New law doubles maximum penalty for fine fraud to $11,000

Wear the initial fine … The new legislation doubles the maximum fines – from $5500 to $11,000 – for vehicle owners who shirk a penalty for speed camera and other camera-detected traffic offences by falsely nominating another driver. Photo: Adam McLean A NSW Police patrol vehicle … “Anyone who deliberately tries to defraud the system by falsely nominating another person risks being prosecuted and ultimately earning themselves a criminal record,” says Commissioner of Fines Administration, Stephen Brady. Photo: Supplied

Drivers who falsely claim someone else was behind the wheel at the time of an offence could be slapped with an $11,000 fine under harsh new penalties introduced in NSW parliament on Tuesday.

The new legislation doubles the maximum fines for vehicle owners who shirk a penalty for speed camera and other camera-detected traffic offences by falsely nominating another driver.

Under the amended Fines Act 1996 and the Roads Transport Act 2013 individuals now face a $11,000 fine, up from $5500.

The maximum penalty for corporations has also doubled from $11,000 to $22,000.

“While the vast majority of people do the right thing, any doubtful nominations are checked against all available evidence, for example photographs taken at the time of the offence,” said the Commissioner of Fines Administration, Stephen Brady.

Mr Brady said the NSW Office of State Revenue (OSR) checks all driver nominations against RMS records for license details and immigration records to confirm the nominated person in the country at the time of each offence.

“Anyone who deliberately tries to defraud the system by falsely nominating another person risks being prosecuted and ultimately earning themselves a criminal record,” Mr Brady said.

Under the new legislation, people will be able to submit their nomination online, removing the formal requirement for a statutory declaration.

The OSR has issued more than 1400 fines to people for false nomination offences and has prosecuted more than 200 people relating to false nominations over the last eight years.

In 2006, hundreds of thousands of statutory declarations signed by motorists fighting traffic fines were investigated as part of a major fraud crackdown by the NSW government.

Kylie and Dannii Minogue perform together on TV for the first time in 30 years

Kylie and Dannii Minogue reunite for Christmas track, 100 Degrees. Photo: Channel Seven Dannii and Kylie have both been judges on the rival reality TV shows.

Kylie Minogue and sister Dannii Minogue on Young Talent Time.

Winner revealed for X-FactorKylie’s Christmas album is a real thingHave Kylie and Dannii Minogue made the cheesiest Christmas song ever?

Kylie and Dannii Minogue have thrown back to the 80s with a thoroughly modern performance during the finale of X-Factor .

Whilst often seen at events together, the pair have not performed on television since Young Talent Time in 1986 when they performed Sisters Are Doing It’ For Themselves.

Dannii, who is a judge on the musical reality competition X Factor shared duet with sister Kylie on the latter’s upcoming Christmas album entitled 100 Degrees.

The sisters donned matching leotards taped with sparkling strips in pink and blue respectively as they sang the disco-inspired Christmas anthem about a hot n Yule.

They were joined by 10 male dancers in silver lurex shorts and Santa-themed capes.

Kylie’s album, which has the highly searchable title Kylie Christmas, also features a duet with legendary rocker Iggy Pop.

Other collaborators include British comedian and talk-show host James Corden on Yazoo’s 1982 classic Only You while technical wizardry has also been employed to team Minogue with Frank Sinatra on a version of Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.

Kylie will also perform, presumably alone, at the ARIA awards to be held on Thursday night where she is due to help Tina Arena be a ushered in to the ARIA Hall of Fame.

Social media lapped the performance up, with many fans gushing over the reunion. OMG. Kylie & Danii look GREAT on #XFactor tonight! #XFGrandFinal#KylieandDannii— Migs Santillan (@migs_santi) November 24, 2015Kylie and Dannii had the best performance for tonight on #xfactorau#XFGrandFinal. Can we have an encore @thexfactor_au— Timothy Kandilis (@kandilistk) November 24, 2015

Returning Siddle plots Williamson’s downfall

Kane Williamson hits out during the first Test at the Gabba. Picture: Getty ImagesAUSTRALIA will try to bore New Zealand’s wonderchild Kane Williamson into submission in the day-night Test.

New Zealand cricket icons Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe believe Williamson will finish as the country’s greatest batsman.

Williamson, regarded by some pundits as the best batsman in the world, has certainly lived up to his reputation in the ongoing series.

The zen master has been calm and confident at the crease, waiting for the right ball to unleash a textbook cover drive.

Peter Siddle, set to be recalled for the third Test after being 12th man in Brisbane and Adelaide, preached the value of patience when asked about his plans for Williamson.

“That’s one thing he’s very good at and that’s one thing we can be slightly better at in our bowling – building pressure and getting them out that way,” Siddle said.

“You look at all the class players in world cricket, it’s worked hasn’t it?

“It worked against Sachin [Tendulkar]. It worked against KP [Kevin Pietersen].

“We’ve got to work hard here, put a lot of pressure on.”

Siddle dismissed Pietersen 10 times in his 104-Test career, more than any other bowler.

The former woodchopper did it more often than not by keeping things consistent, starving Pietersen of runs until he made an error.

Siddle has also trumped AB de Villiers six times in 12 Tests, wearing down the South African wizard with his work-rate and accuracy.

The 30-year-old is backing himself to achieve something similar with Williamson, who is less audacious than de Villiers but shares his incredible ability to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

“I’d like to hope so,” Siddle said. “I’ve had some good success against him in the past. I have troubled him and had some good battles with him.

“He’s been a class player these past 12, 18 months and he has been a handful this series . . . he’s got a lot smarter with how he plays.”

Siddle identified Ross Taylor as another crucial scalp after the former New Zealand skipper’s record-breaking knock of 290 at the WACA.

“They’re in good nick,” he said.

Siddle feared his international career was over before a call-up for the fifth Ashes Test.

The Victorian had six wickets and 17 maidens in that match, his strong showing a source of confidence after being overlooked in the first two home Tests of the summer.

“I know it isn’t that long since I came out and performed,” he said. “It gives myself a boost . . . [selectors] know that I can perform when called upon.”

● The SCG’s preparations for the January Test are back on track after Cricket deemed the ground’s playing surface fit to play.

Play will resume at the ground on Friday, when NSW take on Queensland in a Sheffield Shield clash. AAP

David Jones to increase the competition

David Jones store from Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne. Photo: Simon O’DwyerDepartment store operators David Jones and Myer are to embark on major changes to the stores layouts and size over the medium term, as they compete for customers and cost efficiency.
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It will be the biggest shake-up in the department store sector and will flow through to retail property landlords and how they develop new shopping centres.

While some changes have occurred, David Jones and Myer are now moving into top gear to create new-look stores.

South African Woolworths Holdings, the owner of David Jones, hosted a tour of the stores and said the aim was to outsource distribution and supply to warehouses, with that “back of the store space” being converted into food retailing.

David Jones’ management said the new store at Eastlands Melbourne will be an example of the format stores being rolled out with many similarities to Woolworths’ South African stores (excluding food). Eastland is a small department store (10,000 square metres) but is relatively productive around ranging and stock intensity.

Woolworths’ management hosted a tour of analysts last week to showcase the new plans. It comes as the group is selling two stores in Sydney and Melbourne, with the funds being used for new developments.

A range of buyers are viewing the properties in Market Street, Sydney and Melbourne city, which could see the air space developed into residential and a smaller store beneath, if David Jones keeps a lease.

Macquarie Equities analysts said David Jones plans to relocate its head office and back of store space to allow for expanded retail space, the analysts said post the tour. This could also see the Elizabeth Street ballroom converted into retail space as a part of the Sydney CBD consolidation.

“David Jones is clearly growing as Woolworths invests in the network. This expansion and investment will impact the competitive position of several Myer stores throughout the deployment of the ‘New Myer’ strategy,” a spokesman said.

David Jones expects to open ten new stores over the next three to four years, including Pacific Fair, Queensland, a smaller format store in Barangaroo, Sydney and potentially three additional stores in NZ. This store roll out profile is off a base of 39 stores, representing  about 5 per cent space growth per annum over the medium term.

Myer is expecting to rationalise about 20 per cent of the footprint over the next five years. This will be a combination of store closures, handing back of space within existing stores and reallocating space within stores.

Paris 2015: Chinans back deeper carbon cuts as climate summit looms

n environment ambassador Peter Woolcott speaking in Melbourne on Tuesday. He will lead ‘s negotiating team at the Paris climate negotiations, starting next week. Photo: Jason SouthCan a wounded Paris deliver for the planet?More job cuts loom for CSIRO climate researchers
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will go to the Paris climate change summit with public backing to do more to cut greenhouse gas emissions if it helps get a global deal, according to a new poll by the Lowy Institute.

The survey for the foreign affairs think-tank found 62 per cent of people backed bolstering its emissions reduction targets in the interests of a reaching a global climate agreement – something nations hope to do at the two-week Paris summit starting Monday.

On the other side, only 36 per cent of respondents said should stick to its current goals regardless of what other countries do.

has pledged to cut its emissions by 26 to 28 per cent from 2005 levels by the end of the next decade, a target many environment groups have dubbed weak.

Countries’ emissions targets will not be negotiated in Paris. Nations have been allowed to nominate their own goals before the conference, with negotiators in Paris instead focused on developing a review system to encourage higher ambition from countries over time.

Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt has said that the federal government would be willing to lift its 2030 climate goal in coming years if required under any review system. Support for higher goals, but a split on how to get there

The Lowy Institute poll, which surveyed 1002 people in late October and early November, also found ns were largely divided on what policy should be used to meet the targets.

Although 51 per cent backed retaining the Turnbull government’s direct action scheme – which pays companies and farmers to make emissions cuts – 43 per cent supported the reintroduction of a carbon price.

Alex Oliver, who heads the Lowy Institute’s polling program, described the level of support for carbon pricing surprising (even if lower than for direct action) given the heated political debate in recent year over the now repealed “carbon tax”.

“While there is a majority who are in favour [of direct action], its a bare majority,” she said. ‘s top climate diplomat talks Paris before flying out

Meanwhile, ‘s lead negotiator for Paris, Peter Woolcott, told a business seminar in Melbourne there was reason for “cautious optimism” that the summit would deliver.

Mr Woolcott said n priorities for a Paris deal included: seeing all countries, especially major economies, sign-up to robust emissions reduction efforts, building in transparency and accountability to track progress on these efforts, and setting up a durable process to build action towards keeping global warming below two degrees.

Mr Woolcott said the real danger was not whether a new global climate agreement would emerge from Paris, but whether it would be minimal.

“If this is the outcome then much of what wants, and I think what we need as a globe … may be lost,” he said.

Mr Woolcott said the biggest issues would be climate financing for developing countries and how the difference between rich and poor nations was reflected in a deal.

Reaching an agreement on climate financing to helping poorer nations cut emissions and prepare for the impact of climate change would ultimately be crucial to securing the participation of major developing countries in a legally-binding agreement, he said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and Mr Hunt will all represent at different points during the negotiations. Mr Woolcott leads the team of diplomats that will do most of the nuts-and-bolts negotiating on the conference floor.

Mr Woolcott also said he expected brinkmanship between negotiators would continue right to the end of the Paris conference as the United Nations climate negotiations had a culture of blowing well past the scheduled end of meetings.

“We will see if the culture has changed and matured or not. I suspect not,” he said.

China’s ‘inward looking’ companies lag on innovation: government report

New Innovation chair Bill Ferris: ” is struggling to even stay within the top 30 OECD nations in terms of any commercialisation metrics.” Photo: Josh Robenstone lags behind other countries on innovation because of an “inward looking” corporate mentality, according to a major new report that finds four in ten n companies have little or no innovation culture.
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A mere 16 per cent of n companies are “high performance” innovators, according to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science’s annual innovation report. By contrast, 39 per cent of n companies have little or no innovation culture and 36 per cent have a siloed culture.

The report comes as the government prepares to release an innovation policy statement next month including significant changes to research and development tax breaks, university funding and insolvency and bankruptcy laws.

“n corporate culture needs to overcome an inward-looking tendency,” the report argues.

“These findings may be one factor in helping to explain n businesses’ relatively poor performance in developing new-to-market or new-to-world innovations when compared internationally.”

The report finds around 53 per cent of ns believe entrepreneurship is a good career choice – far lower than 65 per cent in the United States and 60 per cent in the United Kingdom.

Similarly, ns were found to be more fearful of business failure than in other advanced economies including the US and UK.

New Innovation chair Bill Ferris, a veteran venture capitalist, last week said ns suffered from a “fear of failure” and need to embrace a more risk-taking culture.

In his first speech since taking on the role, Mr Ferris will on Wednesday say that is in the world’s top three or four nations on the basis of research breakthroughs.

“I cannot however make a similar boast about our ability to commercialise and get our fair share of the world’s marketplace for this intellectual property and inventiveness,” he will say.

” is struggling to even stay within the top 30 OECD nations in terms of any commercialisation metrics.

“We are now at risk of squandering opportunities created by our highly credentialed R&D platforms.”

Mr Ferris, a key adviser on the government’s upcoming innovation policy statement, will argue the $3 billion spent each year on research and development incentives is too broad and needs to be tightened.

“Evidence suggests that this scheme could be improved by a sharper focus on our higher growth and R&D intensive businesses,” he will say.

The Department of Innovation report also finds that, unlike in the countries such as the US and Israel, n venture capital investment has not returned to the same levels as before the global financial crisis.

Early-stage investment in is just half the OECD average, with venture capital funds narrowly focussed on areas such as information technology.

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Paul Keating slams Art Gallery of NSW expansion as ‘land grab masquerading as art’

Former prime minister Paul Keating said the proposed Sydney Modern project was about “money, not art”. Photo: Brendan Esposito Michael Brand, Director of the Art Gallery of NSW with designs on display for the Sydney Modern project. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
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Comment: Michael Brand’s plan for gallery is about money, not art

Paul Keating has slammed the proposed expansion of the Art Gallery of NSW, calling the project a “land grab” entertainment complex “masquerading as art”.

In an opinion piece for TheSydney Morning Herald on Wednesday, the former prime minister accuses gallery director Michael Brand of constructing “a megaplex made feasible only by appropriating open space across an expressway and on land belonging to the Botanic Gardens”.

The proposed $450 million Sydney Modern project would see a series of low-rise, glass-walled pavilions with harbour views built across the land bridge and harbourside of the Cahill expressway and into land belonging to the gardens.

“Brand has spent most of his term in office constructing a gigantic spoof against the civic core of Sydney’s most public and important open space” Mr Keating writes.

The expansion would capitalise on expansive harbour views from a function centre and observation platform for commercial use, according to the project’s website.

“In other words, the big-to-do is all about idolatry of special events and the provision of commercial venues for hire, rather than about curating or exhibiting art,” Mr Keating writes.

In October Mr Brand told Then Financial Review: “The function room has to be in a nice position, so you have views over Woolloomooloo perhaps, and it needs to be separate from the galleries so that when it’s being set up it doesn’t disturb visitors.

“But it also needs to feel like it is part of an art gallery, so it can’t be too remote,” Mr Brand said.

But Mr Keating said the revenue-generating private functions pavilions was about “money, not art”.

“Decoded, Brand is telling us he proposes to build a large entertainment and special events complex masquerading as an art gallery,” Mr Keating writes.

The project is yet to secure funding, however in May the gallery announced Japanese firm SANAA had won the architectural competition to design Sydney Modern.

“We’re getting good support from the state government so far. We are never going to have a better chance. No guarantees, but it looks very good,” Mr Brand told Fairfax Media.

“Brand thinks he can push the system hard enough and with a bit of luck, suck the government into the funding, his mega-dream can become a reality,” Mr Keating writes.

Mr Keating backed an alternative expansion of the gallery to the south over the existing Domain carpark, which Mr Brand rejected in 2014, saying “an expansion to the south would have threatened the heritage value of our southern facade as well as a number of heritage trees”.

Keating has a long history as both outspoken critic and advocate of ambitious public works in the state’s capital.

The headland park at Barangaroo is said to be a testament to his single-minded determination to recreate the original naturalistic headland destroyed 100 years ago by maritime development, despite unsuccessfully lobbying for James Packer’s casino and hotel to be moved to Hickson Road.

His vision for Sydney would see Goat Island returned under native title to the original owners, and his failed attempt to bury the Cahill Expressway at Circular Quay was reinvigorated last week with AMP urging the NSW government disguise the notorious eyesore.

In April last year he told ABC Radio 702 listeners that you would have to be “brain-dead” to build anything at Mrs Macquaries Point, taking aim at Sydney Parklands and Botanic Gardens chief executive Kim Ellis over the $130 million master plan for the space.

In the same interview called Brand “just another property tart” over the Sydney Modern project.

Gender gap increases as NSW women get paid less and work more, report finds

Men earn about 20 per cent more than women on average and women working full-time earn $320 less than men, the NSW government report found. Photo: Erin Jonasson Expectation: Walking to work without being hassled. Photo: SIMONE BECCHETTI / Stocksy
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The gender pay gap between men and women continues to increase despite more women finishing school and completing university degrees than men, a NSW government report shows.

Men earn about 20 per cent more on average and women working full-time earn $320 a week less than men.

The starting salary for a woman who has just finished university is also $4000 less than a man.

And while women’s participation in the paid workforce is at its highest point since 1978, unemployment rates for women have overtaken those for men and are rising.

Women are also working harder than men at home, spending an average of 12.5 hours per week more on unpaid household work.

The Women in NSW 2015report analysed the past four years of data, including figures from the n Bureau of Statistics, to find out how women were faring and aimed to identify where work needed be done to address inequality.

It focused on key areas such as health, education, work and financial security, leadership and safety.

“It is through quality research, data and analysis, such as the Women in NSW report, that governments can formulate policies and programs that will bring about change and make women’s lives better,” Minister for Women Pru Goward said.

In education, women remained under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

And only 15.5 per cent of undergraduate Information Technology and Engineering students are women.

“This limits their opportunities to develop skills we know are essential for success in the future economy,” Ms Goward said.

Yet three out of five undergraduate and postgraduate students were women and 77 per cent of girls finished Year 12, compared to 67 per cent of boys.

Alarmingly, the report also showed young women were 2.8 times more likely than young men to be hospitalised for self-harm.

Self-harm hospitalisations for women rose almost 38 per cent between in the four years to 2013-14.

“Young women’s [ages 15 to 24] rate of hospitalisation for intentional self harm is the highest it’s been in over 20 years,” the report said.

Ms Goward said she would work with NSW Health to investigate further initiatives that would support and help young women at risk of self-harm.

“It is a sobering reminder for us all that we need to do better,” she said.

On a more positive note, women had a greater life expectancy than men, on average reaching 85 years compared to 78.9 for men.

Women were also less likely to be obese, smoke and half as likely to engage in risky drinking.

On the issue of safety, women fared much worse than men, with females twice as likely as males to be victims of domestic related assaults.

Women were also 4.5 times more likely to be a victim of sexual assault than men, accounting for 82 per cent of victims in NSW in 2014.

Alternative therapies common among kids, study finds

Nearly half of parents are giving their children alternative therapies, the study found. Photo: Peter BraigChildren are commonly administered alternative therapies and most parents do not tell their doctors, according to a study that has raised concerns about the interaction of herbal and conventional medicine.
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Among more than 800 parents and carers whose children presented at one of three emergency pediatric emergency departments in the first half of 2015, nearly half said the patients had used alternative treatments in the previous 12 months.

Only 20 per cent of those who had used an alternative therapy in the past week had told their doctor.

The most common treatments were massage and chiropractic therapy, and they also included aromatherapy, osteopathic manipulation, homeopathy, kinesiology and hypnosis.

Study author David Taylor, who will present the results at the annual scientific meeting of the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine in Brisbane on Wednesday, said there was a risk that these therapies were interacting harmfully with the treatment plan given by their doctors or that parents who used alternative therapies on their children were delaying conventional treatment.

He recalled one of his patients, who was not part of the study, who presented at his emergency department with a painful hip – found on x-ray to be the result of a slipped femur.

It emerged that she had been visiting a chiropractor over the previous several months, during which time a condition that could have been treated with early detection had deteriorated beyond repair.

“This was a beautiful nine-year-old girl and she was going to have terrible, terrible arthritis for the rest of her life and a hip replacement in her twenties because she had chiropractic treatment without an x-ray,” said Professor Taylor, who is director of emergency medicine research at Austin Hospital in Melbourne.

Common reasons for alternative therapies were musculoskeletal pain, stiffness and injury, general health and wellbeing, upper respiratory tract infections and relief of anxiety.

Nearly 60 per cent of those who used alternative therapies them believed them to be safe, but only seven per cent of those who used them believed them to be more effective than prescription medicine.

Nine adverse events were reported.

Children’s Hospital at Westmead toxicologist Naren Gunja said patients should always disclose to their treating doctors if they were taking an alternative medicine, as these had the potential to interfere with pharmacy or regular medicines.

“There are known interactions and some of these can cause people to become sick,” Associate Professor Gunja said.

“And there are alternative medicines that are potentially harmful and haven’t been tested, so they need to be open about that.”

These included chelation for people who believed they had heavy metal poisoning, which could cause fevers, vomiting and diarrhea, and laetrile for people seeking a cure for cancer, which could could cyanide poisoning when taken in large amounts.

Home buyers use bigger deposits to get better mortgage deals

Home buyers are paying bigger deposits to get the best mortgage deals. Photo: Jamila ToderasBanks all claim to be making life easier for their customers, but the fact is they offer much better deals to some people than others.
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This is becoming increasingly clear when it comes to the biggest financial commitment many people make: taking out a home loan.

As regulators pressure banks to rein in the risks in the housing market, lenders are competing harder for certain customers in particular: those who live in the property, have high incomes, and have a deposit for a home of more than 20 per cent of the purchase price.

This emphasis on lower-risk borrowers could make it harder for first home buyers to secure the sharpest interest rates, as they tend to have smaller deposits, and often, lower incomes due to their age.

What is more, it is coming at a time when the market has already been flooded by buyers with hefty deposits, as shown in this week’s graphic.

Sky-rocketing house prices around the world have made regulators much more edgy about dangers in the mortgage market, so they are leaning on banks to limit their risk-taking.

One effect of this is it is causing banks to chase customers with larger deposits.

For instance, Finder上海龙凤论坛 reports that the lowest advertised home loan interest rates of less than 4 per cent are only available with loans that are worth 80 per cent of the purchase price or less.

The reason banks like customers with big deposits is pretty simple: a large deposit means it would take a bigger fall in house prices before the bank risks losing its own money.

It is known as “risk-based pricing” – the idea that customers who pose less risk to the bank pay a lower rate, rather than everyone paying a similar cost of credit.

Experts reckon it’s a trend consumers will see a lot more of.

A report from JP Morgan earlier this year argued the next wave of bank regulations would put even more emphasis on deposit size, encouraging banks to offer sharper deals on loans with lower loan-to-valuation ratio of 60 to 80 per cent.

It means people with bigger deposits may increasingly become the banks’ most sought-after customers, while putting others – such as first home buyers – at a relative disadvantage, as lenders such as ANZ Bank have pointed out.

Borrowers with smaller deposits are still being offered plenty of credit: Finder上海龙凤论坛 says more than three quarters of the loans on its database are offered with an LVR of up to 90 per cent, and about half are prepared to lend you up to 95 per cent of a property’s value.

It’s just that these loans will often come with a higher interest rate, and often, the added cost of mortgage insurance.

Households gear up for next phase of the solar revolution

Fiona Workman had solar panels installed on her roof two years ago. Photo: Wolter PeetersSolar panels are landing on rooftops just as the Hills Hoist invaded backyards. If you’re not solar-powered, you’re not with it.
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In a few days’ time the United Nations climate change conference will start in Paris, taking up where the previous talks in Copenhagen failed.

In the six years since Copenhagen, the cost of solar panels has plummeted and battery technology has improved dramatically. If households can generate electricity by day and then store it to use in the evening, it would revolutionise electricity distribution.

There are forecasts of a coming boom in solar batteries to rival the boom in panel installation of the first Kevin Rudd era. US-based Greentech Media claims will be a leader in installing batteries, forecasting solar storage capacity to rise from 6.6 megawatts to 75 megawatts in 2016, hitting 800 megawatts by 2020.

As the costs of panels and batteries keep falling, who would pay an energy company 45¢ a kilowatt hour when you can generate the power yourself, with some assistance from the sun, for 8¢ to 12¢ a kilowatt hour?

Especially when it’s never been easier, or cheaper, to finance a solar installation. The other thing that’s changed since Copenhagen, and ‘s previous solar boom, is the rise of leasing or pay-as-you-go options.

Still, solar panels aren’t always as kind to your pocket as they are to the environment. If you buy a system that’s too big they can even lift your bill when, for the first time, electricity prices are falling.

And if you’re planning on putting your feet up by selling your solar power to the energy company, I wouldn’t.

As a rule solar pays off after five years in Sydney and seven in Melbourne due to the difference in the amount of sun in each city. Let’s not go there. It’s also because Melbourne has cheaper conventional power so the benefit is also slightly less.

These payback periods stack up well against other investments that don’t have the feel-good green benefits. For most shares and investment properties the payback period is more like 10 years or longer.

The panels should be good for at least 25 years, though parts of the system might need replacing after a decade.

Looked at another way – which is to say dispassionately by me – in Sydney it’s a 15 per cent annual return after tax on your investment.  Financing options for solar

Then again, these days you can lease a solar system and, in NSW only, you can get one that’s as free as the sunshine itself in return for buying all the power it generates. More on that later.

Leasing a system works pretty much like car finance so interest is built into the monthly payments. Typically at the end of the lease you’ll be able to buy the system outright at its depreciated value.

An advantage is that you never have to worry about maintenance, not that there’s much anyway. The reason the panels are tilted is so they self-clean when it rains.

Roughly speaking, a leased system will cost you about 15¢ a kilowatt hour. That compares with 8¢ to 12¢ if you generate your own power – about what you pay off-peak from the grid. Trouble is, the grid’s version of off-peak is different to your own. Do you really want to do the washing at 11pm?

Oh, and did I mention the grid price can be as high as 46¢ a kilowatt in peak periods?

“The rule of thumb, depending where you are, is that the cost to you from solar will be 8¢ to 12¢ a kilowatt hour which avoids 25 to 30¢ [conventionally],” says Damien Moyse, policy and research manager at the Alternative Technology Association.

Energy companies are even offering Harvey Norman-style interest-free terms though there is a small deposit. Origin Energy, for example, charges $199 upfront plus monthly interest-free payments for two years – a total cost of $3295 for a two kilowatt system.

The cheapest personal loan is Hunter United’s green saver loan at 9.74 per cent.

So if you don’t have the cash, the cheapest way to go solar is putting it on the mortgage. Next comes leasing.

Hang on, what was that about a free solar system? Under a power purchase agreement you have to buy what the system generates, even if you don’t use it. While the charge will be higher than solar costs, it’ll still be less than the energy company’s regular electricity.

Choose the wrong-sized system for your home, however, and the payback period can be longer than half your working life, which would detract somewhat from the warm inner glow of doing the right thing.

“The payback range is huge – it can be five years to longer than the asset life, which is 25 to 30 years,” Moyse says.

“If you’re at work so the only power you’re using during the day is the fridge, forget solar. Like to burn the midnight oil? Sorry, solar’s not for you.”

That’s without batteries of course. It’s not economic just yet to store the energy your solar panels generate, but it’s close.

Next month Enphase Energy will roll out a  system that can store solar energy and lets you monitor your consumption.

Tesla, of electric car fame, will roll out a battery next year as well but don’t hold your breath. Although the price of solar batteries is falling it’s still prohibitive for the average home. And they have less than half the life of the panels.

“International forecasts show an 8 to 10 per cent drop per annum in the battery price. By 2020 you’ll be able to have a battery economically,” Moyse predicts. Solar costs falling

Just as people touting the benefits of solar can sometimes be selective, there are also some urban myths about the cost.

Many people believe that it’s become more expensive because government subsidies are falling. In fact the cost of installing a system has fallen faster than the government subsidies.

A 1.5 kilowatt system, which should satisfy about one-third of the average household’s electricity consumption, costs between $3000 to $6000. A souped-up five kilowatt affair, probably enough to light up a whole suburb, will cost $7000 to $11,500.

Incidentally the reason for the big price range for each size is that a lot depends on how many panels you need, what your roof is made of, and sundry things such as whether you need a new meter and wiring or trees have to be removed.

Most systems installed are under three kilowatts, according to a survey by Choice last year. The average cost was $8783.

These costs take into account the federal incentive of small-scale technology certificates, which trade in the market like shares. These are credits for every megawatt hour it’s estimated your system will be able to generate over the next 15 years.

Usually they’re “sold” to the installer, who gives you a discount of the same amount. Energy companies buy the certificates because they count towards their mandated renewable energy target and are cheaper than building wind farms.

If you’re keen enough you can hang on to them and sell them in the market though it involves more paperwork. The price is set by the market and so bobs about but for all intents and purposes is capped at $40. Quotes are available from Trade in Green or Green Bank. When I looked the price was about $39.

Another myth is that you need lots of sun. The truth is that you can have too much. Solar operates most efficiently at 25 degrees, but roofs can get as hot as 60 degrees.

“It’s a very harsh environment on the roof. Over the years the rubber perishes and seals wear. That can allow water to get in, especially when it’s humid,” says Darren Gladman, policy manager at the Clean Energy Council. He recommends a service check by an installer every five years.

Funnily enough the best place for solar is Antarctica, where there’s night-long sun in summer but not much heat. Nor, I daresay, many mod cons.

Solar works on cloudy days too, although less efficiently. Selling back to the grid pointless

As for the once thriving cottage industry of selling power back to the grid, it’s too late.

These days you’re only paid a fraction of the cost of producing solar. Perverse as it sounds since governments are supposed to be encouraging renewable energy, the  more power you supply the grid, the higher your electricity bill.

That’s why you need a system that produces just enough energy and no more.

The only way you’ll garner any more from solar is by turning on something like the dishwasher during the day instead of after dinner.

There are still first-movers making a profit selling their solar power but that’s because they’re getting paid 60¢ a kilowatt hour, about double the normal rate, and way above the 6¢ you’ll get today. But no need for envy – bet they paid twice as much for their system in the first place. And their inverter is probably about to go.

Their what? An inverter converts solar DC into an AC current. Solar panels have a 25 -year warranty, but it’s only 10 years for inverters.

One other thing. There’s no point going solar and doing your bit for the environment if you’re wasting energy at home with a clapped out fridge or by not having insulation.

Think holistic. In fact being more energy efficient can bring as big a benefit as solar.

“If you’re running halogen lighting, which is energy very inefficient, and install a five kilowatt solar system you’ll be at cross purposes,” Moyse says. Action plan for solarCheck your last four energy bills to see how much power you use and when. This will tell you the size of the system you need.Only generate power you need – feed-in tariffs aren’t worth it.Ask your energy company what your new night tariff will be.Use a Clean Energy Council approved installer (see solaraccreditation上海龙凤论坛 three quotes. Sites such as Clean Energy Council and Solar Choice can arrange this.Why solar works for Fiona Workman

When the sun is shining Fiona Workman powers her cooking and washing from her rooftop solar panels.

Working from home the nutritionist has no problem turning on most of her appliances during the day.

“I can roast my chook during the day when most people are at work. I run the dishwasher when the sun is out,” she says.

Even when it’s cloudy, her eight-panel system still generates enough electricity.

“When the sun hits only one-third of the panels it still works. Other systems need 100 per cent sun I gather,” she says.

Although Fiona signed up for solar energy two years ago for environmental reasons, “saving money was on the list but not that high”.

As it turns out she’s surprised by the size of the savings even though the charge in peak periods is higher in what seems to be revenge by energy retailers for using less power.

Fiona’s average electricity consumption has halved.

“It’s at least half and electricity prices have been going up. If I didn’t have solar I would be paying a whole lot more instead of a lot less than two years ago. And I’ve reduced my carbon footprint.”

Fiona got three quotes but found they were very similar.

“Find someone who’s been around a long time” is her advice.

Despite so much that can go wrong considering you need an energy retailer, installer, and at least five forms to fill out, the whole thing was easier than, say, getting a plumber.

“There were no hassles at all. The installers arrived the second they said. They told me my terracotta tiles were like biscuits – they’d crumble just to look at. But they didn’t break any and the whole installation took about two hours or maybe less. And since then I’ve had no maintenance requirements.”

Her next step will be to install a battery.

“I was told batteries were useless and to wait a couple of years. So when I have time I will look into it.” FURTHER READINGHow investors can plug into solar boom.Sharemarket winners and losers from climate risk.Protecting retirement savings from climate change.General coverage of climate change issues and the Paris Climate Summit.

Government takes space in flurry of year’s-end leasing deals

Workers relax outside Medibank’s building at 720 Bourke Street. Photo: Peter BennettsThe federal government is among a rush of tenants seeking to close large floor-plate leasing deals before year’s end in prime Melbourne CBD buildings.
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The last-minute deal making follows a lift in employment and leasing activity with white-collar employment in Melbourne’s CBD growing by 3.3 per cent over the year to June, according to CBRE’s Marketview report.

The employment boost coupled with tenants migrating into the CBD from suburban office markets has resulted in the city’s vacancy rate falling to 8.1 per cent, for landlords a welcome 100 basis point decline over the previous six-month period.

The shift towards CBD consolidation looks set to continue.

Game developer Electronic Arts, often called EA Games, is believed to be looking at shifting its administration staff located in St Kilda Road into 4000 square metres of space in the city.

The game maker is believed to be eyeing off space over at least two floors in Cbus’ 720 Bourke Street building, whose key tenant is Medibank Private.

Market sources suggest the federal Department of Human Services is close to signing a deal for just under 15,000 square metres of space in Charter Hall’s refurbished office building at 570 Bourke Street.

The yet-to-be-finalised deal will see a staged transition of Social Security and Child Support staff from their respective offices at 595 Collins Street and Melbourne Central.

Neither Charter Hall or JLL tenant services would comment.

Human Services were not the only tenants being aggressively pursued by Charter Hall.

Another large leasing requirement put out by National Bank for 14,000 square metres over a four-year term is also believed to be under discussion.

The bank is in the market for short-term lease space to allow it to refit and restructure portions of its head office at 800 Bourke Street in Docklands.

If the deals come to fruition, the $307.4 million building held in Charter Hall’s Core Plus Office Fund will be at near capacity.

According to Marketview, Melbourne has seen the highest level of net absorption amongst CBD markets in 2015, with the highest annual level in five years.

At least 98,828 square metres of space has been occupied. Despite that, vacancy is expected to peak about 9 per cent in the second half of next year as a burgeoning pipeline of buildings comes online.

About 95,600 square metres of new stock and 56,400 square metres of refurbished stock is expected to be completed this year, according to CBRE.

Prime net face rents increased slightly in the CBD over the third quarter to average $494sqm, while secondary rents remained stable.

Both prime and secondary incentives remain at consistent levels, but have reached their peak and are likely to decline over the next six-12 months, leading to growth in real effective rents in the medium term, CBRE said.

Study finds women victims of aggression get the blame

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at a family violence event on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at a family violence event on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
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Federal government-commissioned research has found that women still get blamed for aggression towards them, while the behaviour of the men involved tends to be excused as a “rite of passage”.

The research, which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says paints a “disturbing picture about how ns think about domestic violence”, finds that even though most ns want to see violence against women stopped, there is a poor understanding of where the issue begins.

To coincide with International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Mr Turnbull will release the study by research company TNS. It involved interviews in August with about 255 young people and parents, who were given a hypothetical scenarios of disrespectful behaviour.

It found high levels of “automatic” victim-blaming among those interviewed as well as a “strong desire to avoid blaming males”. It also found that many actions that were disrespectful and aggressive towards women were considered by adults as “social misdemeanours” rather than something that should be “corrected”.

The results will inform a national campaign, due early next year, which aims to change attitudes around gender equality – and get parents and teachers to take more responsibility for how young people think about violence.

Mr Turnbull said while not all disrespect ended up in violence against women, “all violence against women begins with disrespecting women”.

“[The study] tells us that far too many people excuse, diminish and blame the victim when it comes to violence against women.”

Social Services Minister Christian Porter described the research as “eye-opening”.

Mr Porter pointed to girls in the research group who excused aggressive behaviour with “he’s probably just trying to get a bit of attention”. Boys similarly said, “he is just trying to be heard”.

One in six n women over 15 have experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former partner. One in four women has experienced emotional abuse from a current or former partner.

This comes as Labor leader Bill Shorten will announce on Wednesday that, if elected, his government would include five days of paid leave in the National Employment Standards. Casual workers would get five days of unpaid leave.

“Domestic and family violence leave will benefit both those who have experienced violence as well as business through improved productivity, increased employee retention and reduced absenteeism,” Mr Shorten said.

“Consider the time required in courts, meeting with lawyers, financial advisers, the school principal, counselling sessions for people who have experienced violence.”

The National Employment Standards set out the minimum entitlements for all employees who are covered by the workplace relations system.

Labor’s pledge follows a longstanding call from the n Council of Trade Unions to boost protections for domestic violence victims in the workplace.

The ACTU has argued that while more than a million employees, such as those at Telstra and IKEA, have access to paid domestic violence leave, the provision should be extended to all workers.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT上海龙凤论坛.au. In an emergency, call 000.

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