Scientists have for the first time identified a number of WA sites capable of producing large quantities of commercial biofuel from microalgae.
They say the best sites for big-scale algal biofuel plants include stretches of land south of Geraldton, south-east of Exmouth and large areas near Karratha and Port Hedland.
Professor Michael Borowitzka from Murdoch University’s Algae Research and Development Centre and Assistant Professor Bryan Boruff from the School of Earth and Environment at The University of Western Australia used Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology to study more than 2250km of WA coastline from Lancelin to Broome and 170km inland.
Their report, Identification of the Optimum Sites for Industrial-scale Microalgae Biofuel Production in WA using a GIS Model, was prepared for the WA Government-funded Centre for Research into Energy for Sustainable Transport (CREST) and is the first WA-wide study of its kind.
Professor Borowitzka, a leading world authority on algal biofuel production, said WA had several key advantages for suitable sites: abundant sunshine, extensive land unsuitable for agriculture and plenty of water in the Indian Ocean.
“But not all of WA is ideal for such plants, so we examined sites scientifically by assessing land suitability, access to infrastructure and workforce, carbon dioxide availability − along with nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus − and climate,” Professor Borowitzka said.
Assistant Professor Boruff added: “Commercial success depends on economically viable, large-scale production, which is why this study is so important.”
Professor Borowitzka said more research and development was needed to find the most energy-efficient and economically feasible way to extract and convert algal biomass into renewable bioenergy.
Limited world fossil fuel resources and an ever-increasing global demand for energy have prompted substantial interest in renewable biofuels. Professor Borowitzka has been at the forefront of research into producing biofuels from algae.
Algal biofuels − especially liquid fuels produced from algae oils − are seen as an important component of a future clean biofuels mix, he said.
Its fast growth rate and high oil content appears to make microalgae particularly well-suited to renewable biodiesel production and offers an attractive sustainable alternative source to other compounds such as carotenoids, polyunsaturated fatty acids and polysaccharides.
WA already has the world’s biggest commercial microalgae production plant at Hutt Lagoon, north of Geraldton.
US biofuel producer Aurora Algae and Australian biofuel start-up company Muradel Pty Ltd − a joint venture between Murdoch University, Adelaide Research and Innovation Pty Ltd and SQC Pty Ltd − have also built pilot plants in Karratha.
Five out of every six Australians are now online and regard the internet as a central part of their lives – but people who don’t have access are at a deepening disadvantage as the digital gap widens, researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation have warned.
The latest research for the World Internet Project (WIP) compared Australians’ online habits to internet users in Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. The survey shows that 86 per cent of Australian households have internet access, with 96 per cent of these being broadband connections.
Also, the proportion of people who connect through their mobile devices has more than doubled – from 15 per cent in 2009 to 37 per cent in 2011.
“Many people expected internet take up by Australians to slow down in 2011, but the latest survey shows that there is still a strong growth,” say Professor Julian Thomas and Mr Scott Ewing from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) at Swinburne University of Technology.
“More people are going online, and they are doing more things when they do. The internet is now Australia’s most important source of information – and is rapidly replacing traditional media of newspapers, radio and television.”
The survey reveals that most respondents see the internet as a social technology that increases their contact with friends and family. It is also an important source of entertainment, challenging television as Australian’s biggest entertainment medium, the researchers say.
Other popular activities include looking for information on restaurants and recipes. Respondents also love to shop online, as 72 per cent say they are buying something on it every month.
A quarter of the respondents also say they look at internet sites with sexual content, and one in ten do so at least weekly: Australians own up to a slightly higher rate of ‘sex surfing’ than do other nationalities in the survey.
However, the strong growth of internet take up is also widening the digital gap.
“As more people use the internet, it’s easy to assume that everyone is online – but that’s not the case. A large amount of low-income households still do not have home broadband access,” says Prof. Thomas.
The survey shows that internet access is directly linked to income and almost four in ten households earning less than $30,000 a year say they cannot afford home broadband. They are less likely to access government services or material online and do not see the internet as a fast and efficient way to obtain information.
“These people are at greater disadvantage and in danger of being left behind as services put more of their resources on the web,” Mr Ewing says.
“Differences in income also affect how much people benefit from the internet. Not everyone gets the same ‘bang for their buck’ online, as people from lower income households are more likely to see it as a frustrating technology.”
“As we approach the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) – with two thirds of our respondents saying that the development of NBN is a good idea – the question is what we should do to encourage lower income households to connect as well,” says Professor Thomas.
“Since the extra bandwidth from NBN will provide more opportunities for Australians to access online content, we have to make sure that everyone partakes in this – so that the digital divide does not become more serious.”
The World Internet Project is a 32-country partnership that aims to explore how the Internet influences social, political, cultural, and economic behaviour and ideas, as measured by the attitudes, values, and perceptions of both Internet users and non-users. CCI is the Australian partner of the World Internet Project.
The full report is available to download here.
NSW Minister for Mental Health, Kevin Humphries, and NSW Mental Health Commissioner, John Feneley, have announced that applications are now open for Deputy Commissioners of the NSW Mental Health Commission, and for members of the Mental Health Community Advisory Council.
Mr Humphries said the Commission will appoint up to three part-time Deputy Commissioners, with at least one being a person who has or has had a mental illness.
“During the extensive public consultations we held across the State to allow the community to provide input into the scope and direction of the Commission, one of the strongest messages we heard was that it was important that at a senior level within the Commission there should be first-hand experience of mental illness,” Mr Humphries said.
“The expertise gained through the lived experience of mental illness will provide a unique and informed insight into many of the challenges the Mental Health Commission has been set up to overcome.
“The Deputy Commissioners will play a vital role in the operation of the Commission and will be charged with providing high level advocacy for people with a mental illness, their carers, families and the mental health community, as well as act as champions for reform.”
NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley said the Commission is also seeking applications for up to 14 members for the Mental Health Community Advisory Council.
“The Council’s primary function will be to provide strategic, independent advice to the Commission on a range of mental health issues, and will play a hugely important role in the successful operation of the Commission,” Mr Feneley said.
“The candidates will be people who are extremely committed to improving the State’s mental health system.
“I expect they come from a diverse range of fields, from clinicians with decades of experience to people who have first-hand experience of mental health issues and how they can affect families, friends and carers.”
The NSW Government has released its draft Renewable Energy Action Plan for public comment.
The draft Renewable Energy Action Plan outlines 28 actions to help NSW meet the Government’s target of 20% renewable energy by 2020, steer investment to NSW and build on the State’s expertise in renewable technology.
The draft plan, prepared with assistance from the joint industry-government Renewable Energy Taskforce chaired by the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, Professor Mary O’Kane, sets out the opportunities and actions underway for each of the renewable energy technologies in NSW.
It identifies wind energy as “one of the most commercially ready and cost effective technologies that can be deployed on a large-scale”, predicting that wind energy will deliver the bulk of new renewable generation up to 2020.
The Plan also details new proposals to most efficiently grow renewable energy generation in NSW, with new actions that aim to:
- Attract renewable energy investment and projects
- Build community support for renewable energy
- Attract and grow expertise in renewable energy technology
- Contain costs for energy customers through increased energy efficiency.
The plan is available here. Comments are due by 26 October.
The NSW Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, Brad Hazzard has announced a new unit called the Housing and Infrastructure Delivery Office will be established in the Department of Planning and Infrastructure to drive housing delivery in greenfield and urban renewal areas and report on housing supply.
“This unit is part of a restructure to deliver on the Government’s commitment of providing more housing and jobs across the state,” Mr Hazzard said.
“A new executive structure will also allow the Department of Planning and Infrastructure to provide sustainable housing growth, business and infrastructure investment in NSW.
“The Government is in the process of overhauling the NSW planning system, moving from a complex, over-regulated system to a simple, strategic and more flexible system focussed on outcomes and orderly growth.
“These reforms will ensure the community is better engaged in changes to their regions and local area with planning becoming easier to understand, more transparent and accessible online.
“Delivery of this system will require not only legislative reforms but a fundamental cultural change in the planning profession.
“A new departmental structure will help us deliver on planning priorities, respond promptly and efficiently to community and business concerns,” Mr Hazzard said.
Key features of the structure include:
- Expanded online planning outcomes, fast-tracked development approvals and long-term planning for resource issues (such as coal and coal seam gas) through new dedicated teams
- Delivering new long-term rural and regional strategies – in line with a government priority to drive regional growth
- Improving the culture of planning, both at the department and across the profession – to focus on outcomes rather than process, under the guidance of a specialist Deputy Director General; and
- Improving community and industry engagement by placing communication staff within project teams as major initiatives are developed.
The Director of Antarctic Tasmania and Science Research Development, Denzil Miller has called for comment on a draft of the Tasmanian science research sector development strategy.
'Reaching Our Potential, Developing Tasmania's Science Research Capability' was recently made available online for public consultation.
Mr Miller said the strategy had drafted the document in close collaboration with key science research sector and Tasmanian Government stakeholders.
"The Tasmanian Economic Development Plan, identifies science and research is as a key industry sector with the potential for substantial and sustainable growth," Mr Miller said.
"Scientific endeavour is an important factor in innovation and economic growth, and the science research sector possesses a number of competitive advantages that make Tasmania an ideal place in which to invest in future science research activities.
"Tasmania has the potential to become a world class centre of scientific endeavour in areas of immediate and emerging importance to the global community.
"This is reflected in the strategy's goal, 'To develop Tasmanian science research through facilitation of improved science research capability at a professional, government, industry and community level.'
"With targeted support, we can assist the Science Research Sector to achieve its potential.
"Such intervention, however, has to be fiscally responsible and should ensure that community outcomes are sustainable.
"This draft strategy presents the proposed approach of the Tasmanian Government in supporting this growth in a sustainable manner and I invite all interested stakeholders to provide feedback on this draft."
'Reaching Our Potential, Developing Tasmania's Science Research Capability' draft documents are available for download from the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and the Arts' website at www.development.tas.gov.au.
The public consultation period will be open until Monday, 24 September 2012.
The WA Government has announced that the Fiona Stanley Hospital will deliver cardiothoracic surgery services when it opens in 2014 and Royal Perth Hospital will retain the State’s major adult trauma centre.
Health Minister Kim Hames said the decision had been made following extensive consultation and discussion with key clinicians from across the South Metropolitan Health Service.
“The consensus was that better patient care would be achieved by consolidating these specialties at single sites,” he said.
“National and international evidence clearly indicates that clinical outcomes for high-risk patients are better when complex services, such as advance heart and lung failure, are delivered at one tertiary hospital.”
The Minister said retaining the State’s major adult trauma centre at Royal Perth Hospital took advantage of the hospital’s existing fully accredited and purpose-built service and nationally renowned trauma care.
Similarly, relocating cardiothoracic surgery services at one location meant patients and the community would benefit from having streamlined services in a facility specifically designed for the needs of these patients.
“Fiona Stanley Hospital will become the south metropolitan centre for cardiothoracic surgery comprising the Advanced Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Service; Advanced Lung Disease Service; Pulmonary Hypertension Program; and WA Lung Transplant Unit,” Dr Hames said.
Cardiothoracic surgery and metropolitan trauma services will continue to be provided at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital for patients in Perth’s northern suburbs. Fiona Stanley Hospital will also have a role as a designated metropolitan trauma service with the State burns service and State rehabilitation service located within its precinct. There is also potential to contract some cardiothoracic services to Joondalup Health Campus.
The Queensland budget has allocated an extra $816 million to Queensland Health this year, with the majority of the additional funding earmarked for the newly created Hospital and Health Services.
Health Minister, Lawrence Springborg, said the additional funding would be strategically targeted at new or expanded programs aimed at ensuring more staff were available at hospitals on weekends; engaging private hospitals to assist reduce ‘long wait’ patients; and funding an additional 40,000 specialist outpatient appointments to reduce the former Labor Government’s notorious “waiting List for the waiting list”.
Mr Springborg said the additional funding would also help deliver on the LNP’s pledge to fund a 3% salary increase for nurses and midwives that took effect last Wednesday.
Mr Springborg said the extra $816 million represented a budget increase of approximately 7% on the last budget of the previous Labor Government.
In Tuesday’s State Budget the LNP will plan to invest a total of $11.862 billion in Queensland Health compared to just over $11 billion by the previous government.
The National Centre for Vocational Education Research has released the Australian apprentice and trainee statistics for the March quarter 2012.
In total there were 470 100 apprentices and trainees in-training as at the end of March 2012, an increase of 2.4% from the previous year.
Comparing apprentice and trainee activity in the year to 31 March 2012 with the year to 31 March 2011:
- the number of people commencing in trades occupations decreased by 2.6%
- the number of people commencing in non-trades occupations increased by 4.7%
- the number of people completing apprenticeships and traineeships increased by 8.6%.
In the shorter-term, seasonally adjusted data show between December quarter 2011 and March quarter 2012:
- trades commencements decreased by 2.4%
- non-trades commencements increased by 1.4%.
The report, Australian vocational education and training statistics: Apprentices and trainees, March quarter 2012, is available here.
The National Transport Commission has released its National Road Safety Partnership Program draft strategy for public consultation, responding to a key action in the National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020 agreed by ministers in 2011. The strategy recognises the major role that industry can play in improving road safety in Australia.
NTC Project Director, Dr Jeff Potter said that work-related road crashes in Australia currently account for about 50 per cent of all occupational fatalities and 15 per cent of national road deaths.
“We believe there is a significant opportunity to facilitate knowledge sharing about how to improve road safety in the workplace and to provide recognition for those businesses that do the right thing,” said Dr Potter.
The draft strategy highlights that for many businesses, driving or operating vehicles and commuting to work are the greatest safety risks for their employees.
“Our research has found that many Australian businesses already have a positive road safety culture which not only benefits the community but their bottom line as well,” said Dr Potter.
“We’ve found that these businesses are eager to share their knowledge and processes, and even act as a mentor for other businesses, so that others can replicate their approaches and improve road safety,” said Dr Potter.
The NTC has facilitated the establishment of a steering committee, comprised of senior business representatives, to guide the development of the proposed program.
“This is an example of how road safety outcomes can be achieved through a collaborative, non-regulatory approach to reform.
“We’d like to hear from businesses of all sizes as to whether the proposed program framework would meet their needs and hear their ideas on how to encourage more organisations to implement road safety initiatives,” said Dr Potter.
The draft strategy is open for comment until 18 October and can be downloaded via the submissions page of the NTC website.
KPMG has released its Technology Innovation Survey, identifying disruptive technologies in consumer and enterprise markets over the next four years and highlighting leading innovation markets and innovation management trends in the technology industry.
668 technology executives took part in the survey, representing the top 10 countries driving technology innovation. The mix included technology startups, mid-market enterprises, large technology companies, venture capital firms and angel investors.
Three key takeaways of the survey’s findings include:
- The undeniable power of cloud to unleash innovations and improve productivity.
- The still-developing transformations of an “always-on” mobile era.
- China emerging as a force that will compete with the US to foster tech innovation and gain market leadership.
More than half of respondents point to the cloud (SaaS, IaaS and PaaS) as the next indispensable consumer technology and the greatest driver of business transformation. As the cloud emerges as a widespread technology and platform for new business models, disruptions in enterprise and consumer markets will continue to be a major trend to watch.
More than 4 in 10 said it is likely that the world’s technology innovation center would shift from Silicon Valley to another country in the next four years. Of those who believe Silicon Valley will not be the tech leader of the future, 44 percent point to China as the world’s leading innovation hub by 2016.
The report, Mobilising Innovation: The changing landscape of disruptive technologies, is available here.
Optus has launched its 4G network for Sydney, Perth and Newcastle with 4G services to follow in Melbourne from 15th September, 2012.
Kevin Russell, Chief Executive Officer, Consumer Australia said, "Optus is launching 4G services with significant coverage across Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Newcastle and this marks the beginning of Optus' national 4G network rollout".
To coincide with the launch of its 4G network in Sydney, Perth and Newcastle and the rollout of Optus 4G in Melbourne on 15th September, Optus will be the first carrier in Australia to launch Samsung's
GALAXY S III 4G to Optus customers.
The current Optus 4G network footprint is:
- Sydney: Optus 4G coverage stretches from Bondi in the East to Newington in the West and from La Perouse in the South to Dee Why in the North.
- Perth: Optus 4G coverage stretches from Perth Airport in the East to City Beach in the West and from Como in the South to Innaloo in the North.
- Newcastle: Optus 4G coverage is available across Newcastle, as well as in Port Stephens, the Hunter Valley and Lake Macquarie areas.
- Melbourne: From September 15th 2012 Optus 4G coverage in Melbourne will stretch from Blackburn in the East to St Albans in the West and from Brighton in the South to Fawkner in the North.
Optus' 4G launch builds on its recent 3G network enhancement project to improve 3G performance for Optus mobile customers across regional cetntres and major capital cities.
Preliminary results for the FTTx, DSL and CMTS markets show a mix of growth and declines in 2Q12 as multiple transitions in fixed access technologies and products continued, according to telecoms analyst Ovum.
In a new report Ovum says that PON ONT and ONU units and VDSL2 port shipments grew strongly while other segments lagged.
The transition stages vary greatly from country to country, but at a global aggregate level, they include a shift from DSL to FTTH/FTTB networks and a deceleration of OLT shipments as the focus swings to customer acquisition and ONT/ONU sales. In 2Q12 overall DSL shipments were down, but VDSL2 volumes recovered strongly to a record 6.3 million. In North America, the proportion of VDSL2 was 57 percent of all DSL shipments, in EMEA 43 percent.
Within FTTH/FTTB PON networks, shipments of global PON customer premise equipment (ONTs and ONUs) rose strongly as a long wave of OLT installations at the central office has begun to lose steam. Asia-Pacific and China in particular led sales of PON ONTs and ONUs. We noticed the first year-over-year decline in global PON OLT port shipments in more than three years.
The table below shows vendor rankings in each market segment. These rankings are for shipment volumes only.
FTTH/FTTB PON OLT ports
FTTH/FTTB PON ONT/ONU units
However, leadership in shipment volumes is not always translating into leadership in revenues or profits. Ovum revenue market share results and rankings will be available in a week, and the results differ from those of shipment volumes.
Kamalini Ganguly, Analyst, Network Infrastructure Practice comments: “The division that has opened up recently between PON volume and revenue trends continued in 2Q12 due to price wars, particularly in China, and will have an impact on vendor results and strategy.
“The conversation in fixed access tends to be around shipment volumes, but the focus should really be on revenues and profits. The PON price wars in China and elsewhere are not sustainable. Revenues are not keeping pace with growth in volumes. Vendors – even Huawei – are being pickier about projects and markets. If price pressures continue, there may be more vendor consolidation like that of Calix’s acquisition of Ericsson’s PON portfolio.”
CMTS vendors saw volumes drop quarter-on-quarter in 2Q12, but such softness is not unusual at this time of the year. Shipments are still high and were up 10 percent from the year-ago level.
“CMTS annualized shipments in North America and EMEA are at their peak,” concludes Ganguly.
Energex has published its 2012-13 to 2016-17 Network Management Plan (NMP) providing a f blueprint for the company’s current and future plans for operating, maintaining and improving South East Queensland’s electricity supply.
The Plan, which is published annually under the requirements of the Queensland Electricity Industry Code, outlines the company’s commitment to deliver a safe, reliable, cost effective supply of electricity to the more than 3.1 million people who live in South East Queensland.
The NMP includes an assessment of the current regulatory framework, an overview of the network and emerging issues including the impacts of changing customer energy patterns, new technologies and environmental factors, such as domestic solar PV.
The report includes information regarding historical energy consumption and peak power demand and future forecast trends; the impact of air-conditioning use on temperature sensitive load and extensive analysis of the network reliability and performance against Minimum Service Standards.
Included in the NMP is information regarding the capital works and operational expenditure for the 2011-12 period and longer term targets; power quality performance and company’s response capacity for natural disasters, severe weather events and other emergencies.
Among the information contained in the 2012-13 to 2016-17 NMP is that network demand forecasts show that with an average summer, peak electricity use in South East Queensland is tipped to hit 4988 megawatts. This is about 2.2 per cent above the temperature corrected peak from last summer.
Peak electricity demand for the next five years is forecast to rise at an annual average of 2.5 per cent, slightly higher than overall energy consumption which is expected to rise slowly at around 1.7 per cent annually due to increased energy efficiency of appliances, pricing impacts, the impacts of carbon pricing and the continued growth of domestic solar PV installations.
Peak electricity demand increases – traditionally on hot summer afternoons and evenings – rose by an average of nearly seven per cent annually each year between 2003 and 2007. The planning report attributes much of this change to the recent La Nina influenced weather patterns and a slower recovery from the Global Financial Crisis.
The report attributes the near-record flooding in summer 2010-11 followed by one of the mildest summers in South East Queensland in 80 years in 2011-12 for a softening in peak demand with the underlying temperature correction peaks still rising, albeit more slowly.
The report also highlights that the 2011-12 reliability performance of the Energex network for customers living in suburban areas was the best it has been since the first NMP was produced in 2004-2005.
The 2012-13 to 2016-17 Network Management Plan is available on the Network section of the Energex website.
The latest Cordell – Housing Industry Association Construction Industry Update and Outlook Report has been released, showing a patchy outlook for the construction industry, with mining-related construction slowing due to deferred projects.
The report coincides with the Australian Industry Group's Australian Performance of Construction Index produced in conjunction with the HIA which shows that August was another month of contraction for the construction industry,.
The Cordell – HIA Construction Industry Update and Outlook (CIUO) report provides a snapshot of conditions across Australia’s various construction sectors as well as providing informed views on medium term directions for the industry.
“At a time of increased uncertainty regarding the construction investment pipeline, the CIUO Report provides a valuable information source for all states and territories regarding the mining, civil engineering, industrial, commercial, community, and residential flats and units sectors,” said Cordell Information National Marketing Manager, Chris Evans.
“The report analyses the construction project chain across new, deferred, and abandoned projects in addition to those that are already underway,” added Chris Evans.
“The latest report highlights the disparate conditions in Australia’s construction industry across both sectors and geographical jurisdictions, with mining the unsurprising star of the show,” said HIA Chief Economist, Harley Dale.
“What we have is a healthy, but narrowly based, short term construction outlook,” Harley Dale added. “Meanwhile the CIUO report finds that the number and value of deferred mining projects was already increasing sharply in the first half of 2012, prior to the recent scrutiny of the mining-inspired investment boom.”
The Australian PCI showed that apartment building was the weakest performing sub-sector in the month – down 10.8 points to 22.1 – offsetting gains from the previous month. Engineering construction remained the strongest of the sub-sectors – although still in decline at 35.7 with respondents citing a slowing in resource sector demand and project delays as affecting activity.
Australian Industry Group Director of Public Policy, Peter Burn, said: "The continuing severe slump in residential and commercial construction is a drag on the overall economy. In August a weakening in the engineering construction sector contributed to a further worsening in the sector as a whole. Even though interest rates have fallen recently, the near-term outlook for the construction sector deteriorated with a further fall in new orders. The drop off in new orders was particularly sharp for engineering construction and the apartment sub-sector," Dr Burn said.
Housing Industry Association Chief Economist, Harley Dale, said: "Against a backdrop of five weak quarters for new dwelling investment, as confirmed in this week's national accounts, it is concerning that the first two Australian PCI updates for 2012/13 provide no sign of a turnaround. The persistent weakness in the sub-indices for activity and new orders into the new financial year raises question marks as to whether we will see any tangible evidence of improved conditions in the construction industry by the December 2012 quarter. You would hope to be seeing a modest improvement by that quarter, but the odds of sighting that improvement appear to be lengthening," Harley Dale said.
Australian PCI Key Findings for August:
- The latest Australian Industry Group Australian Performance of Construction Index, in conjunction with the Housing Industry Association was down 0.4 points to 32.2 in August (readings below 50 indicate a contraction in activity with the distance from 50 indicative of the strength of the decrease).
- The Australian PCI has now been in negative territory for 27 consecutive months.
- The new-orders sub-index fell 5.8 points to 28.8.
- Across the sub-sectors: house building rose to 31.5, commercial construction increased to 34.0, apartment building dropped sharply to 22.1 and engineering consecution fell to 35.7.
- Employment continued to contract.
- The selling-price index was 38.5 in August.
- Survey respondents cited subdued conditions, a shortage of new tender opportunities, project delays and difficulty securing funding as impacting growth.
The ACTU has claimed that the rise of insecure work in Australia over the past few decades has made employees less able to speak up for their rights and workplaces less safe.
ACTU President Ged Kearney said a constantly changing workforce often meant that safe systems of work were not fully-implemented, and casual, contract and labour hire workers were also less likely to speak up if they thought something was unsafe because they feared the sack.
Speaking at the annual United Mineworkers Federation Memorial Day at Cessnock, Ms Kearney said one aspect of a secure job had to be a healthy and safe workplace.
“The creeping rise of insecure work is a threat to mine safety,” Ms Kearney said. “I am talking about labour hire, casualisation and contracting out, along with fly-in/fly-out or drive-in/drive-out.
“A lasting safety culture cannot be created with a mobile, temporary workforce. And it is well known that a lack of job security makes it more difficult for people to speak up for their rights, particularly about occupational health and safety. Industry studies point to a link between a lack of safety in mines and the growth of contract employment in the industry.
“Contractors are increasingly favoured by some mining companies over permanent employees because they are cheaper and many contractors are not union-oriented and are less likely to raise safety concerns.
Safety standards for some contractors have been found to be lower than other workers, as they received less training and induction.
“At the core of the CFMEU’s dispute with BHP Billiton-Mitsubishi Alliance in the Bowen Basin is management’s insistence on appointing health and safety officers who do not represent a workforce that is increasingly contract driven.”
About 40% of the Australian workforce is in insecure work. The recent inquiry chaired by former Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe heard much evidence that insecure work had led to less safe workplaces.
“The law needs to keep pace with these changes, and through the ACTU’s Secure Jobs. Better Future campaign, we intend to ensure that contract and labour hire workers have the same health and safety protections as other workers. Because one of the fundamentals of a secure job is a healthy and safe working environment.”
The United Mineworkers Federation Memorial Day has been held every year since 1996 at the Jim Comerford Memorial Wall, named after the legendary late former Northern District President of the Miners Federation.
The wall commemorates more than 1800 men and boys killed in Northern NSW mines since the start of the 19th century.
The NSW Government has launched a new organisation, Health Consumers NSW, which will give patients, carers and all those who access the NSW health system a voice to inform health policy and delivery.
The NSW Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner said Health Consumers NSW will be an independent source of information for her and the state’s Local Health Districts to ensure better patient care and an overall better health system for NSW.
“Patients and their carers have a unique perspective on medical services and what we want to see is an increase in genuine and constructive feedback and engagement from those accessing the services provided by the NSW health system,” Mrs Skinner said.
Members of Health Consumers NSW will work with Local Health Districts, the Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI) and organisations across public, private, allied health, non-government and community health services.
“The Agency for Clinical Innovation works to improve public health care services in NSW by engaging consumers and community members, along with clinicians to develop and implement patient-centred care and drive clinical innovation.
“By linking these organisations and health consumers together to share their experiences, HCNSW will play an important role in advising the NSW Government on patient-centric policies,” Mrs Skinner said.
Betty Johnson, Chair of Health Consumers NSW said consumers want to be able to have a say on how the state’s health system operates at all levels - from policy development through to design, delivery and evaluation.
“By scoping our members’ issues and views, and inviting their contributions on current health policy, HCNSW will help to make sure that the broad consumer view is heard and taken into account,” Ms Johnson said.
“Giving consumers a voice is key to improving equity and access to health services and outcomes for health consumers in NSW.”
For more information on Health Consumers NSW visit www.hcnsw.org.au
Nowra company Benchmark Estimating has been chosen by NBN Co to provide estimating software and services for projects undertaken throughout the NBN rollout.
Benchmark Estimating was chosen by NBN Co for the company's ability to provide a flexible software solution that will help NBN Co to solve the varied estimating challenges it faces. The contract includes the supply of software licences, development and consulting services as well as training for users throughout Australia.
Implementation of the Benchmark Estimating Software solution has begun at NBN Co and it is expected that it will be fully utilised by NBN Co as it moves towards the full-scale rollout of the NBN.
Benchmark Estimating, which was established in 1996, provides enterprise class estimating software solutions throughout Australia and New Zealand. It is used for complex, long term projects undertaken by businesses in the information and communication technology, construction, civil, landscaping, mining and utility sectors.
The company has an office in the United Kingdom and a European distributor based in Spain.
The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese, has released the National Land Freight Strategy, a long-term plan for an integrated and multimodal transport system to move goods into and out of major ports and around the country quickly, reliably and at the lowest cost.
The strategy was developed by Infrastructure Australia with input from the National Transport Commission, industry, and state and territory authorities. Mr Albanese said it will now be up to the nation’s Infrastructure and Transport Ministers to work together to develop an action plan for turning the Strategy’s vision into a reality.
“Our freight and logistics network is the lifeblood of the Australian economy. But at present it is struggling to cope with the existing demands being placed on it, let alone the doubling in freight volumes expected between now and 2030.
“Release of the Strategy gives us a unique opportunity to fix the regulatory and infrastructure failures which have to some extent held our miners, manufacturers and farmers back and cost the Australian economy tens of billions of dollars in lost export earnings.
“Quite simply our aim is to build and maintain a modern, well-planned, efficient and safe freight and logistics network that supports rather than hinders Australia’s future economic development,” Mr Albanese said.
Key principles of the Strategy are:
- One national, integrated network: Replacing fragmented, ad hoc decision-making with a proper, long term planning approach that identifies the existing and yet-to-be built roads, rail lines, intermodals, ports and airports which together form a workable, truly national freight network.This process would endeavour to protect current and future transport corridors and other strategic pieces of land from urban encroachment.
- Better use of existing infrastructure: Over the long term it will be far smarter and cheaper to get the most out of existing infrastructure than to always build anew. In practice this could mean fitting new technology to improve traffic flows along major motorways, using higher productivity vehicles, creating dedicated freight routes and separating passenger trains from freight trains.
- Fairer, more sustainable financing arrangements: While in recent years there’s been a surge in spending on the nation’s roads (up 50 per cent), railways (up 118 per cent) and ports (up 305 per cent), building and maintaining a network fit for purpose requires mechanisms for ensuring the right investment occurs in the right place at the right time.
Mr Albanese said that together with the National Ports Strategy—which all the State and Territory Governments have now signed up to—the National Land Freight Strategy provides the roadmap Australia needs to lift productivity and stay internationally competitive.
The Strategy is available at www.infrastructureaustralia.gov.au.
The Australian Medical Association has released its Position Statement on National Intern Allocation, outlining its approach to dealing with the problem of a shortage of intern training positions.
In 2013, there will be 3326 graduates of Australian medical schools competing for only 3091 currently available positions.
AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said today that the AMA has been lobbying all Australian governments to address the intern shortage as a matter of urgency.
“We are pleased that this matter has now made it on to the Federal Government’s priority list,” Dr Hambleton said.
“The AMA is keen to help the Government achieve a favourable outcome, which will require the full cooperation of the States and Territories.
“We need a quick solution so that medical graduates have some certainty regarding their future and so we can continue to train the appropriate number of highly trained doctors to serve community needs.
“The AMA policy sets out a way to improve the efficiency of intern allocation processes so that medical school graduates do not have to apply to multiple States or Territories for an intern place.
“Not only will this simplify the process for graduates, it will help address many of the weaknesses in the current system that result in duplication and delay the allocation of places.
“Our policy would provide greater certainty in the allocation of intern places, but it will not solve the expected shortage of intern training positions.
“The quick solution is to immediately expand the number of available intern places.
“If things do not change, many medical graduates will next year be unable to enter the medical workforce.”
The AMA Position Statement on National Intern Allocation is at http://ama.com.au/node/7384
The Commonwealth has recognised the need for more doctors and, since 2004, medical student numbers have expanded dramatically. By 2016, there will be around 3970 medical graduates finishing medical school each year. Unfortunately, no plan has been developed to ensure that there are enough prevocational and vocational training positions for these graduates once they leave medical school.
Health Workforce Australia predicts that, without changes, there will be a shortage of 451 specialist training positions in 2016.
Federal Attorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management Nicola Roxon and Victorian Deputy Premier Peter Ryan have announced an agreement with Vodafone Hutchison Australia to provide location-based emergency warnings during disasters.
Ms Roxon said the agreement would ensure more people benefit from the location-based text alert warnings by the end of next year.
"Getting emergency warnings out effectively during a natural disaster is absolutely critical, I'm pleased Vodafone has come on board to do this," Ms Roxon said.
"Emergency Alert has delivered 7.5 million warning messages for more than 500 emergencies across the nation.
"The enhanced Emergency Alert system will mean that people in disaster areas will be able to receive an alert based on location, rather than relying on the customer's 'registered' address.
"These changes are going to be a huge help for our emergency service agencies and will help to prepare local communities in times of disaster."
Mr Ryan said all states and territories would benefit from the decision by Vodafone to join Telstra in the delivery of the location-based alert technology.
"This is a world-first technology that is being rolled out across Australia and will offer a highly targeted location-based alert system for use during emergencies," Mr Ryan said.
"The Victorian Government has led negotiations with telecommunications carriers on behalf of all states and territories.
"The location-based SMS solution will be rolled out by Telstra this November, with Vodafone planning to provide the same service from November 2013."
Mr Ryan said that while the location-based technology was a significant benefit, people should not solely rely on mobile phones for bushfire alerts or warnings.
"It is important that people tune in to the radio, check emergency services websites and stay aware of conditions," Mr Ryan said.
Negotiations continue to progress positively with Optus to provide location-based emergency warnings, which we expect to be finalised shortly.