Asciano’s coal haulage division, Pacific National Coal, has unveiled its new train maintenance and provisioning facility at Nebo in regional Queensland.
At a joint launch with the Isaac Regional Council, Pacific National said its $180 million new Nebo Maintenance Facility will support its coal haulage operations and further increase the efficiency of its coal haulage services in the Goonyella, Blackwater and Newlands rail systems.
The five kilometre long facility will enable the provisioning and maintenance of Pacific National trains to ensure their reliable and efficient operation with a range of functions performed, including the refuelling of trains, routine train inspections and wagon and locomotive maintenance work.
"Nebo is the first facility of its design in Australia and includes some of the most innovative design and maintenance techniques seen within the rail industry today, with capacity to support up to 25 coal trains, with eight bays for locomotives and two main tracks for wagon maintenance,” said Mr Geoff Featherstone, General Manager Operations QLD, Pacific National Coal.
As the fastest growing coal haulage operator in Queensland, Pacific National Coal currently transports export coal to the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal, the Port of Gladstone and Port of Abbot Point under contracts with customers including Xstrata, Rio Tinto, Macarthur Coal, Anglo American, Middlemount, Bowen Central Coal and BHP Mitsui Coal (commencing on 1 January 2013).
Pacific National Coal Director, Mr David Irwin said, “The construction of the new train maintenance and provisioning facilities at Nebo is a significant milestone in Pacific National’s long term investment in Queensland’s coal haulage market to support the needs of our customers.
“With Queensland coal exports expected to grow strongly, Pacific National’s investment is critical to delivering the most efficient, effective and sustainable coal haulage services.
“Importantly, we have created 322 full time jobs, including 220 throughout the construction period, a further 65 new trainee train driver and fully qualified train driver positions and other ongoing maintenance and administrative positions. We invite anyone who is looking for a career with great prospects to come and speak to us,” he concluded.
Planning for the new train provisioning and maintenance facilities at Nebo commenced in early 2010 and included consultation with key stakeholders and community members to ensure minimisation of potential environmental, noise and land impacts. The design and construction was carried out under an alliance between Pacific National Coal and Abigroup Contractors (construction and project coordination), BG&E (design) and QR National (design and construction of track).
The facilities have also been designed to interface with QR National’s rail network and a Connection Agreement has been negotiated with QR National to ensure the efficient integration of the facility with the existing network.
Asciano Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Mr John Mullen, said, “The successful ramp-up of our operations in Queensland, and now the launch of our productivity enhancing Nebo Train Maintenance Facility is a testament to our Queensland workforce and management team, and reinforces our ability to deliver on our Queensland coal strategy.
“We look forward to our continued collaboration with the Isaac Regional Council, the Queensland State Government and the local community to ensure continued investment and job growth within the region and with our employees and customers to ensure we deliver on our promise of flexible, safe and innovative services.”
Almost 3.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases have been pulled from the ACT's atmosphere according to the latest snapshot on carbon emissions in Canberra.
ACT Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, Simon Corbell, tabled the ACT Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme 2011 compliance report in the ACT Legislative Assembly which shows more than 588,889 tonnes of greenhouse has were offset last year and all participants met their obligations under the scheme.
"While it has now been replaced with a national carbon price, this has been one of the most effective schemes in tackling emissions from electricity use, and was one of the world's first mandatory greenhouse gas emissions trading schemes," Mr Corbell said.
"Under the scheme, electricity retailers in the ACT were required to reduce or offset greenhouse gas emissions they produce and source an increasing part of their product from clean and sustainable sources.
"This encouraged electricity providers to undertake a range of initiatives including energy efficiency measures, tree planting, capturing landfill gas, and methane burning to meet annual targets set out by the independent scheme regulator."
In 2011, there were 19 entities licensed to sell electricity in the ACT and the report acknowledged that all participants met their targets.
Mr Corbell said over the life of the scheme, 3,463,967 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions had been removed from Canberra's atmosphere, making it one of the Territory's most effective greenhouse gas abatement measures.
With the introduction of the Australian Government Clean Energy Futures package, ACT legislation was amended to bring the ACT Scheme to an end effective 1 July 2012.
"The ACT Government recognises that a cap and trade emissions trading scheme, with a flexible price is the most economically efficient means of reducing Australia's emissions," Mr Corbell said.
"The adoption of the city's ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets, a 40% reduction based on 1990 levels by the year 2020, and the long term aim of carbon neutrality by 2060, reinforces the importance of renewable energy in Canberra's future."
The Chief Minister of the new Northern Territory Government, Terry Mills, has announced a freeze on public service recruitment to provide Departmental executives with an opportunity to re-prioritise staffing structures to focus on frontline service delivery.
Mr Mills said the freeze would take place in conjunction with the Government's proposed Treasury audit.
"The freeze applies to public service recruitment unless otherwise approved by the office of the Commissioner of Public Employment," Mr Mills said.
"The OCPE will also work with agencies to identify frontline positions that will be exempt from the recruitment freeze.
Mr Mills said the recruitment of an additional 120 frontline police will not be affected by the freeze.
"All interstate and overseas travel will require final approval by the Chief Executive of the Department of Chief Minister and hospitality is to stop unless also approved by DCM.
"In addition, reviews into the Government's motor vehicle fleet and marketing and communications will also be undertaken by DCM.
"These measures are necessary as the Country Liberals Government moves forward with its linked strategies to cut waste and reduce debt,” Mr Mills said.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Terry Mills has released details of the new Country Liberals Government’s Ministry.
In addition to his responsibilities as Chief Minister, Mr Mills has taken Police, Fire and Emergency Services, Lands, Planning and the Environment, Land Resource Management, Asian Engagement, Public Employment, Statehood, Multicultural Affairs, Young Territorians, Senior Territorians and Women’s Policy portfolios.
He will be assisted in the areas of multicultural affairs, youth and seniors and Women’s Policy by new Parliamentary Secretary Peter Styles.
Deputy Chief Minister, Robyn Lambley, is Treasurer and will also assume responsibility for Education, Families and Children, Corporate and Information Services and Central Australia.
John Elferink is the Territory’s new Attorney-General and Justice Minister and Minister for Correctional Services and David Tollner has Health, Alcohol Policy and Essential Services.
Adam Giles has the Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government portfolios.
Willem Westra van Holthe is the new Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries and Mines and Energy and Matthew Conlan has Tourism and Major Events, Arts and Museums, Sport and Recreation, Racing and Parks and Wildlife.
Peter Chandler is Minister for Business, Trade, Economic Development, Employment and Training and Housing and Alison Anderson has responsibility for Regional Development and Indigenous Advancement.
In addition to assisting the Chief Minister with his Multicultural Affairs, Young Territorians, Senior Territorians and Women’s Policy portfolios, Peter Styles is also Government Whip.
Member for Fong Lim, David Tollner, has been appointed the Northern Territory’s Minister for Health, Minister for Alcohol Policy and Minister for Essential Services.
“I look forward to establishing cardiac services in the Northern Territory. Currently the majority of patients requiring interventional cardiac treatment must travel interstate. For too long now the Health Ministry has lacked long-term strategic health planning,” Mr Tollner said.
Mr Tollner said the Chief Minister Terry Mills had already abolished the Banned Drinkers Register and he was looking forward to implementing strong alcohol policy to target those individuals who misuse alcohol.
The search is on for the chief executive officer of TasTAFE - Tasmania's new public vocational education and training entity.
The Minister for Education and Skills, Nick McKim, said that the nationwide search would be conducted following the Government's acceptance of a recommendation by Virginia Simmons in her report on The Review of the Role and Function of Tasmania's Public Sector Vocational Education and Training Providers.
Mr McKim said Profile Management Consultants have been appointed to undertake the national search.
"The position of chief executive officer is a key role and will be instrumental in establishing TasTAFE and leading it through this next phase in vocational education and training in this State."
Mr McKim said that the changes recommended by the review would see the entire VET system in Tasmania improved and rejuvenated.
"The Implementation Plan for the review of Tasmania's Public VET Providers has been released, which outlines a practical way forward for the reforms to VET in Tasmania," he said.
"This includes ensuring a successful transition to a single VET entity, TasTAFE.
"Careful planning is crucial in ensuring learners and employers continue to receive high quality vocational education and training throughout the transition, and ensure the support and commitment of staff.
"If the legislation is passed by the Legislative Council, TasTAFE will begin as the new, single, public sector provider of vocational education and training in the second half of next year."
The implementation plan is available on the Department of Education website: www.education.tas.gov.au
School students may be taught regular school subjects such as science or maths in another language as part of new trials in selected South Australian Schools.
Minister for Education and Child Development Grace Portolesi today announced schools will be invited to take part in innovative trials to look at effective ways of boosting the learning of languages other than English in schools.
“We know that the number of students studying languages other than English have been in decline over the past 10 years,” she said.
“There are incredible benefits to studying languages and that is why I think it’s important this continues to be an option for our students.
“The results of these trials will inform the Department’s approach to a new strategy around languages other than English.
“Three pilot programs will be conducted in schools in partnership with the Research Centre for Languages and Cultures at the University of South Australia.
The three pilots could include models such as:
- A “one-hour-a-day” language program.
- A transition program that considers how to best support continuity in language learning for students as they move from primary to high school.
- A bilingual or “immersion pilot” that will aim to teach students one other subject in another language in addition to their regular language lessons.
“Languages allow us to communicate with other cultures and give our students important skills for future work and study, while also having positive impact on the cognitive and literacy skills of young people,” she said.
“Our aim is to look at effective ways to encourage young people to continue learning and developing their language capabilities throughout their school years and beyond.
The three targeted pilots will be conducted in schools over three years and will help inform longterm models for developing languages in schools across the state.
“The trials will be, led by Associate Professor Angela Scarino and her colleagues from the Research Centre for Languages and Cultures at the University of South Australia in partnership with the participating schools,” she said.
“I encourage schools to apply to be part of the pilots, so we can get information that will help us design a broader languages strategy.
“Schools across the three sectors, public, Independent and Catholic, are all invited to be part of the trial and schools can apply individually or as part of a cluster of schools.
“Associate Professor Scarino and her team will analyse the findings from the trials before advising me on the developing of a broader approach to the teaching and learning of languages.
“We want all our students to experience the benefits of studying a second language and that is why we are committed to developing an approach that is evidence based to ensure this continues to be an option in our schools.”
The South Australian Minister for Minerals Resources and Energy Tom Koutsantonis has released figures that show that spending on mineral exploration in South Australia hit a post-GFC high in 2011/12.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show spending on mineral exploration in South Australia rose to $328.4 million in the 12 months to the end of June 2012, up 28.9% compared with the same 12-month period in 2011.
Combined spending on mineral and petroleum exploration in SA during the same period exceeded $500 million – only the second time this milestone has been reached.
Spending on mineral exploration totalled $90.0 million in the June quarter of 2012, up 5.6% from $85.2 million in the same quarter in 2011.
“PACE 2020 and South Australia’s reputation for having the world’s best pre-competitive data continue to attract exploration well above $300 million a year,” Mr Koutsantonis said.
“Explorers are continuing to invest to unlock new areas of discovery as they search for prospects to add to the state’s 20 approved mines and its substantial pipeline of projects.
“Spending on mineral exploration in South Australia comprised $37.4 million in exploring new deposits and $52.6 million on existing deposits during the June quarter.
“Exploration for copper led the way in the quarter, attracting $43.1 million in spending, up from $32.3 million. Spending on the search for iron ore rose to $26.7 million, up from $19.2 million.
“Spending on the search for uranium totalled $4.8 million, slightly down from the previous quarter.”
Mr Koutsantonis said the State Government continues to work closely with the Commonwealth’s Department of Defence to open the Woomera Prohibited Area to greater exploration.
“In this year’s budget, $2 million was allocated to fund new pre-competitive surveys designed to identify prospective areas in the Gawler Craton, much of which is within the WPA,” he said.
“These surveys, using the latest remote-sensing technology, will by this time next year have identified favourable geophysical and geological anomalies for explorers to directly target.”
Charles Darwin University has signed a memorandum of understanding with Incospec and Associates Australia that will further its capacity for education, research and on-the-job training related to the needs of the oil and gas industry.
The memorandum will see the establishment of collaborative initiatives between CDU and Incospec for specialised training, educational and research services, including training and competency development in areas of corrosion engineering.
Incospec Technical Director Mark Weston said that corrosion remained a huge cost to the oil and gas industry.
"Corrosion-related damage costs the industry between 3 and 5 per cent of GDP," he said. "It is vital that we improve our research in testing and evaluation of corrosion protection. Together with CDU we will work towards providing good quality corrosion engineering, specific to the oil and gas industry in North Australia and Incospec globally."
CDU Vice-Chancellor Professor Barney Glover said the agreement would allow CDU researchers to work with industry to develop research and training initiatives at the new North Australian Centre for Oil and Gas.
"The new facility, due for completion toward the end of 2012 will enable the university to provide a range of specialised and generic training requirements in the areas of Higher Education and Vocational Educational and Training for the oil and gas industry," Professor Glover said.
"Incospec has extensive experience in the provision of corrosion engineering consultancies and services for the oil and gas industry, other main resource sector industries, maritime operations and infrastructure.
"Once the new centre is up and running Incospec, alongside our CDU engineering staff and students, will be conducting corrosion testing and evaluation research locally for the oil and gas industry."
Professor Glover said the memorandum would also keep CDU students well connected with the industry while they were studying.
Perth has gained Australia's first electric car recharge network with 23 new fast-charge stations installed across the metro area in a project led by researchers from The University of Western Australia.
Their ultimate aim is to revolutionise personal transport with millions of zero-emission vehicles powered by electricity from renewable sources at home, work or charging stations.
Project leader UWA Professor Thomas Bräunl said about 50-100 electric vehicles (EVs) - including about 30 owned privately - are thought to be currently operating in Perth.
The new EV recharge network has been installed between Midland and Fremantle - including a recharge outlet at East Perth Railway Station - and at Osborne Park. Most are dual outlets that can charge two vehicles at the same time.
The Federal Government-funded network uses new Level-2 stations that reduce the average time to fully recharge a medium-sized electric passenger car from about 10 hours to three.
Professor Bräunl said UWA road tests have shown that a single recharge will enable a converted Ford Focus electric car to travel about 130km and a Mitsubishi Leaf about 110km.
A typical recharge uses about $2 worth of electricity but is currently available free with an electronic card reader issued by UWA. Parking at recharge stations is also free.
All outlets are connected to Western Power's electricity grid, although one outlet - at Energy Made Clean, in Colin Street, West Perth, - also draws renewable energy from a solar photovoltaic (PV) system. A further six outlets are planned.
"All EV charging stations are networked and transmit their data to a server at UWA, where user data and load profiles are being analysed,' Professor Bräunl said.
"This gives us a valuable insight into the requirements of EV charging infrastructure for the next two decades, when we expect millions of electric cars to have a significant impact on the electricity grid."
Professor Bräunl said the Level 2 recharge stations were built in the UK to comply with two competing world standards - IEC 62196 Type 1 ("J1772", US/Japan) and Type 2 ("Mennekes", Europe) and can charge any new electric vehicle.
The network is funded by an Australian Research Council linkage grant with partners UWA Engineering, UWA Business School, Murdoch University, the WA Department of Transport, CO2Smart and the Australian EV Association (AEVA); and external partners City of Fremantle, City of Swan, RAC, Main Roads WA, Water Corporation, West Australian Newspapers Ltd, Energy Made Clean, City of Mandurah, City of Perth, the WA Department of Environment and Conservation, LandCorp and Telstra and station sponsor Galaxy Resources.
More EV project information and a map of charging station locations are available here.
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet has officially opened the Tyree Energy Technologies Building, UNSW's new home for energy research.
Mr Combet, who has a degree in mining engineering from UNSW, said the research and learning that will happen inside the Tyree building will make a huge contribution to meeting the challenges of reducing emissions and improving energy efficiency.
“People are starting to think much more about how we can use energy far more efficiently and this building is not only an example of some of the contemporary thinking, but will also be a great place for collaborative efforts in this field for many years to come,” he told more than 100 leaders in the energy field who came to the opening ceremony.
Named after industrialist, engineer and philanthropist Sir William Tyree, the building will be the centre of cross-faculty research and studies of energy technologies including ground breaking photovoltaic panels, sustainable clean fuels, smart grids, energy storage as well as energy economics and policy analysis.
The building was awarded a 6 Green Star rating – making it one of the world leaders in environmentally sustainable building practices including a gas-fired tri-generation plant for power, heating and air conditioning, a roof-mounted solar panel array using UNSW photovoltaic cell technology and green steel using recycled materials.
Sir William said the building had gone way beyond what he had originally envisaged.
“It is the most outstanding building on all university campuses I have seen around Australia and it contains many innovations developed here at UNSW. It will go a long way to building up our standards in engineering in this country.
“But it is what goes on inside a building that is important. Here we have a showcase building as well as state of the art facilities. It’s an honour for me to be part of the innovation that will go on here.”
Vice-Chancellor Professor Fred Hilmer said the building was completed on time and on budget. “UNSW has by far the biggest and best engineering faculty in Australia. This is a big building for big research.”
Located at the Anzac Parade entrance to UNSW, the Tyree building is home to energy research across all faculties of UNSW. It houses the University’s Australian Energy Research Institute (AERI), School of Photovoltaics and Renewable Energy Engineering, Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets, School of Petroleum Engineering, the new Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living, ARC Photovoltaics Centre of Excellence and the ARC Centre for Functional Nanomaterials.
The $125 million building was financed through the Commonwealth government’s Education Investment Fund ($75 million); Sir William Tyree donated $1 million and pledged another $10 million; the rest was met by UNSW.
The University of New England has won a $6 million AusAID grant to set up a National Research Centre for Teacher Quality in the Philippines.
The nationally competitive grant will fund a project in which staff members from the UNE-based National Centre of Science, ICT and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia (SiMERR National Centre) will help the Philippines Normal University (PNU) to establish the new Centre on PNU’s Manila campus.
“This grant represents national and international recognition for the achievements of UNE’s SiMERR National Centre during the past decade,” said Professor Victor Minichiello, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Faculty of The Professions at UNE. “SiMERR has made a significant contribution to teacher education, and has enabled both teachers and students to gain the knowledge and skills required to meet essential workforce requirements for future generations.
Professor John Pegg, Director of the SiMERR National Centre, is leading the project. Professor Pegg said SiMERR’s many research achievements that contributed to the success of the grant application included the validation of national professional teaching standards – a project that will see teachers in every Australian State and Territory come under a common four-stage career framework from 2013.
He said that the three-year project (with an extension of a further two years depending on need and progress) would result in the establishment of a world-class research centre based on the SiMERR model. “At the end of the project, PNU will have an autonomous research organisation of international standing that has active research groups involved across the country,” he said.
“The Government of the Philippines is replacing its current Year 1 – Year 10 school education system with a K-12 system,” Professor Pegg explained. “This will require extensive in-service training for teachers and teacher educators, and the re-conceptualisation of university education – particularly in teacher training.”
“This is the SiMERR National Centre’s biggest and most complex project so far,” he said, “covering everything from curriculum development for teachers and teacher educators to the establishment and monitoring of national Philippine professional teaching standards.”
The project funding will provide for the regular movement of SiMERR and PNU staff members between the two institutions, and additional opportunities for postgraduate student research at UNE.
“This project will expand UNE’s international research agenda, and enhance its international reputation through high-level collaboration with another nation in addressing vital and challenging education issues,” Professor Pegg said.
Professor Minichiello said it would result in “the development of shared training and research expertise – in an area of great importance to both countries – in this, the ‘Asian Century’”.
The Federal Government has announced a National Plan for School Improvement, in response to the Gonski Review.
The plan aims to ensure that by 2025 Australia is ranked amongst the top five countries in the world for the performance of students in Reading, Science and Mathematics, and for providing our children with a high-quality and high-equity education system.
Under the plan, discussions will be held with the states and territories and non-government school sectors with the aim of improving schools by:
- Lifting teacher quality, including requiring more classroom experience before graduation and higher entry requirements for the teaching profession.
- More power for principals, including over budgets and staff selection.
- More information for parents through My School.
The National Plan for School Improvement will be phased in over several years, as recommended by the Gonski review.
Funding for each school will be based on the needs of every individual student they enrol through a new benchmark amount per student — a new Schooling Resource Standard — based on the costs of schools that are already getting good results.
Schools with students who face additional challenges would be entitled to extra funding based on six categories: children from low income families, Indigenous students, students with disability, children with limited English skills, the size of the school, and those who attend rural and remote schools.
This additional money would be a permanent feature of the new funding system provided to help pay for requirements such as teachers’ aides, specialist literacy and numeracy coaches, and special equipment. Schools would no longer need to rely on grants or short-term programs.
This extra money, called ‘loadings’, will be fully publicly funded so every student who needs more support will get it, no matter what type of school they attend.
Other features of the new school funding model include:
- All government schools would continue to be fully publicly funded.
- Special schools (like schools for students with disability) would also receive full public funding.
- Like the current system, the government funding provided to non-government schools would be adjusted based on parents’ capacity to contribute.
- Current annual indexation would be replaced by a new measure that reflects the real cost increases across all schools.
- Every school would see its funding rise every year.
The Prime Minister will begin meeting each of the Premiers and Chief Ministers to discuss school improvement and funding reform.
A special subcommittee of all Australian Education Ministers will be established to drive this reform, and the Government will also meet with representatives of independent and Catholic schools.
Precise funding details will be worked through in discussion with states and territories and any extra Commonwealth funding will be contingent upon the states signing up to these new arrangements.
As a first step, the Federal Government will introduce legislation into the Parliament by the end of 2012 that will enshrine the core principles of the National Plan for School Improvement and a new approach to funding. As discussions progress the legislation will be updated to include the specific settings of the funding model agreed.
The New South Wales Minister for Medical Research, Jillian Skinner, has announced the establishment of the Medical Devices Fund and called for applications to support the development and commercialisation of medical devices in NSW.
The NSW Government had committed $5 million annually for a new Medical Devices seeding fund to support the development of medical devices to further better treatment options and patient outcomes, but this has been boosted in its inaugural year, 2012-2013 to make $8 million available.
“This fund will foster the design and development of medical devices while also promoting their potential uses and benefits,” Ms Skinner said.
“Investment in quality medical research, including the development of medical devices and technology, supports innovative clinical outcomes as well as contemporary methods of care for patients.”
The Medical Devices Fund will support individuals, public and private hospitals, medical research institutes, universities, other public sector research organisations and the medical devices industry to take local innovations to a worldwide market.
Applications for the Medical Devices Fund will open next week and preliminary applications close on 10 October 2012.
Ms Skinner announced that the NSW Government has appointed an Expert Group to assess projects, chaired by Professor Mary O’Kane, NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer.
“Professor O’Kane, NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, will be the inaugural chair of the Medical Devices Fund Expert Group, which will oversee the evaluation of grant applications to the fund.
Professor O’Kane is a former member of the Australian Research Council, the CSIRO Board, and the Co-operative, Research Centres Committee, and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide.
Other members of the Expert Group are:
- Mr Neville Mitchell, CFO, Cochlear Limited
- Dr Bob Frater AO, Vice President, Innovation, ResMed Ltd
- Mr Michael Still, North Sydney LHD Board Member, Company Director
- Mr Adam Spencer, science guru and radio announcer
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has released its preliminary analysis of the National Health Survey 2007-08, Social distribution of health risks and health outcomes.
The paper explores the association between selected social and health risk factors on Australians' health. It shows that people with higher household incomes and higher education qualifications are more likely to report better health and less likely to report smoking, and people living outside major cities are more likely to report being an unhealthy weight.
Females were more likely to report excellent or very good health status than males, and also had a lower prevalence of cancer; heart, stroke and vascular diseases; Type 2 diabetes; smoking; risky alcohol consumption; and unhealthy body weight than males.
Age was the most significant predictor of health status. An age gradient was apparent for health status—as age increased the proportion of people reporting excellent or very good health decreased. The prevalence of cancer; heart, stroke and vascular diseases; and Type 2 diabetes also increased with age. The prevalence of unhealthy body weight increased with age to 55–64 years; the proportion of people aged 65 and over having an unhealthy body weight was lower than for people aged 55–64.
The paper is available here.
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has released the Housing Supply and Affordability Reform (HSAR) Report.
COAG agreed to the recommendations of the Final Housing Supply and Affordability Reform (HSAR) Report out-of-session in July 2012. The report was authored by the HSAR Working Party and presented by the Standing Council on Federal Financial Relations, with an aim to increase Australian housing supply and affordability.
Master Builders Australia has welcomed the report, saying it “confirms what is well known within the building and construction industry – that housing affordability is a serious and ongoing issue, and there is an urgent need for decisive action to improve the efficiency of the housing market”.
Wilhelm Harnisch, Chief Executive Officer of Master Builders Australia, said the report makes many sensible recommendations for action, many of which Master Builders identified several years ago.
“Master Builders welcomes recommendations to improve the efficiency to the development and the rezoning processes and to increase transparency around infrastructure charges for both developers and home buyers.
“A more rigorous approach to the cost/benefit analyses of local government’s regulatory proposals is a welcome initiative.
“The challenge now before the Federal Housing Minister, Brendan O’Connor MP and his COAG colleagues, is to use HSAR to form an action agenda which will deliver tangible outcomes.
“The Communique from the State and Territory Housing Minister’s meeting of the Select Council on Housing and Homelessness, held in Perth tomorrow, is a good place to demonstrate a commitment to meaningful action.
“Housing Ministers must convert the ‘should do’s’ from the HSAR into ‘will do’s’ if they are genuinely committed to improving the efficiency of the housing market and lower housing unaffordability pressures,” Mr Harnisch concluded.
The Housing Supply and Affordability Reform (HSAR) Report is available here.
Approvals for private sector housing continue their struggle to gain momentum as Building Approvals figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed only a marginal increase.
The number of private houses approved increased by 1.6 per cent, seasonally adjusted, while a massive drop of 40.5 per cent was recorded in residential apartments.
Dwelling approvals decreased in July in Victoria (-29.4%), Queensland (-19.7%), New South Wales (-9.4%), Western Australia (-4.8%), Tasmania (-4.5%) and South Australia (-1.4%) in seasonally adjusted terms.
Chief Executive Officer of Master Builders Australia, Wilhelm Harnisch, said the figures were disappointing given recent Reserve Bank rate cuts.
“The private housing increase of 1.6 per cent is far too low in what should be a more advanced recovery after interest rate cuts in May and June 2012, as well as November and December 2011.
“Builders continue to report that new home buyer confidence remains poor and is a key factor holding up a recovery for the housing industry.
“The massive drop in approvals for apartments is also concerning, but reflects the volatile nature of this segment of the market.
“Overall, the July building approvals figures point to the need for a concerted effort by Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to act and stimulate the sector. The industry in NSW is anxiously awaiting new home buyer’s incentives in that state to take effect in October, to boost growth.
“The valuable contribution of the housing sector, underpinning economic growth and jobs is at risk if there is not a significant improvement,” Mr Harnisch said.
Further information is available in Building Approvals, Australia (cat no. 8731.0) on the ABS website at www.abs.gov.au
New Zealand state-owned electricity generator, Meridian Energy, has announced its third wind farm in Australia, the 131 megawatt project to be constructed at Mt Mercer, 30 kilometres south of Ballarat in Victoria.
The 64-turbine wind farm will cost about $A260 million, and construction is expected to begin in December.
Meridian also owns and operates the Mt Millar wind farm in South Australia and a joint project with AGL Energy to build the 420MW Macarthur wind farm in western Victoria, which is expected to be the largest in the southern hemisphere.
Chief Financial Officer Paul Chambers said in a statement that wind was “well positioned in Australia as the most viable renewable generation technology.”
"Australia's renewable energy targets requiring approximately one fifth of electricity generation be produced from renewable sources by 2020 means that generation with a total capacity of more than 80 per cent of New Zealand's entire generation base must be built in Australia by 2020," he said.
Meridian has contracted with Repower to provide the turbine technology, Downer EDI for construction and Powercor for the transmission lines at Mt Mercer. The company is also trialling its Powershop retail business in Australia, which it says may be "a natural adjunct" to its renewable energy assets in New Zealand.
The Federal Department of Finance and Deregulation is undertaking a review of the ICT Management Consultants Multi Use List (MCL) and the ICT Multi Use List (MUL) to understand further the effectiveness and patronage of these two ICT-based multi use lists.
As part of the review, suppliers and agencies are being surveyed and invited to comment to provide input to future decisions for the multi use lists for ICT goods and services.
The review process is expected to be completed by 5 October 2012, and applications for inclusion on the MULs have been suspended until then. All information and documentation, with the exception of the application forms, will be available for use by agencies and suppliers on the respective MUL websites.
The Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) established the ICT Management Consultants multi use list in October 2007, and the Department of Finance and Deregulation has elected to extend this Multi Use List until 31 October 2012, with the option to extend annually.
More information is here.
Cloud service provider, Rackspace Hosting has announced it will open its new data centre in Sydney, creating an expected 50 jobs in Western Sydney over the next three years.
Speaking at the company's media event, NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Stoner, said the data centre at Erskine Park met the guidelines of the NSW Office of State Revenue’s Jobs Action Plan, and the 50 data centre employees were therefore eligible for the Payroll Tax Rebate Scheme. He said that Rackspace had received no direct financial support from the NSW Government to establish it in Sydney.
“This datacentre confirms NSW and Sydney as the home of the expanding digital economy,” he said.
Mr Stoner said that the NSW government had not signed on as a customer with Rackspace but was “certainly ... able to do that” when their IT systems had been updated to a Cloud model.
Rackspace Hosting has eight other data centres around the world.
Research released by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) confirms that Australian Government agencies are moving closer to an open access and proactive disclosure culture.
Reforms to the federal Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) in November 2010 were designed to progress open government in Australia. These reforms included an Information Publication Scheme that came into effect on 1 May 2011. Under the scheme, Australian Government agencies are required to publish a range of documents on their websites, and are encouraged to publish additional information over and above that required by the FOI Act.
In early May 2012, the OAIC conducted a survey of Australian Government agencies to assess how they are complying with the new publishing requirements of the FOI Act. Seventy eight per cent of Australian Government agencies completed the survey.
'Proactive publication is a core element of transparent, accountable and accessible government,' Australian Information Commissioner Professor John McMillan said. 'I am pleased that 85 per cent of agencies publish the required categories of information on their websites, including information about their structure, functions, appointments and consultation arrangements. Ninety four per cent are publishing operational information that shows how decisions that affect members of the public are made.'
Professor McMillan said the new proactive publishing requirements require action on many fronts. For example, agencies must publish a plan, decide what information they will publish and ensure that it is accessible and useable by the community. Agencies must also consult the community about its needs and expectations and regularly review the agency's performance.
While pleased with the survey results, Professor McMillan said that many challenges have been identified that agencies must overcome to meet the requirements of the new FOI regime.
'Our survey also sought to measure agencies' implementation of the Principles on open public sector information. These Principles, issued by the OAIC last year, set out the central values of open public sector information — information should be accessible without charge, based on open standards, easily discoverable, understandable, machine-readable and freely reusable and transformable.'
When asked to identify which of the Principles were most challenging to implement 30 per cent of agencies identified making public sector information discoverable and useable, 28 per cent identified providing open access to information. Seventeen per cent identified robust information asset management as being the most difficult principle to implement.
Reasons for these difficulties included outdated agency record keeping systems, differing information management practices operating in the same agency and a lack of resources to reformat old documents for digital publication.
'Going forward, agencies will need help in making information more discoverable, including by applying metadata. Ensuring that online information is accessible to the community, in particular to people with disabilities, is another area where some agencies are struggling,' Professor McMillan added. 'For this reason the OAIC will continue to work with information management stakeholders to share best practice experiences and offer as much support as possible.'
The survey results are available on the OAIC website: www.oaic.gov.au/publications/reports/IPS_survey_report.html
A summary of the survey findings about agencies' implementation of the Principles on open public sector information is available on the OAIC website: www.oaic.gov.au/publications/reports/open_psi_government_transition.html