Monthly Archives: December 2016

Australia’s most popular type of petrol – unleaded – could be phased out within two years


Regular unleaded petrol – the most popular fuel choice among Australian motorists – would be completely phased out under a series of radical proposals by the Turnbull government.

Banning regular unleaded petrol would dramatically improve the quality of Australian fuel, rated the dirtiest in the developed world, but would likely lead to substantial price hikes for motorists.

Premium unleaded petrol costs an average of 10.7 cents more per litre than regular unleaded, which has been the standard fuel for Australian vehicles since leaded petrol was phased out by the Howard government.

The operators of Australia’s four remaining oil refineries – two in Victoria, one in Queensland and one in Western Australia – would also be forced to rebuild their plants, with costs potentially running into the billions.

A government discussion paper quietly released on Tuesday afternoon argues that reducing the amount of sulfur in the petrol sold in Australia would produce strong environmental and health impacts. Australia has the lowest quality petrol of the 35 countries in the OECD, below Mexico, Turkey and Estonia.

The paper proposes five options, including:

  • Phasing out regular unleaded petrol over two to five years, with sulfur in premium unleaded and ethanol blends limited to 10 parts per million (down from 50ppm); 
  • Bringing Australian standards into line with Europe, with a 10 ppm sulfur limit for all fuels including regular unleaded (down from 150ppm);
  • Limiting sulfur in regular unleaded petrol limited to 50ppm from 2020 and 25ppm for premium unleaded; and
  • Business as usual

NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury said the association supported improving Australian fuel standards but was growing “increasingly concerned” about the ideas suggested by the government.

“If you go down the path of phasing out regular unleaded you would be exposing motorists to even more rorts than we are now,” he said.

“Premium unleaded already costs 21 cents more than ethanol – imagine what could happen if we adopt European standards.”

The Australian Automobile Association said in a submission to government that reducing the availability of regular unleaded petrol would have “significant cost implications for the vast majority of motorists”.

“This would be particularly bad for those that drive older vehicles, who would be forced to pay a higher price for fuel, without any emissions benefits being realised.”

Regular unleaded petrol is used by around 80 per cent of motorists in the states and territories outside NSW. In NSW, which has an ethanol mandate, regular unleaded is used by around 22 per cent of motorists, premium unleaded 30 per cent, ethanol 18 per cent and diesel 30 per cent.

The paper acknowledges the the impact on “different socio-economic groups” of phasing out regular unleaded will have to be carefully analysed. It says particular attention will also have to be given to the impact on regional communities and domestic refineries.

The Australian Institute of Petroleum has warned the introduction of European standards here would threaten the viability of the refineries, three of which have already closed in the last five years.

“Given the potential impact on Australian oil refineries we’re seeking a careful and thorough consideration of costs and benefits of change, particularly to refineries and Australian motorists,” chief executive Paul Barrett told Fairfax Media.

The closure of the Vitol-operated refinery in Geelong would have major economic ramifications for the Victorian industrial city.

An AIP submission to the government’s fuel review said the industry would need at least five years to implement any significant changes.

“If the implementation of the 10ppm sulfur petrol leads to refinery closures, it will also place a significant volume demand on the import market in Asia providing upward pressure on the price of new Australian grade fuel specifications,” the submission warns.

When releasing the discussion paper on Tuesday, Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg and Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher said the proposals, open for consultation until March, were “designed to keep Australia in line with international vehicle markets and keep us enjoying some of the cleanest air in the world”.

Melbourne motorist Alison Lansley said she would struggle to afford the switch to premium unleaded for the family’s 16-year-old Toyota. “I guess if they mandated it, we wouldn’t have much of a choice. But if it’s better for the environment, that’s okay,” the Carlton resident said.

But Patrick O’Neill was angered by the proposal. “It would piss me off that I have to pay more for something I didn’t want,” the Albury father of two said. “I can afford it, but my kids can’t, so that’s not fair.”

Record number of homes built in Sydney, but it’s still unaffordable


A record number of homes built in Sydney over the past year is struggling to address the city’s housing affordability crisis, as the state and federal government remain at loggerheads over the best policy approach for addressing the problem.

More than 31,000 new homes were built in Sydney in the 12 months to October, the highest annual number of new homes in over four decades, according to new data released by the Department of Planning on Thursday.

But as median house prices in Sydney continue to hover around $1 million, the new data is likely to fuel the debate over the need for federal government intervention to address housing demand through taxation reform.

The Reserve Bank said in its monthly board minutes this week that parts of the property market were back on its radar as they were “strengthening”. Investors have been boosting the market attracted by record low interest rates and negative gearing which the federal government has ruled out changing.

NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes said the figures showed the NSW government was “helping deliver a record number of new homes across Sydney” in a bid to address the backlog of the 100,000 homes needed across the state.

“By building a simpler, more efficient planning system, we’re working to improve housing supply and choice to help people get into the market.”

But academics said supply alone was incapable of addressing Sydney’s housing affordability crisis, a point which Mr Stokes acknowledged last month in a widely reported speech in which he called on the Turnbull government to reform negative gearing arrangements.

“Supply is just one part of it. It certainly isn’t going to relieve the affordability crisis we seem to be perpetually living with in Sydney,” Professor Bill Randolph, director of the City Futures Research Centre at UNSW said.

“Housing affordability is largely a function of the taxation and subsidy system that impinges on housing demand.”

Professor Peter Phibbs, head of urban and regional planning at the University of Sydney, said the federal government had “passed the buck to the states” through its unwillingness to address demand through changes to the taxation system.

Mr Stokes “had done everything right” by endeavouring to boost supply, he said, but attempting to solve housing affordability through supply alone was like “trying to put a bushfire out with a house”.

“It will help, and we should do it,” he said. “But we’re at 40-year highs [in building completions] and it hasn’t generated any significant benefit.”

Professor Phibbs said Sydney’s overheated housing market would ultimately have flow-on consequences for the local economy, including the loss of young talent to other cities, such as Melbourne, or overseas.

“We’re tying to compete internationally for global talent. Do you think young innovators are going to want to come to Sydney and pay such a wack of their income on housing?”

Last month, Mr Stokes generated national attention when he broke ranks with his federal colleagues on the issue of negative gearing, and accused the Turnbull government of falling “victim to the Canberra culture that promotes opposition over consensus”.

“Surely the focus of the tax system should be directed towards the type of housing we need. Why should you get a tax deduction on the ownership of a multimillion-dollar holiday home that does nothing to improve supply where it’s needed?” he said in a speech to the Committee for Economic Development in November.

In all districts of Sydney, the number of new homes built in the past year surpassed the four-year average, but it was in Sydney’s middle and western suburbs where most of the construction was concentrated.

ΤΟ ΠΛΟΙΟ ΤΟ ΠΑΤΡΙΣ – Στέλιος Αντωνίου


                           Υπερωκεάνιο ΠΑΤΡΙΣ της εταιρίας Χανδρή


Το πλοίο ναυπηγήθηκε στο Μπέλφαστ και παραδόθηκε στις 25 Μαρτίου 950, με το όνομα Bloemfontein Castle της Union Castle. Ηταν το μοναδικό ocean liner της εποχής του που είχε μόνο μια θέση. Ισως αυτό ήταν και το μειονέκτημά του που σταδιοδρόμησε στην αρχική του εταιρία για 9 μόνο χρόνια.

Το 1959 αγοράστηκε από την εταιρία Χανδρή και δρομολογήθηκε απευθείας στην γραμμή Πειραιάς – Αυστραλία, μετά από μία σύντομη μετασκευή 3 μηνών. Όταν ναυπηγήθηκε το πλοίο, λίγα χρόνια μετά τον Β Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο, βασίστηκε στην φιλοσοφία της Union Castle της εποχής εκείνης στην ύπαρξη μιας τουριστικής θέσης στο πλοίο για 739 επιβάτες και τέσσερα αμπάρια για εμπορεύματα.

Όταν ατόνησαν οι μετακινήσεις των Ευρωπαίων προς τη Νότια Αφρική το πλοίο πουλήθηκε στην εταιρία Χανδρή και πήρε το όνομα Πατρίς. Μετά τη μετασκευή οι επιβάτες του ανέρχονταν σε 1.036  με πλήρωμα 250 ατόμων. Τη γραμμή σύνδεσης με την Αυστραλία εξυπηρέτησε πιστά μέχρι το 1979 οπότε πουλήθηκε στην εταιρία Καραγιώργη.

Μετασκευάστηκε εκ νέου και έχοντας μετατραπεί σε φέρρυ μποτ δρομολογήθηκε στη γραμμή Πάτρα – Ανκόνα την οποία εξυπηρέτησε μέχρι το 1987 περίπου, παίρνοντας διαδοχικά τα ονόματα Mediterranean Island & Mediterranean Star. Με την μετασκευή οι επιβάτες μειώθηκαν σε 936 και μπορούσε να μεταφέρει 300 οχήματα.

Το 1987 πουλήθηκε στο Πακιστάν για διάλυση. Να θυμηθούμε τις διαστάσεις του: εκτόπισμα 18.400 κόροι, 181 μέτρα μήκος, 23 πλάτος και 7,60 μέτρα βύθισμα. Το βύθισμά του και η έλλειψη thrust σε συνδυασμό με την μικρή του ταχύτητα (ανωτάτη 18,5 κόμβοι, υπηρεσιακή 16) ήταν καθοριστικά για την απόσυρσή του το 1985.