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    Qantas aims to close fuel surcharge loophole

    29/07/2019 - Author: admin

    Exposed: A loophole in the Qantas and Emirates alliance has slashed fuel surcharges for some passengers. Photo: Nic WalkerSavvy frequent flyers are avoiding as much as $610 in fuel surcharges on Qantas international flights by exploiting a loophole in its alliance with Emirates.

    Almost two months after the airlines launched their tie-up, executives from the two airlines will meet within the next week to talk about resolving a major difference between their fuel surcharges.

    Travellers wanting to fly economy from Australia to London return have been able to escape paying $610 in fuel surcharges by redeeming their frequent-flyer points on an Emirates flight rather than Qantas. They can also pay $290 less for a return economy ticket on Emirates to an Asian destination.

    The discrepancy is high on the agenda of the upcoming meeting between Qantas and Emirates executives about their alliance. They have not tackled the problem earlier because the airlines had been focused on overcoming other matters such as regulatory hurdles.

    A possible resolution could be for Qantas to lower its fuel surcharges to better match Emirates. But a reduction would mean that Qantas would take a hit to its revenue. Conversely, any increase in charges by Emirates is likely to face a consumer backlash.

    Fuel surcharges are mostly an expensive irritant for frequent-flyer members.

    Qantas cannot raise the total cost of a ticket considerably higher than its rivals because it would make it uncompetitive. But it can try to recoup the cost of fuel by imposing fuel surcharges on passengers who are using frequent-flyer points to pay for their fare.

    Qantas has almost 9 million frequent-flyer members.

    The airline would not speculate on the likely outcome of the talks but a spokesman said it monitored fuel surcharges ”closely and where there’s an opportunity to reduce them, we will”.

    Qantas has faced pressure from travel agents to reduce its surcharges after a fall in fuel prices.

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    Opposition calls for answers over $405m sale of government-owned office blocks

    - Author: admin

    The government has “serious questions to answer” : Opposition finance spokesman Michael Daley. Photo: Jonathan CarrollThe chairman of a property firm which has won the right to buy $405 million worth of state-owned office blocks also chaired the NSW government taskforce that recommended selling government buildings to the private sector.

    NSW Finance and Services Minister Greg Pearce announced on Wednesday seven state-owned office blocks had been sold to Cromwell Property Group following a competitive tender. They include in the Sydney CBD the McKell building in Rawson Place, Bligh House on Bligh Street and Symantec House in Kent Street.

    The government has struck an agreement with Cromwell to lease back all but the Kent Street building for government employees at market rent for 15 years.

    Mr Pearce said the sale price was $100 million more than expectations and that proceeds would go into the government’s Housing Acceleration Fund.

    But the non-executive chairman of Cromwell Property Group, Geoff Levy, also chaired the Property Asset Utilisation Taskforce whose report last year recommended the sale of government buildings.

    Mr Pearce appointed Mr Levy as chairman of the taskforce, which recommended the government only retain properties to support ”core service delivery”. ”Leased or owned real property assets which don’t meet this test should be relinquished or realised and the rental savings or unlocked capital be put to better use,” the report said.

    The executive director of Cromwell Property Group, Paul Weightman, said Mr Levy’s dual roles ”caused us no end of grief because of all the probity rules attached”. However, he said the conflict was disclosed during the expression-of-interest process and Mr Levy was ”not involved in any way” in the transaction at the request of the state government.

    Mr Pearce said there had been ”an exhaustive, transparent tender process with interest from local and international bidders and I am pleased a diversified Australian listed property group like Cromwell has been successful”. But the opposition finance spokesman, Michael Daley, said the government had ”serious questions to answer”.

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    NSW hospitals worst place for Golden Staph

    - Author: admin

    Named: Prince of Wales hospital was one of a number in NSW which recorded high infection rates. Photo: Brendan EspositoPatients are more likely to catch potentially deadly infections in some NSW hospitals than anywhere else in the country, figures show.

    More than half the hospitals that failed to meet national benchmarks for Golden Staph blood infections are in NSW, according to a National Health Performance Authority audit released on Thursday.

    Overall infection rates in NSW are low but the state is being let down by dangerously high rates in Westmead, St George, Prince of Wales and Blacktown hospitals, as well as John Hunter and Calvary Mater Newcastle.

    Experts say these hospitals must do more to stop transmission of Golden Staph, which is linked to poor hand-washing and kills 20 to 30 per cent of people who have blood infections.

    Mary-Louise McLaws, a professor of Epidemiology in Healthcare Infection and Infectious Diseases Control at the University of NSW, said NSW could be stuck in a ”vicious cycle”.

    ”If you have more people in the community with [Golden Staph], more people in hospital and sharing a hospital ward and staff sharing care of a large number of patients, you have an increased risk of transmission.”

    The results are an improvement for NSW, which last year had nine of 13 hospitals with infection rates above the benchmark of two cases for every 10,000 patient bed days.

    NSW Clinical Excellence Commission chief executive Cliff Hughes said on average NSW had only one case of Golden Staph for every 10,000 patient bed days – a decrease on last year.

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    Defiant mood at Fowler funeral

    - Author: admin

    Defiant: Roger Rogerson at the funeral. Photo: Janie BarrettThey brought the reputation of the NSW Police Service to its knees but there was no stepping back or apologies when they farewelled the cop who became the symbol of a force gone wrong, Graham ”Chook” Fowler.

    For many at the Palmdale crematorium funeral service on the central coast on Wednesday, defiance took the place of grief.

    The convicted and jailed former NSW policeman Roger Rogerson stood by the body of the former detective inspector jailed for his video portrayal of a corrupt cop in the Wood royal commission and swore vengeance.

    To rising appreciation, Rogerson described Trevor Haken, the former policeman who trapped Fowler into being filmed accepting a bribe, as ”a Judas … a drunk, a blackmailer, a thief, a wife beater” who dobbed in his mates.

    Rogerson told mourners that he, former hotelier Steve Farley and former Kings Cross policeman Peter Kelly, had visited Fowler as he lay stricken in his Bateau Bay home two months ago.

    They talked, he said, about the ”good old days” and the one thing Fowler had wanted was to live long enough to attend Haken’s funeral.

    ”And I speak for many here when I say that I’m going to make sure I’m around to attend the funeral of that lowest form of life,” Rogerson said as the Hillside Chapel erupted in applause.

    Fowler, who had been sick for some time, died of bladder cancer aged 69.

    He had been the boss of Kings Cross detectives, but achieved notoriety in June 1995 when the Wood royal commission watched video footage from a camera placed under the dashboard of a car showing him in his Stubbies pocketing $1000. His second-in-command, Haken, had rolled over and been secretly recording his mates taking bribes to save his own skin.

    About 500 people attended his funeral service.

    The crowd included many friends he made living on the central coast in recent years, including a large contingent from The Entrance Tigers rugby league club.

    There was no condolence book, but given the number of men in their 60s with large chests that had fallen south, it was clear many former police colleagues had come to farewell their mate.

    Fowler was born in Lake Cargelligo in 1943, and joined the NSW police service in 1963. He served in Wagga Wagga before joining the Criminal Investigation Branch and moving to Kings Cross. He married three times and had five children. He ran a delivery business with his wife of 31 years, Sue, on the central coast.

    Michael Byrnes, whose father had convinced Fowler to join the service, told mourners his uncle had become the ”poster boy” for the Wood royal commission.

    He said he was ”a hard cop” who got a bum rap, a man who had served when the NSW Police Force was far different.

    Fowler received a three-year sentence in 2000 with a two-year non-parole period after he was convicted of receiving a bribe and giving false evidence. Haken is in a witness protection program.

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    Monopoly money

    - Author: admin

    Illustration: Simon Letch.Monopolies, as someone riffing on Adam Smith said, are a conspiracy against the public good. Robust competition improves products and puts a lid on prices. Monopoly power, on the other hand, can lead to arrogant disregard for the customer.

    In the computer-software business, there are several monopolies in which a single product has become what we call ”the industry standard”, which means it is the product everyone must have to make their files transportable to any other computer running any other operating system. WordPerfect struggles on, and Open Office is a worthy contender, but Microsoft Word is the obligatory word processor.

    The Windows operating system is a de facto monopoly, which has had Microsoft involved in anti-trust actions in several jurisdictions.

    However, neither MS nor Apple has been as audacious as Adobe in exploiting its monopoly. When your product name becomes a verb, as in Google or Photoshop, you are in a dominant market position.

    By now, most are aware of, and angry about, Adobe’s announcement that there will be no more perpetual licences (that is, software bought on disc) for its Creative Suite of applications, including Photoshop.

    CS6 is the end of the line for Photoshop on disc – from now on, the only way to get the latest version of the software is to sign up for the Creative Cloud and pay to use Photoshop by subscription. Individual subscribers will have to pay $50 a month (after an initial discount period for the first year) to use the Creative Suite programs. For occasional users, this is expensive enough to be a deterrent. But spare a thought for big photographic studios where many licences are needed. Each ”seat” (as Adobe calls them) will cost $70 a month.

    Melbourne architectural photographer John Gollings has six seats in his studio, and he calculates that it will cost him $420 a month, in perpetuity (and what’s stopping Adobe from increasing the fee – monopolies can do that), which he says ”is simply unsustainable”.

    Adobe argues that the 100 gigabytes of Cloud storage included in the deal makes it value for money. A hundred gigabytes? When every new computer comes with two terabytes of storage these days, 100GB is not a generous offer. And Gollings says he is not about to entrust his precious images to an unseen storage system that may not be secure.

    As an amateur photographer, are you ready to sign up for a year’s subscription at $600 to use Photoshop? We thought not.

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