Takata airbag scandal: Class action filed against three car manufacturers

The Federal Court legal action will allege Toyota, Honda and Mazda are breaching consumer law provisions by not replacing faulty airbags despite a recall, global law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan announced on Tuesday.

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“It is quite frankly, outrageous and almost inconceivable that there are over one million cars on Australian roads that contain a ‘safety’ product that could, at any time, explode with lethal force,” lawyer Damian Scattini said.

The Australian government could impose mandatory recalls on faulty airbags linked to 18 deaths around the world if it’s not satisfied major car manufacturers are doing enough voluntarily.

A competition watchdog investigation was launched after consumer group Choice warned some car companies were replacing faulty Takata airbags with the same potentially-deadly devices.

Following the revelation, the federal government said it had jointly written to all automotive manufacturers implicated in the massive worldwide recall demanding a “comprehensive status” on their progress.

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In a statement on Monday, Small Business Minister Michael McCormack said he wielded the power to trigger a mandatory recall on advice from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Toyota and Lexus confirmed they used the same airbags and would need to refit some vehicles, while Choice also said Mazda, Lexus, BMW and Subaru had made the same mistake.

Nissan said it had been replacing faulty airbags, but in May last year it was revealed the replacements would also be captured under a recall that covered airbags without a chemical drying agent.

The newer version would not present any “unreasonable risk” for at least six years, the company said.

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The airbags’ fault involves the ammonium nitrate used to trigger inflation. The chemical can deteriorate over time and cause a metal canister to explode too forcefully, projecting shrapnel.

More than 2.3 million vehicles in Australia were subject to the recall originally issued back in 2009, but only 850,000 have had their Takata airbags replaced.

A 58-year-old man who died in a Sydney car crash last week is suspected to be the 18th person globally – and the first in Australia – to have been killed as a result of the faulty product after police said he was struck by fragments.

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Penguin pulls Mandela book from shelves

Publisher Penguin has pulled a book about Nelson Mandela off the shelves after the widow and family of South Africa’s former president complained that the doctor who wrote the book had not been given permission to do so, local media says.

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Mandela, who led the country out of apartheid in 1994, died aged 95 in 2013 after a prolonged illness, and his doctor, Vejay Ramlakan, details the end of his life in the book: Mandela’s Last Years.

At the time, reports swirled that Mandela was on life support and being kept alive for political ends.

His widow Graca Machel was not immediately available for comment, but local news agency Eye Witness News reported she was consulting her lawyers on whether or not to sue Ramlakan.

The agency also said Mandela’s grandson and leader of the Madiba clan, Mandla Mandela, backed Machel taking legal action.

Nelson Mandela Foundation spokesman Sello Hatang said the book should not have been published and that the foundation was not involved in its production. He welcomed it being removed from sale.

“At the moment we have been systematically going through the book. When we are done we will publish a list of inaccuracies in the book,” he said.

“Indications from Mrs Machel at the moment is that there was a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality and we believe she’s within her rights to pursue legal recourse,” Hatang said.

In a televised interview on news channel eNCA on Sunday, Ramlakan said he had received permission to write the book from the Mandela family but refused to say specifically from whom.

No Mandela family spokesperson was available for comment.

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Australians buoyed by rising jobs growth

Australians have been buoyed by the latest strong employment figures rather than fretting about what may or may not happen to interest rates.

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The latest ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index jumped 2.3 per cent to its highest level since February after a week in which data revealed an additional 62,000 people enjoyed the benefit of full-time work.

Treasurer Scott Morrison points out that 240,000 jobs have now been created in the past year, the highest growth seen since before the 2008-2009 global financial crisis

Confidence readings are a pointer to future spending habits.

ANZ head of Australian economics David Plank said the confidence result was encouraging and also reflected the Reserve Bank’s broadly positive assessment of domestic conditions in the minutes of the July 4 board meeting that were also released last week.

“The somewhat confusing commentary around the level of the neutral cash rate appears not to have impacted,” Mr Plank said.

Those minutes discussed the central bank’s latest assessment of what it considers to be a “neutral” cash rate, the rate that neither stimulates or restrains the economy, at a time when inflation is stable and the economy is growing at around three per cent.

This neutral rate is now estimated to be 3.5 per cent compared to the record low of 1.5 per cent now.

However, later in the week deputy Reserve Bank governor Guy Debelle insisted in a speech that the board’s discussion on the neutral rate should not be seen as signalling a shift in monetary policy.

The minutes also gave an upbeat appraisal of the global outlook, which was subsequently backed by the International Monetary Fund’s latest economic update on Monday.

The Washington-based institution is confident the recovery is on a firmer footing and says there is now no question the global economy is gaining momentum.

However, the treasurer concedes while Australia is enjoying a record 26 years of uninterrupted economic expansion, not all Australians have been feeling its benefit in recent years.

“You can’t increase wage by slowing the economy, so you have got to have a plan to grow the economy, which we have,” Mr Morrison told John Laws on Sydney’s 2SM radio.

“We want to create better days ahead. Bill Shorten is trying to play the politics of fear and frustration and cynicism,” he added, noting the opposition leader’s recent thoughts on inequality, tax reform and a new plan to review trusts.

But opposition employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor argued the nation was suffering the lowest wage growth in 20 years and the government was increasing taxes on the bottom 80 per cent of workers, a large proportion of whom would see their penalty rates cut.

“These things are just so unfair for those people who are working hard and trying to make ends meet,” he told Sky News.

Pakistan: Suicide bomber in Lahore kills at least 26

The powerful blast hit a bustling main road in the south of Lahore and blew out windows in nearby buildings.

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“A suicide bomber of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) used a motorcycle bomb to kill dozens of policemen,” TTP spokesman Muhammad Khurasani said in a statement emailed to local media.

“Our message to frontline allies of enemies of Islam is to get out of our way or be ready to suffer this fate,” Khurasani added.

Initial police investigations suggested it might be a suicide bomb attack.

“Apparently, according to our initial findings, he was a suicide bomber, who used a motorcycle,” deputy chief of police operations for Lahore, Haider Ashraf, told reporters, adding that at least 10 police officers were among the dead.

Relatives of the victims of a deadly bombing mourn in Lahore, Pakistan, Monday, July 24, 2017 (AAP)AAP

The city’s commissioner Abdullah Khan Sumbul said the blast targeted police.

Senior local administration official Sumair Ahmad Syed put the new toll at 26 dead with over 50 injured. District Emergency officer Ahmad Raza confirmed the death toll, though he put the number of injured at 63.

The area was busy with police at the time because officers had been sent to the market to clear stalls that had illegally spilt onto the road.

Provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah said the blast had appeared to target the vegetable market, which was crowded with shoppers.

Pakistani security officials inspect the scene of an explosion in Lahore, Pakistan, 24 July 2017 (AAP)AAP

‘Deafening blast’

Eyewitness Sher Dil, who works at an office close to the site of the explosion, said it blew out the windows of his office building.

“I was in my office when it all happened. It was a deafening blast, which shook the entire Arfa Karim Towers,” Dil told AFP.

Pakistan’s president, prime minister and army chief all issued statements expressing condolences for the loss of life.

Lahore has been hit by significant militant attacks in Pakistan’s more than decade-long war on extremism, but they have been less frequent in recent years.

The last major blast in the city was in March last year, when 75 were killed and hundreds injured in a bomb targeting Christians celebrating Easter Sunday in a park.

But the country was also hit by a wave of attacks in February this year, including a bomb that killed 14 people in Lahore.

In April a further seven were killed in an attack in the city targeting a team that was carrying out the country’s long overdue census.

After years of spiralling insecurity, the powerful army launched a crackdown on militancy in the wake of a brutal attack on a school in late 2014.

More than 150 people, most of them children, died in the Taliban-led assault in the northwestern city of Peshawar — the country’s deadliest ever single attack.

It shook a country already grimly accustomed to atrocities and prompted the military to step up an operation in the tribal areas, where militants had previously operated with impunity.

Explosions caused by gas cylinders — which are used for cooking as well as in cars — are also common in Pakistan. A blast in Lahore in February was initially thought to be a militant attack, but turned out to be a gas explosion.

Officials have since been cautious about prematurely confirming the nature of explosions.

Lahore, a city of around six million, is Pakistan’s cultural hub and the capital of its most powerful province, Punjab.

 

The rights and privileges tangle

Playing footy, we’ve just been told, is a privilege and not a right.

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The pronouncement came from National Rugby League boss Todd Greenberg who, in the context of women in sport, told the ABC TV’s 7.30: “It’s a privilege to run out, to represent your team or your state or your country. It is not a right for any of us.”

Greenberg is the latest in a long line to raise the rights versus privileges dichotomy, though applying it to sport is relatively unusual.

In Australia, it’s more often applied to citizenship – which the government likes to say is a privilege rather than a right.

Whatever the context, it sounds profound but means little.

A right is something inherent or, in a less secular age, god-given. Some constitutions confer rights. The United States’ declares life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to be unalienable rights.

Privilege comes from the Latin privilegium, meaning private law. It relates to a benefit or protection to a specific person or institution. Parliamentary privilege is an example. The point about a privilege is that it can be given and taken.

To return to sport.

Everyone has the right to aspire to play for Australia, but obviously not the right to actually do so. That requires great talent and dedication (and, in some sports these days, an attachment to group think and role modelling).

Much the same applies down the sporting food chain. You’ve got a right to try out for the Black Stump Skinks and if you’re good enough you should get a game. And continue to, provided you don’t thump someone or otherwise transgress the laws of the game.

It gets trickier with girls wanting to play in boy teams, though this is lessening as far greater opportunities for young women are created.

Trickier still is the rights or privileges of transgenders. Should a person with the bulk and speed and strength of a man compete against women, especially in contact sports? Do the rights of the girls who get flattened come into it?

The Americans vent most over rights and privileges. Much of it, unsurprisingly, relates to health care and leads to questions like, can one pursue happiness without health?

Or, why is owning a gun a right but getting decent health care a privilege?

One answer is that health care is neither a right nor a privilege, but a service. And people have no right to health workers’ care because they aren’t slaves.

Part of the trouble with the word privilege is that it evokes images of high birth, rich daddies, elite schools and the like.

That’s the privilege that the French Revolution was supposed to abolish at a stroke. In its place the French got Liberty Equality Fraternity.

It sounds great, but how much fraternity is there in the Paris banlieue?

Privilege is probably too loaded a word to be much use outside politics, where words are weapons.

More useful is a notion of limited rights, or rights with obligations. You have a right to drive, but an obligation to be sober; a right to play sport, with an obligation not to cheat; or, as the Americans might say, a right to hunt, but an obligation not to shoot game wardens.