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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27686" align="alignnone" width="300"] This box is filled with 200,000 cigarette butts displayed to highlight the impact that littering has on streets and waterways.[/caption]

The City of Melbourne has become one of only two councils in Australia to run a citywide initiative to recycle millions of cigarette butts into industrial products.

“We collect more than 200,000 cigarette butts each week from 367 cigarette butt bins across the city: litter that may otherwise end up being washed down drains and into the Yarra River,” Lord Mayor Robert Doyle AC said.

“Cigarette butts are not biodegradable and break down slowly. As part of this project, we will recycle binned cigarette butts into practical items such as shipping pallets and plastic furniture.

“We have collected 1.2 million butts from around Melbourne’s universities and hospitals and busy CBD locations that can be recycled.”

The City of Melbourne has partnered with Enviropoles, which collects the cigarette waste, and TerraCycle, which converts the butts into plastic products.

The project is funded through the Victorian Government’s Litter Hotspots program. Studies have shown that of the four disposal routes (recycling, litter, landfill, and incineration), recycling the cigarette butts has the lowest global warming impact.

The City of Melbourne has placed a perspex box filled with 200,000 cigarette butts on the banks of the Yarra River to highlight the impact that littering has on the city’s streets and waterways.

Chairwoman of the City of Melbourne’s Environment portfolio Councillor Cathy Oke said the project has been completed in Vancouver and New Orleans before, but Melbourne is leading the charge in Victoria to tackle recycling cigarette waste.

“Cities around the world are looking for new ways to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill, and Melbourne is leading the way,” Cr Oke said

“Cigarette butts are the most littered item in Australia. Butts are commonly mistaken for food by marine life and have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds, sea turtles and other marine creatures.”

The Perspex box full of cigarette butts was placed in Queensbridge Square, where three solar compaction litter bins are located. Cr Oke said the City of Melbourne is installing more than 360 smart bins in the CBD following a successful trial of 17 bins last year.

“We collect around nine million butts in our litter bins every year. We hope this project will motivate smokers to place their cigarette butts in one of the butt bins located around the CBD.”

Previous surveys have found that around 10,500 cigarette butts from the central city are being deposited on the ground every day. The City of Melbourne spends approximately $13 million on waste services each year (collection and disposal).

 
                    [post_title] => Butts into better things
                    [post_excerpt] => Melbourne is recycling cigarette butts into plastic industrial products.
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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_23593" align="alignnone" width="300"] Centrelink is using the services of spyware company, Cellebrite.[/caption]

Monique Mann, Queensland University of Technology; Adam Molnar, Deakin University, and Ian Warren, Deakin University

An Australian Tax Office (ATO) staffer recently leaked on LinkedIn a step-by-step guide to hacking a smartphone.

The documents, which have since been removed, indicate that the ATO has access to Universal Forensic Extraction software made by the Israeli company Cellebrite. This technology is part of a commercial industry that profits from bypassing the security features of devices to gain access to private data.

The ATO later stated that while it does use these methods to aid criminal investigations, it “does not monitor taxpayers’ mobile phones or remotely access their mobile devices”.

Nevertheless, the distribution of commercial spyware to government agencies appears to be common practice in Australia.

This is generally considered to be lawful surveillance. But without proper oversight, there are serious risks to the proliferation of these tools, here and around the world.

The dangers of the spyware market

The spyware market is estimated to be worth millions of dollars globally. And as Canadian privacy research group Citizen Lab has noted, spyware vendors have been willing to sell their wares to autocratic governments.

There are numerous examples of spyware being used by states with dubious human-rights records. These include the surveillance of journalists, political opponents and human rights advocates, including more recently by the Mexican government and in the United Arab Emirates. In Bahrain, the tools have reportedly been used to silence political dissent.

Commercial spyware often steps in when mainstream technology companies resist cooperating with law enforcement because of security concerns.

In 2016, for example, Apple refused to assist the FBI in circumventing the security features of an iPhone. Apple claimed that being forced to redesign their products could undermine the security and privacy of all iPhone users.

The FBI eventually dropped its case against Apple, and it was later reported the FBI paid almost US$1.3 million to a spyware company, reportedly Cellebrite, for technology to hack the device instead. This has never been officially confirmed.

For its part, Cellebrite claims on its website to provide technologies allowing “investigators to quickly extract, decode, analyse and share evidence from mobile devices”.

Its services are “widely used by federal government customers”, it adds.

Spyware merchants and the Australian Government

The Australian government has shown considerable appetite for spyware.

Tender records show Cellebrite currently holds Australian government contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the specific details of these contracts remain unclear.

Fairfax Media has reported that the ATO, Australian Securities and Investment Commission, Department of Employment , Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Department of Defence all have contracts with Cellebrite.

The Department of Human Services has had a contract with Cellebrite, and Centrelink apparently uses spyware to hack the phones of suspected welfare frauds.

In 2015 WikiLeaks released emails from Hacking Team, an Italian spyware company. These documents revealed negotiations with the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the AFP and other law enforcement agencies.

Laws and licensing

In Australia, the legality of spyware use varies according to government agency. Digital forensics tools are used with a warrant by the ATO to conduct federal criminal investigations. A warrant is typically required before Australian police agencies can use spyware. ASIO, on the other hand, has its own powers, and those under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, that enable spyware use when authorised by the attorney-general. ASIO also has expanded powers to hack phones and computer networks. These powers raise concerns about the adequacy of independent oversight. International control of these tools is also being considered. The Wassenaar Arrangement, of which Australia is participant, is an international export control regime that aims to limit the movement of goods and technologies that can be used for both military and civilian purposes. But there are questions about whether this agreement can be enforced. Security experts also question whether it could criminalise some forms of cybersecurity research and limit the exchange of important encryption technology. Australia has export control laws that apply to intrusion software, but the process lacks transparency about the domestic export of spyware technologies to overseas governments. Currently, there are few import controls. There are also moves to regulate spyware through licensing schemes. For example, Singapore is considering a license for ethical hackers. This could potentially improve transparency and control of the sale of intrusion software. It’s also concerning that “off-the-shelf” spyware is readily accessible to the public.

‘War on math’ and government hacking

The use of spyware in Australia should be viewed alongside the recent announcement of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s so-called war on maths. The prime minister has announced laws will be introduced obliging technology companies to intercept encrypted communications to fight terrorism and other crimes. This is part of a general appetite to undermine security features that are designed to provide the public at large with privacy and safety when using smartphones and other devices. Despite the prime minister’s statements to the contrary, these policies can’t help but force technology companies to build backdoors into, or otherwise weaken or undermine, encrypted messaging services and the security of the hardware itself. While the government tries to bypass encryption, spyware technologies already rely on the inherent weaknesses of our digital ecosystem. This is a secretive, lucrative and unregulated industry with serious potential for abuse. The ConversationThere needs to be more transparency, oversight and strong steps toward developing a robust framework of accountability for both the government and private spyware companies. Monique Mann, Lecturer, School of Justice, Researcher at the Crime and Justice Research Centre and Intellectual Property and Innovation Law Research Group, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology; Adam Molnar, Lecturer in Criminology, Deakin University; and Ian Warren, Senior Lecturer, Criminology, Deakin University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. [post_title] => Spyware merchants: the risks of outsourcing government hacking [post_excerpt] => The distribution of commercial spyware to government agencies appears to be common practice in Australia. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => spyware-merchants-risks-outsourcing-government-hacking [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-25 12:20:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-25 02:20:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27681 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27700 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-24 17:43:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-24 07:43:49 [post_content] => Patrick Hunn The Planning Institute of Victoria has taken issue with the Victorian government’s plans to connect central Melbourne to the city’s west via a major road and cross-river tunnel. The Victorian chapter of the Planning Institute Australia has criticised the Victorian government’s West Gate Tunnel Project for failing to follow its own planning guidelines. The project would connect central Melbourne to the city’s west via a new tunnel and an 18-lane, partially elevated toll road. In a submission made in response to the West Gate Tunnel Environmental Effects Statement (EES) and the Planning Scheme Amendment (PSA) associated with the development, Victoria chapter president Laura Murray described the project as lacking “strategic justification” and argued that “alternate approaches to addressing the identified land use and transport issues have not been considered or rigorously tested”. “The proposal as it stands is a retrograde, traffic-engineering-focused solution which is entirely at odds with any appreciation for good place-making and contemporary urban planning,” Ms Murray said. “The proposed 18 lanes of traffic on and above Footscray Road are completely out of proportion with an inner-city location, which will be subject to regeneration and will permanently blight the area.” The submission also expressed concerns of “inappropriate methodology and inadequate extent of traffic modelling” which did not go beyond 2031; the “significant detriment” to traffic and future development opportunities likely to be caused by the city exits; and “entrenched inequality for those in the outer suburbs without access to a private motor vehicle.” This article has first appeared in ArchitectureAU. To read the full article click here. [post_title] => ‘Retrograde solution’: West Gate Tunnel Project a ‘permanent blight,’ says PIA [post_excerpt] => The Victorian government’s plans to connect central Melbourne to the city’s west have been called into question. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => retrograde-solution-west-gate-tunnel-project-permanent-blight-says-pia [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-25 12:16:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-25 02:16:44 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27700 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27691 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-24 17:10:38 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-24 07:10:38 [post_content] => Australia will trump even Donald Trump and become the first nation to cut protections of its ocean estate if it implements plans, released by the Federal Government, to expose vulnerable areas of the marine environment to industrial fishing exploitation. An election promise to be science-based has been ignored in changes proposed to the national network of marine sanctuaries, the Save Our Marine Life alliance of 25 national and state environment groups said. Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg has released maps detailing planned cutbacks to protection of coral reefs and key feeding and breeding areas around Australia, but particularly in the Coral Sea. Tourism jobs will also be placed at risk, particularly in the valuable dive and whale watching sectors, if Australia’s reputation as a destination for unspoilt nature experiences is damaged, according to the Australian Marine Conservation Society. “Australia will trump even Donald Trump if it implements these cut backs,” AMCS director Darren Kindleysides said. “No other nation has chosen to go backwards in the protection of its ocean estate. In the US, the Trump administration has launched a review, but Australia is now at the end of its review, ordered by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2013. “All Australians will be justifiably distressed to know that science evidence supporting an increase in protections for marine life has been thrown out the window,” Mr Kindleysides said. More than 3.5 years after the Abbott Review of national marine sanctuaries was launched, commercial fishing has emerged as the biggest beneficiary. Large areas of Queensland’s Coral Sea, as well as sanctuary protections off the coast from Western Australia, the Northern Territory and NSW could be scrapped to make way for an expansion of long-line fishing and seafloor trawling. [caption id="attachment_27693" align="alignnone" width="300"] Long-line fishing. Image courtesy of fish.gov.au / Fishing Research and Development Corporation.[/caption] “The threat to jobs, local businesses and to the survival of unique marine life could be avoided if the government instead chose to create an evidence-based balance for Australia’s oceans,” Michelle Grady, oceans director from the Pew Charitable Trusts said. “The government-appointed review panel reinforced the importance of marine sanctuaries and Australia’s leading marine scientists have informed the Environment Minister of the threat to the productivity of our oceans if sanctuaries are removed,” she said. “Fishing is an important part of Australian life and economic activity, but so is our tourism sector and the opportunity for all Australians to experience nature unspoilt by industry. The success of our ‘blue economy’ depends on securing a healthy marine environment, not in undermining it.” Senate fight on the horizon The Labor Party is proud of the protection plans it established and is promising a fight. In 2012, Labor released what it says was the world’s largest network of marine national parks and protected areas. The network was said to be based on the latest science and extensive community consultation. Midwater trawling is to be reintroduced and it will be now be possible for long-lining to start at the southern tip of the Coral Sea reserve and continue all the way to the northern boundary. “Labor will not stand by and see our precious oceans be attacked. Labor will fight to prevent any backward steps on ocean protection.” The Greens will join The Turnbull Government's attempts to gut ocean protections will face a fight in the Senate and at the next election, the party declared. Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, Greens spokesperson for Healthy Oceans, said: "Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg has released draft maps showing protections for coral reefs and critical ecosystems will be gutted around Australia. “If the Turnbull Government wants to pick a fight with Australians who love our oceans then they will get one as any attempt to gut ocean protections will face a disallowance in the Senate. “This is the worse possible time to be scaling back environmental protections, it will make us into another international embarrassment just as we have witnessed with LNP climate vandalism." The Reef will suffer The Queensland Minister for the Great Barrier Reef Steven Miles slammed the Federal Government’s proposal to decrease the Coral Sea marine park protected area by 76 per cent. “This latest Federal Government Marine Reserves review proposes to cut protections for our marine life and their habitat. “This is another example of the Turnbull Government walking away from the Great Barrier Reef. “Marine Protection is not only good for the environment it is good for the Queensland tourism industry and the 64,000 jobs in supports. Will the ocean fight back? Shifting storms will bring extreme waves, seaside damage to once placid areas, a recent study found, concluding that sea level rise is no longer the only impact climate change will bring to the world's coastlines. What is claimed to be the world’s most extensive study of a major stormfront striking the coast has revealed a previously unrecognised danger from climate change: as storm patterns fluctuate, waterfront areas once thought safe are likely to be hammered and damaged as never before. [caption id="attachment_27692" align="alignnone" width="300"] The June 2016 ‘superstorm’ that battered eastern Australia caused widespread damage to homes and infrastructure, including these homes in Sydney's Collaroy Beach.[/caption] The study, led by engineers at University of New South Wales in Sydney, was published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Scientific Reports. “If you have waterfront property or infrastructure that has previously been sheltered from the impacts of extreme waves, this is worrying news” said Mitchell Harley, lead author and a senior research associate at UNSW’s Water Research Laboratory (WRL). “What this study confirms, is that simply by changing direction, storms can be many times more devastating. And that’s what we’re facing in many locations as the climate continues to change.” Ian Turner, director of WRL and a co-author, said sea level rise was no longer the only factor at play when preparing for the impact of climate change on waterfront areas. “Shifts in storm patterns and wave direction will also have major consequences, because they distort and amplify the natural variability of coastal patterns.” The study relied on data collected during the June 2016 ‘superstorm’ that battered eastern Australia, one of the fiercest in decades: it inundated towns, smashed buildings, swept away cars and infrastructure and triggered hundreds of evacuations across a 3,000 km swathe from Queensland in the north all the way to Tasmania in the south. Three people died and there were more than 80 rescues from stranded cars.   [post_title] => Senate fight looms over the deep blue sea [post_excerpt] => Cutbacks to marine protection in the Coral Sea will meet fierce opposition in the Senate, and even the ocean is predicted to fight back. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => senate-fight-looms-deep-blue-sea [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-25 12:19:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-25 02:19:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27691 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27671 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-21 11:16:24 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-21 01:16:24 [post_content] => Australians are selective about when they support sharing personal data with government agencies and commercial organisations via the Internet of Things, according to the 2017 Unisys Security Index. The vast majority of Australians, 82 per cent, support using a button on their phone or smartwatch to alert police to their location during emergencies. Yet only 35 per cent support police being able to monitor fitness tracker data anytime to determine their location at a certain time. The findings indicate that Australians will embrace IoT where they see a compelling reason such as personal safety and medical emergencies, but concerns about privacy and data security mean they want to be able to control which organisations can access their data. Most Australians support (75 per cent of respondents) medical devices such as pacemakers or blood sugar sensors automatically transmitting significant changes to a patient’s doctor, and sensors in luggage to advise passengers if their luggage has been unloaded and what carousel it will be on (65 per cent). Yet less than one in three people support using a smartwatch app to make payments (29 per cent), or a health insurer accessing fitness tracker data to determine a premium or reward customers for good behaviour (26 per cent). The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to devices, sensors or computer systems that can connect and exchange information with each other using the internet. Unisys examined consumer reaction to the trend as part of a global study that gauges the attitudes of consumers on a wide range of security issues. The study polled 1,002 adults in Australia during April 2017. “These findings highlight that when it comes to personal data there is a very delicate balance between privacy, security and convenience – even for organisations generally trusted by the public,” said John Kendall, director of border and national security programs at Unisys. “For example, people are happy to use their smartwatch to alert police to their location when they need help, but they don’t want police to freely access that data at any time – they want to control when they share their data.” What are the barriers to IoT? Privacy and security concerns are key reasons Australians do not support IoT. In particular, if they do not feel it is a compelling enough reason to share their data or if they do not want an organisation to have such data about them. Data security is the biggest barrier cited for not supporting a smartwatch payment app. Richard Parker, vice president financial services at Unisys Asia Pacific said: “To address consumer concern around data security of smartwatch payment channels, banks need a multi-pronged approach that spans technology and policies to secure the data, as well as reassuring customers by communicating the steps taken by the bank to protect them – a fine line in delivering a frictionless customer experience whilst making sure they are secure.” Devices on government agency personnel are supported Wearable biometrics are part of the IoT phenomenon: wearable technology that analyses human characteristics to confirm an identity or monitor critical medical data. There is strong support, three in four Australians, for police or border security staff wearing facial recognition body cameras to identify criminals or terrorists who are on watch lists; and medical sensors transmitting any significant changes to a patient’s doctor. Fingerprint scans on smartwatches could address the security concerns around smartwatch payment apps. “Approximately half of consumers support a fingerprint scan to control access to data on a smartwatch (52 per cent) or to authorise a payment from the smartwatch (48 per cent). This is a clear signal to banks that biometrics could help alleviate consumer concerns about smartwatch payment channels,” said Mr Parker. While 50 per cent of Australians support airline staff wearing facial recognition glasses to verify the identity of passengers boarding aircraft at airports, only 29 per cent support the same glasses being used to identify VIP customers for special treatment. John Kendall said: “Respondents see it as a trade-off: is it a compelling enough reason for that organisation to capture this information about me? The findings reveal law enforcement, national security and serious medical conditions are considered acceptable justification, but customer loyalty programs and employee tracking are not – the impact on privacy outweighs the personal benefit.” Support for data analytics varies Support for analysis of data collected from a range of sources also varies – even among different government agencies. Fifty-seven per cent of Australians support border security officers analysing the travel history of passengers, and whom they are travelling with, to determine if they are eligible for fast-track border clearance. Yet only 40 per cent support welfare agencies accessing personal spending data from credit card records and insurance policies to verify if benefit claims are legitimate, and even less (32 per cent) support the tax office using the same data to verify income tax returns. Furthermore, the majority of Australians do not support data analytics being used to sell goods and services to them. Sixty-two per cent do not support banks monitoring individual customer spending behaviour to offer related products such as insurance for items they have purchased. Richard Parker said the use of data analytics must be sensitive to customer concerns. “Customers expect businesses to know them based on the history of their relationship. In a world where interactions may be across a range of channels and not just in person, many organisations are turning to data analytics to provide extra insight. Ironically, while they may be trying to improve the customer experience, if businesses cross the line and appear to invade their privacy by revealing that they know more about them than what the customer has knowingly shared, it just turns the customer off. Technology alone is not enough; it must be used in the context of understanding human nature and cultural norms.”   [post_title] => Privacy is paramount [post_excerpt] => People want control over when they share personal data via Internet of Things and data analytics. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => privacy-is-paramount [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-21 11:16:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-21 01:16:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27671 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27665 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-21 10:37:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-21 00:37:35 [post_content] => An ACCC report into the private health insurance industry has found that affordability of private health insurance remains a significant concern for consumers. The complexity of policy information provided by insurers is another key issue, reflected in increasing complaints about the industry. “Our report found that people are shifting towards lower-cost policies with lower benefits,” ACCC deputy chairwoman Delia Rickard said. “We are also concerned that consumers continue to have trouble understanding their policies, particularly when they are trying to make a claim. “It is in the interests of both insurers and their customers to be clear and transparent about policy details. This helps people to make informed decisions about the level of insurance cover they need and can afford,” Ms Rickard said. Key industry developments and trends in 2015-16:
  • The affordability of insurance remains a significant concern for consumers, which is supported by research that shows household spending on private health insurance premiums has increased steadily over the past decade.
  • Consumers are shifting towards lower-cost policies with lower benefits. Between June 2014 and June 2016 there was a 400,000 reduction in hospital policies with no exclusions (which can be equated with ‘top cover’), whilst an additional 600,000 hospital policies with exclusions were taken out.
  • The amount of hospital benefits paid by health insurers per person increased by 4.2 per cent, along with a 2.9 per cent increase in general benefits per person.
  • Average out-of-pocket expenses incurred by consumers from hospital episodes increased by 6.9 per cent, compared to only 0.7 per cent for general treatments.
  • Overall consumer complaints to the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman (PHIO) rose for the third consecutive financial year, although the year-on-year increase of 3.5 per cent followed much larger increases of nearly 16 per cent in 2013-14 and 24.5 per cent in 2014-15.
  • The PHIO continued to receive the highest level of complaints regarding the benefits paid by insurers to consumers (over 30 per cent of total complaints in 2015-16). The main issue of consumer concern relating to benefits was hospital policies with unexpected exclusions and restrictions.
  • Consumers increasingly rely on information provided by commercial comparison websites when making decisions about their private health insurance. Around 40 per cent of consumers who made comparisons between insurers prior to selecting their current policy utilised a commercial comparison website, such as iSelect and Compare the Market, to assist their decision making.
Each year, the ACCC is required by the Senate to produce a report on key competition and consumer developments and trends impacting on people’s health cover. This report covers the 2015-16 period. The report is available here. The ACCC has recently taken action: Not good enough: dentists The Senate inquiry must go further than ACCC and hold private health insurers accountable, according to the Australian Dental Association (ADA), as the report neglects to unequivocally call out private health insurers’ anticompetitive behaviour. The ADA is urging the Senate Inquiry into private health insurance to highlight the damage health insurer practices, such as discriminatory rebate practices and the shift towards a conflicted corporatised insurer-owned dental practice model impacts on consumers’ continuity of care and quality of treatment, and recommend legislative change to outlaw such practices. General treatment or ancillary policies also known as ‘extras cover’, cover more Australians (13.5 million) than hospital policies (11.4 million). The majority (52%) of claims paid out to policy holders are for dental care. The Senate inquiry must scrutinise private health insurers’ activities as they impact on policy holders accessing ancillary health services, including dentistry. ADA federal president Dr Hugo Sachs strongly criticised the ACCC report: “While the ACCC report outlined some thrust of the ADA’s concerns, it has downplayed the significance of insurers’ actions on patients’ access to continuity of care, on their ability to receive value for money, and on the overall competitive impacts on the dental sector. Stating that certain behaviour ‘does not represent best practice’ does not cut it. “Not all policy holders are treated equal. For years, insurers have imposed a regime of discriminatory rebates. If you want to maintain your relationship with your existing dentist who chooses not to be contracted to an insurer, you get less back on your claim. You get less back even though you pay the same amount of premium for the same policy as another person. This practice, combined with reports we have about insurers’ call centre staff shifting the blame for their own discriminatory rebates by suggesting the non-contracted dentist’s fees are expensive is misleading and deceptive; not to mention distorting the market by steering policy holders away to their own affiliated or owned dental practices.” Over the years, insurers have also used their claim processes to obtain sensitive price and fee information from non-contracted dentists to ultimately set up competing dental practices and inform their rebate setting practices. Dr Sachs continued: “This model of corporate/insurer owned and run health services should not be permitted. There is a glaring conflict of interest. An insurer owns the practice, employs the health practitioner, determines the fee for the service at one end and also sets the rebate the policy holders get back at the other end, and is vulnerable to pressure from shareholders to deliver a return. Ultimately, policy holders stand to lose in the long term.” Public hospitals overrun: ambulance The health cover report comes at a time when the NSW Ambulance Service is highlighting the shortage of beds. On several days so far this winter, NSW Ambulance paramedics have found some of Sydney’s largest hospitals struggling to maintain services because they were full. The Australian Paramedics Association (NSW) is concerned that hospital bed block has all but paralysed Liverpool Hospital, Bankstown Hospital and Fairfield Hospital over a number of days.  “Ambulance crews are being stuck at these hospitals waiting for hours, tending to patients on ambulance trolleys in the hallways because Emergency Departments are being overwhelmed and each of these large hospitals is full,” said APA (NSW) president Steve Pearce. “We have seen up to ten ambulances queued up for hours at Liverpool Hospital unable to unload patients and that is pushing the already stretched resources of NSW Ambulance, making it very difficult to service the public,” Mr Pearce said. “NSW Ambulance does not employ enough paramedics to manage the normal workload around the state, let alone during a huge surge like this. “The hospitals are full with a lot of very sick patients and we are seeing new patients with a range of ailments and injuries having to wait way too long to see a doctor. “This coincides with the height of the flu season but there simply are not enough hospital beds or enough ambulances on the road to handle the demand.” [post_title] => ACCC, ADA, Ambulances concerned about health cover and hospitals [post_excerpt] => Whilst an ACCC report blasts the health insurers, dentist and ambulance paramedics say more needs to be done. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => accc-ada-ambulances-concerned-health-cover-hospitals [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-21 10:37:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-21 00:37:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27665 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27659 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-20 20:28:33 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-20 10:28:33 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27660" align="alignnone" width="300"] Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and (former) Energy Minister Mark Bailey.[/caption] Following the resignation of the Greens’ Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters over dual citizenship issues, former Democrat Andrew Bartlett is now under question before he even takes up his new role as a Greens’ senator. In the meantime, the Queensland State Government also loses a minister. Apart from the two Greens senators, 23 parliamentarians were born overseas, all of whom spoke up quickly to assure electors of their singularly Australian citizenships. The Greens: who will do what The Australian Greens Party Room met and determined that the positions of acting australian greens co-deputy leaders be filled by Adam Bandt MP and Senator Rachel Siewert on an interim basis until a ballot of the full part room can be held. During this time, Mr Bandt and Senator Siewert will also maintain their positions of party room chair and party whip.  On the same interim basis, former Senator Ludlam and former Senator Waters portfolios will be allocated as follows:
Portfolio Senator
Foreign Policy & Development (Scott) Richard Di Natale
Defence and Veterans’ Affairs (Scott) Peter Whish-Wilson
Communications (Scott) Sarah Hanson-Young
Sustainable Cities (Scott) Adam Bandt
Nuclear (Scott) Sarah Hanson-Young
Environment and Biodiversity (Larissa) Janet Rice
Mining and Resources (Larissa) Rachel Siewart
Tourism (Larissa) Nick McKim
Women (Larissa) Janet Rice
Gambling (Larissa) Lee Rhiannon
Climate and Energy in Senate (Larissa) Richard Di Natale
  Andrew Bartlett Andrew Bartlett is an Australian citizen, but had a contract with the Australian National University (ANU) when he nominated. That could lead to him being challenged under the section of the constitution that says a parliamentarian must not have held an "office of profit under the crown". Queensland: emails are the problem The Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission said Energy Minister Mark Bailey has potentially destroyed public records, an offence under the Public Records Act, when he deleted correspondence with a union official from his personal email account. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk met with Minister Mark Bailey and discussed his use of a private email account for government business. She subsequently asked him to stand aside as Minister, pending the outcome of the State Archivist investigation into his deactivation of his personal email account. The Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) said: “as the only conduct the CCC considers raises a reasonable suspicion of corrupt conduct relates to the treatment of public records, the CCC has referred the matter to the State Archivist for investigation.” Two Ministers will share responsibilities for Energy, Water Supply, Biofuels, Main Roads, Road Safety and Ports following the Premier’s decision to stand Mark Bailey aside as a Minister. Treasurer, Trade and Investment Minister Curtis Pitt will also be Acting Minister for Energy, Biofuels and Water Supply. Environment Minister Steven Miles will also serve as Acting Minister for Main Roads, Road Safety and Ports. Mark Bailey has been stood aside pending the outcome of the State Archivist investigation, and he will receive the salary of a Member of Parliament for his ongoing role as the Member for Yeerongpilly. [post_title] => Scrambling in the party ranks [post_excerpt] => The Greens federally and the Queensland Government have had to rearrange their houses, fast. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => scrambling-party-ranks [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-20 20:28:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-20 10:28:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27659 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27656 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-20 17:21:54 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-20 07:21:54 [post_content] => The Senate Inquiry into Flag of Convenience (FOC) Shipping has found serious risks. The Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee report chronicles gaping holes in Australia’s national security framework, with the report being published  just one day after a government announcement to create the new Ministry of Home Affairs. FOC shipping refers to international trading vessels that are registered in tax havens such as Liberia, Panama and the Marshall Islands. These registries are renowned for their lax labour laws, poor investment controls and lack of ownership oversight. The Australian Border Force Submission states: “The Department notes that whilst a significant proportion of legitimate sea trade is conducted by ships with FOC registration, there are features of FOC registration, regulation and practice that organised crime syndicates or terrorist groups may seek to exploit. These features are:
  • A lack of transparency of the identity of shipowners and consequent impediment to holding the owner to account for a ship’s actions.
  • Insufficient flag state regulatory enforcement and adherence to standards.
The Senate Report states: “The committee maintains that [FOC] vessels present serious security risks to the Australian coast, which need to be properly addressed. “The committee takes the view that, by not agreeing to review the current state of the maritime sector in Australia, the government is failing to address the serious security, economic, human rights and environmental vulnerabilities in the sector.” The committee called on the Federal Government to grow the Australian maritime industry in the face of what it calls “very real and current risks to our nation” posed by FOC vessels and their crew. In a recently published opinion peace, Opposition transport spokesman Anthony Albanese also referred to the security implications of not having a domestic shipping industry. “Indeed, defence experts have long recognised the importance of maintaining a domestic maritime workforce,” Mr Albanese said. “It ensures that Australia has a pool of highly skilled labour that can be quickly mobilised during times of war or other national emergencies. “Furthermore, Australian seafarers undergo stringent background checks to ensure they pose no security threats.  Overseas seafarers whose backgrounds are a mystery to us do not undergo such close scrutiny.” International Transport Federation (ITF) president Paddy Crumlin said the conservative Australian Government is intentionally encouraging the morally ambiguous – and at times criminal – underbelly of FOC shipping. “The Turnbull Government has allowed Australian seafarers to be replaced by FOC lawlessness that now threatens our very national security. “Under their legislative abuses Australian seafarers, properly trained, security-screened and resident taxpayers, have been sacked and their jobs in a domestic transport sector given away to whoever comes over the horizon without a word of inquiry about their background. “The solution is simple: stop destroying and start supporting and growing  our domestic shipping industry and the Australian working men and women that work there, and in doing so we will help keep our borders safe,” Mr Crumlin said. ITF national coordinator Dean Summers said the inquiry had officially laid bare the murky world of FOC shipping that the Turnbull Government has so far chosen to ignore. “The Senate Inquiry heard multiple accounts of the very worst of what FOC shipping has to offer – murders, gun-running, intimidation, bullying, harassment and slave labour,” Mr Summers said. “The appalling case of multiple murders at sea onboard the Sage Sagittarius was the basis for this inquiry and serves as a shocking reminder of what can happen when an entire industry is little more than a race to the bottom. The committee called for a comprehensive whole-of-government review into the potential economic, security and environmental risks presented by FOC shipping. The committee said it was very concerned by FOC vessels carrying dangerous goods around Australia’s coast, including ammonium nitrate and petroleum products. Last financial year, only 1,072 of the 15,715 commercial vessels arriving in Australia were searched by ABF. “The committee is very disturbed by the many examples of job losses, poor working conditions, inadequate wages and deaths and disappearances at sea,” it stated. “To have seafarers disappearing and dying in and around Australian waters, and while in transit to Australian ports is unacceptable.” The committee recommended that:
  1. The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) implement an inspection program for ships with foreign seafarers to verify paid wages meet Australian legal requirements.
  2. The Federal Government fund the FWO wages inspection program.
  3. The Federal Government implement clear procedures on how to respond to deaths that occur on ships travelling in or to Australian waters.
  4. The Federal Government consider legislative amendments to provide clarity on jurisdictional responsibility for investigating deaths on ships travelling in Australian waters.
  5. The re-establishment of an advisory body made up of key maritime industry stakeholders to advise government on new Australian shipping policies and workforce development and training opportunities.
  6. The Federal Government review the Australian maritime industry with a view to grow and support it.
  7. The Federal Government review the potential economic, security and environmental risks presented by FOC vessels and foreign crew.
The committee’s full report can be found here.   [post_title] => Homeland Security could start with 'flags of convenience' [post_excerpt] => The Senate Inquiry into Flag of Convenience (FOC) Shipping has found serious risks. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => homeland-security-start-flags-convenience [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-20 17:21:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-20 07:21:54 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27656 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27617 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-17 22:40:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-17 12:40:11 [post_content] => Deloitte Access Economics’ Chris Richardson sees a few worrying trends and signs on the horizon for Australian governments. The world is motoring. Growth in the US, Europe and Japan is near 2%, with China and India doing the heavy lifting to raise overall global growth above 3.5%. But China has been tightening the screws, which will see its growth slow during 2018, with flow-on effects for the wider world. And there are structural headwinds for the medium term: the developed world is ageing, with its potential growth sapped by rising retirements. That’s true of China, too. And, at the same time, the business world has been reluctant to invest for a decade, spooked by rising political and economic uncertainty, as well as fears of regulatory and technological developments – creating an additional headwind. Both the world and the Reserve Bank have been doing Australia favours, with China throwing red meat at those bits of its economy that buy big from the Lucky Country, and with the RBA’s 2016 interest rate cuts revving up housing prices. Despite that, production growth has been weak, as big gas projects finish construction, as the big home building boom of recent years starts to peter out, and as Cyclone Debbie took a toll. Yet our stuttering pace of production was still enough – thanks to higher commodity prices – to see national income chalk up a gain of near $100 billion in 2016-17. That brought an emphatic end to five years of ‘income recession’, though to date it has been profits rather than wages that have benefited, while the pace of home building is set to shrink further amid increasing evidence that gravity may soon start to catch up with stupidity in housing markets. And the gargantuan Chinese credit surge is finally easing back, suggesting the global economy won’t be doing Australia quite as many favours from 2018 onwards. Yet those are merely caveats on an otherwise solid outlook. Relative to the rest of the rich world, Australia’s economic outlook may not be quite as impressive as it once was, but we are still kicking goals. Consumer price inflation remains a dog that isn’t barking, both locally and globally. And although global and local leading indicators of inflation are stirring in their sleep, they don’t look like getting out of bed any time soon. We see wage growth set to climb from 2018, as inflation lifts a tad, as retirement among boomers restrains growth in potential workers, and as the ‘income recession’ of the post-2011 period gives way to more settled gains in national income (and workers get their share of that). Even so, the pick-up in inflation and wage gains is likely to be both modest and slow. The past decade saw a growing global gap between economies and interest rates, but the US Fed is continuing a slow grind towards closing the gap. The rest of the world will eventually follow, with Australia’s turn starting during 2018. Yet as J. Paul Getty so neatly put it: “If you owe the bank $100, that’s your problem – if you owe the bank $100 million, that’s the bank’s problem.” Australia’s heavily indebted families are now the Reserve Bank’s problem, which is why, although interest rates will indeed rise in the next few years, they won’t rise sharply. On the currency front, Australia will sit more towards the back of the queue for global interest rates normalisation, and there’s the risk of further price pain on commodities. That combination will weigh on the Australian dollar, but not by much. Australia is within a hair’s breadth of a current account surplus for the first time since bell-bottomed jeans were all the rage. However, just like bell-bottoms, Australia’s dash for cash looks set to be very short-lived. We got close courtesy of spikes in coal and iron ore prices, but those same global commodity prices are once again curled up into a ball and rocking. That will increasingly show up as lower export earnings over the next year or so, cementing a return towards our customary deficits. Job growth in the next couple of years will be solid: not as good as 2017 to date, but not as bad as 2016, either. There’s good news in the better gains in national income of late, but overall macro trends aren’t really giving a strong signal either way on job prospects. And while the bugaboos of the moment (disruptive technologies and new business models) grab the headlines, they do more by way of generating churn at the level of individual businesses than they do to ruffle the surface of overall job numbers. The Federal Budget saw the Coalition abandon Plan A (a return to sustainable fiscal finances via spending cuts) to Plan B (tax and spend, amid increases to the Medicare levy, a bank tax, and Gonski2.0). Given Plan A spent years going nowhere, we see great sense in Plan B. But it’s a real worry that a conscious shift to the centre still didn’t unleash much bipartisanship in Canberra. That says official figures (which assume stuff passes the Senate) remain at risk. And, speaking of risks, commodity prices could yet spell trouble for the Federal, WA and Queensland Budgets, while – a little further out in time – housing markets may yet do the same for the NSW and Victorian Budgets. The tussle at the top Among industries, it’s still a tussle for the top of the growth leader board, as mining output rides the crest of earlier investment decisions, while health care rides a demographic dividend topped with technological treats. Both sectors look set to keep growing rapidly, with mining seeing huge gas projects ramp up their production levels (to meet export contracts, and to keep the home fires of domestic markets ticking over), and with health demands marching ever-upwards. But the prospects for both also come with caveats, as mining’s fortunes remain chained to China’s, and health to Canberra’s. Like Manny Pacquiao, the reign at the top of the pops for finance has been long and gloried, but it’s looking a little long in the tooth as the cost of credit finally gets back off the canvas. That said, there’s a long tail of growth still left in finance, and its return to the growth pack may take a few years. Challenges loom for property services too, where a slowdown has already commenced. Similarly, the $A -fuelled rise of fast growth in recreation (thanks to more tourists) and education (thanks to more students) may soon start to moderate from here – the $A’s fall was a while ago, and its benefits are starting to fade. But at least the education sector has the lift in the birth rate over the last decade or so to provide better base demand via extra kidlet numbers. Construction and manufacturing are both bumping along the bottom, but for construction it may be a relatively brief spell in the doldrums, whereas manufacturing’s challenges look rather more structural. Question marks lie over the utilities, where balancing divergent aims (power that’s clean, reliable and cheap) is hard, but becomes even harder now that Hazelwood has closed and with the nation’s onion-eaters arguing the toss on Finkel. That suggests investors may stay sidelined, which is where they’ve already been for an awfully long time. Add in rising prices, and this sector – a pathway to growth for many other industries – is left reliant on population gains to generate much by way of growth. It’s just a jump to the south and east On the State and Territory front, the jump from a China boom to a housing price boom sent the nation’s money and momentum from its north and west towards its south and east. Yet although the ‘sunbelt’ – WA, Queensland and the Top End – is feeling pain as a result of that, much of the drama for those regions already lies in the rear view vision mirror. Their next phase will be one of recovery, albeit not quite yet. And don’t forget that today’s heroes – NSW and Victoria – have clay feet. A house price boom borrows growth from the future, and both NSW and Victoria will have to pay back some of that in the years ahead as today’s housing prices gradually reconnect with reality. Luck’s a fortune, and NSW has it in spades amid the shift to lower interest and exchange rates since 2012. But storm clouds are building, as the housing price boom has artificially supported retail and home building. There’ll be an eventual butcher’s bill to pay as those supports reverse. Victoria has benefited as key cyclical drivers – exchange and interest rates – moved in a ‘Victoria- friendly’ direction in recent years. And this State is experiencing its strongest population gains for many a decade. Yet, relative to other States, its population and housing cycles may be near their peaks. The key headwind to Queensland’s economy for some years now has been falling engineering construction, but that pain is increasingly history. While Cyclone Debbie and slowing housing construction are current negatives, Debbie’s impact will be temporary and gas exports are lifting. South Australia has benefited from favourable shifts in interest rates and exchange rates. In fact, and despite popular opinion, the State economy’s growth actually picked up of late. Even so, some big challenges remain, given both demographics and an unfavourable industry structure. The construction cliff is still weighing on Western Australia. This state saw a virtuous circle of reinforcing growth drivers during the boom, but it has been seeing a vicious bust for a while now. But there has been better news recently out of China, and even vicious cycles run out of steam. Tasmania has been one of the bigger beneficiaries of the lower Australian dollar and lower interest rates, and the state economy’s growth is currently looking pretty good. But structural negatives on the longer-term outlook remain entrenched, suggesting caveats on current conditions. The Northern Territory’s economy isn’t a one-hit wonder, but recent years saw a Gangnam-style blockbuster hit the charts. As construction on the Ichthys project increasingly winds down and its export phase ramps up, the Territory’s challenging conditions won’t disappear for a while yet. The good news for the ACT is that, after the cutbacks and public sector hiring freezes of recent years, the Feds are returning to more of what might be considered business as usual. On top of that, the impact of lower interest rates on the ACT’s economy remains a powerful positive.   [post_title] => Gravity is starting to catch up with stupidity [post_excerpt] => There are a few worrying trends and signs on the horizon for Australian governments. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => gravity-starts-catch-stupidity [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-18 07:21:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-17 21:21:54 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27617 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27635 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-17 22:30:02 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-17 12:30:02 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27636" align="alignnone" width="300"] The Rheinmetall Boxer CRV.[/caption] One of the contenders for a looming $5 billion defence contract will base itself in Queensland if it is successful, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced. Rheinmetall Defence Australia would establish its Australia-New Zealand headquarters and a manufacturing and vehicle maintenance facility in South East Queensland if it wins the upcoming LAND 400 Phase 2 contract to supply Australia’s new armoured vehicles, potentially generating 450 long-term jobs and contributing more than $1 billion to the state’s economy over the next 10 years. Currently the largest supplier of military vehicles to the Australian Defence Force, Rheinmetall will establish the MILVEHCOE as a sovereign industrial capability for the continuous design, manufacture, export and support for military vehicles, turrets and tactical systems. The MILVEHCOE will also draw on a supply network across Australia to deliver products and services from local industry into Rheinmetall’s global supply chain. Rheinmetall is delivering more than 2,500 logistics trucks to the Australian Army under the LAND 121 Phase 3B program and is currently bidding for the supply of the armoured combat reconnaissance vehicle under the Commonwealth of Australia’s Land 400 Phase 2 program. Rheinmetall Defence Australia has selected Queensland as its preferred location to build the ‘military vehicle centre of excellence’ (MILVEHCOE) if it wins the contract to deliver 225 combat reconnaissance vehicles for the Australian Army.  Around 100 of these vehicles are expected to be located at the Townsville and Enoggera bases. Defence industries employ approximately 6,500 people across the state and generate more than $4.2 billion in annual revenue. Most of the new jobs would be expected to be highly skilled, highly paid advanced manufacturing and engineering jobs. Under the LAND 400 Phase 2 contract, Rheinmetall would need to have its facility completed by mid-2020 to supply the first Boxer CRV by 2022. Rheinmetall is one of two companies vying for the Department of Defence’s Land 400 Phase 2 contract, which is expected to be announced in the first quarter of next year. The other company is BAE Systems Australia, which has yet to announce where it would manufacture its vehicles if it were to win the Land 400 contract. An existing network of Queensland-based companies supports many of Rheinmetall’s current projects in Australia and overseas, including Nioa, Penske, Holmwood Highgate, Hilton, Harris Communications, Haulmark, ELBIT and LaserDyne Technologies. Supashock: from partnership to purchase In the lead-up to the LAND 400 Phase 2 contract decision, Rheinmetall has purchased one of its suppliers, South Australia-based Supashock. Supashock creates active suspension for motorsport and automotive applications to improve performance, safety and ride quality. Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles (RMMV) provided funding to Supashock in May 2017 to develop an integrated active suspension system and intelligent load handling system for the Australian and international markets that will substantially increase the capability and safety of RMMV’s military trucks in demanding on and off-road environments. Through comparative testing, Supashock’s suspension technology has been shown to substantially improve the mobility of Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles (RMMV) trucks, while at the same time enhancing on-road safety and reducing the shock and vibration experienced by the load the truck is carrying.   [post_title] => Queensland in line for billion-dollar defence contract [post_excerpt] => One of the contenders for a $5bn defence contract has undertaken to base itself in Qld. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => queensland-scores-billion-dollar-defence-contract-battle-maybe [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-18 19:04:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-18 09:04:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27635 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27640 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-17 22:20:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-17 12:20:52 [post_content] => The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has conducted its latest audit of public hospital doctors’ working hours (AMA Safe Hours Audit 2016) and found that there is a high prevalence of unsafe working hours. The audit of working conditions for doctors in Australian public hospitals shows that one in two doctors (53 per cent) are working unsafe shifts that place them at a higher risk of fatigue, with one doctor reporting an unbroken 76-hour shift. Shifts of 72 hours, 59 hours, 58 hours, and 53 hours were also reported. Over a one-week period in November 2016, 716 salaried doctors and doctors in training (DiT), including 675 hospital-based doctors, kept an online diary of their hours of work, on-call hours, non-work hours, and sleeping time. AMA president Dr Michael Gannon said the 2016 audit – the fourth conducted by the AMA since 2001 – is an improvement on 2001 when 78 per cent of those surveyed reported working high risk hours, but it is worrying that there has been no improvement since the 2011 Audit, which also showed 53 per cent of doctors at significant risk of fatigue. “The audit warns that the demands on many doctors continue to be extreme,” Dr Gannon said. “It is disappointing that work and rostering practices in some hospitals are still contributing to doctor fatigue and stress, which ultimately affect patient safety and quality of care and the health of the doctor. “It’s no surprise that doctors at higher risk of fatigue reported working longer hours, longer shifts, more days on call, fewer days off, and skipping meal breaks. “We are dismayed that one doctor reported working a 76-hour shift in 2016, almost double the longest shift reported in 2011. “It is also a great concern the maximum total hours worked during the 2016 survey week was 118 hours, the same as 2006 – no improvement in a decade.” The most stressed disciplines were intensive care physicians and surgeons, with 75 and 73 per cent respectively reporting they were working hours that placed them at significant or high risk of fatigue. Research shows that fatigue endangers patient safety and can have a real impact on the health and well-being of doctors. The 2016 AMA Audit confirms that the demands on public hospital doctors are still too great. Dr Gannon said state and territory governments and hospital administrators need to intensify efforts to ensure better rostering and safer work practices for hospital doctors. “Administrators must acknowledge that fatigue has a significant effect on doctors in training, who have to manage the competing demands of work, study, and exams. “The audit found that six out of ten registrars are working rosters that place them at significant or higher risk of fatigue, compared to the average of five out of ten hospital-based doctors. “Public hospitals need to strike a better balance for doctors in training. “They must provide a quality training environment that recognises that safe working hours and conditions for teaching and training will ultimately ensure high quality patient care.” AMA vice president Dr Tony Bartone said: “What we're seeing here is that the system is under stress. We're seeing that the system overall is functioning at peak capacity and with no relief valve in that situation. There have been research reports overseas which have confirmed that errors are occurring. “What we're seeing here is that ultimately, perhaps even the transit or the journey of the patient through the health system is being retarded; things are not being coordinated in an efficient way because of tiredness, because of fatigue and, obviously, when we've got a limited amount of health resources, when we have a limited budget, we need to ensure that the hospitals are really performing at peak efficiency.” Dr Gannon said the AMA’s National Code of Practice - Hours of Work, Shiftwork and Rostering for Hospital Doctor, which was revised in 2016, provides practical guidance on how to manage fatigue and eliminate or minimise the risks associated with shift work and extended working hours, and should be adopted as the minimum standard by all states and territories. [post_title] => Hospital system in crisis: warning to governments [post_excerpt] => Governments need to ensure safer work practices for hospital doctors. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => hospital-system-crisis-warning-governments [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-21 10:51:14 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-21 00:51:14 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27640 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27626 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-17 14:30:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-17 04:30:11 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27632" align="alignnone" width="296"] ALGA President Mayor David O'Loughlin.[/caption] Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) president Mayor David O’Loughlin writes that while the corridor protection measures put forward by Infrastructure Australia are important and worthwhile, the Federal Government must also address first- and last-mile issues. Infrastructure Australia’s (IA) recent paper, Corridor Protection: Planning and investing for the long term, outlines the case for securing and protecting land corridors for future infrastructure projects. They stress that a relatively modest investment today can pay substantial dividends tomorrow. ALGA has always strongly advocated for more integrated transport planning and so we support the report. However, it doesn't stress enough the importance of first and last mile issues we know enable freight to get to its destination, people to get to work, and raw materials to get to on-shore and off-shore markets. According to the National Transport Commission (NTC), road freight grew six-fold over the period 1971 to 2007. The freight task is projected to double by 2030 and treble by 2050. This growth is an indicator of the economic activity that we must begin to plan for today. We must ask ourselves:
  • What are the transport goals and what services are required to foster growth, jobs and prosperity?
  • Where are the investments required to achieve these goals?
Many councils are already answering these tough questions by investing in regional transport plans that identify key transport routes and linkages, and investment opportunities at the local and regional level. However, for this work, to have the impact required, to make productivity gains across the country, local government needs additional support from the Commonwealth. ALGA continues to call for a federal investment of $200 million per annum over five years to establish a Local Freight Productivity Investment Plan to partner with local councils and ensure that first mile/last mile and freight connectivity issues are addressed to improve national productivity. As well as road reform and additional funding requirements, road managers need to work in partnership with transport operators and other levels of government to provide roads and road services that are fit for purpose. A business-as-usual approach will not address this issue. As emphasised by IA, we must make the right infrastructure decisions today to accommodate and meet our growing freight task, increase productivity, create jobs and help create the transport infrastructure for the future prosperity of our nation. These are some of the key messages ALGA will include in its submission to the National Freight and Supply Chain Inquiry currently being undertaken by the federal government. Submissions are due by 28 July 2017 and I encourage all councils to join us and independently make a submission identifying their first and last mile freight priorities. The seven strategic corridors singled out by IA are: East Coast High Speed Rail, Outer Sydney Orbital, Outer Melbourne Ring, Western Sydney Airport Rail Line, Western Sydney Freight Line, Hunter Valley Freight Line, and Port of Brisbane Freight Line. Further information, including the full report, is available on the Infrastructure Australia website. More information about the inquiry and how to make a submission is available on the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development website. The email address for submissions is freightstrategy@infrastructure.gov.au.   [post_title] => More action needed to protect vital infrastructure corridors [post_excerpt] => Mayor David O’Loughlin writes that first- and last-mile issues in freight must also be addressed. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => action-needed-protect-vital-infrastructure-corridors [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-17 22:20:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-17 12:20:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27626 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27608 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-13 22:10:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-13 12:10:05 [post_content] => Hornsby Shire Council has voted to submit a proposal to the NSW Government seeking the return of territory that was lost last year. In May 2016, the NSW Government removed the land south of the M2 Motorway from Hornsby Shire and gave it to the City of Parramatta Council. “We didn’t agree with the loss of that territory,” Hornsby Shire Mayor Steve Russell said. “The government’s declared purpose of its local government reform was to create larger and more financially secure councils, a proposition we agree with in the 21st Century with increasing need for bigger and better facilities." The loss of Epping and other suburbs south of the M2 Motorway has had a severe negative impact on council’s budget, with a reduction of more than $9 million in the recurrent budget surplus. “This is very frustrating, particularly when Hornsby Shire Council was one of the most efficient councils in NSW and an active supporter of the government’s plans for reform. “With Ku-ring-gai Council’s win in court, it is not clear what the government’s position is in regard to continuing with the amalgamation of Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai councils. “We are asking the government to return our lost territory if the amalgamation does not proceed.” An olive branch At this week’s meeting, council also resolved to prepare a second submission that would see a redrawing of the Shire’s southern boundary. It is a compromise proposal that would allow Carlingford to remain in the City of Parramatta and consolidate the Epping town centre in Hornsby Shire. “This proposal would give council added financial security, whilst it would also avoid returning to the situation of having significant town centres managed by multiple councils,” Mayor Russell said. A rebuke of major proportions The Greens, who have been fighting council amalgamations from the outset, see the Liberal-dominated Hornsby Council’s frustrations as the final nail in the coffin of the merger idea. The coalition has lost its last ally in local government, as Hornsby Council delivers a 'stinging rebuke' to the Berejiklian forced amalgamation mess, the Greens said. Liberal-dominated Hornsby Council is the last remaining elected council that supported the Coalition's forced amalgamations. Greens MP and local government spokesperson David Shoebridge said: "Every rat is leaving the Coalition's forced council amalgamations ship and it's well and truly time that Captain Berejiklian scuttled the whole affair. "The Liberal-dominated Hornsby Council had been one of the few elected councils that supported the Coalition's forced amalgamations because they thought they would gobble up Ku-ring-gai. "Now its planned take-over of Ku-ring-gai Council has fallen over, Hornsby Council has turned against the Berejiklian government and is demanding its high-rating land back. "The decision to hand over parts of Epping and Carlingford to Parramatta Council was never about the best interests of those residents, it was designed to deliver money and Liberal votes for a super-sized Parramatta Council. "Treating residents as pawns in the Coalition's politicised boundary changes and forced amalgamations is a very low form of politics that the Greens fundamentally reject. "While there are good democratic and financial reasons to see Hornsby Council restored, it is deeply troubling that the Liberal Council says it wants the decision reversed to get back 'developable assets in the Epping area worth between $50 million to $100 million'" "No Council should be eying off public land solely as a development opportunity. The Greens support restoring Hornsby Council to its former boundaries, but it must be with a promise to keep scarce public land in public hands," Mr Shoebridge said. The council report states: "Council's view is that our ratepayers are likely to judge both the council and the government harshly if council seeks a rate variation to recover a significant portion of the lost revenue.  "The NSW Government's execution of its local government reform agenda has to date comprehensively failed the residents and ratepayers of Hornsby Shire.  "The matter has been made worse by the NSW Government's subsequent inaction and apparent indecisions.  "The council is not even able to carry out something as fundamental as the appointment of a permanent general manager, and has now appointed it's third acting general manager since August 2015.  "No other council in NSW has been subjected to such a significant loss of territory, on top of an amalgamation. The situation is worsened by the fact that the NSW Government never signalled its intention to transfer the area south of the M2 Motorway to Parramatta.  "Since the areas south of the M2 Motorway were removed from Hornsby Shire Council, there have been no formal surveys or other research into the opinions among the local community.  "By the government's action and inaction, it's strongest supporter of local government reform has been left weaker with less scale and capacity than before. And it is the only local government where this has occurred." [post_title] => Give us our land back [post_excerpt] => Hornsby Council resolves to seek the return of its lost territory. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => give-us-land-back [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-13 22:19:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-13 12:19:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27608 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27605 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-13 19:22:19 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-13 09:22:19 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27606" align="alignnone" width="300"] Our national wellbeing probably peaked with Australia’s population at roughly 15 million in the 1970s, when this photo was taken in Hunters Hill, Sydney.
John Ward/flickr, CC BY-NC-SA[/caption] Peter Martin, University of South Australia; James Ward, University of South Australia, and Paul Sutton, University of Denver
Neither of Australia’s two main political parties believes population is an issue worth discussion, and neither currently has a policy about it. The Greens think population is an issue, but can’t come at actually suggesting a target. Even those who acknowledge that numbers are relevant are often quick to say that it’s our consumption patterns, and not our population size, that really matter when we talk about environmental impact. But common sense, not to mention the laws of physics, says that size and scale matter, especially on a finite planet. In the meantime the nation has a bipartisan default population policy, which is one of rapid growth. This is in response to the demands of what is effectively a coalition of major corporate players and lobby groups. Solid neoliberals all, they see all growth as good, especially for their bottom line. They include the banks and financial sector, real estate developers, the housing industry, major retailers, the media and other major players for whom an endless increase in customers is possible and profitable. However, Australians stubbornly continue to have small families. The endless growth coalition responds by demanding the government import hundreds of thousands of new consumers annually, otherwise known as the migration intake. The growth coalition has no real interest in the cumulative social or environmental downside effects of this growth, nor the actual welfare of the immigrants. They fully expect to capture the profit of this growth program, while the disadvantages, such as traffic congestion, rising house prices and government revenue diverted for infrastructure catch-up, are all socialised – that is, the taxpayer pays. The leaders of this well-heeled group are well insulated personally from the downsides of growth that the rest of us deal with daily. A better measure of wellbeing than GDP The idea that population growth is essential to boost GDP, and that this is good for everyone, is ubiquitous and goes largely unchallenged. For example, according to Treasury’s 2010 Intergenerational Report:
Economic growth will be supported by sound policies that support productivity, participation and population — the ‘3Ps’.
If one defines “economic growth” in the first place by saying that’s what happens when you have more and more people consuming, then obviously more and more people produce growth. The fact that GDP, our main measure of growth, might be an utterly inadequate and inappropriate yardstick for our times remains a kooky idea to most economists, both in business and government. Genuine progress peaked 40 years ago One of the oldest and best-researched alternative measures is the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI). Based on the work of the American economist Herman Daly in the 1970s and ’80s, GPI takes into account different measures of human wellbeing, grouped into economic, environmental and social categories. Examples on the negative side of the ledger include income inequality, CO2 emissions, water pollution, loss of biodiversity and the misery of car accidents. On the positive side, and also left out of GDP, are the value of household work, parenting, unpaid child and aged care, volunteer work, the quality of education, the value of consumer goods lasting longer, and so on. The overall GPI measure, expressed in dollars, takes 26 such factors into account. Since it is grounded in the real world and our real experience, GPI is a better indicator than GDP of how satisfactory we find our daily lives, of our level of contentment, and of our general level of wellbeing. As it happens, there is quite good data on GPI going back decades for some countries. While global GDP (and GDP per capita) continued to grow strongly after the second world war, and continues today, global GPI basically stalled in 1970 and has barely improved since. In Australia the stall point appears to be about 1974. GPI is now lower than for any period since the early 1960s. That is, our wellbeing, if we accept that GPI is a fair measure of the things that make life most worthwhile, has been going backwards for decades. What has all the growth been for? It is reasonable to ask, therefore, what exactly has been the point of the huge growth in GDP and population in Australia since that time if our level of wellbeing has declined. What is an economy for, if not to improve our wellbeing? Why exactly have we done so much damage to our water resources, soil, the liveability of our cities and to the other species with which we share this continent if we haven’t really improved our lives by doing it? As alluded to earlier, the answer lies to a large extent in the disastrous neoliberal experiment foisted upon us. Yet many Australians understand that it is entirely valid to measure the success of our society by the wellbeing of its citizens and its careful husbandry of natural capital. At the peak of GPI in Australia in the mid-1970s our population was under 15 million. Here then, perhaps, is a sensible, optimal population size for Australia operating under the current economic system, since any larger number simply fails to deliver a net benefit to most citizens. It suggests that we have just had 40 years of unnecessary, ideologically-driven growth at an immense and unjustifiable cost to our natural and social capital. In addition, all indications are that this path is unsustainable. With Australian female fertility sitting well below replacement level, we can achieve a slow and natural return to a lower population of our choice without any drastic or coercive policies. This can be done simply by winding back the large and expensive program of importing consumers to generate GDP growth – currently around 200,000 people per year and forecast to increase to almost 250,000 by 2020. Despite endless political and media obfuscation, this is an entirely different issue from assisting refugees, with whom we can afford to be much more generous.
The ConversationYou can read other articles in the Is Australia Full? series here. Peter Martin, Lecturer, School of Natural & Built Environments, University of South Australia; James Ward, Lecturer in Water & Environmental Engineering, University of South Australia, and Paul Sutton, Professor, Department of Geography and the Environment, University of Denver This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. [post_title] => Why a population of, say, 15 million makes sense for Australia [post_excerpt] => Neither of Australia’s two main political parties believes population is an issue worth discussion. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => population-say-15-million-makes-sense-australia [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-13 19:22:19 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-13 09:22:19 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27605 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 14 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27685 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-24 20:05:44 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-24 10:05:44 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27686" align="alignnone" width="300"] This box is filled with 200,000 cigarette butts displayed to highlight the impact that littering has on streets and waterways.[/caption] The City of Melbourne has become one of only two councils in Australia to run a citywide initiative to recycle millions of cigarette butts into industrial products. “We collect more than 200,000 cigarette butts each week from 367 cigarette butt bins across the city: litter that may otherwise end up being washed down drains and into the Yarra River,” Lord Mayor Robert Doyle AC said. “Cigarette butts are not biodegradable and break down slowly. As part of this project, we will recycle binned cigarette butts into practical items such as shipping pallets and plastic furniture. “We have collected 1.2 million butts from around Melbourne’s universities and hospitals and busy CBD locations that can be recycled.” The City of Melbourne has partnered with Enviropoles, which collects the cigarette waste, and TerraCycle, which converts the butts into plastic products. The project is funded through the Victorian Government’s Litter Hotspots program. Studies have shown that of the four disposal routes (recycling, litter, landfill, and incineration), recycling the cigarette butts has the lowest global warming impact. The City of Melbourne has placed a perspex box filled with 200,000 cigarette butts on the banks of the Yarra River to highlight the impact that littering has on the city’s streets and waterways. Chairwoman of the City of Melbourne’s Environment portfolio Councillor Cathy Oke said the project has been completed in Vancouver and New Orleans before, but Melbourne is leading the charge in Victoria to tackle recycling cigarette waste. “Cities around the world are looking for new ways to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill, and Melbourne is leading the way,” Cr Oke said “Cigarette butts are the most littered item in Australia. Butts are commonly mistaken for food by marine life and have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds, sea turtles and other marine creatures.” The Perspex box full of cigarette butts was placed in Queensbridge Square, where three solar compaction litter bins are located. Cr Oke said the City of Melbourne is installing more than 360 smart bins in the CBD following a successful trial of 17 bins last year. “We collect around nine million butts in our litter bins every year. We hope this project will motivate smokers to place their cigarette butts in one of the butt bins located around the CBD.” Previous surveys have found that around 10,500 cigarette butts from the central city are being deposited on the ground every day. The City of Melbourne spends approximately $13 million on waste services each year (collection and disposal).   [post_title] => Butts into better things [post_excerpt] => Melbourne is recycling cigarette butts into plastic industrial products. 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