LNP and Qld govt’s buy local policy battle

The upcoming Queensland election is likely to be a battle over jobs, with the opposition launching a buy local procurement policy just weeks after the government rolled out its own.

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Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls denied it was a copycat move and said the LNP’s proposal was vastly different to that introduced by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on September 1.

“It’s a real policy that will deliver real benefits,” he said at the announcement on Sunday.

“Labor’s policy puts at risk Queensland jobs.”

But government minister and spokesman Mick de Brenni said Mr Nicholls’ policy was a joke and would force local businesses into a “race to the bottom” for the lowest price.

“It’s the same old, tired approach to procurement that Tim Nicholls and Campbell Newman had when they were last in government,” he said on Sunday.

“Our buy Queensland policy delivers a preference for Queensland businesses.”

If elected at the next state election, the LNP will give local businesses with 200 staff or less, the opportunity to match the price for government projects valued at under $100 million.

The companies will be required to have their headquarters in Queensland in order to be considered.

Mr Nicholls said local businesses would still have to adhere to the “same quality and service standards” but the price match would enable them to get a look-in for jobs they might otherwise not be able to compete for.

The LNP leader said its policy would generate jobs but also wouldn’t start a “phoney trade war with New Zealand” like the government’s had.

Mr Nicholls said he would work with the federal government to ensure local businesses had an opportunity to bid on projects valued at more than $100m, while not damaging free trade agreements with other countries.

Ms Palaszczuk announced the government’s buy Queensland procurement policy in August ahead of its implementation on September 1.

Local businesses located within a 125km radius of a project now receive a weighting of up to 30 per cent.

Ms Palaszczuk said at the time of the announcement the Australian-first initiative was “unashamedly a ‘Buy Queensland’ one”.

“Wherever possible, one regional and one Queensland supplier will be invited to quote or tender for every procurement opportunity offered,” she said.

“Preference must be given to local subbies and manufacturers on significant infrastructure projects of $100 million or more.”

Mr Nicholls also vowed to cut red tape by 20 per cent, but Mr de Brenni said such a move would remove protections for local business owners.

Deadly aftershock, volcanic ash spread alarm in Mexico

A strong new earthquake has shaken Mexico, toppling already damaged homes and a highway bridge and causing new alarm in a country reeling from two even more powerful quakes this month that together have killed nearly 400 people.

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The Popocatepetl volcano south of Mexico City sent a column of ash into the sky, capping an intense period of seismic activity including two powerful tremors this month that have killed more than 400 people and caused damage of up to $8 billion.

Mexico’s capital was shattered by Tuesday’s magnitude 7.1 quake that flattened dozens of buildings and killed at least 307 people. The government’s response to the disaster is under close scrutiny ahead of a presidential election next year.

Although the latest quake was not as destructive, fear is running high among the population. Terrified residents ran into the streets, where they crouched and prayed as earthquake sirens went off. Two women died of heart attacks as the ground shook, the city government said.

The US Geological Survey said the new, magnitude 6.1 temblor was centred about in the state of Oaxaca, which was the region most battered by a magnitude 8.1 quake on September 7.

US Geological Survey geophysicist Paul Caruso said the new temblor was an aftershock of the 8.1 quake, and after a jolt of that size even buildings left standing can be more vulnerable.

Buildings swayed in Mexico City, where nerves are still raw from Tuesday’s magnitude 7.1 temblor that has killed at least 305 across the region. Many residents and visitors fled homes, hotels and businesses, some in tears.

At the Xoco General Hospital, which is treating the largest number of quake victims, workers ordered visitors to evacuate when seismic alarms began to blare.

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As rescue operations stretched into day five, residents throughout the capital have held out hope that dozens still missing might be found alive.

More than half the dead – 167 – perished in the capital, while another 73 died in the state of Morelos, 45 in Puebla, 13 in Mexico State, six in Guerrero and one in Oaxaca.

0:00 Frida the rescue dog saving lives after the Mexican earthquake Share Frida the rescue dog saving lives after the Mexican earthquake

Banks bow to pressure on ATM fees

Australia’s four biggest banks have bowed to years of consumer pressure and abolished the ATM withdrawal fees for customers of other banks.

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The Commonwealth was the first strike, making an announcement early on Sunday that it would axe the $2 fee that applied to any user who was not using a CommBank key card.

Westpac, the ANZ and National Australian Bank followed suit later in the day.

All four banks cited the unpopularity of the fee with consumers, who were forking out $500 million a year for withdrawing their own cash .

“As Australia’s largest bank, with one of the largest branch and ATM networks, we think this change will benefit many Australians and hopefully demonstrate our willingness to listen and act on customer feedback,” CommBank Group Executive, Retail Banking Services, Matt Comyn said.

Westpac Group Executive, Consumer, George Frazis, said in a statement that it understood “the ‘foreign ATM’ fee has been deeply unpopular with consumers.”

NAB Chief Customer Officer of Consumer Banking and Wealth, Andrew Hagger, said the decision was about making banking fairer.

“We know it has been frustrating for them to be charged to withdraw their own money from an ATM, and the change we are announcing today will benefit millions of Australians.”

Reserve Bank of Australia data shows Australians made more than 250 million ATM withdrawals from banks other than their own last year.

Australia’s fifth largest bank, Macquarie, said it did not charge ATM fees and would refund the $2 fee if their customer was slugged by another bank.

The fee abolition will not apply to cards from overseas banks.

The Australian Bankers Association said Sunday’s announcements were another example of how banks were working to improve their services.

“This is the latest in a suite of initiatives by banks to create better products and services for customers and boost customer choice, including reducing interest rates on credit cards and offering fee-free transaction accounts,” CEO Anna Bligh said in a statement.

“A competitive banking system is good for customers and good for the sector.”

But the changes, while welcomed by federal politicians, did not stop calls for a banking royal commission.

“Imagine how we could get better banking for all Australians if we had a banking royal commission,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said.

Blight hopes for Crows AFL flag bridge

AFL legend Malcolm Blight would love to build a premiership bridge with Adelaide coach Don Pyke.

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It is two decades – more than two generations in the AFL life cycle – since Blight coached the Crows to their only two premierships in 1997-98.

And Blight says it’s high time someone joined him.

Blight compares it to playing in North Melbourne’s first premiership teams – 1975 and ’77 – and then two decades later watching Denis Pagan and Wayne Carey leading the Kangaroos to another double dose of glory.

“Football history to me is important … it’s terrific when you see them around the traps, you build bridges and every club should require that,” he told AAP.

Blight noted that when he first came to Melbourne, it quickly became clear how Carlton’s generations of premiership players kept tight.

“They had this fantastic ‘bridge’ network, where you’d just run across them and they’d all be involved in successful times,” he said.

“The more the merrier, I think.

“It would be great to build that bridge with this group of players, the staff and all that.”

Blight said Neil Craig was stiff that he did not coach the Crows to at least one flat in the middle of last decade.

“I’d like to sit down, look at every finals game, and show you where some luck came into it,” he said.

“We always say you make your own luck and that’s true – I reckon in 95 per cent you do – but there are some strange things that happen in our game.

“And it’s not always the bounce of the ball.

“Neil was a bit stiff with that.

“Some days are diamonds.”

Blight will be at the MCG next Saturday and is looking forward to a rivetting game.

And he predicts a third Adelaide premiership, just.

“I don’t know, I just have this feeling that the Crows might bat down a bit further,” he said.

“Richmond are certainly up and about and they have those great midfielders.

“The stars have to star, the rest have to pick up the slack.

“It’s a pretty exciting game and so it should be.”