Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Foster's woos spurned Cascade drinkers

Foster's cans 330ml stubbies

February 24, 2009 - 2:34PM

Brewing giant Foster's is sheepishly reversing a marketing brain snap in Australia that tried charging the same price for less beer in a smaller "European-style'' stubbie.

Foster's infuriated drinkers in March last year by downsizing four of its 375ml Cascade range of stubbies by 45ml to a "sleeker'' 330ml bottle without changing the retail price.

Outraged drinkers quickly labelled it a rip-off, turning their backs on the brand as a groundswell of protest erupted, spawning several website campaigns against the brewer.

Foster's spokeswoman Felicity Watson said today sales of the nationally distributed flagship Cascade Premium Lager nosedived by 33% after the Euro folly.

Emotions ran high, she said.

"At the time that the millilitres dropped the wholesale price remained the same, and so did the recommended retail price,'' Ms Watson said.

Foster's never intended to rip off its customers or make them unhappy by giving them less beer for the same money, she said.

"We made some changes to Cascade and we acknowledge we made the wrong changes and we acknowledge that we got it wrong and now we are bringing back the 375ml,'' she said.

"It was the wrong thing to do and we totally admit that and we are copping it on the chin.''

Cascade Blonde and Cascade Stout and Pale Ale are also all due to be resized to 375ml later this year.
Fosters first announced its Cascade size reversal, of the predominantly Tasmanian-sold Pale Ale, in October last year.

Its decision to resize its nationally-sold premium lager was announced on Tuesday.

Some retailers have reported a 50% drop in sales of the beer.

Ms Watson said Foster's remained hopeful spurned drinkers would return to the brand after the brewer promised to change its ways.

"We'd love them them back and we hope with the changes we've made that they will come back,'' she said.


Monday, February 23, 2009

A day up the Florentine

Pernilla, Don, Christine & myself went for a day trip to the Upper Florentine Valley the other day to check out some of the awesome Tasmanian wilderness, as well as the "Exclusion Zone" declared by Forestry Tasmania while they construct a road into the heart of the valley with the express aim of ripping out as much timber as possible. We met up with some of the "possums" camped up there under the "Still Wild Still threatened" banner, and doing their level best to protect the forest from the ravages of large scale, old school forestry. The structures, treesits and other assorted blockade devices are quite ingenious.

If you get the chance, go up there and have a look...it's only 100km from Hobart, and will galvanise your opinion on what the Bartlett Government should be doing in terms of forestry policy.

The walk was fantastic. We must have traversed five different types of environment in an hour and a half, from reasonable rainforest with 80 metre high (at a guess) eucalypts to fern covered plains to the beautiful Florentine River. It's an easy walk if you're semi fit. Take some lunch and your camera. And some food for the people on the blockade...they'll appreciate it.


And if you want to see the rare Tasmanian Redneck (chainsawus fuckwittus) in their native environment, go for a beer at the National Park Pub.

Disloyal, lazy, no balls: it's time to move on, Peter

  • John Hewson
  • February 22, 2009
  • http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/disloyal-lazy-no-balls-its-time-to-move-on-peter-20090221-8e6v.html?page=-1

PETER. Enough is enough. If your few remaining mates won't tell you, I will. You've had a fair go. If you now won't give others a chance and pull your weight as a member of the team, you should move on.

It is most unlikely that you will ever be drafted as leader of the Liberal Party, and even less likely that you will ever be prime minister.

You can't go on ignoring the facts.

You have only ever had a minimal support base and that base has been further and terminally eroded by your disloyalty, antics and shenanigans of the last year or so.

Perhaps, ironically, although I doubt that you will admit it, your best chance to be leader was when you let Downer lead the "Dream Team" that took over the leadership from me back in 1994. If not, then certainly when Downer fell over a few months later.

You didn't have the balls to seize the moment then, leaving the leadership by default to John Howard. And you haven't had the balls, or the numbers, since.

It's no use trying to argue that you had some sort of "secret" deal with Howard that he would move over for you after some "reasonable period". You know Howard was never in any position to deliver, even if he ever recognised that he had made such a "core" promise.

And all that nonsense that you went on with before the last election, claiming that (Ian) McLachlan had carried evidence of such a "deal" in his wallet for several years, is simply that, nonsense. It was just another example of your disloyalty to the party and of your willingness to destabilise in pursuit of your personal, unattainable ambition.

You also know that the party room is always the final arbiter in leadership matters, and when a position is declared vacant there is never any shortage of those prepared to pull their batons from their knapsacks.

It's also clear that you have never really worked the back bench as would be necessary to build the numbers — some say simply because of your arrogance, others put it down to you not wanting to be identified as having first-hand involvement, hoping to create the impression that your supporters were building the momentum for a draft. Either way, it was generally counterproductive and too smart by half.

Moreover, all the polling that I have ever seen or heard of — Liberal, Labor or from wherever — has had you as unelectable.

This should be enough to convince you, but if not, then you should have an honest look at yourself. You are bone-lazy. Just count your output, press releases/conferences, speeches, electoral visits, and other examples of your work ethic or "availability" compared with (say) Paul Keating when he was treasurer.

I also doubt that you have the skills, experience or self-confidence to have accepted the obvious job for you, having decided to stay on after losing the last election: namely, shadow treasurer. You'd be lost without Treasury. You may have delivered 11 budgets, but ask yourself honestly how many of them were actually yours, rather than Treasury's. I am told that Treasury is now drawing a sharp contrast between your little interest and involvement and that of Wayne Swan.

You should also recognise that your indulgent "memoirs" released recently did not provide the platform from which you had obviously hoped to be drafted. They were received with a yawn. They are most unlikely to be a best-seller. Indeed, they were already being sold at a discount in my local bookstore in just a few days.

But, most importantly, they fuelled yet another round of leadership speculation, again making the Opposition the focus of exhaustive and sustained media attention, leaving the Government to skate by without essential scrutiny. I have absolutely no doubt that you would be going ballistic if the shoe was on the other foot and you were being undermined.

Both sides of politics know from painful experience that disunity is death in politics, although, like you I'm sure, I found it a bit galling to hear Howard saying so, having been disloyal to, and sought to undermine, every leader that he ever worked for.

Despite what the Government says, the risk and opportunity of an early election later this year is very real, especially if my worst fears of the tanking of our economy through this year are confirmed.

After the damage that you have done, the best you can now do to help our chances is to leave.

John Hewson is a former leader of the Liberal Party. He fought and lost the 1993 election against Paul Keating.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Queen Victoria hits Hobart

Click image for full size.
Cunard's Queen Victoria was in Hobart yesterday. It's slightly more attractive then the floating blocks of flats that seem to have been tying up in port recently.

Still, I reckon a berth on the QV is substantially more costly than one on the Mickey Mouse IV. Though, nowhere near as great as the QE2.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


$42b stimulus package sunk

  • Phillip Hudson
  • February 12, 2009 - 5:15PM

The Federal Government's $42 billion economic stimulus package has been sunk in the Senate with independent Nick Xenophon joining the Coalition and voting against it.

The five Greens senators and Family First's Steve Fielding voted for it but the ballot was tied 35-all in the Senate, meaning the legislation was defeated.

It means low and middle income workers and families will not get the $12 billion in one-off cash bonus payments promised last week by the government and more than $28 billion worth of spending on school repairs and upgrades, building new homes and providing free ceiling insulation will not go ahead unless the government can find one more vote.

The government immediately laid the blame with Malcolm Turnbull and the Opposition for voting against the package.

South Australian independent Senator Nick Xenophon demanded $5 billion be brought forward from future years to buy back water and improve irrrigation infrastructure along the ailing Murray-Darling Basin.

The government offered $410 million, including about $200 million this financial year.

Senator Xenophon said that was not credible and he could not vote for the package.

"I didn't come to Canberra to make friends," he said.

"I came here to make a difference. I won't walk away from the people of the Murray-Darling basin".


The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said the package would be reintroduced into the House of Representatives today because the $42 billion in spending was "urgent and in the national economic interest''.

The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, said the Opposition had voted against jobs and nation building and they had "effectively sabotaged the Australian economy''.

Mr Turnbull fired back, saying Mr Rudd's "economic policy is in tatters'' because he had assumed the Opposition and Senator Xenophon would get out of the way of his bulldozer.

"The government is in a hole of its own making,'' Mr Turnbull said. "The Prime Minister has refused to negotiate.''

He said Mr Rudd had treated the Parliament with "disingenuous contempt''.

Mr Turnbull last week said he believed the package should be worth $15 to $20 billion rather than $42 billion and tonight urged Mr Rudd to "open the door'' to negotiate.

"We stand ready to sit down with the Prime Minister to discuss the composition, the design of an appropriate fiscal stimulus package.

"We are committed to that, we are determined to do it.

"All he has to do is open the door. We can meet and I'm sure that with good will we can resolve on measures that will then have the support of both sides of politics.''

Unemployment up

As the Bureau of Statistics today said the unemployment rate had risen from 4.5 to 4.8 per cent, Senator Fielding said the package was "flawed" because it would leave 300,000 extra people unemployed.

He wanted to divert $4 billion of the $42 billion to an undefined job creation scheme, but the government rejected that idea.

"The government in its desire to push this package through swiftly, basically has held a gun to the heads of the cross bench.

"We were damned if we voted for it. We were damned if we voted against it," Senator Fielding said.

The Victorian senator said he walked the streets of Canberra for an hour at midnight last night.

"Family First wanted to support a stimulus package," he said. "But I have reservations about this package".

He said he found himself between two hard places - the government and the Opposition - and a rock - the Australian people that are hanging on in desperate times.

The five Green senators voted with the government after winning several concessions from the government, including reducing the $950 cash bonus payments to $900 with the money saved being used to pay for community job schemes, bicycle paths and heritage projects.

Greens leader Bob Brown said the government had also promised to consider increasing the aged pension in the May budget, give more funding to the Bureau of Statistics and boost funding for a national bushfire research centre in Melbourne.

"We're moving to a wiser, greener, more socially just country because of these ammendments," he said.


*The words xenephonophobia & xenephonophobic are copyright Scott Plimpton 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Grumpy's Green

My cousin Andrew has opened a pub in Fitzroy, 125 Smith Street in fact.

It's called Grumpy's Green, and you can check out the website here.

Even better, go and grab a beer and a bite. And tell him I sent you. He looks like this:

Possibly without the Santa hat. Though not guaranteed.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Old girl's going strong...

Click on photos for full size images.

Don't know when Dad took this first photo of Brent, myself and the James Craig at the Domain Slipyard, but the Tasman Bridge has been repaired, so that's betwen October 1977 and when the James Craig was towed to Sydney in 1981.

I took the second photo today, on Macquarie Wharf. Great to see her back in Hobart, in all her restored glory.

I now understand the word 'firestorm'

I now understand the word 'firestorm'

  • Luke van den Berk
  • February 10, 2009

THERE wasn't much warning.

I'm on a good basis with the national park rangers … they are over the fence from me. Ranger Tony Fitzgerald was giving us updates on what was happening, but as we got our last update we could hear the fire coming up the ridge behind us. He went down the hill of the national park on one of the tourist roads and came back up and said the fires were 700 metres away. He said: "You can leave now if you want to. If you want to stay we will help you out if we can."

We decided to stay in the house. Within three minutes the flames were 30 to 40 metres high. There were horizontal sparks and embers — the wind was just incredible. The word "firestorm" — I have a clear understanding of it now.

We were inside the house and the noise outside was incredible. Sparks and embers were bashing up against the roof and the windows, the fence had caught fire, the woodpile against the house caught fire.

Then the windows started exploding — it sounded like a 747 taking off. It was broad daylight but it went dark because there was so much smoke and stuff — it just went dark.

The house was on fire. I had three attempts at getting everyone out safely — they were all in the lounge room. I kept going outside to see if we could get a decent path out, but the radiant heat was the killer. The first two times I went out, the radiant heat just forced me back in the house.

At that point I knew I had to wait for that initial part of the storm to pass over. Unfortunately, it consumed the house while we were in it. I shut all the bedroom doors.

We lost two cats and five kittens — I had to shut the bedroom door and we listened to them die. We saved our little dog, Cougar. It was traumatic for the kids. I had to shut the door because the windows had exploded and the bedrooms were on fire.

I made my third attempt at going outside. The radiant heat had passed a little, and I just thought, "We have to get out." I had buckets of water outside. I took them in and got sheets and towels, dipped them into the water and wrapped everyone up over their heads and their faces and told them we had to go.

When we were 100 metres from the house, the roof collapsed. That was one or two minutes after we got out.

We ran out into the street. There were flames everywhere. You just looked down the street and there was devastation. It was like the army came in and bombed the whole thing with napalm.

We were running down the street. Gas cylinders were exploding. A lot of the cylinders had safety features on them … apparently when a gas cylinder heats up, a valve releases and all the gas comes out of the cylinder, so there was lots of shhhh noises.

A lot of cars were exploding — it was like a war zone. We had to step over power lines, go under power lines, there were power poles falling over in front of us, trees coming down everywhere.

And the noise — all I can compare it to is the sound of a 747 taking off. We were running down the street and the radiant heat was getting at us. We had to keep moving. If you stood still you would have shrivelled.

We ran down the street for about a kilometre — there was just no one, no one to help. My girlfriend was going, "Where the hell are the fire brigade?" I said, "We are on our own, we have got to go." I just had to keep them going, I said, "Keep going, keep going, faster."

We got to one house about a kilometre away and there was someone there spraying water on it. We took refuge in their house. There was a lady inside. We were probably there for about 10 minutes.

I was popping in and out of the house because I was paranoid about what was going to happen. His pump stopped working and then his balcony caught fire and I just went back in and said, "We gotta go." My girlfriend didn't want to leave. I started swearing: "We have got to go f---ing now." We got the kids and the dog and we left … we left those people there. Fortunately we caught up with them at the third house we got to — our final refuge.

We went to another house where a man was watering down his house. He had his son with him. He told us to get inside and we felt quite safe. He was outside running round, wetting it all down. Then another 10 minutes went past and he said, "I can't save it — we've got to go."

We had to go only 50 metres over the road to the third house. It was owned by a lady who was a CFA member and she had left the firefighting front to come home and save her home. She was really well set up. She had fire pumps.

The kids sheltered in the basement part of the house — they were very traumatised. My daughter was having an asthma attack at that point. We had no medication and we had to get her down low on the floor because it was all full of smoke under the house as well. I just had to talk her through it, telling her, "You have just got to calm down, you have to breathe through it slowly, just relax, we are safe now."

When she was feeling a bit better I went out and helped the men. We were there for about half an hour until the bulk of the flames had left. Then we were just going around the house blacking out spot fires.

We stayed there for probably about an hour and then went to the local CFA and slept on the floor there for the night.

Luke van den Berk is the caretaker of a 33-hectare Kinglake West property, owned by the Macedonian Church. When the firestorm hit, he was trapped in the house with his children — sons Aaron, 13, and Khyle, 12, and daughter Brodee, 16 — and his girlfriend, Lois MacDonald, 42. This is their story.