The Western Australian Government’s submission to the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission’s State Wage Case has recommended the State minimum wage be increased in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
WA Commerce Minister Simon O’Brien said the Government recognised the importance of ensuring the incomes of workers who were dependent on minimum wages or award rates kept pace with the cost of living.
“It’s also important in the current economic conditions that we support the viability and competitiveness of our small businesses,” Mr O’Brien said.
“An inflation-based adjustment represents a balanced and sustainable outcome for employers and maintains the standard of living of workers in this State.”
A copy of the WA Government’s submission will soon be available on the Department of Commerce’s Labour Relations website: http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/LabourRelations
In 2011 the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission granted a $19.90 per week increase to the State minimum and award pay rates. This resulted in the current minimum wage of $607.10 per week, or $15.98 per hour.
The South Australian Government has signed an agreement with the Centre for Automotive Safety Research (CASR) to extend funding for its road safety research for another five years.
Minister for Road Safety Jennifer Rankine said the funding - more than $1 million each year until 2017 - demonstrates the State Government’s ongoing commitment to road safety in South Australia.
CASR’s research has been the catalyst for successful road safety initiatives, including the implementation in 2006 of the default 50 km/h urban speed limit, which is credited with preventing five fatalities each year.
CASR Director Professor Mary Lydon said the State Government’s ongoing support and confidence was vital in order to build on the expert knowledge and ongoing research that is being undertaken at the centre.
CASR was formally established by the South Australian Government in 2002, and has since been invited to collaborate with international organisations from France, Japan, Malaysia and the United States.
CASR is also the only research organisation in Australia that attends the scenes of road crashes, in order to collect data. The group has 20 staff members and seven postgraduate research students. CASR is also home to a new purpose-built Vehicle Safety Laboratory – the only facility of its kind in Australia.
The Laboratory is the official testing facility for pedestrian impact testing, a major part of the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) crash testing process.
Upcoming projects include monitoring young driver travel patters, evaluating the effects of the Graduated Licensing Scheme and monitoring the implementation of the South Australian Road Safety Strategy 2020.
For more information about CASR visit www.casr.adelaide.edu.au
Researchers at the University of South Australia’s Ian Wark Research Institute and Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Science at Monash University have developed a way to use innovative nanotechnologies to ensure disease-controlling drugs are absorbed in the body much more efficiently.
Lead researcher on the project and UniSA Professor of Colloid and Pharmaceutical Science, Dr Clive Prestidge says the research should lead to more reliable and predictable delivery of oral medications.
“Most medications need to be taken in a prescribed relationship with food – before, during or after meals – because what and when you eat, can affect the absorption and availability of the active ingredients in medicines,” Professor Prestidge said.
“And what we know about human nature is that people often don’t follow through with taking medicines in compliance with the recommendations – sometimes they even underestimate the importance of that.
“But because food can be vital to the absorption of drugs, not following the recommendations can have serious consequences both in overdosing or underdosing.”
Professor Prestidge, Dr Angel Tan and their team have just published a paper in the journal Angewandte Chemie, reporting on their development of a new particulate structure that can deliver drugs into the body already loaded to absorb at superior levels.
Professor Prestidge says the leap forward is in developing a matrix at the nano-particulate level that can be used as tablets and in capsules, structured to imitate the food effect when inside the stomach or intestines.
He says the technology will be invaluable for a wide selection of medicines and vitamins from ibuprofen and antibiotics to anti-hypertensives and even calcium supplements.
In trials with dogs the researchers have shown the benefits of the new technology. A control group of fasting dogs was given medicines to establish a baseline for drug absorption then comparisons were made for absorption between a group fed dog food with a medication, and a group simply given the new nano-structured tablets without any food.
“The absorption levels for the active ingredient was six times higher with the nano-structured tablets, two times better than for medicines delivered with food,” Prof Prestidge said.
“This is a great result because it has such potential to improve our use of medicines, delivering safer and more effective medications.
“This technology also has huge commercial potential for the pharmaceuticals industry through the development of new medicines that are not required to be labelled “to be taken with or without food”.
“Through the careful development of these technologies we can make the kinds of adjustments in dosages that will ensure people get the best, fastest and most efficient delivery of drugs for the control of pain and inflammation and a range of other common conditions.”
The new technological platform developed by Prof Prestidge and his team is now being commercialised through Ceridia, a spin out company developed through ITEK, the University of South Australia’s commercialisation arm.
Ceridia has relationships with major pharmaceutical companies around the world and has undertaken phase one human clinical safety trials of the technology, the first step on the road to bringing the benefits of these new developments to health consumers.
A concerning gender-gap exists in career aspirations among Australian youth across science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, a new study has found.
The study, published in Developmental Psychology last month, was the first to compare participation and related occupational planning for STEM careers among senior high-school boys and girls from different country contexts.
Led by Associate Professor Helen Watt from Monash University’s Faculty of Education, researchers cross-examined data from Australia, Canada and the US, finding significant gender differences only among Australian youth in mathematics-related career aspirations, with fewer girls aspiring to maths-related careers than boys.
The gender-gap was attributed to the greater and earlier degrees of choice Australian adolescents have to specialise in their school studies, than in the North American curriculum.
Associate Professor Watt referred to the ‘leaky pipeline’ where students drop out of advanced mathematics along various points of their educational trajectory as concerning.
“The leaky STEM pipeline has become a major area of concern in terms of economic growth in Western countries, particularly if Australia is to compete on the international platform,” Associate Professor Watt said.
“These findings increase our understanding of when and why girls ‘leak’ from the mathematics pipeline in an effort to address the issue in schools.”
The findings challenge current conceptions that girls and women opt away from high-prestige mathematical occupations.
For girls who did aspire to mathematics-related careers, it was found their planned careers were of equal status to those planned by boys.
An important element of the study was examining whether the ‘leaky pipeline’ would have a ‘glass ceiling’. That is, whether girls aspiring to mathematical fields of career would not plan on high-prestige jobs.
“This was not the case and girls were found to plan equally prestigious careers as boys,” Associate Professor Watt said.
“The gender gap in STEM-related career aspirations should be addressed by nurturing secondary students’ interest and demonstrating how maths and science can be useful in the careers girls are most attracted to.
“The relatively early specialisation in secondary school course selections also needs careful thought, timely as the new national curriculum is under consideration.”
Associate Professor Watt presented the findings as an invited address at the Biennial Gender Development Research Conference in San Francisco last month and has actively researched this field for the past 20 years, recently securing a prestigious ARC grant and five-year Fellowship.
The Department of Environment and Conservation and WWF-Australia launched a community survey to locate populations of the quenda, also known as the southern brown bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus fusciventer), living in the greater Perth region.
DEC Swan Region ecologist Geoff Barrett said quendas were living all around us in remnant bushland across suburban Perth, and called on residents to report sightings as part of the survey.
“Quendas have all but disappeared from other Australian cities, yet can still be seen throughout the Perth metropolitan area,” Dr Barrett said.
“Numbers have fallen significantly since the 1960s, but they can still be found throughout much of the south-west of Western Australia.
“Quendas are native mammals about the size of a rabbit with brown to yellow-brown fur, a long pointed nose, very short ears and a short tail. They prefer to live near waterways where dense low vegetation persists.”
Quendas are under threat from habitat loss, vehicle strike and predation from cats, dogs and foxes.
A new, broad-based international ranking of global universities has found Australian institutions are some of the world’s most productive, scoring 8th on the ranking.
Despite this, the ranking also found that Australian universities are still chronically under-resourced.
"This innovative approach to international rankings of higher education shows Australia at 8th place in the world for performance, but at 19th for the level of resources it receives," said Belinda Robinson, Chief Executive of Universities Australia.
In ranking performance the Universitas 21 report looked at 48 countries and territories across all regions of the world, comparing 20 different measures. The measures were grouped under four headings:
- Resources: Investment by government and private sector (19th);
- Output: Research and its impact, as well as the production of an educated workforce which meets labour market needs (7th);
- Connectivity: International networks and collaboration (4th); and
- Environment: Government policy and regulation, diversity and participation opportunities (7th).
"What this clearly reinforces is that Australian universities are highly productive and efficient, but investment levels are too low," Ms Robinson said.
"This comes as no surprise as report after report, including Government-commissioned reports including the Bradley review into higher education and the Lomax-Smith report into base funding, point to a significant under-investment in the university sector."
The full report can be found here
New research from the UK and Australia suggests that the rate of acidification of the world’s oceans is having a bigger effect on the population of plankton than previously anticipated.
According to a paper published by the team, human impact on the environment is driving acidification at an alarming rate, and could double current acidity levels by 2100, and it is unclear how the growth of micro-organisms, such as plankton, would respond.
"Human impact on the environment means carbon dioxide is dissolving in the ocean, which is naturally alkaline, and causing a decrease in seawater pH levels – an event termed ocean acidification,” said Professor Kevin Flynn of Swansea University in the UK.
"However, given the important role these organisms play in the Earth's biogeochemical cycles, the impact that ocean acidification-induced changes in the chemical composition of seawater will have on plankton is a major concern.”
Using simulations, the team has presented and discussed mechanisms by which many marine plankton will experience a substantially more acidic environment than currently suggested by ocean acidification scenarios – experiencing pH conditions which are completely outside their recent historical range.
Their results suggest that changes in the pH at the cell surface of plankton could adversely affect cellular equilibrium, leading to poor growth if not death.
The Productivity Commission (PC) has published a report examining the impact of the reforms implemented by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).
The Commission’s role was to assess the economic impacts of the reforms and, where practicable, examine whether the reforms potential were being met and opportunities properly explored.
For the first report in the series, the Assistant Treasurer has directed the Commission to focus on the impacts and benefits of two reform areas:
- aspects of the 'seamless national economy' deregulation priorities
- the vocational education and training (VET) reforms and initiatives that support young people make successful transitions from school to further education, training and employment.
The report concluded that COAG reforms in the VET area include the potential to:
- Increase GDP by a total of 1.95 per cent
- Boost productivity by 0.35 per cent
- Increase completions by 1.29 million over the period 2010-2020
- Increase the gross payments to individuals over their working life by more than $108 billion.
The Productivity Commission report identified the following reforms were needed, which align with the Commonwealth’s reform agenda announced by the Prime Minister ahead of COAG last month:
- Better quality through regulation – the Commonwealth established the Australian Standards Quality Authority to ensure nationally consistent regulation of VET providers;
- Greater transparency for users – the Government is developing the My Skills website, to be launched later this year;
- Better information available for students – the Commonwealth’s Unique Student Identifier will allow students to build a online skills passport that tracks their training history;
- Increased completions - The Commonwealth has set completion targets in the agreement with the States to tackle low completion rates in the VET sector.
The Commission’s report can be found here
WWF has welcomed ongoing funding for key environmental programs but warned that Australian species would continue to go extinct without increased investment in future budgets.
Australia has a terrible record of extinction, with at least 27 mammals and 23 birds lost. To halt extinctions future budgets would need to go beyond the current 0.5% expenditure to the environment.
WWF-Australia Director of Conservation Dr Gilly Llewellyn said she was disappointed the government had delayed by one year the promised increase in overseas development aid, and failed to implement rumoured cuts to diesel fuel rebate and accelerated depreciation.
“Failure to keep the promise to increase overseas development aid means that critical assistance for struggling communities to adapt to climate change and foster ecosystem resilience will not be forthcoming,” Dr Llewellyn said.
“The Government could have cut inefficient expensive fossil fuel subsidies and reinvested this money to assist our neighbours to adapt to and mitigate climate change.
“The Government has missed an opportunity to show real leadership at the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio, where on the agenda is calls to remove environmentally harmful subsidies.”
WWF welcomed new money to implement reforms to the Environmental Protection Act but remain concerned about the ‘cutting green tape’ rhetoric and warned state and federal governments not to confuse streamlining with delivering more effective regulation.
A new international research team has joined up with CSIRO’s Sustainable Agriculture Flagship to help reduce the quantities of greenhouse gas emissions made by the livestock sector.
The Australian agriculture industry currently accounts for 10 per cent of the country’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, a figure that the new research body aims to reduce.
Led by researchers from the University of Melbourne, the collaboration aims to improve both measurement and management of methane emissions for the grazing lands of northern Australia, thought to account for half of the sector’s total emissions.
Professor Deli Chen, Project Leader from the University of Melbourne, said the Cluster will draw on recent international findings and research to measure methane emissions in real grazing conditions.
“This is a critical step if we are to help agriculture reduce its emissions because if you can’t measure, you can’t mitigate,” Professor Chen said.
CSIRO’s Research Project Leader, Dr Ed Charmley, said, “The Australian Government’s Clean Energy Act sets a long-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent of 2000 levels by the year 2050. This research will help identify field-based measurement techniques and protocols that can support management actions and technologies that can help Australia meet such ambitious targets.”
“The Cluster will also develop science that supports methodology development for the Carbon Farming Initiative, an Australian Government program that enables farmers to earn ‘carbon credits’ for undertaking abatement activities on their properties,” Dr Charmley said.
The Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) has released its final report and recommendations for SunWater’s five-year price path for irrigation pricing.
State Minister for Energy and Water Supply Mark McArdle said the Government will consider the authority’s recommendations before setting a final price path to commence at the beginning of July.
“I thank the QCA for their substantial report, the first major review of SunWater’s irrigation pricing in Queensland by the independent economic regulator,” Mr McArdle said.
“Since the draft report was released in November, the QCA has visited each of the 22 irrigation schemes which fall under the scope of the review, in addition to accepting written submissions.
“The recommended prices indicate that, in the majority of bulk schemes, prices will only increase by inflation with price increases above inflation in some of the channel schemes”.
“These recommended price increases have been limited to avoid price shocks.”
Mr McArdle said the QCA had been required to recommend irrigation prices based on prudent and efficient costs and to consider the requirement for SunWater to operate as a commercial entity.
“The final report includes the QCA’s recommendations on methodology such as the allocation of SunWater’s costs to irrigation customers and tariff structures, as well as the prices for each tariff grouping,” Mr McArdle said.
“Input from irrigators across all of SunWater schemes, peak industry bodies and SunWater has greatly assisted the QCA to provide a comprehensive report.
“The QCA’s advice will enable the Government to give consideration to new pricing arrangements that are both fair for irrigators and financially sustainable for SunWater”.
The full report can be found here
The Western Australian Government is calling for nominations for the 2012 Australian Water Association WA Water Awards, which will aim to recognise significant contributions made by organisations and individuals to water management in the state.
“I encourage individuals, businesses, schools and other organisations to nominate themselves or others for achievement in areas such as water management, innovation, conservation and efficiency,” State Water Minister Bill Marmion said.
The awards are organised by the Australian Water Association and presented by the Department of Water and the Water Corporation. They recognise achievement in the following categories:
- Infrastructure innovation
- Program innovation
- Research innovation
- Resource management
- Conservation and efficiency
- Waterwise business
- Waterwise council
- Waterwise school
- Water professional
- Young water professional
Nominations close on Friday September 7, 2012 and winners will be announced at a gala dinner on Friday November 23, 2012. To find out more about the WA Water Awards or to download a nomination kit, go to http://www.awa.asn.au/awards/wa.
Lend Lease Group Ltd and a Leighton Holdings Ltd subsidiary have been awarded work on Victoria's regional rail link.
Lend Lease's Abigroup business was awarded a contract worth about $750 million for work on the city to Maribyrnong River section of the rail line.
Leighton subsidiary John Holland was awarded a $570 million contract for work on the same stage of the rail project, which will separate regional trains from metropolitan trains on the Melbourne rail network.
The first stage will involve the design and construction of a new rail line for country passenger services between Footscray and Southern Cross stations in Melbourne.
Construction will being in the coming months, and is expected to be completed by 2016, John Holland said.
Australia has once again featured in the top 10 highest polluting countries after the WWF released its 2012 Living Planet Report, showing that Australia’s carbon emissions are the top contributors to securing the dubious honour.
The biennial report, which measures the impact of human demands on nature, found that humans are using 50 per cent more resources than the Earth can provide for, and that we will need two planets by 2030 if the current rate of consumption continues unabated.
The WWF has urged Australia to stay the course with its current legislative progress in implementing a tax before rolling out a full emissions trading scheme in 2015.
"Australia has some of the world's best renewable energy resources and know-how to be able to significantly reduce our carbon footprint. The Carbon Price and Renewable Energy Target are key mechanisms that together will drive the shift from coal to renewables,” said WWF Australia’s Climate Change Manager Kellie Caught.
“Just like the industrial revolution brought benefits to society, the carbon price will drive a new clean revolution that will have health and economic benefits but critically give our precious environment a fighting chance.”
Topping the list of the most polluting countries was Qatar, followed by Kuwait, the UAE and, surprisingly, Denmark.
The full report can be found here
The South Australian Government has released a draft roadmap aimed at maximizing the potential of the state’s unconventional gas resources in an environmentally sustainable way.
The roadmap, believed to be the first of its kind in Australia, will lay out crucial information for the sector’s stakeholders.
“It’s about starting a conversation about the benefits of unconventional gas to South Australia and we encourage all stakeholders including APPEA members to be engaged in that discussion,” State Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy Tom Koutsantonis said.
“Even in its infancy the unconventional gas sector has the potential to deliver hundreds of millions, if not billions of investment dollars to this State and provide a new lease of life to the Cooper Basin.”
“The aim of the road map is to not only inform South Australians but also set a course for the environmentally sustainable development of this State’s large endowment of unconventional gas.”
The draft establishes the factors that will be taken into account in considering the approval of unconventional gas projects in considering compatibility with existing natural, social and economic environments.
The draft Road Map is open for public comment until 5pm Friday 27th July 2012, so that people and enterprises can influence the final form of the document.
For downloads of the draft road map and online lodgement of submissions go to: www.petroleum.dmitre.sa.gov.au/environment/register/comment
Geoscience Australia has released its Australian Gas Resource Assessment 2012, detailing key findings of in the industry and what it anticipates for the industry.
The report finds that the gas sector is being transformed by changes in markets and technology that are bringing new gas resources into play.
The report tracks significant changes in the last two years within the gas resources sector and the gas market, finding that coal seam gas (CSG) reserves have doubled since 2010, and three major liquid natural gas (LNG)/CSG projects are now under construction.
The report found that Australia gas has become Australia’s third largest energy resource after coal and uranium, and that the country most likely contains substantial shale gas and tight gas resources that are yet to be quantified by exploration.
Finally, the report concluded that the gas is expected to significantly expand its share of the country’s energy production and exports over the coming decades as well as continuing to expand its contribution to domestic electricity generation.
The full report can be found here (PDF)
Federal Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, Bernie Ripoll, has announced the appointment of Belinda Gibson and Ian Purchas as Members of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC).
Ms Gibson’s appointment will last until May next year, while Mr Purchas will be appointed for a three year term.
Ms Gibson was nominated by ASIC, of which she is the Deputy Chairman. Her responsibilities at ASIC include the supervision of corporations (and consequently their financial reporting practices), as well as the financial reporting and audit and insolvency practitioner teams within ASIC.
Mr Purchas was nominated by the Institute of Public Accountants. He is a Principal at RMG Partners Business Solutions, a Sydney-based insolvency and accounting practice, and is a Registered Liquidator and an Official Liquidator of the Supreme Court of NSW and Federal Court of Australia. He has practised in the insolvency profession for in excess of 26 years, including over 10 years' experience in a Principal/Senior Manager position in a specialist insolvency practice and 10 years' experience in a senior role at Coopers and Lybrand.
Mr Ripoll welcomed Ms Gibson and Mr Purchas to the FRC. "On behalf of the Government, I am very pleased to appoint them as Members. I am sure they will bring significant financial experience to the Council".
The Victorian Government has appointed three members to the Sustainability Victoria (SV) Board. The new members are Mr Ron Lovett and Mr Tony Hinton. An existing member, Ms Suzanne Evans, has been reappointed to the board.
"Now that the SV review has been considered and a new strategy developed that reshapes the organisation's focus, the new SV board will be working to deliver on this new vision for greater resource efficiency across Victoria," said board Chair, Dr Gillian Sparkes.
"With several board positions lapsing in April this year, it was important to ensure appointments to these positions could achieve a balance between board continuity and renewal."
The three appointed members replace outgoing members Ms Carolyn Lloyd, Dr Tony Marxsen, Ms Tanya Ha and Dr Nicholas Gruen. Dr Sparkes, Mr Mike Hill, Mr Ross McCann and Ms Cheryl Batagol will continue as board members until July 2014.
The Sustainability Victoria Board is: Dr Gillian Sparkes, Chair (PhD, MBA, GAICD) ; Mike Hill, Deputy Chair; Cheryl Batagol, Chair of the Victorian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and is a member of the Victorian Catchment Management Council; Suzanne Evans; Ross McCann, Executive Chairman of Qenos and President of the Plastics and Chemicals Industry Association; Ron Lovett, Executive Manager - Business Strategy and Management of Abigroup; and Tony Hinton, consultant in economic policy and public policy issues.
The Federal Government has announced future contracts for the Disability Employment Services-Employment Support Service, which will run for the next five years.
Minister for Employment Participation Kate Ellis said the spending will allow for an unprecedented level of support in helping people with disabilities find work.
“All Australians have a right to the dignity and self respect that employment brings and without access to paid employment, people with a disability risk life on the margins of our community,” Ms Ellis said.
The announcement comes after the Australian Government released the Disability Employment Services Star Ratings – which reveal the services that are performing well and those that need to improve.
These March quarter Star Ratings will be used as a basis to determine, which service providers will be required to re-bid for their existing business later this year.
Services performing at the 4 and 5 star level will not be required to re-tender but will be given the opportunity to expand and assist more job seekers in new areas.
The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and the Industry and Disability Employment Australia welcomed the announcements.
“The additional two years will allow DES providers to develop and maintain supportive relationships with employers and most importantly with the over 75,000 people with enduring disability in the program,” Lynette May of Disability Employment Australia said.
View the performance ratings at www.jobsearch.gov.au/provider
A Productivity Commission report, Impact of COAG Reforms: Business Regulation and VET, has found the COAG reforms of the Vocational and Education Training (VET) system, signed by the Prime Minister and state and territory leaders last month, will create more jobs, increase productivity, grow the economy and boost the wages of Australians.
The report confirms that an individual who is awarded a Certificate III or IV as a result of these reforms will have improved earnings of more than $324,632 over their working life.
The Productivity Commission’s findings included:
* Vocational education and training reforms are aimed at improving the overall quality of the workforce and encouraging higher workforce participation, through increased VET provision and greater flexibility in courses offered.
– Attainment of the COAG 2020 targets has the potential to raise GDP by two per cent.
– It would also assist in achieving COAG’s broader social inclusion goals.
* Increased effort by governments will be required for the full potential of the COAG reform agenda to be realised.
* A number of areas offer opportunities for even better outcomes. In particular:
– initiatives to increase VET completion rates;
– ensuring VET reforms are sequenced so that the building blocks are in place for the successful transition to more contestable markets including, L strengthening quality control through cost-effective independent validation and auditing of training organisations’ assessment practices; and L making information available to students on the costs of training, quality and labour market outcomes for individual training organizations;
– greater autonomy and capacity for TAFEs to compete with other providers; and
– tying payments to outcomes.
The Productivity Commission’s Report is at www.pc.gov.au.
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet, has announced the appointment of Professor Veena Sahjwalla to the Climate Commission.
Professor Sahajwalla is Associate Dean Strategic Industry Relations, Faculty of Science and Director of the Centre of Sustainable Materials Research & Technology at the University of New South Wales. She has research and development expertise in the fields of energy efficiency, sustainable materials and recycling and invented a process of recycling plastics and rubber tyres in steelmaking.
Professor Sahajwalla will replace Dr Susannah Elliot, who stepped down from her role to continue her work with the Australian Science Media Centre.
"Professor Sahajwalla has conducted world-leading research in collaboration with major resources companies in Australia. Professor Sahajwalla's understanding of Australian industries together with her expertise in science communication will be valuable additions to the Climate Commission,” Mr Combet said.