A study by the Colorado School of public health has shown that pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, may contribute to acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling sites.
“Our data show that it is important to include air pollution in the national dialogue on natural gas development that has focused largely on water exposures to hydraulic fracturing,” said Lisa McKenzie, Ph.D., MPH, lead author of the study and research associate at the Colorado School of Public Health.
The report, which is based on three years of monitoring, found a number of potentially toxic petroleum hydrocarbons in the air near fracking wells, including the well known carcinogen benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene.
“Our results show that the non-cancer health impacts from air emissions due to natural gas development is greater for residents living closer to wells,” the report said. “The greatest health impact corresponds to the relatively short-term, but high emission, well completion period.”
According to the study, prolonged exposure to trimethylbenzenes, aliaphatic hydrocarbons, and xylenes can cause serious neurological and respiratory conditions.
“We also calculated higher cancer risks for residents living nearer to the wells as compared to those residing further [away],” the report said. “Benzene is the major contributor to lifetime excess cancer risk from both scenarios.” The report, which looked at those living about a half-mile from the wells, comes in response to the rapid expansion of natural gas development in rural Garfield County, in western Colorado.
The study will be published in the upcoming edition of Science of the Total Environment.
The Victorian Minister for Environment and Climate Change Ryan Smith has invited industry, communities and local governments to join consultation sessions on the Government's review of how the state's waste is managed.
"The Coalition recently announced $9 million to support a range of waste management related programs based on outcomes from the Sustainability Victoria Review, because resource efficiency and job creation is firmly on our agenda," Mr Smith said.
Recent announcements include:
- $3.5m for transition support to improve regional landfill infrastructure to meet tougher environmental standards
- a $3m regional support package to fund a range of initiatives targeting resource recovery; and
- a $2.5m regional organics strategy for state of the art facilities, improved infrastructure and market development.
"While some things are working well, it is time to take stock and maximise unrealised opportunities to recover more of our resources," Mr Smith said.
"The carbon price will also have an impact on the waste and resource recovery markets in Victoria, so we need to understand these impacts so Victorian operators are not left behind.
The Victorian Water Minister Peter Walsh has announced a temporary suspension of some of Victoria's allocation trade to protect next season's allocations to Victorian water entitlement holders.
The temporary suspension until 30 June begins immediately for trade of water allocation:
- from New South Wales to Victoria, and
- from the Goulburn, Campaspe and Loddon systems to the Victorian River Murray system, or to interstate.
Mr Walsh said high storage levels, large volumes of unused irrigation water, Victoria's progressive carryover rules and recent floods in the southern Murray-Darling Basin had again converged to create challenges in managing allocation trade.
"The current circumstances are very similar to those of last year when an identical suspension was put in place," Mr Walsh said.
Mr Walsh said allocation trades into the Victorian Murray increased the obligation to deliver water to users, but Victorian storages did not receive a matching secure volume of water.
"Victoria and NSW have agreed to amend accounting rules so that when there is a chance of spill from Hume Dam, water is transferred in Dartmouth," Mr Walsh said.
"But when there is also a chance of spill from Dartmouth, Victoria cannot securely accept any more water from NSW. If allocation trade from NSW continues in this situation, the water available to Victorian irrigators in the next irrigation season may be reduced.
"Trade from the Goulburn, Campaspe and Loddon systems will also impact on future allocations in the Victorian Murray system if trade is not temporarily suspended.
"If there is a spill from Lake Eildon in the new season, it will wipe out some or all of the water to be supplied to the Murray or interstate from the inter-valley account, which poses an unacceptable risk to Victorian Murray allocations next season.
"With Eildon at 94 per cent, it's likely there will be one or more spill events from Lake Eildon."
Mr Walsh said Victoria supported trade but the suspensions were necessary as it was unfair to allow trade if it was done at the expense of Victorian Murray entitlement holders.
Mr Walsh said the suspensions would apply to applications for trade allocation that were received after close of business yesterday, when the temporary suspension rules were published in the Government Gazette.
Mr Walsh said a review of carryover was currently underway, with the Carryover Review Committee reviewing various aspects of the carryover provisions and in particular the spill rule that applies on the Murray system.
"It is very important that we review these rules to ensure they provide the best policy framework for the future," Mr Walsh said.
The NSW Government has announced that contracts have been awarded to landholders in the Central West of NSW for a major Soil Carbon Sequestration Scheme pilot.
The pilot will be run in the region north of Cowra and includes the centres of Manildra, Canowindra and Cudal.
The aim of the pilot is to develop and test a Market Based Instrument (MBI) to sequester soil carbon in the Lachlan Catchment. The soil carbon MBI has been developed by NSW Department of Primary Industries and Office of Environment and Heritage, and was funded by Catchment Action NSW.
In a competitive tender process announced in June last year, farmers could choose to participate in the pilot through three different types of contracts, including:
• ‘actions-based’ contracts - which involve paying farmers to adopt specific practices to increase soil carbon stores;
• ‘outcome-based’ contracts - which involve paying farmers on the basis of the amount of carbon they actually store in their soil; or
• ‘hybrid’ contracts - which involve a combination of two previous options.
A total of 26 bids, to the sum of 11,455 tonnes of CO2-e, were submitted and 11 of these have been successful in gaining funding. These 11 bids account for 7,819 tonnes of CO2-e, or 66 per cent of the total amount of carbon sequestration offered by farmers.
The farmers involved will be paid to store carbon in their soil by changing their land management practices across cropping and pasture systems.
A legal contract for the five-year project is in place between each of the landholders and the Lachlan Catchment Management Authority.
All farmers involved in the project are required to participate in annual reporting and monitoring and provide updates throughout the year.
Legislation has been passed through Parliament to increase the Superannuation Guarantee Levy from 9% to 12%.
The increase was supported by the Financial Services Council, which argued it was necessary to reduce the estimated Retirement Savings Gap from $836 billion to $768 billion. A research report by Rice Warner Actuaries, released by the FSC, showed that without the increase in the Superannuation Guarantee contribution rate to 12% the estimated RSG would be $184 billion higher at $1,020 billion.
However, the Australian Industry Group has called for the Government to immediately introduce amendments to the Fair Work Act requiring Fair Work Australia to take the increased levy into account when determining minimum wage increases.
Ai Group Chief Executive Heather Ridout said it was also “vital that Minister Shorten urge employers and unions to take the increased levy into account when negotiating enterprise agreement wage increases.”
“This is important. Unless the Government expresses its support for this, unions are likely to oppose any absorption of the increases into the wage increases which would have otherwise been paid.
"Such fair and sensible measures would reduce the negative impacts of the cost increases on businesses and the economy.
"Throughout the period when the Superannuation Guarantee Levy was originally phased in from 3% in 1992 to 9% in 2002, the federal workplace relations legislation included a section (90A) which required the Tribunal to have regard to the Superannuation Guarantee Levy when making national wage case decisions. A similar provision should be included in the Fair Work Act," Mrs Ridout said.
The increased SGR will be phased in over the next seven years, beginning with a rise to 9.25% from 1 July 2013.
The increase schedule is as follows:
Year 1 starting 1 July 2013: 9.25%
Year 2 starting 1 July 2014: 9.5%
Year 3 starting 1 July 2015: 10%
Year 4 starting 1 July 2016: 10.5%
Year 5 starting 1 July 2017: 11%
Year 6 starting 1 July 2018: 11.5%
Year 7 starting 1 July 2019: 12%
A new Aviation Simulation Laboratory has been opened at Swinburne University of Technology's Hawthorn Campus.
The new laboratory is the only research facility in Australia to be equipped with simulators capable of replicating flight in both aeroplanes and helicopters.
Researchers will use a variety of methods to monitor both experienced and trainee pilots using the facility in a range of projects which will examine the impact of issues such as fatigue, poor visibility and pilot inexperience on flight safety, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Matthew Bailes said.
"Australians rely on aeroplanes and helicopters to connect us to each other and the world. Their navigation, operation and simulation are complex ICT/engineering problems, so it is appropriate that a University of Technology like Swinburne should establish itself as a regional leader in aviation research," Professor Bailes said.
The FlyIt Professional Helicopter Simulator is the only one of its kind in Australasia and is capable of simulating six types of helicopter, including the Bell 206 Jet Ranger light turbine helicopter.
"Helicopters are used extensively in civil aviation, from fighting fires to shuttling workers to oil rigs; but research into key factors to improve the performance and safety of helicopter pilots is quite minimal," Professor Bailes said.
The laboratory is also equipped with Victoria's only Redbird flight simulator, capable of simulating flight in a single-engine Cessna 172 and a twin-engine Beechcraft Baron. A full-sized Cessna is also housed at the Hawthorn laboratory, providing hands-on opportunities for maintenance training.
"This facility will enable researchers to study some of the key stressors and challenges faced by pilots - ensuring this Laboratory will make a valuable contribution to improving safety, with an impact both in Australia and beyond," said Stephen Fankhauser, Swinburne's Aviation Discipline Leader.
"In the future, Swinburne hopes to further expand the scope and scale of aviation research, working closely with our industry partners," added Mr Fankhauser.
A promising alternative to traditional silicon-based solar cells has been developed by Dr Mark Bissett from the Flinders University School of Chemical and Physical Sciences using carbon nanotubes.
Carbon nanotubes are cheaper to make and more efficient to use than their silicon counterparts.
“Solar power is actually the most expensive type of renewable energy – in fact the silicon solar cells we see on peoples’ roofs are very expensive to produce and they also use a lot of electricity to purify,” Dr Bissett said.
“The overall efficiency of silicon solar cells are about 10 per cent and even when they’re operating at optimal efficiency it could take eight to 15 years to make back the energy that it took to produce them in the first place because they’re produced using fossil fuels,” he said.
Dr Bissett said the new, low-cost carbon nanotubes are transparent, meaning they can be “sprayed” onto windows without blocking light, and they are also flexible so they can be weaved into a range of materials including fabric – a concept that is already being explored by advertising companies.
While the amount of power generated by solar windows would not be enough to completely offset the energy consumption of a standard office building, Dr Bissett said they still had many financial and environmental advantages.
“In a new building, or one where the windows are being replaced anyway, adding transparent solar cells to the glass would be a relatively small cost since the cost of the glass, frames and installation would be the same with or without the solar component,” Dr Bissett said.
“It’s basically like tinting the windows except they’re able to produce electricity, and considering office buildings don’t have a lot of roof space for solar panels it makes sense to utilise the many windows they do have instead.”
Dr Bissett said the technology mimics photosynthesis, the process whereby plants obtain energy from the sun.
“A solar cell is created by taking two sheets of electrically conductive glass and sandwiching a layer of functionalised single-walled carbon nanotubes between the glass sheets,” he said.
“When light shines on the cell, electrons are generated within the carbon nanotubes and these can be used to power electrical devices.”
Although small prototypes have been developed in the lab, he said the next step would be to test the carbon cells on an “industrial stage”.
If all goes to plan, the material could be on the market within 10 years.
“When we first started the research we had no idea if it would work because we were the first in the world to try it so it’s pretty exciting that we’ve proved the concept, and hopefully it will be commercially available in a few year’s time,” Dr Bissett said.
Dr Bissett is a winner of Flinders inaugural Best Student Paper Award, a now annual program which aims to recognise excellence in student research across the University.
More than 210,000 workers and job seekers will be assisted by the Federal Government's foundation skills programs over the next four years.
Releasing the revised Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF), Parliamentary Secretary for Skills, Sharon Bird MP, said that improving literacy and numeracy skills from the lowest to middle level, as identified by the ABS Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey scale, can increase a person's chance of getting a job by five to 15 percentage points, and increase their hourly wage rate by about 25 to 30 per cent.
"The Australian Government is committed to building the foundation skills of the workforce to give every Australian the chance to share in the benefits of Australia's strong national economy," Ms Bird said.
"In our last two budgets we have invested an additional $297.8 million over four years in programs to improve the foundation skills of the Australian workforce.
"The $115 million 2010 Foundation Skills Package and the $182.8 million 2011 Building Australia's Future Workforce package will expand program delivery to assist more than 72,000 workers and 140,000 job-seekers over the next four years.
"Giving more Australians the skills they need to join the workforce will help drive productivity.
"Improved literacy and numeracy skills will not only benefit the individual, but also the economy, as more people get the opportunity to share the benefits of our strong economy."
The ACSF is a tool to support and improve Australian adults' language, literacy and numeracy skills. It is part of the Government's $784 million investment to give employees the foundation skills required to meet the challenges facing a 21st century workforce.
Further information can be found at: www.deewr.gov.au/acsfLi
Curtin Business School (CBS) has appointed leading human resources specialist Chris Ryan as an Adjunct Professor.
Mr Ryan, an independent director and corporate advisor, has more than 25 years’ experience in the human resource sector, including leading the HR team during Wesfarmers’ takeover of the Coles group in 2007.
CBS Acting Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Tony Travaglione, said Mr Ryan’s appointment would build on a relationship that was started three years ago.
“Since joining the CBS School of Management Advisory Board in 2009, Chris has provided valuable guidance in the area of human resources,” Professor Travaglione said.
“We will continue to work closely with Chris to receive advice on strategic issues and to foster closer links with key industry players.”
Mr Ryan said his appointment was an opportunity to increase his contribution to the growth of CBS.
“Through my association with the Advisory Board I have come to appreciate the professional and pragmatic approach taken in both the management of CBS and the delivery of its education programs,” Mr Ryan said.
“This approach is very much aligned with my own business ethos,” he said.
Mr Ryan said he was looking forward to working with CBS students through student engagement programs.
“Throughout my career I have worked with some outstanding leaders,” he said. “I hope to be able to share some of the knowledge gained through those experiences in areas such as organisational strategy and the development of leaders.”
Mr Ryan’s advisory practice, CRHR, works with Boards and CEOs on HR strategies, senior talent management, remuneration strategies and acquisition and restructuring projects.
The Northern Territory has announced it has recorded over $200 million in minerals exploring investment, a record for the territory.
Resources Minister Kon Vatskalis welcomed the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures which also show that in the December quarter expenditure was $67.1 million, up from $49.8M in the December 2010 quarter.
“For the 2011 calendar year, mineral exploration expenditure is now $228.4 million, the first time the NT has exceeded $200 million in annual expenditure,” Mr Vatskalis said.
The statistics represent a 37% increase on the total of $166.7 million in 2010.
“What a brilliant result for the Northern Territory, showing that the mining industry has confidence to invest and proving the NT Government’s Bringing Forward Discovery initiative to attract exploration and investment to the Territory is delivering very real results,’ Mr Vatskalis said.
Mining now contributes around 25 per cent to the territory economy, over four times the national average.
The Federal Government has announced that impacts on the Great Barrier Reef will be considered in the assessment of whether or not Rio Tinto Weipa proposed South of Embley Bauxite Mine and Port Development can progress under national environment law.
Environment Minister Tony Burke said considerations were being made in the light of new information and that any Environmental Impact Study must investigate the impacts on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
In September 2010, Rio Tinto Weipa Pty Ltd submitted a proposal for federal assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to extend its existing bauxite mining operations south of the Embley River near Weipa on western Cape York.
The proposal for bauxite mining includes construction and operation of two new bauxite processing plants and infrastructure associated with the mining operations.
In October 2010, it was determined the proposal had the potential to trigger the EPBC Act and would need full federal environmental assessment.
“Following a request to reconsider the decision on the basis of new information about proposed shipping activities in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, I have revoked the original referral decision and substituted it with one that takes the reef into account,” Mr Burke said.
“The Great Barrier Reef is one of our most significant environmental assets and has been recognised as among the world’s healthiest coral reef ecosystems and best managed marine areas.
“These new provisions will ensure we continue our commitment to sustainable development that ensures the outstanding universal value of the Great Barrier Reef is protected.”
The decision is based on significant new information in Rio Tinto Weipa Pty Ltd’s draft environmental impact statement, which was provided by the company during the assessment process.
The draft environmental impact statement included information on shipping in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park not provided with the initial referral.
The EPBC Act allows for new information to be adopted during a federal assessment process and in this instance provides an opportunity for new shipping information to be taken into account.
“I have made clear that I want potential shipping movements in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area to be taken into account for all relevant decisions,” Mr Burke said.
“The reconsideration decision means the significant new information provided about shipping can be fully taken into account to ensure the protection of the Great Barrier Reef before the proposal is assessed.”
The Federal Government has approved an extension at the existing Springvale Mine north of Lithgow in New South Wales, with Environment Minister Tony Burke announcing over 30 conditions to ensure environmental protection.
Operating since 1993, the Springvale Mine has operated under a number of NSW based regulatory approvals and environmental impact assessments.
Operator Springvale Coal submitted a proposal to undertake longwall coal mining for federal assessment under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 because of the potential impact on the temperate highland peat swamps and sandstone ecological community.
"My decision is based on a thorough and rigorous assessment of the proposal taking into account the advice of my department and independent scientific advice," Mr Burke said.
"While I have considered the social and economic implications of this project, my focus has been on protecting environmental matters of national significance through strict conditions to manage any potential environmental impacts.
"In making this decision I took into consideration advice on monitoring and management arrangements from the new Interim Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Coal Mining.
"The Committee supported the condition for no mining under high quality swamps, or within buffer zones, unless the proponent can demonstrate that there is a way of conducting the longwall mining with no adverse impact to the swamps."
The stringent conditions also include comprehensive monitoring to:
- Detect potential geological and hydrological impacts upstream of temperate highland peat swamps on sandstone;
- Focus on surface and groundwater hydrology surface and groundwater quality, vegetation community structure and diversity, and biological indicator species; and
- Detect any potential impacts for a period of at least 10 years post-mining.
Federal, state and territory members of Safe Work Australia met in Sydney last week to discuss progress on implementation of the Model Work Health and Safety laws.
The WHS laws commenced in the Commonwealth, ACT, NSW, NT and QLD on 1 January 2012. The WHS laws have passed in Tasmania with a commencement date of 1 January 2013. Other jurisdictions provided status reports.
The meeting noted progress towards finalisation of the draft WHS Regulations on Mines.
Six futher Codes of Practice were endorsed by majority as part of the harmonised WHS laws, subject to minor technical and editorial changes:
• Safe design of structures
• Excavation work
• Demolition work
• Spray painting and powder coating
• Abrasive blasting, and
• Welding processes.
After technical and editorial changes are finalised these codes together with the six codes previously agreed by Members will be sent to the Ministerial Council:
• First aid in the workplace
• Managing risks in construction work
• Preventing falls in housing construction
• Managing electrical risks at the workplace
• Managing risks of hazardous chemicals, and
• Managing risks of plant in the workplace.
If approved these 12 codes will become model Codes of Practice.
The meeting agreed by majority to release five further Codes of Practice for a 12 week public comment period commencing early April 2012:
• Safe design, manufacture, import and supply of plant
• Working in the vicinity of overhead and underground electrical services
• Traffic management in workplaces
• Scaffolding work, and
• Formwork and falsework.
The meeting agreed that a package seeking public comment on proposed changes to the Workplace Exposure Standard for Airborne Contaminants for Synthetic Mineral Fibre will be released for an eight week period commencing 16 April 2012.
The draft strategy, titled Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022: Healthy, Safe and Productive Working Lives, will be released for public comment for an eight week period commencing 26 March 2012.
More information is at http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au
The Federal Government has passed the Road Safety Remuneration Bill through the House of Representatives, and it is expected to pass comfortably through the Senate with the support of the Greens.
The Bill, which was passed despite the Federal Opposition voting against it, will see the establishment of a Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal on July 1 to dictate pay rates and remuneration-related conditions.
National Secretary of the Transport Workers Union, Tony Sheldon, has welcomed the ‘historic vote’ that will deliver safer working conditions.
“It has been known for decades that there is a safety crisis in the road transportation industry, and that this is linked to the rates of pay for truck drivers and the economic power of retailers,” Mr Sheldon said.
The Federal Government has passed its controversial Mining Resources Rent Tax (MRRT) through the Senate, paving the way for tax to become law.
Despite constant attempts by the Federal Opposition to delay its passage, the Federal Government secured the crucial support of the Greens in passing the legislation, who backed the tax despite arguing it was too weakened by changes. The Greens claimed the tax was too watered down in it only applying to coal and iron ore, and that the connected tax cuts should only be extended to small businesses, rather than the whole business community.
The passage of the tax will clear the way for the Federal Government to introduce its tax cuts for business, which will see company tax rates fall from 30 per cent to 29 per cent.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan were delighted with the legislation’s passage, with Mr Swan describing it as the “huge economic reform of our time”.
"[It] will help us deliver more super savings for 8.4m ppl (sic), tax breaks for 2.7m small businesses and a company tax cut," Mr Swan wrote on Twitter.
In addition, the Federal Government will use the $10 billion it will raise over the next three years to push the country’s superannuation contribution levels from 9 per cent to 12 per cent.
Despite its passage, dispute surrounding the legislation is rife. With mining magnate Clive Palmer vowing to take the Government to the High Court in a bid to have the tax ruled unconstitutional.
The Federal Opposition has also vowed to repeal the tax if it wins government in next year’s election.
Toll Energy has announced work has begun on a $45 million transport and storage contract as part of coal seam gas explorer GQC’s Queensland Curtis Liquefied Natural Gas (GCLNG) project.
The QCLNG project involves expanding exploration and development in southern and central Queensland and transporting gas through a 540km underground pipeline network to Curtis Island near Gladstone where it will be liquefied.
Toll Global Resources CEO David Jackson said Toll Group was excited about being part of one of Australia’s largest capital infrastructure projects.
“This project has allowed us to demonstrate to Queensland and beyond the superior logistics solutions Toll has to offer,” Mr Jackson said.
“We are delighted with the opportunity to help deliver this crucial service to such an important project, and prove yet again the end-to-end capabilities Toll can provide to the resource sector in Australia and around the world.”
The contract award is the third major contract Toll’s Global Resources Division has been successful in securing from proponents involved with Queensland’s LNG developments on Curtis Island.
A 50:50 joint venture between John Holland and Macmahon Holdings has been awarded the $340 million site development civil works contract by the JKC Joint Venture (JGC Corporation, KBR, Chiyoda Corporation) for the onshore facilities of the Ichthys LNG Project near Darwin in the Northern Territory.
The JV will see the two companies undertake civil construction works associated with delivering the finished earthwork levels for the LNG plant and associated facilities. The works will include access roads, drainage and ground improvement works required for the establishment of the project.
John Holland Group Managing Director, Glenn Palin, said: “Today’s award reflects the diversity of John Holland and our ability to deliver a vast range of works across the energy and resources sector, from site preparation through to design, delivery and commissioning works.”
Gavin Stubbs, General Manager of John Holland’s Northern Region business, said: “John Holland has a long history in Darwin and a record of working closely with local suppliers in the delivery of major construction works.
We look forward to using our local knowledge and experience in the resources sector to deliver long-term employment and economic benefits for the people of the Northern Territory.”
John Holland’s current portfolio of work in the Northern Territory includes the Robertson Barracks redevelopment works - Part 1 and Part 2 and the SkyCity Resort development.
The Ichthys LNG Project is a joint venture between INPEX (76%, the operator) and Total (24%). Gas from the Ichthys Field, in the Browse Basin approximately 200 kilometres offshore of Western Australia, will undergo preliminary processing offshore to remove water and extract condensate. The gas will then be exported to onshore processing facilities in Darwin via an 889km subsea pipeline. The Ichthys LNG Project is expected to produce 8.4 million tonnes of LNG and 1.6 million tonnes of LPG per annum, along with approximately 100,000 barrels of condensate per day at peak.
Early works on the project will commence almost immediately with site works starting in early April 2012. Completion of the site development work is scheduled for mid-2014.
The Federal Government has lodged its submission to the Annual Wage Review of Fair Work Australia, reiterating its position that any wage increase to the National Minimum Wage and award wages in 2012 be in line with living costs and other economic changes.
The Government will make a further submission to FWA once the Budget has been delivered to provide the latest economic data and outline relevant Budget initiatives.
Fair Work Australia is required to consider minimum wage cases with regard to the state of the economy (including employment growth, productivity and inflation) as well as the needs of the low paid. The Government’s submission is available here.
The Government’s submission can be found here
The full list of submissions can be found here
The Federal Government is planning a new My Skills website that will offer information about courses, fees, providers and the quality of training on offer.
My Skills – to be launched later this year – will ensure students and businesses can find the training that is right for them.
Currently, there is no consistent or authoritative source of information on training providers. Different providers have different fees, varying level of student satisfaction and varying success in providing a pathway to employment or further training.
This lack of available data means it can be difficult for an employer or an individual to make an informed choice about which training course is most appropriate for them.
Through My Skills, Australians will be able to research the courses on offer in the VET system by the approximately 5000 registered providers allowing comparisons to be made.
Over time, the service will cover student fees, the outcomes of satisfaction surveys and greater information at the individual campus or training location level. It will also include information about the availability of student services such as childcare arrangements, as well as links to local employment opportunities.
A new Unique Student Identifier will also be introduced so students will be able to access information about their training record from a single authoritative source.
This will help students keep track of their qualification and training, as they upskill and reskill throughout their career.
It will also give the Government better access to data on where training funds are being spent, boosting accountability and transparency.
The Federal and Western Australian governments have announced the commencement of work on the $120 Esperance port works.
“The Esperance Port Access Corridor project will untangle the road and rail connections to the Port by realigning Harbour Road and replacing two existing level crossings with overpasses,” Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese said.
Due for completion in late 2013, the work will seek to streamline the movement of goods and freight into and out of the port.
With one of the deepest harbours in southern Australia, Esperance Port is critical to the national economy. Each year more than 200 ships pass through it carrying over 11 million tonnes of nickel, iron ore and grain exports as well as imports of fuel and fertilisers – volumes which are only expected to grow in the years ahead.
The project is being delivered by John Holland Pty Ltd with funding from both the Federal Labor Government ($60 million) and the WA Government ($60 million).
Mr Albanese also announced the allocation of $2 million to the PortLink Inland Fright Corridor Plan which, if given final approval, will establish Kalgoorlie as a hub linking the ports of Hedland Freemantle, Geraldton and the proposed Oakajee facility.
“The funding I’m announcing today will go towards the planning and scoping study which will assess the possible road and rail alignment options, undertake the necessary economic and financial modelling as well as determine the operational and technical feasibility of an intermodal facility,” Mr Albanese said.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard has announced the introduction of a HECS style fee support system for the VET sector.
Under the new system, VET diploma students will face no upfront fees for, and will have access to interest-free loans to be paid back once their income reaches a certain level (currently $47,196 per year).
If all states and territories agree to the offer of expanded access to VET FEE-HELP, and the maximum take-up is achieved, up to $155 million could be loaned each year to subsidised higher level VET students. This could support as many as 60,000 higher level VET students with student loans each year.
Under the Government’s offer to the states and territories, interest-free, deferred loans will be available to all students studying publicly subsided diplomas and advanced diplomas. Students seeking to undertake higher level VET qualifications will have the choice of an income contingent loan to pay those fees if they are unable or don't want to pay for tuition fees upfront.