The New South Wales Government has announced $4.5 million will be invested in upgrading water and wastewater infrastructure in NSW’s Illawarra region.
State Minister for Finance and Services Greg Pearce said Sydney Water’s work in the region would ensure reliable water and wastewater services.
Crews are currently undertaking a comprehensive program of work including:
- Renewing a water main at Russell Vale
- Refurbishing Berkeley Reservoir
- Upgrading wastewater pumping stations at Primbee and Shellharbour
- Renewing two valves at Port Kembla
“This work will continue to provide major water and wastewater services to thousands of homes and is due to be completed by next month,” Mr Pearce said.
The investment in maintaining and upgrading water and wastewater systems in the region is part of a broader $177.3 million spend across Sydney Water’s water distribution systems and sewer networks for 2012-13.
A new suite of continental-scale mineral maps has been developed that will enable mining companies to increase the efficiency and viability of their exploration efforts.
The world-first maps were generated from a ten-year archive of raw Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection (ASTER) data collected by NASA and the Japanese Government’s Japan Space Systems.
CSIRO scientists have developed software that transformed the data into a continent-wide suite of mineral maps that show information about rock and soil mineral components and provide a Google-like zoom to view images from thousands of kilometres wide to just a few kilometres. They are already changing the way that geoscientists look for mineral deposits by providing more accurate and detailed information than ever before.
The ASTER maps represent a successful collaboration involving scientists from Japan, USA and Australia. Data access and software development has been coordinated by CSIRO through the Western Australian Centre of Excellence for 3D Mineral Mapping and involves Geoscience Australia, state and territory Geological Surveys, AuScope, iVEC, NCI, JSS, NASA and the USGS.
The maps were officially launched at a short ceremony featuring CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Megan Clark and Geoscience Australia CEO, Dr Chris Pigram at the 34th International Geological Congress in Brisbane.
The Australian ASTER geoscience maps can be obtained from the AuScope Discovery Portal, the Western Australian Centre of Excellence for 3D Mineral Mapping and Geoscience Australia. State and territory coverage can also be acquired from the respective government geological surveys.
The Panel appointed by the New South Wales Government to provide independent advice on the development of the Lower Hunter Water Plan has held its inaugural meeting in Newcastle.
Attended by State Finance and Services Minister Greg Pearce, the seven-member Independent water Advisory Panel met to discuss ley issues faced by the area.
“The panel is made up of experts in urban water and water systems planning, water resource management, hydrology, environmental and natural resource management and community consultation,” Mr Pearce said.
“Today’s meeting is an important milestone in an extensive planning process to ensure the lower Hunter has adequate water supplies to meet future demands from a growing community.”
The Panel is currently working on the formation of an engagement strategy to allow greater stakeholder and community participation.
An unclear contribution to broader society and a generally strong private result means graduates should pay more for their courses, according to a report released by the Grattan Institute.
The report found that higher education subsidies are expected to cost taxpayers around $7 billion by the middle of this decade, yet the value of return is murky at best says Grattan Higher Education Program Director Andrew Norton.
“Graduates do well out of higher education. They have attractive jobs, above average pay and status. They take interesting courses and enjoy student life,” Mr Norton said.
“Given these large benefits, and with the HELP student loan scheme in place, most students would take their courses regardless of the size of the subsidy.”
“Tuition subsidies therefore merely redistribute income to students and graduates. The general public – particularly those who do not go to university – are worse off.
The report proposes that subsidies should be targeted towards promoting courses that have a clear public benefit, and that any subsidy should only be paid when they create public benefits that would not otherwise be created.
For example, a public health course whose graduates produce clear public benefits should be subsidised if it would not otherwise attract enough students, Mr Norton said.
The report predicts that the removal of non-socially beneficial subsidies would have no ill effect on promoting students from low socio-economic backgrounds taking up higher education.
The report concludes that a ‘carefully managed’ reduction in tuition subsidies could yield savings in the order of around $3 billion by 2016-17.
“Given the substantial private benefits of higher education, supporters of tuition subsidies need to explain why the public money would not be better spent elsewhere,” Mr Norton said.
The full report can be found here (.pdf)
The Federal Greens have called on Environment Minister Tony Burke to reject the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, saying it is set to fail the system in its current form.
"The Plan handed down by the Authority today fails the river and its communities, it fails South Australia and unfortunately looks set to fail in the courts as well." Greens' water and Murray Darling Basin spokesperson, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, said.
The Greens reiterated their opposition to the plan, which has consistently maintained the 2750 gigalitre environmental flow level.
“4000 gigalitres at the very least is what is required if we are to save the Murray Darling Basin for the future. The plan released today fails to deliver enough water for the river,” Senator Hanson-Young said.
“More alarmingly, this plan is riddled with ways to give the environment even less water than already scarcely allocated, hanging South Australia out to dry,
"If implemented as outlined this plan will be nothing more than a $9 billion flop and cost Australian taxpayers even more in the courts.
"The Greens call on Minister Burke to reject this plan and to come back to the table with a plan that will actually save the river, give our communities security, and ensure that we build resilience and sustainability throughout the basin."
The Western Australian Government has announced $3 million in grants to assist the state’s local government in its crackdown on stray cats.
The funds will support the rollout of the originally named Cat Act 2011, with grants available under three categories:
- Cat Management Facilities - The provision of, or extension of, cat management facilities (cat pounds)
- Implementation Costs (local governments only) - Funding for local governments to assist with the cost of microchip readers, ranger training, cat traps
- Sterilisation Programs - Programs to support pensioners and low income earners to access low cost sterilisation for their cats.
State Local Government Minister John Castrilli encourage local government bodies to work with non-government organisations to develop shared facilities.
“Local governments may be able to work with organisations like vet surgeries or catteries to enhance the facilities already in place within a district, such as increasing the number of cages available,” he said.
“Innovative solutions that make use of resources already in existence is encouraged.”
Organisations that undertake cat sterilisation can also apply for a grant to run low cost cat sterilisation programs which target pensioners and low income earners.
The South Australian Government has announced the appointment of Rick Persse as the new Chief Executive of the State’s Attorney-General’s Department.
With extensive experience in both the public and private sectors, Mr Persse comes to the Department from PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Attorney General, John Rau, said Mr Persse would bring a wealth of experience to the role, and is looking forward to working with him.
“Rick will provide AGD with great leadership at a very exciting time for the Department,” Mr Rau said.
“His specific experience in the delivery of reform projects across the justice sector and knowledge ofthe department will assist AGD in implementing significant reform and delivering on key projects".
“As AGD moves into a new era, he will help guide the Department to ensure that fostering justice, protecting people’s rights and strengthening communities remain at the centre of everything we do,”
Mr Rau said. Mr Persse will take up the role on 3 September 2012 , replacing Jerome Maguire, who became Chief Executive of the Motor Accident Commission in June.
The South Australian Government has announced the appointment of members to the Health Performance Council (HPC) for its second term.
Established in 2008, the HPC is a ministerial advisory body that provides independent advice to the Minister for Health and Ageing and Parliament, serving for four-year terms.
Every four years the council reviews the state’s health system’s performance, subsequently advising the Minister of its findings and recommendations.
Acting Health Minister John Rau said the HPC members were chosen for their collective skills, experience and expertise that will help identify areas of improvement in the state’s health system.
The Health Performance Council members are:
- Ms Anne Murren Dunn AM - Chairperson
- Ms Barbara Lydia Hartwig - Deputy Chairperson
- Mr Richard Oliver Callaghan
- Mr James Lionel Dellit
- Dr Stephen John Duckett
- Ms Mary Patetsos
- Professor Lisa Rae Jackson Pulver AM
- Professor David Murray Roder
- Dr Michael James Beckoff
- Dr Diane Joy Wickett
For more information about the Health Performance Council members please visit
The Tasmanian Parliamentary Labor Party (PLP) has announced full support for legislation aimed at ensuring marriage equality for same-sex couples in the state.
Premier Lara Giddings said the State Government had resolved to see the reform introduced within the current term.
"The PLP was proud to support the principle of same-sex marriage in Parliament last year but it has been agreed that the time has come to act decisively on this issue,” Ms Giddings said.
Legal advice received by the State Government found no major blockages to pursuing the state-based reforms.
"It is my hope that the Commonwealth Parliament will also act on this issue in the not too distant future, noting that there is support for same-sex unions on all sides of Federal politics,” Ms Giddings said.
"There is strong evidence that legislating for same sex marriage will provide a significant economic boost and create jobs for Tasmanians.”
Currently, eleven countries now support same sex marriage, including Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa and Sweden, with a number of other countries introducing state based reform.
"But just as we have responded to other forms of discrimination throughout history, there comes a time when no amount of excuses should stand in the way of doing what is right,” Ms Giddings said.
"If Parliaments of the past did not have the courage to respond to changing community values then Tasmania would still be a state where homosexuality is illegal, where women don't have the vote and no apology has been made to the Aboriginal stolen generations.”
Construction work of the 7.5 kilometre Footscray to Deer Park section of Victoria’s multi-billion dollar Regional Rail Link has commenced.
This multi-billion dollar project is building Melbourne's first new piece of passenger rail infrastructure since the Glen Waverley line was opened in 1930, more than 80 years ago," Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said.
"Since then the City's population has more than quadrupled to over four million residents and unlike our predecessors we recognise that the task of putting in place the modern infrastructure necessary to support such growth is too big for any one level of government.”
The Federal Government has committed $3.2 billion to the construction of the rail link, and forms one of the country’s largest public transport projects in generations.
Work is expected to commence on the 24 kilometre section from deer Park to West Werribee later this year.
The Victorian Government has announced it will ask the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC) to investigate the circumstances under which low impact prospecting might be conducted in the state’s national parks.
State Minister for Energy and Resources, Michael O’Brien, said that any such prospecting undertaken in national parks would remain uninvasive, and that the State Government would ensure the continued protection of heritage and environmental values of the parks.
"It involves the use of hand tools only, the most common being metal detectors. Prospecting does not include commercial mining," Mr O'Brien said.
Mr O’Brien said that recreational prospecting was already allowed in several national parks and had not caused any environmental damage.
Areas subject to the VEAC investigation may include Alpine, Baw Baw, Croajingolong, Errinundra, Lake Eildon, Lind, Mitchell River and Yarra Ranges National Parks as well as Lerderderg State Park.
Minister for Environment and Climate Change Ryan Smith said VEAC's independent investigation process would ensure consultation across government and with stakeholders, including key conservation groups.
The Government will seek public comment as part of the VEAC investigation.
VEAC is due to report on the completed investigation by 30 April 2013.
The New South Wales Government has announced 82 infrastructure projects across the state worth around $430 million under the State Government’s Local Infrastructure Renewal Scheme (LIRS).
The scheme allows for councils to borrow funds from the State Government with a four per cent interest subsidy for up to 10 years to pay for backlog infrastructure projects, such as roads, bridges, water facilities and airports.
The subsidies were granted in the first round of the scheme, which, when complete, will have unlocked $1 billion in funding for shovel-ready projects across the State.
“With the first round of subsidies complete, $60 million still remains for further applications of the scheme for other vital infrastructure projects,” State Minister for Local Government Don Page said.
The largest project rolled out under the scheme was for a $42.5 million water treatment facility in Wagga Wagga. Other projects included a $14.6 million bridge over the Hastings River at Port Macquarie; $20 million to upgrade community infrastructure in Parramatta; $7.3 million to strengthen Ballina Byron Gateway Airport’s runway; $3 million for roads in Shellharbour and a $1.8 million facelift for Earlwood’s town centre.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has likened the surging costs of household power bills to petrol prices in her address to the Energy Policy Institute of Australia (EPIA).
Ms Gillard accepted that prices of energy had increased at unprecedented levels, and acknowledged that the runaway power bills often seemed ‘beyond our control.’
But Ms Gillard assured her audience that the Government was in a better place to counter growing energy costs as it prepares for the release of its new Energy White Paper, as well as introducing price determinations next year.
Ms Gillard also outlined planned COAG reform that would see action before the end of the year.
The Prime Minister failed to resist taking a swipe at the NSW and Queensland Governments, who’s publically owned utility companies are continuing to reap growing profits.
“Meanwhile, some states, like New South Wales and Queensland, are doing very well out of this financially and their revenue from some electricity assets is growing much faster than in the private sector,” Ms Gillard said.
“So it is also very clear that the States can, and should, do more to cut future price rises.”
Ms Gillard also acknowledged that reforming the sector would take a herculean effort, and that the mixed public/private nature of the sector would make reform complex and diffuclt to deliver.
"And of course, there’s the pragmatic, patchwork design of National Electricity Market itself – a complex mix of co-ordination and competition, public and private ownership, national and state regulation,” Ms Gillard said.
“But, recognising that complexity, appreciating the conflicting objectives and incentives, and taking into account the long-term factors at play, I want to say very clearly: the last four years’ price rises cannot continue.”
The Clean Energy Council (CEC) has called for extensive reform to the country’s consumer energy market in the wake of the Prime Minister speech on energy reform.
Clean Energy Council Chief Executive David Green said consumers currently had very little control over their energy bills, and that needed to change.
“Electricity prices are a difficult issue which require governments to put aside politics and act in the public interest. The Prime Minister’s speech today has helped to move the discussion in the right direction, calling for urgent action by state governments to enact reforms to stop the run of power price rises,” Mr Green said.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has left the country’s official cash rate unchanged at 3.5 per cent, citing softening global growth rates and contracting commodity prices.
In his statement., RBA Governor Glenn Stevens said that these factors where serving to keep inflation in check and will provide other country’s with scope to ease interest rates.
Mr Stevens also stated that increased global uncertainty stemming from the faltering European economies had contributed to the decision, while close to trend domestic growth had given the central bank some slack to leave the rate unchanged.
“Inflation remains low, with underlying measures near 2 per cent over the year to June, and headline CPI inflation lower than that. The effects of the price on carbon will start to affect these measures over the next couple of quarters,” Mr Stevens said.
Leighton subsidiary Visionstream has announced it has signed a contract with Telstra for the provision of national Wideband and Dedicated Digital Network (DDN) works, worth an estimated $120 million over the three year life of the deal.
The contract comes with an option two year extension andwill see Visionstream integrate various Wideband, wireless LAN and DDN associated technologies within Telstra’s Australian network.
Allan Bradford, Visionstream General Manager, said “Visionstream has a long and successful relationship with Telstra and we are very pleased to be able to continue delivering high-quality service and expertise through this contract renewal.”
“The Wideband Project has been delivering telecommunications services nationally for Telstra’s government, business and wholesale customers since 2004,” Mr Bradford said.
The products delivered comprise all types of technologies with bandwidths commencing at two megabits per second, up to many gigabits per second. These products facilitate ISDN voice and data, and a range of other high-speed data applications. The technologies can utilise different communication protocols, such as SDH, PDH and IP to connect the customer’s services to the greater telecommunications network.
The Western Australian Government has moved to assist five dryland agricultural local government areas generate extra emergency water to supplement farming and community supplies during periods of low rainfall.
State Water Minister Bill Marmion said the $233,633 in funding was part of the Department of Water’s managed Community Supply Program for dryland areas.
“These funds will support the investment of time and money by local government and community groups to plan and participate in the development of off-farm, fit-for-purpose community water supplies,” Mr Marmion said.
“All the projects demonstrate innovation in efficiency, storage and harvesting. For example, the Shire of Woodanilling in the Great Southern will receive $26,593 to complete a major stormwater harvesting project capable of capturing and storing two dry seasons worth of water.
“Rainfall harvested from the townsite will be pumped into a large collection dam for use as emergency livestock water, as well as irrigation for the town’s public open spaces and sports oval.”
Similar plans in the Wheatbelt Shire of Trayning have received $15,000 initially with a further $85,000 available pending geotechnical assessment on pumping water from a planned sump to a storage dam.
The Shire of Chapman Valley will use a grant of $85,000 to build two new bores, equip an existing bore and establish two storage tanks to supply water for emergency livestock, fire fighting and town drinking water at two locations.
The Shire of Cranbrook has received $7,000 towards establishing emergency water supplies at two sites (a dam and a soak) to take pressure off the Water Corporation standpipe used for emergency livestock water.
An engineering assessment of a plan to replace the roof of the Berringbooding Tank to maintain water quality and prevent evaporation at a key emergency water supply in the Shire of Mukinbudin has received $15,000.
The construction sector is struggling to cope with continued poor demand and subdued workloads, according to the Australian Industry Group’s (AI Group) Australian Performance of Construction Index.
Published in conjunction with the Housing Industry Association (HIA), the index was 2.2 points weaker, finishing 32.6 points for the month (readings below 50 indicate a contraction in the industry with the distance from 50 indicative of the strength of the decline).
July marked the 26th straight month that the sector has been in the red. A positive development was the marked slowing in the rate of decline in apartment construction activity consistent with the recent lift in multi-unit approvals. However, commercial construction continued to exhibit substantial weakness, while the lower interest rate environment has yet to translate into an improvement in house building activity.
"A slower rate of contraction in apartment building in July is a positive sign, but the reality is that it still means yet another month in which activity has declined,” HIA’s Senior Economist Andrew Harvey said.
Australian PCI® Key Findings for July:
- The Australian Industry Group Australian Performance of Construction Index (Australian PCI®), in conjunction with the Housing Industry Association was 32.6 in July - 2.2 points weaker than the previous month (readings below 50 indicate a contraction in activity with the distance from 50 indicative of the strength of the decrease).
- July's reading is the lowest since last September. The index has now been contracting for more than two years.
- All four sub-sectors remained in the red in July: House building (28.0), commercial construction (26.1), apartment building (32.9), and engineering construction (39.5).
- Apartment building recorded a marked reduction in contraction in July - reflecting a boost in multi-unit approvals.
- The new-orders sub-index was broadly unchanged - up slightly to 33.9.
- Employment contracted further in July.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has found that the number of dwellings approved fell by 2.5 per cent in June, despite the 2.7 per cent boom the previous month.
Dwelling approvals decreased by 14.6 per cent in June in Victoria, but increased by 28.9 per cent in Western Australia, and 18.0 per cent. All other states recorded growth.
In seasonally adjusted terms, approvals for private sector houses fell 1.1 per cent in June. Private sector house approvals fell in New South Wales (-4.5 per cent) and Victoria (-3.3 per cent) but rose in Queensland (5.3 per cent), Western Australia (4.4 per cent) and South Australia (0.4 per cent).
The value of total building approved fell 9.8 per cent in June, in seasonally adjusted terms, after rising for 2 months. The value of residential building rose 0.2 per cent while non-residential building fell 22.3 per cent.
Further information is available in Building Approvals, Australia (cat no. 8731.0) on the ABS website at www.abs.gov.au
The Federal Government has poured $7.4 million into funding three separate mental health research centres.
The three Centres of Research Excellence will conduct research into suicide prevention, substance abuse and better mental health planning and will be based at the University of New South Wales and the University of Queensland.
“I am delighted to announce the funding of these research centres, which are part of our Budget commitment of $26.2 million for strategic investment in mental health research priorities through the National Health and Medical Research Council,” Federal Minister for Mental Health Mark Butler said.
Professor Helen Christensen will lead the work at the University of New South Wales to determine the best way to deliver interventions to those at risk of suicide.
Also at the University of New South Wales, a Centre headed by Professor Maree Teesson will address prevention and treatment for people with both mental and substance abuse disorders.
And Professor Harvey Whiteford of the University of Queensland is the lead investigator looking at the best available scientific evidence to determine the right mix of mental health prevention and treatment policies and services for Australia.
Queensland Transport and Main Roads Minister, Scott Emerson, has introduced the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) Bill before State Parliament.
The passage of the COAG sponsored reform through parliament will allow for the formation and full establishment of the National Heavy Vehicle Register (NHVR) as a corporate entity, allowing for the formal appointment of a Board and CEO.
The passage of the law will see a national regulator for all heavy vehicles over 4.5 tonnes and ensure the Regulator, hosted in Queensland, will begin operations as planned on 1January next year.
A second bill is also due to be introduced into the Queensland Parliament later in 2012 and once this is passed, it will pave the way for other states and territories to enact the law in their parliaments. Australia’s heavy vehicle industry can then ‘do business’ with the Regulator on a national scale.
“The regulations will make it easier for business to operate as there will be a one-stop-shop for accreditation, access permits, log book queries, and a host of other services,” Mr Emerson said.
The Federal Government has announced funds from the newly implemented Mining and Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) will be partially used to construct vital infrastructure to unlock the ‘vast natural wealth’, which is ripe for the picking in South Australia.
The Federal Government has announced funding will be used to provide world-class water, energy and transport infrastructure to cater for the billions of dollars worth of projects in the state.
“That’s why we will provide $1.5 million to develop plans covering three distinct geographical regions of the State: the Eyre Peninsula, Yorke Peninsula-Braemar and the Upper North,” Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese said.
Recommended by both the Resources and Energy Sector Infrastructure Council (RESIC) and Infrastructure Australia, this planning work will take stock of each region’s existing infrastructure capacity and constraints as well as identify solutions to prevent or alleviate future bottlenecks.