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                    [post_date] => 2017-06-23 13:30:41
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                    [post_content] => 
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announcing the 2017 NSW Budget. Pic:YouTube. 

 

 

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has sprinkled some of his budgetary largesse on local councils and stumped up billions for infrastructure including roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, bike paths and sports facilities and set up a new fund to kickstart a regional economic renaissance in the state.

Mr Perrottet’s first budget was fuelled by a $4.5 billion surplus with coffers swollen from the NSW property boom and a major asset sell-off and local government will be more than pleased to rake in some of the spoils gained from stamp duty and the polls and wires sell off.

For the Budget NSW overview click here.

A new $1.3 billion Regional Growth Fund has been established, focusing on lifting regional economic growth.

There are six funds, including strands for infrastructure; sports facilities; improving voice and data connectivity; upgrades to parks, community centres and playgrounds and building and upgrading arts and cultural venues.

Another strand also deals specifically with investing in infrastructure for mining communities.

Councils, industry, regional organisations and community groups can apply to the funds, which tie in with the NSW government’s 30-year Regional Development Framework.

Local Government NSW President Keith Rhoades said the announcement was a positive one for the regions.

"LGNSW looks forward to more information from the Deputy Premier's office on how this funding will be allocated and the opportunities for our sector, but overall this looks like very good news for regional communities.

"This goes to show that the government does listen when the community speaks, and particularly so when they make their voice heard at the ballot box.”

Central Coast Council Administrator, Ian Reynolds, said as he was particularly pleased with the promise to allocate 30 percent of infrastructure spending to the regions.

“The $6 billion injection is significant and recognises that regions like the coast are attracting more people who are looking for a better lifestyle away from the big cities and require improved infrastructure to meet their growing needs,” Mr Reynolds.

“Roads are a key priority for council because our community wants better roads and it is pleasing to see such a significant injection by the state government into roads here on the coast.”

The regions also won another victory, with the government allocating $100 million for palliative care services and staff training, with much of this expected to flow to rural areas where there have been complaints about the dearth of services available.

In addition, the government will spend $258 million on supporting and regulating local government through the Office of Local Government, including $2.1 million to optimise the Companion Animals Register and Pet Registry to improve user experience and enhance functionality.

But it is not simply a one-way street with all give and no take.

Local councils will feel the heat from Mr Perrottet’s push to accelerate house building in the state, including 30,000 new homes in priority precincts in Sydney.

The NSW government will spend almost $70 million to speed up major development approvals and help councils rezone land quicker, including $19 million to establish a specialist team to rezone and to help councils accelerate rezonings.

Also in the budget is $11.8 million for online, cloud-based housing development applications, especially to help regional councils and small metropolitan councils with low capability.

Other key budget points 
  • $4.2 billion over four years for education infrastructure, including building new schools and upgrading others
  • A cash injection of $7.7 billion over four years for new hospitals and hospital upgrades
  • Public transport, road building and rail gets $73 billion, including WestConnex, Sydney Metro City rail line and the Pacific Highway upgrade
  • Spending $20.1 million to complete the Service NSW network of service centres by transitioning 24 motor registries in regional and rural communities to Service NSW service centres.
  • Art Gallery of NSW expansion worth $244 million
  • A $1.2 billion package for first home buyers, including stamp duty relief and heavier foreign investor charges
  • $63.2 million to improve child protection, including additional caseworkers, case managers, and case support workers
[post_title] => NSW Budget: the impact on local councils [post_excerpt] => Win for the regions. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-budget-impact-local-councils [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-23 13:36:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-23 03:36:08 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27454 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27440 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-20 10:19:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-20 00:19:51 [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 [post_excerpt] => Scheme could fail if rushed. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-qld-container-deposit-schemes-start-2018-says-waste-industry [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-20 10:19:51 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-20 00:19:51 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27440 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27429 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-19 12:45:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-19 02:45:11 [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. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => senior-public-official-secretly-employs-sons-change-names-falsify-cvs [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-19 14:22:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-19 04:22:46 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27429 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27411 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-16 11:22:15 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-16 01:22:15 [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 [post_excerpt] => First review in nine years. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => community-feedback-nsw-liquor-licenses-reviewed [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-16 12:02:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-16 02:02:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27411 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27402 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-16 10:40:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-16 00:40:21 [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. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-councils-fork-forced-mergers-government-funding-dries [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-16 14:53:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-16 04:53:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27402 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27391 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-15 09:28:52 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-14 23:28:52 [post_content] =>   Chemist Paul Mavor with the first medicinal cannabis imports from Canada last month. Pic: supplied.   Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Dr Michael Gannon has criticised Tuesday’s senate vote, which makes it easier for terminally ill patients to buy unregistered medicinal cannabis from overseas, saying he fears the drug could end up in the wrong hands but cannabis experts have called his reaction unfounded. The vote was led by Greens leader Richard Di Natale after he lost the same vote in May, but this time it won the support of Labor, One Nation and various crossbenchers after a procedural loophole allowed a re-vote. Medicinal cannabis will now be classed as a category A drug on the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) list, making it easier for doctors to prescribe the medication to terminally ill people and drastically reducing the time it takes for patients to get hold of it. The senate vote also means terminally ill people can legally import the drug more easily from regulated overseas markets, provided they have a prescription. The first medicinal cannabis imports came into Australia in May from Canadian company CanniMed. The Australian medicinal cannabis market is currently in its infancy after it became legal to cultivate, produce and manufacture medicinal cannabis products on October 30 2016. Good domestic product is probably 12 to 24 months away so securing an overseas supply is a necessary option for sick Australians. Supply is not the only problem, draconian rules around prescription are too. When the federal government legislated to make medicinal cannabis legal for some terminally ill patients last year, it also tightened up the conditions that had to be met before it could be prescribed. The drug was previously classified as a category B drug under the special access scheme, which meant doctors had to get prior approval from the TGA, their state or territory health department and their hospital ethics committee or relevant association, before treating terminally ill patients, rather than just informing the TGA they intended to prescribe it. It has obviously had an impact. Fairfax reported this week that only 133 people have been able to access medicinal cannabis since new laws came in. But some doctors aren’t in favour of relaxing the rules. Dr Gannon told Sky News he was ‘disappointed’ with the senate’s decision and said that giving patients access to unregistered medicinal cannabis products from overseas would knock doctors’ confidence in prescribing it.  “You’ve already got a situation where doctors are querying exactly how effective medicinal cannabis is. If you in any way put any doubt in their minds about the safety, you're simply not going to see it prescribed by many doctors,” Dr Gannon said. But he admitted the risks to patients were minimal. “Certainly, in the palliative care setting, we're not worried about addiction and, to be honest, we're not too worried about major potential side effects. But we remain concerned about potential diversion into the general community.” Dr Gannon said cannabis was still a major source of mental illness in the wider community and it was ‘absolutely essential’ any imports were safe. “If cannabis was the panacea that the people who seem desperate to import it - if it really was that good, then it would be in liberal use across the entire medical system,” he said. “We're excited about its potential in palliative care, we're excited about its potential when it comes to juvenile epilepsy, and forms of spasticity, but let's look for the evidence.” His views echo those of federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, who called the senate’s decision ‘reckless and irresponsible’ and argued that cannabis could end up in the pockets of criminals and out on the streets. AMA’s fears unfounded, says expert But medicinal cannabis expert Rhys Cohen, who works for the Australian subsidiary of Israeli medicinal cannabis company Cann10, called Dr Gannon’s statements contradictory and ‘completely unfounded’. He said medicinal cannabis was unlikely to be diverted illegally, partly because it was already ‘incredibly cheap and incredibly accessible’ in Australia and medicinal cannabis was considerably more expensive. He said only a few countries, including Israel, Canada and the Netherlands, legally exported cannabis and they all tightly controlled their product. Companies needed export licenses and permits and Australian companies needed import licenses and permits. Prescriptions could still come only from specialist medical practitioners. “The changes allow people who are very soon going to die to access it faster than previously,” Mr Cohen said. “We’re not talking about Joe Bloggs with a bad leg here but people on their death beds dying of cancer wanting to get relief from pain. “The idea that there’s a chance they will sell it on the street is just ridiculous.” While Dr Gannon has argued that cannabis should be treated the same as every other drug, operation or therapy Mr Cohen said it had always been treated very differently from other drugs. “Any unregistered drug in the medicine world was accessible through special access A, except cannabis,” he said. Mr Cohen said he thought the AMA’s misgivings were that doctors would be put under more pressure to prescribe medicinal cannabis, especially given pent up demand. However, while he agreed these concerns were legitimate he said doctors were responsible for educating themselves about medicinal cannabis, especially when it had been proven to work so well for chronic pain, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. [post_title] => Doctors on a downer over medicinal cannabis imports [post_excerpt] => Concerns unfounded, says Australian cannabis expert. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => doctors-downer-medicinal-cannabis-imports [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-16 12:05:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-16 02:05:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27391 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27365 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-13 12:21:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-13 02:21:00 [post_content] => Stinky wheelie bins, noisy garbage trucks and scavenging rodents will never plague Maroochydore’s new city centre on the Sunshine Coast. Rather than employing a fleet of wheelie bins and rubbish trucks, Sunshine Coast Council will suck rubbish from waste inlets in the walls of apartments and commercial buildings at speeds of up to 70kmh through a 6.5 kilometre system of underground vacuum pipes, lurking beneath Australia’s newest, 53-hectare city. Three colour-coded waste inlets will deal with general waste, recyclables and organics and each will be compartmentalised and sealed underground until the vacuum pump gets switched on to suck it into the central waste facility, probably twice daily. There will also be waste inlets above ground in public areas which will look a bit like daleks. The waste is then put into sealed compactors and once or twice a week the council receives a message indicating the compactor is full and the waste needs to be collected. The council’s Director of Infrastructure Services Andrew Ryan said the Swedish system, pioneered in 1965, was already popular in the Northern Hemisphere and would be the first one installed in Australia. He said the process functioned similarly to sewerage and water systems. The system will cost $21 million to install but Mr Ryan said costs would be recouped from CBD occupants over the life of the project, around 25 to 30 years. The council will build the central waste collection centre and charge per property to cover operational and collection costs. “One of the things we really liked about this system is they work really well in large-scale, medium density masterplan communities [like Maroochydore], particularly where the developer has a long-term interest in the precinct,” Mr Ryan said. “The most obvious advantages are you have a public realm that doesn’t have garbage trucks trundling up and down the street in the early morning or at night. There’s no noise, no smell and no vermin. “Buildings can have active frontages because you’re just dealing with a pipe [not bins] and you save on labour costs.” Mr Ryan said Sydney and Melbourne had a good look at the system but it was difficult for the business case to stack up because of the cost of sinking pipes underground in an already established city centre, although he said Barcelona and Singapore had both done retrofits. The system was most suited to medium to high density masterplan communities of between 3000 to 5000 people or a resort-style development where five or six buildings were located together. But it is not just about waste collection. At the same time, the council will install a high-speed fibre optic network as part of its smart cities’ project. This will provide free Wi-Fi hotspots, movement sensors, smart signs and lighting. The council is not hanging about. The pipes should be in the ground within three months and the central collection centre should be operational by December 2018. [post_title] => Council dumps wheelie bins for whizz-bang underground waste system [post_excerpt] => Maroochydore in Australian first. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => council-dumps-wheelie-bins-whizz-bang-underground-waste-system [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-13 13:00:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-13 03:00:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27365 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27361 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-13 11:10:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-13 01:10:21 [post_content] =>   Affordable housing, infrastructure spending, mental health, new schools, family violence and drug courts and 6,000 more public servants are expected to be some of the cornerstones of Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt’s budget today (Tuesday). It is a budget with real heart, with a focus on people doing it tough, whether it is people battling drug addiction or poor mental health, children in unsafe situations or those who cannot afford a secure place to live and one likely to help Ms Palaszcuk's bid for re-election in around six month's time. One of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s biggest ticket items in today’s budget, which will be announced around 2.30pm, will be $1.8 billion for social and affordable housing under the state’s new 10-year Queensland Housing Strategy. The money will be used to build 4,522 new social homes and 1,034 affordable homes and introduce targets for social and affordable housing of between 5 to 25 per cent for new homes built on state land. It also includes $20 million for new Youth Foyers in Townsville and the Gold Coast and expanding the Logan foyer. The service, run by Wesley Mission, provides supported accommodation and social and emotional support for marginalised young people aged 16 to 25. The government has also committed to creating housing and homelessness hubs; $30 million to reform the housing system and $75 million for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander home ownership. It is expected there will be 450 full-time construction jobs created a year. Ms Palaszczuk called the $1.8 billion investment ‘a launch pad for opportunity and aspiration’. “Secure housing enables young people to finish their education. It provides the stability that keeps families together. And it gives people the secure base they need to get and keep a job,” she said. Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt said state-wide expressions of interest for initial projects would be online from today. “Our ten-year construction program provides industry with a stable and predictable program of work so they can have certainty,” Mr Pitt said. “This is about best practice procurement, working to match projects to appropriate partners, creating opportunities for small, medium and large businesses. Whether you are a small home builder or one of the state’s largest developers there is something in this construction package for you.” Queensland Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni said the strategy would leverage investment from the private sector create ‘genuine affordable housing’ in the state on underused government land. “This strategy is a big win for local builders and tradies in the residential sector across the state,” Mr de Brenni said. “This strategy is about partnering with the private sector and community housing providers to create genuine affordable housing, something that hasn’t been done at scale in this country in decades.” Housing affordability has been a key component of state and federal budgets of late. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a suite of housing measures earlier this month but the reforms were focused more on helping out first home buyers with stamp duty concessions and grants, increasing duties and taxes for foreign property investors and speeding up development applications. Housing was also top-of-mind for Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison in his May Budget when he announced a bond aggregator scheme, which hopes to attract large-scale private investment into affordable housing by helping not-for-profit community housing providers borrow more cheaply. Mr Morrison also introduced a super deposit scheme to enable first home buyers amass a deposit more quickly and but he pointedly refused to touch either negative gearing or capital gains tax discounts. Other Queensland Budget measures include: • Another $2 billion towards Brisbane's $5.4 billion Cross River Rail project, a 10.2km inner-city rail link between Dutton Park and Bowen Hill, taking the state’s contribution to half • $75 million for the Townsville Port expansion • Upgrading the Sciencentre at the Queensland Museum on the South Bank ($9.4 million) • $16 billion for health, including expanding mental health services and replacing the Barrett Centre, Queensland’s only residential centre for youth with severe mental health problems • $13 billion for education to build new high schools in Fortitude Valley and South Brisbane and buy land for four more regional high schools • New domestic and family violence courts at Townsville and Beenleigh and making Southport court permanent ($69.5 million) • Reinstating the Drug Court in Brisbane to help rehabilitate offenders and overcome substance dependence ($22.7 million over four years) • A $200 million child safety package including 292 child safety staff, money to recruit an extra 1000 foster carers and $7.4 million to support families where a person has become addicted to ice • $155 million for counter-terror policing with 30 more police officers in Brisbane and 20 in the regions and $46.7 million for a counter-terrorism facility at Wacol • $1.1 billion for electricity projects and subsidies [post_title] => A Queensland budget with heart: Palaszczuk prepares for re-election [post_excerpt] => Cash for health, housing, kids and courts. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => queensland-budget-prepares-palaszczuk-re-election [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-13 11:10:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-13 01:10:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27361 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27346 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-09 05:00:56 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-08 19:00:56 [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] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27346 [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] => https://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] => 27309 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-06 11:07:45 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-06 01:07:45 [post_content] => Inner West Council meeting. Pic: Facebook. A NSW council has defended itself over criticism that it did not put a $9.4 million IT contract out to tender, saying it followed local government procurement rules and needs to urgently integrate its IT systems post-amalgamation. Inner West Council in Sydney has hired TechnologyOne to consolidate its IT systems following the forced amalgamation between Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville Councils in May last year. Leichhardt and Marrickville Councils already used TechnologyOne but Ashfield used Civica International, TechnologyOne’s main industry rival. A council spokesperson said the decision not to go to open tender complied with Section 55(3)(i) of the Local Government Act 1993, which states “… because of extenuating circumstances, remoteness of locality or the unavailability of competitive or reliable tenderers, a council decides by resolution (which states the reasons for the decision) that a satisfactory result would not be achieved by inviting tenders”. Contracts over $150,000 normally go out to tender but the council is pleading ‘extenuating circumstances’, which it says includes: the council merger; the fact there are only two main industry service providers; the long-term benefits to the council and community and the urgency of integrating IT services across the new council after the merger, arguing that the tender process would ‘add a significant and unreasonable time delay’. The spokesperson said: “Two out of the three former councils already have Technology One licenses and use TechnologyOne products so we are simply continuing an existing relationship with this supplier. This decision was in the best financial and other interests of our residents. “TechnologyOne is an Australian based company and their superior technology will allow council to take a quantum leap forward in how we do business.” But Greens MP and Local Government spokesperson David Shoebridge isn’t buying it. “They’ve rushed headlong into a five-year contract on the basis that there was a desperate urgency,” Mr Shoebridge said. “It is remarkable that what started as a quick patch job has ended up with this almost permanent service provider.” He said Civica provided similar solutions to local government around Australia and would have been ready to respond quickly to an invite to tender to ensure the council got the best IT solution. “These assumptions are best tested through competitive tender process, that’s how you get value for money," Mr Shoebridge said. Meanwhile, Civica has asked why merged councils would sidestep the tender process without testing alternatives. A Civica spokesperson said the company disputed that a single supplier was the best path for councils to go down and said this could push out other vendors.  "We believe that councils want best-in-class solutions and sometimes that can be a mix of suppliers," the spokesperson said. "What was the harm in them going out to tender? We believe that they could have generated a better commercial outcome, even if they continued to go with that provider." Inner West Council’s $5 million IT contract includes integrating its IT and telephone network, external website and intranet and one-time ‘building costs’. A further $4.4 million will cover annual software licencing fees of $1.6 million over five years. TechnologyOne licencing fees will replace existing annual fees. [post_title] => Merged council says it followed procurement rules over $9m IT contract [post_excerpt] => Pleads ‘extenuating circumstances’ [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => merged-council-says-followed-procurement-rules-9m-contract [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-06 11:28:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-06 01:28:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27309 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => 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] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27302 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27284 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-02 11:24:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-02 01:24:51 [post_content] =>   NSW councils tentative on housing affordability package Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has welcomed NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s ‘promising ideas’ in the state’s new housing affordability package but said the reforms were ‘somewhat light on detail’. The reforms include stamp duty concessions for first home buyers, changes to the first home buyer’s grant, higher taxes on foreign investors and accelerating council-led rezonings and development application approvals. "LGNSW congratulates the government on its efforts to do what it can to support housing affordability, and there's nothing we'd like more to do than to come out and praise their efforts,” LGNSW President Keith Rhoades said. "Unfortunately until there is more detailed information available it really seems to be a case of the devil will lie in the detail." Mr Rhoades said the sector welcomed many components of the package, including the ‘very positive’ move to lift the cap on development contributions to ensure new homes had the necessary infrastructure to support them, like footpaths, roads and parks. He also cautiously welcomed the announcement of funding of up to $2.5 million for ‘growth priority councils’ to help councils update their Local Environment Plans quicker. "It's great news that these ten to 15 councils will be supported to plan for future growth, but we are a little concerned at the suggestion that councils should accelerate the rezoning of land," Mr Rhoades said.  "Rezoning needs good strategic planning at a local level, and it's important that we don't give this up in the pursuit of speed at all costs.” He said it was unclear whether the government’s new guidelines around protecting the local character of communities would have much force. However, Mr Rhoades said councils were pleased the government had not moved straight to mandatory independent planning panels for deciding larger development applications. "These panels work very effectively for some councils, but other councils don't see the need for them - it really needs to be a matter of local choice.”   Digital marketplace for smart cities Local councils can now use the Digital Transformation Agency’s (DTA) Digital Marketplace platform to collaborate on smart city projects, including smart lighting, rubbish collection and infrastructure modelling. The new functionality, which is expected to become permanent, was introduced to help councils find suppliers for the innovative products and services they need to deliver smart city ideas. “There is a great appetite for innovation within local councils, who are at the forefront of smart city initiatives,” Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor said. “Already 25 per cent of registered buyers on the Digital Marketplace are local government and there are more than 400 sellers who can provide the digital expertise they need to transform their communities.” There are already some exciting projects up on the Digital Marketplace, such as Sunshine Coast’s underground waste collection project and Ipswich Council’s 5D data modelling, which brings together streams of data to build a five-dimensional view of the city’s infrastructure. The Marketplace is supporting the federal government’s Smart Cities Plan and complements the $50 million Smart Cities and Suburbs Program. Applications for the first round of the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program close on 30 June 2017.  Eight Sydney councils will offer residents free energy advice Eight Sydney councils will offer free energy advice to residents through the Our Energy Future partnership, going live on World Environment Day, Monday 5 June. Eight councils are working with Our Energy Future: Inner West, Bayside, City of Canada Bay, Canterbury-Bankstown City, Georges River, City of Parramatta, Randwick City, and City of Sydney. Our Energy Future (formerly Our Solar Future) will involve an energy advice website, phone line and free, no-obligation quotes on solar and assessment services. Users can find information such as trusted solar and storage battery retailers and installers and tips on improving the energy efficiency of their homes and workplaces. For a discounted rate, Our Energy Future experts can also conduct comprehensive energy assessments to offer more tailored advice.   Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) President Councillor Sally Betts said she was excited about the launch. “We’re delighted that Our Energy Future and SSROC have been able to come together with eight councils to deliver financial savings to our local residents,” she said. Our Energy Future is coordinated by Positive Charge, a not-for-profit social enterprise. “Our organisation has its foundations in working with local government to reduce emissions and increase the use of renewable and energy efficiency technologies,” said Manager Positive Charge Kate Nicolazzo. “We are thrilled to be partnering with SSROC to bring this award-winning service to Sydney-region residents,” she said. SSROC General Manager Namoi Dougall said, “Our Energy Future is a key element of SSROC’s Renewable Energy Master Plan, and will be run by Positive Charge for a 15-month pilot.” [post_title] => Around the councils: Digital Marketplace open for smart cities; Response to NSW housing reforms [post_excerpt] => And eight Sydney council's energy efficiency push. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => around-councils-digital-marketplace-open-smart-cities-response-nsw-housing-reforms [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-02 11:32:44 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-02 01:32:44 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27284 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => 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] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27279 [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] => 27454 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-23 13:30:41 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-23 03:30:41 [post_content] => NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announcing the 2017 NSW Budget. Pic:YouTube.      NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has sprinkled some of his budgetary largesse on local councils and stumped up billions for infrastructure including roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, bike paths and sports facilities and set up a new fund to kickstart a regional economic renaissance in the state. Mr Perrottet’s first budget was fuelled by a $4.5 billion surplus with coffers swollen from the NSW property boom and a major asset sell-off and local government will be more than pleased to rake in some of the spoils gained from stamp duty and the polls and wires sell off. For the Budget NSW overview click here. A new $1.3 billion Regional Growth Fund has been established, focusing on lifting regional economic growth. There are six funds, including strands for infrastructure; sports facilities; improving voice and data connectivity; upgrades to parks, community centres and playgrounds and building and upgrading arts and cultural venues. Another strand also deals specifically with investing in infrastructure for mining communities. Councils, industry, regional organisations and community groups can apply to the funds, which tie in with the NSW government’s 30-year Regional Development Framework. Local Government NSW President Keith Rhoades said the announcement was a positive one for the regions. "LGNSW looks forward to more information from the Deputy Premier's office on how this funding will be allocated and the opportunities for our sector, but overall this looks like very good news for regional communities. "This goes to show that the government does listen when the community speaks, and particularly so when they make their voice heard at the ballot box.” Central Coast Council Administrator, Ian Reynolds, said as he was particularly pleased with the promise to allocate 30 percent of infrastructure spending to the regions. “The $6 billion injection is significant and recognises that regions like the coast are attracting more people who are looking for a better lifestyle away from the big cities and require improved infrastructure to meet their growing needs,” Mr Reynolds. “Roads are a key priority for council because our community wants better roads and it is pleasing to see such a significant injection by the state government into roads here on the coast.” The regions also won another victory, with the government allocating $100 million for palliative care services and staff training, with much of this expected to flow to rural areas where there have been complaints about the dearth of services available. In addition, the government will spend $258 million on supporting and regulating local government through the Office of Local Government, including $2.1 million to optimise the Companion Animals Register and Pet Registry to improve user experience and enhance functionality. But it is not simply a one-way street with all give and no take. Local councils will feel the heat from Mr Perrottet’s push to accelerate house building in the state, including 30,000 new homes in priority precincts in Sydney. The NSW government will spend almost $70 million to speed up major development approvals and help councils rezone land quicker, including $19 million to establish a specialist team to rezone and to help councils accelerate rezonings. Also in the budget is $11.8 million for online, cloud-based housing development applications, especially to help regional councils and small metropolitan councils with low capability. Other key budget points
  • $4.2 billion over four years for education infrastructure, including building new schools and upgrading others
  • A cash injection of $7.7 billion over four years for new hospitals and hospital upgrades
  • Public transport, road building and rail gets $73 billion, including WestConnex, Sydney Metro City rail line and the Pacific Highway upgrade
  • Spending $20.1 million to complete the Service NSW network of service centres by transitioning 24 motor registries in regional and rural communities to Service NSW service centres.
  • Art Gallery of NSW expansion worth $244 million
  • A $1.2 billion package for first home buyers, including stamp duty relief and heavier foreign investor charges
  • $63.2 million to improve child protection, including additional caseworkers, case managers, and case support workers
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