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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 ) [1] => 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 ) [2] => 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 ) [3] => 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 ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27076 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-08 15:52:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-08 05:52:04 [post_content] =>   Public servants and local councils are hoping Treasurer Scott Morrison's 'good news' Budget really is. Pic: YouTube.     Housing affordability, a staged unfreezing of the Medicare rebate, infrastructure spending and Gonski 2.0 are all widely tipped to feature prominently in Treasurer Scott Morrison’s “good news” Budget tomorrow. Other likely announcements include a one-pay payment for pensioners to offset electricity price increases, funding for veterans’ mental health programs and dumping billions of dollars worth of education and health ‘zombie’ cuts. Meanwhile, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen has already called Mr Morrison's Budget a “pale imitation of Labor policy” and said it is merely an attempt to save Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership by “trying to close down issues”, while warning Catholic schools will stage a rebellion against their recalculated, lower funding. “It is designed to save Malcolm Turnbull's leadership, desperate to get a positive Newspoll,” Mr Bowen told Barrie Cassidy on Insiders yesterday. “These half measures: one step forward, two step back, coming down the road towards Labor policy is [not] going to fool anybody. Of course, the fact Labor's led the policy agenda on health, education and housing affordability means the government is playing catch-up. “Whenever someone is playing catch-up with you, that’s better than not catching up with you, but they are still a long way behind on these policies.” But aside from the politics, what impact will the Budget have on local government and where will the inevitable spending cuts to fund the goodies come from? Local government wish list The biggest, most pressing issue for local government is the fervent hope that the federal government will finally end the freeze on the indexation of Financial Assistance Grants  (FAGs) to councils, a decision which Joe Hockey deferred for another three years in his horror 2014 Budget. Regional and rural councils have borne the brunt of this measure, since they are much more dependent on FAGs for their general funding than metro areas due to their weaker rates’ base. In April, the peak body for the nation’s local councils, the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), mounted a social media campaign pressing the government to end the FAGs freeze, while pressing the government to increase the quantum of FAGs in proportion to Commonwealth tax revenue. In 1996 FAGs were equal to about 1 per cent of Commonwealth tax revenue; by 2013-14 FAGs amounted to around 0.67 per cent of total. A growing infrastructure maintenance backlog, particularly in NSW, has seen ALGA request that the Roads to Recovery program should be permanently doubled, the Bridges Renewal program made permanent and Fairer Roads Funding restored for South Australia, at $17.5 million per annum. The Association’s federal Budget submission also asked for $300 million a year over the next four years to fund community infrastructure which it said would stimulate long-term growth and build community resilience. Disaster funding and support to address climate change is also a priority for those councils in flood prone areas. ALGA has asked for a disaster mitigation program to be established funded at $200 million per year and an investment of $100 million over four years to support councils to manage their own climate risks. The Association also asked that the government to review municipal funding for services around indigenous housing, health, jobs and education. ALGA President David O’Loughlin said it was “an ideal time to invest in roads and bridges, community infrastructure and guarding against the world impacts of climate change” as well as the time “to start the discussion about the reality of the current funding constraints experienced by councils”. “ALGA understands the fiscal challenges facing the Commonwealth, however, expenditure on priorities does not wait for a convenient moment,” Mr O’Loughlin said. “Indeed, ALGA would argue that in times of fiscal constraint governments should focus on community priorities and investment in productive infrastructure through the most efficient processes to deliver programs.” Specific items expected in the Budget include a $2.3 billion state-federal package for Western Australia to pay for freeways, regional roads and the Metronet rail project; motorway upgrades for South East Queensland and progress on the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project, alongside $6 billion for a second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek. There is also likely to be an announcement of a further roll-out of City Deals, which focus on new infrastructure to help regional areas around urban centres. It will be fascinating to discover is there is any mention of the National Party-led push to decentralise government jobs, typified by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority’s move from Canberra to  Armidale, in tomorrow's Budget. The cuts One cut that has already been foreshadowed is reduced Commonwealth funding for universities, tighter rules around HECS repayments and a 2.5 per cent efficiency dividend that universities must meet. There may also be a series of smaller health programs that may be slashed or abandoned. Meanwhile, the Community and Public Sector Union is stealing itself for yet another round of public service job cuts, predicting that a further 4500 jobs could be slashed “if the government maintains its hard-line cuts” and adds to the 18,000 scalps it has already claimed. Instead the union is asking the government to target its money saving efforts at consultants and contractors and company tax avoidance and restore ATO jobs to prosecute this drive. CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said the relative silence before the Budget had been “strange and a tad unsettling” for government workers. “Treasurer Scott Morrison and the government in general have said much less about the national accounts than they normally would,” Ms Flood said. “That silence hasn't exactly been reassuring for the public servants who keep the wheels of government turning. This government has repeatedly used them as a political football while also making harsh and short-sighted cuts. “Let's hope the government puts ordinary Australians first with this budget, rather than shooting itself in the foot with another round of counter-productive public sector cuts.” We’ll have to wait and see. [post_title] => Budget 2017: Implications for local councils [post_excerpt] => Union fears further public sector job cuts.   [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27076 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-09 11:48:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-09 01:48:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27076 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24208 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-06-21 16:33:25 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-06-21 06:33:25 [post_content] => arabian origin treasures in a wooden chest lying on the desert sand. image taken in dubai   NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole has trumpeted a “record investment” in local government in the NSW Budget of $700 million. NSW local councils must have collectively salivated as Mr Baird revealed the state’s coffers were overflowing, registering a $3.7 billion in surplus in 2016-2017 and predicting further hefty surpluses averaging $2 billion a year over the next four years. The budget included a $590 million over two years for merged councils, which has been already been announced multiple times. This is made up of $10 million per new metropolitan council towards merger costs and $15 million for community infrastructure. Regional councils, receive $5 million per merger and $10 from the Stronger Communities Fund. Mr Toole said: “This record investment underpins the most comprehensive local government reform seen in NSW in more than 100 years. “The NSW Government’s plan to create stronger new councils in Sydney and regional NSW will be supported by a Budget investment of $590 million over two years. “We are ensuring our communities have stronger and more efficient councils, which will free up money for important projects such as local roads, parks, playgrounds and footpaths,” Mr Toole said. But local government may not view the cash so much as a windfall but an offer to pick up only part of the tab for cost of forced council mergers. Another budget line item was $16 million for councils through the Local Infrastructure Renewal Scheme. The Scheme provides interest rate subsidises so that councils can afford to take out major bank loans to maintain and renew existing infrastructure. Mr Toole said: “The NSW Government’s infrastructure renewal scheme has seen 166 council projects approved for an interest subsidy, unlocking more than $800 million in investment of local infrastructure, two thirds of which is for regional and rural councils." Pensioners will benefit from a $79 million boost to the Pensioners Rebate Scheme, subsidising council rates and charges for pensioners. Regional and rural councils who are not merging are targeted with the offer of $14 million for Joint Organisations and into the existing Innovation Fund, which can be used to improve services and infrastructure. Dog and cat lovers of NSW will also rejoice in a budget allocation of $1.5 million over two years to create an online dog and cat register. But the budget measures had their detractors. Greens MP and Local Government Spokesperson David Shoebridge said Mr Baird was spending $590 million “to sack councils, remove democracy and appoint handpicked administrators.” “While the Coalition has been bleating about an alleged saving of $2 billion over the next 20 years, 30 per cent of these supposed savings will be blown in just two years. “It is clear that NSW taxpayers would be far better off with their local, elected councillors than paying $590 million for unelected and unwanted Administrators.” Local Government NSW, the peak body for local councils in NSW, will be commenting soon. More to follow.   [post_title] => Toole trumpets “record investment” in local government in NSW Budget [post_excerpt] => Throw the dog (and cat) a bone. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 24208 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-06-23 23:07:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-06-23 13:07:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=24208 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23781 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2016-05-03 21:30:22 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-03 11:30:22 [post_content] => Morrisson turnbull pic   When a Budget doesn’t have an obvious centrepiece, it helps a lot when the centrepiece it doesn’t have is huge and distributes funds that people can see, feel catch, or drive on in almost every electorate. Welcome to the Turnbull government’s turbocharged $50 billion infrastructure investment, the ‘big iron’ of the Prime Minister’s so called transformation agenda that delivers $33 billion of that money over the forward estimates. budget logo The government’s press release on the measures weighs  in at a massive 22 pages, making it more of a shopping catalogue for campaigning MPs on the hustings – which is not to say the measures are not sorely needed after a sustained period of chronic under investment that has generated a massive national backlog of remedial and replacement works. Highlights of the package include:
  • Roads to Recovery scoring an extra $50 million per year to $400 million a year starting from 2019-20.
  •  A $1.5 Victorian Infrastructure package that includes a $500 million Monash Freeway Upgrade and $350 for the M80 Ring Roads.
  • Inland Rail, the major freight corridor getting another $594 in “additional equity funding” to buy land.
  • Western Sydney Airport (or Badgery’s Creek) gets $115 million for “preparation  work” that included money for the concept design of the train line rejected by former PM Tony Abbott.
  • Financial Assistance Grants collect $9.7 over the forward estimates, or around $2.4 billion a year, although there appears to be no movement on the controversial element of indexation that has angered councils across Australia.
Tasmania gets a $400 million for the Midland Highway, with $70 million to flow immediately. The Apple Isle also scores $59 million for Freight Rail Revitalisation, with $20.4 million to flow in 2016-17, Canberra comes out with only a nominal mention with a $300,000 allocation for “ACT Travel Time Information”. Government News suspects this won’t include measures on how long it takes to find a taxi .   More to come … [post_title] => Infrastructure investment stays the biggest ticket (to re-election): Budget 2016 [post_excerpt] => Will big cash for rail and roads lead victory? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 23781 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-05-03 21:30:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-05-03 11:30:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23781 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23787 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2016-05-03 20:51:54 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-03 10:51:54 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_23774" align="alignnone" width="300"]Turnbull haircut_opt Haircuts are all the rage at the top.[/caption]   Public servants already reeling from two years of cuts under the Abbott government can expect to be squeezed harder than ever after Treasurer Scott Morrison used his first Budget to extract the document’s third biggest single savings measure, a hit of $1.9 billion to the public service.budget logo
  • Major pruning starts light and grows to $614 ml in final year.
  • Minor jobs decline in 2016-17, future uncertain
  • + $500 mil reinvestment pool for public sector innovation
Listed in Appendix D of the Turnbull government’s glossy Budget overview, the line item certain to ring alarm bells in agencies and unions alike is escalating savings over three years that have been booked under “Public Sector Transformation and Efficiency Dividend.” The sizeable hit to the public service has been partly tempered by a $500 million “reinvestment” pool intended to fund further public service productivity and transformation, the core definitions of which are still yet to be disclosed, but will have to appear by next year. Starting from 2017-18, the big pruning package will extract $298.6 in its first year and snowball by more than $100 million a year to $510.5 million in 2018-19 and $614.6 in 2019-20. “The Government will maintain the efficiency dividend at 2.5 per cent in 2017-18, then reduce it to 2 per cent in 2018-19 and further reduce it to 1.5 per cent in 2019-20,” the Budget Papers say, before acknowledging there are hard limits to how far the cuts can ultimately go.” “This tapered reduction in the efficiency dividend reflects the diminishing scope for new efficiencies as Australian Government agencies become leaner,” The Budget Papers say. While the Budget documents themselves are painfully thin on detail on how the cuts will be applied, the direct linking of Prime Minister Turnbull’s “Transformation” agenda with the previously loathed Efficiency Dividend strongly suggests that technology and business process overhauls now in train at many departments will be used to hand back cash to Treasury. Big job losses have been spared, at least for the first year, with the Estimates of Total Staffing Levels in the general government sector sitting at 167, 340 (excluding military personnel) for 2015-16 and dropping 167,155, a fall of 185 jobs. With the Budget Papers explicitly acknowledging that the 2.5 per cent efficiency dividends between 2014 and 2016 “helped to reduce total Australian Government Staffing back to 2006-7 levels” part of the new narrative for fresh cuts is that they will likely have to come from transformations that don’t include major job shedding where there is little or nothing left to cut . In a line that could have been borrowed from the Digital Transformation Office, the Budget Papers says that “by increasing the focus on innovation and the modernisation of public services and on efficiencies achieved by maximising the opportunities of a digital dividend wherever possible, the Government will be an exemplar in how it invests in and uses technology and data to better deliver quality services faster and at a lower cost.” Turnbull ParkinsonWith the Department of Finance certain to retain a big say over what transformative efficiency and cutting should look like for agencies hoping to get some of the $500 million extracted from them back, the extension of the efficiency dividend is likely up Finance’s influence over what kinds of digital projects get a thumbs up. However the move to link the wider public service transformation agenda, including the work of the Digital Transformation Office, with cost cutting (as opposed to service improvement) is by no means without risk for both the Treasurer and the Prime Minister. Memories are still fresh and feelings raw over the previous Labor government’s promise to use hundreds of millions of dollars in savings from IT under the Gershon Review measures for innovative reinvestment, only to see the cash snatched by Treasury as soon as the money flowed. Known sources of savings being pushed to agencies include enforced standardisation and culling of disparate back office platforms, especially ERP packages, which have proliferated over the last 10-15 years and are now gradually reaching the end of their support periods and are set for replacement. The Department of Finance is also conspicuously supporting the use of shared service platforms for some functions between agencies, an approach that has widely varied success between jurisdictions, with nasty blowouts and failures in Western Australia in particular. Separate to the efficiency dividend cuts, the Department of Human Services has also copped a another decent cut thanks to the Major Savings list, with $ 80 million extracted over the next four years at $20 million a year even.   [post_title] => Public Service cops $2 billion hit: Budget 2016 [post_excerpt] => Efficiency dividend strikes again... and again [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => budget2016-story-1 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-05-03 20:51:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-05-03 10:51:54 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23787 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23761 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-05-02 17:14:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-02 07:14:36 [post_content] => Scott Morrison1_opt   Charities, welfare groups and unions have pleaded with Treasurer Scott Morrison to release the pressure on the Department of Human Services (DHS) by funding more staff and better IT systems in the federal Budget. In a joint statement, 14 organisations: Carers Australia, St Vincent de Paul, the Welfare Rights Centre the Community and Public Sector Union, Australian Council of Social Services, Children and Young People with Disability Australia, ACT Council of Social Services, National Union of Students, Fair Go For Pensioners, Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association, People With Disability, the Consumer Action Law Centre and Financial Counselling Australia demanded the government “properly fund” the DHS to “provide the Australian public with the Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support services they need and deserve.” DHS has fielded a range of allegations over the past year, including:
  • Centrelink bunging Youth Allowance and Austudy payments
  • Call waiting times of more than an hour to get through to Centrelink
  • One-quarter of all 57 million phone calls to Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support agencies last year going unanswered (Auditor General’s report 2015)Complaints up almost 19 per cent on last year, and customer satisfaction is down by per cent (DHS Annual Report)
  • An avalanche of customer complaints about online services, particularly myGov
  • A litany of complaints about mobile apps for child support, Medicare and Centrelink
In its statement, the coalition of not-for-profit groups said the federal Budget should:
  • Restore adequate funding to DHS
  • Invest in high quality, in-house IT systems so clients can access a reliable online service
  • Increase DHS permanent staff numbers so that claims and queries are processed quickly and clients who need over-the-phone or in-person services can get them
  • Ensure rural and regional Australia has fair access to government services.
The statement said: “Millions of people in Australia rely on the Department of Human Services every day, for essential services including social security payments, Medicare, child support and aged care. “Australia needs these essential services to be both accessible and of high quality, and employees of DHS resourced to do the best they can for everyone needing assistance. “However, after years of budget cuts, DHS systems and staff are under extreme pressure. “People who rely on Centrelink expect and deserve high quality public services. Employees in DHS must have the resources to deliver high quality public services. People are trying to do the right thing and reports changes as required, but the system is letting them down. “The upcoming budget provides an opportunity for the Federal Government to address these issues.” But there are strong indications their demands are likely to fall on deaf ears. It is widely predicted that Mr Morrison’s budget will include a Commonwealth public service “efficiency dividend”, expected to be around 1.4 per cent. CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said public sector cuts – including almost 18,000 job losses since 2013 - had already done enormous damage and any more cuts would further erode the quality of services. “Making yet another round of irrational and arbitrary cuts to Government services through increased across-the-board cuts with a so-called ‘efficiency dividend’ shows the Turnbull Government has its priorities absolutely wrong," Ms Flood said. “This is a continuation of a policy that meant one in three phone calls to the Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support agencies went unanswered last financial year, 22 million calls missed in total.” [post_title] => Demand for Human Services windfall in Budget [post_excerpt] => But efficiency dividend looms. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 23761 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-05-10 10:34:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-05-10 00:34:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23761 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 9 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => 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 ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 9 [max_num_pages] => 1 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => 1 [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 69f2771eb2647290e2d2923a3e3d5c61 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 1 [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )

The Budget