60,000 people attended Saturday’s events. Amongst them were senior veterans, Maori and Japanese soldiers.

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Australia’s flexible small firms

The team at Filtered MediaNot everyone at Filtered Media was in the office on the day of the photo shoot…

It is often “Marilyn Monroe Day” at one small business in Sydney, Australia.

Staff at the firm in question – Filtered Media – really love the famous Hollywood actress.

But rather than sit around and watch her films, each of the 13 employees instead gets a fully paid extra day’s leave, a “Marilyn”, to celebrate their birthday.

Named in reference to the night in May 1962 when Monroe famously sang Happy Birthday to President John F Kennedy, the workers can take the day up to a week either side of their actual birthday.

Continue reading the main story

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Mark Jones

It’s about results and trust, not location or hours”

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Mark Jones

For Filtered Media’s founders and bosses, husband and wife team Mark and Heather Jones, the unusual perk is all part of their efforts to offer their team a good work-life balance.

Staff also get two additional paid days off each year called “Yolo Days”. Yolo is short for “you only live once”, and workers are encouraged to take them spontaneously.

Yet rather than Filtered Media being a wacky anomaly, it is instead part of a growing trend among Australian small firms – particularly those based in offices – to allow their staff to work more flexibly.

‘Rise to expectations’

For Mark Jones, 40, it is all about making Filtered Media – which does public relations work for corporate clients – an enjoyable company to work for.

“Work is a place we spend a bulk of our lives, so it must be respectful and flexible,” he says.

A Filtered Media employee walking her dog on a beachA member of the Filtered Media team enjoying a “Yolo Day”

“The Yolo Days are not to be planned in advance, they are days when you wake up and just don’t feel like facing the world.

“Or a day when the sun is shining so brightly you must be out in it.”

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I set up the business to have systems and processes designed for complete flexibility in terms of staff location”

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Frederic Chanut
Founder, In Marketing We Trust

Although Filtered Media’s staff members predominantly work in the office, they can choose to work elsewhere.

Mrs Jones, 39, explains: “It’s about results and trust, not location or hours. One senior manager works every Friday from home as part of her regular arrangements as her commute is quite lengthy.

“Others can work from home on agreement with their manager, so if they are working on a proposal, or writing and need focused time, or a child is sick, or just because.

“We find in life and business, people often rise to the expectations you have of them.”

Suiting lifestyles

It is a similar story at fellow Sydney small business In Marketing We Trust, which was founded by Frederic Chanut last year.

His digital marketing company now employs 10 members of staff, but only three of them regularly come into the office.

Frederic ChanutFrederic Chanut’s staff are nowhere to be seen…

“Most of my team work remotely, as it suits their lifestyle,” says Mr Chanut, 31.

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A lot of managers have trust issues – is that employee really working?”

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Yvette Blount
Flexible working expert

Currently he has staff working from home at places across New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, and even abroad in Mexico City, and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

“I set up the business to have systems and processes designed for complete flexibility in terms of staff location,” he says.

“I do however try to keep everyone working for at least three hours together in the morning Sydney time. This ensures that any issue is resolved quickly, and also enables real-time communication.”

Trust issues

Given the sunny weather and easy access to the beach enjoyed by most Australians – 85% of the population live within 50km (30 miles) of the sea – it is perhaps unsurprising that having the option to work flexibly is popular in Australia.

Marilyn MonroeFiltered Media allows its staff to take a “Marilyn Monroe Day” in the fortnight around their birthdays

In fact, one in five Australians made a request to work flexible hours last year, according to a report by the Centre for Work and Life at the University of South Australia.

The study also says that staff who are able to work more flexibly are both happier and more productive.

However, Yvette Blount, an expert in flexible working at Macquarie University’s Faculty of Business and Economics, says that many firms – both large and small – remain suspicious.

“A lot of managers have trust issues,” she says. “Is that employee really working? Or are they sitting at the beach?

“Of course with the right manager and staff you get… the cost benefit of reduced office space, and even increased productivity, which is backed up by research.”

‘Matching interests’

For friends Fiona Anson and Alli Baker the realisation that more Australians wished to work flexibly was the inspiration behind setting up their company Workible last year.

Workible is a flexible job website designed to match workers with positions that fit around their lifestyles.

Fiona Anson (left) and Alli BakerThe bosses at Workible are helping people who wish to work flexibly find employment

Ms Anson, 55, says: “On more than one occasion we mused that if a dating site can match love interests, why can’t a job site match availability interests?”

Workible now has 30,000 users, and Ms Anson says numbers are growing strongly – rising by a quarter every month.

She and Ms Baker, who both used to work in marketing, have eight members of staff at their office in central Sydney.

“We knew we’d spotted the start of a wave that would see the way we work change dramatically,” adds Ms Anson.

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High Australian real estate prices lead to bubble fears

Sydney skylineDemand for real estate has outstripped supply in Sydney and Melbourne, leading to high prices

Real estate has long been an Australian obsession and sharp spikes in house prices across Australia’s major cities in recent years have fuelled the passion for property. But it is not easy working out who or what is to blame.

Fluctuating prices, and what triggers them, are studiously followed in a country where two-thirds of the population own their own home.

The most spectacular growth has been in the notoriously fevered Sydney market, which has grown 15% over the 2013-14 financial year, compared with a combined 10% across all the state capital cities, according to figures from property information firm RP Data.

The median house price in Sydney has now reached a jaw-dropping A$800,000 ($697,000, £440,000), many times the average wage.

Hardly surprising, therefore, that Australian house prices are among the least affordable in the economic bloc of more than 30 OECD countries, leaving a generation of renters with dwindling prospects of achieving the dream of home ownership.

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Prime International Residential Index – Square meters US$1m will buy

  • Monaco 15
  • Hong Kong 21
  • London 25
  • Singapore 33
  • Geneva 35
  • New York 40
  • Sydney 41
  • Paris 42
  • Moscow 43
  • Shanghai 46

Source: Knight Frank

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Clearly, the boom reflects market forces: demand has outstripped supply in Sydney and Melbourne but what is stimulating this ferocious appetite?

Is it moneybags investors looking to boost their retirement incomes, cashed-up buyers from China, low interest rates, preferential tax regimes or planning laws stifling development?

The truth is complicated, and what affects one city, or suburb, almost certainly will not apply to places and properties elsewhere.

Chinese demand

For example, while residential markets in Sydney and Melbourne performed well, sales this year in Perth have been subdued.

A view of the eight-bedroom, seven-bathroom house 'Altona' at the Sydney harbour-front on May 2, 2013. According to a report the Altona mansion was sold to a Chinese-born businessman for 54.3 million US dollars, setting a new property record for the cityChinese nationals have been investing in property in Australia

“The resources-based economy, which is largely affected by fluctuations in iron ore, gold and precious metal prices, is very slow. There has been a big reduction in employment opportunities in Western Australia and that has fallen back into the property market,” says David Airey, president of the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia.

On the other side of the continent, it is a very different story.

“Buying pressure in Sydney has come from overseas investors literally buying everything they can, particularly from Asia,” Mr Airey says. “Sydney prices look cheap to them. They look expensive to Australians but A$1m really doesn’t buy you very much.”

The impact of Chinese investment is the subject of on-going studies at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). Dr Adrian Lee, a postdoctoral research fellow at UTS Business School, says Chinese nationals are only allowed to buy new, not established properties in Australia. But he questions whether Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board “has adequately enforced the restrictions”.

Dr Lee believes the flow of money will increase.

“I think Australian property will continue to be favourable to China’s growing middle class as they perceive Australia as a great place to eventually live in for themselves and their families,” he says.

‘Fraught with danger’

Another culprit in climbing house prices is Australia’s so-called negative gearing, which offers a tax break to more than a million investors who make a loss on their property investments, says Dale Boccabella from the University of New South Wales, who describes negative gearing as a “defect in the system”.

Sold propertyThere are fears that excessive speculation is driving up prices

“No-one is going to be able to tell us the extent to which the continuing of negative gearing is putting pressure on house prices but it must be making some contribution,” says Mr Boccabella. “It is so entrenched. People have just latched onto it. It is part and parcel of the culture.”

With some of the world’s most expensive bricks and mortar, Australians are often warned the housing market is a bubble that will eventually burst.

In September, federal treasurer Joe Hockey rejected those grim projections as “lazy analysis”, adding that he didn’t “see at the moment any substantial risk” because supply wasn’t meeting demand.

But real estate agents do see the potential for trouble ahead because of reckless lending to some buyers.

“The flow of credit for first-time home-buyers is far too easy,” says Mark Wizel, a director of real estate firm CBRE in Melbourne.

“I think that it is a market that is fraught with a bit of danger because if there is a correction in the housing market buyers that have over-extended themselves to take up the opportunity of the great Australian dream may be left exposed.”

Predicting where the market goes from here is a national pastime but agents in Sydney believe booming sales will begin to slow towards the end of the traditional peak spring period.

The Reserve Bank of Australia is also considering reforms to prevent what it believes is excessive speculation by investors that has helped to drive prices higher.

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Australia bank plans UK asset sale

Clydesdale Bank bank branch in London

National Australia Bank is considering floating its UK operations on the stock market as part of an exit from the UK.

NAB said it was looking at all options for the future of the Clydesdale and Yorkshire banking division.

The news came as the Melbourne-based bank announced a fall in profits, due mainly to problems at its UK operation.

Chief executive Andrew Thorburn said: “We have an intention to exit the UK… What we are signalling is that’s our intent, it is an absolute priority.”

Together, Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank have more than 320 branches. Earlier this year NAB announced a plan to close around 30 branches and invest £45m in its UK business.

Net profit at Australia’s fourth largest bank was down 1.1% to A$5.3bn (£3bn), but cash earnings, which strip out volatile items, fell 9.8% to $5.18bn in the year to September.

Mr Thorburn told reporters: “While our Australia and New Zealand franchises are in good shape, it is disappointing to record a full year result that includes $1.5bn after tax in UK conduct provisions and other impairments.

“Our clear focus is on our Australian and New Zealand franchises. In relation to exiting UK banking, this means we are now examining a broader range of options including those provided by public markets,” said Mr Thorburn, who took over NAB in August.

He has already announced plans to offload the group’s US operation Great Western Bank via a stock market listing.

Mis-selling

NAB also announced profit figures for Clydesdale and Yorkshire. Annual pre-tax earnings rose by 90% to £203m, helped by a 49% drop in bad debts to £80m.

Last month the bank said that redress for Payment Protection Insurance mis-selling would cost £420m for the financial year just ended. That was up from £75m announced in August.

Clydesdale is also having to set aside £250m to repay businesses which were mis-sold complex financial products intended to protect against interest rate volatility.

The company has also been hit by bad property loans.

NAB bought Scotland-based Clydesdale Bank in 1987 and Yorkshire Bank in 1990.

NAB paid £420m for Scotland-based Clydesdale Bank 1987 and around £900m for the Yorkshire business in 1990.

Market conditions may make a flotation unlikely in the short term. Both Virgin Money and Aldermore bank have postponed planned listings recently because of volatility on the stock market.

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Australia agrees emissions deal

File photo: Conveyor belts carry coal from the open cut mine to the Loy Yang B power station in the Latrobe Valley, 150km east of Melbourne, 13  August 2009Australia has one of the world’s highest carbon emissions per capita

The Australian government has reached a deal with a key political party and independent senators to push through a carbon emissions plan.

The Palmer United Party, led by mining tycoon Clive Palmer, and senators Nick Xenophon and John Madigan agreed to a controversial emissions reduction fund.

The A$2.5bn (£1.4bn, $2.2bn) fund will be used to pay big polluters to cut emissions and use cleaner energy.

The deal was criticised by the opposition and environment groups.

Australia has one of the world’s highest carbon emissions per capita.

The new carbon emissions plan replaces a carbon tax scheme which senators voted to repeal in July.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s ruling coalition had campaigned partly on repealing the carbon tax and replacing it with its own reduction plan.

Concessions

In order to push through the plan, the Australian government agreed to some concessions suggested by Mr Palmer and other senators.

It will not abolish an independent climate change body as planned. Instead, the body will be directed to review emissions trading schemes (ETS) in other countries. Under an ETS, a fixed number of permits to emit pollutants can be traded between firms.

Clive Palmer speaks at National Press Club on 7 July 2014 in Canberra, Australia. Mr Palmer’s party agreed to support the emissions plan in return for concessions

Mr Palmer’s party is pushing for such a scheme to be implemented in Australia only if the country’s trading partners have one too. Mr Palmer said on Wednesday that he has “kept alive” that prospect.

The government also agreed to put in place an unspecified “safeguard mechanism” by Mr Xenophon to ensure companies comply with requirements.

The original carbon tax scheme was introduced by the former Labor government, which also supports an emissions trading scheme.

Labor leader Bill Shorten criticised Wednesday’s deal, saying Mr Abbott had “sold his soul to Clive Palmer, and Australia will pay the price”.

‘Incomplete and ineffective’

Greens leader Christine Milne meanwhile said the emissions reductions fund (ERF) will “pay polluters to pollute” .

Australia aims to cut emissions to 5% below their level in 2000 within six years.

The deal was welcomed by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who described the ERF as “the best short term option to reduce emissions”.

“We don’t want to rush into an emissions trading scheme and impose unnecessary costs on Australian businesses,” the group said.

Screenshot of Christine Milne's tweetsGreens leader Christine Milne criticised the deal on Twitter

However, environmental organisations criticised the deal.

“The Government’s so-called direct action plan sets no cap on pollution and places no obligation on polluters,” the Australian Conservation Foundation said, describing the deal as “weak, incomplete and ineffective”.

Climate Institute deputy chief executive Erwin Jackson told the Australian Associated Press: “No independent modelling has shown that the government’s policy can achieve our [emissions reduction] targets.”

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Australia’s Ebola visa ban condemned

Health workers at an Ebola treatment centre run by Medecins Sans Frontieres in Monrovia, Liberia, on October 27, 2014There have been 4,922 deaths from the Ebola virus, according to the World Health Organization’s latest figures

Sierra Leone has condemned Australia’s decision to suspend entry visas for people from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa as “counterproductive” and “discriminatory”.

The move has also been criticised by Amnesty International.

And UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said travel restrictions will severely curtail efforts to beat Ebola.

Nearly 5,000 people have died from the virus, the vast majority of them in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

In other developments:

  • Eighty-two people who had contact with a toddler who died in Mali are now being monitored
  • A Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola in the US from a Liberian patient but is now free of the virus has been discharged from hospital
  • New US federal guidelines say medics returning from treating Ebola patients in West Africa should be monitored but not placed in quarantine – but some states say they will continue with their quarantine polices
  • President Barack Obama has said policy for returning medics should be based on science and not fear
  • Separately, the US Army has imposed a 21-day monitoring period for all soldiers returning from the region

‘Protect Australians’

The Australian government announced on Monday that it was cancelling non-permanent or temporary visas held by people from the affected countries who were not yet travelling, and that new visa applications would not be processed.



Annie, an Ebola patient, is carried on a stretcher to hospital in Liberia

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The BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse reports from Monrovia in Liberia: ”Ebola robs its victims of their dignity”

Permanent visa holders yet to arrive in Australia must undergo a 21-day quarantine process before departure.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison told parliament: “The government’s systems and processes are working to protect Australians.”

But Sierra Leone’s Information Minister Alpha Kanu described the move as “too draconian”, insisting that measures put in place at Sierra Leone’s Freetown airport had successfully prevented anyone flying out of the country with Ebola.

“It is discriminatory in that… it is not [going] after Ebola but rather it is… [going] against the 24 million citizens of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Certainly, it is not the right way to go,” he told Reuters news agency. “This measure by the Australian government is absolutely counterproductive.”

Jim Yong KimWorld Bank President Jim Yong Kim made an emotional appeal for help

Health workers arrive to pick up the body of a young victim in Freetown, Sierra Leone, 24 OctHealth workers arrive to pick up the body of a young victim in Freetown, Sierra Leone

Ugandan government spokesman Ofwono Opondo said: “Western countries are creating mass panic which is unhelpful in containing a contagious disease like Ebola.

“If they create mass panic… this fear will eventually spread beyond ordinary people to health workers or people who transport the sick and then what will happen? Entire populations will be wiped out.”

Amnesty International said Australia was taking a “narrow approach”.

A spokesman for the human rights group said the ban made no sense from a health perspective but ensured that vulnerable people were trapped in a crisis area.

‘Fear factor’

Meanwhile, the president of the World Bank has appealed for thousands of medical workers to volunteer and help contain the growing Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Jim Yong Kim said at least 5,000 medics and support staff were needed to beat the disease.

Many potential recruits were too scared to travel to West Africa, he added.



Dr Stacey Mearns

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Dr Stacey Mearns talks of the “shocking” conditions on the ground as she works on the Ebola frontline in Sierra Leone

Mr Kim was speaking during a visit to Ethiopia, where he accompanied the UN secretary general and African Union chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

“Right now, I’m very much worried about where we will find those healthcare workers,” he said.

“With the fear factor going out of control in so many places, I hope healthcare professionals will understand that when they took their oath to become a healthcare worker it was precisely for moments like this,” he added.

Mr Ban said that transmission rates in West Africa continued to outstrip the pace of the international response.

On Tuesday, Mr Obama backed updated guidelines issued the day before for people returning from West Africa to the US.

He said he did not want strict US quarantine policies to discourage “heroic” American healthcare workers from dealing with the virus at source.

“America is not defined by fear, it’s defined by possibility,” he said.

There have been 4,922 deaths from the Ebola virus, according to the World Health Organization’s latest figures.

All but 27 of the cases have occurred inside Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

The virus spreads through close contact and health officials say stopping the spread of the disease in the areas hardest hit by the outbreak will prevent Ebola’s spread to other countries.

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Ebola virus disease (EVD)


The ebola virus

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How Ebola survivors’ blood is saving lives

  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% – but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 70%
  • No proven vaccine or cure
  • Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus’s natural host

Ebola special report

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Piece of Australia found in Vanuatu

File image of ash field towards Mount Yasur volcano as it billows ash over Tanna in Vanuatu. Aug 2010Vanuatu – a string of more than 80 islands – is prone to volcanic activity

A fragment of ancient Australia has been found under Vanuatu in the South Pacific, raising questions about how continents are formed, researchers say.

Experts had believed that the volcanic islands, east of Australia, were isolated from continental influence.

But a team from James Cook University says it has found tiny zircon crystals of the same age in rocks on Vanuatu and in northern Australia.

Researcher Carl Spandler said the crystals “shouldn’t be there”.

The tiny crystals were carried in volcanic magma, the Australian Associated Press reported, and by using the latest radiometric techniques they were dated at up to three billion years old.

map

Mr Spandler said that the presence of the zircon had major implications for how scientists understand how continents are made.

“There is nothing else like it in the south-west Pacific,” he said.

“Just because island chains or land masses may be far removed from each other today, doesn’t mean that they always were. This calls for a rethink of how we calculate the rates and processes of generating new crust on Earth.”

The piece of Australian crust now under Vanuatu is believed to have separated from the mainland prior to the Cenozoic Era – about 100 million years ago.

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Australia green firms hit by cut

File image of solar panels on roof of a house in Sydney. August 2009Companies in Australia’s renewable energy sector said business had been growing

The Australian government has never hidden its scepticism about climate change or renewable energy but its decision last week to cut support for cleaner energy sources still left the renewable energy industry reeling.

Earlier this year, Stacy Nichols’ small electrical business on Queensland’s Gold Coast employed six people.

By the time the Australian government announced on 22 October its intention to reduce its support for renewable energy, she was down to just two staff.

“I have a van set up for solar work sitting on the street, with no solar work or staff due to [Prime Minister] Tony Abbott,” Ms Nichols says.

The many companies, such as Ms Nichols’ firm, that are involved in the burgeoning renewables industry – mostly wind and solar power operators – were devastated by the government’s announcement that it would cut its target of generating 41,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) a year of renewable energy by 2020 to 27,000 GWh a year.

The government says the cut in the Renewable Energy Target (RET) takes account of a decline in overall demand for electricity that has been sparked, in part, by higher power prices. It also says the lower target will provide certainty to the renewables sector.

Uncertain future

The decision is not as drastic as it could have been. A government-commissioned review by businessman and climate change sceptic Dick Warburton had proposed, as one option, scrapping the RET altogether.

However, the new target still has to make its way through parliament either with the support of the Labor opposition or of a number of independent senators in the Upper House – neither of which is a sure thing.

Until that is settled, businesses such as Ms Nichols’ are facing an uncertain future.

“We were growing,” the mother of two young children said of their family business. “We were looking to put on more people and get another van.”

Her company, Infinite Lighting Electrical, decided to specialise in solar electricity work just two years ago as the industry encouraged its members to pursue solar power in a political climate where the sector was supported by an RET entrenched in legislation by the previous Labor government.

Ms Nichols invested heavily in training and certification for her staff.

But months ago, when it became clear the government would cut or dump the target RET, business began to dry up, she says.

Chimney stack of steel works in Port Kembla 86km (53 miles) south of Sydney. 2 July 2014 Australia is the highest carbon emitter per capita of any country in the OECD

It is not only small operators who have been hurt. One of Australia’s largest wind turbine tower producers, Keppel Prince Engineering in Victoria, announced last Thursday it had sacked 100 workers because of the government’s RET decision.

A number of large-scale renewable energy producers had already been affected by the conservative government’s lack of commitment to renewable energy, says the sector’s peak body, the Clean Energy Council.

In July, clean energy solutions provider Pacific Hydro cut its staff by 10%; Hydro Tasmania has said the government’s scrapping of the carbon tax would significantly cut into profits, and US company, Recurrent Energy, has reportedly closed its Australian office.

The Clean Energy Council says a cut in the RET will kill much of Australia’s renewable energy industry, which employs about 21,000 people nationwide.

“A substantial reduction of [the] target to around 27,000 GWh… would equate to a 64% reduction in future investment and effectively devastate the renewable energy sector,” says the council’s acting chief executive Kane Thornton, adding that consumers will end up paying higher, not lower power bills because of the cut in supply.

The Australian government’s move to “recarbonise” does not bode well ahead of global climate talks in Paris next year, says policy think tank the Climate Institute.

“The core risk is that it institutionalises failure by driving up emissions,” says Climate Institute deputy chief executive, Erwin Jackson.

The European Union has announced it will cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% on 1990 levels by 2030.

Australia, the highest carbon emitter per capita of any country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), has an existing emissions reduction target of at least 5% by the end of this decade.

“We need all countries to be pulling their weight,” Mr Jackson says.

A decline in Australia’s renewable energy generation will take it in the wrong direction, he says.

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-29782142#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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