Australia’s four Learned Academies will form the Linkage Learned Academies Special Projects scheme to provide specialst research based evidence to the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council (PMSEIC) to form policy development areas of ‘strategic importance’.
Under the $10 million scheme, the learned acadamies will operate under the auspices of the Australian Research Council (ARC), the PMSEIC and the Chief Scientist to conduct research in areas deemed vital to the country’s future.
"The Australian Council of Learned Academies (AcoLA) will use this $10 million investment for a series of strategic research programs selected by PMSEIC and the Chief Scientist," Senator Evans said.
"Australia's best minds will deliver their research findings to the ARC and to the Chief Scientist, who will take the work to PMSEIC.
"The research findings will give the Chief Scientist and PMSEIC a strong evidence-base with which they will recommend new policies that will help secure a strong, fair and productive future for Australia.
"World class science and research is crucial to Australia's future competitiveness.
"We must ensure science and research policy underpins industry and innovation and drives them to adapt to the modern economy."
Current areas of research include: Australia's comparative advantage; Country comparisons in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; Asian literacy; The role of science, research and technology in lifting Australian productivity; New technologies and their role in our security, cultural, democratic, social and economic systems; and Engineering energy, in particular unconventional gas exploration.
It is also anticipated that additional projects will be identified as the research conducted by ACoLA progresses.
For more information on the Linkage Learned Academies Special Projects scheme, visitwww.arc.gov.au.
The Federal Government has announced $13 million in funding to allow Victorian public schools to provide specialised teaching a field of their choice under the first phase of the Empowering Local Schools initiative.
Federal Minister for School Education and Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon released the plan that will operate in 166 government schools over the coming two years.
Mr Dixon said the funding provided for the first phase of Empowering Local Schools will increase autonomy for government schools, helping principals and the school community make decisions in the best interest of all students.
“The Empowering Local Schools initiative will build on Victoria’s already strong history of school autonomy, allowing school leaders and teachers to better exercise the decision making powers they already have, and helping to reduce the bureaucratic burden on schools,” Mr Dixon said.
The scheme will see four key elements form the basis of the policy
- A Local Administration Bureau in Horsham, in regional Victoria, will be expanded to remove the administrative burden for the principals of small and regional schools by outsourcing functions, including financial management, human resources and other administrative processes.
- School Partnerships – Empowering Local Decision Making will create new school partnerships and cluster arrangements, using teams within schools to build school capacity, increase parental involvement, and share accountability for student learning outcomes.
- Specialisation Grants will help more schools introduce personalised learning for students in areas such as languages, maths and science, giving schools greater flexibility to respond to student and local community needs.
- Supporting Professional Practice will support principals to evaluate teacher performance and provide more effective feedback and support to teachers.
Each school will receive a start-up grant of between $40,000 and up to $50,000 to help implement increased and improved local decision making. The reforms will be progressively implemented from now until the end of 2013, with a second phase of the initiative expected to commence from 2015.
For more information and a list of schools taking part visitwww.deewr.gov.au.
The New South Wales Government has confirmed Sydney's $2 billion desalination plant will be shutting down at the end of June following a two-year proving period.
Finance Minister Greg Pearce has told the ABC it could be around three years before the facility operates again.
He said that the plant will not be recommissioned until the dams drop below 70% capacity, and will then operate until they reach the 80% level.
Mr Pearce said that turning off the desalination plant would save Sydney Water customers $50 million a year, although $16 million was being paid per month to pay for the cost of building the plant and associated pipeline.
Mr Pearce said that while he had been a vocal critic of the plant in opposition but now believed it to be a good safety mechanism in case of drought and useful in planning for Sydney's future growth.
Sydney Water has completed a $6.9 million 2.1 kilometre section of the Canterbury Bankstown Submain upgrade, which has significantly boosted the long term reliability of the system.
Work began in March 2011 and required crews to descend to depths of 25 metres below ground to carry out the repairs, which were mostly done at night due to high wastewater flows in the pipe during the day. Night work also ensured a safer working environment for the crews,” Sydney Water’s Managing Director Kevin Young said.
Crews worked across 14 sites in Earlwood and Canterbury to:
- clean and repair 2108 metres of the 1.8meter diameter wastewater pipe with a PVC liner
- clean and repair 18 maintenance holes with an epoxy protective coating
- clean and line one large maintenance hole with a calcium aluminate cement protective coating
- remove 70 tonnes of silt and debris to increase the capacity and efficiency of the pipe.
The Canterbury Bankstown Submain was built between 1919 and 1927, and carries wastewater from Belfield through to Arncliffe and the Malabar Wastewater Treatment Plant.
This work was part of Sydney Water’s SewerFix program, which improves the wastewater system and protects public health and the environment.
The Western Australian Department of Water is calling for comment on a new state-wide guideline aimed at clarifying water management regulations for the resources industry.
The draft copy covers all areas of the state and provides clear guidelines to miners about the regulatory processes around water management in the industry.
Department of Water Executive Director Regional Delivery and Regulation Paul Brown said the draft provides transparency and clarity to miners across Western Australia.
“This is a state-wide guideline which is applicable to miners and explorers not only in the Pilbara but those in the Mid West, the Goldfields and right across the state,” Mr Brown said.
“It builds on the principles and practices used to establish the Pilbara Guideline which has been instrumental to developing this state-wide advice.
“It also includes detail about water management issues in relation to mine closure and decommissioning.”
Mr Brown encouraged stakeholders and industry groups to comment on the draft.
The guideline can be accessed here.
The NSW Government will appoint a new Land and Water Commissioner, end the royalty holiday for coal seam gas producers, and encourage producers to contribute funds to local projects under a new community benefits initiative.
Deputy Premier and Nationals Leader Andrew Stoner said the new Land and Water Commissioner will oversee the regulation of invasive exploration activity on Strategic Regional Land.
“Standardised land access agreements for coal seam gas exploration on private land will be introduced to deliver greater consistency and fairness for landholders.
“A standardised agreement will be developed by a working group made up of NSW Farmers, irrigators, cotton growers, and the coal seam gas industry, and the application of these agreements will be overseen by the new Land and Water Commissioner.”
The Land and Water Commissioner will report to the Director General of the Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services. The role will complement the Federal Government’s newly established interim Independent Expert Scientific Committee.
“The NSW Government will establish new Regional Community Funds, which will see local communities receive a share of their region’s assets,” Mr Stoner said.
“Given the resource is owned by the public, it’s important that local communities and the people of NSW benefit from the production of coal seam gas through royalties and investment in communities in which the industry operates.
“It is imperative that coal seam gas producers invest in the communities in which they operate.
“Under the proposed framework, coal seam gas producers may elect to contribute funding into a Regional Community Fund. The NSW Government will refund $1 for every $2 committed by industry, up to 10 per cent of the royalty take.
“Regional Community Funds will provide much-needed funding for projects such as critical infrastructure or human services, with funding to be determined according to community needs in consultation with the industry and the community.
“This is an initiative that seeks to directly benefit communities in resource areas in recognition of the financial benefits that must be shared between the coal seam gas industry and the community.
Mr Stoner said the NSW Government contribution will be funded by ending the royalty holiday for Coal Seam Gas producers.
He said the NSW Government will seek industry and community feedback within 21 days regarding the establishment of the Regional Community Funds.
“The NSW Government is seeking enhanced industry co-operation to ensure resource communities adequately share.
“We acknowledge the many responses to the draft Strategic Regional Land Use policy and will continue to refine the policy over the next few months to ensure NSW has the strongest regulation of mining and gas extraction in Australia, if not the world."
The Western Australian Government has announced a $12.7 million investment package in new low emission energy projects in Perth, the Mid-West and the Wheatbelt.
State Environment Minister Bill Marmion and Energy Minister Peter Collier announced in-principle funding for the Low Emissions Energy Development (LEED) Fund for Curtin University; Morton Seed and Grain; Biogass Renewables; Green Rock Energy Ltd; Solastor, in consortium with Carbon Reduction Ventures; and The University of Western Australia (UWA).
“The funding is subject to these companies matching every $1 of Government funds with at least $3 from elsewhere, which will lead to a direct total investment of more than $50 million in low emissions technology in WA,” Mr Marmion said.
Curtin University is developing technology to simultaneously char and grind biomass so it can be efficiently burned with coal in existing coal generation infrastructure. Grinding the biomass as it is charred uses less energy and the resultant ground biomass is more compatible with coal burning power plants.
Morton Seed and Grain’s proposal is a biomass project in the Wheatbelt using oat husks as fuel for cogeneration of electricity and heat.
Biogass Renewables is developing a commercial-scale anaerobic digester plant to convert solid waste to biogas for electricity generation and compost in thermally insulated tanks.
Green Rock Energy Ltd is developing a geothermal electricity generation plant in the Mid-West near Dongara, and Solastor, in consortium with Carbon Reduction Ventures, plans to spend $3.775million to build a 1.5 megawatt grid-connected concentrated thermal power station incorporating heat storage technology near Morawa.
UWA has received $356,000 to undertake research into recapturing methane from liquefied natural gas vents. Nitrogen is vented as part of LNG production, however this contains a proportion of methane which is an extremely potent greenhouse gas. Capturing this methane economically could provide a significant source of abatement. UWA will also receive $493,000 to evaluate the pumping of carbon dioxide (CO2) underground to enhance natural gas recovery. Enhanced gas recovery would use injected (and therefore sequestered) CO2 to increase natural gas production and deliver CO2 sequestration.
“The Government’s investment gives the companies and universities a platform to explore the benefits of technology to use biomass in coal power generation, energy cogeneration from agricultural waste products, generation of electricity and compost from commercial waste and geothermal power to improve energy security,” Mr Collier said.
“If these projects lead to commercial-scale developments in the future, they have the potential to save millions of tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions a year.”
The Victorian Government has announced a $12 million blitz to upgrade rail infrastructure on Melbourne’s Glen Waverly line.
Premier Ted Baillieu said the upgrade to the line was the next stage of a series of major works to be undertaken to improve Melbourne’s rail network and public transport reliability.
"The Coalition Government is investing $247 million in 2012/13 to address the public transport maintenance backlog left behind by the Brumby Labor Government," Mr Baillieu said.
"The project will include the replacement of 45,000 sleepers and 250 metres of fencing, platform works and renewal of overhead wiring and signals,” State Transport Minister Terry Mulder said.
The National Curriculum Services has handed an independent review of the performance of Victoria’s four indigenous Koorie Pathways Schools, suggesting that the performance and effectiveness of them be examined.
State Education Minister Martin Dixon , who will now consider the review, said the priority was to provide the best possible education for Victoria's Koorie students.
"We are reviewing all of our major programs to ensure they are effective in closing the gap between the education outcomes for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students," Mr Dixon said.
The Pathways Schools in Glenroy, Swan Hill, Mildura and Morwell began operating in April 2009.
The schools' role has been to reconnect with mainstream schooling students who have disengaged or are at risk of dropping out of school.
Among the concerns identified in the review was the fact that enrolments at the Pathways Schools accounted for just 0.7 per cent of Koorie students in Victoria, yet the KPS are absorbing 16 per cent of funding for Koorie students.
Of the 10,600 Koorie students attending Victorian schools around 60 are enrolled in Koorie Pathways Schools.
With the exception of Ballerrt Mooroop in Glenroy, which was de-staffed at the end of last year with only one student attending the school, the remaining schools will continue to operate while the findings of the report are considered and until any further decisions are made.
The Review of Koorie Pathways Schools report is available on www.education.vic.gov.au/wannik
The Senate Education, Employment and Workplace Relations References Committees is to conduct an inquiry into the adequacy of Newstart Allowance payments for jobseekers.
Under its terms of reference, the committee will inquire into:
(a) the adequacy of the allowance payment system for jobseekers and others, with particular reference to the adequacy of the Newstart Allowance payment as an income support payment for jobseekers and the adequacy of all other allowance payments that support a range of recipients who study or provide care;
(b) the appropriateness of the allowance payment system as a support into work, with particular reference to:
- the effectiveness of the payment as an incentive into work,
- the effectiveness of the allowance payment system in facilitating transitions between working and other activities, such as studying, caring and retirement, or in the event of illness or disability, and in helping or hindering recipients to overcome barriers to employment, and
- the impact of the differences between pensions and allowances on the transition between working and other activities; and
(c) the impact of the changing nature of the labour market, particularly the rise of insecure work and decline of unskilled jobs, on the:
- nature and frequency of individual interaction with the allowance payment system, and
- over and underpayment of allowances to recipients.
Submissions have been called for, and the reporting date is 1 November 2012.
More information is here.
The Federal Government has successfully passed its Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) bills through Parliament; with Minister for Financial Services Bill Shorten saying the reforms will pave the way for better quality services in the industry and ensure future growth in the area.
“The FOFA reforms introduce a new duty for financial planners and advisers to put their customers interests first, ban the payment of sales commissions and make it easier for a wider range of advice to be provided to consumers,” Mr Shorten said.
“As a result of the measures passed by the Senate today, every Australian consumer can be more confident that their financial planner or adviser is putting customers’ interests first and that the advice they receive is not influenced by sales commissions.”
While the reforms will still commence from 1 July 2012 as originally announced, the application of the provisions will be voluntary until 1 July 2013. These changes balance consumer needs and industry requirements by giving the financial advising community more time to prepare for the reforms, while still giving early movers the opportunity to provide commission-free advice from 1 July 2012.
Australian businesses received online orders worth $189 billion in the twelve months to 2010-11, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
This includes orders received from Australian households, businesses and government, as well as orders received from overseas customers.
This is up from $143 billion in 2009-10 and represents a 32% increase.
Over half of Australian businesses (51%) reported placing orders via the internet, a nine percent increase from 2009-10.
The proportion of businesses that reported receiving orders via the internet increased by 13% to 28%. Half or more of the businesses in the wholesale trade and manufacturing industries reported receiving orders online (52% and 50% respectively). The retail industry came in sixth place (35%).
Businesses reporting a web presence increased from 40% to 43%. Nearly all large businesses had a web presence (97%), compared to one-third of micro businesses.
Innovation in Australian business
Just under 40% of Australian businesses reported some form of innovative activity in 2010-11.
Large businesses were more than twice as likely to undertake innovative activity than micro businesses (66% compared to 30%).
Over half of all businesses in Wholesale trade industry reported being innovation-active, the highest of any industry.
Further information is available in Summary of IT Use and Innovation in Australian Business(cat. no. 8166.0).
The Federal Government has passed the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Bill 2012, paving the way for the establishment of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).
The CEFC will be run as an independent body that will drive commercial investment in low-carbon technologies as part of the Federal Government’s Clean Energy Future Package.
To be chaired by the Reserve Bank Board member Jillian Broadbent, the fund will be responsible for breaking down market barriers faced by clean technologies.
The full CEFC Board will be appointed by the Federal Government and will be given an investment mandate that will enable the Board to further develop the corporation’s investment strategy. The CEFC will be legally required to invest responsibly and manage risk to achieve a target rate of return and ultimately be financially self-sufficient.
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation will work alongside the carbon price, the Renewable Energy Target and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to drive significant renewable energy and clean energy investment and innovation. These mutually supporting elements of the Government's Clean Energy Future Plan are fundamental to the transformation of our energy sector.
The CEFC will commence investment operations from1 July 2013.
Fall prevention specialist Workplace Access and Safety has announced a series of free workshops at the Western Australian Safety Show aimed at better explaining changes to the fall prevention code of practice.
“The 2-metre limit is about to be replaced with an obligation to minimise the likelihood of a fall from any height. In real terms, the law will encompass falls from low level platforms and ladders,” Carl Sachs of Workplace Access and Safety said.
The seminar has been specifically developed to educate attendees on everything they need to know about working at height laws and standards.
More information can be found here
The largest study ever undertaken in Australia to investigate and address public perceptions of drinking recycled water will be led by UNSW’s Journalism and Media Research Centre (JMRC).
The research will form the basis of a national education and engagement program which will give Australians access to evidence-based information about the production and consumption of recycled water.
UNSW’s Faculty of Engineering and School of Public Health and Community Medicine, along with 30 national and international organisations, are collaborating on the $10 million research project which is funded by the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence.
Academic leader of the project and Director of the JMRC, Professor Catharine Lumby, said the outcomes of the cross-disciplinary investigation will be significant for the water industry globally.
“Recycled drinking water is already accepted in other countries around the world. In Australia, local policies, stigmas and public perceptions have often prevented recycled water being considered for potable use,” said Professor Lumby.
Professor Judy Motion, a leading expert in science communication based at the JMRC, said the project is designed to engage the public in a dialogue, rather than railroad them into drinking recycled water.
“Our aim is to find the best way of communicating new information to the Australian public, educators and decision makers by exploring the growing role that online and social media play in science communication.”
Associate Professor Greg Leslie of the School of Chemical Science and Engineering acknowledged Australians wanted more information about drinking recycled water and the process of producing it.
“A key part of this project will be investigating what Australians want to know and how scientists can better communicate issues of reliability and quality control,” said Professor Leslie.
The $10 million funding to UNSW is part of The Australian Government’s $20 million commitment over five years to the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence, through the Water for the Future initiative.
For more information on the Australian Water Recycling Centre of Excellence visit www.australianwaterrecycling.com.au.
Employees take fewer sickies if they have more control over their jobs, according to a new study undertaken by a researcher and orthopaedic surgeon into long work absences due to lower back pain.
Associate Professor Markus Melloh, from the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research and The University of Western Australia, was lead author on the internationally collaborative report: "Predictors of Sickness Absence with a New Episode of Lower Back Pain in Primary Care".
He found the best way to prevent long absences from work (up to six months) due to lower back pain was to give employees a sense of empowerment and to ensure that their GPs followed up with them on a regular basis after their first appointment.
Associate Professor Melloh said patients with first-time lower back pain should see their doctor again after six weeks, otherwise their risk of long-term sickness absence could be missed by their GP and interventions, such as modifying their work situation, would not be implemented.
The study showed that workers with high job control had fewer days of sick leave when suffering from a new episode of back pain than others with lower job control, he said.
"For the first time, the risk of prolonged sick leave for people complaining of back pain can be averted by simple short-term measures such as talking to their supervisor, changing work hours and modifying work breaks. Long-term measures include greater empowerment within a job, such as more decision-making by the worker.
"Sickness absence due to an ongoing pain condition is a hot topic in Australia and throughout the world for a number of reasons," Associate Professor Melloh said.
"Australia has a shortage of skilled workers. Prolonged absence may lead to unemployment and reduced employability of a worker, and also indirect health care costs increase when workers are absent for too long."
The study monitored 310 patients who went to their GPs with back pain and took days off work. They were interviewed during the initial visit then followed up at three, six and 12 weeks and six months. At six months, 164 people were still participating and seven per cent were still on sick leave.
Associate Professor Melloh said back pain was a very important issue in Australia because the back was the most common site of pain for people of working age, from young to middle-aged adults.
The research has recently been presented at the World Forum for Spine Research in Helsinki.
Plans by the University of Canberra to offer a new degree in civil engineering have moved a step closer.
In June last year Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Parker announced the University’s intention to offer the degree from 2014 if a $5 million funding target is reached.
The Bachelor of Civil Engineering in Urban Engineering and Infrastructure will complement the University’s existing suite of disciplines in the built environment, including architecture, urban and regional planning and building and construction management.
It has now been revealed that the University has already received pledges totaling more than $1.78 million towards the degree, with ACTEW Corporation coming on board as the major contributor, pledging $1.2 million over six years.
“We are delighted to have this extensive industry support,” Professor Parker said.
“There is a real need for this degree to help address the skills shortage of engineers that exists not just in Canberra but nationally as well.”
The other founding partners are the ACT Building and Construction Industry Training Fund Authority pledging $250,000 over five years, Indesco committing $180,000 over six years and the Master Builders Association of the ACT Skills Centre Building Fund Authority pledging $150,000. The University is also close to finalising negotiations with other industry partners.
According to the Australian National Engineering Taskforce, approximately 59 per cent of engineering vacancies go unfilled, the highest of any profession. The taskforce claims Australia needs to produce 105,000 engineers over the next five years.
The new degree will be the first of its kind in Australia focusing on urban engineering and infrastructure.
The ANU Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute has announced $7.5 million in funding to establish three new Centres of Research Excellence in primary health care.
The new centres will focus on three priority areas: access and equity, prevention and management of chronic conditions, as well as quality, governance, performance and sustainability.
Robert Wells, Director of the Institute, said the new centres will conduct research across a range of issues, tackling some of the key health reform challenges facing Australia.
“These three new centres will add significantly to the depth of health care research in Australia. The Centre of Research Excellence in the Finance and Economics of Primary Care will focus on the finance and economics of primary health care, aiming to build an evidence base to support primary care reform. The centre will be evaluating current policies, and using that as an evidence base to inform the development and implementation of new initiatives,” he said.
“The Centre of Research Excellence in Primary Oral Health Care will research the growing concern of oral health care. Oral health is fundamental to overall health and quality of life. Despite this however, over 90 per cent of Australians born before 1970 have some experience of tooth decay, and one in five adults has moderate or severe gum disease. This centre will focus on improving this situation through addressing knowledge gaps and forging links between dental care and primary health care.
“Finally, the Centre for Obesity Management and Prevention Research Excellence in Primary Health Care will focus on another key health issue facing Australia – obesity. The team will provide evidence of the effectiveness of interventions and strategies in primary health care to assist people to improve their lifestyle and achieve and maintain weight goals.”
The Centre of Research Excellence in the Finance and Economics of Primary Care will be based at the University of Technology, Sydney, in collaboration with the University of Queensland and the University of New South Wales. The Centre of Research Excellence in Primary Oral Health Care will be based at the University of Adelaide in collaboration with the University of Tasmania. The Centre for Obesity Management and Prevention Research Excellence in Primary Health Care will be based at the University of New South Wales in collaboration with the University of Sydney, Deakin University, the University of Adelaide and the Inala Indigenous Health Service.
Funding for the program comes from the Commonwealth Government’s Department of Health and Ageing.
This week’s turmoil of the country’s media landscape continues after David Leckie announced his retirement from the role of Chief Executive Officer of Seven West Media to transition to a new position as Executive Director, Media for Seven Group Holdings.
Mr Leckie has served in the role for the past nine years, and will continue to be involved in the group as a major shareholder and senior manager of the group’s Seven Network Television arm.
"I am looking forward to this new role. It's been a great honour to lead Seven. We've had fun, kicked some goals and together built a very good media business. But it's time for me to take a career step and I'm looking forward to playing a key role in Seven Group Holdings and further enhancing the company's media presence,” Mr Leckie said.
Replacing Mr Leckie is Don Voelte, the former Managing Director and CEO of Woodside and current serving director of Seven West Media. Mr Voelte will also take up the reins as Managing Director.
“My role is to harness these businesses and its leaders. Our objectives are clear: leadership in a sector undergoing radical change, develop our management teams, improve our financial performance without impacting the product for our readers, viewers and advertisers, and create opportunities to expand our presence in media,” Mr Voelte said.
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) has released an Injury Prevention and Management System aimed at assisting employers maintain effective safety protocols within their company.
The tools and resources on the new page aim to assist employers to establish and maintain effective injury prevention and management to improve health and safety outcomes for their workers.
The tools and resources include:
- Workcover case studies and other return to work information and claims
- Realising the health benefits of work
- Stay at Work, return to work
- Better Practice in Return to Work Guide
- Return to work assessment checklists, and
- Helping you get the measure of workplace rehabilitation (
The Australian Industry Group (AI Group) has completed its submission to the Australian Law Reform commission’s Issue Paper GreyAreas – Age Barriers to Work in Commonwealth Laws, concluding that the mature-age workforce is central to boosting the country’s productivity.
"A key element of our response to skills shortages and boosting our productivity has to be the engagement of our mature age workforce," Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said.
“In an ageing population - with recent Census data revealing the average working age is now 39 years old and 14% of the population now 65 years of age or older - there is an obvious need for good policy to support mature-age workers.”
"While many businesses are already leading the way, reform is needed in a number of areas to help simplify the process and make it more attractive to both employers and potential employees.”
AI Group’s full submission can be found here