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.

US judge halts deportation of more than 1,400 Iraqi nationals

US District Judge Mark Goldsmith granted a preliminary injunction requested by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, who argued the immigrants would face persecution in Iraq because they are considered ethnic and religious minorities there.

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Goldsmith said the injunction provides detainees time to challenge their removal in federal courts. He said many of them faced “a feverish search for legal assistance” after their deportation orders were unexpectedly resurrected by the US government after several years.

Goldsmith wrote, in his 34-page opinion and order, that the extra time assures “that those who might be subjected to grave harm and possible death are not cast out of this country before having their day in court,”

The decision effectively means no Iraqi nationals can be deported from the United States for several months.

It was not immediately known whether Goldsmith’s ruling would be appealed by the US government. A representative for the US Attorney’s Office in Detroit did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

There are 1,444 Iraqi nationals who have final deportation orders against them in the United States, although only about 199 of them were detained in June as part of a nationwide sweep by immigration authorities.

The ACLU sued on June 15 to halt the deportations of the detainees. They argued the Iraqis could face persecution, torture, or death because many were Chaldean Catholics, Sunni Muslims, or Iraqi Kurds and that the groups were recognized as targets of ill-treatment in Iraq.

Those arrested by immigration authorities had outstanding deportation orders and many had been convicted of serious crimes, ranging from homicide to weapons and drug charges, the US government said.

Goldsmith sided with the ACLU, expanding on June 26 an earlier stay which only protected 114 detainees from the Detroit area to the broader class of more than 1,400 Iraqi nationals nationwide. Goldsmith’s Monday decision came hours before that injunction was set to expire.

The ACLU argued many Iraqi detainees have had difficulty obtaining critical government documents needed to file deportation order appeals, and also that the government has transferred many detainees to facilities in different parts of the country, separating them from their lawyers and families.

“The judge is giving them a realistic and meaningful opportunity to make their cases,” ACLU attorney Miriam Aukerman said after the decision.

The roundup of Iraqis in the Detroit area followed Iraq’s agreement to accept deportees as part of a deal that removed the country from Trump’s revised temporary travel ban on people from six Muslim-majority countries.

Some of those affected came to the United States as children and committed their crimes decades ago, but they had been allowed to stay because Iraq previously declined to issue travel documents for them.

That changed after the two governments came to the agreement in March.

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Coke plays down Woolies’ water blow

Shares in battling bottler Cola-Cola Amatil have taken a further dive following news Woolworths will pull all but two of the beverage giant’s Mount Franklin water products from shelves.

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Woolies will only stock the two most popular Mount Franklin products – 20 and six-bottle still water packs – from August, and single bottles will still be available at the front of stores.

Investors reacted to the news, with Coca-Cola Amatil shares down 4.4 per cent to $8.19 by 1353 AEST on Tuesday – taking the stock to a new 12-month low.

A Coca-Cola Amatil spokesman said Woolworths was not targeting the beverage giant but simply reducing availability of multiple brands across several manufacturers, while expanding Woolies’ own private label water range.

He noted the Coca-Cola Amatil’s most popular grocery water products will remain on Woolworths’ shelves.

“This decision will have minimal effect on Coca-Cola Amatil,” the spokesman said.

“Our water strategy isn’t about just one brand, it is about a full portfolio including Mount Franklin, Pump, Neverfail and others with a strong focus on immediate consumption channels.

“Grocery water sales are important to us but are only one part of the strategy.”

It is understood bottled water sales are around 20 per cent stronger than at the same time last year.

A Woolworths spokesman said the move was designed to meet customers’ growing thirst for a variety of water options.

“Our customers are purchasing a wide variety of water options – both branded and non-branded – and as the category continues to increase in popularity we will respond to meet our customers’ demands in the space,” he said.

The Mount Franklin announcement is the latest in a string of bad news for Coca-Cola Amatil, with Woolworths earlier this month confirming it won’t stock the new Coca-Cola No Sugar and pizza giant Domino’s awarding a supply contract to Coke’s bitter rival, Pepsi.

Health of mentally ill must be a priority

The physical needs of the mentally ill are being overshadowed by their mental health condition, and with fatal consequences.

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That’s the warning of the Chairman of the National Mental Health Commission Professor Allan Fels, who says Australians with a serious mental illness live between 14-23 years less than the general population.

In a speech to the National Press Club on Tuesday, Professor Fels listed the “distressing” and “shocking” health outcomes of Australians living with mental illness.

“Among many other disparities, people with a mental illness are six times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease and four times more likely to die from respiratory disease. This must not continue,” Professor Fels said.

These vulnerable people are not dying early because of suicide but from preventable diseases, said the former boss of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

“Four out of every five people living with a mental illness have a co-existing physical illness.”

Prof Fels laid the blame for the poor health outcomes on poor access to services, affordability and stigma.

“Stigma and discrimination which is still widespread, particularly towards those with serious mental illness, can also discourage an individual from seeking help,” he said.

“And health professionals still all too regularly demonstrate stigma and discrimination against those with mental illness – by ignoring them or by dismissing or diminishing the symptoms they report, by not investigating as frequently or by not treating as assertively as they otherwise might if the person did not have a mental illness.”

Professor Fels says it’s an “unacceptable” but “fixable” situation.

As part of a push to close the life expectancy gap, Professor Fels called for the physical health of those with a mental illness to be made a national priority and used his Press Club address to launch the Equally Well Statement.

“Equitable access to health care is a basic human right for all Australians. We need to improve outcomes for people who live with a mental illness and reduce the life expectancy gap,” he said.

One of the core reforms the statement calls for – which has the support of more than 50 organisations and governments – is for person-centred care rather than provider-centred care.

“Better screening, early treatment and management of co-existing physical health conditions, will help people with a mental illness, and the costs to the national health system will be reduced,” Prof Fels said.

Docker Logue learns from Riewoldt trickery

Fremantle youngster Griffin Logue learned an invaluable lesson when he was tricked by St Kilda’s Nick Riewoldt earlier this month.

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Logue gave away a 50m penalty at a crucial stage of the round-15 AFL loss to St Kilda when he threw the ball back to the wrong player.

The 19-year-old was meant to throw the ball back to Tim Membrey.

But with his childhood hero Riewoldt pleading for the ball, Logue obliged.

Riewoldt stepped away as the ball came towards him to make sure the umpire noticed Logue had thrown it to the wrong player.

Fremantle coach Ross Lyon was scathing of Logue’s mistake after the game, and the first-year Docker accepted full blame for the incident.

“The Nick Riewoldt situation is something I can learn from,” Logue said.

“It was just heat of the moment. It’s a matter of me making sure I’m staying switched on and seeing who takes the kick.

“I’ll learn from that for sure.

“I kind of supported the Saints when I was a lot younger. He (Riewoldt) is definitely a footballer I looked up to.”

Logue, who was taken with pick No.8 in last year’s national draft, has played nine games in his debut season.

The 193cm defender produced his best performance to date in last week’s 52-point loss to Hawthorn, tallying 15 disposals and eight marks.

Logue said living with skipper Nat Fyfe had given him a first-hand look at what it takes to be an elite footballer.

Defender Alex Pearce also lives in the same house, with the trio enjoying a strong table tennis rivalry.

“His preparation is second to none,” Logue said of Fyfe.

“This whole concept of going from a kid to becoming a pro, it’s what I really want to try to tap into.”

Young Dockers trio Connor Blakely, Luke Ryan, and Brennan Cox have all copped club-imposed suspensions over the past month.

Blakely was axed from the senior side after going on a surfing trip just a day after leaving the club early citing sickness.

Ryan and Cox were punished for breaching the team’s alcohol policy following the western derby loss to West Coast.

Logue said the standards set by the player group were crystal clear, and everyone was on the same page.

Fremantle have lost seven of their past eight games, and will start underdogs in Saturday’s clash with Greater Western Sydney at Spotless Stadium.

Tom Harley to be next Sydney AFL chief

Former Geelong dual premiership captain Tom Harley has been entrusted with the job of succeeding the hugely successful Andrew Ireland as Sydney’s next AFL chief executive.

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Harley, who played 198 games for the Cats, was appointed the Swans’ head of football in late 2014 after spending time as the general manager at AFL NSW/ACT.

He will take over from Ireland at the end of 2018.

“The Swans have reaffirmed my passion for the game, so it’s a real privilege and an honour to take this opportunity,” Harley said.

“Under Andrew Ireland, I’ve had a great learning experience and I think our team, from the football department to the broader staff, understand what I stand for.”

Ireland notified the board in 2016 of his longer-term intentions.

“I’m rapt that Tom will be my replacement as I’m certain he has all the attributes to be a strong CEO for the Sydney Swans,” Ireland said.

“He’s a great leader and culturally a terrific fit for the club.”

Ireland has developed a reputation for being one of Australia’s most astute and shrewd sporting administrators.

Since he joined the club in 2002 as general manager of football, Sydney have reached five grand finals, winning two flags.

They have played finals in 13 of the last 14 seasons and achieved record growth in all commercial areas of the club since he became CEO in 2009.

Prior to joining Sydney, former Collingwood player Ireland oversaw the remarkable turnaround in fortunes of the Brisbane AFL team.

From the perennially struggling Bears based on the Gold Coast, through their relocation to Brisbane and amalgamation with Fitzroy, to becoming the Lions, and onto the start of their premiership hat-trick in 2001.

Ireland won’t be lost to the Swans, as their succession plan includes him remaining as a board director and long-term consultant in the areas of business operations and list management.

“Andrew Ireland is among the most respected and experienced football administrators in Australia and his contribution to the Sydney Swans cannot be overstated,” Swans’ chairman Andrew Pridham said.

“He played a pivotal role in winning the 2005 premiership, our first in 72 years, and has been a fundamental driver of a culture and process that has delivered sustained high performance on and off the field.

“I have the upmost confidence in Tom’s capacity to undertake the role of CEO with energy and imagination.”