The Queensland Government has announced it will intervene in the ongoing High Court Challenge to the Mineral Resources Rent Tax (MRRT) lodged by Fortescue Metals.
State Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Jarrod Belijie, said the intervention allowed the Government to put forward its arguments regarding the MRRT.
“I want to be clear, the Government is not supporting or joining Fortescue Metals in its challenge to the tax,” Mr Bleijie said.
“Legislation allows Attorneys-General across the country to intervene in any proceeding involving a constitutional challenge and that is what we are doing.
“This is a battle that has to happen because there is the potential the MRRT is constitutionally invalid.
Mr Bleijie said the cost to Queensland taxpayers would be minimal as the Government would be represented by Crown Law and the Solicitor-General under existing funding.
Rail freight specialist QR National has announced it has signed a new long-term haulage contract with Jellinbah Group for the transport of coal from the :ale Vermont mine.
QR National originally had contracts with Lake Vermont for 2mtpa to RG Tanna (Gladstone) out to 2014. A new performance based contract expands the tonnages to 4mtpa and extends the contract term to 2022. This is complemented by an existing contract for 6mtpa from Lake Vermont to Abbot Point which also expires in 2022.
The new contract will mean that from July 2012, QR National will haul up to 10 million tonnes per annum of coal from the expanded :ale Vermont mine.
QR National Executive Vice President Commercial and Marketing Paul Scurrah said the company was focussed on performance-based contracts that were underpinned by reliability, certainty of supply and safety.
“We are pleased to continue our long-term relationship with Jellinbah, and look forward to assisting their continued growth in Queensland,” he said.
ANZ Bank has published its monthly report into job advertising in Australia, finding that the total number of advertisements on the internet and newspapers has fallen 1.2 per cent in June, on the back of a 2.6 per cent contraction in May.
The report found that the total number of job advertisements in newspapers has fallen 3.3 per cent, with the sharpest falls in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. The number of internet job advertisements has fallen 1.1 per cent in June, after falling 2.6 per cent in May. Internet job advertisements were 8.5 per cent lower than the same time last year.
“Recent trends in job advertising suggest that there has been a mild softening in labour demand in Australia after it had strengthened somewhat in the early part of the year,” ANZ Senior Economist Justin Fabo said.
“In part, this likely reflects hesitation among some firms to hire additional staff in the face of heightened uncertainty about the global economy again in recent months, particularly in Europe.”
The Queensland Government has announced Cocaktoo Coal has been given the go ahead to prepare an environmental impact statement for its North Surat-Taroom coal project.
Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Jeff Seeney, said 22 submissions had been received on the draft erms of reference for the statement for the 1.2 billion projects.
“This project has the potential to create up to 1000 construction and 550 operation jobs, with further regional jobs from flow-on economic development,” Mr Seeney said.
“With the potential to operate for up to 20 years and export eight million tonnes of thermal coal a year, there’s no doubt it will provide major economic benefits to Queensland.
“I welcome the Queensland Coordinator-General’s approval of the final terms of reference for the EIS for the proposed coal project, which means we are one step closer to knowing if the project is fit to be approved.”
The project covers about 5800 hectares and in addition to mining infrastructure the proponent is seeking approval of a creek diversion, a rail spur to the proposed Surat Basin Railway and diversion of 9 kilometres of the Leichhardt Highway.
The statement is likely to be released in late 2013 or early 2014.
The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) has found that 32 per cent of young Australians aged between 15-19 years participated in vocational education and training in 2011.
The Australian vocational education and training statistics: Students and courses 2011 provides an annual snapshot of student enrolments and training activity.
The report found the 15-19 age group saw growth of an additional 16,2000 students, making up 25.4 per cent of the total student population.
The growth in the number of young Australians undertaking vocational education and training is 3.5%,” said Ms Sandra Pattison, General Manager, Statistics, NCVER.
“At the same time, the largest growth has been in the 25–44 year age group with an additional 37 400 students,” she said.
Overall, the total number of Australian students enrolled in public vocational education (VET) and training reached 1.9 million in 2011, an increase of 4.6% since 2010.
“Training numbers in health, business and community services training packages have also increased over the last five years,” Ms Pattison said.
Management, commerce, engineering and technology were the top choices in 2011, making up almost 40% of student numbers for the year.
Almost two-thirds of Australian students (66.3%) were enrolled at TAFE or another government provider, while other registered non-government providers accounted for more than one-quarter (25.6%) of public VET students.
Almost half a million student places at other registered non-government providers were Commonwealth and state funded in 2011 (482 600). This is an increase of more than 170 000 students since 2010 (308 500).
The CSIRO and Australian based healthcare company Medical Developments International (MDI) have signed a technology deal to develop a new production process for the drug methoxyflurane, the pain-relieving ingredient used in Pentrox™, commonly known as the ‘green whistle’.
If successful, the project will see MDI significantly reduce the costs of producing Pemtrox and facilitate the large-scale production of the product in the UK and Europe.
Penthrox is used in Australia as an analgesic by emergency medical practitioners, the defence forces, ambulance and sufe lifesafing services. It has a number of advantages over traditional analgesics, such as nitrous oxide and morphine, in that it is fast acting, self-administered, non-addictive, non-narcotic and safe to use and provides strong pain relief.
The CSIRO is investing $750,000 in the project under its Australian Growth Partnerships (AGP) program, and will strengthen MDI’s position as the sole manufacturer of methoxyflurane.
“The green whistle is already an iconic Australian product which we believe will offer an effective alternative to established products used in hospitals and emergency services in the UK, Europe and other parts of the world. Through our partnership with CSIRO, we hope to scale-up the production of methoxyflurane by developing a smarter, more efficient manufacturing process and in so doing assist MDI deliver on its promising future,” MDI’s CEO John Sharman said.
“This partnership demonstrates how forward-thinking Australian companies can benefit from R&D to grow locally and to expand into global markets,” CSIRI’s biotechnology program leader Paul Savage said.
Networking and cloud computing specialist NextDC has officially opened the company’s new M1 data centre, the largest of its kind currently servicing the city.
Located five kilometres southwest of the Melbourne CBD, the M1 facility will provide corporate, government, technology and cloud services providers the opportunity to collate their IT and telecommunications infrastructure in the company’s vendor and carrier neutral facility.
Newly appointed CEO of NextDC, Crai Scroggie, said a centre the size and complexity of M1 was a significantly achievement for the company and a critical step towards growing cloud computing services.
“We are committed to enabling the cloud computing revolution in Australia and the M1 facility is immediately attractive to organisations that deliver or consume cloud computing services,” Mr Scorggie said.
M1 is a 17,500m2 facility delivering over 12 MW ICT load, designed with ASIO T4 security standards in mind to provide the most secure environment able to host the most critical information.
The facility boasts many additional security measures including:
- 6 data halls designed as separate concrete bunkers within a large concrete bunker to provide maximum protection
- bulletproof security access throughout the entire lobby security area, and
- the latest dual and triple factor encrypted challenge and authentication system
“NEXTDC is also a real representation of how the National Broadband Network is acting as a force multiplier for investment in Australia. The NBN and the vision of the Digital Economy is encouraging investment and innovation in Australia’s ICT landscape” said Mr Scroggie.
In addition to the impressive array of ICT technology housed in the building, M1 will also have the country’s largest commercial rooftop solar array in Australia. The $1.2 million array is expected to generate 400kW and will be installed by local firm Energy Matters.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has estimated that as many as 10,000 Australian internet users could face imminent disconnection after US authorities shut down rogue DNS servers.
As many as four million users worldwide have estimated to be infected at the height of the DNSChanger advertising scam, with 10,000 of those in Australia. The DNSChanger scam infected users, redirecting legitimate searchers to maliscious sites via rogue DNS exchanges in Chicago and New York.
ACMA, CERTAustralia and the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy have collaborated to develop a diagnostic website.
The diagnostic site can be found here
Master Builders Australia (MBA) has hit out at the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) for conducting two industrial disputes which it claims displays a ‘total disgrgard’ to the rules administered by the Fair Work Building and Construction agency.
CEO of MBA, Willhelm Harnisch, has called Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Brian Boyd’s call for workers to ignore the FWA rules and attend protests as ‘arrogant and irresponsible’.
“Fair Work Building and Construction must take action against those who merely walk off the job without getting permission from their employers to attend rallies,” Mr Harnisch said.
“Today’s rallies against Government procurement rules and legitimate migration policies send a clear message that the unions reject lawful channels for pursuing their policy agendas.
“Why should communities and builders have to suffer delays caused by industrial action because the union is unhappy with Commonwealth Government Policy?”
Mr Harnisch has called on the Fair Work Building and Construction commission to crack down on unlawful industrial action.
The calls by Mr Harnisch come after around 15,000 construction workers attended rallies and protests around Melbourne in objection to the Victorian Government’s new building codes, which it says forces people to sign anti-union contracts.
The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) has launched a ten-point framework aimed at improving the reliance of the country’s urban communities against extreme weather events the effects of climate change.
Cahir of the Climate Change Task Group and CEO of the Australian Institute of Architects, David Parken, launched the framework at the Built Environment Meets Parliament (BEMP) 2012 summit.
“The experts agree that climate change is happening and Australia, with its experience of floods, droughts, storms, and bushfires, can anticipate an increase in general temperatures and an upsurge in extreme weather events which all have an impact on our buildings and communities,” Mr Parken said.
“This document outlines effective steps the government can take to protect Australia’s economic and environmental sustainability.”
Mr Parken has called on the Federal Government to put regulatory and public policy systems to better protect the community.
Mr Parken also commended the work being done on mitigating the effects of climate change through policy framework, but has urged more attention to be paid on adaptation to the impending effects of climate change.
“By implementing adaptation strategies now governments and individuals will benefit in the longer term and a central body such as a National Built environment Adaptation Council would help deliver these changes now and in the future,” ASBEC President Tom Roper said.
The framework can be found here
The National Water Commission has published a new report that found a number of surface and groundwater systems are stressed due to water extraction, regulation or altered flows.
The Assessing Water stress in Australian catchments and aquifers report found that progress in addressing the overuse of water sources is ‘disappointingly slow’. The NWC identified the governments hesitance to publically acknowledge the overuse and overallocation of water systems. This problem has been compounded by the inability to even agree on what constitutes overuse and overallocation.
The report sets out a nationally consisten method for measuring and reporting water stress in the country’s catchments, while also showing that causes of water stress are not confined to the impacts of irrigated agriculture.
Some rivers and aquifers in and near capital cities and other urban areas are also stressed, as are some rivers used for hydropower generation and some aquifers where water is extracted for mining and oil/gas operations.
The report reinforces the Commission’s call for transparent monitoring and assessment to increase our understanding of Australia’s water resources.
In the Commission’s view, properly managing overuse begins with establishing sustainable water extraction regimes, early in the water planning process so that recovery measures are not needed.
The Victorian Government has announced it will refund customers who have left Melbourne Water and those with relatives who have since passed away who have been charged for the construction of the state’s Wonthaggi desalination plant.
"The Victorian Coalition Government believes those who have paid for the desalination plant in this financial year but are no longer Melbourne Water customers have a right to have that money refunded,” State Minister for Water Peter Walsh said.
The announcement comes after the State Government ordered a freeze to prices charged by Melbourne Water.
"Melbourne water retailers are currently establishing processes for the return of this money and I have asked for details to be finalised and on their websites by the end of July 2012," Mr Walsh said.
Mr Walsh said the cost of water would not increase for customers, with current 2011/12 water prices remaining the same for the 2012/13 financial year.
"The Coalition Government, together with the metropolitan Melbourne water retailers, have decided to return this money to customers as quickly as possible," Mr Walsh said.
"The independent Essential Services Commission (ESC) will conduct a review and consult with the public on the quickest and fairest way to return the money.
"In the meantime, from 1 July the price of water will not increase for the 2012-13 financial year for customers of City West Water, South East Water, Yarra Valley Water and Western Water."
Melbourne Water was due to commence payments of $1.8 million per day for the desalination plant on July 1 but delays to the construction of the plant means the consortium building will not receive the full payments until the plant is fully commissioned.
The Victorian Government has announced an extension to the Living Water Rebate Program will be extended to more small businesses and households.
State Minister for Water Peter Walsh said a review of the first year of the program had led to the extension to provide greater incentives for households and small businesses to make better use of water in commercial operations and around the home.
Mr Walsh said the Victorian Coalition Government had expanded the program by increasing rebates on products such as rainwater tanks and by making greater allowances for small businesses.
"By installing water efficient products, organisations and households can reduce their reliance on drinking water and better manage their ongoing operating costs by using alternative water resources," Mr Walsh said.
Changes to small business and household rebates include:
- small businesses can now have up to 50 employees, an increase of 30;
- small businesses can now make multiple claims to receive their maximum $2,000 rebate;
- homes which received their building permit prior to the introduction of the 6 Star building standards on 1 May 2011 are now eligible for tank rebates;
- households can claim $1,500 for a 4,000 litre or greater rainwater tank connected to the toilet and laundry, increasing the largest tank rebate by an extra $500;
- increase in the rebates for tank to toilet or laundry connections by $300 to $500
- rainwater tanks must be certified to Australian Standards to be eligible; and
- five-star water rated washing machines with at least a four-star energy rating will continue to be included in the program for a further three years.
For more information about rebates on rainwater tanks, contact your local water authority or visit www.water.vic.gov.au/rebates
The Queensland Government has announced it will phase out the Queensland comparable Assessment Tasks (QCAT) by 2013 in a bid to ‘cut waste’ in the education sector.
QCATs have been the standards-based assessment tool used by state and some non-government schools since 2009.
State Minister for Education, Training and Employment John-Paul Langbroek, announced phasing out QCAT will save $3 million.
“The Newman Government is committed to ensuring Queensland students receive a quality education experience and by phasing out this test we will be able to save money and help reduce the debt legacy left by Labor,” Mr Langbroek said.
Mr Langbroek said that QCATs are now obsolete thanks to the introduction of the Australian Curriculum.
Mr Langbroek said the QCATs had been administered by the Queensland Studies Authority under a Memorandum of Understanding with Education Queensland which lapsed on 30 June 2012.
The Queensland Government has announced the appointment of new directors for four of the state’s Government Owned Corporations (GOC).
State Treasurer Tim Nicholls said the new directors were appointed to reinvigorate the stat-owned entities.
Mr Nicholls announced Kenneth Clarke, Mervyn Davies and Linda Mackenzie as directors for Energex Limited, while Paul Breslin has been appointed as a director of Stanwell Corporation Limited.
“The new directors are well respected in their respective fields and will bring a wealth of experience to the roles, as well as some fresh thinking,” Mr Nicholls said.
Kenneth Clarke was executive director of internet based software company, Education Research Solutions Pty Ltd. He served as Northern Territory Under Treasurer and has provided ongoing strategic financial and management advice to both the public and private sectors.
Mervyn Davies is an engineer who also has a Bachelor Degree in Commerce. He has served on numerous federal, state and private energy boards and was a director at three different interstate energy providers at various times between 1997 and 2010.
Linda Mackenzie was appointed Director of the NT Power and Water Corporation and chair of its audit committee in 2007. Until June 2010 she was a member of the Darwin Port Corporation Advisory Board.
Paul Breslin is a former Director-General of the Queensland Department of Minerals and Energy. In 2002 he was part of the four-member Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Review into Australian Energy Markets. Until recently he worked for ACIL Tasman.
The Queensland Government has established a working group to further develop sustainable local ideas for Sunwater’s channel water services, following the release of the company’s new five-year rural irrigation price path.
The price plan predominately limits any changes to the CPI. However, State Minister for Water Supply, Mark McArdle, said increased savings have been identified by ensuring future services and capital investment best represented what irrigators needed.
“There are alternative local management arrangements for channel irrigation schemes that farmers believe will reduce costs, while offering improved management and preservation of waterways,” Mr McArdle said.
“This is very welcome advice from some of SunWater’s customers and will now be investigated by a specialist working group.”
The working group will include representatives from SunWater as well as local and peak irrigation bodies. It will identify efficient and sustainable local irrigator (distribution) management models.
Queensland Minister for Local Government David Crisafulli has urged the state’s councils to find new ways to fund community infrastructure and services as the state grapples with its ‘crippling debt.’
Speaking at the Local Government Association of Queensland’s Civic Leaders Forum on the Sunshine Coast, Mr Crisafulli said the state’s councils must reinvent themselves if they are to survive.
“The State is facing some serious financial challenges in the years to come," Mr Crisafulli said.
"Councils must build new partnerships with the private sector to deliver significant community infrastructure and tap into additional revenue sources.
“The one thing that nearly all councils have in abundance is land. Whether it’s regional councils with land to lease for agriculture or a coastal council that wants to turn a car park into a mixed-use site, the ability to achieve does not solely depend on Government funding.
“This doesn’t mean the State won’t help out where it can, but a failure to think outside the square will see the crippling rate increases of the past few years become business as usual.
Mr Crisafulli has flagged ‘sweeping’ reforms to the state’s Local Government Act later this year after he finishes meeting the all 73 of Queensland’s councils.
Western Australia’s five inaugural governing councils for the State’s public health system have come into effect. The councils will see 45 high-level clinical, corporate, government and community representatives aim to streamline communications between the state government and local hospital needs.
The inaugural Health Service Governing Council chairs are:
- Professor Bryant Stokes (South Metropolitan Health Service), a highly distinguished neurosurgeon with three professorships at WA universities
- Rob McDonald (North Metropolitan Health Service), a former senior public servant who has held leadership roles with WA Police and the State Supply Commission
- Professor Geoffrey Dobb (Southern Country Health Service), director of the Critical Care Division and Head of Intensive Care at Royal Perth Hospital, and Clinical Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology at UWA
- Nola Wolksi (Northern and Remote Country Health Service), a businesswoman who has also been a former Kalgoorlie-Boulder deputy mayor and community nurse
- Dr Rosanna Capolingua (Child and Adolescent Area Health Service), a respected GP with extensive experience in health management, education, research and corporate governance.
More information can be found here
The Western Australian Government has launched a scheme that ‘embodies the key elements of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).’
The My Way project will aim to improve choice, flexibility and control that people with disability have over the supports and services.
State Disability Services Minister Helen Morton said the project contained many of the key aspects of the Productivity Commission’s report for an NDIS.
She said the WA pilot project would demonstrate how funds could flow directly to people needing it most without being syphoned into a new national bureaucracy.
“This project has all the hallmarks of an NDIS with individualised funding, allowing more choice and control for people with disability of the services and supports that suit them in their local community,” Mrs Morton said.
“I wrote to Federal Minister Jenny Macklin two weeks ago offering WA to host an NDIS site to demonstrate this. In the meantime, we are going ahead with our own project which will deliver the best outcomes for people in WA.”
The Minister said the project would initially be offered in Cockburn-Kwinana; the Perth Hills; the Goldfields and the Lower South West Commission service areas to people with disability eligible for Disability Services Commission services.
The Western Australian Government has announced a multi-million dollar drilling program to establish if the Western Canning Basin in the Pilbara region can support industrial use water supply will begin this week.
The program, expected to be completed by December this year, is predominately funded by BHP Billiton Iron Ore, Fortescue Metals Group and North West Infrastructure and is being undertaken by WorleyParsons.
State Minister for the Environment and Water Bill Marmion said that Aboriginal heritage and flora and fauna surveys have already been completed in the area.
“Investigations undertaken before the decision to undertake a full scale drilling program indicated that a potential 10 billion litre source contained water fit for industrial use and of a sufficient volume to support a major scheme,” he said.
“If the results prove positive, the next step will be to enter into commercial negotiations for the development of a fit-for-purpose industrial water supply scheme.”
The Minister said if a scheme for industrial water use was developed, the current Hedland Water Supply Scheme would be prioritised for residential use and community amenities.
“This drilling program is a great example of the State Government working closely with industry to support the ongoing growth of WA’s Pilbara region,” he said.
The South Australian Government has announced applications are now open vor the SafeWork SA WHS Commissioned Research Grant Programme, aimed at improving work health and safety (WHS) outcomes throughout the state.
State Minister for Industrial Relations Russell Wortley said a total of $320,000 has been made available for successful applicants whose research projects match the objectives of the state’s Strategic Plan and are aimed at preventing work-related injury or illness.
The grants will help fund research in priority areas such as:
- the impact of precarious employment on WHS
- implications of social health trends and social policy for WHS in the SA Public Service
- best practice for inspectorial services
- workplace-based WHS consultation
- WHS youth strategy
“High quality research into priority areas will inform and progress workplace safety knowledge and policy development which is critical to achieving positive health and safety outcomes in South Australian workplaces,” Mr Wortley said.
“University-based and independent researchers can apply for a grant to investigate interventions that will improve workplace health and safety outcomes.”
“Previous grant recipients have already achieved significant results in priority areas such as youth safety, high risk employment, psycho-social issues and workplace-based WHS consultation,” he said.
Also in this round, the Mining and Quarrying OHS Committee will consider any submissions relevant to WHS in the mining and quarrying industries and, if successful, additional research funding will be granted.
SafeWork SA’s Annual Research Forum on 11 July 2012 will provide potential applicants with the perfect opportunity to discuss their ideas with like-minded researchers and previous grant recipients.
More information can be found here