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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] => 



A group of Australia’s largest waste management companies are calling for the NSW container deposit scheme (CDS) to be delayed seven months so it can start on the same day as the Queensland CDS on July 1, 2018.

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC), whose five foundation members are Veolia, JJ Richards, Cleanaway, Remondis and Suez, last week voted to lobby the NSW government to delay the NSW scheme.

The NWRIC says the proposed state-wide network of more than 450 collection points that the government has asked network operators to set up is incomplete. The network could face further delays as some collection points need development applications and work on safety and traffic management.

The industry group argues that the scheme is not yet ready to be rolled out as scheduled by the NSW government on December 1 and says that pushing ahead with it this year could end in tears.

NWRIC CEO Max Spedding said there were several issues yet to be properly thrashed out and the rules around the scheme had been released only six months ago.

“The industry feels that the scheme is under done and a bit rushed. We’re concerned that there are still these unknowns that would like to see resolved earlier rather than later,” Mr Spedding said.

The issues included: awarding tenders; negotiations between local councils and industry about the ownership of deposit containers; achieving clarity around payment for containers (especially because of new regulations specifying that scrap steel trading must be cashless) and a final decision on which containers are eligible for refunds.

“The scheme may commence with sub-standard collection infrastructure and poorly implemented systems. Fraud may occur. This could undermine public confidence in this scheme and the industry more broadly,” he warned.

He said operators could pull out if the CDS did not work for them, especially if there was a lack of collection points that made the scheme unviable.

Another concern is that by starting the NSW container deposit scheme earlier than Queensland containers are stockpiled or transported across the border to NSW.

“This is always a risk where there are cross-jurisdictional market distortions,” Mr Spedding said. “It is industry’s experience that where money can be made by transporting waste, businesses are set up. More than half a million tonnes currently moves between NSW and Queensland to avoid levies.”

NWRIC Chairman Phil Richards said regulators were already working to harmonise the rules of both the NSW and Queensland container deposit schemes, so it seemed natural to harmonise their start dates.

“By delaying the start date of the NSW CDS by only seven months - to July 1, 2018 - both NSW and Queensland can prevent cross border transport of beverage containers and stockpiling issues,” Mr Richards said.

“CDS programs are complex, so it is also important that adequate time is given to network operators to establish collection and administration systems. These systems are needed to reduce disruption and deliver a high quality service to the public.”  

But Mr Spedding said the NSW Environmental Protection Authority was adamant that the scheme would start by December at a meeting last week with major players, operators and processors, despite their protestations.

Boomerang Alliance Jeff Angel shares Mr Spedding’s concerns and agrees the scheme is unlikely to be postponed.

“There has already been one extension and it looks extremely unlikely will be granted,” he said.

“There will always be problems with any start date and while NSW has left a relatively short period for the roll-out of the infrastructure [collection points and depots] I think all the stakeholders have to work as fast and as constructively as possible.”

Mr Angel said the Alliance still had concerns over whether there would be enough collection points and depots to ensure it was convenient for people to take part in the scheme.

Under the NSW CDS people can hand in most empty drink containers of between 150 millilitres to 3 litres and receive a 10c refund at a collection depot or reverse vending machine. Exceptions include milk and flavoured milk containers, casks, juice containers and glass containers for wines and spirits.
                    [post_title] => NSW and QLD container deposit schemes should both start in 2018, says waste industry
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                    [post_content] => 

 

A senior public official from Victoria’s Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board (MFB) executed an elaborate deception to employ her two sons by encouraging them to change their names and falsify their CVs.

The Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass’ report into the scam, released today [Monday], uncovered a case of naked nepotism within the metropolitan Melbourne fire service that she said had cost the public more than $400,000 over a number of years.    

The MFB’s Chief Information Officer, Mary Powderly-Hughes, hid her relationship to her son, David Hewson, when she hired him in July 2014.

She employed her other son, Barry Robinson, two years’ later to backfill Mr Hewson’s position after she handing him a permanent role as the Manager of IT Administration, Finance, Procurement and Projects.

Leaving nothing to chance, Ms Powderly-Hughes typed her sons CVs, faked their employment history and told them the interview questions beforehand. She also pretended to carry out reference checks after interviewing them.

To make doubly sure her second son got over the line for a procurement manager role, Mrs Powderly-Hughes ‘interviewed’ Mr Robinson at her home and drilled him in IT finance packages, despite him being woefully underqualified for the role and ordinarily working as a motor mechanic.

The three were sprung after a whistleblower reported their concerns to the Ombudsman.

“I have my suspicions that Mary Powderly Hughes has hired her son, or family member, or someone with a very close connection and I think she’s manipulated things to make sure he got the job when it became permanent. When he was a contractor he quickly got a rate rise, which is quite rare for most people,” the manager told Ms Glass.

The Ombudsman investigated the tangled web the trio had weaved using social media and official records.

Officers matched Mr Hewson’s mobile phone number listed on his MFB emails with his role as Treasurer of the local cricket club. They then matched his personal email address with a Facebook account for a Mr Hughes, which revealed the suburb he lived in, the same as the cricket club. The Victorian Electoral roll listed a David Patrick Powderly-Hughes in the same suburb.

Mr Hughes Facebook account also showed he had previously worked for Parks Victoria, which Mrs Powderly Hughes had also listed in her past jobs on her LinkedIn account.

A search of the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages showed that the men were her sons and had both changed their names a few weeks’ before starting work at MFB.

Ms Glass said the case was an egregious example of self-interest.

“Some cases I have investigated over the years seem so unlikely you could not make them up. Except, as in this case, they did,” Ms Glass said.

“The facts of the case are that a senior public official at the Metropolitan Fire Brigade hired her son, not declaring the relationship, having falsified his CV and coached him prior to interview, three weeks after he changed his name to conceal the relationship. 

“After giving him a pay rise and moving him into a permanent role, she then hired her second son, also falsifying his CV and “interviewing” him at her home after he, too, had changed his name to conceal the relationship,” said Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass. 

Ms Glass said she had rarely come across such blatant and calculated behaviour.

“Often the cases are minor, although wrong. Not this time, this was a case of deception where the family nest was feathered, plain and simple.” 

Unsurprisingly, all three have left MFB since the investigation blew up. Ms Powderly-Hughes resigned on the day of her interview with the Ombudsman and both of her sons have since been sacked.

Ms Glass said cases were often difficult to detect and she underlined the importance of colleagues raising the alarm if they saw anything suspicious going on at work.

“The case also serves as a salient reminder of the importance of disclosers acting on suspicion that something is awry in their workplace. More often than not, as the saying goes, where there is smoke, there is fire.”

She said that while the agency could not be held responsible for the deception perpetrated upon it in this case it needed to beef up its conflict of interest policies.
                    [post_title] => Senior public official secretly employs sons after name changes and doctored CVs
                    [post_excerpt] => Pretend reference checks and pay rises for the family.
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                    [post_content] => 

 

By Charles Pauka

CASE builds the machines for the long haul. And as councils typically keep their plant and equipment for 8+ years, they can rest assured knowing that their CASE machine will not only perform for its first life with Council, but continue to perform through its 2nd and 3rd lives once replaced and sold to a new owner.

For performance, reliability and resale value, councils around Australia continue to place their trust in CASE equipment – again and again.

Founded in 1842, CASE Construction Equipment has over the last 175 years built a reputation as a leading and respected global manufacturer of construction equipment.

Today, CASE offers a full line of equipment with over 90 different models around the world, including heavy excavators, wheel loaders, crawler dozers, skid-steer loaders, mini excavators, and backhoe loaders.

CASE equipment and technologies deliver productivity, efficiency, fuel economy and cost-effectiveness to the benefit of its customers’ bottom line. CASE innovates to design equipment that is intuitive and straightforward to use so that operators maximise their productivity.

GovernmentNews.com.au would like to congratulate CASE Construction Equipment on its 175 years of building productivity, and to celebrate, you can view a comprehensive and informative guide to CASE’s history, products and capabilities by clicking on this link.

Government agencies and contractors need access to a full line of equipment, including heavy excavators, wheel loaders, crawler dozers, skid-steer loaders, mini excavators, and backhoe loaders, for maximum productivity and fast results. Read on to find out where to get your hands on the best equipment and back-up in Australia today. Full report here. 

 
                    [post_title] => Governments trust CASE
                    [post_excerpt] => Machines built for the long haul.
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                    [post_content] => 

 

The community impact statements (CIS) that NSW pubs, bottle shops, bars and clubs must submit when applying for liquor licenses are being reviewed for the first time in nine years.

Community impact statements require the applicant to gather community views on the potential impact that granting a new liquor licence could have on a neighbourhood. These statements must include community opposition or support for the licence.

NSW Racing Minister Paul Toole announced earlier this week that Liquor and Gaming NSW will be reviewing the process and is asking for community and industry feedback.

“It’s important that those potentially affected by liquor licences have input into the assessment process, whether they be residents, councils, police or others,” Mr Toole said.

“But it’s also important that pubs, bars and other venues can continue to provide options for people who want to socialise and enjoy themselves.”

The review will examine issues such as:

• Whether CIS adequately capture local community views

• Are concerns being accurately reported by applicants via the CIS?

• Does the CIS identify the risks and benefits of a proposed liquor licence?

• Are there opportunities to cut red tape and minimise delays in the CIS process?

• Is the feedback and information collected via the CIS useful when deciding applications?

• Do the benefits of the CIS justify the costs or time placed on businesses, local residents and other stakeholders?

• Are there any applications or venues currently included or excluded from the CIS that should not be?

Meanwhile, AHA NSW Director of Liquor and Policing John Green, welcomed the review, telling Intermedia stablemate TheShout: “The current system has been in place for quite some time, so AHA NSW looks forward to taking part in this review process on behalf of our members.”

Submissions close on Wednesday 26 July. Have your say here. 
                    [post_title] => Community feedback on NSW liquor licences reviewed
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                    [post_content] => 
Hilltops Council is one of the NSW councils facing a bill for its merger. Pic: Facebook.

 

The NSW government has left some councils with hefty bills to pay since their forced amalgamations in May last year.

Government News understands that mergers have ended up costing some NSW councils more than the state government merger and transition funding they were given.

Rural and regional councils, in particular, are resentful because they received only half of what metropolitan councils were given to cover the process and yet they often receive much less from rates and have lower reserves.

Rural and regional councils received $5 million for each merger, while metropolitan councils were handed $10 million for their mergers under the state government’s New Council Implementation Fund (NCIF).

But there were caveats. The funding could only be used for certain things, such as getting expert advice and integrating IT systems, but not to pay ongoing staff costs or council administrators, who replace councillors and mayors until the local government elections in September.

Councils were also given between $10 to $15 million of Stronger Communities funding to go towards community projects and infrastructure.

Despite the funding, some councils are finding there is a reality gap.

Hilltops Council, a merger between Boorowa, Harden and Young Councils in the South West Slopes of the state, estimates that it will end up spending $6.5 million on its merger, a shortfall of $1.5 million.

Greens MP and Local Government Spokesperson David Shoebridge said residents of the three former council areas would be ‘shaking their heads’ at the figures and wondering where the $1.5 million extra would come from.

“Every independent expert said at the start of this process that amalgamations would be more expensive and more disruptive than the government pretended, and now we are seeing this come true,” Mr Shoebridge said.

“The incompetence of the Coalition is really staggering, and now they are expecting residents in the local councils they have destroyed to meet the cost of their failure.”

Hilltops General Manager Anthony McMahon said he did not understand the logic behind giving rural and regional councils significantly less funding to cover their merger costs than their metro counterparts.

“In our case, we’ve been responsible for bringing three councils together that are geographically separated,” Mr McMahon said.

“We’re also a water utility and we have additional constraints in relation to having two former councils with populations under 5,000, which means we have to comply with Section 218CA of the Local Government Act.  These factors are not a consideration for metro councils.”

The council will finalise its transitional costs and then consider whether to lobby the state government for the money.

“We’re focused on ensuring Hilltops Council is adequately resourced to complete the merger process, and will be making representations to Minister Upton accordingly,” Mr McMahon said.

“We’ve made clear our determination in ensuring the community does not pay for merger-related costs.”

But it is not only regional councils who have been left to pick up the tab for the mergers most of them fought hard against.

Sydney’s Northern Beaches Council, an amalgam of Manly, Pittwater and Warringah Councils, received $10 million for its upfront merger costs and has only $105,000 left in the kitty.

The council’s biggest outlays were $2.5 million for staff redundancies and $2.8 million for system integration.

Northern Beaches Council acknowledges it faces further restructuring costs in the draft of its 2017-2018 Operational Plan.

“It is recognised that council will incur further restructuring costs such as the cost of integration, aligning positions within the new organisational structure and new salary system which will exceed the funding provided,” says the plan.

“Accordingly the Long Term Financial Plan has been prepared on the basis that once the NCIF has been fully utilised, existing budgets will firstly be used to pay for those merger and transition costs not funded through this mechanism prior to the identification of net savings.”

Brian Halstead President of Save Our Councils Coalition, a community group against forced council mergers, said a funding shortfall had always been on the cards.

“The amount that the government allowed was based on the KPMG report, which under costed amalgamations and because they’re not allowing councils to book the ongoing staff costs and administrators against the funding,” Mr Halstead said.

He said some council staff were spending 25 per cent of their time managing the merger process, including harmonising service delivery and staff pay and conditions, and that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian should stump up the extra cash.

“If I was a ratepayer, I would be thinking that these amalgamations have been forced on them by state government. It’s only reasonable that the state government bear the costs of amalgamation but I doubt any of the administrators will [ask] because they’re paid public servants.”

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Keith Rhoades said he was not surprised that merger costs had exceeded the funding available.

“LGNSW, along with a number of academics and other experts, argued strongly throughout the process that there was a strong potential for additional costs,” Mr Rhoades said.

“It was always clear that the cost of individual amalgamations would vary from council to council depending on readiness, systems compatibility, staff skills etc and in fact this is one reason why forced amalgamations can be more difficult than those that are achieved voluntarily, after extensive meaningful consultation.”

Roberta Ryan, Director of the Institute for Public Policy and Governance at the University of Technology Sydney, said it was hard to predict the cost of mergers but the state government had given it their best shot at trying to work it out from past experience.

She said the cost of mergers would depend partly upon the extent of co-operation between councils before they merged, for example through shared IT systems and services and the level of regulatory harmony in an area.

“I understand there has been a shortfall for a number of councils,” Ms Ryan said.

“Many regional and rural councils would have found it harder and more expensive because the amount [they were given] was less and some of them may not have been working towards some of these things that some of the metro councils were.”

The ability of new councils to absorb any cost blowout was highly variable, she said.

“Some councils have good reserves but some of the smaller ones are very strapped financially.”

Asked when the true costs and savings from mergers would be known she said: “Not ever - as we don’t have the base line data available - there can be overall benefits and improvements - that may have happened even if the amalgamations didn’t happen.”

The Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) would not say whether any NSW councils had approached Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton to fund the shortfall or whether the government would act, should this occur.

The DPC statement would only say:

“The NSW Government has provided an unprecedented level of support to new local councils.

“The NSW Government provided new councils with $375 million to implement the mergers and kick start investment in new services and infrastructure for their residents.

“New councils in regional areas received $5 million to cover the costs of merging, as well as $10 million for a merger of two councils or $15 million for a merger of three councils, which is to be used for community, services and infrastructure projects.”
                    [post_title] => NSW councils fork out for forced mergers as government funding dries up
                    [post_excerpt] => Councils could petition Berejiklian for shortfall.
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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 ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27335 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-06-08 12:08:16 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-08 02:08:16 [post_content] =>

Pastures new in Camden, south-west Sydney. Pic: Facebook.
By Josh Harris
This story first appeared in ArchitectureAU and appears here by kind permission.
The New South Wales government has unveiled a plan to increase housing supply by making it easier to build in new development areas. The proposed new Greenfield Housing Code would see homes in new release areas approved in 20 days compared to the 71 days it currently takes on average. Minister for Housing and Planning Anthony Roberts said the government was committed to speeding up the delivery of new homes in greenfield areas to meet the needs of the state’s growing population and improve housing affordability. “This type of streamlined approval not only speeds up the delivery of new housing, but makes it easier and cheaper for people to build homes to suit their lifestyles and incomes,” he said. NSW opposition leader Luke Foley said the government was not doing enough to tackle housing affordability. “This Government has had six years to act on housing affordability but has done nothing,” he said. “Labor will take to the next state election a comprehensive plan to level the playing field in favour of home buyers and help those on modest incomes get a roof over their heads.” Following the release of the proposed Greenfield Housing Code, the opposition unveiled its plan to mandate a target for the provision of affordable housing. Read more here
[post_title] => We’re not in the 1950s anymore’: NSW greenfield housing plan ‘not sustainable,’ Institute says [post_excerpt] => Cautions expanding urban sprawl. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => not-1950s-anymore-nsw-greenfield-housing-plan-not-sustainable-institute-says [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-09 10:01:12 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-09 00:01:12 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27335 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27322 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-07 12:59:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-07 02:59:07 [post_content] =>   Graduates at Southern Cross University. Pic: Facebook.   NSW universities recorded a combined operating surplus of $631 million last year and have coped with government funding cuts by reining in spending and increasing their income from student fees and other sources, an audit has found. Auditor-General Margaret Crawford’s report, Universities: 2016 Audits, released yesterday (Tuesday) by the Audit Office of NSW, found that the state’s ten universities were managing to stay afloat despite government cutbacks. Ms Crawford said: “Universities are managing the impact of continued downtrend in Commonwealth government grants by diversifying revenue and constraining expenditure.” She said universities were now ‘less reliant’ on government grants. The audit found that all of the universities recorded a surplus in 2016 and their combined growth in revenue exceeded their expenditure growth by 1.1 per cent, compared to a negative position (of 1.3 per cent) in 2015. However, at an individual level, five universities saw their rate of expenditure growth surpassing their revenue growth. Charles Sturt University had the highest negative earnings gap at 1.8 per cent, due to increased tuition contracts, while Sydney University’s negative earnings gap of 1.7 per cent was primarily due to an increased wage bill and a write down of capitalised project costs. Three other universities also had a negative earnings gap: University of New England (1.2%), University of Western Sydney (1.1%) and the University of Wollongong (0.9%). Southern Cross University had the highest positive earnings gap at 10.7 per cent, driven primarily by an increase of $13.4 million in Commonwealth Government Education Investment Fund. Next was University of Technology Sydney at 3.9%; University of NSW with 3.7 per cent; Newcastle University 2.9% and Macquarie University with 2.3%. Much of this financial buoyancy appears to be from a 25 per cent increase ($458 million) in overseas student revenue, a massive jump of 71.4 per cent since 2012. Last year was the first time NSW universities have earned more from overseas students’ course income than from domestic students’ course income. Ms Crawford said: “Some NSW universities' business models depend on international students' intake to be financially sustainable. These universities manage income concentration risk by focusing on increasing the geographical diversity of overseas students.” The balance between income gained from student course fees and government grants has been shifting over the last five years. Income from student course fees jumped from 39 per cent in 2012 to almost 46 per cent in 2016, whereas Commonwealth grants have dropped from 42 per cent of universities’ income in 2012 to 36 per cent in 2016. The report echoes an earlier Deloitte Access Economics study using data from 17 Australian universities, which found that Australia’s universities receive sufficient revenue through government funding and student fees to cover the cost of teaching most degrees. Two major exceptions were dentistry and veterinary science, which were both found to be underfunded. The study compared the average cost of delivering courses and said this had increased by 9.5 per cent between 2010 and 2015 while revenue went up by 15 per cent over the same period. Managing the risks Despite these encouraging numbers from both surveys, universities face an uncertain future after federal Budget measures slugged them with an efficiency dividend of 2.4 per cent in May, alongside hiking up student fees and pushing graduates to repay loans more quickly. The report identifies the top five strategic risks to NSW universities:
  • Government policy changes
  • Technology disruption
  • Increasingly competitive market for international students
  • Future financial sustainability
  • Investment in research not providing the desired outcomes and excellence
The Auditor-General said some universities’ heavy reliance on overseas students made them vulnerable to fluctuations in overseas student numbers and this risk needed to be planned for and managed. Ms Crawford also said universities needed to keep pace with the practical demands of the job market, particularly where technology was concerned. The report said that NSW universities' current course enrolment statistics did not appear to mirror published skills shortages. “Courses with the highest proportion of enrolled students such as creative arts, society and culture do not mirror the skills shortage requirements in NSW for health, ICT and engineering,” it said. “Aligning students' enrolment with the fields of skill shortages within the state would ensure funds are directed to educate graduates that can be employed.” Another risk flagged was the need for universities to have a strategy for dealing with cyber threats and threats to intellectual property by tightening up their information security. “NSW universities need to review the design and effectiveness of their information security controls to ensure intellectual property, staff and student data are adequately protected,” the Auditor-General recommended. This was mainly around password settings and administration of user access. User password settings need to be improved on the financial systems to help to reduce the risk of data leaks and inappropriate access. The 2016 Threat Report of the Australian Cyber Security Centre, identified intellectual property as a potential target for cyber criminals. “Universities generate a significant amount of intellectual property through their investment of public and commercial funds into research. The report also noted that cyber criminals are using increasingly sophisticated ways to elicit this high value,” said the audit. Ms Crawford said that some universities were addressing these risks through ‘stress testing and scenario analysis models’ to understand and plan appropriate responses. [post_title] => NSW universities are doing ok, says audit [post_excerpt] => Overseas student numbers soar. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-universities-ok-says-audit [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-09 10:03:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-09 00:03:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27322 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27302 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-06 05:00:58 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-05 19:00:58 [post_content] => Who is going to rush to the rescue of renters?   I am a single parent with two school-aged children earning a decent income but around 60 per cent of my pay every month goes on rent; childcare takes a good chunk of the rest. I pay $650 per week for a small two-bedroom flat in an apartment complex in Petersham in Sydney’s Inner West. Ten years’ ago the same apartment was leased for $390 per week. In that time the flat’s value has more than doubled and it is now estimated to be worth around $885,000.   This puts me squarely in the category of Sydney renters paying ‘extremely unaffordable rents’, according to the Rental Affordability Index (RAI), produced by National Shelter, Community Sector Banking and SGS Economics, and well above the definition of households in housing stress, defined as being a household paying more than 30 per cent of income in rent. May figures from the RAI showed that pensioners and working parents have been priced out of the rental market in all metropolitan areas across Australia and that rental affordability dropped over the last quarter in all metropolitan areas, except Perth. For me, it is an unsustainable situation and part of the reason I’m moving back to the UK and to my family this month after 12 years in Australia. But there are thousands of other Sydney and regional NSW renters who are also paying a fair whack of their wages in rent and it appears that there is little help in sight for them. Census 2011 figures show that just over one-quarter of NSW households rent privately and a further 5 per cent rent in social housing. In NSW, 76 per cent of lower-income renter households, that’s those in the bottom 40 per cent of income distribution, were considered to be in rental stress in 2013- 14. National Shelter's and Choice's report Unsettled: Life in Australia's private rental market says that 49 per cent of  renters in metro areas personally pay more than $301 a week rent versus roughly a quarter in regional areas and 42 per cent of renters overall. This rises to 55 per cent for renters in Sydney and Melbourne.  The house price boom has not only hurt first home buyers it has also hurt renters. As more and more middle income earners are priced out of home ownership they swell the ranks of renters and they can often afford to pay higher rents, effectively pushing lower income households further out of the rental market as landlords charge what they can get away with. While the most vulnerable groups are pensioners, single parents, people with disabilities, students and anyone on benefits, single people and couples on low wages or where one partner doesn’t work are also in the firing line. That's a lot of people (and a lot of voters). But the situation is unlikely to be eased by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s housing affordability reforms announced last week, which focused mainly on expanding stamp duty concessions for first home buyers and slugging foreign property investors with higher duties and taxes. Tenants NSW says the NSW government needs to remember renters  Tenants NSW Senior Policy Officer Ned Cutcher is underwhelmed by the NSW measures. "It’s not an increasing affordable housing package, that’s an access to debt package," Mr Cutcher says. “It is disappointing. Clearly there are a lot more people for whom home ownership is more of a dream than an aspiration and they’re doing it tough."  “We would have liked to have seen something more direct tackling the issue of rental affordability [although] the government has left it open to have a look at housing affordability targets.” The government needs to look at what’s driving rising rents and pay more attention to renters, he adds.   Indeed, the new reforms could aggravate the situation for renters as the government steers first home buyers towards new apartments and shifts investors away from them. Instead, he suggests there needs to be a raft of reforms and at least some of these should address negative gearing and capital gains tax discount, perhaps limiting negative gearing to new properties (as the Opposition has suggested) and reducing capital gains tax discounts, hoping to encourage long-term investment. “The combination of negative gearing and capital gains discount encourages investment churn: buying and selling properties because they’re interested in gains rather than yields,” Mr Cutcher says. Changes to negative gearing and capital gains discount would be significant because they could ‘change the way investors consider how and why they’re borrowing large amounts of money and investing in property’. But he cautions: “People [investors] aren’t going to give this up lightly but it isn’t sustainable.” Changing these price signals would enable landlords to continue to make money out of leasing property but could shift their attitudes to viewing rentals less as bricks and mortar that goes up in value and more like somebody’s long-term home. “It’s all about keeping things going the way they [have]been going - helping a few people out on the margins - but if you’re not actually looking at the systems in place, we’re going to be here in another three or four years’ time having the same conversation about stamp duty concessions and first home buyers’ grants. It’s not a very imaginative solution.” He also backs affordable housing targets for new developments to help increase supply and introducing a broad-based land tax to encourage investors to make the most effective use of their land, reducing vacant blocks and ensuring density and development where land is more valuable, for example in employment hubs. He is an advocate for new social housing being built and the government offering more Commonwealth Rental Assistance for those on benefits, especially where it has not kept pace with the private rental market. At a federal level, Mr Cutcher says Treasurer Scott Morrison’s idea of a bond aggregator model has legs. This is where investors - companies or super funds for example - buy government bonds and the government loans the money cheaply to community housing associations to create relatively affordable rental housing. He says renters would also benefit from having stronger legal rights in NSW because at the moment landlords can put up rents and terminate tenancies fairly easily. Ultimately, he believes that the growing army of renters will force the government’s hand, at state and federal level and prove the catalyst to more decisive action. “We need to be hearing from people raising families who have been renting for ten or 15 years but who don’t know where they’re going to be living next year. Increasing the visibility of people who rent, that’s going to drive these decisions." Economist and Mosman Mayor Peter Abelson says low income households under rental stress and first home buyers struggling to scrape together a deposit are the two critical housing problems in NSW. “People at the lower end are really suffering from high rents. There are real problems.” Long waiting lists for social housing, for example there are 40,000 households on the list in Sydney, and the widening gap between Commonwealth Rent Assistance and rental levels make the situation worse. He suggests developers pay an affordable housing levy of 1.5 per cent of house sale value on new units. This is preferable to rent controls, Abelson says, which can be an administrative headache (for example, if tenants’ incomes change or they sublet) and reduce capital values with minimal impact on the affordable housing available. The centrally-controlled fund could then subsidise rents for low income households.   [post_title] => OPINION: Renters left behind in NSW housing reforms [post_excerpt] => Tenant body urges action. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => opinion-renters-left-behind-in-nsw-housing-reforms [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-06 09:36:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-05 23:36:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27302 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27279 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-01 16:17:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-01 06:17:52 [post_content] => NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian will introduce new housing affordability measures from July 1 that will wallop foreign property investors with higher duties and taxes and give first home buyers a lift by expanding stamp duty concessions. Ms Berejiklian announced the changes today [Thursday] to double the stamp duty paid by foreign investors from 4 per cent to 8 per cent and increase the annual land tax surcharge on foreign buyers from 0.75 to 2 per cent. The forecast proceeds of $2 billion over the next four years are expected to be funnelled into more generous stamp duty concessions for first home buyers. The government will exempt first-home buyers from paying stamp duty on existing properties costing up to $650,000, not just new properties, and offer stamp duty discounts up to $800,000. It is good news for those saving for their first pad, with the government claiming this initiative alon could save first homebuyers up to $24,720. It is a significant jump. Current stamp duty exemptions for first home buyers apply only to new homes up to $550,000 and vacant land valued up to $350,000. At the moment, stamp duty concessions for first home buyers kick in for new properties valued between $550,000 and $650,000 and for vacant land valued between $350,000 and $450,000. Other measures in the housing affordability package include:
  • Removing stamp duty concessions for investors purchasing off the plan
  • Infrastructure funding of $3 billion from the state government, councils and developers to accelerate new housing
  • Abolishing the 9 per cent stamp duty charged on lenders’ mortgage insurance, which banks often demand when they lend to first homebuyers with smaller deposits
  • Fast-tracking approvals for well-designed terraces, townhouses, manor homes and dual occupancy by including them under complying exempt development
  • Greater use of independent panels for Sydney councils and in some regional areas to speed up development applications and ensure the integrity of the planning process
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that taken together, the changes could save first homebuyers up to $34,360. “I want to ensure that owning a home is not out of reach for people in NSW,” Ms Berejiklian said. “These measures focus on supporting first homebuyers with new and better targeted grants and concessions, turbocharging housing supply to put downward pressure on prices and delivering more infrastructure to support the faster construction of new homes. “This is a complex challenge and there is no single or overnight solution. I am confident these measures will make a difference and allow us to meet the housing challenge for our growing state.” NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the government would use its strong Budget position to ‘give a leg up’ to prospective first homebuyers while simultaneously targeting infrastructure investment to stimulate housing growth in Sydney and parts of regional NSW. “As a government, we have always focused on supporting first homebuyers and this package takes it to the next level,” Mr Perrottet said. “We know how challenging it can be to enter the property market and are pleased to be providing even more financial support for people wanting to make their first purchase.” NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts said the government would simplify complying development rules for greenfield areas and establishing specialist teams to help speed up rezoning residential development, where appropriate. “While we have done well to release an unprecedented amount of land over the last six years, we need to do better with our development application process to ensure we are keeping up with demand,” Mr Roberts said. [post_title] => NSW housing affordability reforms clobber foreign investors, help first home buyers [post_excerpt] => Stamp duty concessions expanded. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-housing-affordability-reform-clobbers-foreign-investors-helps-first-home-buyers [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-02 11:31:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-02 01:31:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27279 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => 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 ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27268 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-31 13:04:03 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-31 03:04:03 [post_content] => NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has put the brakes on the controversial Fire and Emergency Services Levy (FESL), which could now be scrapped. The FESL was supposed to come in on July 1 to replace the Emergency Services Levy (ESL) but it sparked consternation from several quarters, including from local councils, property owners and unions. The government is now in the awkward position of having to reverse FESL legislation, which went through in March, to stall the scheme while it works out what to do next. The new levy would have meant several changes: first, it would be collected by local councils on the state government’s behalf alongside council rates, rather than by insurance companies; second, all property owners would pay the levy, including those whose property is uninsured. The government has repeatedly said that the ‘vast majority’ of property owners would be better off under the new levy, saving on average $47 per year, and that it would encourage more people to insure their properties. It said the levy was revenue neutral and fairer. But this figure has been disputed by the firefighters’ union, the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union of NSW (FBEU), using figures from the NSW Valuer-General and formulae contained in the FESL Bill. The union argued that property owners in some parts of Sydney, such as North Sydney, Mosman and the northern beaches, could end up paying more than double: up to $471 a year, compared with an annual average of $233 under the previous levy. The FBEU argued too that the proposal shifted the burden from businesses to homeowners with people living in low-risk homes subsidising those in bushfire-prone areas and high risk industries while halving the state’s contribution by around $70 million annually. Government News understands that some businesses had used the government’s online calculator and been shocked at how much extra they would have to pay under the new levy. Yesterday [Tuesday] Ms Berejiklian and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet blamed the government’s deferral on the negative impact it could have on small and medium-sized businesses and made no mention of homeowners. “While the new system produces fairer outcomes in the majority of cases, some people – particularly in the commercial and industrial sectors – are worse off by too much under the current model, and that is not what we intended,” Ms Berejiklian said. Mr Perrottet said the FESL was a complex reform and there would be challenges during the transition phase. “It’s not enough for this reform to work on paper – its real-life implementation has real life consequences for families and businesses, and we need to make sure they are not placed under unfair strain,” Mr Perrottet said. The government would not be drawn on whether the scheme would be scrapped or deferred. Ms Berejiklian said during a media conference yesterday: “If we don’t get a fairer system, we won’t introduce it. But our intent is to defer until we get a fairer system.” The government has said it will work with local government, fire and emergency services, the insurance industry and others to find a better and fairer path forward. Reaction News of the back down took many by surprise yesterday, cheering the firefighters’ union and local councils and aggravating insurance companies. The FBEU took it as proof the tax was ‘hopelessly wrong’ from the start. “They had six years, an inquiry and interstate precedent to get this right, and yet they completely stuffed it,” FBEU Secretary Leighton Drury said. “The FESL is a bad tax, and the wrong way to go. It doesn’t need further review and tinkering, it needs to be scrapped.” Mr Drury said there should be no levy and fire services to be funded from consolidated revenue, the same as police and other core public services. The Local Government NSW (LGNSW), the peak body for the state’s local councils, also welcomed the policy rethink. “Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s announcement that the government will not impose the FESL from July 1 provides an opportunity to pursue a true broad-based levy that replaces both the insurance and existing ratepayer contributions,” LGNSW President Keith Rhoades said. LGNSW said the FESL was based on the value of unimproved land value of property in NSW and recent land valuations would have meant ‘significant increases’ for many property owners. “Councils have already done a lot of work to comply with the government’s FESL legislation, and there will now be a need to undo this work – not to mention the associated costs. While this is regrettable, the chance to get the levy right should be our focus,” he said. Meanwhile the insurance industry reacted angrily to the news and said it would increase policy premiums for property owners. The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) said insurance companies were ‘shocked and disappointed’ by the decision to delay the FESL, especially as no deadline had been set for a final decision. “This has significant legal and commercial implications for the industry. It is a logistical and technical challenge that will cause confusion and increase premiums for policyholders,” ICA spokesperson Campbell Fuller said. “The resumption of ESL collection will come with significant additional costs that the industry will be forced to pass on in full to policyholders.” He complained that ‘every other mainland state has abolished emergency services levies on insurance with little fuss’. Mr Fuller said insurers had already spent more than a year and tens of millions of dollars on consultants and IT changes to prepare for the new levy. The Emergency Services Levy Insurance Monitor, headed by Professor Allan Fels and his deputy David Cousins, had previously been tasked with being the ‘cop on the beat’ to ensure insurance companies removed the levy from policies and passed this on in full to homeowners and businesses.   The government has said it will now oversee ‘a smooth continuation of the existing system and ensure insurance companies collect only the amounts necessary to meet fire and emergency services funding requirements’. Penalties for any insurance company that does not heed this are steep: up to $10 million for corporations and $500,000 for individuals. Both men had similar roles when Victoria did the same thing, following the 2009 Bushfires Royal Commission recommendations. [post_title] => Berejiklian could scrap new Fire and Emergency Services Levy [post_excerpt] => Councils and union happy, insurance companies not. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27268 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-02 11:33:25 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-02 01:33:25 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27268 [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] => 27469 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-06-23 13:00:48 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-23 03:00:48 [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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