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                    [post_date] => 2017-08-10 14:06:18
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-10 04:06:18
                    [post_content] => 

The Central Western Queensland Remote Area Planning and Development Board (RAPAD) in July produced the Smart Central Western Queensland: A Digitally Enabled Community Strategic Plan. As part of that plan, the councils proposed an  Outback Telegraph, which involves the mayors of seven Central West Queensland councils, the RAPAD members. Outback Telegraph proposes to switch on public Wi-Fi in these remote areas.

The plan is to roll-out free Wi-Fi by this group of councils - covering one-fifth of the state - to boost visitor numbers and business through technology.

The first stage of the Outback Telegraph has been switched on by Winton Shire Council, with the smart tourism pilot a first for Queensland. When the network gets up and running it will be – in total council area – the biggest single public Wi-Fi network in Australia.

The Queensland Government contributed $15,000 to jumpstart the pilot, and Winton Shire Council is also pitching in. RAPAD will fund the extension of the Outback Telegraph smart tourism platform to all key centres in the region, reaching some of the most remote communities in the state.

Queensland Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy Leeanne Enoch said: “This is about driving opportunities and using the power of digital connectivity to tell the world about outback Queensland.

“Providing more opportunities to go online and do research on-the-go and share pictures and stories will be good for tourists and trade in small rural towns. I congratulate Winton Shire Council for taking the ground-breaking steps to provide free public Wi-Fi in the outback, and government officers in Rockhampton and Brisbane who worked with councils to make it happen.”

RAPAD board member and Mayor of Barcoo Shire Council, Bruce Scott said the next stage of the regional Wi-Fi network will add more locations, including Longreach, Barcaldine and Windorah.

“A single sign-on for the Central West means visitors won’t have to re-enter their details as they move around, making it much more convenient to stay connected during their travels,” he said.

“This is the first step towards making the Central West a smart region, where technology supports important local industries like tourism, and makes our communities better connected and more liveable.”

Winton Mayor Cr Butch Lenton acknowledged the pulling power of public Wi-Fi.

“It will be a magnet to people with mobile devices who are a long way from their family and friends and travelling around the countryside,” he said.

“Connectivity is essential to running businesses in rural Queensland, and for travellers, and I’m proud our council is pioneering a terrific project that is crossing new boundaries.”

Visitors will be able to connect to the network through the Outback Telegraph app, which will be available from Google and Apple in coming days. The mobile app can also interact with smart beacons placed around town, allowing the user to access additional information about local businesses, receive a coupon or special offer; and guide them on discovery walks.

Mayor Lenton said Winton Shire Council is collecting tourism statistics from the free Wi-Fi to show how visitors are moving through the region and where they are and are not stopping.

“We can build stronger businesses with this data. Winton has a rich history that includes the Great Shearers’ Strike, Banjo Patterson’s Waltzing Matilda, Qantas, and a dinosaur stampede, and also opal fields and a wide variety of animals and bird life in the area," he said.

“Free Wi-Fi can help us share our stories, history and visitor experiences on social channels to entice more tourists and encourage them to stay longer once they’re here,” he said.

The Outback Telegraph will be showcased at this week’s Bush Councils Convention in Charters Towers, with RAPAD also hoping to hold an upcoming ‘hacking’ event for the Central West to come up with ideas leveraging the regional Wi-Fi, app and beacons.
                    [post_title] => RAPAD to deliver WiFi to outback councils
                    [post_excerpt] => The Outback Telegraph proposes to switch on public Wi-Fi in many of Queensland's remote areas.
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                    [post_date] => 2017-08-07 09:03:28
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-06 23:03:28
                    [post_content] => 

Andrew Ferrington

The third series of 'Utopia', the fan favourite for all who have worked in an office, premiered last month. The series — created by the prolific Working Dog team — tells of the National Building Authority's coexisting contrary tensions of bureaucracy and ‘blue sky’ ambitions.

At the outset, let me disclose that I spent more than 15 years in a variety of roles in public service and am now back in the private world.

The show is great — the ministerial adviser tries to highlight the positives of the NBA's ambitions, while the authority itself grapples with its commission to be ambitious in its outlook. The show makes its mark by illustrating the tensions between the government, its ministers and the institutions that oversee it, all while the NBA attempts to complete public brief it has to envision the future.

The thing that concerns me is not the laughs at the bureaucracy's expense, it’s what it points out about the private sector. The big-picture thinking that always gets a laugh, is now nowhere to be seen.

Because it can't be. Only government is able to take the risk to lead such big change.

The private sector not only can't – but won't. It doesn't have the mandate, the appetite or the ability to dream large with these projects. The trope that "we don't need the government" as Rob Sitch's character says in episode one, becomes simply wrong. No entity but the government can make a decision or show the leadership that is needed to execute projects that bring about fundamental changes to society.

Further, the contemporary discussion about ‘small’ government and that it should get out of the way of business is also a nonsense. If we didn't have government imagining these large projects, taking risks that the private sector can't even conceive of, and spending the money (yes, our money), society would be nothing like it is today.

We do well to understand the context in which government works, because it is important.

This leadership trickles down: while the government mandates that women, people with a disability or indigenous peoples have a significant contribution to play in society, the private sector is far behind.

As a former bureaucrat, 'Utopia' makes me laugh. Yes, I've seen these behaviours: where the tyranny and vanity of politics overrules all. But it also makes me sad, because it mocks the leadership role that government plays, and the vision and ideas that the private sector can't possibly imagine.

Next time you leave home (which is standing solidly, because government regulations mandated it should be built to a certain standard), think about the water, electricity and other services you use, the roads you drive on, footpaths you walk on, and trains you might catch. While they may be delivered by the private sector, they were planned and imagined by governments.

And without them, we would be significantly worse off.

Andrew Ferrington is the national tenders manager at Findex Group.

 
                    [post_title] => There is no private ‘Utopia’
                    [post_excerpt] => Government is the only one working to create a 'Utopia'.
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                    [post_date] => 2017-08-03 17:02:40
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                    [post_content] => 

As the council amalgamations fiasco rolls on, it is becoming apparent that for some of the administrators, being lavished millions of dollars of government funds to spend at their discretion is becoming too strong an attraction to say goodbye to at the coming elections.

Standing for elections

So far at least two administrators have declared their intention to stand for office at the coming council elections. Queanbeyan-Palerang administrator Tim Overall and Armidale regional administrator Ian Tiley have both confirmed they will be standing for election, despite what many believe is an obvious conflict of interest in their current positions as administrators.

The Greens believe the Premier must immediately direct these administrators to withdraw their nominations. Greens MP and local government spokesperson David Shoebridge said:

“It’s not unlawful, but there is no doubt that it is deeply inappropriate for administrators to be running for council elections.

“These administrators have been given an enormous platform in their local communities over the last 18 months, not to mention access to millions of dollars in council funds and community grants.

“There is an obvious conflict of interest if administrators are now putting their hand up to run at the upcoming local government elections, after being given the role of a cashed-up local despot for 18 months.

“These individuals have had well over a year to implement their agenda and build on their existing local profile, they should not be able to run at the upcoming elections.

“The Liberal National government’s forced amalgamation mess continues to be plagued with dysfunction, and as always they treat residents and ratepayers like mugs.

“Any competent government would have outlawed this practice; instead we have the Liberal Nationals in charge.

“If the Premier had any respect for local communities, she would immediately direct these administrators to withdraw their nominations for council.” Mr Shoebridge said.

In the meantime in Sydney, a NSW Government-appointed administrator is seeking to sell off commercial waste services on the eve of council elections

United Services Union general secretary Graeme Kelly said a forcibly-merged council in Sydney’s west has come under fire after it was revealed that it will no longer be able to provide waste services to more than 1,000 commercial and trade customers, following a decision to outsource domestic waste services and sell off its fleet of garbage trucks.

Cumberland Council, which was formed following the forced merger of Holroyd Council with Auburn and parts of Parramatta, has admitted in council business papers that as a result of the controversial decision by NSW Government-appointed administrator Viv May to outsource domestic waste services, the council would no longer be able to provide services to commercial clients, either.

In June, Mr May awarded a $68 million contract to United Resource Management to run domestic waste services for ten years, Mr Kelly said.

“The sale of Council’s fleet means Council will not be able to service its trade and commercial waste customers in the future,” the council document states.

Mr May is expected to use the next council meeting — the final one before democracy is restored with the election of new councillors next month — to approve a plan to seek expressions of interest from private waste operators to also take over Cumberland Council’s commercial waste operations.

Mr Kelly, whose union represents more than 30,000 local government workers across the state, said the NSW Government needed to urgently intervene to prevent the loss of further services ahead of new councillors being elected.

“Just a week after Premier Gladys Berejiklian publicly abandoned the NSW Government’s failed policy of forcibly amalgamating councils, one of her government’s administrators is making a last-ditch effort to sell off community services before council elections can take place next month,” Mr Kelly said.

“During the past month, this unelected and unaccountable administrator has locked ratepayers into a costly outsourcing arrangement for the next decade, decided to sell the fleet of garbage collection vehicles, and now intends to do the same with commercial waste services.

“There are more than 1,000 businesses that will be impacted by this decision, yet there has been no consultation with them, the broader community, or workers.

“Having an appointed administrator making major decisions on the eve of elections, including the awarding of multi-million dollar contracts and the sale of council assets, is completely unacceptable and is one of the reasons communities across the state fought so hard against these forced mergers.

“Premier Berejiklian and Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton need to urgently intervene to stop the unelected administrator of Cumberland Council from selling assets, cutting services, or entering contracts, with all decisions instead held over until a democratically elected council retakes the reins,” Mr Kelly said.

… and Woollahra wants its money back

Waverley Councillor John Wakefield believes the administrator has engaged in building a castle-in-the-air and is keen to seek state government re-imbursement for the costs of the merger.

“With the merger called off, we have certainty about the future of the eastern suburbs councils,” Cr Wakefield said. “Let’s now consider what the ratepayers of Waverley have paid to jump through the hoops of the State Government’s mega-merger fantasy.”

While Woollahra Council and its Mayor led the opposition against the merger, Waverley Council and its Mayor went about setting up Waverley for the merger with Randwick and an unwilling Woollahra.

According to Cr Wakefield, a team of Waverley staff has been working for two years on the merger. Consultants were hired to prepare detailed reports on management and staffing structures under a merged council, facilities and office accommodation requirements, vehicle and truck fleet management issues, maintenance contracts, IT systems integration, and numerous other complex issues requiring detailed plans.

“We estimate that well over $500,000 was spent by Waverley Council in direct costs to consultants, while hundreds and hundreds of hours of senior council staff time was occupied in meetings, preparing reports, workshopping the incredible complexity of merging three large organisations together whilst attempting to maintain work levels and resident expectations of service delivery.

“Simultaneously and additional to this, Waverley Council under Mayor Betts also hired consultants and allocated a significant amount of staff time on a proposal to re-develop Council’s Library and adjacent buildings. This has been marketed as the ‘Civic Heart’ precinct. It was actually a feasibility study to house a merged council’s town hall.

“Mayor Betts was preparing to spend a significant amount of ratepayers money to house a now abandoned merged Eastern Suburbs Council,” he said.

This Civic Heart project has an allocation of $80 million in Waverley Council’s forward budget but would have in reality cost in the order of $120 million. Combined with Mayor Betts’ grand project for the Bondi Pavilion with a budget of $40 million, this would have exhausted Waverley’s $130 million capital works reserve totally.

“We will now be seeking re-imbursement from the State Government of all expenditure related to the merger proposal.

“If our motion is successful, a more precise figure will be calculated by Council’s General Manager, but we estimate the total cost to ratepayers of over $2 million wasted in the last two years.”
                    [post_title] => Council administrators: caretakers or career builders?
                    [post_excerpt] => Standing for election, selling off assets... council administrators are in the firing line.
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                    [post_date] => 2017-07-28 12:16:20
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                    [post_content] => 

It has now been a full 24 hours since the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that proposed council mergers before the courts will not proceed, and the original rejoicing and merriment in the streets is being replaced by anger and – well, more uncertainty.

“Due to the protracted nature of current legal challenges and the uncertainty this is causing ratepayers, those council amalgamations currently before the courts will not proceed,” the announcement said.

“We want to see councils focusing on delivering the best possible services and local infrastructure to their residents. That is why we are drawing a line under this issue today and ending the uncertainty,” the Premier said.

The following proposed mergers will not proceed:
  • Burwood, City of Canada Bay and Strathfield Municipal councils
  • Hornsby Shire and Ku-ring-gai councils
  • Hunter’s Hill, Lane Cove and City of Ryde councils
  • Mosman Municipal, North Sydney and Willoughby City councils
  • Randwick City, Waverley and Woollahra Municipal councils
Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton said it was important for local communities to have certainty in the lead up to the September local government elections. “The Government remains committed to reducing duplication, mismanagement and waste by councils so communities benefit from every dollar spent,” Ms Upton said. Naturally, most of the merged councils now want to explore de-merging, and the once who had put up a fight, want to recover their legal costs. And of course the Premier did not, and refuses to, guarantee that the mergers will not be attempted again past the elections. Shadow Minister for Local Government Peter Primrose MLC said: “The justification for forced mergers has been a political fix from day one. The Government must release the KPMG report and stop avoiding scrutiny. “Premier Gladys Berejiklian has failed to rule out forced council amalgamations beyond 2019. As well, the Government must release the secret $400,000 KPMG report used by the former Premier to justify the forced mergers.” NSW Labor is now demanding Premier Berejiklian allow communities in forcibly merged councils to hold referendums to choose whether or not to demerge. Not our fault: developers Whilst developer lobby group Urban Taskforce was keen on the amalgamations, it distanced itself from the NSW Government’s version. “The Urban Taskforce originally proposed a council reform that had a district structure for planning decisions and left local matters to local councils,” said Urban Taskforce CEO Chris Johnson. “The NSW Government’s back down on their version of council reform means the scale of thinking about growth will now be local not regional. The value of larger councils was to move management and planning to a less local and more regional level but it seems the government’s processes were not legally tight and appeals have delayed the process leading to uncertainty for all. “The Urban Taskforce believes that the NSW Government must now play a much stronger role in driving housing supply with councils only focussing on local issues.” “The Urban Taskforce is concerned that today’s back down indicates a less reformist approach by the NSW Government than its previous position. This more cautious approach a year and a half before the next state election could put many important initiatives on hold.” Let’s have some stability The association of Local Government Professionals Australia, NSW welcomed the government’s announcement on council amalgamations, bringing sector stability before September elections. “The uncertainty the amalgamations agenda have brought to the sector have been a huge resource drain on local councils and have distracted the sector from much needed reform to address sector innovation, misconduct in local government, cost shifting, rate pegging and professional development,” said general manager of Hunter’s Hill Council and president of Local Government Professionals Australia, NSW Barry Smith. “We were engaged from the start of the reform process back in late 2011 where the entire local government sector came together to develop real solutions. Regrettably, the focus shifted toward amalgamations, and it is a shame it has taken six years for the State Government to allow all councils to get on with the job of delivering for their community.” The Independent Local Government Review Panel, which first proposed amalgamations, included 64 other recommendations to improve council performance. “Despite sector uncertainty, we have been committed to providing sector wide professional development opportunities, significant council improvement programs and support for councils going through amalgamations. “With this change in policy, we would welcome Minister Upton proactively re-engaging with the sector to ensure that real reform issues raised during the Destination 2036 discussions are dealt with. We must all refocus on supporting innovative council practices and solutions to improve performance, and address critical workforce shortfalls,” chief executive officer Annalisa Haskell said. Back to the courts Without exception, the councils that fought the merger are expected to put in a claim to recover their legal expenses. Additionally, many of the 20 merged councils will seek to de-merge or at least hold plebiscites. And the ones that wanted to merge? Hornsby Shire Council welcomed its proposed merger with Ku-ring-gai, which involved it ceding lucrative rate areas in Epping to Parramatta Council. Parramatta Council happily took these areas while Ku-ring-gai decided to fight, leaving Hornsby in the lurch. [post_title] => Councils: first the clarity, now for the confusion [post_excerpt] => While most councils are rejoicing, the future is still uncertain. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => councils-first-clarity-now-confusion [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-28 12:16:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-28 02:16:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27724 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27721 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-28 09:58:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-27 23:58:49 [post_content] => While the headlines are (rightly) awash with the shady dealings surrounding the Murray-Darling Basin, new research released by The Australia Institute examines the economic and employment effects of the Ord River irrigation schemes – and it’s not pretty. Expansion of Ord irrigation is part of the Federal Government’s vision for developing northern Australia, but faces opposition from indigenous groups, the Northern Territory government and is dogged by decades of economic failure. The new report finds that over $2 billion has been spent on the Ord irrigation scheme, yet it supports only around 260 jobs. The last expansion of irrigation cost taxpayers $334 million, a budget overrun of $114 million, but resulted in just 61 jobs in 2016. “The last expansion of the Ord scheme cost taxpayers $5.5 million for every job created. Clearly this isn’t an economically viable way to bring development to northern Australia,” said lead author Rod Campbell. “Cost benefit analysis shows that for every dollar taxpayers have invested in the Ord scheme since inception, they’ve been returned around 17 cents. “The lesson here is that large-scale irrigated agriculture is not the way to increase prosperity and populations in the north of Australia. Even if the economic losses were much smaller, irrigated agriculture is capital intensive – it uses lots of machines and pumps lots of water but employs very few people. “The Ord region has around 260 agricultural jobs, but at least 60 were in non-irrigated agriculture. This shows that northern regions do have viable agricultural enterprises and agriculture can be a part of northern development, but that large scale irrigation isn’t the way to do it. “There is scope for further development of agriculture in northern Australia, but efforts should be directed towards enterprises that are commercially viable, sustainable and generate employment and other benefits for northern Australian communities. “Irrigation enterprises working with existing infrastructure can be viable and worth supporting now that the infrastructure is already built – in economics jargon the costs are ‘sunk’. The key message to come out of decades of losses on Ord infrastructure is that new irrigation infrastructure in northern Australia is unlikely to be viable or provide significant community benefits. The money can be far better spent. “Investment in services and infrastructure that directly benefit communities will be vital if these communities are to retain existing populations and attract new people and businesses. Transport, communications, health and education are all likely to bring greater benefits. “Another industry that is labour intensive and has strong potential in northern Western Australia is the tourism industry. According to Tourism Western Australia, in the year ending September 2016 there were 1.4 million visitors to the north west of WA, who spent $1.2 billion. Tourism and transport infrastructure will also play a major role in developing the north. “Investing in the indigenous community should also be a focus for northern development. Programs such as the Indigenous Protected Area and Indigenous Rangers schemes provide training and employment for indigenous people in environmental management. Cost benefit analyses of indigenous social programs consistently show that they provide large net economic benefits. “In short, there is no shortage of industries, infrastructure and community projects that can help develop northern Australia in an way that is economically viable, community-oriented and sustainable. Long experience with the Ord River Irrigation Area shows that government spending on irrigated agriculture is financially dubious and not likely to lead to development that benefits the wider community of northern Australia.”   [post_title] => Money down the river [post_excerpt] => Dam the expense: new research on Ord River irrigation shows how not to develop northern Australia. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => money-down-the-river [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-28 09:58:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-27 23:58:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27721 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27700 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-24 17:43:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-24 07:43:49 [post_content] => Patrick Hunn The Planning Institute of Victoria has taken issue with the Victorian government’s plans to connect central Melbourne to the city’s west via a major road and cross-river tunnel. The Victorian chapter of the Planning Institute Australia has criticised the Victorian government’s West Gate Tunnel Project for failing to follow its own planning guidelines. The project would connect central Melbourne to the city’s west via a new tunnel and an 18-lane, partially elevated toll road. In a submission made in response to the West Gate Tunnel Environmental Effects Statement (EES) and the Planning Scheme Amendment (PSA) associated with the development, Victoria chapter president Laura Murray described the project as lacking “strategic justification” and argued that “alternate approaches to addressing the identified land use and transport issues have not been considered or rigorously tested”. “The proposal as it stands is a retrograde, traffic-engineering-focused solution which is entirely at odds with any appreciation for good place-making and contemporary urban planning,” Ms Murray said. “The proposed 18 lanes of traffic on and above Footscray Road are completely out of proportion with an inner-city location, which will be subject to regeneration and will permanently blight the area.” The submission also expressed concerns of “inappropriate methodology and inadequate extent of traffic modelling” which did not go beyond 2031; the “significant detriment” to traffic and future development opportunities likely to be caused by the city exits; and “entrenched inequality for those in the outer suburbs without access to a private motor vehicle.” This article first appeared in ArchitectureAU. To read the full article click here. [post_title] => ‘Retrograde solution’: West Gate Tunnel Project a ‘permanent blight,’ says PIA [post_excerpt] => The Victorian government’s plans to connect central Melbourne to the city’s west have been called into question. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => retrograde-solution-west-gate-tunnel-project-permanent-blight-says-pia [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-26 12:22:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-26 02:22:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27700 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27617 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-17 22:40:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-17 12:40:11 [post_content] => Deloitte Access Economics’ Chris Richardson sees a few worrying trends and signs on the horizon for Australian governments. The world is motoring. Growth in the US, Europe and Japan is near 2%, with China and India doing the heavy lifting to raise overall global growth above 3.5%. But China has been tightening the screws, which will see its growth slow during 2018, with flow-on effects for the wider world. And there are structural headwinds for the medium term: the developed world is ageing, with its potential growth sapped by rising retirements. That’s true of China, too. And, at the same time, the business world has been reluctant to invest for a decade, spooked by rising political and economic uncertainty, as well as fears of regulatory and technological developments – creating an additional headwind. Both the world and the Reserve Bank have been doing Australia favours, with China throwing red meat at those bits of its economy that buy big from the Lucky Country, and with the RBA’s 2016 interest rate cuts revving up housing prices. Despite that, production growth has been weak, as big gas projects finish construction, as the big home building boom of recent years starts to peter out, and as Cyclone Debbie took a toll. Yet our stuttering pace of production was still enough – thanks to higher commodity prices – to see national income chalk up a gain of near $100 billion in 2016-17. That brought an emphatic end to five years of ‘income recession’, though to date it has been profits rather than wages that have benefited, while the pace of home building is set to shrink further amid increasing evidence that gravity may soon start to catch up with stupidity in housing markets. And the gargantuan Chinese credit surge is finally easing back, suggesting the global economy won’t be doing Australia quite as many favours from 2018 onwards. Yet those are merely caveats on an otherwise solid outlook. Relative to the rest of the rich world, Australia’s economic outlook may not be quite as impressive as it once was, but we are still kicking goals. Consumer price inflation remains a dog that isn’t barking, both locally and globally. And although global and local leading indicators of inflation are stirring in their sleep, they don’t look like getting out of bed any time soon. We see wage growth set to climb from 2018, as inflation lifts a tad, as retirement among boomers restrains growth in potential workers, and as the ‘income recession’ of the post-2011 period gives way to more settled gains in national income (and workers get their share of that). Even so, the pick-up in inflation and wage gains is likely to be both modest and slow. The past decade saw a growing global gap between economies and interest rates, but the US Fed is continuing a slow grind towards closing the gap. The rest of the world will eventually follow, with Australia’s turn starting during 2018. Yet as J. Paul Getty so neatly put it: “If you owe the bank $100, that’s your problem – if you owe the bank $100 million, that’s the bank’s problem.” Australia’s heavily indebted families are now the Reserve Bank’s problem, which is why, although interest rates will indeed rise in the next few years, they won’t rise sharply. On the currency front, Australia will sit more towards the back of the queue for global interest rates normalisation, and there’s the risk of further price pain on commodities. That combination will weigh on the Australian dollar, but not by much. Australia is within a hair’s breadth of a current account surplus for the first time since bell-bottomed jeans were all the rage. However, just like bell-bottoms, Australia’s dash for cash looks set to be very short-lived. We got close courtesy of spikes in coal and iron ore prices, but those same global commodity prices are once again curled up into a ball and rocking. That will increasingly show up as lower export earnings over the next year or so, cementing a return towards our customary deficits. Job growth in the next couple of years will be solid: not as good as 2017 to date, but not as bad as 2016, either. There’s good news in the better gains in national income of late, but overall macro trends aren’t really giving a strong signal either way on job prospects. And while the bugaboos of the moment (disruptive technologies and new business models) grab the headlines, they do more by way of generating churn at the level of individual businesses than they do to ruffle the surface of overall job numbers. The Federal Budget saw the Coalition abandon Plan A (a return to sustainable fiscal finances via spending cuts) to Plan B (tax and spend, amid increases to the Medicare levy, a bank tax, and Gonski2.0). Given Plan A spent years going nowhere, we see great sense in Plan B. But it’s a real worry that a conscious shift to the centre still didn’t unleash much bipartisanship in Canberra. That says official figures (which assume stuff passes the Senate) remain at risk. And, speaking of risks, commodity prices could yet spell trouble for the Federal, WA and Queensland Budgets, while – a little further out in time – housing markets may yet do the same for the NSW and Victorian Budgets. The tussle at the top Among industries, it’s still a tussle for the top of the growth leader board, as mining output rides the crest of earlier investment decisions, while health care rides a demographic dividend topped with technological treats. Both sectors look set to keep growing rapidly, with mining seeing huge gas projects ramp up their production levels (to meet export contracts, and to keep the home fires of domestic markets ticking over), and with health demands marching ever-upwards. But the prospects for both also come with caveats, as mining’s fortunes remain chained to China’s, and health to Canberra’s. Like Manny Pacquiao, the reign at the top of the pops for finance has been long and gloried, but it’s looking a little long in the tooth as the cost of credit finally gets back off the canvas. That said, there’s a long tail of growth still left in finance, and its return to the growth pack may take a few years. Challenges loom for property services too, where a slowdown has already commenced. Similarly, the $A -fuelled rise of fast growth in recreation (thanks to more tourists) and education (thanks to more students) may soon start to moderate from here – the $A’s fall was a while ago, and its benefits are starting to fade. But at least the education sector has the lift in the birth rate over the last decade or so to provide better base demand via extra kidlet numbers. Construction and manufacturing are both bumping along the bottom, but for construction it may be a relatively brief spell in the doldrums, whereas manufacturing’s challenges look rather more structural. Question marks lie over the utilities, where balancing divergent aims (power that’s clean, reliable and cheap) is hard, but becomes even harder now that Hazelwood has closed and with the nation’s onion-eaters arguing the toss on Finkel. That suggests investors may stay sidelined, which is where they’ve already been for an awfully long time. Add in rising prices, and this sector – a pathway to growth for many other industries – is left reliant on population gains to generate much by way of growth. It’s just a jump to the south and east On the State and Territory front, the jump from a China boom to a housing price boom sent the nation’s money and momentum from its north and west towards its south and east. Yet although the ‘sunbelt’ – WA, Queensland and the Top End – is feeling pain as a result of that, much of the drama for those regions already lies in the rear view vision mirror. Their next phase will be one of recovery, albeit not quite yet. And don’t forget that today’s heroes – NSW and Victoria – have clay feet. A house price boom borrows growth from the future, and both NSW and Victoria will have to pay back some of that in the years ahead as today’s housing prices gradually reconnect with reality. Luck’s a fortune, and NSW has it in spades amid the shift to lower interest and exchange rates since 2012. But storm clouds are building, as the housing price boom has artificially supported retail and home building. There’ll be an eventual butcher’s bill to pay as those supports reverse. Victoria has benefited as key cyclical drivers – exchange and interest rates – moved in a ‘Victoria- friendly’ direction in recent years. And this State is experiencing its strongest population gains for many a decade. Yet, relative to other States, its population and housing cycles may be near their peaks. The key headwind to Queensland’s economy for some years now has been falling engineering construction, but that pain is increasingly history. While Cyclone Debbie and slowing housing construction are current negatives, Debbie’s impact will be temporary and gas exports are lifting. South Australia has benefited from favourable shifts in interest rates and exchange rates. In fact, and despite popular opinion, the State economy’s growth actually picked up of late. Even so, some big challenges remain, given both demographics and an unfavourable industry structure. The construction cliff is still weighing on Western Australia. This state saw a virtuous circle of reinforcing growth drivers during the boom, but it has been seeing a vicious bust for a while now. But there has been better news recently out of China, and even vicious cycles run out of steam. Tasmania has been one of the bigger beneficiaries of the lower Australian dollar and lower interest rates, and the state economy’s growth is currently looking pretty good. But structural negatives on the longer-term outlook remain entrenched, suggesting caveats on current conditions. The Northern Territory’s economy isn’t a one-hit wonder, but recent years saw a Gangnam-style blockbuster hit the charts. As construction on the Ichthys project increasingly winds down and its export phase ramps up, the Territory’s challenging conditions won’t disappear for a while yet. The good news for the ACT is that, after the cutbacks and public sector hiring freezes of recent years, the Feds are returning to more of what might be considered business as usual. On top of that, the impact of lower interest rates on the ACT’s economy remains a powerful positive.   [post_title] => Gravity is starting to catch up with stupidity [post_excerpt] => There are a few worrying trends and signs on the horizon for Australian governments. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => gravity-starts-catch-stupidity [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-18 07:21:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-17 21:21:54 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27617 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27626 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-17 14:30:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-17 04:30:11 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27632" align="alignnone" width="296"] ALGA President Mayor David O'Loughlin.[/caption] Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) president Mayor David O’Loughlin writes that while the corridor protection measures put forward by Infrastructure Australia are important and worthwhile, the Federal Government must also address first- and last-mile issues. Infrastructure Australia’s (IA) recent paper, Corridor Protection: Planning and investing for the long term, outlines the case for securing and protecting land corridors for future infrastructure projects. They stress that a relatively modest investment today can pay substantial dividends tomorrow. ALGA has always strongly advocated for more integrated transport planning and so we support the report. However, it doesn't stress enough the importance of first and last mile issues we know enable freight to get to its destination, people to get to work, and raw materials to get to on-shore and off-shore markets. According to the National Transport Commission (NTC), road freight grew six-fold over the period 1971 to 2007. The freight task is projected to double by 2030 and treble by 2050. This growth is an indicator of the economic activity that we must begin to plan for today. We must ask ourselves:
  • What are the transport goals and what services are required to foster growth, jobs and prosperity?
  • Where are the investments required to achieve these goals?
Many councils are already answering these tough questions by investing in regional transport plans that identify key transport routes and linkages, and investment opportunities at the local and regional level. However, for this work, to have the impact required, to make productivity gains across the country, local government needs additional support from the Commonwealth. ALGA continues to call for a federal investment of $200 million per annum over five years to establish a Local Freight Productivity Investment Plan to partner with local councils and ensure that first mile/last mile and freight connectivity issues are addressed to improve national productivity. As well as road reform and additional funding requirements, road managers need to work in partnership with transport operators and other levels of government to provide roads and road services that are fit for purpose. A business-as-usual approach will not address this issue. As emphasised by IA, we must make the right infrastructure decisions today to accommodate and meet our growing freight task, increase productivity, create jobs and help create the transport infrastructure for the future prosperity of our nation. These are some of the key messages ALGA will include in its submission to the National Freight and Supply Chain Inquiry currently being undertaken by the federal government. Submissions are due by 28 July 2017 and I encourage all councils to join us and independently make a submission identifying their first and last mile freight priorities. The seven strategic corridors singled out by IA are: East Coast High Speed Rail, Outer Sydney Orbital, Outer Melbourne Ring, Western Sydney Airport Rail Line, Western Sydney Freight Line, Hunter Valley Freight Line, and Port of Brisbane Freight Line. Further information, including the full report, is available on the Infrastructure Australia website. More information about the inquiry and how to make a submission is available on the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development website. The email address for submissions is freightstrategy@infrastructure.gov.au.   [post_title] => More action needed to protect vital infrastructure corridors [post_excerpt] => Mayor David O’Loughlin writes that first- and last-mile issues in freight must also be addressed. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => action-needed-protect-vital-infrastructure-corridors [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-17 22:20:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-17 12:20:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27626 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27605 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-13 19:22:19 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-13 09:22:19 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27606" align="alignnone" width="300"] Our national wellbeing probably peaked with Australia’s population at roughly 15 million in the 1970s, when this photo was taken in Hunters Hill, Sydney.
John Ward/flickr, CC BY-NC-SA[/caption] Peter Martin, University of South Australia; James Ward, University of South Australia, and Paul Sutton, University of Denver
Neither of Australia’s two main political parties believes population is an issue worth discussion, and neither currently has a policy about it. The Greens think population is an issue, but can’t come at actually suggesting a target. Even those who acknowledge that numbers are relevant are often quick to say that it’s our consumption patterns, and not our population size, that really matter when we talk about environmental impact. But common sense, not to mention the laws of physics, says that size and scale matter, especially on a finite planet. In the meantime the nation has a bipartisan default population policy, which is one of rapid growth. This is in response to the demands of what is effectively a coalition of major corporate players and lobby groups. Solid neoliberals all, they see all growth as good, especially for their bottom line. They include the banks and financial sector, real estate developers, the housing industry, major retailers, the media and other major players for whom an endless increase in customers is possible and profitable. However, Australians stubbornly continue to have small families. The endless growth coalition responds by demanding the government import hundreds of thousands of new consumers annually, otherwise known as the migration intake. The growth coalition has no real interest in the cumulative social or environmental downside effects of this growth, nor the actual welfare of the immigrants. They fully expect to capture the profit of this growth program, while the disadvantages, such as traffic congestion, rising house prices and government revenue diverted for infrastructure catch-up, are all socialised – that is, the taxpayer pays. The leaders of this well-heeled group are well insulated personally from the downsides of growth that the rest of us deal with daily. A better measure of wellbeing than GDP The idea that population growth is essential to boost GDP, and that this is good for everyone, is ubiquitous and goes largely unchallenged. For example, according to Treasury’s 2010 Intergenerational Report:
Economic growth will be supported by sound policies that support productivity, participation and population — the ‘3Ps’.
If one defines “economic growth” in the first place by saying that’s what happens when you have more and more people consuming, then obviously more and more people produce growth. The fact that GDP, our main measure of growth, might be an utterly inadequate and inappropriate yardstick for our times remains a kooky idea to most economists, both in business and government. Genuine progress peaked 40 years ago One of the oldest and best-researched alternative measures is the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI). Based on the work of the American economist Herman Daly in the 1970s and ’80s, GPI takes into account different measures of human wellbeing, grouped into economic, environmental and social categories. Examples on the negative side of the ledger include income inequality, CO2 emissions, water pollution, loss of biodiversity and the misery of car accidents. On the positive side, and also left out of GDP, are the value of household work, parenting, unpaid child and aged care, volunteer work, the quality of education, the value of consumer goods lasting longer, and so on. The overall GPI measure, expressed in dollars, takes 26 such factors into account. Since it is grounded in the real world and our real experience, GPI is a better indicator than GDP of how satisfactory we find our daily lives, of our level of contentment, and of our general level of wellbeing. As it happens, there is quite good data on GPI going back decades for some countries. While global GDP (and GDP per capita) continued to grow strongly after the second world war, and continues today, global GPI basically stalled in 1970 and has barely improved since. In Australia the stall point appears to be about 1974. GPI is now lower than for any period since the early 1960s. That is, our wellbeing, if we accept that GPI is a fair measure of the things that make life most worthwhile, has been going backwards for decades. What has all the growth been for? It is reasonable to ask, therefore, what exactly has been the point of the huge growth in GDP and population in Australia since that time if our level of wellbeing has declined. What is an economy for, if not to improve our wellbeing? Why exactly have we done so much damage to our water resources, soil, the liveability of our cities and to the other species with which we share this continent if we haven’t really improved our lives by doing it? As alluded to earlier, the answer lies to a large extent in the disastrous neoliberal experiment foisted upon us. Yet many Australians understand that it is entirely valid to measure the success of our society by the wellbeing of its citizens and its careful husbandry of natural capital. At the peak of GPI in Australia in the mid-1970s our population was under 15 million. Here then, perhaps, is a sensible, optimal population size for Australia operating under the current economic system, since any larger number simply fails to deliver a net benefit to most citizens. It suggests that we have just had 40 years of unnecessary, ideologically-driven growth at an immense and unjustifiable cost to our natural and social capital. In addition, all indications are that this path is unsustainable. With Australian female fertility sitting well below replacement level, we can achieve a slow and natural return to a lower population of our choice without any drastic or coercive policies. This can be done simply by winding back the large and expensive program of importing consumers to generate GDP growth – currently around 200,000 people per year and forecast to increase to almost 250,000 by 2020. Despite endless political and media obfuscation, this is an entirely different issue from assisting refugees, with whom we can afford to be much more generous.
The ConversationYou can read other articles in the Is Australia Full? series here. Peter Martin, Lecturer, School of Natural & Built Environments, University of South Australia; James Ward, Lecturer in Water & Environmental Engineering, University of South Australia, and Paul Sutton, Professor, Department of Geography and the Environment, University of Denver This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. [post_title] => Why a population of, say, 15 million makes sense for Australia [post_excerpt] => Neither of Australia’s two main political parties believes population is an issue worth discussion. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => population-say-15-million-makes-sense-australia [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-13 19:22:19 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-13 09:22:19 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27605 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27593 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-12 17:56:46 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-12 07:56:46 [post_content] => The Federal Government has declared the half-way point in the roll-out of the National Broadband Network. Minister for Communications Senator Hon Mitch Fifield said at a press conference: “The NBN is now available to half of Australia. That’s ahead of schedule and ahead of budget. The NBN is now available to 5.7 million premises nationwide. 2.4 million premises have taken up that opportunity already. By the middle of next year NBN will be three quarters complete and will be done and dusted by 2020.” There are, however, some questions remaining: why have only half of the eligible households connected to the NBN; what is the data and service quality; and indeed, why has NBN Co. spent $177m on copper wires to the end of the financial year – would it not have been better to replace the old technology with fibre, rather than repairing the old copper? “Fibre to the node is a good product,” Minister Fifield retorted. “And an overwhelming majority of people on fibre to the node have a good experience. People on HFC have a good experience. People with fixed wireless have a good experience. People with satellite overwhelmingly having a good experience. This is a major project. There will obviously be a percentage of experiences in the rollout which aren’t perfect. But NBN is working day-by-day to improve that experience.” Customers say otherwise Connection rates are remaining slow and many customers are holding back in their allowed 18 months of connection time, unsure of the dependability of the NBN service. A recent Choice survey reported that 76% of Australians on the NBN said they had a problem, mentioning slow speeds or disconnections/drop outs. And if you have an NBN connection and would like to join the Choice project to monitor service provider broadband speeds, you can sign up to be part of the project, with CHOICE and Enex selecting participants based on postcode to ensure national coverage: www.choice.com.au/broadband. Many existing users are reporting data drop-outs and extended waiting times for repairs and service, with one customer the Sydney Morning Herald talked to finding himself in “bureaucratic limbo” for four months between his service provider, the Telecommunications Ombudsman, ACCC and NBN, on a fault that took just 48 hours to fix once the newspaper got involved. The NBN’s SkyMuster satellite service is equally – or even more – in the doldrums, and this writer can attest to the service going AWOL many times a day for no apparent reason and large file transfers (read 2MB or more) are cup-of-tea affairs. (I.e., once you press the button you have time to go and make a cup of tea – and drink it! – by the time it is downloaded.) Streaming movies, or even audio, are a subject for dreams. While the Minister was not admitting it, NBN CEO Bill Morrow told Senate Estimates in June that the organisation is looking into improving the satellite service following widespread complaints about congestion and slow speeds. Mr Morrow said several options are under consideration to improve the Sky Muster satellite service, including launching a third satellite, buying space on a third-party satellite, building more towers, or improving the connectivity technology on the two current satellites. "[A third satellite] is one of the options that we are looking at to satisfy Minister Fifield and Minister Nash's requests," Mr Morrow said in June. "We will look at enhancing the existing technology with the two satellites that are up there today; we will look at a third satellite to see if that's feasible; we will look at other satellites that are third party that will be up in the sky that maybe we can leverage those satellites to get more capacity; we will look at getting some other towers to relieve the congestion of the satellite beams that are coming down.” Renters can forget it Whilst officially half of all Australian properties can access the NBN, this figure is reduced to a fraction when it comes to rental properties. Rent.com.au has told ZDNet that only around one third of all its rental properties have access to the broadband network. As of the end of June, NBN services were available at just 31 per cent of Rent's rental premises in the Australian Capital Territory; 32 per cent in Victoria; 35 per cent in Queensland and Western Australia; 36 per cent in New South Wales; and 37 per cent in South Australia. Only Tasmania and the Northern Territory – two of the earliest NBN rollout areas – at 80 per cent and 92 per cent, respectively, are above the one-third mark. [post_title] => NBN ‘all good’ – if you’re the minister [post_excerpt] => The NBN has declared the half-way point in the roll-out of the network. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nbn-good-youre-minister [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-12 18:20:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-12 08:20:54 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27593 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27576 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-10 15:18:36 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-10 05:18:36 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27577" align="alignnone" width="300"] The WestConnex project has not been immune to land preservation issues.[/caption] Infrastructure Australia has launched a new policy paper urging Australian governments to act to protect vital infrastructure corridors and avoid cost overruns, delays and community disruption when delivering new infrastructure. The third paper released as part of Infrastructure Australia’s Reform Series, Corridor Protection: Planning and investing for the long term shows that protection and early acquisition of just seven corridors identified as national priorities on the Infrastructure Priority List could save Australian taxpayers close to $11 billion in land purchase and construction costs. These corridors are: East Coast High Speed Rail, Outer Sydney Orbital, Outer Melbourne Ring, Western Sydney Airport Rail Line, Western Sydney Freight Line, Hunter Valley Freight Line, and Port of Brisbane Freight Line.  “Meeting Australia’s future growth challenges requires long-term vision. As our cities and regions undergo a period of considerable change, strategically important infrastructure corridors need to be preserved early in their planning to avoid cost overruns, delays and community disruption during the project delivery phase,” said Infrastructure Australia chairman Mark Birrell. “Australia’s governments have an immediate opportunity to deliver an enduring infrastructure legacy to future generations. “If we protect infrastructure corridors we will reduce project costs and especially minimise the need for underground tunnelling, where the cost to government and therefore taxpayers can be up to ten times higher than it would have been,” he said. Protecting seven of the corridors identified on the recently revised Infrastructure Priority List could save close to $11 billion. This is the equivalent of more than two years’ spending by the Australian Government on land transport such as major roads, railways and local roads. “State and territory governments historically have shown leadership in protecting infrastructure corridors, but more needs to be done now. Experience clearly shows that planning the right infrastructure early, timing delivery to meet demand and ensuring it is fit for purpose enhances economic opportunity and delivers the best community outcomes,” Mr Birrell said. He quoted the M4, M5 and M7 motorways in Sydney, the M1 and EastLink motorways in Melbourne and the rail line to Mandurah south of Perth as examples where the protection of infrastructure corridors allowed the construction of vital links. Mr Birrell said the most urgent priority for protection is the east coast high-speed rail corridor, as this critical corridor faces immediate pressure due to its proximity to major population centres. He highlighted the cost of tunnelling in comparison to the cost of land acquisition, pointing out that recent tunnelled motorway proposals are expected to cost in the order of $100 million per lane kilometre to build. The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has supported the policy paper from Infrastructure Australia (IA), saying it demonstrates the importance of corridor protection in preventing cost blowouts, project delays and community disruption on infrastructure projects. “ALC has consistently worked to highlight the necessity of corridor preservation as part of a consistent and coherent approach to developing Australia’s national freight infrastructure,” said ALC managing director, Michael Kilgariff. “Good planning leads to good infrastructure outcomes for the community. Preserving corridors to accommodate the infrastructure needed to meet our future freight task lies at the heart of responsible planning policy.” [post_title] => Don’t sell the land [post_excerpt] => More action needed to protect vital infrastructure corridors. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => dont-sell-land [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-10 15:24:46 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-10 05:24:46 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27576 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27561 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-06 20:33:29 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-06 10:33:29 [post_content] => The NSW Government has declared the first section of the ‘WestConnex New M4’ ready and open to traffic, but the organisation of Western Sydney councils WSROC is doubtful motorists will get their money’s worth when the toll charges begin on 15 August. The opening gambit For the first time, drivers can now enjoy four lanes in each direction with new access points and smoother road surfaces on the widened section of the New M4, between Parramatta and Homebush, the government said. Minister for WestConnex Stuart Ayres thanked people for their patience during construction of this first section of WestConnex that, he said, will deliver faster, safer and more reliable trips for Western Sydney motorists. “In just over two years, we’ve delivered the first stage of this once-in-a-generation game changing infrastructure which Western Sydney has been crying out for,” Mr Ayres said. “Crews are continuing to work around the clock and all lanes are now open. “The first section of the New M4 project has been a massive undertaking with 4.3 million people hours worked, more than 40,000 cubic metres of concrete poured and 50,000 tonnes of asphalt laid. “We’ve made great progress but there’s plenty more to do with our ‘New M4’ tunnels now more than halfway complete, over one kilometre of the ‘New M5’ tunnels excavated and the M4-M5 Link scheduled to start next year. “This project is driving an economic boom across Western Sydney with the first stage of the New M4 alone supporting 2,000 direct and indirect jobs throughout construction and more than 1,600 businesses signing contracts exceeding $1.6 billion.” A distance-based toll of between $1.77 and $4.56 will be implemented on the widened section of the M4 between Parramatta and Homebush from 15 August 2017. “Tell us what you think about the M4 toll”: WSROC WSROC will monitor the performance of the widened M4 over the coming month to ensure commuters feel they will get value for money from the $4.56 toll. WSROC president Cr Bali said: “Both the Australian and NSW Governments have promised Western Sydney commuters significant time savings from WestConnex, and as paying customers we expect to see results. “Premier Berejiklian has promised that the benefits of the widened M4 will outweigh the cost of using it. I sincerely hope so, but will be relying on user feedback to determine whether this is the case,” he said. “I encourage all M4 users to share their experience of the widened upgrade with WSROC by sending their complaints or compliments to M4toll@wsroc.com.au. “Alternatively, commuters can tweet #M4toll or post to the M4toll Facebook page,” he said. “Driver feedback will contribute significantly to WSROC’s assessment of the M4 to see if actual travel time savings are achieved. If not, WSROC will be making strong representations to the NSW Government,” said Cr Bali. “We understand the necessity of tolls for funding public infrastructure, but do not believe road users should pay before they benefit. WSROC believes that east-bound travel will not be improved at all until the next section of the M4 East is opened in 2019, and therefore city-bound road users should not be paying any tolls until then.  “$4.56 is a significant amount, particularly when you compound this with other tolls paid by long distance commuters across the motorway network,” he said.   [post_title] => ‘New M4’ is ready – but what will you get for your money? [post_excerpt] => The NSW Government has declared ‘WestConnex New M4’ ready and open to traffic. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => new-m4-ready-will-get-money [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-06 20:39:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-06 10:39:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27561 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27533 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-03 20:36:04 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-03 10:36:04 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27538" align="alignnone" width="287"] Geelong’s relatively high creative industries score, coupled with a robust rate of business entries, provides a solid foundation for steady growth. Photo by paulrommer from www.shutterstock.com.[/caption] Leonie Pearson, University of Canberra Investing in regional cities’ economic performance makes good sense. Contrary to popular opinion, new research shows regional cities generate national economic growth and jobs at the same rate as big metropolitan cities. They are worthy of economic investment in their own right – not just on social and equity grounds. However, for regional cities to capture their potential A$378 billion output to 2031, immediate action is needed. Success will see regional cities in 2031 produce twice as much as all the new economy industries produce in today’s metropolitan cities. Drawing on lessons from the UK, the collaborative work by the Regional Australia Institute and the UK Centre for Cities spotlights criteria and data all Australian cities can use to help get themselves investment-ready.

Build on individual strengths

The Regional Australia Institute’s latest work confirms that city population size does not determine economic performance. There is no significant statistical difference between the economic performance of Australia’s big five metro cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide) and its 31 regional cities in historical output, productivity and participation rates. So, regional cities are as well positioned to create investment returns as their big five metro cousins. The same rules apply – investment that builds on existing city strengths and capabilities will produce returns. No two cities have the same strengths and capabilities. However, regional cities do fall into four economic performance groups – gaining, expanding, slipping, and slow and steady. This helps define the investment focus they might require. For example, the report finds Fraser Coast (Hervey Bay), Sunshine Coast-Noosa and Gold Coast are gaining cities. Their progress is fuelled by high population growth rates (around 2.7% annually from 2001 to 2013). But stimulating local businesses will deliver big job growth opportunities.
Rapid population growth is driving the Gold Coast economy, making it a ‘gaining’ city. Pawel Papis from www.shutterstock.com
Similarly, the expanding cities of Cairns, Central Coast and Toowoomba are forecast to have annual output growth of 3.2% to 3.9% until 2031, building on strong foundations of business entries. But they need to create more high-income jobs. Geelong and Ballarat have low annual population growth rates of around 1.2% to 1.5%. They are classified as slow and steady cities. But their relatively high creative industries scores, coupled with robust rates of business entries, means they have great foundations for growth. They need to stimulate local businesses to deliver city growth.

Get ready to deal

Regional cities remain great places to live. They often score more highly than larger cities on measures of wellbeing and social connection. But if there’s no shared vision, or local leaders can’t get along well enough to back a shared set of priorities, or debate is dominated by opinion in spite of evidence, local politics may win the day. Negotiations to secure substantial city investment will then likely fail. The federal government’s Smart Cities Plan has identified City Deals as the vehicle for investment in regional cities. This collaborative, cross-portfolio, cross-jurisdictional investment mechanism needs all players working together (federal, state and local government), along with community, university and private sector partners. This leaves no place for dominant single interests at the table. Clearly, the most organised regional cities ready to deal are those capable of getting collaborative regional leadership and strategic planning. For example, the G21 region in Victoria (including Greater Geelong, Queenscliffe, Surf Coast, Colac Otway and Golden Plains) has well-established credentials in this area. This has enabled the region to move quickly on City Deal negotiations.

Moving past talk to be investment-ready

There’s $378 billion on the table, but Australia’s capacity to harness it will depend on achieving two key goals.
  • First, shifting the entrenched view that the smart money invests only in our big metro cities. This is wrong. Regional cities are just as well positioned to create investment returns as the big five metro centres.
  • Second, regions need to get “investment-ready” for success. This means they need to be able to collaborate well enough to develop an informed set of shared priorities for investment, supported by evidence and linked to a clear growth strategy that builds on existing economic strengths and capabilities. They need to demonstrate their capacity to deliver.
While there has been much conjecture on the relevance and appropriateness of City Deals in Australia, it is mainly focused on big cities. But both big and small cities drive our national growth.
The ConversationYou can explore the data and compare the 31 regional cities using the RAI’s interactive data visualisation tool. Leonie Pearson, Adjunct Associate, University of Canberra This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. [post_title] => Bust the regional city myths and look beyond the 'big 5' for a $378b return [post_excerpt] => Investing in regional cities’ economic performance makes good sense, writes Leonie Pearson. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27533 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-04 11:08:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-04 01:08:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27533 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27524 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-03 20:17:02 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-03 10:17:02 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_27525" align="alignnone" width="300"] Sydney Metro is expected to take a large number of the new apprentices. Barangaroo Station shown.[/caption] The Australian and NSW Governments are to open what they say are Australia’s first one-stop-shop training centres for infrastructure jobs and skills training to meet the demands of Sydney’s infrastructure program, including Sydney Metro and the Western Sydney Airport (Badgery’s Creek). In a joint project between the Australian Government, the NSW Government’s Sydney Metro project, and TAFE NSW’s three infrastructure skills centres in Annandale, Nirimba and Ingleburn, these colleges will engage “industry experienced teachers to train apprentices, trainees and a new generation of workers”. The NSW Government is providing $4.97 million of the total cost of approximately $6 million through TAFE NSW, with a capital grant from the Australian Government of $950,000. This funding will enable a dedicated services provider to operate on-site, as well as secure equipment to support pre-employment training courses. It is not known whether the “dedicated services provider” will be TAFE NSW itself or an outside contractor/s leasing premises from TAFE. NSW Assistant Minister for Skills Adam Marshall said the network of three TAFE NSW campuses delivering specialist training centres would be Australia’s first one-stop infrastructure-focused skills centres. “The three infrastructure skills centres will extend TAFE NSW’s training services to other infrastructure projects and large construction projects such as Barangaroo, Darling Harbour, Parramatta Square and the Western Sydney Stadium,” Mr Marshall said. The NSW Infrastructure Skills Centre at Annandale was designed in conjunction with Sydney Metro to address skills and jobs requirements across the project. A majority of Sydney Metro’s workforce will undertake accredited pre-commencement training at the centre, addressing critical skills gaps and support the transferability of skills to workers as well as encourage them to pursue further learning. Tailored pre-employment training will be available to a range of special groups including young people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, culturally and linguistically diverse individuals, and women working in non-traditional roles. Fourteen Indigenous job seekers have already graduated from the centre’s first pre-employment training course, with the majority having been interviewed for jobs on the Sydney Metro project. Many of the successful candidates will also commence training for a Certificate II in Civil Construction to further develop their skills. Sydney Metro anticipates more than 500 entry-level employees will undertake training through the Infrastructure Skills Centre over five years. TAFE NSW will also deliver training to more than 20,000 workers over the next five years through the Infrastructure Skills Centres supporting major construction projects, including Sydney Metro.   [post_title] => TAFE back in favour: governments set up building centres [post_excerpt] => TAFE NSW is to open three dedicated infrastructure skills centres. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => tafe-back-favour-governments-set-building-centres [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-03 20:17:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-03 10:17:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27524 [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] => 27795 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-10 14:06:18 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-10 04:06:18 [post_content] => The Central Western Queensland Remote Area Planning and Development Board (RAPAD) in July produced the Smart Central Western Queensland: A Digitally Enabled Community Strategic Plan. As part of that plan, the councils proposed an  Outback Telegraph, which involves the mayors of seven Central West Queensland councils, the RAPAD members. Outback Telegraph proposes to switch on public Wi-Fi in these remote areas. The plan is to roll-out free Wi-Fi by this group of councils - covering one-fifth of the state - to boost visitor numbers and business through technology. The first stage of the Outback Telegraph has been switched on by Winton Shire Council, with the smart tourism pilot a first for Queensland. When the network gets up and running it will be – in total council area – the biggest single public Wi-Fi network in Australia. The Queensland Government contributed $15,000 to jumpstart the pilot, and Winton Shire Council is also pitching in. RAPAD will fund the extension of the Outback Telegraph smart tourism platform to all key centres in the region, reaching some of the most remote communities in the state. Queensland Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy Leeanne Enoch said: “This is about driving opportunities and using the power of digital connectivity to tell the world about outback Queensland. “Providing more opportunities to go online and do research on-the-go and share pictures and stories will be good for tourists and trade in small rural towns. I congratulate Winton Shire Council for taking the ground-breaking steps to provide free public Wi-Fi in the outback, and government officers in Rockhampton and Brisbane who worked with councils to make it happen.” RAPAD board member and Mayor of Barcoo Shire Council, Bruce Scott said the next stage of the regional Wi-Fi network will add more locations, including Longreach, Barcaldine and Windorah. “A single sign-on for the Central West means visitors won’t have to re-enter their details as they move around, making it much more convenient to stay connected during their travels,” he said. “This is the first step towards making the Central West a smart region, where technology supports important local industries like tourism, and makes our communities better connected and more liveable.” Winton Mayor Cr Butch Lenton acknowledged the pulling power of public Wi-Fi. “It will be a magnet to people with mobile devices who are a long way from their family and friends and travelling around the countryside,” he said. “Connectivity is essential to running businesses in rural Queensland, and for travellers, and I’m proud our council is pioneering a terrific project that is crossing new boundaries.” Visitors will be able to connect to the network through the Outback Telegraph app, which will be available from Google and Apple in coming days. The mobile app can also interact with smart beacons placed around town, allowing the user to access additional information about local businesses, receive a coupon or special offer; and guide them on discovery walks. Mayor Lenton said Winton Shire Council is collecting tourism statistics from the free Wi-Fi to show how visitors are moving through the region and where they are and are not stopping. “We can build stronger businesses with this data. Winton has a rich history that includes the Great Shearers’ Strike, Banjo Patterson’s Waltzing Matilda, Qantas, and a dinosaur stampede, and also opal fields and a wide variety of animals and bird life in the area," he said. “Free Wi-Fi can help us share our stories, history and visitor experiences on social channels to entice more tourists and encourage them to stay longer once they’re here,” he said. The Outback Telegraph will be showcased at this week’s Bush Councils Convention in Charters Towers, with RAPAD also hoping to hold an upcoming ‘hacking’ event for the Central West to come up with ideas leveraging the regional Wi-Fi, app and beacons. [post_title] => RAPAD to deliver WiFi to outback councils [post_excerpt] => The Outback Telegraph proposes to switch on public Wi-Fi in many of Queensland's remote areas. 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Infrastructure