Federal funding of almost $4 million has been announced to support the adoption of the eWater ‘Source’ platform to aid water planning and management across Australia. It is matched by a combined New South Wales, Victorian, Queensland, South Australian, ACT and Northern Territory government contribution, bringing the total funding to nearly $8 million.
Opening the Source 2012 conference at the University of Canberra, Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water, Senator Don Farrell said that the adoption of the eWater ‘Source’ water modelling system would formalise a 2008 COAG agreement to develop a national strategy to help ensure future water planning and management represents best practice.
“Source links science, policy and management to help policy makers and operators consider future scenarios and alternative water management options for catchments, urban environments and river systems across the nation,” Senator Farrell said.
“It will provide national consistency in water resource planning across jurisdictions, by integrating the economic and environmental uses of water to better assist how we plan and deliver water for cities, irrigation, industry, mining, wetlands and waterways.”
“‘Source’ is the culmination of more than 20 years of research and development and significant collaboration with governments, national water authorities, private industry partners and Australia’s leading hydrologic and ecological scientists,” Senator Farrell said.
‘Source’ and the National Hydrologic Modelling Platform support the National Water Initiative, Australia’s blueprint for water reform, by providing an integrated approach to managing surface, ground and environmental water in rural and urban catchments across Australia.
A research team led by Monash and Melbourne universities have discovered why people can develop life-threatening allergies following the treatment for conditions such as epilepsy and AIDS.
The study published in the journal Nature, revealed how some drugs inadvertently target the immune system to alter how the body’s immune system perceives it’s own tissues, making them look foreign.
As a consequence, the immune system then attacks the foreign nature of the tissues as if they were imcompatible transplants.
Professor James McCluskey of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Melbourne said this was a significant discovery uncovering the molecular basis of a group of drug hypersensitivities.
“A whole class of drug allergy is likely to be explained by this discovery,” said Professor McCluskey who led the study with Professor Tony Purcell from the University of Melbourne’s Bio21 Institute and Professor Jamie Rossjohn from Monash University.
“There are several drugs that can cause life threatening skin rashes and other symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, muscle aches and pains.
“A simple blood test may help to predict adverse reactions in the treatment of a broad range of conditions like AIDS, epilepsy, gout and infections.”
Global property development giant Lend Lease has announced it will construct Australia’s first timber high rise apartment building.
Using Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), the process has been used in Europe for over a decade.
By using CLT, the project, Forté, will reduce CO2 equivalent emissions by more than 1,400 tonnes when compared to concrete and steel – the equivalent of removing 345 cars from our roads.
CLT is an engineered mass timber product and very different to a traditional wood frame. Mass timber - dense solid panels of wood engineered for strength through laminations of different layers – provides significant benefits and has the equivalent structural integrity to concrete. CLT on a weight to strength basis meets, and in some cases exceed, the performance of reinforced concrete, resulting in a very stable and durable structural outcome.
Chief Executive Officer for Lend Lease’s Australian business, Mark Menhinnitt said CLT is the most significant form of innovation in construction technology that Australia has seen in many years.
“CLT will transform the construction industry by introducing a more efficient and environmentally friendly construction process that has never been undertaken in Australia before.
“In 2001, we introduced the innovation of chilled beam technology to the Australian market which has now become the industry norm. CLT is another example of how Lend Lease is leading the way with innovations that will create value for consumers in the industry.
The Housing Industry Association (HIA) has recorded a modest partial recovery in new home sales in April, following a ‘very weak’ end to the first quarter of 2012.
HIA’s Chief Economist, Dr Harley Dale, said the April lift in new home sales comes despite an overall pessimistic outlook in the sector.
"Even with this latest improvement, the aggregate volume of both new home sales and local government building approvals imply that in the absence of a rapid and sustained recovery, national new home building is heading to a recessionary level in 2012,” Dr Dale said.
The HIA has urged the Reserve Bank to follow up with more interest rate cuts to ensure the modest gains can be properly capitalised on.
The HIA - JELD-WEN New Home Sales report, based on a survey of Australia’s 100 largest builders, showed a rise of 6.9 per cent in total seasonally adjusted new home sales in April 2012. Detached house sales rose by 6.4 per cent while multi-unit sales were up by 10.3 per cent.
The Western Australian Government has called for comment on the development of a plan to ensure continued availability of high quality drinking water in Esperance.
Department of Water Manager Water Source Protection Planning Nigel Mantle said the Esperance Water Reserve drinking water source protection plan: draft for public commentreleased today is part of a strategy that aims to protect drinking water sources throughout Western Australia.
“This is an important issue and we want to be sure everyone has an opportunity to be involved in the protection of this drinking water source,” Mr Mantle said.
When finalised, the revised plan will replace the 1999 Esperance Water Reserve water protection plan.
The update proposes amending the water reserve boundary to remove two sections from the water reserve, and adjusting the priority of three sections to reflect current zoning. No private landowners will have the priority area of their land increased.
“The draft plan outlines the location of the water reserve, existing and future land uses and potential water quality risks,” Mr Mantle said.
The draft plan:
- identifies land uses, activities and risks to water quality within the Esperance Water Reserve
- recommends management strategies to improve protection of water quality to ensure a reliable, safe and high quality water supply
- proposes priority areas and wellhead protection zones to protect against incompatible land uses and activities in the catchment
- proposes to proclaim amended boundaries for the Esperance Water Reserve under the Country Areas Water Supply Act 1947.
The plan can be found here
New research has identified better ways to predict how climate change and water management practices will affect fish populations and river red gum forests in the southern Murray-Darling Basin.
Led by Professor Ralph Mac Nally, scientists from Monash University's Australian Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) developed models that linked ecology and hydrology to better inform management of Australia's river systems in the face of increasing water scarcity.
Professor Mac Nally, Director of the ACB, said the results highlighted the importance of water-management practices to the future viability of Australia's river systems, showing that management may pose a greater risk than climate change for some fish species.
"We found that the effects of different water-management regimes were more important than the impacts of a drying climate for some of the fish populations, but the floodplain forests have been badly affected by both," Professor Mac Nally said.
"Improving the ecological health of Australia’s river systems, while maintaining agricultural outputs and human use, will require careful balancing of the compromises among different water users."
Responding to the brief of 'do more with less water', the team, including Jian Yen, Danny Spring and Will Shenton from the ACB, and Nick Bond from Griffith University, contributed to the $10 million Farms, Rivers and Markets project funded by the National Water Commission. The research focused on the Murray-Darling Basin, currently the source of much controversy over the division of water to agriculture, to domestic use and to maintain healthy rivers.
“This was an exciting opportunity to bring advances in fundamental and applied ecology to bear on the social and economic well-being of the nation’s bread-basket, the Murray-Darling Basin,” Professor Mac Nally said.
"We've recently experienced southeastern Australia's longest recorded drought and predictions point to a drier and hotter future. Finding advanced ways to meet the needs of all water users is an important research area with high significance to Australia’s future."
The outcomes of the research, soon to be published in Environmental Management, will be integrated with parallel research from The University of Melbourne on farm management and the economics of water trading. It is the first project to link these three vital aspects of resource management.
The article is available online in advance of print publication.
The Tasmanian Government has released a review into the state’s biosecurity strategy in a bid to further strengthen existing quarantine efforts.
State Minister for Primary Industries and Water Bryan Green said the strategy forms part of the government’s move to update quarantine standards over the next five years.
The release of the review coincides with the State’s budget spending, which outlined $18.6 million to maintain the State’s biosecurity efforts.
Mr Green said a comprehensive strategy had been developed to guide Tasmania's biosecurity system.
- Development and publication of a biosecurity risk analysis framework.
- Biosecurity Emergency Preparedness Program.
- Standard Operating Procedures.
- Biosecurity communications plan.
- Plant and plant product import requirements.
A draft of the updated strategy will be available in June.
The Tasmanian Government has granted a mining lease for the long awaited Livingstone project near Tullah, in the state’s north-west.
State Minister for Energy and Resources, Bryan Green, said the proposed mine would create 30 construction jobs and a similar number when it was operational
"Venture Minerals is proceeding with development plans and hopes to receive final approvals to allow work to start on the mine before the end of the year," Mr Green said.
The project is a forerunner to Venture Minerals proposed large scale tin and tungsten mine planned at nearby Mount Lindsay, which is expected to generate 1,000 direct jobs during construction and 200 full time jobs when the mine is operational.
“These projects are a great vote of confidence in the Tasmanian mining industry which comes on the back of record investment in mineral exploration,” Mr Green said.
"This will provide a major economic boost to the North-West and West Coasts and the broader Tasmanian economy.
Mr Green said this was highlighted by a Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics report released last week that showed hundreds of millions of dollars of mining investment in the pipeline for Tasmania.
ClubsNSW has launched a new campaign that will see high school bullies blacklisted by employers in the State’s Murray region.
The BULLYcheck, which initiative is expected to be rolled out state-wide next year, has received the support of local high schools and would see students guilty of “bullying, stalking cyber stalking or threatening” blacklisted.
ClubsNSW has deemed the following offences worthy of blacklisting a student:
- those which were committed with the intention of causing mental or physical harm to a student or teacher
- those which cause a student/ teacher to self-harm
- those involving pre-meditated and repeated cyber bullying
- those involving threatening a student or teacher
- those where police charges have been laid
ClubsNSW CEO Anthony Ball said he expects the program to be adopted by clubs across the state next year once the 12 month trial is completed.
“The message for high school students is simple. If you bully or threaten other students then you are risking your own career prospects,” Mr Ball said.
Former South Australian Premier, Mike Rann, has been appointed as Chair of the Board of Lower Carbon Australia.
Mr Rann is a member of the International Leadership Council, The Climate Group (UK) and the International Advisory Board, Ecological Sequestration Trust (UK). He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Low Carbon Australia, complementing current Board members.
Mr Rann will formally be elected as Chair of the Board at its June 2012 meeting.
Low Carbon Australia was established by the Federal Government to assist businesses, public sector organisations and consumers improve energy efficiency, reduce emissions and identify carbon neutral goods and services.
Mr Rann joins Board members Martijn Wilder, Linda Nicholls, Tanya Cox, Don Matthews and Anthony Coleman.
The Queensland Government has given conditional approval for the $6.4 billion Alpha Coal Project in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, the first mine in the region.
Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney welcomed the decision and said the project would produce significant economic benefits for the state and nation.
“There’ll be an estimated $11 billion boost to the economy during the mine’s three year construction phase. 80 per cent of that will be retained in Queensland,” Mr Seeney said.
The mine is expected to see some $80 billion in exports over its lifetime, equating to en economic boost of $1 billion per year.
Mr Seeney said the Coordinator-General had approved the mine with strict conditions and the move was a major step towards opening up the Galilee Basin’s coal deposits.
“The proposal is for a 30 million tonnes per year open-cut coal mine and a 495km railway line from the mine to the Port of Abbot Point near Bowen,” he said.
The project is expected to generate up to 3600 construction jobs and 990 operational jobs.
The mine site is 130 kilometres south-west of Clermont in the state’s north-east. The expected life of the mine is 30 years, with sufficient resources to potentially extend the project life beyond that time.
The project is currently pending environmental approval from the Federal Government.
Two new awards have been added to this year’s Comcare Work Health and Safety Awards—the first time Comcare has administered the awards in its own right.
The awards have previously been administered by the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (SRCC). This changed with the introduction of the new work health and safety (WHS) laws in January this year, as Comcare is now the sole regulator of WHS in the scheme.
The new awards (categories six and eight) will recognise Health and Safety Representative of the Year and Claims Manager of the Year.
The 2012 awards categories are:
Category one: Best Workplace Health and Wellbeing Program
Category two: Leadership Award for Injury or Disease Prevention and Management
Category three: Best Workplace Health and Safety Management System
Category four: Best Solution to an Identified Workplace Health and Safety Issue
Category five: Best Individual Contribution to Health and Safety
a) A worker
b) A worker with responsibility for WHS as part of their duties
Category six: Health and Safety Representative of the Year
Category seven: Rehabilitation and Return to Work Award
a) An organisation
b) An individual
Category eight: Claims Manager of the Year
Comcare CEO Paul O’Connor said the expansion of the awards in 2012 acknowledges the importance of health and safety in the workplace.
“I encourage as many nominations as possible for these awards which recognise excellence in workplace health and safety, rehabilitation and return to work achieved by individuals and organisations covered by the Comcare scheme.
“Many organisations and employees make a vital contribution to health and safety in the workplace.
“The awards highlight these contributions and how important they are in keeping employees safe, both physically and mentally at work,” Mr O’Connor said.
The awards will be presented at a dinner in Sydney on 20 September 2012 as part of the Comcare National Conference.
Further details on the awards can be found at www.comcare.gov.au/events.
Professor Aidan Byrne has been appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Research Council (ARC).
Professor Byrne is currently the Dean of Science at the ANU and the Director of the ANU College of Physical and Mathematical Science.
He will commence as CEO on Monday, 23 July. ARC Executive General Manager Ms Leanne Harvey will continue to act as CEO until this time.
Former CEO Professor Margaret Sheil left the ARC last month after almost five years.
International management specialist BlockRock has announced the appointment of Justin Arter as the company’s new Country Head of its Australian operations.
Mr Arter will be responsible for the future development and growth of BlackRock Australia and will report to the company’s Asia Pacific Chairman, Mark McCombe.
Mr Arter will join BlackRock after leaving Victorian Funds Management Corporation (VFMC), where he served as Chief Executive Officer. Prior to his time at VFMC, Mr Arter had an 18 year career at Goldman Sachs JB Were.
Mr McCombe said Mr Arter’s appointment was indicative of the company’s newfound focus on the Australian market.
“The size and sophistication of the Australian market makes it a key area of focus for BlackRock Asia Pacific. A leader of Justin’s calibre, with his outstanding track record in financial services, will be integral to BlackRock Australia’s growth plans. His appointment reflects the importance we place on building our business in this compelling investment environment,” Mr McCombe said.
Mr Arter will commence his work in September.
The Western Australian Government has announced $3 million in spending to implement cat legislation aimed at reducing the thousands of stray cats being euthanised each year.
State Local Government Minister John Castrilli said the funding would also be used to help promote responsible cat ownership as the legislation is rolled out over the next 18 months.
The aptly named Cat Act will see owners require the identification, registration and sterilisation of their feline companions, while local governments will be given the power to enforce the legislation.
The legislation will also attempt to mitigate the negative effects of the state’s feline population by funding cat pound facilities and for other capital costs, including microchip readers, cat traps and ranger training.
The State Government will conduct a consultative process to deliver the best cat management strategy.
“The Department of Local Government will be working with veterinarians and other stakeholders over the next six months on the best way to provide this assistance,” Mr Castrilli said.
“Efficient and cost effective means of providing these facilities are being explored in conjunction with cat welfare organisations and local governments.”
According to the State Government, there is overwhelming support for these initiatives from both cat people and non-cat people, as shown in the 590 submissions received in response to a consultation paper released in 2010.
We’re not sure if anybody’s told the cats about the forced steralisation initiative though.
Two of Hastie Group’s non-executive directors have stepped down from their positions after the group spirals into liquidation.
Lindsay Phillips and Harry Boon have both left the company as a $20 million accountancy irregularity has seen the company appoint voluntary administrators.
The engineering services company’s spectacular collapse has seen 3,000 jobs lost, while its $540 million debt to its banking fanciers will most likely have to be written down.
Fair Work Australia (FWA) has found that cabin crew recruited in Thailand are underpaid by as much as half of their minimum entitlements.
Fair Work Ombudsman said the pay rate is unacceptable and has requested the Federal Court to ban the practice. The Ombudsman has found Jetstar’s Thai employees should be paid double the amount they currently receive.
FWA commenced litigation last Friday involving eight foreign workers but, subject to the findings of the Court, the Ombudsman expects that number to grow to up to 300.
Facing Court is Singapore company Valuair Limited and Thai company Tour East (T.E.T.) Limited - companies which recruit cabin crew to work exclusively for Jetstar on both international and domestic flights.
Valuair and Tour East are part-owned by Qantas.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is seeking to have Valuair and Tour East reimburse the eight more than $7500 it alleges they are owed in back-pay. It is also seeking penalties against Jetstar Airways Pty Ltd.
The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges Jetstar Airways was knowingly a party to underpayment contraventions. It alleges Jetstar rosters the foreign cabin crews onto its Australian domestic flights and is aware of the rates they are being paid.
The Queensland Government has approved a major 44 kilometre sector of pipeline within the Callide Infrastructure Corridor State Development Area (CICSDA), a major section of the 435 kilometre gas transmission pipeline for the Gladstone project.
The Coordinator-General’s approval of the Santos project will allow the project to progress through to the next stage.
“Santos Limited has passed the final major step in meeting the Coordinator-General’s EIS conditions and can now get on with the job of delivering a project which will bring major economic benefits to Gladstone and Queensland,” Deputy Queensland Premier Jeff Seeney said.
“This pipeline section is a key component of the gas transmission pipeline network required to deliver gas from the coal seam gas fields to the liquefied natural gas facility export facility being constructed on Curtis Island.”
The Federal Government has introduced a package of bills that will aim to reform the way in which the country regulates all commercial vessels within territorial waters. The legislation will replace the seven existing Federal, state and territory bureaucracies and the fifty separate pieces of legislation they administer with a single national regulator and one set of nationwide laws.
The legislation will see the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) become the national regulator of all commercial vessels in Australian waters.
The Federal Government will also aim to lift safety standards by introducing a streamlined national system.
The legislation now before the Parliament will eliminate the artificial sea borders which have existed between the states since Federation. From 1 January 2013, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) will become the national regulator of all commercial vessels, not just those involved in international trade.
The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has welcomed the move by the Federal Government.
“These maritime safety laws are part of a broader transport reform package that involves establishing single national regulators for rail safety, maritime safety and heavy vehicles,” ALC Managing Director Michael Kilgariff said.
The $10.2 million funding requirement was provided in the Federal Budget and forms part of the government’s amove to reverse the decline of Australia’s domestic shipping industry.
The United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has confirmed Australia’s limits of 11 million square kilometres of continental shelf, providing clarity over areas which Australia has exclusive rights.
The Federal Government has welcomed the Seas and Submerged Lands (Limits of Continental Shelf Proclamation 2012, with Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, saying it has ramifications for the country’s energy sector.
“Australia has the exclusive right to explore and utilise the resources of the seabed within our continental shelf, including oil, gas, minerals and biological resources,” Mr Ferguson said.
“The proclamation includes large areas of continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles which are based on the 2008 recommendations of the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.”
The proclamation is the culmination of nearly twenty years of persistent scientific, legal and diplomatic work by government agencies, particularly Geoscience Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Attorney-General’s Department.
“The proclamation demonstrates the practical benefits of Australia’s international engagement in law of the sea matters and with the United Nations and its agencies,” Senator Carr said.
“Australia has also provided technical and financial assistance to help relevant states, including our Pacific Island neighbours, benefit from confirmation of their maritime jurisdiction.”
The Proclamation was made on 24 May 2012.
A copy of the map can be found at http://www.attorneygeneral.gov.au/Media-releases/PublishingImages/ECSmap.jpg
The World Wide fond for Nature (WWF) has hit out at the New Zealand Government, saying it is continuing 20 years of environmental neglect and broken promises.
Contained in its Beyond Rio report, the WWF has accused the New Zealand Government reneging on its pledges made at the Earth Summit 20 years ago.
“Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud, is now a land of polluted rivers and lakes, rising greenhouse gas emissions, pressured marine ecosystems and disappearing bird and mammal species,” WWF-New Zealand’s Executive Director Chris Howe said.
“While it is important for the government to constructively engage in the upcoming summit, we should not lose sight of the many commitments that already exist. If New Zealand’s political leaders had made good on the promises made back in 1992, then we wouldn’t be faced with such a battle to turn things around. ”
The key findings of the report include:
- Increased pollution in our lakes and rivers, including 43 per cent of monitored lakes in NZ now classed as polluted and an estimated 18,000-34,000 people annually catching waterborne diseases.
- More than 60 per cent of native freshwater fish as well as the only freshwater crayfish and mussel species are now threatened with extinction.
- Seven of New Zealand’s ten official ‘indicator species’ for measuring biodiversity status are threatened. The Kokako, for example, has suffered a 90 per cent contraction in its range since the 1970s.
- Iconic species such as Maui’s dolphins and NZ sea lions are listed as ‘nationally critical’. Only an estimated 55 Maui’s over the age of one year remain and NZ sea lion pup numbers have halved over the past 12 years at their main breeding area in the Auckland Islands.
- Almost two-thirds of New Zealand’s seabird species are listed as threatened with extinction. The main threats to seabirds are predation by introduced mammals, fishing methods and human disturbance.
- New Zealand’s gross emissions have risen by 20% since 1992, due to increased pollution from energy, transport, agriculture and industry sectors. Even with our weakened Emissions Trading Scheme, emissions are projected to continue to rise.
The report can be found here (.pdf)