The Federal and Queensland Governments have struck a new bilateral agreement over the disputed Alpha Coal mine project, agreeing to 'significant' changes to pre-existing environmental approvals for major projects.
Queensland Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development Jeff Seeney described the changes as a 'major step forward' while introducing project management approaches to the process.
"They also give greater clarity and transparency about the respective roles of the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments and impose timeframes on both for consultation and responses through the approvals process," Mr Seeney said.
The new bilateral includes the setting of defined milestones and timeframes for providing documents, feedback and approvals, including the signing-off on Terms of Reference and key assessment reports.
Mr Seeney said the new agreement would all but eliminate duplication in the environmental approval process.
“The changes negotiated between the State and Commonwealth will also provide certainty to project proponents around the length of time of the approval process,” Mr Seeney said.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said the signing of the new agreement would ensure that the Commonwealth Government would be involved in the process from the beginning.
"It was clear during the dispute over the Alpha Coal project that the new Queensland Government had fundamentally different expectations of the agreement compared to the Commonwealth," Mr Burke said.
"These amendments clarify these roles and should make sure that the dispute we saw in recent weeks is not repeated.
"The amendments ensure that the terms of reference are agreed by both governments and the Commonwealth is able to make its requirements clear at different points in the process.
More and more young Australians are electing to take gap years between the completion of their high school education and the commencement of tertiary education, according to recent statistics released by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).
However, far from spending a feckless year abroad on some sun drenched Iberian beach, most elect to spend their time working or pursuing further education.
The figures show that 24% of young Australians took a gap year in the period 2009-10, an increase from 10% in the ten years since 1999-2000.
Most gap-takers worked either part-time (28%) or full-time (23%), while others studied for a non-university qualification (10%), while only 6 per cent made it to the aforementioned beach.
“This research shows that a gap year is not just a year of fun and frivolity, but time many students take to refine their study or career goals and support the next stage of their life,” said Dr Tom Karmel, Managing Director, NCVER.
“The findings suggest that many gap-takers work to raise money for later study and expenses like rent, text books, and general living, or extra costs associated with relocating from non-metropolitan regions.
Who takes a gap year and why? is available from: www.lsay.edu.au/publications/2496.html
The Queensland Teachers Union has rejected the latest enterprise bargaining agreement from the state government, the marking the complete rejection of the first round offering.
“DETE representatives stated that the government offer is a package; there can be no attributable salary increase for the work that teachers currently perform. The increase on offer is subject to the implementation of the government’s reform agenda,” the union said in a statement.
The Government is currently offering the state’s teachers a 2.7 per cent increase a year. Under the offer, graduate teachers will earn up to $61,636 per annum, classroom teachers up to $90,238 and principals up to $147,981 a year.
Energy Industries Superannuation Scheme has announced the appointment of Alex Hutchinson as the group’s new Chief Executive Officer.
With over 20 years experience in the financial services industry, the company’s board has welcomed Mr Hutchinson’s appointment.
"We are delighted that Alex has agreed to accept this new challenge and are looking forward to working with him to benefit all EISS members and stakeholders," said the chairman of the Board, Mick Doust.
The National Broadband Network Co (NBN Co) has announced it expects to deliver services to 12,800 Tasmanian premises in the coming weeks.
The announcement comes after the NBN was formally switched on in Deloraine in Launceston.
The combination of the new locations, those about to come on line and the existing sites in Tasmania will bring to 12,800 the number of premises in Tasmania able to connect to the fibre optic network.
“Tasmanians were the first in the nation to take advantage of the improved broadband access that the NBN will eventually deliver to every Australian. I’m delighted that from today many more will be able to benefit from this essential upgrade to Australia’s decades-old telecommunications infrastructure. I thank residents for their cooperation, understanding and patience during construction,” chairman of NBN Tasmania Greg McCann said.
“The job ahead for NBN Co in Tasmania is to roll out the network across the remainder of the state. It’s a construction project that will see the creation of up to 800 new jobs at the peak of the rollout and the establishment of a permanent Tasmanian workforce to maintain the network.”
The Tasmanian branch of the Australian Education Union has announced it will support the State Government’s transition to a four-term year.
The AEU has received guarantees of protection to teachers’ employment conditions including:
- A Government back down on reducing teachers’ recreation leave to four weeks.
- Negotiation as to how leave will be identified.
- An assurance that there will be no diminution of entitlements to permanent, fixed term or temporary employees.
The Minister for Education and Skills Nick McKim said today that he welcomed the AEU's decision to accept the implementation of the four term school year for 2013.
"I look forward to working with the AEU to successfully implement the four term year," Mr McKim said.
The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has welcomed a number of key recommendations in the Infrastructure Finance and Funding Reform Report released at the National Economic Forum.
“The Infrastructure Finance Working Group Report will help to generate much needed debate on how Australia can meet its future infrastructure needs,” ALC Managing Director Michael Kilgariff said.
The report made a number of major recommendations for reform for the sector, including linking infrastructure funding to state and territory government’s implementation of agreed upon reforms.
“This was a clear recommendation in the recent ALC Infrastructure Report Towards an Efficiency Freight Future, which recommends that the Commonwealth should make its infrastructure funding conditional on states achieving specific reforms, such as each capital city having a 20-year freight strategy consistent with the National Freight and Port Strategies,” Mr Kilgariff said.
The ALC also praised the long term objective of the reform report.
“ALC is particularly pleased that the Infrastructure Finance and Funding Reform Report recommends that state and territory governments should prepare 20-year infrastructure strategies that share a common framework and timeframe,” Mr Kilgariff said.
The Reserve Bank has announced plans to crack down in excessive surge costs on credit and some debit cards in a bid to ensure merchants don’t seek to bolster their profits through chargeing excessive amounts on card transactions.
“The decision to vary the Standards reflects the Board's concerns about the increase in cases where surcharges appear to be well in excess of acceptance costs or where surcharges are ‘blended’ across card schemes even though merchants' acceptance costs may be higher for some cards than others,” the Bank said in a statement.
The varied Standards will come into force on1 January 2013.
Paul Ingleby, the former Chief Financial Officer of the Australian Wheat Board (AWB), has admitted to breaching his duties as on officer surrounding the Oil-for-Food Programme.
The Supreme Court of victoria heard from Mr Ingleby, where he acknowledged he failed to exercise his powers and discharge his duties as an officer, and that he:
- knew that AWB’s trade with Iraq was conducted under the OFFP which prohibited direct payments to the Iraqi Government;
- knew that payments from a UN escrow account to AWB in respect of contracts for the supply of wheat to Iraq could only be made for the purpose of the OFFP;
- co-authorised payments to Alia for Transportation, a Jordanian trucking company, in respect of inland transportation fees payable for contracts for sale of wheat to Iraq;
- had information available to him to raise questions as to the legitimacy of the inland transportation fees and to suggest that they were ultimately being paid to the Iraqi Government and were recovered by AWB from the UN escrow account; and
- took no steps to ascertain whether or not the inland transport fees were ultimately being paid to the government of Iraq.
The Court also heard a joint submission made by ASIC and Mr Ingleby that the appropriate penalty for the admitted contravention ought to be a pecuniary penalty of $40,000 and that Mr Ingleby be disqualified from managing corporations for a period of 15 months.
The Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) has wrapped up the successful trial of its near field communications (NFC) trial that saw dozens of customers trial technology that enabled them to make payments using their mobile phone.
The four month trial saw participants using the specially equipped mobile pghones to make contactless payments at two innter city cafes in Auckland and Wellington, with customers making transactions by waving their phones in front of terminal.
Andy Symons, BNZ Director of Retail, said the trial was an outstanding success with the technology working seamlessly.
“People really enjoyed the ease of not having to carry around cards or cash to pay for such small amounts. Since our trial was limited to small transactions for which no PIN was required, it really sped things up at the point of sale. This is something both the customer and the retailer said they loved,” Mr Symons said.
“This convenience factor for both retailers and customers is at the heart of all the technology. Making things simpler, faster and more convenient is what we’re trying to achieve through innovations such as this. We look forward to working with all parties to help make this a reality.”
BNZ conducted a survey of the participants of the trial, finding:
- 97% of respondents were likely to use the service if it was launched in the future. 3% were undecided
- 62% of respondents expect the service to be free (14% willing to pay up to $3 per month)
- 100% of respondents reported a positive experience using the service
- 100% of respondents were likely to recommend the service to friends, with 46% indicating they would be “very likely”
- 95% enjoyed the convenience of not having to enter a PIN for low value transactions
- 78% enjoyed receiving a digital receipt on their phone instead of paper
- 81% enjoyed not having to carry a wallet
- 85% would prefer PIN-less transaction were limited to values of $80 or less.
The third major suite of works on Queensland’s Bruce Highway has been completed, with three new bridges and 12 new kilometres of new highway section now finished.
“All that remains to do is finish building the new Traveston interchange and Mary Valley Link Road as well as the realignment of Traveston Road and the Skyring Creek bridge connection,” Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese said.
“Recommended by Infrastructure Australia and funded in our recession-busting Economic Stimulus Plan, the project is being delivered as part of the massive capital works program which right now, both direct and indirect, is putting more than 3,500 people to work building a better, safer Bruce Highway.”
Begun in late 2009, the realignment and fully duplication of the Bruce Highway between Sankeys and Traveston Roads—also known as Cooroy to Curra, Section B—is being jointly funded by the Federal ($388 million) and Queensland ($125 million) governments.
The Federal and South Australian Governments have taken the next step to establishing a National Safety Regulatory framework after the appointment of Rob Andrews as the country’s inaugural National Rail Safety Regulator.
The new National Rail Safety Regulator will be based in Adelaide and will oversee Australia's urban passenger rail networks and interstate freight operations.
Mr Andrews will be responsible for ensuring rail transport operates more seamlessly and safely by reducing unnecessary red tape and duplication.
“He is a highly experienced rail safety regulator from the United Kingdom, having worked for the Strategic Rail Authority, the Office of Rail Regulation, the Health and Safety Executive, and most recently held positions as Program Director for Crossrail and Thameslink at the London Underground. He has also been a member of the UK Rail Safety and Standards Board,” Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese said in a statement.
Mr Andrew’s appointment comes after the South Australian Parliament passed the Rail Safety National Law that establishes the new regulator, which will replace seven separate regulatory authorities and 46 separate pieces of legislation.
A recent report published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows that while the number of dentists is growing throughout Australia, supply outside of major cities remains low.
The Trends in the Australian dental labor force, 2000 to 2009 report shows an overall increase in the supply of dentists across Australia in the decade 2009, recording an increase from 46.9 to 54.1 practising dentists per 100,000 people.
Despite the good news, it was shown that the number of dentists per 100,000 people in major cities was double that of outer regional areas, and almost triple that in remote/very remote areas.
“While the number of dentists in regional and remote areas is still well below major cities, there have been increases in the number of dentists in all remoteness areas between 2000 and 2009,” said AIHW spokesperson Professor Kaye Roberts-Thomson.
These increases have ranged from 9% in Outer regional areas to 40% in Remote/Very remote areas.
Supply was highest in the Australian Capital Territory and lowest in Tasmania and the Northern Territory, with all other states around the national average.
Dentists tended to work slightly fewer hours per week (37.4) in 2009 than they did in 2000 (39.3)
“In 2009, the Australian dental labour force was dominated by general dental practitioners, with 11,900 dentists making up 67% of the workforce. Among these, 4 in every 5 worked in the private sector,” Professor Roberts-Thomson said.
The average age of dentists has increased from 44.3 to 45.2 years between 2000 and 2009.
The number of female dentists increased from 2,042 to 3,869 between 2000 and 2009.
The report can be found here
An RMIT University research project is examining intergenerational patterns of health attitudes and behaviour in Melbourne's community to help improve health services across Victoria and assist national health policy development.
Dr Stavros Ktenas, who is conducting the research as part of his doctoral thesis in the School of Health Sciences, said the study would also identify integral health needs, situated in broad cultural and social contexts.
Volunteers aged 18 up from all groups were being encouraged to complete the survey, which takes less than 40 minutes to complete.
Dr Ktenas said the study would examine attitudes toward both mainstream health care and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
"There is currently no data for how and why Melbourne's community, across multiple generations, use different elements of the health care system," he said.
"While everyday medicine, offered in the main by general practitioners, provides the backbone of health management for most Australians, CAM therapies are gaining both acceptance and higher use. It is estimated that $2.3 billion is spent annually in Australia on CAM-related health services."
Dr Ktenas said that attitudes and knowledge about health services largely drove people's behaviour in managing their own health and wellbeing.
"This study – in the context of a theoretical model for predicting behaviour based on individual and psychological variables – will provide valuable understandings for improving the health behaviours of the Victorian community," he said.
The RMIT co-chief investigators on the project are Associate Professor Andrew Francis, Associate Professor John Reece and Dr Sophia Xenos.
Associate Professor Francis said the study would help inform the development of health care policy in Australia as it relates to the behaviour and needs of people from different age groups.
The Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government (ACELG) and the Council of Capital Cities Lord Mayors (CCCLM) has published the Local Action for a Low Carbon Future discussion paper, identifying ways for the Federal Government to work more closely with local bodies to bring about the country’s low carbon future.
The paper establishes a policy position on the role of local government and reflect a consensus view on the role local government organisations will play in the country’s low carbon future.
The paper’s findings reveal that the federal government’s Clean Energy Plan can reach further into residential and business communities by working with the local government’s key strengths, and, that local government has had two decades of experience in responding to the challenges of moving to a low carbon future.
The paper identifies four major strengths that the local government sector can bring to unlocking the country’s low carbon potential:
- collaboration (effectiveness in building partnerships and working collaboratively at multiple levels);
- proximity (councils connect frequently and directly with citizens, local businesses and a range of community stakeholders);
- unlocking investment capital (and embarking on innovative and transformative practices and projects); and
- knowledge using local data (councils have unique access to increasingly fine-grained land use and employment data to assist in carbon emission reductions).
A summary of the report can be found here
An effective new weapon in the fight against the spread of cane toads has been developed by the University of Sydney, in collaboration with the University of Queensland.
"This is the first powerful tool we have created to control cane toads," said Professor Rick Shine from the University's School of Biological Sciences and the lead author of the study which was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society on Wednesday 13 June.
The new research shows that the same powerful poisons cane toads use to devastate native species can be used as a weapon against the toads themselves - by using the poison as 'bait' in traps set in waterbodies to catch toad tadpoles.
"A chemical 'bait' created from the toads' poison is a real magnet for toad tadpoles," Professor Shine said.
The biggest obstacle to getting rid of cane toads is that a single clutch (the amount of eggs laid at a time by one female) can contain more than 30,000 eggs.
"This means that even if you catch and kill 99 percent of the adult toads in an area, the few that are left can produce so many offspring that before you know it you are back to where you started - just as many cane toads as ever," Professor Shine said.
The only way around the problem is to stop the toads from reproducing, Professor Shine explains.
The study discovered the secretion from the shoulder (parotoid) glands of dead toads can be used as bait. It is cheap, easy to obtain and highly attractive to toad tadpoles - but repels the tadpoles of native frogs.
"This is perfect to use in funnel-traps in ponds to catch toad tadpoles. Other native fauna such as fishes and insects aren't attracted to this chemical but toad tadpoles are incredibly good at detecting it, and they search for its source as soon as they encounter it," Professor Shine said.
"When we use this chemical as bait in a funnel-trap we catch thousands of toad tadpoles and almost nothing else. In one natural pond, we collected more than 40,000 toad tadpoles in less than a week. And I think we got them all - over the next few weeks, not a single toad emerged from that pond."
The researchers hope to train people from local 'toad-busting' community groups in the proper methods of collection. Until then, even a dead toad inside a funnel-trap can serve as an effective 'bait' for toad tadpoles, without requiring any risky squeezing of poison glands.
The toad's poison is very dangerous to humans as well as many native species (and pet dogs, etc) so collecting it must be done very carefully, and by someone who has been trained in the right methods; and is wearing suitable protective equipment.
"In continuing work with our collaborators at the University of Queensland we are developing an even stronger, safer, and easier-to-use bait," Professor Shine said.
"To do this, we will isolate the active agent in the toads' secretion, and use it in pure form without all of the associated poisons."
Cane toads (Rhinella marina) are spreading through tropical Australia with a devastating impact on native species. Predators that try to eat toads are killed by the invader's powerful poisons; in some local populations of crocodiles, goannas and quolls, more than 95 percent of the animals are killed within a few months of the toads' arrival.
An emerging biomarker may eventually lead to new approaches for treating diabetics at risk of developing nerve damage, UNSW researchers have found.
The researchers say neuropathy in diabetic patients is under-diagnosed and early identification has been problematic. It is estimated that up to 50 per cent of diabetics end up with nerve damage.
They tested nerve excitability in diabetics with and without neuropathy and found those without irreversible nerve damage still showed excitability abnormalities well before the development of clinical symptoms.
“Excitability testing provides a biomarker to identify the early development and severity of diabetic neuropathy,” the key researcher Dr Cindy Lin said.
The research was led by UNSW and the School of Medical Science’s Dr Cindy Lin and is published in the journal Diabetes.
Professor Matthew Kiernan from UNSW says the research may lead to new therapeutic approaches for treating patients with diabetic neuropathy early.
“It may yet prove possible to initiate therapy in diabetic patients well before they manifest the neurological symptoms and disability that inevitably reflects the presence clinical neuropathy,” Professor Kiernan says in his commentary, also published in Diabetes.
“Pharmacological manipulation of axonal membrane channels seems likely to provide further new therapeutic approaches for treating patients with diabetic neuropathy,” he says.
There is growing evidence of the need for a separate approach to men's and women's health, according to a men's health expert at the University of Adelaide.
Professor Gary Wittert, from the University's School of Medicine, has been appointed the new Director of the Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men's Health, starting on 1 July.
Speaking during Men's Health Week (11-17 June), Professor Wittert says: "The provision of health services specifically to men, especially preventative health services, is critical. It is very important to have a gender-specific approach to healthcare.
"It is incorrect to assume that men are not interested in their health, but as health professionals we need to better understand how to engage with men," he says.
"There is a common misconception that men's health relates only to sexual or lower urinary tract issues. In reality there are significant biological and behavioural differences between men and women that result in susceptibility to and prevalence of a wide range of diseases. These demand specific approaches to both treatment and prevention," Professor Wittert says.
The Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men's Health - a joint venture between the University of Adelaide and the Freemasons Foundation - is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of men through innovative scientific and medical research.
Established in 2007, the Centre was the first of its kind to take a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to men's health issues. Research areas include male ageing, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, male androgens (hormones), sexual and reproductive health, and mental health.
"Significant advances have already been made by the Centre's researchers in understanding: the biology of prostate cancer; how men engage with the health system and use health services; the links between obesity and sexual and lower urinary tract symptoms in men; and the benefits of weight loss in improving and preventing these common disorders," says Professor Wittert, who over the past 18 years has secured more than $19.5 million in competitive research funding for studies into obesity and men's health.
Professor Wittert will succeed Professor Villis Marshall AC, General Manager of the Royal Adelaide Hospital, who has been the inaugural Director of the Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men's Health for the past five years.
A new field study by researchers from Swinburne University of Technology suggests that the effect of wave activity on oceans should be incorporated in long term climate and weather prediction models.
Mixing of the upper ocean directly affects the air-sea exchange of heat, momentum and gases, but currently wave physics exists only as a remote factor in most climate models.
"Large waves that occur in tropical storms and cyclones, can contribute in mixing a wider layer of the upper ocean with the cooler deeper parts, exchanging heat and carbon dioxide with the atmosphere which affects weather and climate," said lead researcher Dr Alessandro Toffoli from Swinburne's Centre for Ocean Engineering, Science and Technology.
The study analysed oceanographic data supplied by Woodside Energy Ltd from the North Rankin A Gas Platform over the North-West Shelf about 135 kilometres off the coast of Australia between January and April 2006.
The period includes six tropical cyclones, whose wind speed at the location was above 10 metres per second and maximum significant wave heights were greater than three metres.
The study found that during summer periods the mixed layer depth and its variability is strongly affected by the injection of wave-induced turbulence, especially during cyclone seasons.
The analysis of wave activity confirms theoretical modelling that the rapid intensification of wave activity in tropical cyclones forces the production of wave-induced turbulence twice as deep as the average mixed layer depth, producing a quick and substantial deepening of the latter.
"Right now small-scale wave physics and large-scale climate modelling exist separately," said Professor Alexander Babanin, Director of the Centre for Ocean Engineering, Science and Technology. To improve prediction, wave modelling should be incorporated in larger climate models."
As these integrated models are improved and refined, Professor Babanin hopes they can be used in other oceanographic disciplines like marine biology.
The study has been published online in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
The University of Canberra Union (UCU) has appointed former Wallabies and Brumbies player Joe Roff as its Chief Executive Officer.
The position has been created as a result of UCU's new strategic plan and direction, to invest in campus life at the University of Canberra. The first task of the revitalised union will be to look at new services that might be provided, either directly or in partnership with leading community, sporting and cultural organisations.
Mr Roff is moving from Lifeline Australia, where he has held the position of Director of Workforce Development since 2010. Prior to that, he was a consultant with The Nous Group. Mr Roff spent 10 years playing professional rugby union in Australia, France and Japan before retiring at age 29.
He attended Marist College Canberra and has a Bachelor of Applied Finance from the University of Southern Queensland. He also has a Master of Arts in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford University, and was involved in the Oxford Union, including the chess club, rowing and college activities.
Mr Roff will begin his new role at the UCU next month.
In a year-long study funded by the Australian Solar Institute, CSIRO, together with the Australian Energy Market Operator and the Energy Networks Association have investigated the concerns around solar intermittency and its impact on electricity systems.
During the project it was found that in some cases local utilities do limit solar power generation because they fear that adding solar power to the grid will make it harder to manage their electricity system.
The report, Solar intermittency: Australia’s clean energy challenge, is now available and demonstrates that there are no insurmountable barriers to increasing the use of large scale solar energy in the national grid. The key findings included:
- We can ‘fix’ intermittency. With knowledge and tools, such as solar forecasting and energy management, CSIRO can provide the information required to manage solar intermittency.
- We need a customised approach. There is no global consensus on managing solar intermittency. It is not uniform and different sites, regions and countries require individual solutions. Local research and demonstration pilots are required. Australia has a unique electricity network and we need unique solutions.
- We need a highly flexible electricity grid. If large amounts of solar energy are to be used as a power source in the future, the electricity grid has to be designed or adapted for renewable energy sources, while keeping network costs low.
From this study, CSIRO now has the foundation research required to help Australia’s electricity and solar industries cost effectively manage solar intermittency.
Solar intermittency: Australia’s clean energy challenge was a comprehensive study that included a review of world-wide research, collection and analysis of high-quality solar data and consultation with a range of industry experts from utilities, power system operators, large-scale renewable system operators and other industry players.
Download the report: Solar intermittency: Australia's clean energy challenge.