Archive for April, 2019

SPC rejection a major setback: Victorian government

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The Victorian government says the federal government’s refusal of a 25-million-dollar bailout for SPC Ardmona is a major setback for the region.


Deputy Premier Peter Ryan says the government is concerned about the potential impact on local growers and SPC Ardmona workers in northern Victoria.

SPCA was counting on receiving a 25-million dollar grant each from the federal and Victorian governments, but the Victorian component will no longer be available because it was conditional on a positive federal decision.

Criticism has also come from internal sources. The federal government’s reasons for rejecting a plan to support ailing fruit processor SPC Ardmona don’t stack up, warns a Liberal MP who believes the fruit processor’s future is on a razor’s edge.

Victorian MP Sharman Stone also fears the impact of losing SPC Ardmona in her electorate of Murray would be greater than that felt by Holden ceasing manufacturing operations in South Australia.

“We’re talking about some 750 workers here plus another 5000 linked jobs,” Dr Stone told AAP.

She maintained it was a “no-brainer” for the federal government to stump up $25 million as part of an investment deal to prop up the operations.

That would have included co-investments from the Victorian government and SPC Ardmona’s parent company Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA).

“There will be far more than $25 million needed for welfare if all these jobs go,” Dr Stone said, adding she hoped CCA shareholders would stand by the Australian label.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott told SPC Ardmona management it must reinvigorate itself without government assistance.

But Dr Stone said the company had already made significant changes including a 30 per cent reduction in the workforce.

“This isn’t a wage issue, this is more about cheap imports currently allowed on Australian supermarket shelves,” she said.

Labor industry spokesman Kim Carr said there was no foundation for Mr Abbott’s suggestion that SPC Ardmona worker conditions were unreasonably generous.

He said a Productivity Commission report found labour costs appeared a relatively minor contributor to costs for the fruit processing industry.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) lashed out at the government for encouraging workers to make concessions on pay and conditions, while the Electrical Trades Union pleaded with CCA not to close the factory.

SPC Ardmona plans to review its operations as a result of Thursday’s decision and Victorian Deputy Premier Peter Ryan says the government is keen to discuss with the company a plan to secure its operations.

“The Goulburn Valley is the food bowl of Australia and food production and manufacturing in the region has a very positive outlook with potential to grow exports and create new jobs,” Mr Ryan said.

But Victorian fruit growers fear dire consequences for the Shepparton region.

“The town is going to be decimated because so many industries rely on the fruit industry, it’s not just fruit growers,” local industry spokesman Gary Godwill told AAP.

Dr Stone says she has expressed her disappointment to Mr Abbott and says it is not the first time she’s been at odds with her party.

“People have told me today that I should throw it in and become an independent, but this decision doesn’t affect my Liberal views,” Dr Stone said.

“What it makes me understand is that there is a lot of educating to do in the cabinet room.”

Red Bull’s F1 test nightmare continues

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Vettel flew home from Jerez on Wednesday night after managing only 11 laps in two days following battery problems with the new Renault power unit.


The team said Thursday’s issues were similar to the previous day’s.

“Adrian has gone back to the drawing board. There is only so much they can do here at the track,” Ricciardo told reporters.

“Adrian is pretty happy working in his office back at Milton Keynes and he’ll definitely be getting involved in trying to sort out the next step.”

Newey, who has designed title-winning cars for three separate teams, actually has an old-style drawing board in his office that he likes to work on with a pencil and jokingly refers to himself as the last of the dinosaurs in a computer-generated age.

He has a real challenge on his hands now, with Formula One undergoing the biggest technical transformation in a generation with a new turbocharged V6 and complicated energy recovery systems as well as revised aerodynamics rules.

Ricciardo said time was still on Red Bull’s side, with the team making slow starts to a season in the past only to end up dominant.

Vettel won the last nine races of 2013, a record for a single season, and 13 in total as he wrapped up a fourth successive title with three races to spare.

Red Bull’s race-engineering co-ordinator Andy Damerum said the team had worked hard to make changes overnight but the measures taken had only partially solved the issues.

“It’s obviously not where we want to be and naturally the whole team is frustrated by these issues,” he said. “However we’re pretty good at bouncing back from this type of thing.”


While the Renault-engined teams struggled, with Toro Rosso managing only 30 laps after none on Wednesday and Caterham failing to set a timed circuit, those with Mercedes and Ferrari units racked up the mileage.

Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen was fastest overall on the third day with a lap of one minute 23.276 seconds in his first experience of the car he will be racing this year.

Brazilian Felipe Massa was second quickest for Williams, now powered by Mercedes after a switch from Renault, with 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton third on the timesheets for the Mercedes team and Jenson Button fourth for McLaren.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso made his first appearance of the year in front of his home fans and completed 58 laps/257km with the fifth best time.

“I’ve missed it for a few months now, even if I’ve spent hours in the simulator in Maranello, and the feeling I got from the track was as exciting as ever,” said the Spaniard.

“Now we have a lot of work ahead of us but we have a very big potential to make progress and that’s encouraging.”

Even if times were irrelevant, the time on the track was significant with cars with Mercedes power units completing a total of 965km so far and the Mercedes works team accounting for 783 of them.

“At the moment we’re definitely happy,” said Hamilton whose day was cut short by a transmission failure in the afternoon and who now hands over to team mate Nico Rosberg for the final day.

“I’m feeling very positive after these tests and every day on track is another step forwards.”

Marussia made their track debut with Britain’s Max Chilton at the wheel and did five installation laps as they dialled in the MR03 car.

“The laps we were able to complete were without issue so we are pretty pleased with the start we have made,” said chief engineer Dave Greenwood.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

Scottish youth divided over referendum

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In June this year, it will be 700 years since Robert the Bruce led his band of young Scots into the Battle of Bannockburn, defeating a much larger English army, and in the process cementing his place in Scottish history.


The unofficial national anthem, “Flower of Scotland”, celebrates the victory and still, all these years later, makes the English squirm as Scots proudly sing about the defeat of King Edward’s army which, in the words of the song was “sent homewards to think again”.

The song laments the fact that Scotland is no longer an independent nation and goes on to proclaim that “we can still rise now and be the nation again.”

Now, 700 years later, Scotland has the chance to do just that, and to do it not on the battlefield but through the ballot box. 

In September this year, Scotland will vote on whether to become an independent nation. However, the youth of today do not possess that same passion that drove their predecessors to the blood soaked fields of Bannockburn.

According to all the polls Scots are about to deliver a resounding “no” to independence, and surprisingly it is my peers who are leading the charge against the very cause that, in the words of the song, the battlers at Bannockburn “fought and died for”.

A recent survey of more than 1000 young Scots conducted by Edinburgh University’s Economic and Social Research Council found that only 26 per cent support independence.  According to the BBC, 67 per cent of young people in Scotland feel they would like more information before making a final decision.

Victoria Robertson, 21 a medical student from Ladybank, Fife said: “I think my student lifestyle means I live in a bit of a bubble, we’re probably a hard target audience to attract. I personally don’t think I have enough information about the referendum so I probably won’t vote but if I had to I think I’d vote no, as I feel Scotland would benefit from its connections with England in the long run”.

The “Yes Scotland” camp and “Better Together” have been extremely active on Facebook with more than 200,000 “likes” between them but more needs to be done to reach out to Scotland’s young people to help them make a decision about which way to vote at the polls.

Paula Sclater, a 23-year-old call-centre worker from Barrhead, Glasgow said: “I don’t really know what the Independence campaign is about. I’ve seen people talking about it on Facebook but I don’t really understand it so I wouldn’t know what I was voting for.”

In the run up to the referendum, Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, controversially succeeded in lowering the voting age from 18 to 16. He had hoped that young people would prove less conservative than their parents or grandparents and more willing to embrace change.

But when it comes to independence it would appear that the youngest voters are among the least supportive.

Samantha Sloan, a 16-year-old high school student from Cupar, Fife said: “I would vote no because I think it’s all too farfetched.  Alex Salmond is kidding himself in believing that the EU would accept us and we need to be a part of the EU to remain economically stable.

“It would cause an even greater gap between the Scottish and English and we’ve fought so long to become a united nation so I don’t see why we should destroy that. I think it’s all a bit confusing and information that isn’t biased to help younger people to understand the election is scarce”.

The issue of nuclear weapons (Britain’s nuclear armed Trident submarines are based off the west coast of Scotland) has been central to the campaign and it is what drives me to have a difference of opinion to many other young people. The Scottish National Party’s declaration that the weapons will be removed from Scottish soil if the country votes yes to independence is a vote winner for me. I don’t want to live in a country that possesses hideously expensive weapons that can never be used. The saving in running costs alone could amount to the training of 3,880 nurses or 4,527 teachers, or to build 13 to 20 primary schools.

Annie Aitken, 22, a student from Lathrisk, Fife agrees: “I think that at the moment, Westminster is never going to be able to come up with policies that suit everybody and in the end they make policies that suit London rather than anywhere else. Everyone is scared of Scotland being on its own because it’s so small but that means that it will be easier for everyone’s voices to be heard and an independent Scottish government will be able to make decisions which best reflect what Scottish people need and want”.

The battle for the votes of the young has seen both camps use teenage supporters as spokespeople for their campaigns.

Michaella Drummond, 17, from Kirkcaldy, Fife is passionately opposed to independence. A spokeswoman for “Better together,” she appears to be preaching to the converted.

“I know that the overwhelming majority of my friends and the majority of people my age that I speak to simply cannot see the sense in Scotland going it alone,” she said.

“Right now we have the best of both worlds. Drawing a line across an island and saying ‘everyone north of this line is different from everyone south of it’ is irrational and untrue.”

Hannah Thomson is a journalism student from Scotland.


Olympic breaststroke champion Soni retires

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“Before I move away from swimming too much, I want to take the time to give back,” Soni said in a statement released by USA Swimming.


“The swimming community has become my family and I want to do my best to inspire the next generation and to share some of the things I’ve learned.”

Soni competed at two Olympics and won medals – three gold and three silver – in each of the six events she contested and is the only woman to successfully defend an Olympic breaststroke title.

Raised in New Jersey by her Hungarian-born immigrant parents, Soni stormed onto the Olympic stage in Beijing in 2008 with a stunning upset win over Leisel Jones in the 200 breaststroke final, breaking the Australian’s world record.

The following year, at the 2009 world championships in Rome, Soni won her first world titles, in the 100m.

But her joy was tempered by the loss of her 200m world record, at a meet where the now-banned polyurethane bodysuits were allowed and produced a slew of world records, many of which still stand.

Soni won the 100-200 breaststroke double, and a relay gold medal, at the 2011 world championships and was widely expected to repeat that feat at the 2012 London Olympics after months of gruelling training in the Pacific Ocean near her California home.

Soni, who needed surgery when she was a teenager to repair an irregular heartbeat, got off to a bad start when she was narrowly beaten for the gold in the 100 by Lithuanian schoolgirl Ruta Meilutyte.

But she recovered to win the 200, reclaiming her world record in the process, then helped the United States win the women’s medley relay in what proved to be her last appearance at an international event.

“You will always be the greatest female breaststroker ever in my book,” tweeted Rowdy Gaines, who won three gold medals at the 1984 Los Angles Olympics.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto and Julian Linden in New York; Editing by Gene Cherry)

Rising tennis talents excite Hewitt

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When Lleyton Hewitt eventually decides to hang up his racquet, he’ll do so content Australia’s Davis Cup future is in good hands.


Preparing for the World Group tie in France alongside the nation’s most promising young players has reassured Hewitt the outlook is bright for the 28-time champions.

The 32-year-old believes teenagers Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis are the young talents Australian tennis has been crying out for in recent years and they, along with Bernard Tomic, can carry on the nation’s rich Davis Cup tradition.

Hewitt, a likely future Australian captain, has put no timeframe on his retirement but describes the emergence of Kyrgios and Kokkinakis as “good timing”.

“It would have been nice to have these young guys four or five years ago,” Hewitt said.

“But now … I don’t know how long I’m going to end up playing for and it’s good to have those guys backing me up towards the end of my career and then these guys can take over.

“With these two, and throw Bernie back in the mix who has performed big under pressure in Davis Cup, there’s definitely a squad building at the moment which is a positive going forward.”

Pat Rafter’s extended squad for the tie in La Roche sur Yon also includes 19-year-old Jordan Thompson and the Australian captain has been impressed by the attitude of his young players.

However he’s also pleaded for patience, warning they are in need of plenty of development before they can be consistent performers at the top level.

“These kids are young, they haven’t developed and they’re going to need time for their bodies to fully fit into the men’s game,” Rafter said.

“Every now and then you get a freak athlete like Nadal or someone like that at a young age but it’s not normal procedure for a kid to go down.

“So we’re very conscious of their development and of how hard we’re pushing them with what we do.”