Legislation that requires electricity retailers in the ACT to provide energy efficiency services to households who want to reduce their carbon emissions and reduce their electricity bills has been passed in the ACT Legislative Assembly, with the support of the ACT Greens.
The ACT Government maintains that the scheme, established by the Energy Efficiency (Cost of Living) Bill 2012, will save more than 70,000 Canberra households up to $300 each on their annual electricity bills by 2015.
Under the scheme, electricity retailers will be required to offer energy efficiency upgrades such as insulation, draft-sealing and energy-saving appliances, while power companies will have to subsidise or pay for energy efficiency upgrades to homes.
The new scheme, which is similar to those in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, has been designed to enable transition to a national scheme which will be the subject of COAG negotiations in 2013. The ACT scheme will commence on 1 January 2013 and will cover ACT households and business.
The scheme has been criticised by the ACT Liberals who say it will drive up energy costs with little benefit to consumers,
The Queensland Government has called for community input on the role and membership of the new GasFields Commission.
Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney said the Government was establishing the GasFields Commission to better manage the coexistence between landholders, regional communities and the coal seam gas industry in Queensland.
“Industry and community groups and members of the public have a real opportunity to provide input into who should be represented on the Commission and what powers it should consider,” Mr Seeney said.
Mr Seeney appointed Mr John Cotter as Chairman last month and submissions from the public can be made directly to the Chairman.
He said the Commission would be based in Toowoomba with a statewide focus.
“The Commission will be formed as a statutory body under legislation to make sure we get the right balance in place between landholders, local governments and the industry itself,” Mr Seeney said.
“It will give local communities a more direct voice into government and ensure programs and services match the priorities in those areas affected by CSG operations.
“A number of skills-based commissioners will be appointed to advise and assist the Commission in carrying out its work with government, industry and communities affected.
“The Commission will be in close contact with the community and key organisations over the coming weeks and months to ensure concerns and issues about the industry’s expansion are properly addressed from the ground up.”
Feedback and suggestions about the role and functions of the commission must be made in writing directly to the Chairman and ideally limited to two to three pages with the author’s name and contact details clearly marked.
The Chairman of the GasFields Commission is also taking expressions of interest from people who wish to nominate to become a commissioner.
Commissioners need to be available at least one day each month, with potential for out-of-session work commitments.
Skills sought from interested persons include, but are not limited to, the following areas:
• land management and landholder negotiations
• land valuation
• CSG industry operations
• community development
• legal experience with CSG issues
• financial and business sector experience.
To register interest in becoming a commissioner, submit a resume (marked confidential) either by email or post. Submissions close Friday 25 May 2012.
For more information visit www.csg-lng.industry.qld.gov.au
The Victorian Minister for Mental Health Mary Wooldridge has released a consultation paper to drive the reform of Victoria's community-based mental health services.
Ms Wooldridge said that consultation on the Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Support Services Reform Framework was the first stage of the reform program.
"The Victorian Coalition Government currently invests more than $100 million each year in community-based mental health care, assisting more than 12,500 people," Ms Wooldridge said.
"Victoria has a diverse and vibrant community-managed mental health sector, which we see as an increasingly vital part of the mental health system. However, the way this sector is configured, funded and integrated into a broader service system needs significant reform.
"We want to better support people with a severe mental illness to manage their own mental health and make choices about their support, in partnership with services.
"The needs of people with a severe mental illness and their families have been central to the development of this reform framework."
Ms Wooldridge said the government planned to build a stronger system in which long-term recovery and support for overall health and wellbeing and social and economic participation were seen as key objectives alongside clinical treatment.
"We also want state-funded rehabilitation and support services to operate as a more integral and connected part of Victoria's broader health and human services system," Ms Wooldridge said.
The key goals of the reforms are to:
- improve equity of access and ensure services are easy to navigate across the state
- provide high quality services that are person-centred and focus on improving social participation, physical health and employment and education outcomes
- strengthen the capacity of services to respond to the needs of people with a mental illness and their families, and
- better co-ordinate care by improving planning and collaboration between and across community-managed mental health, specialist clinical mental health and local health and social support services.
Ms Wooldridge said the Government would work closely with the sector on the reform. "Earlier this year, the sector's peak body VICSERV called for reform and the Coalition Government looks forward to working in partnership with them to drive and implement these much-needed changes," she said.
The paper is available at www.health.vic.gov.au/mentalhealth/reformstrategy/index.htm
Global miner Rio Tinto and The University of Western Australia have signed a multi-million dollar partnership that will focus on creating a sustainable supply of graduates and expertise for the mining industry.
Rio Tinto will invest $3 million with UWA as part of a long-term objective to foster skills for the future and build education capability.
Under the new arrangement, UWA has become Rio Tinto’s first partner in its Global Education Partnerships Programme. The Programme will establish a worldwide network of leading universities to generate and foster an appropriate expertise base for the resources industries.
The UWA partnership will be built around a series of education-related initiatives including a strong scholarship framework that will provide support and access to mining related education for more than 40 students. Supporting Rio Tinto and UWA's focus on building a supply of diverse talent, the scholarship framework also aims to encourage more female, international and Indigenous students into these study areas.
Vice-Chancellor of The University of Western Australia, Professor Paul Johnson, said the partnership will provide a diverse group of scholars with access to real-life work environments and work experience, and increase the University's attractiveness to potential students.
"Increasing the number of scholarships will take UWA closer to being counted among the top 50 universities in the world by 2050."
In 2012 Rio Tinto introduced more than 300 graduates into its business, joining the 4,000-plus graduate and post-graduate staff already employed in the increasingly high-tech operations.
The Centre for Advanced Imaging (CAI) at The University of Queensland (UQ) has formed a strategic alliance with Axiom Molecular Pty Ltd to boost radiopharmaceutical research, development and commercialisation.
Axiom Molecular will use CAI facilities to produce Positron Emission Tomography (PET) radiopharmaceuticals for the diagnosis of cancer and brain disorders under the agreement facilitated by UniQuest, UQ's main commercialisation company.
Director of the CAI Professor David Reutens said Axiom Molecular will establish a specialised Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) laboratory in the CAI.
"It will be a valuable addition to the capabilities in the state-of-the-art CAI building that is currently under construction. “
Professor Reutens said UQ is the lead institution of the National Imaging Facility, and the agreement will provide researchers around the country with access to a radiopharmaceutical GMP capability to test new radiopharmaceuticals.
“This new collaboration adds considerable value to the CAI, which has received funding not only from UQ but also from the Federal and Queensland Governments.
"Strong industry collaborations mean that world-class CAI research has a better chance of being commercialised, contributing to personalised medicine around the world.”
Axiom Molecular's Managing Director Mathew Farag said the strategic alliance with the CAI, valued at million, was a key ingredient of Axiom Molecular's larger strategy to supply radiopharmaceuticals to public and private hospitals throughout Australia and the Asia Pacific region.
“We quickly recognised the strengths in the capabilities and people within the CAI, and through business discussions with UniQuest, we came to see how we could realise additional value in our relationship with UQ,” Mr Farag said.
“The outcome is this innovative alliance with UniQuest, including our corporate venture investment in MoleQular, which has the potential to deliver a number of new technologies and products to the global radiopharmaceutical market.”
Axiom Molecular has also made an equity investment in MoleQular Pty Ltd, a start-up company formed with UniQuest, to research, develop and commercialise novel radiopharmaceuticals for the diagnosis of cancer and brain disorders.
UniQuest will license a radiopharmaceutical technology, which was discovered by CAI researchers, to MoleQular Pty Ltd.
Axiom Molecular will also fund a number of scholarships for UQ Research Higher Degree students.
UniQuest Managing Director David Henderson said the agreement was the first of its kind for both UQ and Axiom Molecular, a subsidiary of one of Asia-Pacific's largest healthcare enterprises.
“Radiopharmaceuticals are becoming increasingly important for early detection of diseases like cancer and for developing new treatments," Mr Henderson said.
"The formation of MoleQular and the strategic alliance with Axiom Molecular reflects the commitment of UQ and the CAI to work closely with private industry to make world-class university research and infrastructure available for the benefit of society.”
The University of Wollongong’s newly appointed Australian Laureate Fellow Professor Gordon Wallace has launched a new $4.7 million medical bionics research program to develop ways to regenerate damaged nerves and muscles and ground-breaking brain implants for epilepsy patients.
Professor Wallace leads the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science at UOW’s Innovation Campus.
His team is already recognised as a world leader in the field of materials and bionics, by creating specialised three-dimensional structures made from ‘smart’ materials which are accepted by the human body and can enable regrowth of damaged nerves and muscles.
Professor Wallace’s team is working with senior clinicians at Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital on the medical bionics project.
“In the last couple of decades a whole new area has been developed in organic materials that conduct electricity,” Professor Wallace said.
He said the pioneering research that developed cochlear ear implants to help people overcome hearing loss had sparked interest among clinicians, who had started looking for new applications for the electrodes.
He said the new research program will focus on building better organic materials to conduct electricity through the body, to “improve lines of communication” between electronics and biology to stimulate nerve, muscle and bone regeneration.
“Cochlear implants stimulated the imagination of researchers, and now the challenge is to make 3-D structures that can be a muscle regeneration platform to facilitate and stimulate re-growth,” he said. “We will also be developing the machinery to put these three-dimensional structures together.”
The epilepsy project with Professor Cook at St Vincent’s aims to develop nanostructured materials that can be implanted in the brains of epilepsy sufferers to monitor electrical signals. The device would pre-empt an epileptic seizure and then release medication to reduce or eliminate the effects of the seizure.
Professor Wallace said the research program was a multi-disciplinary, high collaboration effort. His team of researchers and PhD students will be working with other faculties at UOW and researchers at the University of Tasmania and Deakin and Monash Universities in Victoria, as well as the clinicians at St Vincent’s and researchers overseas.
“This is a rare alignment of the planets, where we have the funding (from the Laureate Fellowship) a cracking research team and cracking people involved (from partner organisations),” Professor Wallace said.
Professor Cook said St Vincent’s Melbourne greatly valued its strong relationship with Professor Wallace and his team. He paid tribute to the team’s ability to produce the 3-D bionic materials needed for their clinical research at short notice.
“The quick turnaround in getting these materials makes all the difference,” Professor Cook said. “We have a dynamic relationship with Gordon’s team. There is a lot of interaction during production, and we are up and down (between Melbourne and Wollongong) regularly. My team really enjoys coming to UOW.”
Professor Cook and St Vincent’s head of Surgery Professor Peter Choong, along with UOW’s Pro Vice-Chancellor (Health) Professor Don Iverson form a high-level advisory group for the research.
Professor Iverson said medical bionics was one of three key themes in modern medical research.
“This work would have been considered almost science fiction 10 years ago, but when we look at it 10 years from now we will be astounded by what has been achieved. Over the next 10 years this centre will produce research that will resonate around the world,” Professor Iverson predicted.
The University of Wollongong (UOW) and India’s industrial research and development organisation, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) will work together to advance research collaborations and establish a dedicated CSIR Research and Development Centre at UOW’s Innovation Campus.
CSIR is India’s largest research and development organisation with nearly 40 laboratories and 50 field stations and a collective staff of more than 17,000.
The arrangement between UOW Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings, and Director - CSIR National Physical Laboratory Professor Ramesh C Budhani on behalf of CSIR, was entered into as part of a two-day visit to Wollongong by a delegation from India led by the Director-General of CSIR, Professor Samir K Brahmachari. It also included Director CSIR - National Metallurgical Laboratory, Dr S Srikanth and Director CSIR – Central Electrochemical Research Institute, Dr Vijayamohanan Pillai.
Over the coming months the University and CSIR will develop research and development collaborations in areas including advanced steel metallurgy, lithium-ion batteries, super capacitors and polymer-based nano-composites.
Both organisations will also negotiate arrangements for the establishment of a CSIR Research and Development Centre on the Innovation Campus to work closely with the University’s research groups housed in the Australian Institute for Innovative Materials and to develop an academic exchange program for staff and students.
The attraction of India’s premier research organisation to the University’s Innovation Campus is welcomed and enhances its reputation as a global centre for world-class research collaborations.
Professor Wellings said that the relationship between the University and CSIR will make a substantial contribution to the future success of both organisations.
“This is a very exciting partnership that will allow the University and CSIR to advance our areas of mutual research interest through collaborations and through CSIR’s presence on the Innovation Campus.
“It adds to the University’s growing relationships with India, providing a strong research relationship with India’s premier research organisation to build on our relationships with Indian businesses, students and researchers,” Professor Wellings said.
Professor Brahmachari said that CSIR scientists from various laboratories already have ongoing collaborative research projects with other Australian research institutions. The partnership with the University of Wollongong, with a focus on innovation, would contribute to CSIR’s long standing vision to provide affordable health, low cost energy solutions and sustainable development for millions of people in India and in the world who need affordable science and technology solutions.
“When the delegation from the University, led by UOW Ambassador and former Australian cricket captain Mr Adam Gilchrist, visited CSIR in December last year we highly appreciated the academic strength of the University and the state-of-the-art facilities that were available on the Innovation Campus,” Professor Brahmachari said.
“We strive for global scientific impact and an important part of that is the development of a CSIR presence in the Asia-Pacific region. The Innovation Campus, the strength of the research staff and the University’s multi-disciplinary approach to research provide an excellent base to strengthen our long-term scientific objectives ,” Professor Brahmachari said.
Mr Gilchrist, who helped initiate discussions between the two organisations, said that the agreement would mark the start of a great transnational research partnership.
“This partnership will bring world-leading scientists from both organisations together in the exciting area of future materials – with a partnership of this strength the future is limitless,” Mr Gilchrist said.
International travellers, shift workers and even people suffering from obesity-related conditions stand to benefit from a key discovery about the functioning of the body's internal clock.
Professor Chris Liddle from the Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research, the University of Sydney, worked with a team from the Salk Institute based in California, to demonstrate the importance of circadian receptors found in the brain and the liver. Their findings have been published in Nature.
"The research is important as these are the first core component of the circadian clock identified that can be targeted with drugs, which could provide relief for those affected by disrupted circadian rhythms," said Professor Liddle.
The circadian clock is an internal daily body clock that controls alertness, appetite, sleep timing and hormone secretions.
"Previously we have known that there are body 'clocks' not only in the brain but in most other body tissues including the liver, part of the focus of this study. While the brain clock is mainly cued by light, these other clocks are cued by factors such as exercise and diet as well as receiving nerve and hormone signals from the central clock in the brain."
People with circadian disturbances tend to have a higher incidence of health concerns such as obesity, diabetes and related metabolic disorders. It is much more than simply a problem of disturbed sleep.
"People tend to think that the clock is just something that happens in the brain but it's a whole-body issue. Literally you do not feel like exercising and your metabolism slows when you are in a certain part of the cycle. This contributes to obesity-related problems.
"When you fly overseas, not only do you wake up in the middle of the night, you probably notice you want to eat in the middle of the night, and that during the day you have reduced energy. The liver is a key player in the regulation of energy and we now understand quite a bit more how liver genes 'clock in' to the circadian cycle."
Professor Liddle, a liver expert who has worked on liver genes for more than a decade with the Salk Institute, said the team had been able to show that these receptors in the liver were important in controlling the metabolism of fats and other genes related to diet, nutrition, digestion and energy expenditure.
"This is a very exciting discovery. We have now shown that these receptors in the body's tissues do not have a peripheral role but are core components for setting our body clock that we can potentially use drugs on.
"The promise of this research for the future is that we can specifically target drug treatments at these receptors. The hope is that not only problems like jet lag and disturbed sleep can be more easily managed but other associated health concerns can be addressed more effectively," Professor Liddle said.
The fabrication of implantable electronics has begun at the University of New South Wales ahead of planned patient tests of a functional bionic eye next year.
A new $2.5 million facility opened recently by NSW Chief Scientist Professor Mary O’Kane is giving bionic vision researchers the capability to produce medical implants to the highest quality and safety standards.
Professor Gregg Suaning from the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering at UNSW said the primary aim is to complete the first prototypes of the bionic eye so they can be tested in human recipients in 2013.
Professor Suaning leads development of Bionic Vision Australia’s wide-view device, the first of two prototypes aimed at restoring vision in people with degenerative retinal conditions.
The key feature of the device is an implant with 98 electrodes, made of biocompatible materials, which will stimulate surviving nerve cells in the retina – a layer of tissue at the back of the eye that converts light into electrical impulses necessary for sight.
With the bionic eye, images captured by a camera are processed by an external unit, such as a smart phone then relayed to the implant’s chip. This stimulates the retina, sending electrical signals along the optic nerve into the brain where they are decoded as vision.
The device will enable people as a minimum to better differentiate between light and dark, and to navigate around their surroundings more independently.
Professor Suaning said that the new facility will give researchers at UNSW an important leg-up in the international race to develop a functional bionic eye .
“The new laboratory gives us the capacity to not only design and test, but to also fabricate novel and intricate bionic implants,” says Suaning. “It will yield enormous potential and promise for future biomedical research and clinical outcomes.”
The upgraded facility will include a clean room and an array of state-of-the-art equipment for building complex microscopic components and testing the performance of microelectronics, says Professor Nigel Lovell, joint leader of UNSW’s bionic vision research effort.
“The facility also allows the integration of implantable bionics with wearable sensors for telehealth monitoring,” says Lovell, “underpinning our future research in personal health systems for managing a wide range of chronic diseases.”
Australian researchers are calling for the open sharing of clinical trial data in the medical research community, saying it would be instrumental in eliminating bottlenecks and duplication, and lead to faster and more trustworthy evidence for many of our most pressing health problems.
Moreover, hackers should be role models for freeing up access to the “source code” of clinical trials – patient-level data – the researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) argue in a commentary published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Hackers revolutionised the software industry by countering the economic and cultural motivations that drove closed source software and disengagement from user needs.
“Similar roadblocks plague the clinical evidence domain where, despite a rapid increase in the volume of published research, physicians still make decisions without access to the synthesised evidence they need,” said paper co-author, UNSW Australian Institute of Health Innovation Research Fellow, Dr Adam Dunn.
The call follows a wider push for free, open access to academic publications and intellectual property rights designed to turn more university research into real-world applications.
Open source communities often out-perform their closed source counterparts, most notably in the software community where millions of programmers contribute code that can be used for free, by anyone.
“If the same principles were applied to medical research, bottlenecks, biases and self-interest would be largely removed,” said Professor Enrico Coiera, a co-author on the paper along with UNSW Professor Ric Day, and Professor Kenneth Mandl from Harvard Medical School.
“Clinical trial data is a potential goldmine. If researchers, doctors and patients were able to re-analyse and pool this data, there would be a host of questions that could start to be answered. But these meta-analyses are very uncommon because researchers and companies don’t like to share data,” Professor Coiera said.
“One solution, which has no support, is for data to be pirated. No one would win in that scenario. But everyone could be a winner if clinical research data went open source.”
While there are technical challenges around building an open source community for clinical trials, including important considerations around privacy and data quality, “these could be easily overcome”, Dr Dunn said.
Less easy to overcome are the social and financial barriers. “Most researchers want to hold their data as long as they can as the basis for publications,” Dr Dunn said. “And unfortunately, pharmaceutical companies want to control the messages that are delivered to doctors and maximise profits rather than facilitate the cost-effective delivery of care.”
The research was supported by Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council and the US-based National Library of Medicine.
Scientists attending a national scientific workshop in Canberra have highlighted the potential of storing large volumes of Australia’s fresh water underground as a way of offsetting climate change, avoiding evaporation losses and meeting national water needs into the future.
Researchers at the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT) say that managed aquifer recharge – the injection or infiltration of excess surface water into underground aquifers – could help secure the nation’s water supplies.
Professor Tony Jakeman of NCGRT and the Australian National University said that a workshop of leading groundwater experts convened recently by NCGRT identified twelve different sources of water in regional Australia that could be successfully ‘parked’ underground for use in time of need.
These include supplementary irrigation water, surplus runoff into dams, and water brought to the surface by coal seam gas extraction and other mining activities.
Professor Jakeman said there are many benefits from storing water underground. “These include recharging depleted aquifers, enlarging storages without building more dams, reducing evaporative losses, reconnecting surface and groundwaters, watering the Australian landscape from underground, and creating strategic reserves in critical food growing or urban areas.”
“Australia already stores the equivalent of 1800 Olympic-size swimming pools of water underground in the Burdekin region of Queensland every year – and bringing it up again for use in agriculture and horticulture,” explains doctoral researcher Andrew Ross. “But in Orange County California they store around 300 gigalitres (GL) a year – enough for the household use of 2.3 million people.”
The combined proven storage capacity of aquifers below Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne is 200GL – capable of meeting the needs of 2.5 million residents - and potentially as much as 430GL.
At present Australia loses around 4200 gigalitres a year in evaporation from surface storages across the Murray-Darling Basin, he adds – sufficient water to supply Sydney and Melbourne for four and a half years.
“On the face of it managed aquifer recharge looks tremendously promising, but we need a more detailed understanding of our aquifers, likely environmental impacts and, of course, we need effective rules and rights for injecting and recovering water on a large scale,” Professor Jakeman said.
The workshop identified four potential projects in regional Australia where the concept of underground storage could be tested more thoroughly – on the Condamine in Queensland, the Namoi in NSW and two rivers in northern Victoria.
In sandy areas, water injection can be simple and low cost – as easy as an artificial sump or soak that allows surplus floodwater to linger and percolate into the underlying aquifer. On clay soils or rock it may require the use of a solar pump or windmill to inject the water down a well. It may also be important to filter or cleanse water before injection.
According to the researchers, water injection is more affordable than desalinating sea water. They claim that the scale of large floods suggests that some of this water can be used to recharge aquifers without affecting the important ecological role of floods in our river systems. Such events may be more frequent under climate change and it makes national sense to turn a problem into an opportunity.
“The recent ten year drought is equally a reminder how critically scarce Australia’s water can become in dry times and of the importance of investigating every opportunity to better manage the resources we have by ‘parking’ surplus water in wet years where it can be easily retrieved,” Professor Jakeman said.
Another important reason for storing more water below ground is to protect the Australian native landscape, helping to keep Australian rivers and wetlands filled and ensuring water is always accessible to the deep-rooted eucalypts and acacias that are key to our native landscapes.
One of the largest untapped sources of water in Australia is the northern wet, covering the top one third of the continent. The wish to preserve wild rivers combined with high evaporation rates make major dam building in the north unlikely – but scope may exist to store some of the runoff underground.
“Underground storage is likely to be socially more acceptable than building new dams in Australia – but it must nevertheless be carried out with care, and with a detailed understanding of the impact on other water bodies, both surface and subsurface, on natural ecosystems and communities,” Professor Jakeman said.
Social research by Professor Allan Curtis’ NCGRT team at Charles Sturt University and others indicates that, so far, Australians are generally positive about the idea of aquifer recharge.
The scientists add that if Australia manages to solve its own water scarcity problems by understanding aquifer recharge, it will position itself as a world leader and major exporter of solutions in a world facing a growing water crisis.
The National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training is an Australian Government initiative, supported by the Australian Research Council and the National Water Commission.
More information is at http://www.groundwater.com.au/
The Productivity Commission has released a research report on the schools sector workforce which proposes a package of reforms that it maintains would give priority to improving teacher quality and reducing teacher shortages, including to ameliorate educational disadvantage.
The report covered:
- factors affecting the supply of, and demand for, school workers
- whether the knowledge and skills base of the workforce, and its deployment within and across schools and regions, are appropriate to meet the community's needs
- whether policy, governance and regulatory arrangements (in place or in prospect) are conducive to maximising the efficiency and effectiveness of the schools workforce and, if not, what changes may be required.
Recommendations include, in summary, that:
- The Australian Government should not provide university fee repayment discounts for students who enrol in pre-service teacher education courses after 2012.
- accreditation standards for initial teacher education programs should be revised so that the discipline-specific knowledge required to enter a postgraduate teaching course can be interpreted more flexibly.
- measures should be trialled that enable principals to use explicit remuneration-based incentives for attracting suitably qualified teachers into hard-to-staff positions.
- guidance should be published on the evidence that training providers are expected to use to demonstrate that their graduates meet the Graduate Teacher Standards.
- accreditation standards for initial teacher education programs should be revised so that two-year graduate teacher training courses remain an option rather than a mandatory requirement.
- Schools should be required to develop and maintain an effective performance appraisal system for teachers.
- government school principals should have the authority to take disciplinary action — including dismissal — when a teacher’s performance fails to rise to the relevant standard after being given reasonable time and support to do so.
- The Australian Government’s proposed Reward Payments for Great Teachers initiative should be reformulated so that: reward payments are provided only to high-performing teachers; it does not entrench an expectation that higher certification automatically entitles teachers to higher pay; it allows schools to tailor their regular teacher performance appraisals and professional development to local circumstances.
The report is the final in a series on the education and training workforces, following two previous reports which examined the workforces for vocational education and training, and early childhood development.
The report is available at www.pc.gov.au
Optus announced the signing of a binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) and Vodafone Network. Optus customers will receive wider coverage through access to nearly 1,000 additional mobile sites strengthening Optus’ 3G and 4G services across Australia.
The expanded agreement will provide an approximately 20% increase in the overall number of mobile sites on the Optus mobile network by 2015.
The expanded arrangements will provide five key benefits for Optus:
- Enhanced coverage: The expanded site sharing arrangements will allow Optus to expand 3G and 4G coverage through additional mobile sites in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Geelong, Central Coast, Gold Coast and Canberra - improving the network experience for customers in these areas.
- Accelerated delivery of services: The expanded joint venture agreement will accelerate the delivery of improved 3G and new 4G services to customers by 12-18 months by using existing mobile sites.
- Improved cost efficiencies: The expanded site sharing agreement enables Optus and VHA to share costs for new and existing mobile sites while significantly expanding overall network coverage.
- Exclusive roaming partner: For a period of 5 years from April 2013, Optus will be the exclusive roaming partner for VHA customers in selected regional areas – a strong endorsement of Optus’ mobile network and its significant regional expansion over the past three years.
- Community benefit: Optus and VHA will be able to co-locate the majority of their new infrastructure on existing sites minimising the impact of a large infrastructure rollout on local communities.
The expanded joint venture network arrangement is subject to approval by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Australia’s tourism ministers have pushed ahead with efforts to streamline regulation in order to stimulate investment and future growth in tourism.
Commonwealth, state and territory tourism ministers met in Melbourne to discuss Australia’s Tourism 2020 strategy, which aims to enhance industry growth and competitiveness and increase overnight visitor spending to $140 billion by 2020.
Ministers also agreed to commit $1.2 million to help fill labour and skills shortages in eight key tourism regions through Tourism Employment Plans which will develop strategies for tourism businesses to address skills and labour shortages.
Arts Minister Simon Crean announced the appointment of Mr Tim Fairfax AM as Interim Chair of the Council and the reappointment of Dr Ron Radford AM as Director of the National Gallery of Australia for a further two years.
Mr Crean paid tribute to outgoing Council Chair Mr Rupert Myer AM's nine years of service at the helm of the Gallery.
"Mr Myer has many legacies, including the redevelopment of the Gallery and its 11 new Indigenous galleries, made possible through his genuine love of the arts, the links he built between the Gallery and the business community, and his own philanthropy," Mr Crean said.
Mr Fairfax is Chairman of the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, Salvation Army Brisbane Advisory Board, a member of the Philanthropy Australia Council and patron of a wide range of other organisations.
Dr Radford will continue to lead the National Gallery of Australia for a third term until 30 September 2014.
Mr Crean said that in his first two terms, Dr Radford has overseen the recent extension of the Gallery, an expansion of the collection, an increase in visitor numbers as well as the extraordinarily successful Masterpieces from Paris exhibition.
Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Innovation, Mark Dreyfus, announced the 2012 Australian Clean Technologies Competition open for nominations.
"This year's Australian Clean Technologies Competition is a unique opportunity for Australian clean technology firms to develop their capabilities and gain market exposure for their innovations."
Through the Competition, entrants will link with business mentors, access training opportunities and showcase their capabilities to potential customers, investors and the media.
Competition finalists are given access to the Cleantech Business Accelerator Program through which they are provided with mentoring on commercialisation pathways, business modelling, funding solutions and successful techniques for pitch delivery.
2011 Competition winner, SMAC Technologies, with its innovative air-conditioning technology that reduces energy consumption, represented Australia at the International Global Ideas Competition in the USA.
For further information on how you can participate in the Australian Clean Technologies Competition visit www.cleantechopen.com.au
The Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) has appointed Dr John Skerritt as the new National Manager of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) which is responsible for regulating therapeutic goods including medicines, medical devices, blood and blood products.
In making the announcement today, the Secretary of the DoHA, Professor Jane Halton, said Dr John Skerritt, who has a PhD in Pharmacology and is an adjunct Professor at the University of Queensland, is currently the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Primary Industries in the Victorian Government and will come to the TGA with extensive experience in medical, agricultural and environmental policy, regulation, research, research management, technology application and commercialisation.
Dr Skerritt is the former Deputy CEO of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (a commonwealth statutory authority) and a two term Ministerial appointee on the Gene Technology Technical Advisory Committee (Office of Gene Technology Regulator). He has experience on Boards of international and national organisations and more than 25 years experience in negotiating, leading major technical and commercial collaborations with OECD and Asia-Pacific countries.
Australians are now able to have their say on the nation’s first Report Card on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, through a new online survey available at http://www.mentalhealthcommission.gov.au/report_card
The release of the online survey follows a series of four Roundtable discussions, with over 140 prominent Australians from across the mental health and related sectors, which were held in Sydney.
Financial advisers will be granted an extension to their exemption from the taxation agent services regime until 30 June 2013, said Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury.
This decision will extend for one year the current exemption, which expires on 30 June 2012 and will allow for a smooth transition to the new regulatory regime, which will bring taxation advice provided in the context of financial product advice within the scope of the Tax Agent Services Act 2009.
The decision to grant an extension followed consultation with representatives from the financial planning, tax and accounting bodies, the Tax Practitioners Board and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
"This will allow for the details of the regulatory model to be settled and ensure resolution of implementation issues associated with bringing financial advice under the scope of the tax agent services regime," said Mr Bradbury.
"The new regulatory arrangements will focus on the principles of consumer protection and the delivery of quality taxation advice by financial advisers who offer this as part of their financial product advice services."
The Government will consult further on these changes and ensure the required legislation is introduced before the changes will take effect on 1 July 2013.
The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy is aware of satellite phone carriers promoting zero up-front payment schemes for satellite phones in Australia.
The Department wants to ensure consumers are aware that unless a payment plan indicates a specific charge for the phone itself, phones included under such plans will not be eligible for support under the Australian Government’s Satellite Phone Subsidy Scheme.
The Satellite Phone Subsidy Scheme is an Australian Government initiative to help people living or working outside of terrestrial mobile phone coverage areas to purchase satellite mobile phones.
The Australian Government recognises satellite phone handsets can be more expensive than terrestrial mobile handsets. The subsidy program is offered to make the cost of the handset more affordable for eligible applicants.
An employer push to remove weekend penalty rates for workers in restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs would slash the pay of many of Australia’s lowest-paid workers, say unions.
Employers calling for pay cuts for hospitality staff should try giving up their weekends, evenings and public holidays for the same low wages as the workers who generate the industry’s profits, say unions.
Low-paid workers in the restaurant, catering and hospitality sectors rely on penalty rates to not only compensate them for working unsociable hours, but to help them make ends meet, said ACTU President Ged Kearney.
She said the latest call to slash penalty rates was part of a wider but tired employer campaign to remove workers’ rights.
“Penalty rates exist because the Australian community expects that if people forego their evenings, weekends or public holidays to work, they should be compensated,” Ms Kearney said.
“Many of these workers earn among Australia’s lowest wages and penalty rates are the only things that enable them to pay their rent, mortgages, and bills and put food on the table.”
The employer group’s argument that workers should be paid penalty rates only if they work six or seven days in a row was nonsensical and was just another way of saying ‘we don’t want to pay penalty rates at all’, Ms Kearney said.
In the 12 months to September last year, hospitality industry wages increased by 3.1%, well below the pace of inflation, and below the average 3.6% wages growth average across all industries.