Tag Archives: NSW

Petrol Price Update

Another five months on since my last petrol price update and oil prices have continued to rise, but so has the value of the Australian dollar. So while crude oil prices in US dollars are up around 75% since their lows in February, they are only up 29% in Australian dollar terms.

WTI Prices - USD and AUDWest Texas Intermediate Oil Prices

The Australian dollar has been rising steadily for the last six months, pushed along by the Reserve Bank of Australia which has started raising their target cash rate. Higher interest rates in Australia make it more attractive for offshore investors to buy Australian securities and they have to buy Australian dollars to do so. Australian investors holding foreign assets may do the same.

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Crime Around The Corner

Observant visitors to this blog may have noticed the recent appearance of a “wiki” button at the top of the page. This links to the recently established Stubborn Mule wiki, which I plan to use as a repository of information relevant in some way to the blog. Since so many of the posts here focus on data analysis, I have started with a collection of links to useful sources of data online, particularly economics and finance data.

The latest link I have added is to the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics & Research (while I did not include it in the economics and finance section, maybe it does belong there). This site includes a research data set which provides monthly crime data going back to 1995 broken down by local government (council) area and offence type.  Needless to say, the first thing I was interested to learn was the level of criminality in my own local area, particularly as I moved here only very recently.

The chart below shows the total number of crimes in the various offence categories for 2008 in my local government area of Marrickville. While I was not surprised to see theft coming in at the top of the list, there were a few oddities further down. I was initially surprised to see driving offences at the bottom of the list. My driving is, of course, impeccable but I do not know if the same is true of all of my neighbours, not to mention visitors to the area. Digging further, I discovered that from 2003 onwards*, the figures for driving offences have been zero for all areas and transport regulatory offences have leapt up. So, presumably there has been a classification change. One mystery solved.

Crime in Marrickville (III)

Marrickville Crime Count (2008)

More intriguing is blackmail and extortion. Until 2008, the highest rate this crime had reached in Marrickville was four cases per year and in three years, the figure was zero. Yet, in 2008, there were nine cases of blackmail and extortion. What lies behind this wave of blackmail around the corner? Mystery not solved.

This led me to examine other trends through time. Starting with theft, I was gratified to learn that 2008 was the lowest year for theft since these records began. I am hoping 2009 will be lower still.

Theft in Marrickville (II)

Occurrences of Theft in Marrickille

A look at prostitution also suggests the area has become more law-abiding after a significant spike in offences in 2001.

Prostitution in Marrickville (II)

Occurrences of Prostitution Offences in Marrickville

As for serious crime, Marrickville experienced three homicides in 2008. The total number of homicides in the area since 1995 is 66, putting Marrickville in a somewhat disturbing 14th place out of 155 local government areas, although these two have been reducing over recent years. For those interested in the most murderous areas in New South Wales, here is a list of the top five areas in terms of total homicides since 1995. Any country readers will note that all of these local government areas are in Sydney (the area in the table labelled “Sydney” encompasses only the central business district and some inner-city suburbs).

Area Homicides
Fairfield 242
Sydney 327
Blacktown 136
Liverpool 102
Parramatta 82

* The historical data for Marrickville is in the “Files” section of the blog.

Restaurant Hall of Shame

Last week the New South Wales Food Authority began publishing details of penalty notices issued to food outlets around the state. Their media release included examples of the sorts of tasteful details included in the reports:

  • – KFC in Victoria Street, Taree fined $660 for having an accumulation of dirt and grease in the shop.
  • – A noodle takeaway in Teramby Road, Nelson Bay received two fines for $330 each for having a dirty shop.
  • – An outlet in Great Western Highway, Marrangaroo (Lithgow) fined $330 for not maintaining a required standard of cleanliness.
  • – A noodle shop in Salamander Bay fined $660 for having evidence of cockroach activity in the shop.

The data stretches back to November 2007 and consists to date of 1038 penalty notices. Data sets like these are a delight to data-miners like myself and so I plan to define a data-scraping tool along the lines of the one I developed to capture Grocery Choice data (speaking of which, it is probably time for an update on grocery prices on the Mule). In the meantime, I have my hands on details of 1000 of the 1038 and have conducted some intial exploration of the data.

First there is the suburb hall of shame. The table below shows the 15 worst suburbs ranked by number of penalty notices. The inner West Sydney suburb of Ashfield has the ignominious award of first place, with 33 penalty notices. These include a number of repeat offences, including five notices for the Eaton Chinese Restaurant for offences including storing food in the rear yard and failing to provide hand-washing facilities. See them all here (note that this search includes a few Summer Hill restuarants).

Having recently moved to Petersham, I was gratified to see that neither Petersham nor Leichhardt have yet blotted their copybooks burnt their toast*. The Mayor of Newtown should be pleased to see that Newtown has only one penalty notice for the Tandoori Grill.

Rank Suburb Penalty Notices
1 Ashfield 33
2 St Mary’s 31
3 Penrith 29
=4 Castle Hill 27
=4 Sydney 27
6 Auburn 18
=7 Burwood 17
=7 Randwick 17
=8 Chatswood 16
=8 Fairfield 16
=8 Katoomba 16
9 Kogarah 15
10 Brookvale 14
11 Taree 13
12 Baulkham Hills 12

It is also interesting to see the outlets that have incurred the most infringements. Domino’s Pizza has been served with 14 notices across Castle Hill, Five Dock, Katoomba, Merrylands, St Mary’s (five notices there!) and Ballina, while the Asian fast food outlet Hokka Hokka has received 11 notices across Brookvale, Castle Hill, Chatswood, North Sydney, Sydney and Warriewood. Other offenders, all with 8 notices, are Zisti & Co in Alexandria, Top Choice BBQ Restaurant in Burwood and Blue Sky Chinese Restaurant in Springwood.

This is a subject that the Mule will certainly have to revisit. In the meantime, I will leave you with the penalty notice for Zhen Zhen Van Loi Hot Bread in Ballina, which is the inspiration for the picture above:

A person must not sell food that is unsuitable – A loaf of bread sold contained a cockroach.

Photo credit: kronicred on flickr (Creative Commons)

* The choice of language is an attempt to appease commenters who hate clichés.

Weak Dollar and Australian Petrol Prices

The world’s financial markets have shifted their focus from oil supply problems to the demand side of the equation. They appear to have decided that the US and European economies look so dire that oil consumption will collapse. As a result, oil prices have been in free-fall, barely staying above US$100 per barrel. If the recent hostilities in Georgia had taken place a couple of months earlier, oil prices would almost certainly have shot up. But with the shift in focus, they scarcely reacted to the conflict.

Unfortunately for Australian motorists, a weak Australian dollar is preventing the full effect of lower oil prices coming though to the price of petrol at the pump. Oil is not the only commodity to see price declines, not good news for the currency of a commodity producing country. More significantly, the Reserve Bank has started cutting interest rates and the dollar is moving down alongside rates. Since the end of July, the dollar has fallen almost as much as oil. The result, evident in the graphs below, is that oil prices have not fallen nearly as much in Australian dollar terms as they have in US dollar terms.

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Retail Sales in New South Wales

Yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald published an article on the latest retail sales numbers for New South Wales that contrasted the sales growth in take-away food and pubs and clubs with the decline in business for cafes, restaurants and fresh food retailers. This is put in the context of with rising mortgage rates and fuel prices, to suggest that consumer behaviour is starting to shift. The data is published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, so I decided to dig a little deeper. Prompted by a comment over on the Junk Charts blog, I’ve used a table enriched with spark-lines rather than the heatmap I used in the inflation post.

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