The Victorian Government has announced it has rejected the proposed Murray Darling Basin Plan, saying the social and economic costs incurred from the plan would be too costly.
Releasing the Victorian Government's submission to the draft plan, State Water Minister Peter Walsh warned the Federal Government against taking more water from Victoria.
"Further cuts to consumptive water will reduce employment, put pressure on families to seek off-farm income, place downward pressure on house and land values and increase welfare dependency,” Water Minister Peter Walsh said.
Mr Walsh said under the proposed Basin Plan, water available for consumptive use would be reduced by 2750Gl.
"Our modelling shows northern Victoria's dairy industry would decline by 12 per cent or $54 million. Grape production would fall by 11 per cent or 38 million and mixed grazing would take a hit of 31 per cent or $38 million," Mr Walsh said.
"Victorian communities have already done their share of the heavy lifting. Between the contributions they have made since 2000 and the water being returned under current agreements, northern Victorian irrigators have already given up 1,040Gl.
To view Victoria's submission to the Murray Darling Basin Authority visit www.water.vic.gov.au/basin-plan-response
The South Australian Government has issued 71 recommendations to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s Draft Plan, saying more must be done to ensure the health of the river system is maintained.
“There is a positive and prosperous future for river communities and indeed, the nation, if we get this plan right,” Premier Jay Weatherill said.
Central to the state’s demands is an increase in environmental flow, with Mr Weatherill saying the proposed 2750 giaglitres is insufficient to ensure the health of the river. Mr Weatherill said modeling of extrat returns should include 3200, 3500 and 4000 gigalitres.
Mr Weatherill also stressed the need for greater water security for South Australians, specifically irrigators.
Water and the River Murray Minister Paul Caica said South Australia’s submission requires that more water be returned to the system so that the environment and communities have a healthy future
The full South Australian submission on the Murray-Darling Basin draft plan is available at www.waterforgood.sa.gov.au
The Western Australian Government has announced the opening of the 31 kilometre Gascoyne Irrigation Pipeline Project, paving the way for the expansion of one of the state’s major horticultural production areas.
“This project represents water security for fruit and vegetable producers in the Carnarvon area - without it, any expansion of the Gascoyne food bowl would not be possible,” State Minister for Agriculture and Food Terry Redman said.
Water Minister Bill Marmion praised the involvement of the local community in supporting the project, in particular the Gascoyne Water Cooperative (GWC).
“The new high density polyethylene pipeline will be a more efficient irrigation system, using water where it’s needed and without waste,” Mr Marmion said.
Regional Development Minister Brendon Grylls said that with the pipeline’s completion, the next step was further flood mitigation work and expansion of the Gascoyne food bowl, an initiative funded by the State Government’s Royalties for Regions program.
The Western Australian Government has announced the commencement of the installation of the first panels at Australia’s largest solar photovoltaic power project.
The Greenough River Solar Farm is a 10-megawatt facility 50km south of Geraldton, with construction of the above ground electrical works starting four months ago to support the 150,000 solar panels across an area of 80 hectares.
The plant, which has been received $20 million in state funding, is expected to open in late July.
“No other jurisdiction in Australia has done what we are doing here in the Mid-West region of Western Australia, and this development clearly illustrates that, once again, we are setting the standard for the rest of the nation,” State Energy Minister Peter Collier said.
“The Greenough River Solar project will generate enough electricity for 3,000 average homes while displacing 20,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas each year, which is the equivalent of taking 4,000 vehicles off the road.
“There is an appetite for solar energy and an expectation that governments and electricity generators like Verve Energy will build solar farms and other renewable energy projects. I look forward to returning here in a few months to open this magnificent development.”
Queensland has announced it will expedite the development of three major projects with significant economic benefits for the state.
Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development Jeff Seeney announced that the Co-ordinator General Barry Broe had approved two projects to proceed and relased the environmental impact for a third.
The State Government’s move has seen Pacific National’s freight terminal in Townsville and a change to the rail rout to service BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance’s Caval Ridge Coal Mine receive approval to proceed, while the EIS for Nathan Dam has been released for public comment.
Approval of the Townsville freight terminal expansion follows the signing of a 10 year contract between Pacific National, Xstrata Copper and Queensland Rail to transport magnetite concentrate from the Ernest Henry mine in Cloncurry to the Port of Townsville.
The Queensland Government has opened the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed multi-billion dollar Arrow liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Gladstone.
Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney said the release of the EIS was a major milestone for the proposed 300-hetare LNG project on Curtis Island, in the Port of Gladstone.
Coordinator-General Barry Broe said it was a large, complex project involving local, state and federal government approval processes and one which would potentially impact on a number of environmental values.
“Consequently, in June 2009 the Coordinator-General declared it a ‘significant project’ for which an EIS is required,” Mr Broe said.
The Curtis Island facility is expected to have a capacity of up to 18 million tonnes of LNG per annum, through a staged development.
A nine kilometre-long feed gas pipeline would be needed from the Gladstone City Gate, traversing Port Curtis via a tunnel under the seabed.
Dredging of the sea bed of Port Curtis and the riverbed at the mouth of the Calliope River is also required to provide access to marine facilities on Curtis Island, and the mainland.
Coordinator-General Barry Broe said he encouraged members of the community to have their say on the EIS.
The EIS will also be on public display (subject to local opening hours) between 16 April and 28 May 2012, at:
- Agnes Water Library: 3 Captain Cook Drive, Agnes Water
- Boyne Island Library: Cnr Wyndham and Hampton Drives, Boyne Island
- Calliope Library : Don Cameron Drive, Calliope
- Gladstone Regional Council, 101 Goondoon Street, Gladstone
- Gladstone Regional Library: 39 Goondoon Street, Gladstone
- Miriam Vale Library: 34 Roe Street, Miriam Vale
- National Library: Parkes Place, Canberra
- State Library of Queensland, Cultural Centre, Stanley Place, South Bank, Brisbane
All public submissions must be in writing and received by the Coordinator-General via by 5pm on Monday 28 May, 2012.
Post: The Coordinator-General
c/o EIS Project Manager – Arrow LNG plant
Significant Projects Coordination
Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning
PO Box 15009
City East Qld 4002
Victoria has lashed out at the proposed Commonwealth OH&S harmonisation laws, saying that the legislation could cost the state more than $3.4 billion over the next five years.
Premier Ted Baillieu said the reform would compromise the state’s productivity and adversely affect its small business sector.
"The proposed laws do not deliver on the intent of the COAG reform agreed to in 2008 which aimed to reduce the cost of regulation and enhance productivity and workforce mobility," Mr Baillieu said.
"It is estimated that it will cost Victoria $812 million to transition to the new model and $587 million a year in the first five years in ongoing costs to businesses.”
Assistant Treasurer Gordon Rich-Phillips said any move to harmonise OH&S laws should decrease costs for business while still delivering a safe work environment.
The findings come from a report released by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
"The PwC assessment shows only three of 20 proposed changes would have a positive impact on Victorian businesses," Mr Rich-Phillips said.
The report can be found here
Entries for the Safe Work Awards 2012 have now opened, which will acknowledge and reward the innovators and drivers of work place safety in South Australia.
South Australian Minister for Industrial Relations, Russell Wortley, has publically called for entries for the awards.
“The Safe Work Awards bring deserved attention to companies and individuals striving to help their workmates,” Mr Wortley said.
This year’s award categories are:
- Best workplace health and safety management system
- Best solution to an identified workplace health and safety issue
- Best workplace health and safety practice(s) in a small business
- Best individual contribution to workplace health and safety.
Winners in the four categories are automatically nominated for the National Safe Work Australia Awards.
Entries for the awards close at 5pm on Friday 13 July
Information about the Safe Work Awards and the online entry form can be found at www.safework.sa.gov.au/sw2012/awardentry
The Business Advisory Forum (BAF) has agreed to reform that will expedite environmental approvals and assessments at its inaugural meeting.
“We know that red tape is a huge issue for business. For the small business owner who has to spend hours on paperwork or filling out forms, to the big business that has to wait months or even years for project approvals,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a statement.
The BAF, which is made up of businesses leaders and state, territory and Federal leaders, outlined the following reform priorities:
- Environmental approvals and assessments;
- The Government has agreed to develop bilateral arrangements with the states to fast-track state assessments and approvals. This means states will be accredited to do certain Commonwealth assessments.
- Major projects;
- All levels of government agreed to work towards the creation of taskforces for major projects, so approvals are administered by a single state agency and unnecessary duplication is removed
- Ending duplication in carbon and energy schemes;
- Governments have undertaken to prioritise the completion of a review of policies and programs that are not complementary to the national carbon price and may be ineffective or inefficient.
- Energy pricing;
- Forum acknowledged the need to increase competition in energy markets. COAG will discuss bringing forward reviews of state and territory competition in retail electricity and natural gas markets and to ensure that energy regulation places greater weight on the outcomes for consumer.
- Improving development assessments processes;
- Best practice approach to risk based regulation.
The Australian and Chinese governments have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at strengthening cooperation on delivering infrastructure projects.
“I signed the MOU on Enhancing Cooperation in Infrastructure Construction with the Chinese Minister of Commerce, Mr Chen Deming, at Parliament House this morning,” Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese said.
“The MOU will mean closer co-operation on planning of projects, exchanging information on investment opportunities and technical expertise, training and education, joint conferences, as well as joint infrastructure projects in the future.”
The MoU will see the establishment of a Working Group with membership from government departments, agencies, industry organisations and major financial and business partners.
A copy of the MoU can be found here
The Federal Government has announced Logan will host two innovative projects that will showcase best practice in urban design, planning and renewal.
Funded under the Liveable Cities initiative, the Federal Government will partner with Logan City Council to deliver the Logan Central Affordable Housing Demonstraction Project, a new apartment complex catering for the area’s growing number of low-income retirees, newly arrived migrants and the local hospital staff.
The second project will see the development of a long term strategic master plan aimed at guiding the future growth and development of the city’s health and education institutions.
“Known as the Meadowbrook Knowledge Precinct and encompassing Griffith University, Logan Hospital, Metropolitan South Institute of TAFE campuses, local bus and rail hubs as well as private developments along Loganlea Road, the project's aim is to create an urban environment where new businesses will want to set up and where people will want to live, work and raise a family,” Federal Minister for Infrastructure Anthony Albanese said.
Exports from Western Australia increased from a total value of $83 billion in 2009-10 to $112 billion in 2010-11, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Iron ore saw the biggest increase, from $34 billion being exported in 2009-10 to $57 billion in 2010-11. China continued to be the state's biggest export recipient during this period.
The mining industry remained a cornerstone of the local economy, making up 28% of the state's production.
Western Australian residents also saw an increase in their weekly earnings during this period. Male earnings increased by $164 and female earnings increased by a smaller $62.
The state's Health Care and Social Assistance industry grew significantly, employing 17,800 more people in 2010-11 than in 2009-10.
For further information, see Western Australia at a Glance, 2012 (cat no. 1306.5).
The South Australian Government has passed the Water Industry Act that forms part of the largest overhaul of the State’s water sector in its history.
“The passage of this legislation which combines several acts of parliament, will deliver a more efficiency, competitive and innovative water industry in South Australia,” State Water Minister Paul Caica said.
The legislation will see the establishment of an independent umpire, giving the Essential Services Commission of South Australia the power to regulate pricing and standards for water and sewerage services.
It will also establish a Water Industry Ombudsman, a Consumer Advisory Committee and a Consumer Advocacy and Research Fund.
Mr Caica said the State Government conducted two rounds of consultation to give the community, local government and industry an opportunity to comment before the draft Water Industry Bill was introduced to Parliament in July last year.
“We received advice from several experts including Professor Mike Young, Chief Scientist Don Bursill, the Local Government Association, the Water Industry Alliance, the South Australian Council of Social Services, the Council on the Ageing Seniors Voice, the Conservation Council of South Australia and the Plumbing Industry Association,’’ he said.
Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources, Michael O’Brien, has warned that his government may have no other choice but to reconsider its support of COAG’s National Energy Retail (NER) Law Bill if the Federal Government does not provide assurances that the Australian Energy Regulator will be sufficiently funded.
“The Bill also gives responsibility for enforcement of obligations under the National Retail Rules to the Australian Energy Regulator,” Mr O’Brien said.
“There are some areas where the National Energy Retail Law and Rules offer a materially lower level of protection or service than the existing Victorian framework. The Coalition Government has consistently stated that it will only sign up to the national framework if key Victorian customer protections are retained. Therefore a number of Victorian specific matters are to be provided for through regulations made under the Bill.”
“I have sought an assurance from the Commonwealth that the Australian Energy Regulator will be appropriately funded to administer jurisdiction-specific arrangements.”
The Bill has been tabled and is listed on the Government Business Program for Parliament this week, with the expectation that assurances will be provided.
Independent Senator Nick Xenaphon has reiterated his push for a review of Fair Work Australia in the wake of the investigation into the Health Services Union (HSU).
While Mr Xenaphon stressed any probe into the authority would not compromise its independence, he said more must be done to subject the tribunal to more scrutiny.
Mr Xenaphon’s announcement comes after FWA completed its three year investigation into corruption allegations into the HSU, which is embroiling embattled Federal minister Craig Thompson.
"I think they've stuffed it up and there are many questions to ask about the way they operate and they do their work," Mr Xenaphon told the ABC.
"I'm sure they do lots of good work out there but in terms of this critical key investigation there are many questions that need to be answered about the way Fair Work Australia has handled it."
The Federal and State governments have announced $1.75 billion in skills spending at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) held last week.
The skills package will be designed to accelerate skills reform by ensuring the national training system is better able to respond to the needs of the country’s economy.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the package is vital to lift productivity and competitiveness of the country.
“This will help more Australians get the training they need to get a job, to change careers or to up-skill and get a better-paying job,” Ms Gillard said in a statement.
The spending package will see the following reforms:
- The creation of a National Training Entitlement, giving working age Australians guaranteed access to a government subsidised training place;
- The expansion of income-contingent loans to subsidised higher level qualifications in the vocational education and training (VET) system;
- Launch of the MySkills website, to ensure students and industry can make an informed choice about the training that suits them, and a student identifier for the VET system; and
- Measures to raise the quality of skills training and outcomes.
The creation of a National Training Entitlement will see all working age Australians guaranteed access to a government subsidised training place, up to their first Certificate III.
The Australian Industry Group (AI Group) has urged the Federal and State Governments to place a greater priority on skills and training at the upcoming Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, saying the adaption of a national approach to training is a necessity.
"For too long our training systems have been plagued by inconsistent approaches, funding models and regulations, variable and often unacceptable levels of quality and unacceptably low levels of completion," CEO Designate Innes Willox said.
"Industry is particularly supportive of the thrust of the Skills for all Australians package that forms the basis for the proposed new Commonwealth and State funding agreement. This includes the 'HECS for skills' initiative which would improve equity and remove the disincentive of upfront fees for diplomas and advanced diplomas."
The group has expressed concerns over the transparency and accountability in the training system, saying it frustrates employers and impedes growth.
"Quality remains a serious concern for industry and we need to see a significant lift in the quality across the sector. Lifting the quality requirements of providers in order to access income contingent loans would be an important step in this direction. Equally the introduction of independent validation of training provider's assessments would be a major achievement and that should deliver greater confidence in outcomes for both students and employers," Mr Willox said.
The Federal Government has announced it has accepted all 21 proposals and recommendations of October's Jobs Forum, saying it will introduce stronger Australian Industry Participation rules for the country’s major private sector and government-funded projects.
The Minister for Industry and Innovation, Greg Combet, said the Government will release new requirements aimed at improving opportunities for local suppliers and service providers to win contracts on large construction, resources and infrastructure developments.
The Government has now accepted all 21 recommendations from a Working Group established to report on reforms to Australian Industry Participation requirements. The Working Group included stakeholders from industry, unions and the WA Government.
Mr Combet said the Federal Government will now:
- Extend Australian Industry Participation requirements to projects funded by Australian Government grants of more than $20 million;
- Work with State and Territory Governments to ensure local industry has full, fair and reasonable opportunities on projects receiving significant federal funding;
- Increase scrutiny of the implementation of Australian Industry Participation Plans (AIP Plans), particularly for private sector projects valued at more than $2 billion that seek tariff concessions from the Enhanced Project Byâ€‘law Scheme (EPBS);
- Require major projects to publish summaries of AIP Plans, including details on how they will seek and use information on Australian industry capabilities and how they will communicate opportunities to local suppliers.
“This will improve the opportunities for Australian manufacturers, construction firms and service providers to win work on some of the biggest projects in the country,” Mr Combet said.
Formal guidance material for grant agreements and grantees, procurement officers, tenderers and EPBS applicants will be available from 1 July 2012. EPBS applicants will have a further three month transition period.
More information is available at www.aip.gov.au
Australia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was steady at 5.2 per cent in March, as announced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today.
The ABS reported the number of people employed increased by 44,000 to 11,491,200 in March. The increase in employment was driven by increased full-time employment, up 15,800 people to 8,080,400, and part-time employment, up 28,200 people to 3,410,900. The increase in employment was driven by an increase in both male and female full-time and part-time employment.
The number of people unemployed decreased by 3,200 people to 629,100 in March, the ABS reported.
The ABS monthly aggregate hours worked series showed an increase in March, up 9.5 million hours to 1,624.2 million hours.
The ABS reported an increase in the labour force participation rate of 0.2 percentage points in March to 65.4 per cent.
The results of the Annual Seasonal Reanalysis were released in the March 2012 publication. This annual review did not result in any significant changes to published estimates. A feature article in the publication - 'Annual Seasonal Reanalysis' - explains the review.
More details are in the March 2012 issue of Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0), as well as the upcoming March 2012 issue of Labour Force, Australia, Detailed (cat. no. 6291.0.55.001) due for release next week on April 19. Both publications are available for free download (after release) from the ABS website - www.abs.gov.au.
The Australian and New Zealand Productivity Commissions have released a joint issues paper for their inaugural study on options to further enhance integration between the Australian and New Zealand economies.
The two Commissions have been asked to provide further advice on how the two countries would benefit from further economic integration.
The study is being headed by the Commissions’ chairmen, Gary Banks and Murray Sherwin, together with Commissioners Jonathan Coppel (Australia) and Graham Scott (New Zealand)
“New Zealand and Australia are close neighbours that already benefit from significant economic integration. Our job is to advise on potential ways to further enhance that integration for the benefit of both countries. We have been asked to look at options for boosting productivity through reducing the regulatory burden on business, increasing competition and encouraging closer economic cooperation”, he said. “We encourage anyone interested in these matters to have their say by putting in a submission,” Mr Sherwin said.
A draft report is due for release in early September, with the final report being delivered to the two Governments by 1 December, ahead of a meeting of the Prime Ministers in early 2013.
Further information on the study and the issues paper can be viewed on the study website at Issues paper
The City of Melbourne and C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group have announced that Melbourne will lead a new global network on Sustainable Urban Development.
The development will be chaired by Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle and with the support of C40, will allow Melbourne to share key ideas and learn from other global cities, including Johannesburg, London, San Francisco and Sao Paulo that are embarking on similar efforts.
“Through this new network of cities, we will also engage key stakeholders and partner with the private sector to deliver on-the-ground, practical solutions to the challenges associated with sustainable urban development,” the Lord Mayor said.
C40 Chair and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said, “Every city is made up of communities, whose infrastructure, buildings and population can interact to create a sustainable way of living. The Sustainable Urban Development Network C40 is being launched and will strengthen how local government practitioners work together to make sustainable communities possible in cities around the world; and I commend Lord Mayor Robert Doyle for stepping up to lead this effort. What cities do individually, and collectively through the C40, is increasingly setting the agenda for the entire world,”
The Melbourne workshop has been the first of its kind to actively engage the private sector toward the delivery of large-scale infrastructure and sustainable development projects.
Earlier this month, C40 launched networks on sustainable infrastructure finance and green growth, respectively led by the Cities of Chicago and Copenhagen.
Also announced at the C40 Workshop were plans by Lend Lease, in partnership with the City of Melbourne, to create a carbon-neutral sustainable community as part of its participation in C40’s Climate Positive Development Program, delivered in partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI).
The Climate Positive Development Program aims to create a model for large-scale urban communities that reduce greenhouse gasses and serve as urban laboratories for cities seeking to grow in ways that are environmentally sustainable and economically viable.
“Victoria Harbour will become a blueprint for cities, developers and governments to work together to create strong, sustainable communities,” the Lord Mayor said.
“Our work in sustainability over the past two decades has focussed on reducing our impact and adapting our city to a changing climate. Victoria Harbour continues that work and sets a standard for the future.”
In a first for Australia, the City of Melbourne received a 2012 Visionary Award from Energy Efficiency Global in recognition of its energy efficiency leadership.