ACT Chief Minister and Minister for Health Katy Gallagher MLA welcomed the start of the ban on smoking in cars with children under the age of 16.
"Children have a right to be protected from the health effects of tobacco smoke when they are in a car," the Chief Minister said.
"The ban will be enforced by ACT Policing. Those found to be smoking in a car with children will have to cough up a $250 on the spot fine or up to $5,500 if the offence is proven in court.
"While it is an adult's right to choose to smoke and expose themselves to all the associated and well-known health risks, this ban aims to protect children who could not otherwise protect themselves.
"The Smoking in Cars with Children (Prohibition) Act 2011, which comes into force [start of May, 2012], protects that right. Exposure to tobacco smoke is harmful, especially to children and is associated with an increased risk of health conditions such as various cancers, ear infections, asthma and SIDS."
A comprehensive education campaign has been conducted informing the Canberra community of the ban. This has included posters, bus and radio advertisements.
A new CEDA paper is calling for Perth to consider congestion charging to avoid the gridlock strangling other Australian capital cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.
CEDA Chief Executive Professor the Hon Stephen Martin said Western Australia's economic success was generating significant population growth, increasing pressure on transport infrastructure.
"This population growth will need to continue if WA is to avoid predicted labour shortages, which means consequences of that growth, such as congestion, need to be managed now," he said.
"This paper Stifling Success: Congestion charges and infrastructure delivery, aims to generate debate on options for addressing congestion in Perth now, before the issue becomes too costly for residents and business."
Paper author, CEDA Chief Economist Nathan Taylor said the cost of congestion to Perth is forecast to rise from $900 million in 2005 to $2.1 billion by 2020.
Mr Taylor said while congestion charges are often unpopular when proposed, the experience in other jurisdictions is that once implemented they become more broadly accepted.
In response, Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi says CEDA’s proposal is totally insulting to Perth.
“Coming from an out-of-town representative, it shows little understanding of our traffic masterplan and certainly no ‘sense of place’ appreciation whatsoever,” Ms Scaffidi said.
"I am actually quite shocked. Having previously worked for this think tank, I'm of the view that this kind of commentary shows ‘no thinking’ and feel they have tanked with this one”
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has announced the Federal Government’s intentions to reform the country’s privacy laws, with an aim to simplify credit reporting arrangements, give new enforcement powers to the Privacy Commissioner and better protect people’s personal information.
The Attorney explained that key changes to benefit consumers are:
- clearer and tighter regulation of the use of personal information for direct marketing
- extending privacy protections to unsolicited information
- making it easier for consumers to access and correct information held about them
- tightening the rules on sending personal information outside Australia
- enhancing the powers of the Privacy Commissioner to improve the Commissioner’s ability to resolve complaints, conduct investigations and promote privacy compliance
The Government will also modernise credit reporting arrangements. Benefits for consumers include:
- making a clear obligation on organisations to substantiate, or show their evidence to justify, disputed credit listings
- making it easier for individuals to access and correct their credit reporting information
- prohibiting the collection of credit reporting information about children
- simplifying the complaints process by removing requirement to complain to the organisation first, complaints can be made directly to the Privacy Commissioner, and by introducing alternative dispute resolution to more efficiently deal with complaints.
“There have been big changes to the way we access finance since 1990 when the existing credit reporting provisions came into effect,” Ms Roxon said.
“Many consumers have expressed their frustration at not being able to understand their credit rating.
“These changes will provide much more power to consumers to be able to access and, if necessary, correct their credit reports.”
The reform will be achieved through changes to the Privacy Act 1099, and will be introduced before Parliament in the Winter sitting period.
Further information is available from www.ag.gov.au/Privacy/Pages/Privacy-Reforms.aspx
Information about Privacy Awareness Week is available at www.privacyawarenessweek.org/
Australian households are better off than they have ever been before, but our lifestyle aspirations are compromising our disposable income, according to the latest AMP.NATSEM Income and Wealth Report.
The Prices these days! The cost of living in Australia explores how living costs had changed since 1984, finding that disposable income had increased 20 per cent of the last 27 years.
The report found that cost of living pressures continued with strong price growth since 1984 across everyday essentials including electricity, which increased 253%, rent prices grew 223%, mortgages increased 256%, petrol increased 208% and public transport costs jumped 287%.
The report concluded that households are spending significantly more on discretionary items, including private schooling, restaurant meals, childcare and tertiary education. The report also found that incomes have outpaced the costs of living since 1984.
While Australia enjoys petrol prices that are amongst the lowest in the world, the costs of services, particularly education, have increased strongly since the 1980’s.
Finally, and what will come as little surprise to their inhabitants, Sydney and Melbourne rank amongst the most expensive cities in the world, with the two cities hitting 7th and 8th respectively. However, the two cities also enjoyed amongst the highest incomes.
The full report can be found here
A stormwater management plan for the Brownhill and Keswick Creek catchments is a step closer following a strategy proposed by the Chief Executive Officers of the five catchment councils involved in the project.
The strategy calls for the commencement of the bulk of proposed flood mitigation works – as recommended by consulting firm WorleyParsons – including construction of bypass culverts, detention basins, creek diversions and channel upgrades along the catchment.
In light of community concerns about the proposed flood control dam in Brownhill Creek Recreation Park, the strategy also commits to pursue a feasible alternative to the dam over the next 12 months while other works elsewhere in the catchment get underway.
CEOs from Adelaide, Burnside, Mitcham, Unley and West Torrens Councils will recommend the strategy and seek approval from their respective councils this month.
Michael Salkeld, Project Director of the Brownhill Keswick Creek Stormwater Project, says if the five councils endorse the strategy it will then form the basis of a stormwater management plan to be formally presented to the Stormwater Management Authority for approval.
“We are confident of moving forward with a stormwater management plan that has the support of all five catchment councils and takes into consideration the views and concerns of council constituents,” he said.
Carbon emissions within the City of Adelaide have reduced by 7.7 per cent in the four years ending in 2010, a recent study has found.
The study conducted by the Adelaide City Council, compared the city’s carbon emissions in 2006 and 2010 in an effort to measure the effectiveness of initiatives to reduce the city’s emissions.
Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood said the reduction was a significant achievement and congratulated the City community and State Government on their commitment to a low carbon future for Adelaide.
“What we are seeing is a positive shift in attitudes towards energy consumption and a great investment in renewable energy in the State,” Stephen said.
The city’s reduction in emissions was primarily due to extensive investment in South Australia in renewable energy sources such as wind power, which accounted for 21 per cent of the State’s generated grid electricity.
Parramatta's smart card – ParraSync – has fought off heavyweight competition from the Commonwealth Bank and Google to win a major award at the Smart Card Awards Asia in Singapore.
ParraSync won the award for Best Near-Field Communication Collaboration Initiative.
This Australian-first initiative will integrate access to many areas of city-living into one card or smart-phone application.
The initiative was developed by a technology consortium comprising Parramatta City Council, STMicroelectronics and SGS Technologie Australia, and is supported by the NSW Government's Collaborative Solutions - Mobile Concierge initiative.
"I'm absolutely delighted that ParraSync has won this prestigious award against such tough competition," said Lord Mayor of Parramatta, Cr Lorraine Wearne.
Member for Parramatta, Geoff Lee MP said when it is launched later this year, ParraSync will bring many cards into one multi-purpose card or smart-phone application.
"Card holders and mobile users will be able to access Council-owned car parks, use it as a security tag to access work buildings, borrow from local libraries, purchase items from businesses, access loyalty programs and more," Mr Lee said.
ParraSync is currently in a trial phase and will be available for distribution later this year.
The Federal Government has announced the formation of three expert groups to help inform the design of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
The groups will work under the NDIS Advisory Group to assist the Government in designing the scheme that will aim to meet the lifetime car enad support the needs of those with significant and permanent disability.
They will advise on the design of key elements of the scheme including eligibility and assessment, quality safeguards and standards and a national approach to choice and control for people with disability.
The formation of the expert groups comes after the Federal Government announced the rollout of the NDIS scheme, with the first cover expected to be granted in July 2013.
The expert groups are:
National Approach to Control and Choice
Jeff Harmer, NDIS Advisory Group (co-chair)
Fran Vicary, NDIS Advisory Group (co-chair)
Robbi Williams, Julia Farr Association
Kirsten Deane, National Disability and Carers Alliance
Lesley Hall, Australian Federation of Disability Organisations
Samantha Jenkinson, National Disability and Carer Council
Ara Cresswell, Carers Australia
Vicki O’Halloran, Somerville Community Services Darwin
Daniel Leighton, Inclusion Melbourne
Eligibility and Assessment
Rhonda Galbally, NDIS Advisory Group (co-chair)
Joan McKenna-Kerr, NDIS Advisory Group (co-chair)
Ros Madden, University of Sydney
Janet Dore, Transport Accident Commission
Robbi Williams, Julia Farr Association
Tim Moore, Carers Australia
Graeme Innes, Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner
Frank Quinlan, Mental Health Council of Australia
Suzanne Lulham, New South Wales Lifetime Care and Support Authority
Lesley Hall, Australian Federation of Disability Organisations
Quality Safeguards and Standards
Lorna Hallahan, NDIS Advisory Group (co-chair)
Bruce Bonyhady, NDIS Advisory Group (co-chair)
Stephanie Gotlib, Children with Disability Australia
Marita Walker, Perth Homecare
Sally Robinson, Griffith University
Kevin Cocks, Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commissioner
Kelly Shay, United Voice
The Federal Government has announced $10 million in funding for Western Australia’s Carnegie Wave Energy’s Perth Wave Energy Project on Garden Island near Fremantle.
“With the Government’s assistance through the Emerging Renewables Program, this $31 million pilot project will demonstrate the potential for Carnegie’s Australian invented and owned CETO technology to provide up to two megawatts of energy to the electricity grid,” Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson said.
“This technology not only has the potential to increase investor confidence in wave projects and help unlock Australia's untapped wave energy resource, but it could also produce zero emission desalinated seawater, which on a dry continent such as Australia, is a significant additional attraction.”
The Western Australian Government will contribute $5.5 million to the project.
The Australian Law Reform Council (ALRC) has released an Issues Paper for its inquiry into the legal barriers to mature aged participation in the workforce.
The release of the paper comes after the ALRc has been asked to investigate a number of laws, including superannuation law, family assistance, child support and employment law.
“There is often a complex interaction between things that are ‘barriers’ to workforce participation and things that are ‘incentives’ to leave the workforce. Leaving the paid workforce may also mean people are able to make a valuable contribution in other productive work—like the hugely important role of volunteers in our community,” ALRC President Professor Rosalind Croucher said.
“The ALRC considers that six interlinking principles should guide reform in this area: participation; independence; self-agency; system stability; system coherence; and fairness. One key question we are asking in the Issues Paper is whether there are any other principles that should inform our deliberations. Other questions refer to changes that should be made to remove barriers in the various areas of law under review.”
The full issues paper can be found here
The Victorian Government has outlined $13.68 billion for health spending in the Victorian 2012-13 State Budget, marking a $618 million increase over the last year.
Health Minister David Davis said the budget had balanced the growing needs of the health sector with maintaining fiscal responsibility.
Mr Davis said the highlights of the Government's health service expansion, redevelopment and building program included:
- $46 million to provide 60 extra beds at Ballarat Base Hospital, and to honour the election commitment to build a helipad for the hospital, on top of a new multi-deck carpark;
- $15 million to expand maternity services and establish an intensive care unit at Sunshine Hospital;
- $23 million to build the new Charlton Hospital, co-funded with the Commonwealth, to replace the hospital that was damaged in the January 2011 floods;
- $93 million for a major upgrade at Geelong Hospital, including 64 extra beds, care for older patients and a boost to cancer care;
- $40 million to expand and reconfigure the Frankston Hospital emergency department, including a 12-bed short stay unit;
- $10 million to upgrade Castlemaine Hospital, including a new second theatre;
- $5 million for radiotherapy services in Warrnambool, to service south-west Victoria;
- $20 million to redevelop and expand Kilmore Hospital, including 30 extra beds; and
- $2 million to introduce chemotherapy services at Seymour Hospital.
Also announced was a further $59.6 million over the next four years to boost cancer research through the Victorian Cancer agency.
"The Victorian Cancer Agency provides a major co-ordinating role in cancer research in Victoria and this funding will ensure Victoria continues to progress vital work," Mr Davis said.
"Our initiative supports the activities of several cancer research and treatment facilities, including the $1 billion Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, the Olivia Newton John Cancer & Wellness Centre, Monash Comprehensive Cancer Consortium and the regional cancer centres.”
Due to external economic shocks, Victoria's revenue forecasts over the next four years will be $8.3 billion lower than was forecast in late 2010. This is a bigger financial hit than that which occurred during the 2008 global financial crisis.
The Budget attempts to build on measures announced last year to put Victoria's finances back onto a sustainable path through further savings of $1 billion over four years. Measures taken include:
- limiting Parliamentarians' pay increases to 2.5 per cent for the next twelve months and a freeze on their allowances;
- limiting senior public servant salary increases to 2.5 per cent;
- a further reduction of 600 public service positions; and
- additional departmental efficiencies.
- The 2012-13 Budget delivers surpluses exceeding $100 million each year growing to $2.5 billion by 2015-16.
The government's fiscal strategy will stabilise net debt to six per cent of GSP by June 2016.
Through this budget, the Government has prioritised the following:
- The Government will cut WorkCover premiums by an average of three per cent from July 1 this year.
- As part of the Government's manufacturing blueprint A More Competitive Manufacturing Industry, the 2012-13 Budget delivers $58 million to boost productivity and assist Victorian manufacturing businesses to compete in the global economy.
- The Government will invest a further $1 billion over four years to support future economic growth with a better educated and skilled workforce, to increase productivity and workforce participation.
- The budget provides $13.7 billion to Victoria's hospitals and health system in 2012-13. $1.2 billion is provided over four years in additional funding for health and aged care services. Funding has also been provided for major hospital upgrades in metropolitan and regional Victoria.
- A $200 million school capital program will fund new schools and important facility upgrades.
- The 2012-13 Budget also delivers $1.4 billion in new funding for early childhood development, education and training and $336 million to better protect Victoria's most vulnerable children.
- The 2012-13 Budget delivers on important new infrastructure projects, including $42.2 million for the Western Highway, $35.5 million for the Ballarat Western Link Road and additional regional rolling stock.
The Victorian Government has announced $12.7 million in spending for the state’s local libraries.
Outlined in the state’s 2012-13 budget, the spending also includes $3.1 million per year for the delivery of key library services.
"In addition to the traditional book lending services our public libraries now offer connection to the internet, the ability to borrow DVDs and CDs, support for book clubs, events for seniors and programs aimed at school-age children,” State Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell said.
"The Victorian Government is currently undertaking a comprehensive review of Victorian library services and funding arrangements, being led by the Ministerial Advisory Council on Public Libraries, a bipartisan committee which includes a representative from the Opposition.
"This budget delivers for the more than half of the Victorian population who are currently library members and the many more who will become members in the future," Mrs Powell said.
The Victorian Government has announced a $10 million spending allocation to create the Office of Living Victoria, which will be responsible for overhauling the urban water system to make greater use of stormwater, rainwater and recycled water.
"The money in today's Budget will establish the Office of Living Victoria (OLV) to reform the urban water sector and improve the way we use water,” State Water Minister Peter Walsh.
Mr Walsh said the OLV would improve water use by ensuring integrated water management is built into greenfield developments during construction.
"We need to make better use of all of our water resources, including rainwater, stormwater and recycled water, to drive change and increase liveability in Melbourne and Victoria's regional cities," Mr Walsh said.
"The OLV will bring together experts from across government who will work to drive the integration of water and urban planning."
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has cut the country’s official cash rate by 50 basis points, bringing the country’s interest rate to 3.75 per cent.
In making the announcement, RBA Governor Glenn Stevens said a slower than expected world economy was key in informing the board’s decision.
Below trend output growth, combined with a slackening CPI increase were also considered major influences in the board’s decision to make the largest cut to the rate since February 2009, where it dropped the rate by 1 per cent.
“In considering the appropriate size of adjustment to the cash rate at today's meeting, the Board judged it desirable that financial conditions now be easier than those which had prevailed in December,” Mr Stevens said.
A reduction of 50 basis points in the cash rate was, in this instance, therefore judged to be necessary in order to deliver the appropriate level of borrowing rates.”
The Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) has stressed the Federal Government to take action to avert an imminent dental health catastrophe after it released figures that show the public waiting list for dental health services has stretched out to 650,000 across the nation.
The figures indicate the average waiting time is in excess of two years for any kind of dental help, with only 11 per cent of those on the list receiving any treatment.
CHF CEO Carol Bennett describes the situation as a national embarrassment, saying that close to two million Australians who urgently needed dental care missed out because they could not afford it, contributing to an estimated national loss of $2 billion in productivity losses.
“More than 30% of all adults and close to 47% of concession card holders are delaying or avoiding dental treatment because of the cost. This is undoubtedly a crisis,” said Ms Bennett.
“We know the community is very concerned about this issue. There needs to be clear leadership from the Federal Government and commitment from State and Territory Governments. Something has gone badly wrong when you have nearly three quarters of a million Australians on a public waiting list with the national average wait time over two years.”
Canberra is set to roll out the country’s first free e-waste recycling service, allowing residents to dispose of their unwanted televisions and computers under a national scheme.
“This is the start of a nation-wide roll-out of services as part of an extremely exciting initiative under the Gillard Government’s landmark Product Stewardship legislation. Services like these will be rolled out across Australia, boosting television and computer recycling rates to 30 percent in 2012-13 and 80 per cent by 2021-22, providing a long-term solution to television and computer waste,” Minister for Sustainability Senator Don Farrell said.
“Televisions and computers contain valuable non-renewable resources, including gold and other precious metals, as well as hazardous materials including lead, bromine, mercury and zinc. By recycling them, we can recover useful materials and at the same time reduce health and environmental risks.”
From the middle of May, DHL Supply Chain will be providing the free, ongoing service for households and small businesses.
ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said the implementation of the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme was an example of Canberra continuing to lead the way in recycling and waste management.
The DHL Supply Chain services will begin on 15 May 2012 and will operate from the Mugga Lane and Mitchell Transfer Stations, which are open from 7.30am to 5pm, seven days a week.
The National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme is funded and implemented by the television and computer industry and regulated by the Australia Government under the Product Stewardship Act 2011 and the Product Stewardship (Televisions and Computers) Regulation 2011.
Further information on the scheme can be found atwww.environment.gov.au/settlements/waste/ewaste/index.html
The Federal Government has released its report of the demand driven university placement reform, with Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans, saying the Government’s work will allow for an unprecedented skills boom to meet increased demand for a variety of labour.
The Demand Driven System: Undergraduate Applications and Offers report details a boom in placements since the Federal Government introduced its demand driven placement reform, recording over 150,000 additional placements offered since the reform took effect.
The report found that 221,765 offers were made this year, an increase by 5.5 per cent compared with the same time last year.
The largest growth in university offers is being seen in health (10.2%), engineering (7.8%) and natural and physical sciences (7.0%).
"The Government set the ambitious target that by 2020, 40 per cent of all 25 to 34-year-olds will hold a bachelor's degree or above and lift the participation levels of disadvantaged students to 20 per cent of undergraduate enrolments,” Senator Evans said at the report’s launch.
"It is an economic imperative that we meet these targets. If we don't, we will consign ourselves to low economic growth and will not be able to compete in the future economy. This report shows we are well on our way to successfully fulfilling these goals."
Offers to applicants from low socioeconomic backgrounds have also shown the largest increase (5.8%) compared with offers to applicants from medium socioeconomic backgrounds (5.7%) and high socioeconomic backgrounds (4.9%).
The report can be found here
Teachers in every Australian school will have a yearly performance assessment which will include classroom observation and evidence of student outcomes, under proposals released for consultation today.
The draft Australian Teacher Performance and Development Framework, developed by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), proposes that teachers set performance goals every year and demonstrate how those goals have been met.
School Education Minister Peter Garrett said the final framework will be implemented in Australian schools from 2013.
“Teachers have one of the most important jobs in the country. It’s vital that our teachers have the opportunity to both demonstrate their skills and improve their classroom practice through regular and effective feedback, professional growth and development, and performance assessment, but until now this has not been consistently occurring in our schools,” he said.
“The draft framework will provide the first national set of guidelines for performance assessments for the teaching profession. Teachers will have a clear understanding of what they will be expected to achieve every year, and a clear understanding of how their performance will be measured.
“This will allow our many terrific teachers to demonstrate how well they are performing and the positive results they are producing, while also providing opportunities to improve their skills where needed.”
Under the draft framework, every teacher will have a set of documented, measurable and specific goals for the year, which will be agreed with their school principal or a delegate.
Teachers will be able to collect evidence that they are achieving their objectives. This could include improved student results; feedback from students, parents, and their peers or supervisor; and direct observation of their classroom teaching.
Every teacher will receive a formal review of their performance each year by their principal or delegate, as well as regular informal and constructive feedback and support throughout the year.
The Labor Government announced the creation of a National Children’s Commissioner within the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said that the new Commissioner will focus on promoting the rights, wellbeing and development of children and young people in Australia.
“For the first time, Australia will have a dedicated advocate focussed on the human rights of children and young people at the national level,” Ms Roxon said.
“The Children’s Commissioner will ensure the voices of children and young people are heard in the development of Commonwealth policies and programs.”
The Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin said establishing a Federal Children’s Commissioner was key action under the Government’s National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020.
“We want every child to grow up safe, happy and well. The new Commissioner will represent the views of children and young people, particularly those most vulnerable, at the national level,” Ms Macklin said.
Minister for Community Services Julie Collins said children and young people need a national advocate to ensure their rights are reflected in national policies and programs.
“The National Children’s Commissioner will have a key role in advocating for the rights of children across Australia,” Ms Collins said.
"The national Commissioner will not duplicate but complement the work of states and territories, particularly the work of other commissioners and guardians.”
The Children’s Commissioner will take a broad advocacy role to promote public awareness of issues affecting children, conduct research and education programs, consult directly with children and representative organisations as well as monitor Commonwealth legislation, policies and programs that relate to children’s rights, wellbeing and development.
The South Australian Government has announced that mining of mineral sands is set to resume at Mindarie in South Australia’s Murray Mallee.
Speaking at the opening of the 11th South Australia Resource and Energy Investment Conference, State Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy Tom Koutsantonis said that approval had been given to the new owners of Murray Zircon to resume mining near Karoonda.
The mineral sands mine has been under care and maintenance since 2009 after the previous operator Australian Zircon announced it was going into voluntary administration.
“Murray Zircon has worked closely with the community during the past year and has committed to a comprehensive technical program to complete rehabilitation of land disturbed by the former mining operations at Mindarie,” Mr Koutsantonis said.
Mr Koutsantonis said the approval of the restarting of works at Mindarie forms part of the State Government’s pro-mining PACE2020 policy package.