Press digest australian business news apr 17

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Compiled for Reuters by Media Monitors. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. THE AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW (this site)--Toyota is facing legal action after it nominated 350 staffers for redundancy based on individual ratings on a scale of five, which graded workers' punctuality and on-the-job performance. The Japanese car manufacturer said it had agreed with unions on the unusual grading system before the sackings, but unions yesterday rejected the claim. Ian Jones, head of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union's vehicle division, said half of the shop stewards at Toyota's Victorian factory were sacked. Page 1.--Heather Ridout, outgoing chief executive of Australian Industry Group and a new member of the Reserve Bank of Australia's board, yesterday accused the Australian Greens for threatening living conditions, jobs and investment with their "hard nosed, ideological stance" to business. Ms Ridout added that the Greens' position on tax cuts for big business, carbon pricing and industrial relations was counter-productive. Pg 1.--New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell's suggestion to use Canberra's airport as an alternative to a second airport in Sydney has been slammed as "delusional" by international airlines. A 3200-page study by the New South Wales and federal governments last month found that Canberra airport was too far away to function as a feasible second airport for Sydney, with Badgerys Creek in New South Wales identified as the most suitable location for a new airport. Page 1.--Josh Goot and Dion Lee, two of Australia's most prominent fashion designers, have decided to pull out of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia a fortnight for the country's most prestigious fashion event. Marion Hume, international fashion editor of The Australian Financial Review Magazine, said the decision could provide more room for upcoming local designers. "It's a natural progression and shows a healthiness in Australian Fashion Week," she said. Page 3. THE AUSTRALIAN (this site)--The latest survey from Newspoll has revealed that the Labor Government's primary support is still below 30 percent, while Prime Minister Julia Gillard is losing ground to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott as preferred leader. Ms Gillard's dissatisfaction rating jumped four percentage points to 62 percent, while Mr Abbott's dissatisfaction rating fell to 54 percent from 58 percent. The Prime Minister's trustworthiness also dropped to 44 percent, the same level as John Howard's lowest rating in 2001 after he was perceived as "mean and tricky". Page 1.

--The governments of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales have all joined forces to reject the Federal Government's draft plan to revive the Murray-Darling basin, which proposes that 2750 gigalitres of water be redirected to environmental flows from consumption. Mark Grieger, a South Australian Riverland grower, said the plan would not assist downstream irrigators to weather droughts in the future. Page 1.--The National Party has accused their Coalition partners, the Liberals, of launching "a direct attack on our party's finances and viability". A letter written by Nationals state president Christine Ferguson to her Liberal equivalent, Senator Arthur Sinodinos, said the party would not accept a cut in their split of public election funding. The Nationals have also refused to rule out selecting a candidate for the New South Wales electorate of Hume, which is held by Liberal MP Alby Schultz, despite the Liberals' intention to hold the seat in the upcoming election. Page 1.--David Murray, former chairman of the Federal Government's Future Fund, yesterday claimed that the Australian Greens were levelling "ill-advised" demands on the federal budget and that the main priority should be to retain the country's credit rating. The attack came as Christine Milne, leader of the Greens, refused to support tax cuts for major corporations and any reduction in spending on research and development funding, family benefits and the public service. Page 1.

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (this site)--Ryan Pringle, the son of former rugby league player Neil Pringle, yesterday was shot by police after threatening the Rainbow Family Australia group just outside Tenterfield, New South Wales. According to members of the group, which reportedly promotes "peace, love and harmony", the police officer was forced to shoot Mr Pringle who was suffering a "psychotic episode". "We have no idea what triggered it," an elder of the group said. Page 1.--Prime Minister Julia Gillard will today announce that most of Australia's defence personnel could be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the middle of next year. "I'm now confident that [the Chicago summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation] will recognise mid-2013 as a key milestone in the international strategy  a crucial point when the international forces will be able to move to a supporting role across all of Afghanistan," the Prime Minister's speech notes say. 32 Australian soldiers have died in the conflict so far, with another 219 wounded. Page 1.--Leaked documents from National Foods, the largest supplier of fresh milk to Australia's supermarket chains, has revealed that its milk contains up to 16.43 percent permeate, a waste product from the production of cheese. While there are no known health issues with the ingredient, companies are not required to disclose the amount of permeate in their milk. Peter Nathan, chief executive of A2 Milk, said while none of his milk contained permeate, other producers were being forced to increase permeate levels amid heavy discounting by the major supermarkets. Page 3.

--Analysis from the Tenants Union of Victoria has found that the Newstart unemployment benefit is insufficient enough to cover the cost of rent on a typical one-bedroom unit in Sydney. Individuals receiving the Newstart and rent assistance benefits are paid A$304.95 a week, well below the A$420 median weekly rent for a one-bedroom unit in Sydney and just above the A$300 median weekly rent for units in Perth and Melbourne. Pg 3. THE AGE (this site)--The Victorian government will continue to support mandatory energy ratings for new housing in the state, despite revelations this week that it was considering a proposal to abolish the 6-star thermal efficiency rating for a voluntary system. "The Treasurer has been challenging ministers, as he should, to examine all of their areas of legislation and regulation to see how we can reduce regulation," Premier Ted Baillieu said. Page 1.--The Victorian government has sued maintenance contractor Utility Services Corporation Limited and electricity company SPI Electricity in the Victorian Supreme Court for allegedly breaching their duty of care for not maintaining a power line which the state claims was responsible for the Black Saturday bushfire three years ago. According to the writ, the government said as the operator and owner of the line, SPI should have "reasonably foreseen that a discharge of electricity" could have sparked a bushfire over a "wide geographic area". Page 1.--Christine Bowden, who organised a Halloween party for her 15-year-old daughter Sheridan, yesterday told the Coroners Court in Victoria that she was faced with a "sickening dilemma" when deciding whether to call the parents of the teenagers who attended the party to ask if their children had been involved in an attack on 16-year-old Justin Galligan. Mr Galligan was knocked unconscious after being punched by gatecrashers and was later taken to Melbourne Hospital where he died. Page 1.--A study by the Victorian government into the construction of a new rail link between Rowville and Monash University has provided a preview of the state's train timetable a decade on. The "train service plan", which was contained in the government's Rowville Rail Study, suggests running a service every four or five minutes during rush hour and one train every 10 minutes outside peak hour. A spokesperson for Public Transport Victoria insisted, however, that the plan was a draft and not indicative of government policy. Page 3.