Foster’s halts beer to Coles and Woolies

Posted on: February 3rd, 2019 by
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Australia’s biggest brewer Foster’s says it stopped its beer shipments to Coles and Woolworths for a few days this month because the two major retailers had resorted to selling the product at below cost.

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Carlton and United Brewery (CUB), Foster’s beer division, said the two retailers, engaged in a cut-throat price war, would have damaged the brewer’s image if the beer, including VB, was sold at $28 a carton.

“We have withheld supply from a number of customers for a short period where we believe they have been selling our product below cost for the purpose of loss-leading,” CUB spokesman Troy Hey told AAP on Wednesday.

“We have done so to protect the brand equity – the image of our brands – and we don’t do this lightly.”

The idea behind loss-leading is to get customers into the shop and then try to sell other products at higher prices.

The brands involved other than VB were Carlton Draught, Pure Blonde and Crown Lager.

The withdrawal of supply was nationwide and involved Coles’ First Choice liquor stores and Woolworths’ Dan Murphy chains along with some smaller independents.

Mr Hey said the brewer is not allowed to have pricing negotiations with retailers but it told the retailers that it was stopping supply because they planned to sell at below cost.

“All we can do under the specific section (of the Trade Practices Act) was to withhold supply and we’ve done so in each instance for a couple of days,” Mr Hey said.

It was only the second time that Foster’s had taken such action.

Mr Hey said beer was withheld to an independent retailer last month.

Coles and Woolworths control around 50 per cent of liquor distribution in Australia.

Comment was being sought from Coles and Woolworths.


‘World first’ plain cigarette packaging

Posted on: February 3rd, 2019 by • Sticky
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Health groups have backed the federal government’s crackdown on cigarette promotion, but business says the move will be costly and risks legal action from tobacco companies.

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Under the proposed law, Australia would become the first country in the world to require tobacco products to be sold in unattractive plain packaging to reduce their appeal to consumers, federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon announced on Thursday.

Cigarette packets would be matte olive green – the colour found to be least appealing to smokers – have no obvious logos and carry large pictures of the physical damage caused by smoking.

“This plain packaging legislation is a world first and sends a clear message that the glamour is gone – cigarette packs will now only show the death and disease that can come from smoking,” Ms Roxon said.

Have Your Say on the plan

Plain packaging was one of a number of government measures aimed at reducing the toll on families from 15,000 smoking-related deaths and associated costs of $31.5 billion a year, she added.

The draft law was welcomed by health groups but criticised by retailers and tobacco companies, which had flagged potential legal action that could result in billions of dollars in compensation.

Ms Roxon said the government would not be scared by potential legal action from “big tobacco” companies and called on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to support the bill.

“There is a clear question for Mr Abbott today: will you join with the Gillard government, or will you continue to be in the pocket of big tobacco and accept their donations?” she said.

But opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton said there were “a lot of question marks” around the proposed law.

“They’ve announced this three times, but they still haven’t given the detail which shows this would actually reduce smoking rates,” he told reporters in Perth.

The coalition’s current position is that while it backs measures to reduce smoking, it wants to see evidence that plain packaging cuts smoking rates.

“If this debate is about hope and she is putting forward a proposal based on hope, I think Australians would want to see evidence,” Mr Dutton said.

Global cigarette makers Philip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) on Thursday said the law would infringe international trademark and intellectual property laws.

“The government could end up wasting millions of taxpayers’ dollars in legal fees trying to defend their decision, let alone the potential to pay billions to the tobacco industry for taking away our intellectual property,” BATA spokesman Scott McIntyre said.

The Australian Industry Group said that while it “strongly supports” objectives to reduce smoking, the plain packaging guidelines raised “broad and serious industry concerns”.

The Australian Retailers Association said the proposal was “unnecessary” and would be costly for retailers.

But Ms Roxon said the government would fight on.

“We believe we are on very strong legal grounds,” she told journalists in Sydney.

“We might be breaking ground but we are on firm ground and others will follow us.”

Health and anti-smoking groups, including Cancer Council Australia, Ash, Heart Foundation, Quit and the Australian Medical Association, said the measure would save lives and improve the health of thousands of Australians.

Cancer Council Australia chief executive Professor Ian Olver said he believed many young people would be deterred from taking up smoking.

“We believe it will be effective,” he told AAP.

The legislation is due to be introduced into parliament in the winter and, if passed, will become law on January 1, 2012.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand government has welcomed the Australian move.

“It is my expectation that New Zealand will inevitably follow their lead and look to introduce the plain packaging of tobacco products,” said Associate Health Minister Tariana Turia.

The New Zealand government had already announced it would monitor progress on Australia’s proposal and explore the option of making a similar move, she added.

“This government is very serious about reducing the harm caused by smoking and it is vital that we do more to help people quit smoking and stop young people from being tempted to take up the habit.”


Household debt falling but still high: RBA

Posted on: February 3rd, 2019 by • Sticky
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The Reserve Bank says Australian households are saving more and paying down their debt.

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The central bank’s released its half-yearly Financial Stability Review and says Australian households and businesses have benefited from solid growth in employment and wage incomes in recent years.

It says they’re continuing to consolidate their finances saving at a much higher rate in recent years and slowing the pace of debt accumulation.

The RBA says last year households were saving 10 per cent of their net disposable income which compares to levels of below four per cent early in the decade.

Australian households are saving more and paying down their debt but indebtedness remains historically high, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) said in its half-yearly Financial Stability Review.

The central bank did its previous financial stability review in September 2010 and since then it has raised the cash rate from 4.5 per cent to 4.75 per cent in November.

The commercial banks responded to this rate hike by “supersizing” the increase in the cash rate – raising their variable home loan interest rates by more than a quarter of a percentage point.

The RBA said the rate increases hasn’t had much of an effect on household savings rates and paying down of debt but there should be some caution about the effects of higher mortgage and loan repayments.

“While indicators of financial stress are relatively subdued, a continuation of this recent borrowing restraint would help build resilience into banks’ balance sheets.

“Household indebtedness remains historically high and recent increases in interest rates have lifted the aggregate debt servicing requirement,” the central bank said.

The RBA said that while the reduced debt levels and increased savings had increased the resilience of the banking sector it had an effect on the housing market.

“The moderation in demand for housing finance contributed to some cooling in the housing market in 2010,” the RBA said.

“Nationwide housing prices rose six per cent over the year, compared with 11 per cent in 2009 and were fairly flat in the second half of 2009.

The ratio of dwelling prices to household income was “broadly stable in 2010,” the central bank said.


We’ll watch big project costs: O’Farrell

Posted on: February 3rd, 2019 by • Sticky
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The NSW coalition has promised to contain big infrastructure project blowouts if it wins government on Saturday.

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NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell on Wednesday kicked off his Real Change for NSW bus tour with his first stop in Drummoyne, in Sydney’s inner-west.

Mr O’Farrell used the backdrop of the Iron Cove Bridge duplication to highlight what he says is one of Labor’s failings when delivering big projects to NSW residents.

He said the project’s cost had blown out from $100 million to $175 million and its completion had been delayed by two years.

Mr O’Farrell also said the new bridge had only shifted the problem it was intended to address.

“It simply moved a traffic jam a few minutes down the road,” he told reporters.

“A patch-up job from a state government that never addressed the fundamental problems.”

Mr O’Farrell stopped short of promising that all infrastructure projects under a coalition government would be delivered on time and within budget.

“We’ll be working overtime to make sure it doesn’t happen,” he said.

“We’ve committed ourselves that cabinet will be briefed monthly on major projects like this.”

Opposition transport spokesperson Gladys Berejiklian said Labor had failed to focus on improving public transport to get more vehicles off the road.

“This electorate, like so many across the state, demonstrates how wrong the Labor Party’s got it in the last 16 years when it comes to public transport,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters.

The coalition’s bus tour of NSW kicked off on Wednesday with four buses loaded with coalition MPs heading to every electorate in NSW to campaign until the election on Saturday.

Mr O’Farrell’s bus will focus on the Sydney area.

His wife Rosemary joined him on the bus as it headed to its next stop in Burwood.


O’Farrell calls for support ahead of poll

Posted on: February 3rd, 2019 by
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NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell has appealed to voters for their support in the state election, as the latest polls point to a landslide victory for the coalition.

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Mr O’Farrell, spending the final day before the booths open in western Sydney, warned that Labor’s seven-week campaign had only ever been about its own survival.

“It’s clear that all Labor’s been doing during this campaign, as it has through 16 years, is focusing on itself, focusing on its own survival,” he told reporters.

“My team is the public’s team

“We know, whatever the opinion polls say, four-and-a-half million people in our democracy get to make up their mind on the future of this state tomorrow.”

Two polls published on Friday show there could be a swing of up to 18 per cent against Labor. That would give the Liberal-Nationals coalition about 74 seats in the 93-seat lower house.

Labor could be reduced to as few as 13 seats, from 50.

“What we are asking for is support tomorrow, and reminding people that only by voting against their local Labor or independent candidates can you guarantee the real change that NSW wants,” Mr O’Farrell said.

Premier Kristina Keneally, campaigning in the Illawarra early on Friday, vowed to keep working hard to win votes until the polls closed on Saturday.

Both Mr O’Farrell and Ms Keneally are due to attend a 1pm (AEDT) prayer service for victims of the Japan earthquake at St Andrew’s Cathedral, in central Sydney.

Mr O’Farrell hit the road about 5.30am (AEDT) on Friday, taking his campaign bus to Sydney’s Flemington Markets.

During a tour of the produce market, he promised a coalition government would support farmers and growers by sourcing local fruit and vegetables for government use.

“NSW grows some of the best quality fruit, vegetables and crops in the world,” Mr O’Farrell said.

If elected, the coalition would source produce locally wherever possible, he said.”Whether it’s fruit for our hospitals or food for school canteens, our bias will always be towards sourcing local produce and supporting NSW workers.”


Officer tells of predatory behaviour at ADFA

Posted on: February 3rd, 2019 by
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Australia Defence Association head Neil James has defended the way senior officers have handled the growing sex scandal within the Australian Defence Force Academy after Defence Minister Stephem Smith said the punishment of an eighteen year old female cadet was insensitive and stupid.

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The cadet was fined and confined to base, in a manner which created the impression she’s being punished for speaking out about sexual abuse, Defence Minister Stephen Smith says.

Mr Smith said the Commandant of the ADFA, Commodore Bruce Kafer, had acknowledged a major error of judgement in allowing an unrelated disciplinary matter to proceed at this time.

The action came as the ADF and federal police investigate allegations that consensual sex between the female cadet and a male student was broadcast, without her knowledge, to six other defence members watching in another room.

Smith labelled the decision “insensitive or completely stupid”, but James has hit back, reports the ABC.

“Of the number of phone calls and SMS messages and emails we’re getting, and people stopping me literally in the street, there’s considerable anger.”

James claims there are a number of inaccuracies in the press.

“There’s a growing unease about some of the statements made by the Minister for Defence. Civil control of the military is a two-way street and you would expect the Minister to defend the Defence Force and officers in the Defence Force from inaccurate and unfair media criticism,” the ABC reported James as saying.

Accusations

Earlier, a former officer at the Australian Defence Force Academy came forward with allegations of predatory sexual behaviour and cover-ups at the elite college.

The former divisional officer worked at the college in 2006 but said he quickly left because of a culture of covering up misbehaviour and misconduct.

“I had a cadet in my actual division who was actually stalking and harassing another first-year female,” Mark told AAP on Thursday.

“He blatantly lied to me and my divisional sergeant.

“I asked for action to be taken against him in the way of formal charges. They wouldn’t do it.”

Later, Mark discovered the male had been previously dating the female but she had ended the relationship.

“When I walked around at night, the college sounded like a brothel with the windows open,” Mark, now out of the defence force, said.

His story adds to a growing list of stories detailing a predatory culture at the academy.

Earlier on Thursday, a Brisbane woman told ABC Radio her niece was told to “suck it up” after being raped while training at the academy.

The unnamed woman said her niece was 19 at the time and injured so badly she was admitted to hospital.

The cadet’s partner, who was also in the defence force, had his career threatened when the young woman considered pursuing charges over the assault.

“The defence force did absolutely nothing. In fact, she was told by her commanding officer to suck it up,” the woman said.

When told of the rape allegation, Mark was unsurprised.

“There’s a hidden culture there.”

He said the structure of the academy, where third- and

fourth-year students lived and studied alongside first-year cadets

created countless problems.

“You could call them predators,” he said.

“What happens is they’re 21 years of age, and in come these nice 17-year-olds and it’s like, `you put out for me and I can help you get through all of this’.”

Mark said it was routine for the more advanced students to remind first years they were dealing with their future bosses.

“Straight away they’re indoctrinated into this situation, this pressure to put out.”


Dogs captaincy won’t change me: Graham

Posted on: February 3rd, 2019 by
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James Graham has declared the Canterbury leadership won’t alter his passionate approach to football after he was unveiled as the Bulldogs’ new captain.

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Graham was officially announced as Michael Ennis’ successor at the Bulldogs’ NRL season launch on Thursday.

The 29-year-old prop’s ultra-competitive nature sometimes threatened to get the best of him in Canterbury’s charge to the 2014 grand final, but Graham says the captaincy won’t change his emotional approach.

“I have to stay as true to myself as I have in the past,” Graham said.

“There was a great sense of pride when the gaffer (coach) got me into his office to offer the captaincy, there was certainly no hesitation.

“To be chosen when there are so many other great players and great leaders at this club is very fortunate.

“I’ll have to deal a lot more with the referees, but I’m looking forward to that.”

Graham said he feared bad news might be coming his way when called into coach Des Hasler’s office two weeks ago, but was thrilled to leave anointed as the next Bulldogs leader.

“I don’t know what I expected, I don’t know what I had done wrong, I was just glad it was good news,” Graham said.

“It wasn’t about getting appreciation from Des (for accepting), it was a natural reaction.

“Everyone knew it was up in the air and the amount of great candidates we had, it was tough to choose someone.”

Graham joins the likes of Steve Price, Steve Mortimer, Terry Lamb and George Peponis as a Bulldogs skipper.

Frank Pritchard and Aidan Tolman have been installed as vice-captains.

Graham captained the Bulldogs in their 2014 grand final loss to South Sydney, with an ankle injury sidelining Ennis, who has now gone to Cronulla.

He also skippered England in the early stages of last year’s Four Nations, when Sean O’Loughlin was sidelined with a thigh injury, and led St Helens in his final season in the Super League in 2011.

Hasler said Graham was a player who led by example.

“James is a professional athlete who has shown a number of leadership qualities since arriving here at the club,” Hasler said.

“He leads from the front on the field and is a man that is continuing to look at different ways to improve his game.

“He is a mentor amongst the playing group and being a seasoned campaigner, he has the knowledge across all aspects of the game to help the club continue to move forward.”


It’s about camaraderie, iPad 2 queuers say

Posted on: February 3rd, 2019 by
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Some of the hundreds of people who have been queuing for almost two days in front of Sydney’s Apple store to get the new iPad 2 say it’s all about meeting people.

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Canadian backpacker Alex Lee arrived in Sydney on Wednesday to be first in line to buy Apple’s iPad 2 and has theorised on the phenomenon.

“I call it the 90/10 rule for Apple – 90 per cent is about the people, the experience and just the whole feeling and 10 per cent is about the product itself,” the IT consultant said.

Alex already owns an iPhone, an iPad 1, and an iPad 2 (bought in America) and was typing away on his Mac laptop outside the George Street store when he was approached by AAP on a chilly Friday morning.

“The iPads I’m buying today, one is for charity and one is for my sister,” he said.

“It’s the camaraderie, we meet a lot of good people in line and we have a good time learning about each other, different cultures,” he said.

“We always find we have something in common.”

Alex has CBD workers and tourists frequently coming over for a chat and people are constantly wanting to take pictures with him.

Further down the line several Sydney high school boys are bonding over their experience.

“They always say: why don’t you just come next week. (But) it’s not about that,” says 15-year-old James Dounis, who has been camping outside the store since Thursday evening.

“The atmosphere is really exciting `cause you meet other people who want the same thing you do. “It’s pretty trustworthy around here.”

James, who doesn’t own any other Apple products, says he wouldn’t have made friends with Beau Giles, 17, if he hadn’t lined up.

Beau, who will also buy his first Apple gadget on Friday, said lining up overnight would be a good story to tell. “I’m here pretty much for the experience,” he said.

“I always hear people ranting how awesome it is lining up overnight and being able to meet new people. “It’s cool to meet people who share common interest and sort of networking.”

The iPad 2 started getting sold from 5pm (AEDT) today.


Cairo protesters defy military

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At least one person was killed earlier in the morning when troops and police stormed the iconic square to break up an overnight protest demanding the trial of former regime officials.

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The health ministry said one person died, a figure later echoed by the army, and 71 people were hurt – some from bullet wounds and others suffering breathing difficulties or having been struck during clashes. Medics said two people were killed and 18 people wounded. The fatality was the first in the square since it became the focal point for 18 days of protests that triggered president Hosni Mubarak’s resignation on February 11. The army denied it was responsible for the fatality, saying no deaths were discovered when it cleared the square to enforce a pre-dawn three hour curfew. Instead, four soldiers and nine protesters were wounded, said a military spokesman who vowed to clear the square of protesters who defied the curfew. “Those who remain in the square will be dispersed,” General Ismail Etman told reporters. The warning was ignored by protesters in Tahrir, who chanted against the military. “I’m not scared, I’m sad it came to this, but what right does the army have to attack us,” said one protester, Mohammed Abdel Al, as he prepared to take a nap on the square. Etman defended the military’s actions the night before. “We did not use force; we did not beat anyone,” he said. Any protesters hurt had been hit with stones thrown by others, he added. For his part, General Adel Umara said that after the army cleared and left the square in the morning, a large number of “protesters came … to Tahrir with two automatic weapons and Molotov cocktails, and they attacked three military vehicles.” He did not explain why the vehicles were left behind. “There was a death reported, unfortunately. An initial autopsy shows it was a bullet in the mouth,” the general said. He did not identify the fatality. Tens of thousands gather On Friday, tens of thousands had massed in the square calling for Mubarak and his cronies to be tried for corruption and criticising the military rulers for stalling on reforms in what was dubbed the “Day of Trial and Cleansing”. Some were also demanding that 75-year-old Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak’s defence minister for two decades and the man who replaced him, also step down. Several hundred camped out in the square overnight, and witnesses said soldiers, backed by riot police, fired live rounds, mostly into the air, and beat protesters. Earlier, the interim military government said “elements from the interior ministry”, backed by civilians, had cleared “outlaws” from the square, in a statement carried by the official MENA news agency. A statement on the military’s Facebook page blamed remnants of the formerly ruling National Democratic Party for the demonstration, and said it had ordered the arrest of four party members it accused of “thuggery” during the sit-in. Cairo under curfew Cairo remains under a 2am to 5am curfew. An officer said “we did not fire live bullets”, adding that an inquiry was underway. Earlier, an official said the army had used only blanks. Those claims were repeated by General Umara. Seven army officers had defied a warning from the ruling military council and joined the protesters on Friday, calling for a “purification” of the army. “Our demands are your demands. We want a civilian government. We want to try corrupt people,” one officer said to loud cheers. At midnight on Friday, the officers gathered in a tent surrounded by more than a dozen protesters who wanted to guard them against arrest. General Etman said 42 people had been arrested, including the officers. Army withdraws The army withdrew from the square in the morning, prompting the swift return of at least 200 protesters. By the afternoon that figure had swelled to around a thousand. A military bus was still in flames, and stones and bullet casings littered the ground from the overnight violence. The protesters were calling for Tantawi’s overthrow and said they would remain in the square until he quit. The demonstrators cordoned off entrances to the square with barbed wire abandoned by military police. The mood was tense and decidedly anti-military. Some protesters surrounded a man who objected to their presence, pummelling him with punches and kicks before other demonstrators intervened. “I’ve come to Tahrir Square because we are witnessing a counter-revolution,” student Malik Asam told AFP. Another student, Anas Mohammed, said: “I had expected to see the other face of the military, but if they carry on as they are, they will see the other face of the people.” That was an apparent reference to the army’s stance during the anti-Mubarak protests, when it said the demonstrators’ demands were just and protected them from anti-regime elements who tried to drive them out of the square. Mubarak banned Mubarak, his wife Suzanne and their two sons Alaa and Gamal and their wives have already been banned from travel and had their assets frozen. Several former ministers and members of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party are being investigated as part of a sweeping probe, but pro-democracy activists say key figures still need to be brought to justice. On Thursday, Mubarak’s chief of staff Zakariah Azmi was detained for 15 days on suspicion of illegally acquiring his wealth. The army has promised legislative and presidential elections before the end of the year and a return to civilian rule, but many Egyptians are concerned that key elements of the old regime are still firmly entrenched.


Garnaut wants $2.5b for clean energy

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Australia should be spending $2.

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5 billion a year on new low-emissions technologies by 2017, a doubling of current expected expenditure, climate change adviser Ross Garnaut says.

In his seventh update of his landmark 2008 review, Prof Garnaut argues there’s a case for “exceptionally large fiscal support for firms that invest in research, development and commercialisation of new low-emissions technologies” over the next decade.

He says pricing carbon will drive innovation but “on its own it will not increase it by enough”.

That’s because the market doesn’t always support research and development adequately because it’s expensive and risky.

The seventh update, released on Wednesday, recommends the government redirect a significant proportion of the money raised from the proposed carbon tax to fund clean energy projects.

Australia’s contribution to an international target of $100 billion each year would be between $2 billion and $3 billion.

Prof Garnaut wants to increase Australia’s expenditure over the next five years to the mid-point figure of $2.5 billion.

That’s double the current expected expenditure and five times the $500 million spent now.

Funding would plateau between 2017 and 2022 before gradually declining.

“Revenue from the carbon price should be used to add to existing commitments,” Prof Garnaut says.

He recommends a new low-emissions innovation council be established to oversee an initial focus on basic research which isn’t technology specific.

The Australian Centre for Renewable Energy would be charged with supporting subsequent demonstration and commercialisation.

The update favours offering support to firms via lump-sum or multi-year grants. But it recommends other mechanisms be examined.

Prof Garnaut suggests Australia faces two main constraints in moving to a clean-energy future.

First, the resources boom is pushing up prices, and, second, the 2008 global financial crisis increased the cost of finance.

On the contentious issue of carbon capture and storage (CCS), the update remains upbeat, noting “studies and trials to date indicate there are no insurmountable technological challenges”.

CCS associated with gas liquefaction alone “could make a substantial contribution to Australia’s mitigation effort”, Prof Garnaut notes.

If geosequestration from gas combustion was added “it would make a decisive contribution”.

The update acknowledges that carbon capture and storage in the electricity generation sector is “more technically challenging and expensive”.

Incorporating the technology in power plants would increase costs by between 40 and 75 per cent.

“Analysts seem more reserved than they were in 2008 about the near-term prospects for carbon capture and storage in the electricity sector,” Prof Garnaut states.

But he adds there’s no need to abandon prospects of storing emissions from coal combustion “where coal is cheap and good geological sites are nearby”.

In good news for solar power, the update says costs for that technology “are expected to fall at a faster rate than previously expected”.

There are also “many signs that the penetration of electric vehicles will be much quicker than predicted” with oil prices forecast to be higher.

In a general warning, however, Prof Garnaut notes that to date government support for innovation in low-emissions technology has suffered from delays and under-expenditure.