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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27493" align="alignnone" width="215"] Image courtesy of the Australian Marine Conservation Society.[/caption]

 

Comment - Charles Pauka

Queensland Minister for the Great Barrier Reef Steven Miles was chuffed to welcome a Deloitte Access Economics report identifying the social, economic and iconic asset value of the Great Barrier Reef at $56 billion.

“This highly anticipated report confirms the outstanding value of the Great Barrier Reef,” Mr Miles said. “But it could be even higher as the research did not seek to place a financial value on the tremendous biodiversity and the natural wonder value on a global scale.

“It also confirms the Palaszczuk Government’s record investment in improving Great Barrier Reef water quality is justified, with two-thirds of people surveyed willing to pay for its continued existence and protection.”

Which is where the problem lies: the Palaszczuk Government is also dead-keen on the Adani Carmichael mega-coalmine going ahead, which is widely predicted to further wreck the reef.

[caption id="attachment_27494" align="alignnone" width="300"] Is this the handshake that will kill the reef?[/caption]

 

Steven Miles continued: “The Great Barrier Reef is incredibly precious to all Australians, and the international community - and this report confirms that.

 “We have committed $175 million over five years, plus a boost of an additional $100 million for improved reef water quality outcomes.

“This means we are investing more than $63 million in 2017-2018, which is almost double the annual funding provided by previous governments.”

The Minister said the research showed the Great Barrier Reef contributed $6.4 billion in terms of the value added to the economy and over 64,000 direct and indirect jobs in 2015-2016.

64,000 vs. 1,400

So how many jobs would Adani’s supposedly $16.5bn mine contribute? The most optimistic estimates so far have topped out at 10,000 jobs, but more likely in the 1,400-range.

“The government promised to focus on job creation and this report demonstrates the Great Barrier Reef is critical to supporting jobs in Australia.

“The report also rightly identifies an opportunity and need for action on a universal level to protect the reef.

“As the report clearly recognises, protecting the Great Barrier Reef is not only an Australian or international priority – it is a human one.”

I just wonder if Mr Miles has spoken to his Premier about that? Because the two – a healthy coral reef and a mega-coalmine – may not be able to co-exist.

“The Great Barrier Reef and other World Heritage reefs are in grave danger from climate change, mainly driven by the burning of coal. Incredibly, almost half of all shallow water corals in the Great Barrier Reef died in the last two years due to a massive underwater heatwave,” said Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) spokesperson Imogen Zethoven. 

“Yet the Australian [and Queensland] governments appear hell-bent on making the problem worse by pushing ahead with Adani’s monstrous coal mine, talking up a coal-fired power station next to the Great Barrier Reef.

“The [two governments are] not only placing our Great Barrier Reef and the 70,000 jobs that depend on it at grave risk: [they are] endangering the future of World Heritage coral reefs around the world. These places are the crown jewels of our global ocean. They belong to the world community.

“In the face of so much loss of coral over the last three years, it defies belief that [they are] ignoring this global tragedy," Ms Zethoven said.

[caption id="attachment_27495" align="alignnone" width="300"] Sediment-laden water flowed from Adani's Abbot Point facility into the Caley Valley wetland recently.[/caption]
                    [post_title] => Coal or coral? The Queensland Government seems undecided
                    [post_excerpt] => The Great Barrier Reef is worth $56bn, according to Deloitte Access Economics. How does Adani's Carmichael coalmine fit into it?
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Federal Government minister Christopher Pyne’s comments during an after-party in Sydney have landed him – and the rest of the Liberal Party – in hot water from most sections of the political spectrum.

Reportedly released to far-right commentator Andrew Bolt, the recording of the comments were taken in the company of some of the other left-leaning members of the Liberal Party.

What got most people heckled was Christopher Pyne’s boasting about the early introduction of same-sex marriage.

“Friends, we are in the winner’s circle but we have to deliver a couple of things and one of those we’ve got to deliver before too long is marriage equality in this country.

"We're going to get it. I think it might even be sooner than everyone thinks.”

Malcolm Turnbull

The Prime Minister has distanced himself from the comments made by Christopher Pyne, that same-sex marriage would be introduced “sooner than everyone thinks.”

Mr Turnbull said gay marriage would only be law once the Australian public had voted on the issue.

“As far as the same sex marriage issue, our policy is very clear, it has not changed, we have no plans to change it,” he said.

Tony Abbott

As one can these days reasonably expect, former prime minister Tony Abbott was quick off the mark with the boot, saying Mr Pyne’s comments appeared to be evidence that the Defence Minister had been plotting behind his back.

"This appears to be the confession that he has made to his close colleagues in the Left faction," Mr Abbott told radio 2GB.

"Christopher Pyne wasn't just a member of my cabinet, he was actually in the leadership team and it's important that you show loyalty.

"But if he's to be believed on Friday night, that loyalty was never there which is incredibly disappointing."

Bill Shorten

Meanwhile Tweeting from Adelaide, Labor leader Bill Shorten kept his comments brief:

“Shame on Turnbull and Pyne. They play games whilst Australians wait for marriage equality. Get out of the way.”

But the Greens see hope

The Greens said Christopher Pyne’s comments about marriage equality over the weekend show just how impatient many members of the Coalition are for marriage equality to be achieved now.

“It’s staggering that Malcolm Turnbull is publicly standing by Tony Abbott’s plebiscite, meanwhile one of his senior ministers says equality will happen ‘sooner than everyone thinks,’ said Senator Janet Rice, the Greens’ spokesperson on LGBTIQ issues.

“Australian couples shouldn’t be forced to keep waiting for their love to be recognised.

 “The Coalition [members] are playing games with people’s lives. Mr Turnbull needs to stand up to the dinosaurs in his party and allow a free vote in parliament now.’

 
                    [post_title] => Christopher Pyne’s gay marriage comments land him in hot water
                    [post_excerpt] => Christopher Pyne’s comments about same-sex marriage  have landed him in hot water.

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                    [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27470" align="alignnone" width="300"] Luke Foley delivering his Budget reply. Photo courtesy of the ABC.[/caption]

NSW opposition leader Luke Foley has outlined the Labor Opposition’s reply to the NSW Government’s 2017 Budget, focusing on education, electricity and renewable energy, infrastructure and regional NSW.

Education and school funding

Mr Foley said a Labor Government would have a school building program that will ensure unused public land goes towards school infrastructure. This will be achieved by the Greater Sydney Commission being given the power to seize surplus government land from other departments and agencies for much-needed schools.

Labor will also legislate that every new school built includes childcare or before and after school care facilities on-site. This will help achieve the pledge that every child will have access to at least 15 hours of “affordable preschool education per week, in the year before school”.

As well, every primary school student in NSW will be taught a second language.

For the youth, Labor announced a jobs scheme for the state’s apprentices and trainees. It estimates the scheme will create thousands of jobs for young people every year.

Mr Foley said 63,000 fewer students have enrolled in TAFE after the Coalition Government cut budgets, identified campuses in regional and rural areas for sale or closure and started sacking teachers and support staff. Another 500 were terminated this year, bringing the total to 5,700 since the Liberals and Nationals got their hands on TAFE.

He committed a Labor Government would require 15 per cent of all jobs on NSW Government construction projects, valued over $500,000, to be allocated for apprentices/trainees, indigenous people and the long term unemployed.

He also committed Labor to re-build TAFE, by guarantee at least 70 per cent of NSW vocational education and training funding going to TAFE.

Electricity and renewable energy

Mr Foley said a Labor government would re-regulate the electricity market to attempt to lower the price of power in NSW, which has approximately doubled since it was deregulated and bills “are set to increase annually by an average of $300 for residential and $900 for commercial users a year. 

He said Labor would also use proceeds from the transfer of the Snowy Hydro to invest in renewable generation across regional NSW, set a minimum solar tariff for households with rooftop solar to be paid for the power they generate, and “massively increase solar energy generation on the rooftops of government buildings”.

Infrastructure

With Sydney public transport and roads, Labor would prioritise the Western Sydney Metro over the Northern Beaches tunnel.

Mr Foley committed to the Western Sydney Metro following the current government specifically excluding in the Budget the fast rail link in favour of the Northern Beaches Tunnel.

With the Badgery’s Creek airport, Labor has called for the creation of a joint Commonwealth-New South Wales Western Sydney Airport Co-ordination Authority to coordinate land use and surface infrastructure. The authority would focus on essential connections such as electricity, water and sewerage for the airport’s surrounding employment zones.

Labor would also like to see the building of a rail connection from day one so people can get where they’re going and avoid congestion on the roads. A fuel pipeline corridor – similar to the underground pipeline from Kurnell to Sydney Airport – also  needs to be reserved and construction of it accelerated as the current plan to supply jet fuel by road will not be sustainable.

Regional NSW

Luke Foley has laid out his commitments to regional and rural NSW if elected in 2019, including that 100 per cent of the proceeds of a Snowy Hydro sale will be spent on regional infrastructure.

He said Labor’s support for selling the state’s share of the Snowy Hydro scheme to the Federal Government is conditional on the proceeds being spent in regional NSW. The sale would also be on the conditional guarantee of ongoing public ownership of the Hydro.

All of the $4 to $5 billion in proceeds would be used to improve regional schools, TAFE, hospitals, roads, energy, water, cultural and sporting infrastructure, he said.

Mr Foley promised to continue visiting the regions to hear directly from local communities. Recently, Mr Foley travelled to the North Coast, Monaro, the Upper Hunter and this time last year visited Menindee Lakes as part of two-day tour of Broken Hill.

Special treatment for Far West NSW, where regional town populations are falling and businesses are unable to attract and retain staff, would include abolishing payroll tax for all small and medium-sized businesses in the Far West.

In the Illawarra, Labor promised to assist the steel industry, and upgrade to the WIN Entertainment Centre.

 
                    [post_title] => NSW Budget: the reply
                    [post_excerpt] => NSW opposition leader Luke Foley has outlined his reply to the Government’s 2017 Budget.
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                    [post_content] => 

The government has succeeded in securing an industry funding model for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), with the ASIC Supervisory Cost Recovery Levy Bill 2017 and related bills passing through the Senate.

The industry funding model will deliver ASIC an additional $127.2 million funding package, which the government says “will significantly enhance data analytics and surveillance capabilities and facilitate proactive enforcement” – in short, more people and stronger powers.

ASIC has welcomed the passage of legislation enabling a more secure and accountable funding of the model for regulation of the Australian corporate sector, indicating an increase in its specialist officer numbers overlooking the financial industry.

Effective from 1 July 2017, ASIC’s regulatory costs will be recovered from all industry sectors regulated by ASIC through annual levies. The total figure mentioned in the Government’s White Paper was at the $240 million mark for the coming financial year, with the top five banks accounting for approximately half of the levy.

ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft welcomed the legislation's passage, and highlighted the fact it enjoyed widespread support across the political spectrum.

“This is an important milestone not just for ASIC, but also for the companies and wider corporate sector that we regulate,” he said.

“Industry funding, in one form or another, applies to other areas of public oversight in Australia and in many comparable economies around the world. Not only will the different elements of the broad business sector more fairly share the load, but the taxpaying public will benefit through the more accountable use of the funds provided for the task.”

ASIC has gone through a few years of upheaval in terms of its staff numbers, reportedly losing 80 in 2011 and a further 230 following Tony Abbott’s budget cut in 2014. Whilst ASIC had its personnel numbers largely restored once its $120 budget cut was restored last year, the regulatory burden of the financial market will require it to add further to its financial specialist team. The increased total revenue will also allow the regulator to boost its numbers in other areas of responsibility.

The industry funding model is in large part a response to the recommendations of the 2014 Murray Financial System Inquiry and the 2013 Senate Inquiry into ASIC’s performance, both of which were largely critical of the organisation’s ability to respond effectively due to it having “limited powers and resources”.

 

 

 

 
                    [post_title] => ASIC to collect its revenue direct from industry
                    [post_excerpt] => The ASIC Supervisory Cost Recovery Levy Bill 2017 and related bills have passed through the Senate.
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                    [post_content] => 

 

Affordable housing, infrastructure spending, mental health, new schools, family violence and drug courts and 6,000 more public servants are expected to be some of the cornerstones of Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt’s budget today (Tuesday).

It is a budget with real heart, with a focus on people doing it tough, whether it is people battling drug addiction or poor mental health, children in unsafe situations or those who cannot afford a secure place to live and one likely to help Ms Palaszcuk's bid for re-election in around six month's time.

One of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s biggest ticket items in today’s budget, which will be announced around 2.30pm, will be $1.8 billion for social and affordable housing under the state’s new 10-year Queensland Housing Strategy.

The money will be used to build 4,522 new social homes and 1,034 affordable homes and introduce targets for social and affordable housing of between 5 to 25 per cent for new homes built on state land.

It also includes $20 million for new Youth Foyers in Townsville and the Gold Coast and expanding the Logan foyer. The service, run by Wesley Mission, provides supported accommodation and social and emotional support for marginalised young people aged 16 to 25.

The government has also committed to creating housing and homelessness hubs; $30 million to reform the housing system and $75 million for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander home ownership. It is expected there will be 450 full-time construction jobs created a year.

Ms Palaszczuk called the $1.8 billion investment ‘a launch pad for opportunity and aspiration’.

“Secure housing enables young people to finish their education. It provides the stability that keeps families together. And it gives people the secure base they need to get and keep a job,” she said.

Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt said state-wide expressions of interest for initial projects would be online from today.

“Our ten-year construction program provides industry with a stable and predictable program of work so they can have certainty,” Mr Pitt said.

“This is about best practice procurement, working to match projects to appropriate partners, creating opportunities for small, medium and large businesses. Whether you are a small home builder or one of the state’s largest developers there is something in this construction package for you.”

Queensland Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni said the strategy would leverage investment from the private sector create ‘genuine affordable housing’ in the state on underused government land.

“This strategy is a big win for local builders and tradies in the residential sector across the state,” Mr de Brenni said.

“This strategy is about partnering with the private sector and community housing providers to create genuine affordable housing, something that hasn’t been done at scale in this country in decades.”

Housing affordability has been a key component of state and federal budgets of late.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a suite of housing measures earlier this month but the reforms were focused more on helping out first home buyers with stamp duty concessions and grants, increasing duties and taxes for foreign property investors and speeding up development applications.

Housing was also top-of-mind for Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison in his May Budget when he announced a bond aggregator scheme, which hopes to attract large-scale private investment into affordable housing by helping not-for-profit community housing providers borrow more cheaply.

Mr Morrison also introduced a super deposit scheme to enable first home buyers amass a deposit more quickly and but he pointedly refused to touch either negative gearing or capital gains tax discounts.

Other Queensland Budget measures include:

• Another $2 billion towards Brisbane's $5.4 billion Cross River Rail project, a 10.2km inner-city rail link between Dutton Park and Bowen Hill, taking the state’s contribution to half
• $75 million for the Townsville Port expansion
• Upgrading the Sciencentre at the Queensland Museum on the South Bank ($9.4 million)
• $16 billion for health, including expanding mental health services and replacing the Barrett Centre, Queensland’s only residential centre for youth with severe mental health problems
• $13 billion for education to build new high schools in Fortitude Valley and South Brisbane and buy land for four more regional high schools
• New domestic and family violence courts at Townsville and Beenleigh and making Southport court permanent ($69.5 million)
• Reinstating the Drug Court in Brisbane to help rehabilitate offenders and overcome substance dependence ($22.7 million over four years)
• A $200 million child safety package including 292 child safety staff, money to recruit an extra 1000 foster carers and $7.4 million to support families where a person has become addicted to ice
• $155 million for counter-terror policing with 30 more police officers in Brisbane and 20 in the regions and $46.7 million for a counter-terrorism facility at Wacol
• $1.1 billion for electricity projects and subsidies
                    [post_title] => A Queensland budget with heart: Palaszczuk prepares for re-election
                    [post_excerpt] => Cash for health, housing, kids and courts.
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                    [post_content] => 
Former Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale. Pic: YouTube.

 

Former Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale must be wondering if his Teflon reputation is finally giving out as investigations continue into why he was carrying $50,000 in cash at Melbourne Airport on May 13 and revelations of a new probe by the Queensland corruption watchdog.

Mr Pisasale was stopped at Melbourne Airport last month when sniffer dogs detected wads of cash in his carry-on luggage. The money was later seized by the Australian Federal Police under suspicion that it may have come from the proceeds of crime.

Mr Pisasale denied that he had done anything illegal and said he did not realise the bag contained cash, only legal documents.

Brisbane barrister and Mr Pisasale’s friend, Sam Di Carlo, later came forward and explained that Mr Pisasale was collecting the money for him from a client, an action that Queensland Law Society President Christine Smyth called a ‘very unusual’ arrangement but not illegal.

A Labor Mayor, businessman and political survivor, Mr Pisasale has been the subject of several criminal investigations since he joined the south-east Queensland council in 1991 but he has always emerged unscathed, apart from copping a $5000 fine over failing to properly declare shares in 2016.

The most common criticisms levelled in the past have been that he is too pro-business and tight with developers.

But after years of controversy matters appear to be coming to a head.

Mr Pisasale resigned citing ill health on Tuesday this week, only one year into his fourth term and his thirteenth year as mayor, saying his multiple sclerosis had flared up and he needed to rest.


Mr Pisasale wearing a dressing gown at Tuesday's press conference, St Andrew's Private Hospital. Pic: YouTube.

 

He said a recent MS attack had left him hospitalised and he insisted his resignation was unrelated to any corruption investigations. He added that he had been discussing his resignation with council staff for the last month.

 “For the last 30 years I’ve suffered multiple sclerosis. It’s a very tough disease and a lot of people get it and I’ve been able to set an example in dealing with multiple sclerosis,” Mr Pisasale said. “Sometimes you think you’re bulletproof.”

“When MS starts affecting your judgement and ability to do your job 100 per cent it’s time to look after it.

"After 25 years and not having a weekend off and not having a holiday and getting so engrossed in the city it does take its toll. Now it's my time to look after my health."

He said he was not leaving the city but would bow out of council life: “I'm not a councillor, pretty soon I'll just be Paul Pisasale".

But the timing of his retirement looked off.

Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) police searched his Ipswich Council offices the day before, apparently in connection with a fresh investigation believed to involve a developer.

When Government News approached the CCC to find out the substance of the probe into Mr Pisasale a CCC spokesperson would only say: “As you can no doubt appreciate there are times when due to the nature of the work the CCC does there is not a lot we can say.”

Mr Pisasale appeared in front of the CCC in April as part of Operation Belcarra, an investigation into the conduct of candidates in Ipswich, Gold Coast and Moreton Bay in the run up to local council elections.

The Operation is examining allegations that candidates fundraised as an undeclared group of candidates; submitted misleading or false electoral funding and financial returns and did not have dedicated election campaign bank accounts.

One thing that is inarguable is that Mr Pisasale, who has been Ipswich’s Mayor since 2004, remains enormously popular with the public.

In 2016 he was re-elected mayor, winning 83 per cent of the vote, and he has repeatedly triumphed over attempts to pin anything on him.

These include:
  • A $7500 donation Mr Pisasale’s 2012 re-election campaign from Australian Water Holdings, the company famously linked to jailed NSW minister Eddie Obeid and the downfall of NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell
  • In 2013, he lobbied then Liberal Queensland Premier Campbell Newman on behalf of a developer, who was one of his campaign donors, over a Sunshine Coast site 160 km from Ipswich, attracting intense public criticism
  • Further controversy was stirred up after his wife Janet was put on the council payroll between September 2014 and August 2014 when she stepped in at short notice after his administrative assistant quit and he needed someone to drive him round at night
  • A 10-month CCC investigation into whether community funds had been channelled into his election campaign concluded in May 2015, clearing Mr Pisasale of any wrongdoing
  • In 2016 he was fined $5000 by Queensland’s local government department for failing to properly disclose the shares he owned in two companies
Deputy Mayor Paul Tully will temporarily don the mayoral robes for three months before a by-election is held to replace Mr Pisasale. [post_title] => Is Ipswich’s former Mayor Paul Pisasale no longer bulletproof? [post_excerpt] => ‘Mr Ipswich’ in strife. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27346 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-09 09:57:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-08 23:57:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27346 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27273 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-31 16:33:43 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-31 06:33:43 [post_content] => A crowdfunding campaign to restore Pittwater Council and enable it to break away from the Northern Beaches Council reached 75 per cent of its target in a matter of days. The campaign, led by newly-formed community group Protect Pittwater, aims to raise $10,000 through crowdfunding platform Chuffed. So far $7,125 has been raised and 58 people have donated since the campaign went live at 1pm on Tuesday this week. Pittwater, Manly and Warringah Councils were the subject of a forced council merger and became the Northern Beaches Council in May 2016. Ex-Pittwater councillor and retired barrister Bob Grace said the initial goal of $10,000 was enough for legal advice and a statement of claim. “I think it’s really a super response and it shows by the number of people donating that the people out here in Pittwater want to go back, fight the government and get Pittwater back,” Mr Grace said. “It’s really exciting, the way that people have responded. It’s unbelievable.”   The campaign has been partly inspired by the recent success of Ku-ring-gai Council, which won an appeal against a forced merger with part of Hornsby Shire Council after the Court of Appeal found it had been “denied procedural process” and ordered the NSW government to pay the council’s costs in March. Woollahra Council won a victory of sorts earlier in the High Court in May when it was granted special leave to appeal its forced merger with Randwick and Waverley Councils after losing its Land and Environment Court case in December 2016. Another local residents’ group, Local Democracy Matters, has also been formed to fight the merger and is meeting this Saturday at Bondi Pavilion. Both groups are considering their options and legal challenges are likely but NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said she will press ahead with the mergers.  [post_title] => Crowdfunded council de-merger campaign starts strong [post_excerpt] => Residents fight NSW government on mergers. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => crowdfunding-campaign-break-away-pittwater-northern-beaches-council-starts-strong [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-02 14:54:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-02 04:54:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27273 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27196 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-05-23 12:33:54 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-23 02:33:54 [post_content] =>
 
By Linda Cheng This story first appeared in ArchitectureAu and appears here by kind permission of the author. In its 2017–18 budget, the federal government released what it called “comprehensive plan to address housing affordability.” While promising “no silver bullet,” the government claimed its plan was “designed to improve outcomes across the housing spectrum.” The plan includes measures such as a $1 billion National Housing and Infrastructure Facility (NHIF), releasing surplus Commonwealth land for housing, a Western Sydney City Deal that will provide opportunities for planning and zoning reform, as well as a range of financial incentives to assist first-home buyers, downsizing for older Australians and to encourage private-sector investment in affordable housing. The Australian Institute of Architects and the Planning Institute of Australian have cautiously welcomed the measures. Ken Maher, outgoing president of the Australian Institute of Architects characterized the government’s housing affordability plan as having “good intentions,” but said there were a number of “missed opportunities” on “critical” issues such as density, climate change and public transport. “There’s a real absence of mention in the budget of climate change,” Maher said. “In the built environment area, there’s quite a lot that can be done to reduce carbon emissions.” He pointed to the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council’s (ASBEC) Low Carbon, High Performance report released in May 2016, which outlined “the potential for the Australian built environment sector to make a major contribution to” reaching a zero-net emissions goal by 2050. The report called on policy makers to adopt a nation plan that includes minimum standards for buildings and targeted incentives. Read more here
[post_title] => ‘Good intentions’ or ‘cruel hoax’? Budget 2017’s housing affordability plan draws vexed reactions [post_excerpt] => Architects cautious, some critical. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27196 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-23 12:42:51 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-23 02:42:51 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27196 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27182 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-23 10:47:59 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-23 00:47:59 [post_content] => Regional Development Minister Fiona Nash. Pic: Colin Bettles.    Local councils have called upon the federal government to be transparent about its decentralisation drive and make it evidence-based and free from politicking, rather than leaving them to battle one another for government jobs, a public inquiry has heard. A public hearing in Townsville last week (Friday) was the first time most regional councils have been able to make their feelings known about the possibility of moving public servants from Australia’s capital cities out into rural and regional areas. The federal government decentralisation initiative, spearheaded by Regional Development Minister Fiona Nash and Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce, has put government ministers on notice. Ministers have been told to justify why jobs and departments should stay in Canberra, Sydney or Melbourne or to nominate a region to move to by December. Ms Nash has said the criteria for assessment will be finalised by mid-2017. There are currently 155,000 public servants, or 14 per cent of the APS, located outside capital cities. The hearing was part of the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee’s inquiry into the relocation of Commonwealth departments and specifically into the potential impact of the controversial plan to move the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority’s (APVMA) form Canberra to the northern NSW town of Armidale, in Mr Joyce’s New England electorate, by 2019. The APVMA relocation, which involves about 190 staff, most of whom are highly specialised, failed a government-commissioned cost-benefit analysis and led to many staff walking out the door, including Chief Executive Kareena Arthy and some top regulatory scientists and lawyers. Ernst and Young estimated the move would cost at least $23.19 million. This includes redundancies for 85 per cent of the APVMA staff the report identified as unwilling to move to Armidale. The plan to move the agricultural chemicals regulator exposed the government to further ridicule after Ms Arthy​ revealed that Canberra-based public servants were working out of Armidale MacDonalds using the free wi-fi because they had nowhere else to work, at a February Senate Estimates’ hearing, a remark Ms Arthy later said was taken out of context. The situation blew up again after a document was leaked to Fairfax in April which gave APVMA staff suggested scripted replies to recite if they were asked about the relocation during "BBQ conversations" and other "social settings". The guidelines came from APVMA’s Chief Operating Officer Stefanie Janiec. Meanwhile, Committee Chair Labor Senator Jenny Mcallister said last week’s public inquiry showed that councils wanted the decentralisation process depoliticised ‘rather than agencies or departments being moved on a minister's whim’. She said councils also felt bypassed by the federal government, which had not spoken to them about its decentralisation agenda. She said that while every council wanted public service jobs they should not have to individually petition ministers for favours. “The community can't have that confidence in Barnaby Joyce's decisions,“ Ms Mcallister said. “The Nationals should back Cathy McGowan's proposal for a broad inquiry into decentralisation as a first step to rebuilding that trust.“ Acting Chair of Regional Development Australia Townsville and West Queensland, Frank Beveridge agreed that every region ‘would fight tooth and nail’ to have even one government department in their backyard but he said it was important to ’get away from the politics and actually have some legitimate figures backing it up, supporting it‘. Fears that regional councils could cannabilise each other’s growth look to be well-founded. All the councils spruiked their own areas at the inquiry, whether talking up their internet connectivity, educational institutions, transport links or affordable housing and insisted their area was unique and should get Commonwealth jobs. Toowoomba and Gatton (which has the University of Queensland) were both vying for APVMA before the decison to move the authority to Armidale was finalised. Cessnock City Council Mayor Bob Pynsent said the application process needed to be open and fair to councils. “The process would need to be transparent, so that every local government area has the opportunity to apply. And when those assessments are made, the decision would not be a political one but be based on the criteria that have been made available to the people who have applied,“ Mr Pynsent said. Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said ‘transparency is extremely important to the community to provide confidence that we are doing the right thing‘ and Peter Hargreaves from Bendigo Council said the planned relocation ‘must be a planned process based on clear objectives’. Councils are keen to have the criteria for regional development made clear, for example, the importance of closeness to a university, internet speed or available office space, and for regions to be properly defined. The Senate Committee will issue its report on June 9. [post_title] => Play fair on decentralisation, say councils at APVMA inquiry [post_excerpt] => Don’t make us fight each other for jobs. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => play-fair-decentralisation-councils-say-apvma-inquiry [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-24 13:54:51 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-24 03:54:51 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27182 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27169 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-18 16:41:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-18 06:41:14 [post_content] =>     Former NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay announced his retirement from the Legislative Council of NSW after 28 years at the National’s Central Council meeting in Broken Hill this afternoon (Thursday). Mr Gay joined the NSW Nationals in 1974 and was made a life member in 2011. He spent six years as the state’s Roads Minister between 2011 and 2017 but lost his job during NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s Cabinet reshuffle in January. Mr Gay signalled at the time that he was likely to quit Parliament ‘sooner rather than later’. He was also the Leader of the Nationals in the NSW Legislative Council. Mr Gay said: “Since becoming Minister in 2011, I have spearheaded major motorway projects in Sydney like WestConnex and NorthConnex, championed movement of freight from ‘paddock to port’ and driven key road safety initiatives. “As a young grazier from Crookwell, I would have never dreamed of being one of the state’s longest serving Ministers for Roads. I could not be prouder of what I have achieved in my portfolio over six years.” Mr Gay said he had delivered the M5 West Widening project, mandated flashing lights at every NSW school and persuaded people to wear life jackets while out on the water. Meanwhile tributes poured in from the Liberals and Nationals. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Mr Gay was 'a key member of the team' when the Coalition was elected to power in 2011 and had overseen the creation of the Roads and Maritime Services, as well as accelerated upgrades to the Princes, Pacific and Newell Highways. "We enjoyed an extremely strong and close working relationship during my time as the Minister for Transport and Treasurer. Duncan was highly respected by both sides of the Legislative Council where he served as Leader of the House and Leader of the Government," Ms Berejiklian said. "He was valued for his wisdom and judgment, and his experience will be difficult to replace. I wish Duncan and his family all the best for the future." Deputy Premier and Leader of the NSW Nationals John Barilaro thanked Mr Gay for his years of service and for driving various infrastructure programs, many of which were targeted at regional Australia. “Under his guidance, more money has been invested in rural and regional roads in NSW than in any other state in the country,” Mr Barilaro said. “Programs like Bridges for the Bush, Fixing Country Roads and Fixing Country Rail mean that every person driving in regional NSW will benefit from Duncan’s leadership and legacy." He called Mr Gay a 'passionate advocate for road users and the improvement of the road network across the state' and welcomed his continued wisdom and guidance in the years to come while wishing him, and his wife Katie, well for the future. NSW Nationals Party Chairman Bede Burke said Mr Gay had delivered around $38 billion of investment for projects to country NSW – almost two-thirds of the total amount for the state - and country people had a lot to thank him for. “Right across NSW, drivers only have to look out their car windows to see all of the roads under construction – from Mulgoa to Molong to Moree. “Duncan has been a firm and unshakeable figure in the Nationals for more than 40 years,” Mr Burke said. "The lives of people in regional NSW are markedly better because of Duncan and the party is supremely grateful for his lifetime of service.” Deputy Leader of the NSW Nationals, Niall Blair said Mr Gay would be missed by all sides of the Chamber. “History will record Duncan as one of the giants of the Legislative Council,” Mr Blair said. “His contributions over 28 years are too many to list and his record for fighting for the best deal in regional NSW will serve as a great example for those of us who remain.” Mr Gay's last sitting day will be June 22. [post_title] => Nationals' leading light reaches end of the road: Duncan Gay calls it quits [post_excerpt] => Former NSW Roads Minister retires. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-nationals-leading-light-reaches-end-road [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-19 10:48:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-19 00:48:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27169 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27158 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-18 13:07:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-18 03:07:35 [post_content] =>   Fighting for deamalgamation: former Pittwater councillor Bob Grace. Pic: YouTube.   Residents are gearing up to push NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to deamalgamate NSW councils forcibly merged in May last year, galvanised by recent court successes of two councils opposing their mergers. Ku-ring-gai Council, on Sydney’s upper north shore, scored a victory against the NSW government in March when the Court of Appeal found it had been “denied procedural process” during its merger because delegate Garry West relied on a report from consultants KPMG, which contained financial modelling that the council could not access. The state government was ordered to pay the council’s costs and decided not to appeal the decision but Ms Berejiklian has made it clear she will not back down on the merger and her next move is uncertain. Rebel councils had another opportunity to celebrate after Woollahra Council was granted special leave to appeal against its forced merger with Randwick and Waverley in the High Court last week, reigniting the council’s hopes after a failed attempt to challenge the legality of its amalgamation in the Land and Environment Court in December last year. The Ku-ring-gai and Woollahra cases have helped inspire the recent formation of two residents’ groups, which are hoping to stop some mergers and deamalgamate others. Local Democracy Matters represents people opposed to the merger of Woollahra, Randwick and Waverley Councils, which is still on the cards. Protect Pittwater is pushing for the succession of Pittwater from the Northern Beaches Council, which emerged from the former Manly, Pittwater and Warringah Councils in May last year. Both groups are considering their options and legal challenges are likely. Protect Pittwater is also planning to submit a proposal to the NSW Local Government Minister to redefine council boundaries and reinstate Pittwater Council under the NSW Local Government Act but first the group must gather the signatures of 250 of the enrolled voters for the area; or 10 per cent, whichever is greater. Minister Gabrielle Upton, would then have to refer the proposal for examination and report to the Boundaries Commission or to the Departmental Chief Executive if the action was taken under Section 218E of the act, which deals with boundary alterations. This could kick off the whole delegate, public hearing process all over again. Bob Grace from Protect Pittwater, who served for three years on Warringah Council and 20 years on Pittwater Council, said the action was necessary to protect the area from high rises and dense development, similar to that already visited upon Manly and Dee Why. He said there would only be three councillors out of 15 on the Northern Beaches council after the September local government elections and Warringah would hold sway. “They’ve sold us out and I think everyone agrees with that. We will win this case if we go to court,” Mr Grace, a retired barrister, said. “There is really strong feeling up here. People in Pittwater are different. They don’t want a vibrant atmosphere like Manly and they don’t want high rise.” The group will crowdfund the money needed for legal fees. “Crowdfunding will enable the community to contribute and take action on their [own] behalf. They can get their council back if they want to contribute,” Mr Grace said. “People are realising that this Northern Beaches Council is all spin. Services are going down and staff are leaving.” Local Democracy Matters spokeperson Richard Horniblow said residents wanted to keep councils ‘genuinely local’ but some councils had not put up enough resistance to the government’s merger plans. “While Woollahra [Council] has been working hard to protect its residents from a forced amalgamation, we have seen too little too late from Randwick and dreadful complicity by the Liberal majority in Waverley,” Mr Horniblow said. “Our association has members from across the political spectrum who are coming together with one goal: to protect our right to genuinely local government that meets the needs of local residents.” NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said other councils where feelings still ran high could follow suit, for example Leichhardt, Gundagai and Tumbarumba.   “It is really heartening to see residents standing up so strongly for their councils and for their local democracy,” Mr Shoebridge said. “Residents in the east aren’t waiting for Waverley and Randwick Councils to come good and oppose the amalgamation but are now taking the state government to court themselves.” He said the Ku-ring-gai decision applied to all the government’s amalgamation proposals ‘on the face of it’ and this included Woollahra, Waverley and Randwick. Randwick Council agreed on Tuesday this week that it would mount a late legal challenge to its merger after two liberal councillors withdrew a rescission motion. Randwick Mayor Noel D’Souza said the council had received legal advice, which the council has said it will publish, which suggested it had grounds for appeal. “Randwick Council’s position has consistently been that we are financially viable and strong enough to stand alone,” Mr D’Souza said. “With the climate changing it’s prudent that we consider our options.” Merger court cases are still in progress for several hold-out councils, including Ku-ring-gai, Hunters Hill, North Sydney, Strathfield, Mosman, and Lane Cove. [post_title] => Residents clamour for NSW council deamalgamation after recent court wins [post_excerpt] => Randwick Council’s late legal challenge. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27158 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-19 10:52:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-19 00:52:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27158 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27112 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-05-12 11:41:48 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-12 01:41:48 [post_content] => By Charles Pauka   While Scott Morrison’s 2017 Federal Budget has been praised for some of its big announcements for freight and infrastructure, the shortage of immediate commitment has earned it the moniker of the “planning to plan budget”. The positive The Australian Logistics Council’s Michael Kilgariff heaped praise on the budget. “The Government should be commended for making clear commitments to two significant infrastructure projects crucial to the freight and logistics industry,” said the ALC managing director. “The transformative potential of the Inland Rail project has been talked about for decades, with incremental progress being made over the past several years, including a positive assessment of the business case by Infrastructure Australia. The $8.4 billion commitment announced in the Treasurer’s speech will finally allow its construction. At long last, we can stop merely talking about this project’s potential, and instead begin to witness it. “Establishing a safe, reliable port-to-port rail link for freight between Melbourne and Brisbane is the only way we can simultaneously meet Australia’s burgeoning freight task, alleviate congestion on existing freight networks, create regional jobs and boost growth,” he said. “To fully unleash the benefits of this project, the line must run to the ports of Melbourne and Brisbane, and comprise efficient rail linkages to the ports of Botany, Kembla and Newcastle in NSW. We must also support the development of intermodal freight hubs at appropriate intervals along the route.”   Read more here. This story first appeared in Transport and Logistics and News.  [post_title] => Budget 2017: wishful thinking [post_excerpt] => Infrastructure and freight announcements. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27112 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-12 11:44:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-12 01:44:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27112 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27102 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-05-12 10:52:13 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-12 00:52:13 [post_content] =>   By Associate Director, Business Intelligence & Analytics, University of Western Australia Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is under real pressure for the first time since the 2016 election, as the government attempts to wedge Labor with a circuit-breaker budget. Shorten used his budget-in-reply speech to appeal to middle Australia, putting forward an argument that Labor is the only party that can be trusted to deliver a fair go. He argued the government’s so-called “Labor-lite budget” is unfair, bringing benefits only to rich. Since the election, it seems everything – including the polls – has gone Labor’s way. The Turnbull government has been plagued by infighting and its messages have failed to resonate with the electorate. However, over the last few weeks – starting with changes to 457 visas and the expansion of the Snowy Hydro scheme – the Coalition has begun a new conversation with the electorate.

Shorten’s pitch

The 2017 budget positioned the government as more centrist. It contained several policy positions ordinarily associated with Labor. The government’s three-word slogan for the budget was “fairness, opportunity and security”. It has tried to position itself as a “doing government”, taking on good debt to invest in infrastructure, funding the NDIS into the future, and adopting measures from the Gonski schools funding plan. Shorten’s speech was framed around modern class politics. He claimed Labor is the only party that can be trusted to protect low-income workers, and look after the interests of the middle class in terms of Medicare, universities and schools. Shorten refuted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s claim that the budget is a fair one:
This prime minister of many words has learned a new one – fairness – and he’s saying it as often as he can. But repetition is no substitute for conviction … This isn’t a Labor budget – and it’s not a fair budget … Fairness isn’t measured by what you say – it’s revealed by what you do.
It is highly unlikely that this budget will be viewed as negatively as the 2014 budget. But Labor needs to convincingly discredit it to the point that the government cannot use it to help restore its standing in the eyes of voters. Labor will need to attack on two fronts. The first will be scare tactics. Voters will need to be convinced they are unnecessarily worse off under this budget. Shorten claimed:
There’s nothing fair about making middle-class and working-class Australians pay more, while millionaires and multinationals pay less.
He highlighted higher tax rates for low-income workers, as a result of the increase in the Medicare levy, as well as the traditional Liberal threat to Medicare. Shorten also posited schools would be much worse off due to the gap in promised funding between Labor and the government. The second line of attack will be providing an alternative set of policy options that voters view as more attractive than those put forward by the government.

What is Labor offering voters?

In his speech, Shorten promised a Labor government would remove the Medicare rebate freeze, rather than wait for indexation to begin in July 2020 – thereby reducing the cost of health care. Labor will also restore A$22 billion to the schools sector. As an alternative to the measures to assist first home buyers through a savings scheme, Shorten said Labor had a plan for affordable housing that would include the construction of 55,000 new homes over three years, and create 25,000 new jobs every year. He also noted Labor’s commitment to developing more public housing. In what is likely to prove a popular idea, Labor will seek to close the loopholes allowing multinational companies avoiding tax in Australia. Likewise, in an effort to halt tax avoidance by wealthy individuals, Labor plans to limit the amount an individual can deduct for the management of their tax affairs to A$3,000 per year. Shorten claimed that less than 1% of taxpayers would be affected, and that measure would save the budget A$1.3 billion over the medium term. Shorten continued to argue that a royal commission into the banking industry is required.

Where does Labor stand on individual budget items?

Labor needs time to review the proposed legislation resulting from the budget in order to determine what it is willing to support. But Shorten outlined Labor’s position on several measures.
  • It supports the additional Medicare levy to fund the NDIS. However, it wants to limit the levy to the top two tax brackets, so that only those earning more than $87,000 per year will be impacted.
  • It supports the bank levy – but simultaneously put pressure on the government, claiming it is responsible for stopping the banks from passing the cost onto customers.
  • It does not support the cuts to universities or the proposed increase in university fees for students.
  • It does not support the plan to allow first home buyers to use up to $30,000 in voluntary superannuation contributions. Shorten described the policy as “microscopic assistance”.

In this game, it’s the message that matters

This is a political budget, and so we should expect in the coming weeks that both parties will attempt to appeal to voters’ base instincts, rather than presenting considered arguments for or against policies. Thus, the government is focusing on forcing greedy banks to “pay their fair share”, secure in the knowledge that former Queensland premier Anna Bligh, as head of the Australian Bankers’ Association, is unlikely to be able to cut through the bank-bashing mentality of the average Australian voter. Likewise, Shorten will campaign hard on the natural end of the temporary budget repair levy, which was introduced in the 2014 budget. He is claiming this is a tax cut for the rich at the same time as the government is making everyday Australians pay more tax through a higher Medicare levy.

Interesting times ahead

Shorten is right: this budget is about trust. The government and the opposition both need to convince average working and middle class voters that their policies will provide Australians with the best outcome. In some ways, this is politics as usual. But, with the polls leaning to Labor and voters’ faith in the government’s ability to deliver low, the stakes seem higher than normal – especially as voters are presented with two positions not as divergent as they have been in recent years.   This story first appeared in The Conversation.  [post_title] => Shorten fights on fairness in budget reply, but will it be enough? [post_excerpt] => Labor's lines of attack. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => shorten-fights-fairness-budget-reply-will-enough [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-12 11:54:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-12 01:54:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27102 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27098 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-12 10:42:57 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-12 00:42:57 [post_content] =>   Treasurer Scott Morrison delivers some welcome relief to local councils in his 2017 Budget speech.    Treasurer Scott Morrison has given Australia’s local councils a boost by unfreezing the indexation of federal financial assistance grants (FAGs) from July 1 and extending funding for local roads. The Abbott government decreed an indexation freeze of the grants in its 2014 Budget, much to the horror of councils, who saw inflation eat away at their bank balances. The government’s estimates indicate that the measure cost councils more than $600 million in lost income. FAGs are vital to councils, particularly regional and rural councils who tend to have a lower rates’ base and fewer revenue raising options, because they are not ring fenced and can be spent on community priorities such as parks, pools, roads and libraries. But councils are counting the cost of the three-year freeze at the same time, arguing that it has permanently reduced the grants and damaged local government’s ability to maintain community infrastructure, roads and services. Local Government NSW President Keith Rhoades said the freeze had had a “harsh impact” on NSW councils, which were also dealing with rate capping and cost-shifting from other levels of government. Mr Rhoades estimated that it had cost NSW councils up to $300 million in lost funding over this period. “Unfortunately despite this welcome restoration, the freeze has resulted in a permanent base reduction of around 13 per cent.” Mr Rhoades said. “It is exactly these sort of financial constraints that make it almost impossible for councils to get ahead. “The significant financial losses sustained as a result of the FAGs indexation freeze cannot help but impact on the quality of local services and infrastructure councils currently provide.” Municipal Association of Victoria President Mary Lalios agreed that ending the freeze was good news for local government. “This will be good news for councils, particularly councils in rural areas as their communities have been hurting as a result of the lost funding,” Ms Lalios said. “The grants help councils to meet the costs of providing more than 100 essential services to local communities and maintaining $80 billion worth of community infrastructure. “However, councils will still be left playing catch-up as they recover from the $200 million that has been lost since the freeze began.” Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) President Mark Jamieson called the decision a “welcome relief” to the state’s councils. “Returning indexation to these grants has been an advocacy priority for the LGAQ and the Australian Local Government Association since the freeze on indexation in 2014. “We welcome the common sense decision by the government to return this vital funding to Queensland councils who now have some certainty in their ability to plan and invest in important infrastructure and projects in their communities”. Mr Jamieson said. Vice President of the Australian Local Government Association, Damien Ryan said councils could now begin to pick up the pieces. “Financial Assistance Grants are an important untied payment that councils invest in providing better infrastructure and better services for our local communities,” he said. “By restoring indexation to this important payment, the government is honouring its commitment to communities to ensure that, as far as possible, every citizen regardless of where they live can have equitable access to municipal services. “However, there is still a long road ahead before councils recover from the freeze as it permanently reduced the base level of the Financial Assistance Grants payments.” Local Government Association of South Australia’s Executive Director of Public Affairs, Lisa Teburea, said the freeze had cost the state’s councils 36 million over the past three years and wiped 13 per cent off the total value of the fund. “These grants are particularly valuable as they are un-tied, meaning councils can use this funding to provide the facilities and services most needed by their ratepayers,” Ms Teburea said. “The government’s decision to freeze indexation on FAGs in its 2014/15 budget has had a significant impact on South Australian councils, with regional communities – where the grants make up a higher proportion of councils’ total revenue – the hardest hit.” Roads  A further budget bonus for Australia’s local councils has been a two-year extension of federal government’s Roads to Recovery funding beyond the 2018-19 cut-off date. The fund is directed at local councils and is earmarked for maintaining and upgrading local roads.  It was introduced in 2000 to address the growing maintenance backlog. “Roads to Recovery provides much-needed funding to help councils maintain 85 per cent of Victoria’s road network, to achieve better safety, economic and social outcomes for their communities,” Ms Lalios said. Program funding is $700 million for 2017/18, $364.5 million in 2018/19, and increases to just below $400 million in 2019/20 in line with the government promise to boost funding for this program by $50 million per annum from 2019/20. Mr Rhoades said the funding extension was “very welcome recognition of the dire state of many roads across the nation” but added “it is important to note the delay before the additional funding kicks in, as well as the fact that the funding boost is spread nationally”. “It’s sobering to think that even if the entire $50 million for R2R was invested in NSW, it would still be insufficient to bring thousands of kilometres of particularly country roads up to the standard our communities need and deserve.” South Australia will receive supplementary road funding of $40 million over two years, after having this pulled in 2014-15. Ms Teburea called this “another significant win” for South Australian communities. “South Australian councils manage 11 percent (75,000km) of the nation’s local road network, have over 7 percent of the nation’s population, and yet receive only 5.5 percent of Identified Local Roads Grant funding,” Ms Teburea said. “This was rectified in 2004/05, through an annual ‘top-up” supplementary payment of around $18 million per annum to South Australia.  However, this payment was removed in 2014/15. “Over the past three years we’ve continued to advocate for the return of this payment, and we appreciate the federal government restoring fair and equitable road funding to South Australian councils in this year’s Budget.”   [post_title] => ScoMo’s Budget boost for local councils [post_excerpt] => Financial assistance grants unfrozen. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => scomos-budget-boost-local-councils [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-12 10:44:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-12 00:44:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27098 [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] => 27492 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-06-28 17:04:46 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-28 07:04:46 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27493" align="alignnone" width="215"] Image courtesy of the Australian Marine Conservation Society.[/caption]   Comment - Charles Pauka Queensland Minister for the Great Barrier Reef Steven Miles was chuffed to welcome a Deloitte Access Economics report identifying the social, economic and iconic asset value of the Great Barrier Reef at $56 billion. “This highly anticipated report confirms the outstanding value of the Great Barrier Reef,” Mr Miles said. “But it could be even higher as the research did not seek to place a financial value on the tremendous biodiversity and the natural wonder value on a global scale. “It also confirms the Palaszczuk Government’s record investment in improving Great Barrier Reef water quality is justified, with two-thirds of people surveyed willing to pay for its continued existence and protection.” Which is where the problem lies: the Palaszczuk Government is also dead-keen on the Adani Carmichael mega-coalmine going ahead, which is widely predicted to further wreck the reef. [caption id="attachment_27494" align="alignnone" width="300"] Is this the handshake that will kill the reef?[/caption]   Steven Miles continued: “The Great Barrier Reef is incredibly precious to all Australians, and the international community - and this report confirms that.  “We have committed $175 million over five years, plus a boost of an additional $100 million for improved reef water quality outcomes. “This means we are investing more than $63 million in 2017-2018, which is almost double the annual funding provided by previous governments.” The Minister said the research showed the Great Barrier Reef contributed $6.4 billion in terms of the value added to the economy and over 64,000 direct and indirect jobs in 2015-2016. 64,000 vs. 1,400 So how many jobs would Adani’s supposedly $16.5bn mine contribute? The most optimistic estimates so far have topped out at 10,000 jobs, but more likely in the 1,400-range. “The government promised to focus on job creation and this report demonstrates the Great Barrier Reef is critical to supporting jobs in Australia. “The report also rightly identifies an opportunity and need for action on a universal level to protect the reef. “As the report clearly recognises, protecting the Great Barrier Reef is not only an Australian or international priority – it is a human one.” I just wonder if Mr Miles has spoken to his Premier about that? Because the two – a healthy coral reef and a mega-coalmine – may not be able to co-exist. “The Great Barrier Reef and other World Heritage reefs are in grave danger from climate change, mainly driven by the burning of coal. Incredibly, almost half of all shallow water corals in the Great Barrier Reef died in the last two years due to a massive underwater heatwave,” said Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) spokesperson Imogen Zethoven.  “Yet the Australian [and Queensland] governments appear hell-bent on making the problem worse by pushing ahead with Adani’s monstrous coal mine, talking up a coal-fired power station next to the Great Barrier Reef. “The [two governments are] not only placing our Great Barrier Reef and the 70,000 jobs that depend on it at grave risk: [they are] endangering the future of World Heritage coral reefs around the world. These places are the crown jewels of our global ocean. They belong to the world community. “In the face of so much loss of coral over the last three years, it defies belief that [they are] ignoring this global tragedy," Ms Zethoven said. [caption id="attachment_27495" align="alignnone" width="300"] Sediment-laden water flowed from Adani's Abbot Point facility into the Caley Valley wetland recently.[/caption] [post_title] => Coal or coral? The Queensland Government seems undecided [post_excerpt] => The Great Barrier Reef is worth $56bn, according to Deloitte Access Economics. How does Adani's Carmichael coalmine fit into it? 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