The Federal Government has announced that up to 400 new jobs will be created in Victoria as the National Broadband Network (NBN) is rolled out.
“Through the National Broadband Network, all Australians will access fast affordable broadband. The NBN will deliver tremendous economic benefits to Victoria and Australia through increased productivity, greater employment opportunities, and better access to information and services,” Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said.
The jobs will be generated through the $40 million investment in the NBN Co’s Clayton operations, which is expected to boost employment levels by between 300 and 400 jobs at the peak of the NBN rollout.
The Climate Commission has published a NSW specific section of its Critical Decade report, detailing the expected impacts of climate change on the state.
The report found that the state is becoming hotter and drier, with record breaking hot days having doubled since 1960, and the number of days above 30 degrees almost doubling.
The report also found that while wet periods are expected, the norm will trend towards declining rainfall, jeopardizing Sydney’s water security.
The trend towards hot and dry weather has also made the state substantially more bushfire prone, with very high fire danger days becoming more frequent.
The report found that coastal infrastructure in NSW is vulnerable to flooding from the anticipated 1.1 metre rise in sea levels by the end of the century, with between 40,000-60,000 houses, 1200 commercial buildings and a 250 kilometre stretch of highway at risk of inundation.
The Climate Commission has continued to strongly argue for the decarbonisation of the country’s economy, finding that the longer the country depends on fossil fuels the more costly it will be.
The Commission concluded that the state is well-placed to capitalise on the global trend towards clean energy, with the sector attracting $263 billion worth of investment in 2011, representing one of the fastest growing sectors in the world.
The full report can be found here (PDF)
Mr Greg Bourne has been appointed acting chair of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency board (ARENA).
ARENA commences on 1 July 2012 as a key component of the Australian Government’s Clean Energy Future package, consolidating $3.2 billion in funding for renewable energy innovation.
The Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson AM MP has also appointed Dr Brian Spalding to the ARENA board, in addition to the ex-officio appointment of Mr Drew Clarke, Secretary of the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (RET).
“ARENA’s independent board will have a mix of skills in renewable energy technology, business investment, commercialisation and corporate governance,” Minister Ferguson said.
“Mr Bourne and Dr Spalding’s experience and drive will ensure ARENA gets off to a good start and maintains momentum in Australia’s renewable energy sector.”
Mr Bourne brings to the board an extensive background in renewable energy development and project commercialisation, including as a former director of Carnegie Wave Energy and chief executive officer of the World Wildlife Fund Australia from 2004 to 2010.
Dr Spalding is a current Australian Energy Market Commissioner with more than 30 years’ experience in power system operations, as well as providing continuity from the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy board.
Australia is fast becoming a destination for work, as well as play, with new Tourism Research Australia (TRA) figures estimating $10 billion was spent in 2011 by business event visitors.
The Business Events Visitors 2011 snapshot shows that business travel has recovered from the Global Financial Crisis and a $1.8 billion decline in visitor expenditure in 2009.
The Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson AM MP, said Australia is increasingly seen as an attractive option for international business event visitors.
“Compared to 2010, international business event visitor expenditure rose by 14 per cent and international business event visitor numbers rose by eight per cent to 881,000,” Minister Ferguson said.
“International business event visitors have also spent more time in the country, an increase of 12 per cent to 14 million nights in 2011.
“This is important for the industry as the business travel market is a high-yield market, with business event travellers generally spending $100 per night more than other types of traveller,” said Mr Ferguson.
Global technology provider Fujitsu has launched a $60 million upgrade of its Noble Park data centre in Melbourne.
The investment by Fujitsu focused on security, connectivity and availability enhancements to provide its 2,000 Australian enterprise and government customers with increased access to secure hosting services.
The Noble Park facility is also now operating as one of the most energy efficient facilities of its size in the country.
The Noble Park facility, which was purpose-built for Fujitsu in 1988, is a 6,700m² building on 18,600m² of land. Following the upgrade to Tier III standards, the design incorporates 4 main data halls suitable for cabinet and cage installations. Fujitsu data centres have a power usage effectiveness (PUE) target of 1.7 and the company reports all greenhouse gas emissions produced by Noble Park, as well as all others in its Australian data centre network, to the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting System (NGERS).
Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand chief executive officer Mike Foster said in the last few years Fujitsu had made significant local investments in new technology areas including data centres, cloud services, application development and managed services.
"We will continue to invest in ensuring that our customers have access to the best possible infrastructure in the region," Mr Foster said.
"The Noble Park upgrade is consistent with this strategy. The facility makes a key contribution to Fujitsu's global data centre capability, which includes over 100 data centres worldwide."
Fujitsu services over 2,000 customers in Australia and New Zealand and has a presence in over 100 countries.
The Australian Energy Regulator has issued the 2010 electricity performance report for the Victorian distribution network service providers (DNSPs).
The report presents the 2010 financial and service quality performance of Victoria's five electricity DNSPs:
- Jemena Electricity Networks
- SP AusNet
- United Energy Distribution.
The report aims to provide greater transparency about the financial and service quality performance of the distributors. It compares performance over time, since 1999, and between businesses to encourage improved services for customers.
When extreme events outside the DNSPs' control are excluded, the Victorian DNSPs reported improved supply reliability, compared to 2009. The AER notes that 2009 was a particularly bad year for reliability for service due to the heatwave experienced in Victoria.
Unplanned minutes-off-supply and unplanned interruptions are two key indicators of customer reliability. The report found that compared with 2009, the unplanned minutes-off-supply fell by 27 per cent and there was a 16 per cent decrease in the number of unplanned interruptions.
In addition, improved reliability in 2010 has generally meant a large decrease in guaranteed service level payments to customers who experienced particularly poor levels of reliability. However, there were increases in payments for failure to be on time for appointments arranged with customers.
The report is available on the AER website, www.aer.gov.au.
The Victorian Government has announced details of the next phase of the rollout of its $100 million Energy for the Regions program.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan said the strategy would explore new opportunities to get energy and infrastructure sectors focused on delivering natural gas to communities in regional and rural Victoria.
"Over the past 12 months, Regional Development Victoria and its independent technical advisers have been engaged in a rigorous process of reviewing bids received from gas suppliers as part of the first direct negotiation phase," Mr Ryan said.
"We are very pleased to announce that through this process, the Coalition Government has successfully reached agreement for two regional gas projects in Mildura and Huntly.
"Now the government is stepping up its campaign with a broadened strategy to engage natural gas suppliers to deliver natural gas to other priority areas."
Mr Ryan said the expanded strategy would explore both conventional and alternative options for the delivery of reticulated natural gas to communities and industry in regional Victoria.
"The uncertain economic climate impacted on the direct bidding process, which ultimately did not elicit the strong response we had anticipated for a number of communities," Mr Ryan said.
"This new strategy will look at a wider range of options, such as proposals to decant and transport Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) or Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to the outskirts of regional towns or industrial estates, reducing the significant costs involved in the construction of major pipelines and associated infrastructure."
Mr Ryan said the expanded strategy, due to commence in the second half of 2012, would include a plan to offer gas distributors a fixed subsidy 'bounty' amount to supply priority towns.
"The 'bounty' offer will utilise information gained through the process to date along with work separately completed by RDV's technical advisers," Mr Ryan said.
"In addition, bids will be invited from the market for a CNG/LNG delivery system and local town reticulation networks."
Mr Ryan said the Coalition Government remained strongly committed to providing more regional Victorians with access to natural gas.
"With a positive result for the people of Huntly and Mildura now achieved, the government will focus on the delivery of natural gas to other priority communities including Avoca, Lakes Entrance, Invermay, Winchelsea, Heathcote, Orbost, Warburton, Marong, Bannockburn, Terang, Wandong-Heathcote Junction and Maldon."
The Commonwealth and Victorian Governments have announced a $570 million construction contract for the Regional Rail Link.
The $570 million contract was awarded to a consortium consisting of: John Holland, Abigroup, Coleman Rail, AECOM & GHD, who will partner with MTM, V/Line and the Regional Rail Link Authority to deliver the works between the City and the Maribyrnong River.
The scope of works includes:
- Construction of a new 1 kilometre rail overpass over the Maribyrnong River area;
- A rail-over-rail flyover between the Maribyrnong River and Hopkins Street Footscray;
- 4.5 kilometres of new tracks to separate metropolitan and regional trains within Melbourne's busiest rail junction;
- Extensive track reconfiguration and major upgrades to the existing North Melbourne rail-over-rail flyover which will be used to access platforms 1-8 at Southern Cross Station;
- Major bridge modifications at Dynon Road, Moonee Ponds Creek, Lloyd Street and Dudley Street; and
- A new twin track rail bridge over Dudley Street in West Melbourne.
This is the second last contract to be awarded for the multi-billion dollar project and covers the track works between the City (Southern Cross Station) and the Maribyrnong River including a new 1 kilometre rail overpass over the Maribyrnong River which will facilitate the movement of regional trains between the inner west and Southern Cross Station.
When complete in 2016, the Regional Rail Link will remove major bottlenecks from Victoria’s public transport system by separating regional and metropolitan trains.
The announcement follows the three contracts awarded in December last year for signalling and design and construction works between Footscray and Werribee.
The Regional Rail Link project is being built with $3.2 billion in funding from the Australian Government and the Victorian Government contributing the balance.
Delivery of the Regional Rail Link project involves a total of six major packages of work, with the only remaining contract at West Werribee Junction to be awarded in the middle of 2012.
NSW Water Commissioner, David Harriss, has invited comment on the proposed water shepherding arrangements for the Barwon-Darling river system and its tributaries.
“Following the NSW and Commonwealth governments Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on shepherding water for the environment, the NSW Government is investigating and seeking to agree on an approach for the introduction of water shepherding in NSW,” said Mr Harriss.
“The proposed arrangements look at the feasibility of shepherding Commonwealth environmental water from the Barwon-Darling system and its tributaries, including those commencing in Queensland, through the Menindee Lakes to the River Murray system.”
Mr Harriss said the objective is to optimise the use of water entitlements purchased by the Commonwealth for the environment, and to provide the capacity to deliver water to high priority environmental assets downstream, without reducing the reliability of supply to existing water users.
“After considering various options an ‘end-of-system’ accounting and dealing framework for water shepherding is proposed. These proposed arrangements ensure a ‘transparent rules’ based approach, utilising existing frameworks.”
“Consistent with the MoU, one of the guiding principles in the development of the methodology is that there are no adverse impacts on third parties, such as irrigators.”
“We now invite all interested parties to review and comment on the draft proposed water shepherding arrangements during the consultation period. Submissions close on 2 July 2012.”
“During this period, direct consultation with peak stakeholder representative groups will be conducted to ensure the approach to shepherding and the eventual operational procedures are informed by the views of interested people.”
“The NSW Government is committed to continuing to restore the health of rivers and wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin – water shepherding is another important aspect in achieving this goal, whilst maintaining the productive use of water for communities that depend on the resource,” Mr Harriss said.
All responses will be considered and it is anticipated that a detailed water shepherding implementation plan will be completed by mid-2012.
Detailed information, including the Proposed arrangements for Shepherding Environmental Water in NSW - draft for consultation, Shepherding Water for the Environment – Progress of the NSW Water Shepherding Project 2011 document, the MoU and a submission form is available at www.water.nsw.gov.au
The University of Adelaide has entered a partnership with the Shanxi College of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Zhendong Pharmaceutical Company to form Zhendong Australia China Centre for Molecular Traditional Chinese Medicine.
At the University of Adelaide, the Zhendong Centre will be based within the School of Molecular and Biomedical Science. The Centre will investigate the mode of action of Traditional Chinese Medicine using the rapidly growing field of Systems or Network Biology which looks at the regulation of complex biological systems in the body.
"The application of systems biology to Traditional Chinese Medicine is particularly exciting because it explores what effects there may be on the molecular/genetic networks that are altered in sickness," said Director of the Zhendong Centre, Professor David Adelson.
"This not only will provide us with an understanding of how Traditional Chinese Medicine acts - supporting its evidence-based integration into Western medicine - but will also increase our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying disease."
Professor Adelson has also been appointed Chair for the Molecular Basis of Traditional Chinese Medicine, a new Chair endowed by Zhendong Pharmaceutical Company as part of its investment in this research.
The Queensland Government has opened the plan for the proposed $500 million coking coal project in the Cape York Peninsula for public comment.
The Queensland Coordinator-General has is due to release the draft terms of reference for the proposed underground mine, which is about 150 kilometres north of Cooktown.
“The mine has the potential to operate for at least 30 years and could export 1.5 million tonnes of coking coal per year, meaning it would be important to the economic development and Indigenous employment in Cape York and Far North Queensland,” Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development Jeffy Seeney said.
The proposed Aust-Pac Capital mine is situated on freehold land owned by the Kalpowar Aboriginal Land Trust.
The call for comment comes after the project was declared significant last month, meaning an environmental impact statement will now be required and will run concurrently with a Federal Government environmental assessment.
“The draft terms of reference form the basis of the project’s EIS which will consider the environmental, social and economic implications of the proposed mine,” Mr Seeney said.
The draft terms of reference can be viewed here
All public submissions must be in writing and received by the Coordinator-General by 5pm on Tuesday 12 June 2012.
Post: The Coordinator-General
c/- EIS project manager – Wongai Project
Significant Projects Coordination
PO Box 15517
City East Qld 4002
The potential closure of Caltex's Kurnell refinery would be a body blow to the NSW economy, and would leave Australian motorists exposed to future petrol prices, says the Australian Worker’s Union.
AWU National Secretary Paul Howes today said the future of the Kurnell refinery was on a knife's edge, with about 800 jobs at risk.
"Caltex will ultimately make a commercial decision based on whether or not they can make more profit by importing petrol, rather than refining it in Australia.
"It is clearly a marginal decision for the company, but the implications for motorists and workers are serious – especially if Caltex gets it wrong.
"Retaining a local manufacturing presence would give Caltex greater flexibility, and would be an important safeguard for motorists should there be a spike in the cost of imported fuel."
Mr Howes said the AWU was working with Caltex's local management to deliver productivity gains at the Kurnell refinery.
"The Kurnell refinery plays an important role in Australia's energy security. We cannot afford to reduce our domestic refining capacity."
The Australian Government is seeking public input to help develop a new strategy for the identification, management and celebration of Australia’s heritage.
The new strategy will cover natural, Indigenous and historic heritage and set the direction for heritage policies and programs at all levels of government for the next 10 years.
Comment is invited from the community about how we can best recognise, manage and celebrate our heritage.
Submissions will be accepted up until 15 June.
To download the public consultation paper, visit www.environment.gov.au/heritage/strategy/submissions.html
The Australian Industry Group (AI Group) has released its Australian Industry Group Performance of Construction Index, recording a slump in construction during April.
Released in conjunction with the Housing Industry Association, the index found that the construction sector has fallen 1.3 points weaker, ending at 34.9 in April.
The index found that apartment building was the weakest of the four sub-sectors, with the index recording a slump fall to 22.9 basis points. The index of house building (33.3) and commercial construction (35.2) activity also remained well below the expansion-contraction threshold of 50.
"The fall in construction activity in April is further evidence of the widespread nature of the current slowdown in the broader economy. The ongoing weakness in the residential and commercial construction sub-sectors was exacerbated by the slowing in engineering construction activity that has now been in train since the start of the year. Last week's reduction in interest rates will help counter the existing headwinds while the construction industry will have a close eye on tomorrow's Budget and the impacts it may have on business, household and public sector demand over the year ahead," Australian Industry Group Director Public Policy, Peter Burn, said.
The key findings for the month are:
- The national construction sector contracted again in April with particular weakness in apartment building, housing and commercial construction.
- The latest Australian Industry Group Australian Performance of Construction Index (Australian PCI®) in conjunction with the Housing Industry Association, dropped 1.3 points to 34.9 in April (readings below 50 indicate a contraction in activity with the distance from 50 indicative of the strength of the decrease).
- The Australian PCI® has now been in negative territory for almost two years.
- While resource-related projects are giving some support to the engineering construction sector, weak demand and difficulties securing funding for work continue to hamper the apartment building (22.9), house building (33.3) and commercial construction (35.2) sub-sectors.
- New orders sub-index contracted for the 23rd straight month in April - recording 32.3.
- Employment continued to contract at a broadly unchanged rate in April (39.6).
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy has hit out at Federal Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull, describing him as “either lazy, financially illiterate or both.”
Senator Conroy’s accusations come after Mr Turnbull described the National Broadband Network (NBN) as being "centre of Labor’s 2012-13 Budget cooked books.” Saying that the surplus relies on shifting expenses forward from the 2012-13.
“According to the 2011-12 DBCDE portfolio Budget statement, spending on broadband by the Department was forecast to be $57 million this year. But in Tuesday’s 2012-13 portfolio Budget, this figure is revealed as having exploded to $484 million because inducements provided to Telstra for its deal with NBN Co have been brought forward as lump sums totalling $421 million to be paid out before June 30,” Mr Turnbull said in a statement.
“As a former merchant banker, Mr Turnbull presumably knows that you pay your bills when they fall due. The $450 million additional Departmental expenditure in 2011-12 is the payments made to Telstra under the terms of the Definitive Agreements.
“Similarly the claim of a $400M blowout in equity is false. Mr Turnbull’s assertion that there has been an increase in equity of $400M simply reflects that equity funding of $350M was deferred from 2011-12 to 2012-13. This was detailed in the 2011-12 Departmental Portfolio Additional Estimate Statement on page 39.”
Telstra CEO, David Thodey, has announced Robert Nason, Telstra’s Group Managing Director, Business Service and Improvement, will replace retiring FOXTEL chairman Bruch Akhurst.
Mr Thodey said Telstra’s Group Managing Director for Innovation, Products and Marketing, Kate McKenzie would also be appointed by Telstra to the FOXTEL Board. Ms McKenzie will take the board seat currently held by Mr Nason. The changes are effective 1 June 2012.
“Robert and Kate each will bring tremendous experience and leadership ability to the FOXTEL Board at what is an important time for FOXTEL as it consolidates its acquisition of AUSTAR and continues to compete in a challenging market,” Mr Thodey said.
The Federal Government has announced that a further 11 councils are now eligible to apply for funding under the Australian Government’s Digital Local Government Program, aimed at assisting local governments make the most of the rollout of the National Broadband Network.
The program makes up to $375,000 available to assist the rollout of NBN enabled programs, including council services, to homes and businesses.
“The eleven eligible councils are located right around Australia – from Mandurah in Western Australia to Aspley in Queensland and Bellerive in Tasmania. I encourage all of them to take up the opportunity to use the NBN to improve delivery of essential council services to their communities,” Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said.
More information on the program can be found here
City of Perth Chief Executive Officer Frank Edwards has announced his retirement effective on 21 September.
Mr Edwards has held the position since April 2002.
Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi said that Mr Edwards had served the City with great distinction during a period of rapid growth in the City. She paid tribute to his managerial and leadership skills and expertise.
She said his departure date will allow the process of seeking a replacement Chief Executive Officer to be completed and a smooth transition to occur.
The Federal Government has announced plans to expedite assistance for unpaid entitlements for workers who have lost their jobs at transport company First Fleet and car parts manufacturer CMI Industrial.
“This means that workers can access their unpaid entitlements sooner and not have to wait until the companies go into liquidation later this month,” Workplace Relations Minister Shorten said.
"The collapse of these companies represents exceptional circumstances. I am satisfied that my decision today is consistent with the intention of the scheme and is not being used to facilitate business restructuring.
“After receiving clear advice from administrators today that CMI and First Fleet will go into liquidation, we can now move to ensure workers can access GEERS assistance faster.
At least 450 people have lost their jobs in New South Wales, Victorian and Queensland through the collapse of First Fleet, and almost 50 workers have been made redundant at CMI Industrial in Victoria.
The Government has announced it will limit the availability of the employment termination payment (ETP) tax offset.
From 1 July 2012, only that part of an affected ETP, such as a golden handshake, that takes a person's total annual taxable income (including the ETP) to no more than $180,000 will receive the ETP tax offset.
Amounts above this wholeâ€‘ofâ€‘income cap will be taxed at marginal rates. The wholeâ€‘ofâ€‘income cap will complement the existing ETP cap ($175,000 in 2012â€‘13, indexed) which ensures that the tax offset only applies to amounts up to the ETP cap.
The ETP tax offset ensures that ETPs up to the ETP cap are taxed at a maximum tax rate of 15 per cent for those over preservation age and 30 per cent for those under preservation age.
Existing arrangements will be retained for certain ETPs relating to genuine redundancy (including to those aged 65 and over), invalidity, compensation due to an employmentâ€‘related dispute and death.
The measure provides savings to the Budget of $196.4 million over the forward estimates period.
The Federal Government has passed its Schoolkids Bonus through Senate, despite the Federal Opposition voting against the move.
The bonus will see the 1.3 million families with children in school receive financial bonuses from January next year.
Eligible families will receive:
- $410 a year for each child in primary school
- $820 for each child in secondary school.
The Schoolkids Bonus will be automatically paid to eligible families in two separate installments each year – before the start of Term 1 and Term 3.
This new payment will replace the Education Tax Refund from 1 January 2013. Under the current system, about one million families aren’t getting the full amount back at tax time.