Alliance surge fuels Qantas

Qantas boss Alan Joyce says its alliance with Emirates will help counter stiff competition from rivals such as Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific but he will not bring forward long-term targets for its international operations.
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Launching the alliance on Sunday, Mr Joyce said the airline had experienced a sixfold increase in bookings to Europe on the joint network in the first nine weeks of sales compared with the same period last year.

The tie-up is mostly focused on routes to Europe but includes services to North Africa, the Middle East, Asia and New Zealand. The airlines still need approval for trans-Tasman flying from the New Zealand government.

Mr Joyce said its fares on routes to Europe would drop on average by about $100 as a result of the alliance. Flying to Europe via Dubai rather than Singapore would reduce transit fees, landing fees and extra flight charges.

”We will be going through all the fares and aligning them and deciding what is the appropriate fare … in the various markets,” he said.

The two airlines’ fares will be aligned over the next few weeks, removing the discrepancy evident over the past few weeks.

A Qantas A380 and another superjumbo from Emirates flew in formation above the Opera House in Sydney on Sunday to mark the beginning of the alliance. The pilots reportedly practised by flying the route dozens of times in sophisticated flight simulators.

Despite the bullish response from travellers, Mr Joyce said Qantas would not look at expanding its premium international operations until they met their long-term targets, including breaking even by the 2015 financial year.

But he emphasised that the alliance would bolster Qantas’ ability to maintain two daily services between Australia and London via Dubai.

”The Dubai-London is actually one of the top-selling sectors with the Emirates code on it,” he said. ”Emirates said we could deal with more capacity on Dubai-London.”

Some industry insiders have questioned Qantas’ ability to fill seats between Dubai and London. Many passengers flying from Australia will get off in Dubai to catch connecting flights to destinations in continental Europe.

The competition regulator has also imposed conditions on Qantas and Emirates on the trans-Tasman route, which includes maintaining capacity on four overlapping routes.

Mr Joyce said the limitations on the trans-Tasman route would not allow Qantas to shift flights from the four overlapping routes to start up new services.

Qantas has suggested the alliance could allow it to start new services between Adelaide and Auckland.

”We are still looking at opportunities on the Tasman,” he said.

Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific – the main rivals to Qantas and Emirates – have already been reacting to the alliance with more competitive fares on flights to Europe.

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Sunday, April 7

Shining example: Antiques Master.FREE TO AIR
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Miranda, ABC1, 9.30pm

Miranda’s latest raison d’etre is to find herself a boyfriend now that Gary, whom she fancies, is smitten with local bimbo Rose. A hesitant Miranda and her friends hit the clubs for a girls’ night out. Stevie and Tilly pick up fellas fairly quickly but Miranda has a slightly more difficult time with her signature move, dancing ”like a Thunderbird who needs a wee”. Meanwhile, Miranda’s mother Penny is running for council. After seeking some ill-conceived dating advice and being reminded by Penny that there’s always mad cousin Benji, Miranda decides to pull out all the stops. Hilarity ensues, as it always does in this slapstick-yet-intelligent sitcom. Writer-creator Miranda Hart’s observation-based wit is as sharp as ever, whether she’s dealing with the mundane world of thirtysomething dating or the absurdity of dressing up like a fairy, or, as Miranda puts it, ”a sort of slutty moth”.

Antiques Master, ABC1, 6pm

In this contest to find Britain’s top amateur antiques enthusiast, contestants must identify, date and value items. It’s refreshing to see a reality show that, for want of a better word, matters. Unlike our compatriot cooks and Losers, these contestants haven’t been trained to cry on the spot whenever somebody points a camera in their general direction. This week, Derby porcelain nut Agnes, snuff box collector Jim Bischoff and antique jewellery expert Charlotte are fighting for a place in the semi-finals. Host Sandi Toksvig is constantly telling them to hurry in already short segments, and one can’t help but wonder that if this had been cut, we could have seen more of the actual challenges. However, if, like me, you are partial to the odd episode of Antiques Roadshow or Bargain Hunt, then Antiques Master makes for thoroughly enjoyable viewing.

Modern Family, Ten, 7pm

Jay offers to help Phil with his golf game so he can climb the corporate ladder. They face off against Pepper (guest star Nathan Lane) and Mitch, who is still trying to prove to his father he can be good at sports. Meanwhile, Cameron is putting on the school production of The Phantom of the Opera and Claire’s babysitting is upstaged by the most unlikely of suspects. All the usual fun of Modern Family – seamless popularity and hilarity – is here.

JAMES W. MANNING 

Elementary, Ten, 8.30pm

Sherlock is convinced a death might have been premeditated.

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RBTs bring a sobering end to senseless loss

NSW Assistant Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas conducted the two-millionth random breath test on Sunday. Photo: Adam Hollingworth No let up: John Hartley, NSW Police Traffic Services Commander. Photo: Anna Kucera
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In his honour: former police minister George Paciullo. Photo: Farah Abdurahman

The odds were that Nick Kaldas was not going to catch a drink-driver. The NSW Police Deputy Commissioner conducted the two-millionth random breath test on the final day of a four-month blitz called Operation Paciullo on Sunday.

The odds might also have been stacked against Mr Kaldas ever having met the two-millionth tested driver, whom he greeted at an RBT station at Town Hall in George Street.

However, random driver Basilo Grotto instantly recognised the Deputy Commissioner. ”I met you at a funeral,” he told Mr Kaldas. Happily for Mr Grotto, and for his son and daughter in the car with him, he passed the test.

More than 8000 people have been charged with drink-driving as a result of Operation Paciullo, which marked 30 years of RBT in NSW.

Do the sums. These 8000 drink-drivers constitute only 0.4 per cent of those tested. Is it really necessary to randomly test so many innocent drivers?

Absolutely, police say, and they support their moral calculus with a load of statistics. They estimate the latest 2 million tests have saved 166 lives. Eighty-five million tests have been done in NSW since RBT was introduced in December 1982, and 545,000 drivers have been charged with drink-driving. Police estimate 7000 lives have been saved in those 30 years.

In the year before RBT was introduced, about 1350 people died in road accidents and about half of these deaths were blamed on drink-driving. ”Last year, 50 people died because of drink-driving,” the commander of Traffic and Highway Patrol, Assistant Commissioner John Hartley, said. The proportion of road deaths linked to drink-driving had fallen to one-eighth, Mr Kaldas said.

Random tests have dramatically shifted the culture against drink-driving. ”At the same time,” Mr Kaldas lamented, ”the message has really not got out to the thousands of people who still drink and drive and think they will get away with it.” So there will be no let-up.

Operation Paciullo was named in honour of former police minister and Staysafe committee chairman George Paciullo, who pioneered RBT in NSW. He died last year. His son, Murray, who was at Town Hall on Sunday, said his father would have been been very proud.

”I’m extremely proud of dad,” he said. ”He wasn’t around as much in those early days as I would have liked him to be, but I understood that what he was doing was really worthwhile, and I understood the sacrifice he was making.”

Mr Grotto was given a framed certificate to mark his small, random part in the history of RBT.

Operation Paciullo

2 million random breath tests in the four months to Sunday8000 charged with drink-driving166 estimated lives saved1982: About 1350 killed in NSW road accidents –  about half because of drink-driving2012:  About 50 killed by drink-driving

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AGL failed in its duty to properly monitor gas emissions

Energy company AGL has breached its environment protection licence by failing to properly monitor emissions from a gas plant south-west of Sydney since 2009.
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The coal seam gas processing plant at Rosalind Park, near Menangle, operated between 2009 and last year without continuous monitoring of nitrogen oxide emissions, as required by its licence.

The monitoring equipment apparently broke down in October 2009 due to ”vibration, contamination and high temperature”.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority is considering a proposal from AGL that it be subject to an ”enforceable undertaking” in relation to its emissions breaches – a process that would allow the company to avoid possible court proceedings and hefty fines.

AGL was fined $1500 last month for excessive nitrogen oxide emissions at the plant in the last three months of last year. But the failure to monitor emissions for almost four years before those breaches has the potential to attract much higher sanctions under environmental laws.

The EPA said it did not believe the emissions would have caused significant harm to the surrounding community. It would have raised nitrous oxide levels in the district by about 2 per cent. Most of the nitrogen oxide emissions in the region are thought to be from vehicle traffic.

Nitrogen oxides are generally non-toxic at low concentrations, though they are potent greenhouse gases and add to air pollution. They are a byproduct when coal seam gas is treated for sale.

Residents, including the Scenic Hills Association, urged the EPA to pursue court action against AGL.

”We think the government is irresponsibly trying to avoid the fact that it can’t manage this industry,” spokeswoman Jacqui Kirkby said. ”The breach is a total failure of the system to monitor this industry in the only large-scale producing coal seam gasfield in NSW that already operates under strict conditions of consent, unlike other parts of NSW.”

AGL said it had put new equipment in place this month and would be monitoring and publicly reporting its emissions from now on.

”In March, AGL also announced that as part of the new and expanded air and water monitoring program at Camden, the site would also become the first coal seam gas project in NSW to implement a fugitive methane emissions monitoring program,” a spokeswoman said.

EPA chief environmental regulator Mark Gifford said it was yet to decide what action to take against AGL.

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Old bridges and limited funds pose serious problem in northern NSW

Concern: Derryn Nix from Kyogle Council inspects debris washed up against Murrays Bridge. Photo: Peter Rae As a small truck makes its way across the gushing creek at the tiny community of The Risk in northern NSW, the rattle of the ageing timber bridge rises in a crescendo.
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The state of 80-year-old Grieve Crossing, just metres from the local public school, is the stuff of nightmares for council staff responsible for maintaining it.

”We’ve had staff leave because they’ve said all they see at night is a busload of kids going through a bridge,” Kyogle Council urban and assets executive manager Graham Kennett said.

Indeed, a school bus makes its way over the Grieve Crossing every day. The bridge, which is scheduled for imminent repairs, is rated 4.04 on an asset condition scale where 5 means the bridge is beyond repair and really should be closed.

Bridges are the only council assets Mr Kennett classified as ”extreme risks” within the tiny shire nestled among the forested valleys inland from the north coast.

The timber and dairy farm region has 420 bridges, more than half of them made of wood. Of those, 160 are single-lane only, many a remnant of the Great Depression settlers who used axes to chop down giant natives and create crossings over the many gullies.

”I don’t think there’s any other local government in the country that’s got that many bridges,” Mr Kennett said. ”They are a massive, massive problem for us.”

Barely one in 10 of the 223 timber bridges could be described as in ”good” or ”very good” condition.

But Kyogle, which has a population of just 10,000, cannot afford to fix its potentially deadly problem.

With such a small community, the council collects less than $5 million in rates annually, but spends more than double that, Mr Kennett said.

Among the expenses is upkeep of 1300 kilometres of roads, including 800 kilometres unsealed.

A $900,000 bridge replacement program allows the council to tackle six single-lane bridges a year.

”We’re focusing on the low-hanging fruit,” Mr Kennett said.

”But the problem we’ve got is another high number of multi-span timber bridges where the replacement cost is $400,000 [each].”

Kyogle manages the bridges it cannot afford to fix by imposing ever-decreasing load limits to give each structure the longest life possible. But even then, there has been a string of potentially very serious accidents.

In November 2004, the Hills Road bridge failed under a loaded milk tanker that exceeded its 15-tonne limit. The bridge collapsed under the rear of the truck, but no one was hurt. The Hills Road bridge has still not been replaced.

Four years later, the Simes Road bridge collapsed when a loaded council water truck was driven across it, ”which we preferred [to] a school bus”, Mr Kennett said. The truck was being used to clean debris after flooding. Again, no one was hurt and the bridge was replaced with a $120,000 steel and concrete span.

Then in July, a loaded gravel truck broke through the Mills Road bridge. Mr Kennett said no one was injured, ”thank whatever god you believe in”. It is due to be replaced in 2016-17.

Schools and the local dairy industry are consulted regularly on changes to local bridge use to ensure buses and milk tankers can get around the shire.

As the cost of full replacement rises, the council is left to slap concrete and steel stop-gaps on its many bridges or close them altogether, much to the chagrin of residents.

”The important things get done,” Mr Kennett said, ”but the reality of the situation is that there aren’t enough resources to get everything done that should be done.”

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