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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.

 
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  By Paul Shetler This blog first appeared on paulshetler.com   When any service can be virtualised, or held to the standards of the best digital companies, then it doesn’t make sense for companies to think of ‘digital’ and ‘the business’ as two separate things: digital is the business.
Keeping digital separate means putting the rest of the business on a path towards decline.
It’s easy for organisations in Australia to be complacent about their future – especially when they’ve reached a level of size and success that allows them to become bureaucratised. Sandy Plunkett belled the cat back in 2014 in her piece Board to death: Our fat, dumb corporations are clueless on innovationSadly, at the time, few appeared to be listening. Too many organisations dismiss the cautionary tales and are only now beginning to respond to digital change, if at all. “Evolution not revolution” appears to be the preferred strategy. Organisations ignore the disruption in entire industries like retail (Amazon), travel (Expedia), hospitality (Airbnb) or in businesses like Kodak or Blockbuster. For many Australians, changes to the economies in the USA and the UK are things that happened ‘over there’ with limited impact on our economy. In fact, Australian consumers have been beneficiaries of the change. In the USA, UK, Israel, China, Estonia, Singapore and other digital economies, organisations are embracing the new economics of IT. There is a realisation that the old strategies that organisations relied on – outsourcing, heavy governance, incremental evolution towards digital – will not help them be competitive. Organisations in these economies understand they need to embrace radical transformation if they want to survive and thrive in the digital era. In Australia, there remains a belief that there is still time, that we can take a decade to manage change, that digital offerings are not going to have an impact on our businesses. Too many of our largest institutions remain in denial. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Australian retail sector is about to see first hand the devastation that Amazon can have on its industry. Take for instance the impact that online shopping has had on traditional retail in the USA. Recently, it was reported that: “Macy’s has already said that it’s planning to close 100 stores, or about 15% of its fleet, in 2017. Sears is shuttering at least 30 Sears and Kmart stores by April, and additional closures are expected to be announced soon. CVS [a shopping centre owner] also said this month that it’s planning to shut down 70 locations. Mall stores like Aeropostale, which filed for bankruptcy in May, American Eagle, Chicos, Finish Line, Men’s Wearhouse, and The Children’s Place are also in the midst of multi-year plans to close stores.” More.

EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED

The rise of the digital economy isn’t new, it’s been happening for a while. The economics of IT have fundamentally changed. Take storage costs. In 1980, it cost $438,000 to store a GB of data; in 2000, it cost $11; in 2012, it cost $0.10. Now, you can have your first 15 GB of data stored free on Google Drive. This is the result of a virtuous cycle of cloud computing. Network effects established early leaders, who invested billions in capital that drastically drove down per unit storage and compute costs. This encouraged more users to consume the cloud leading to more investment by the early leaders. Now, there are really only three players, of which Amazon Web Services is dominant, with Google and Microsoft in close pursuit. It is highly unlikely that any other competitors will replicate the success of the early entrants who made the most of network effects with fast and massive continuous investment. The new economics of IT has radical implications for how organisations should think about their business. Every company is becoming a software company. We used to think some industries were not under threat, but look at what’s happened in transport (Uber), storage and compute (Cloud), media (Buzzfeed, Huffington Post and Breitbart), payments (PayPal), car share (goGet), publishing (Kindle), music (Spotify and iTunes), education (Moocs and Khan Academy) and recruitment (LinkedIn) – all of these industries have been impacted by hyper digital competition. Users are demanding more products and services that can be consumed online, anytime. Even businesses with digital offerings are finding they have to continually improve their services to keep competitors at bay. Amazon now has Prime, Fresh and Go. Google is buying, developing, refining and retiring offerings to remain relevant. Everyone is on the same network for the first time in history This means that everyone has access to all available products. Every market is now global. This allows for both rapid growth and scale-up as a result of network effects and the fulfilment of niche user needs which has resulted in the growth of internet subcultures and patterns of consumption. You only need to look at Tumblr4chan and YouTube to see the growth of niche subcultures online. Think of Vaporwave as a music genre - it only exists on the internet. The same holds true for blogging, where there are specialised blogs that can reach big audiences because the entire addressable market is global – with this trend being exploited by LinkedIn and Medium. Competition is growing as the barriers to entry fall Cheap cloud computing has flattened barriers to entry, allowing new competitors to challenge incumbents. It’s also opened the door to global digital companies, who no longer obey geographic boundaries: they rapidly acquire market share in new countries. That means for instance, Australian retailers are competing against efficient and low cost providers. Amazon is able to track and respond to demand shifts quickly, because of the data it collects – with extremely efficient processes for payments and delivery. This is competition the likes of which local retailers have never dealt with before. The threat posed by new competitors is even more acute because of the nature of platform economics: the first digital movers – think eBay, Amazon and Uber – have set up rapidly scalable platforms that allowed them to grab huge market share. Companies that wait too long are now being left behind or, worse, are locked out. Soon, analysts will measure the value of a company's share price based on the size, scale and pace of their digital transformation programs and boards will be scrutinised for their success in overseeing radical transformation. The smarter analysts will also be examining the type of investment in digital and quizzing CEOs on the scope, speed and outcomes of their transformation efforts. We’re shifting from CAPEX to OPEX Twenty years ago, when you needed to spend enormous amounts on licences and physical computers just to get started, it made sense to have heavy governance and lengthy contracts with specialised vendors. Today, you can avoid paying for licenses altogether if you elect to use open source software. Startups no longer need physical servers, physical firewalls, physical routers, database management system licences, operating system licences – they don’t need to buy any of the software or the hardware required to run their business. They pay by consumption. This is a radical shift that has levelled the playing field and made it easier for new competitors to enter markets. Institutions can take advantage of the same opportunities. They can begin to act like the very startups trying to disrupt them. They can run experiments, they can do things quickly, they don’t have to go through long CAPEX cycles. Today, they can go onto AWS and quickly experiment to test their ideas. They don’t have to wait for the boxes to arrive before starting, significantly reducing cycle times and cost. Consider the opportunities for large employers who were paying millions for Solaris, Oracle RDMBS, WebSphere, Oracle SOA Suite, Microsoft Windows servers, SQL servers, BizTalk servers, not to mention the physical servers, routers and firewalls. These days, you might lose your job if you do buy proprietary software, or spend money on physical servers and the facilities to host them. With the change to procurement, existing governance structures suited to the age of CAPEX also need to be upgraded.
The low cost of computing means companies can afford to use a credit card to buy services. This provides the single greatest opportunity for established businesses of any size to streamline procurement processes and access the service offerings of lower cost competitors.
The pace of change is fast – and getting faster The low cost of IT is encouraging experimentation and rapid learning. That means the rate of automation is intensifying. It’s not just Amazon that’s rapidly increasing its robot workforcefrom 1,000 to 45,000 units in three years. Machine learning and mechanised processes are playing a greater role in white-collar professions like law and accounting. Consumers consistently demonstrate they want cheap and reliable services, and don’t have much interest in engaging with their advisers, with offshoring customer enquiries to call centres being superseded by cognitive interfaces and voice command. The economics of IT have changed Business processes and products need to change with the new economicsDigital transformation means:
  • Responding in real time to consumer needs, not waiting six months for the next release cycle
  • Expanding the market for a product to everyone with a network address, not just people in geographic proximity to shopfronts
  • Applying cheap modern technology to build great products, not relying on ancient legacy systems
  • Reducing risk as teams experiment with products to see what works, rather than aiming for perfection at the end of a project, before finding out users don’t want what’s been delivered
  • Delivering faster, simpler, better products that meet user needs and create increased profitability.

COPING MECHANISMS AREN'T ENOUGH

Organisations are gradually coming to realise this is a new industrial revolution. It is not a phase. It doesn’t require change management. It does require fundamental and radical change, quickly. A Sloan Management Review survey found that 90% of executives anticipate their industry will be digitally disrupted to either a great or moderate extent. But taking action is much harder; in the same study, only 44% of executives thought their company’s preparation for disruption was adequate. Lord Francis Maude, who drove the transformation of government services in the UK between 2010-2015 recently reflected: “... I was sadly disillusioned by the extent of sheer inertia and obstruction, often passive but sometimes active obstruction in the civil service. The worst thing is when civil servants don’t give advice, saying ‘minister, this is a really stupid thing to do’ and rather go along with it but then don’t do it. That is just intolerable and there was far too much of that. So for me it was a disillusioning experience.” The old strategies for outsourcing, governance, procurement and IT, that organisations think are helping them are in fact often holding them back to the detriment of their shareholders, customers, suppliers and most significantly, to their employees. Applying the old model of outsourcing to the new economics of IT won’t suffice Outsourcing to large vendors made sense in the age of CAPEX, when it was expensive to experiment with IT. Now that organisations are competing against firms iterating thousands of times a day, it doesn’t make sense to wait six months for every release cycle, or to put up with exorbitant fees for changes in scope. Even so, too many organisations still apply the old model of outsourcing to the new economics of IT. This outdated strategy creates an opportunity for new entrants to grab market share from industry leaders. As Jeff Bezos famously observed “your margin is my opportunity”. Companies are being held hostage to the Triangle of Despair I’ve written before about how any bureaucracy holds back digital transformation. When I worked to fix government services in the UK, we used to call it the ‘Triangle of Despair’:
  • inappropriate procurement practices that made it impossible to change course
  • heavy governance from the era of CAPEX, even when dealing with the novel, user-facing problems that suit Agile
  • using ancient, proprietary IT systems with far too much manual processing.
Each of these problems feeds off a deskilled workforce that encourages a company to rely on vendors and apply heavy governance to manage risk, rather than building in-house capacity and trusting in their ability to deliver. Transforming a company today means re-skilling every layer, from the boardroom to the call centre. Organisations think they still have time to move Just last month, Myer’s CEO said that he was confident the company was already well-placed to compete with Amazon. That’s the same thing Macy’s CEO was saying last year, before the company was forced to close 100 stores and cut over 10,000 jobs. We’ve already seen digital disruption in the media industry, with Fairfax announcing another $30 million worth of cost cutting just this week. The pace of change is slower in highly-regulated industries like financial services, but we can already see FinTech start-ups undermining incumbents’ margins. Insurers are said to be preparing for a radical reduction of their advisor network. The world’s equity crowdfunding market is doubling in size every year, and continues to be dominated by start-ups. Consumer financial services are now ranked by executives as the third most likely sector to experience significant disruption in the near future. These startups may not kill off the banks but they’ll focus on the most profitable parts of the business, and leave behind those lines that are unprofitable for the incumbents to manage. While the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims in the AFR recently challenged the pace of change in Fintech, Jost Stollman at Tyro made it clear where he thought the challenges lay and more importantly what the future might hold if the industry doesn’t transform itself: “One day we might not be talking about the Big Four but AT&T Financial Services and Alibaba owning banking services in Australia.” Take a moment to consider that the existing financial institutions employ over 420,000 Australians and may be left with the least profitable parts of their current business having moved too slowly to protect their interest from digital competitors to new platforms. Financial institutions that have twigged to the opportunities have moved quickly. Take for instance JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs. Both institutions are applying digital solutions to transform themselves. They’re becoming different businesses, they’re changing their workforces and their offering: “At JPMorgan Chase & Co., a learning machine is parsing financial deals that once kept legal teams busy for thousands of hours. The program, called COIN, for Contract Intelligence, does the mind-numbing job of interpreting commercial-loan agreements that, until the project went online in June, consumed 360,000 hours of work each year by lawyers and loan officers. The software reviews documents in seconds, is less error-prone and never asks for vacation.” More. Goldman Sachs has built an enormous data lake and is applying machine learning to it, with plans to make that information available via APIs: “Historically, the API has been human beings talking to other human beings over the telephone, and all the tools, the content, the analytics, is on the internal platform only. We are shifting this radically and shifting this fast, and we’re packaging everything we do, and actually, we’re redesigning the whole company, around APIs,” he said.” More. What transformation requires If companies are to survive, they need to accept the fact that they are now a software company: that they must own and deliver their digital services, and take full responsibility for their digital offerings. To do that, they’ll need to take three steps. 1/ Re-design their internal structure - It doesn’t make sense to split services between a Chief Digital Officer responsible for the front-end and a Chief Information Officer working on the back-end. Great services rely on a front-office and back-office that work together. Both functions should fall underneath a Chief Digital and Information Officer with responsibility for digital service delivery, while highly commoditised systems like ERPs are handled by shared services centres. Switching to digital also means thinking about the aptitudes and skills of a digital workforce. In Simon Wardley’s parlance Pioneers who are comfortable with Lean and Agile methodologies shouldn’t be allocated tasks involving absolute stability like processing platforms; they need to work on novel, user-facing problems where experimentation and rapid learning is essential. Settlers with the skills to turn MVPs into broader-based products should be encouraged to steal the things Pioneers build, and industrialise them. Town planners skilled in scaling up and perfecting products should be tasked with commoditising existing services. That creates a conveyor built to move products from ideation through to platformization. 2/ Tackle the Triangle of Despair of inappropriate procurement, heavy governance, and broken IT - Procurement should be fast and unbundled, so that companies can reduce costs and access innovative solutions from startups and SMEs; that’s the reason why government agencies are flocking to Australia’s Digital Marketplace and the UK’s G-Cloud. Governance of agile developments don’t involve heavy business cases, which stop teams from changing course based on what they’ve learned; organisations should trust the internal governance built into regular experimentation with users. Legacy systems that leave employees waiting for external systems integrators to give them access to their own data should be retired, in favour of state-of-the-art modern technology they can adapt themselves. Tackling the Triangle of Despair also means solving the deskilling of the workforce on which it feeds. You can’t improve digital capability in a hothouse like an Innovation Lab, and then expect the business to change around it. The small number of employees who get introduced to modern ways of working become frustrated with the bureaucracy around them, and head elsewhere. Instead, there needs to be digital training at every level of the organisation. That includes in the executive suite.
The people running a software company need to know about the software market they are competing within.
3/ Demonstrate political will - Transformation can be painful, especially for people in an organisation’s legacy areas. Too often, that’s an excuse for digital leaders to pull back and create the theatre of transformation – halfway-house solutions they hope will be enough. A range of these is described in my earlier postTransformation requires the political will to see these solutions for what they are: a pretence of digital, that will leave the whole organisation vulnerable to disruption. Instead, leaders need to articulate the need for transformation, and understand that it requires sustained and decisive action, rather than incremental transition. It requires change, not change management. The alternative is to watch the decline of their organisations and plan the transition of workers onto the unemployment queue.

NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT

Australian organisations are unaccustomed to crisis or intense competition. Twenty-six consecutive years of GDP growth have allowed many Australian companies to prosper; but this has also meant that the current generation of Australia’s business leadership has never had to deal with widespread adversity or a serious challenge. Something they have in common with many ‘smashed avocado’ eating millennials. The leaders of the economy's oldest, largest organisations - the brownfields - where expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by hazardous legacy IT/culture - cannot compete with greenfield startups by doing the same thing they’ve always done. And it’s not just Silicon Valley we need to worry about. A rising digital China has 800m users, it spends $369bn on research and development each year and only last year filed 1.3 million patent applications. Its universities are graduating over 600,000 engineers. How do Australian companies survive when faced with this level of competition? Waiting any longer to embrace the change driven by the digital economy and its impact means exposing Australia's leading employers to the great risk of being unable to compete. In time, it will mean putting an organisation on a Receiver’s watch list. Organisations that want to survive and thrive in the digital age need to embrace the changed economics of IT and take decisive, sustained action to transform themselves immediately. This means redesigning their internal structure, tackling the Triangle of Despair, and having the political will to transform themselves, even where it’s painful. Only by taking these steps now can an organisation hope to have a future. ............................ Paul Shetler is an adviser to governments and organisations around the world who are transforming their business. He is a speaker on digital transformation and organisational change. Paul was the CEO of the Digital Transformation Office and the Chief Digital Officer of the Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Agency. You can follow Paul on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @paul_shetler and stay in touch with his work at paulshetler.com
 
[post_title] => Paul Shetler on the new industrial revolution: Digital disruption [post_excerpt] => Transformation not transition, argues Shetler. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => paul-shetler-new-industrial-revolution-digital-disruption [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-04-12 16:00:43 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-04-12 06:00:43 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26887 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26170 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-02-07 10:14:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-06 23:14:20 [post_content] =>   Australia Post has got in deeper with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba to give small and medium-sized Australian companies access to millions of South-East Asian customers via online storefronts. Post, which has been forced to make herculean efforts to find new ways of making money since the letters side of its business went into freefall, will extend its branded online storefronts in South East Asia and beyond China to Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia with Lazada, Alibaba’s South East Asian online sales platform. The deal gives Australian retailers access to more than 560 million potential customers across six countries and covers a wide range of products, including consumer electronics; pet supplies; fashion; health and beauty; and toys and games. Australia Post Executive General Manager Parcels and StarTrack CEO, Bob Black said the arrangement, which will eventually see the company open further online storefronts on Lazada's other sites in Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines, was a positive one for Australian businesses. "International expansion can be daunting for many businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises,” Mr Black said. “That's why we are proud to have partnered with Alibaba to help give Australian businesses access to the booming eCommerce sector in China and now the lucrative South-East Asian market." "We are committed to supporting local Australian businesses and delivering eCommerce solutions that make it easier to grow their businesses whether that be across Australia or overseas," he said. But while the partnership with the world’s largest online retailer opens up new marketplaces for Australian companies, it also gives Asian companies a direct supply route into Australian markets, with Australia Post delivering the products. Executive Director of the Australian Retailers Association Russell Zimmerman has voiced fears the expansion could harm Australian businesses, who he said already copped higher wages and rent and suffered under GST loopholes when customers bought imports online. Alibaba, which is worth more than $200 billion, bought a controlling interest in Singaporean firm Lazada back in April last year and set up its first regional office in Melbourne last weekend. Alibaba founder Jack Ma, one of the richest tech billionaires in the world and worth $22.7 billion according to Forbes, is known to be keen to expand the group’s influence in Australian and New Zealand, making the most of the appetite of the Chinese middle class for clean and eco-friendly products at premium prices.   Alibaba mastermind, Jack Ma.    Australia Post has been busy trying to pull itself up by the bootstraps after posting a $222 million loss in 2015. The company managed to scrape into the black reporting $36 million after-tax profit in August last year, after hiking stamp prices and introducing a two-speed letter system, which appeared to pay off. Parcel deliveries from the boom in online shopping also drove its recovery.   Australia Post’s relationship with Alibaba and its platforms Tmall Global, Global TaoBao and 1688.com began in 2014. [post_title] => Australia Post extends reach in South-East Asia with more branded online storefronts [post_excerpt] => Partnership with Alibaba and Lazada. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => australia-post-extends-reach-south-east-asia-branded-online-storefronts [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-07 10:55:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-06 23:55:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26170 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 24328 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2016-07-07 06:00:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-07-06 20:00:09 [post_content] =>   Employee welding using MIG/MAG welder.   [By Geoff Crittenden, chief executive, Welding Technology Institute of Australia] Public safety is at risk unless Australian politicians legislate to enforce compliance with Australian standards for fabricated steel. There are buildings and infrastructure across Australia manufactured from imported fabricated steel that does not meet Australian standards. This country urgently needs laws to ensure all fabricated steel erected in Australia must be certified as compliant with the standards and the standards must be enforced.
Must we wait for deaths to occur before action is taken?
I’m not asking for special treatment, just compliance with the same set of rules that govern Australian-made steel fabrications. A whistleblower has given me copies of documents that show a grain silo under construction in a rural Australian location, which I will not identify to protect the whistleblower, is being built from imported fabricated steel modules that are not compliant.
A WTIA-certified senior welding inspector’s report shows 10 separate items tested do not comply. Problems identified include undersize, missing and incomplete welds.
[caption id="attachment_24334" align="alignleft" width="287"] Structures at risk. Pic: WTIA[/caption] A separate qualified consultant’s visual weld inspection of the imported silo support structure found none of the welds inspected is compliant with the Australian standard, AS/NZS 1554.1:2014 (Structural Steel Welding). The consultant’s report said: “The welds are deemed unacceptable.” Both reports include photographs that clearly show the sub-standard welds.  

Risk of collapse

Despite the serious safety issues raised in these reports, my understanding is construction is proceeding with no rectification of the non-compliant welds. I am fearful this silo will collapse and could cause fatalities. This silo is just one example of a problem that is rampant across the nation. About 85% of the 600,000 tonnes of fabricated steel imported into Australia every year is non-compliant.
Compliance with Australian standards is not mandatory and there is no way to legally force a structure’s owner to rectify shoddy workmanship.
We need a law that clearly states that no fabricated steel structure can be erected in Australia without being inspected and certified as compliant. [caption id="attachment_24336" align="alignleft" width="143"] Geoff Crittenden[/caption] My colleagues and I in the steel supply chain have provided details of dangerous structures, including a footbridge between two schools in Western Australia, to government agencies but our warnings have been ignored. The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission is a watchdog that protects children from unsafe imported toys and the like, but there is no regulation to protect the public from imported, fabricated steel that poses serious safety risks to all Australians. In April, I gave evidence to the Senate Economics References Committee’s inquiry into the future of Australia's steel industry and explained there was no law requiring fabricated steel to be inspected by a qualified welding inspector to ensure it met Australian welding standards. It was obvious many committee members were unaware of that fact. I had hoped the Senate inquiry may assist in getting the required legislation, but we must now wait for the new parliament to be formulated, so the process is delayed. The issue needs to be reinstated to the parliamentary agenda urgently.

Regulatory intervention required

There is a simple solution to stop substandard fabricated steel products being imported –government support for a regulated inspection scheme. A two-tiered scheme with audited self-certification permitted for some low-risk fabricated products, but compulsory third-party certification for fabricated steel used in high-risk projects, including road, rail, mining and energy infrastructure, is the answer. WTIA, as the welding industry’s peak body, can manage the scheme at no cost to the Federal Government, including facilitating independent, third-party qualified inspectors to ensure welds on imported steel are safe. [caption id="attachment_24335" align="alignright" width="287"] Defects abound: Pic: WTIA[/caption] I fear governments are not taking public safety seriously. Right around Australia, there are bridges, light poles, crash barriers, road gantries and other infrastructure manufactured from imported, fabricated steel that has never been certified as being safe. They all have the potential to fail with a potential loss of life. The Australian steel industry’s future is at risk and it is important to retain a vibrant industry but public safety must be paramount in politicians’ minds.
We need fair competition for Australia’s fabrication and steel industry but, more importantly, we must protect lives.
There is also an economic imperative. When defective welds in imported fabrications are identified, Australian workshops are frequently asked to rework them, increasing whole-of-life costs. If it’s a government project, that cost is ultimately borne by taxpayers. The cost of additional reworking could be avoided if it were illegal to import fabricated steel without it being inspected and certified. I am aware of unsafe structures that have been cut-up and reworked in Australian fabrication shops, but not all unsafe welds are identified because they are not checked by qualified welding inspectors when they reach Australia. There is no doubt the steel industry is in dire straits. The moderate size of Australia’s steel industry, the rapidly declining manufacturing sector, Australia’s proximity to low-cost producers, and the de-regulated compliance environment have made it so vulnerable it is at the tipping point of viability. Without public intervention it is likely BlueScope would have closed its Port Kembla, NSW, operation, probably triggering a general collapse in the steel industry. Arrium is in voluntary administration with debts of $4 billion and workers at its Whyalla, South Australia, steelworks face uncertain futures.
A strong steel industry is critical to the future of Australian manufacturing. Arrium’s 7,000 direct employees are just the tip of the iceberg; more than 14,000 Australians are employed in related jobs.
However, if there was a law in place to enforce the Australian standards, Arrium would not be in the strife it is in today.  

Stopping rust in public policy

Public policy should recognise the importance to Australia of the steel industry and the need to maintain and repair the 2.4 billion tonnes of steel infrastructure that is crucial to the nation’s security and economy. Defence shipbuilding, mining and energy, and civil infrastructure are all reliant on the steel industry and strategically vital to Australian interests. Successive federal governments have withdrawn support for heavy industry and given up on the so-called ‘rust’ industries in favour of the ‘clean’ service and high-tech sectors. That strategy overlooks the steel infrastructure on which Australia relies. The Federal Government has removed much of its ‘red tape’ regulation to try to boost productivity and profit. But there has been little regard to the fact that the world’s most powerful economies are also the most regulated. WTIA supports a free market but sensible regulation is essential to ensure compliance reduces the risk to public safety. About WTIA The Welding Technology Institute of Australia (WTIA) is a national non-profit, membership-based body representing the Australian welding industry’s interests. It has 300 member companies and 1,200 individual members. WTIA facilitates technology transfers and research & development; certifies personnel; conducts education and training; and provides technical services to members.   [post_title] => Shoddy welding ‘will lead to deaths’ [post_excerpt] => Shoddy imported steel warning. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => shoddy-welding-death-risk [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-07-15 09:13:43 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-07-14 23:13:43 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=24328 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 8 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23709 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-04-22 11:15:00 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-04-22 01:15:00 [post_content] => Hobart airport 1_opt An extra 500 metres of runway could transform Hobart Airport into Hobart International Airport and allow flights between the Asia-Pacific region and Tasmania. The federal government has approved a 500-metre extension to the runway at Hobart Airport, in a move which could electrify Tasmania’s already buoyant tourist economy. Tasmania already enjoys an excellent reputation with tourists, with its accent on pristine natural beauty, gourmet produce, world-class wines and old-fashioned charm alongside the expanding global reputation of Hobart's Museum of Old and New Art. Tourism & Transport Forum Australia (TTF) welcomed the runway extension and said tourism had been “a standout performer for the state’s economy.” According to TTF’s most recent research, international visitors to Tasmania are increasing – up an impressive 20 per cent to 212,000. The money they spend is not to be sniffed at either, with $351 million lavished in the apple isle, up a whopping 34 per cent and the strongest performer of all the States and Territories. “The approval of the extension of Hobart Airport’s runway is fantastic news that will only help to boost the Tasmanian visitor economy even more,” said Margy Osmond, TTF CEO. “TTF has been a vocal advocate of the need to upgrade visitor infrastructure in Tasmania and provide better access for international visitors. “How exciting that we are getting so close to the point of finally being able to light up ‘international’ in Hobart International Airport." Ms Osmond praised Federal Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester and Tourism Minister Richard Colbeck for sealing the deal and said it had “the potential to turbocharge the Tasmanian visitor economy and open new opportunities.” “Tassie is becoming an international visitor magnet, so it makes sense for the government to get moving on providing the infrastructure that will finally connect Hobart with the largest international visitor markets for Australia in our broader region," Ms Osmond said. “Imagine what could happen if you could get on an aeroplane in China and fly direct to Tasmania – it would be an absolute boon for the apple isle. Every aeroplane that lands loaded with international visitors at Hobart Airport is more jobs and more economic opportunity for Tasmania.” She said that direct international flights into Hobart could also generate a financial windfall to the Tasmania's regional economies. [post_title] => International flights could take off as Hobart Airport runway extended [post_excerpt] => China to Hobart International? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => international-flights-could-take-off-as-hobart-airport-runway-extended [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-04-22 11:15:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-04-22 01:15:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23709 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 23341 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-03-14 17:56:32 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-03-14 06:56:32 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_23344" align="alignnone" width="640"]GFA1B A scene from Grand Theft Auto.[/caption]   Interactive gaming could be Australia’s next boom industry, a federal senate committee inquiry has heard. As the country’s motor industry grinds to a halt and the rivers of gold from mining start to dry up, there are predictions that the interactive games industry could lead the way in creating jobs, shoring up export volumes and attracting talent back home. The Environment and Communications References Committee has been tasked with reporting on the future of Australia’s video game development industry, examining how to increase employment in the industry, maximise exports and attract overseas video game companies to settle here. The committee will also look at how the government can help the industry flourish by initiating changes to taxation and regulation. Gaming is not confined to schoolkids and slacker adults playing Grand Theft Auto for hours on end, it has become a serious business. Interactive games have a huge variety of applications, whether it they are used in health, mining, aged care or education. For example, interactive games can replace psychometric testing in job interviews; identify hearing problems, stave off dementia and combat teenage bullying. CEO of the Interactive Games and Entertainment Australia (IGEA), Ron Curry told the inquiry: “We hold that interactive games, as the newest and most comprehensive entertainment medium, will open many opportunities for Australian companies which are far wider than just entertainment. Mr Curry said there was huge potential for increasing exports, “These are weightless exports. We do not need to dig them up, they are clean and there is a limitless resource.” The numbers behind the industry are staggering. In 2015 Australians spent almost $3 billion on interactive entertainment (downloadable content, software, equipment etc.). Mr Curry told the inquiry that global revenue from the entertainment side of the interactive gaming business alone in the next couple of years was greater than the cumulative revenue of the global film industry. “When we are talking about games that are being released that are bigger than all box office hits, I guess it is a bit mind-boggling for those who are not engaged in the industry to understand how big it is,” he said. “We are not just creating a bunch of developers who are drinking Coca-Cola and playing shoot-em-up games; we are creating the next level of business, education, defence. This is where they are learning.” Supporting this industry could have significant implications for regional Australia: both for creating jobs and to connect people to services and each other. It also makes the regional roll-out of the National Broadband Network a government priority. “That is the exciting part about it. You can be in Noosa, or Wangaratta or Wagga and still set up a viable business in our space. What you need is the infrastructure [the NBN]," Mr Curry said. “If the infrastructure is there it is possible to keep employment. We know this industry employs predominantly young people, so what we are doing is keeping young people in regional centres. We are employing them and we are creating an export market.” Two of the biggest growth areas are Virtual Reality (VR), which is about stepping into a different world and Augmented Reality (AR), where you can add extra information onto what you are seeing in the real world. Virtual reality is particularly exciting in Australia, where huge distances separate people, Mr Curry said. “Regional centres can connect with experts in population centres using tools like VR and can get much more personal communication across – not just a voice on a video screen, but body language.” How the government can help The industry is pressing for the introduction of a producer offset, similar to the one enjoyed by Australia’s film and TV industry. Neil Boyd, Director of Business Development and Marketing at Academy of Interactive Entertainment said that extending the producer offset to interactive games would help bigger studios, such as EA, Halfbrick and Wargaming, some of which had moved overseas during the global financial crisis when the Australian dollar was strong. Large studios are training grounds for people who later establish independent studios. They also provide jobs and help stem the brain drain of developers going to the US, Canada and Europe. Other industry suggestions for government help included start-up funding and mentoring for smaller projects and better targeting Export Market Development Grants to digital businesses. Several industry figures also suggested that the government provide some help with travel expenses to attend domestic and international industry events, which were often critical for companies to score deals with companies like Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. The federal government cut short the three-year $20 million Interactive Games Fund in 2014, leaving $10 million unspent. China Leon Young, CEO of educational games company 2and2, said the biggest game market was China. He said it was “trending way above the US” and had the largest spend on apps and mobile digital content. Mr Young said the Australian government could boost the industry’s profile by subsidising regular trade missions to China and helping Australian games companies that did business in China network with each other. He said strengthening relationships with the Chinese government could help Australian companies understand and navigate regulations, which could limit the commercial risk to companies of having a game pulled or not published. [post_title] => Game on: How interactive games could save Australia [post_excerpt] => Rebirthing regional Australia with virtual reality. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => game-on-how-interactive-games-could-save-australia [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-03-15 10:13:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-03-14 23:13:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23341 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 20860 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2015-08-03 17:22:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-08-03 07:22:17 [post_content] =>   Jacobs Creek vines Revenue from Australian wine exports is up for the first time in nine years, says the Commonwealth government agency responsible for regulating, developing and marketing the industry. Stuart Barclay from Wines Australia, the marketing arm of the Australian Grape and Wine Authority, said wine exports increased by 5 per cent to $1.89 billion in the last 12 months, representing the first increase in export revenue for Australian wines since 2006/2007. Mr Barclay said the positive figures were primarily driven by Asian thirst for Australian wines but free trade agreements, a more competitive Australian dollar and better awareness around Australian wine quality also contributed to the 724 million litres of Australian wine which flowed overseas in the last financial year. But Australian wine makers are not out of the woods yet. Climate change, a continuing glut of fruit, the threat posed by imports, the hard to crack American market and fluctuating exchange rates all have to be navigated. The growth of Asian markets Mr Barclay, who is the General Manager of Market Development at Wine Australia, said the rapidly expanding Asian-Pacific market was one of the most important for Australian wine makers. The fastest growth was the Chinese market, where sales were up 32 per cent in the last 12 months and worth a whopping $280 million. Meanwhile, exports to Hong Kong are up 28 per cent and worth $112 million and lower tariffs have boosted trade with Japan. “Relatively, we are near them and it’s easy for us to go and do business there,” Mr Barclay said. Asian drinkers are not swilling cask wine either. China is the number one market for more expensive Australian wines at more than $7.50 per litre. “We are seeing really fantastic growth in high price points [in Asia], helped by a free trade agreement that hasn’t yet been ratified. They’re recognising that Australia is a real fine wine player and driving exports in these markets,” Mr Barclay said. But while consumers in China, Hong Kong and Japan are enthusiastically sipping their Grange, the American market has proven more intractable. Since about 2008, Australian wine exports to the US have suffered from a glut of fruit and wine on the market, the GFC and the strong Australian dollar, all of which have affected the profitability. “As the Australian dollar increased in value quite dramatically and made exports more expensive there was lots of stock on the ground in North America,” he said. The three-tier American system of importers, distributors and wholesalers, and retailers mean the sheer scale and complexity of the American market are the biggest hurdles for Australian winemakers to overcome, coupled with the difficulties distance presents. In an effort to confront these problems, Wine Australia runs a marketing program for producers wanting to enter or re-enter the massive American market. “If you’ve lost your importer or distributor it’s a challenge to go back into the market because it’s such a long way away. We help wineries get back into the market,” Mr Barclay said. In the two years that the program has been running, it has helped 30 wineries – large and small – get or regain a foothold in the US market. “We try to open the doors and have conversations with the relevant distributors and retailers, facilitate people having access to the right people.” Whichever market Australian winemakers target – be it the UK, China or the US – Mr Barclay said it was vital to uphold the reputation of Australian wines and tailor the message to each market. The challenge was also to synthesise the large variety of wines the country produced. “Australia is a very diverse producing country. We have 65 producing regions - which is huge - we have a huge amount of different varietals and we have a lot of different styles and regions with hot and cold climates,” he said. One of the ways Wines Australia promotes Aussie wine is by talking to sommeliers, wine and lifestyle journalists, retailers, bars and restaurants. Part of this its new Twitter campaign, #Auswinesontour, which attempts to boost the profile of Australian winemakers when they travel overseas, a popular option in the off-season. The campaign encourages vignerons to tweet about their wines and their travels in order to lift media profiles, generate public interest and connect them with fellow wine industry people in the country they’re visiting. Of course, it’s not just all about exports. The domestic market is vital to winemakers, especially since Australians tend to be very partial to a drop of Aussie wine. In fact, Australian consumers drink a relatively low amount of imported wines compared to wine drinkers in other countries, with only around 16.6 per cent of wine sold here being imported. In New Zealand, around half of the wine drunk comes from elsewhere. Wine industry trends Organic and biodynamic wines are slowly but surely becoming more popular, with demand led by Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Norway, both countries which legislate that a certain amount of organic wine must be available. The market is still very small but it’s growing in other markets around the world and Mr Barclay said that when it does take off, Australia is well placed to capitalise on it, with a relatively large amount of grapes grown fitting the bill, particularly from regions such as Riverland, South Australia. “We have the resources, the global markets haven’t really awakened yet to that scene,” he said. It’s a similar story with grape varieties that are less common on Australian soil than in Europe, grapes like tempranillo, sangiovese and viognier. “There’s a global appetite for these varietals but markets don’t necessarily think of Australia producing those varietals.” Shiraz, cabernet, chardonnay, reisling and sauvignon blanc are still the big hitters when it comes to Australian wine production, where it’s for domestic consumption or export. Interestingly there are signs that the ABC backlash (Anything But Chardonnay) is on the wane, in other countries at least. The character of Aussie chardonnays has undergone sea change in the past decade; there’s less oak and much more complexity with regional characters really showing through. This seismic shift hasn’t gone unnoticed by UK sommeliers, who have been enthusiastically knocking it back. “It seems to be increasing in awareness again. In the UK everyone is talking chardonnay up at the moment,” Mr Barclay said. “We’ve had lots of interest from the UK and sommeliers. The rhetoric around is that Australia is producing some of the best chardonnay at the moment but it’s still under pressure domestically.” Despite this burst of British enthusiasm for chardonnay, Mr Barclay said chardonnay was unlikely to overtake sauvignon blanc any time soon. As well as being hugely popular in Australia, sauvignon blanc has also made in-roads into the American and Chinese markets. [post_title] => Australian wine export revenue up for the first time in nine years: government agency [post_excerpt] => Booming Asian market for Aussie wines. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => australian-wine-export-revenue-up-for-the-first-time-in-nine-years-government-agency [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-08-04 10:45:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-08-04 00:45:38 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=20860 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 19176 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2015-04-20 19:35:32 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-04-20 09:35:32 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_19179" align="alignnone" width="300"]Iain Lobban valedictory speech 2014 Sir Iain Lobban's valedictory speech in 2014. Pic: GCHQ[/caption]   Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced that the United Kingdom’s former chief communications and cyber spy has joined the high level panel of experts guiding the government’s latest full scale review of Australia’s online defences as authorities seek to bolster protections and resilience against the rising tide of electronic assaults. In a low key announcement over the weekend, Mr Abbott revealed that the former director of the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) Sir Iain Lobban KCMG CB, has signed up to help advise the government, a move that will carry considerable weight within local intelligence and defence circles. The British equivalent of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), GCHQ performs broadly similar roles in not only the covert collection of signals and communications intelligence through eavesdropping and monitoring, but also plays a key role in safeguarding cryptography and setting minimum communications and computing security standards. [caption id="attachment_19180" align="alignnone" width="300"]gchq_poppy_air_9233 GCHQ's 'Donut' headquarters in Cheltenham. Pic: GCHQ[/caption]   Military and civilian cyber security authorities across the so called ‘Five Eyes’ alliance (an intelligence sharing arrangement between Australia, the UK, United States, Canada and New Zealand) have been scrambling to better coordinate activities between domestic and international agencies in the wake of a big upswing in nation-state sponsored electronic espionage attacks that have increasingly been directed at corporate as well as government and military systems. While the United States has been making conspicuous first and second track diplomatic noise about cyber intrusions which Washington has been sheeting back to China, particularly a dedicated unit within the People’s Liberation Army, recent disputes with Russia that have culminated in sanctions are also understood to have elevated concerns within industry and government. Concerns over the high and rising levels of sophistication and stealth of Russia’s cyber intrusion capabilities have also been propelled by the now infamous Edward Snowden incident that culminated in Russia providing sanctuary to former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who has publicly revealed reams of otherwise secret and top secret operational information on intelligence collection capabilities and the levels of government cooperation from within major technology companies. The Snowden leaks, which often resulted in profound diplomatic embarrassment and tensions following the exposure of surveillance targets including ostensibly friendly heads of state, have triggered some of the most wide-ranging overhauls of internal cyber-security processes and protocols in an effort to prevent a repeat of the incident. In Australia much of the cybersecurity and intelligence coordination and outreach between both agencies and industry has been handed to the recently formed Australian Cyber Security Centre that has been handed the role of leading the Australian Government’s operational response to cyber security incidents. Incorporating elements from ASD, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Australian Crime Commission, CERT Australia and the former Defence Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC), the new body has taken on a far more public and collaborative role in terms of engaging with industries and sectors who now need to be part of the cyber protection mix by quickly accessing expert, appropriately authorised and coordinated support. The ACSC has also taken it upon itself to organise Australia’s first officially government sponsored and backed public cyber security summit in Canberra where key defence and national security officials will update agencies and industry on the progress of latest cyber security review. Among those briefing delegates will be Attorney General Senator George Brandis, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Associate Secretary Dr Margot McCarthy and the Australian Signals Directorate’s Deputy Director, Cyber and Information Security, Major General Stephen Day. On the industry side the Commonwealth Bank of Australia has offered-up its Chief Information and Trust Officer, Ben Heyes to provide a perspective on creating a “truly timely, actionable, cross-industry information sharing partnership.” Google has also let its “Digital Janitor” -- a security engineer by the name of Darren Bilby -- out of the virtual broom cupboard to demonstrate some of the open source security tools used by the advertising and search behemoth to mitigate incidents and keep miscreants at bay. The ACSC’s inaugural 2015 conference takes place on over the 22-23 April at the National Convention Centre in Canberra. [post_title] => Abbott calls in Britain's former top cyber spook [post_excerpt] => Former GCHQ chief Iain-Lobban on cyber review panel. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => abbott-calls-in-britains-former-top-cyber-spook [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-04-21 11:48:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-04-21 01:48:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=19176 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 19040 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2015-04-14 12:40:03 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-04-14 02:40:03 [post_content] => yay! tourist picture! Tourism Australia (TA) is seeking a Chinese IT and media agency to help it spearhead a new marketing campaign to attract more Chinese tourists to holiday in Australia. Chinese tourism is already the fastest growing and most valuable inbound market to Australia: about 789,000 Chinese tourists visited Australia in the year to September 2014 – up ten per cent from the year before - and they spent a whopping $5.4 billion. Chinese visitors eclipsed visitor numbers from every other country, except New Zealand, and they stayed longer and significantly outspent tourists from every other country. It’s a lucrative market that is poised to become even more profitable in years to come. Figures recently released by Tourism Australia suggest that annual spending by Chinese visitors to Australia could rise to $13 billion annually by 2020 and TA wants to ensure numbers continue to build. TA request for tender on the Austender website said that it was looking for an agency located in China which was “deeply experienced in delivering large scale responsive websites, including support and hosting capabilities; through to creative development of online, mobile and social media campaigns” to reach, engage and target consumers with “the idea of an Australian holiday”. Other requirements include local representation in Shanghai and extensive knowledge of the local market in mainland China. Tourism Australia is deadly serious about increasing its hold on the Chinese tourism market and it has focused its efforts over the years. It launched the consumer website Austrlia.cn in 2012, which included Sina Weibo, a microblogging website and Youku, an official TA video space and last November. In November last year it ran a six-day media campaign on Weibo following the country’s president, Xi Jinping and his wife as they toured around Australia. Named ‘Dada’s Visit to Australia’ (the nickname the Chinese have given their president, like papa) the campaign focused on Australian food and culture as the presidential couple travelled to Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Tasmania. The campaign also got interactive by asking Chinese people living in Australia or who had visited the country to make travel and food recommendations as the couple journeyed. The campaign attracted 120 million visitors to TA’s Weibo website and secured a 300 per cent increase in traffic. Food and wine were also the focus during a Tourism Australia dinner for 400 “influencers” held in Shanghai last November which showcased Australian food and wine. The importance of the Chinese tourism dollar is not lost on the federal government either with Prime Minister Tony Abbott announcing earlier this week that Chinese travellers can now get multiple entry three-year tourist visas. Prior to this visas had to be guaranteed by travel agents. Engaging a Chinese company to help mount a successful marketing campaign should help Tourism Australia gain a deeper understand of how to make Australia more appealing to Chinese tourists and to better target marketing. Brian Hennessy and Yirong Li from Chinese-Australian company China Australia Consult, which prepares individuals and companies for living and doing business in China, said Chinese tourists had a particular way of approaching overseas holidays. They said Chinese tourists would want to cram in as many sights as possible in order to boast about their visit on their return and to gain 'face'. “Unfortunately, our guests may not be interested in delving too deeply into Western culture. And they will not want to spend a lot of time enjoying just a few very interesting attractions. Instead, they would prefer to sample as many local attractions that they can possibly fit into their tight schedule. This way they believe that they will be getting their money’s worth.” Like other visitors, they would be keen to experience Australia's natural beauty but they would be likely to avoid acquiring a tan, since many associated this with peasants. “If we reflect on where Chinese people are coming from – a Confucian mono-culture with a totalitarian government, and crowded mega-cities with polluted skies and unsafe water – it should come as no surprise to learn that as well as visiting our natural wonders, they will also want to experience our relaxing, healthy, lifestyle." Mr Hennessy and Ms Li said many Chinese tourists would put shopping near the top of their to-do lists, since family, friends and colleagues expected gifts on their return. Trying different food and cuisines would also be near the top of the list. “Although famous brand items can be purchased in any large city in China, items purchased abroad accrue more face and are less likely to be fake. They will also want to buy local iconic products – particularly those associated with native flora and fauna,” they said. The two even have some suggestions for Australian retailers when dealing with Chinese tourists. “Give them a warm welcome and a lot of attention. Offer to assist. Target group leaders – the rest might follow. Expect them to bargain and do whatever you need to do to make them think that they are getting a good deal. For example; add a token gift to the purchase (old stock that won’t move, a dashboard kangaroo, or a humble koala key-ring)," they said. [post_title] => Tourism Australia hunts for Chinese company to push Australia to mainland tourists [post_excerpt] => Tourism Australia to boost Chinese visitor numbers. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => wanted-chinese-company-to-sell-australia-to-chinese-tourists [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2015-04-14 13:30:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2015-04-14 03:30:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=19040 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 17170 [post_author] => 671 [post_date] => 2014-11-17 22:52:56 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-11-17 11:52:56 [post_content] => Queensland, Australia Government mail monopoly Australia Post has walked away from the birth of the China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) with a plum deal to sell lucrative multi-currency pre-paid travel payment cards from China Union Pay (CUP), the world’s second biggest producer of plastic money products. In a day that saw dairy farmers, seafood producers and winemakers gain a big reduction in tariffs to the massive Chinese market, Post managed to secure a small -- but highly symbolic -- deal that will allow it to sell branded products that can be loaded up with both Australian dollars and Chinese Yuan. It’s a tie-up that’s unlikely to impress either local banks or US card schemes like Visa and MasterCard which have to deal with the rise of CUP as not just a competitor for transactions in China, but transactions made overseas by CUP cardholders that would once have been made on US products. With Post’s balance sheet this year finally falling into the red, the waning paper infrastructure giant is rapidly trying to reinvent itself in new and profitable markets as the age of letters and stamps ebbs away from it. While the money Post will make from the deal is highly unlikely to make any material difference to its bottom line, its symbolism is nonetheless substantial   not least because it has managed to successfully align its brand with what will become one of Australia’s most important and rapidly growing overseas parcel freight markets for years to come. Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s office on Monday revealed that the “AUD/RMB Dual Currency UnionPay Card Issuing Cooperation Heads of Agreement” – one of 14 commercial agreements signed-off on the sidelines of the main ChAFTA ‘Declaration of Intent’   was struck between Ahmed Fahour, Managing Director and Group Chief Executive Australia Post; Ge Huayong, Chairman China UnionPay and Mr Tian Guoli, Chairman Bank of China. Mr Fahour said the deal was part of a “continued partnership with both China UnionPay and Bank of China to make it simpler for Chinese and Australian consumers and businesses to make and receive payments.” “More than 400,000 Australians are expected to travel to China in 2015. This new travel card enables Australians to purchase and pre-load their travel card with dual currencies – Chinese Yuan (CNY) and Australia Dollars (AUD) – and is perfect for Australian travellers to China, providing them with a secure and convenient way to access their funds overseas,” Mr Fahour said. Lantern [Yuyuan Shopping Center / Shanghai] Equally as important it shows that an Australian government enterprise has no problems selling CUP’s products here, even if Australia’s domestic banks have been a little slow on the uptake in terms of dealing with CUP. In the world of international electronic payments, where US card schemes like American Express, Visa and MasterCard have dominated for more than 20 years, the rise of CUP poses a real competitive challenge in terms of access to new markets needed to maintain solid growth in transactional volume. With CUP now claiming to have more than 4.5 billion cards on issue and acceptance from more than 23 million merchants worldwide, it’s not hard to see why banks and even humble postal services are seeking to expand their portfolio. The chairman of UnionPay International, CUP’s international arm, Mr Ge Huayong, said that China was  Australia’s number one trade partner, as well as the most important source country for new immigrants and foreign students, according the Post statement. But securing the transactional loyalty of the Chinese diaspora is not just a retention strategy. It’s also a major channel to promote CUP’s acceptance within the merchant community to quickly get it on par with US brands. Mr Ge Huayong said that “to keep up with this trend, UnionPay International has been investing heavily in the Australian market and reached overall cooperation with major local institutions,” “In 2015, we are expecting to expand the UnionPay card acceptance network to cover 60 per cent of local merchants,” he said of the Australian market. Bank of China Chairman,Mr Tian Guoli, said the introduction of the new multi-currency travel card is one of the outstanding results produced in the wake of the Australia-China strategic partnership. "Bank of China will draw on its outstanding business expertise and superiority to assist the Travel Prepaid Card to stimulate and drive the exchange of personnel between our two countries." Should Mr Fahour’s contract as Australia’s highest paid public servant on $4.8 million a year abruptly become the victim of domestic public sector austerity measures, he may yet find suitors for his talents from afar. The efficiency prospects for a state-authorised Digital Mailbox in China would be immense to say the least. [post_title] => Australia Post clinches China FTA payments deal [post_excerpt] => China Union Pay expands in Australia through local mail service. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => australia-post-clinches-china-fta-payments-deal [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-11-18 00:56:12 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-11-17 13:56:12 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=17170 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 7249 [post_author] => 655 [post_date] => 2013-10-22 09:28:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-10-22 09:28:14 [post_content] =>

By Julian Bajkowski

The City of Sydney is again ramping up its promotion of trigeneration as a viable alternative means of producing energy in the heart of the city.

Having parked a wider electricity overhaul critics claimed would cost up to $5 billion, the CBD council is now pushing the New South Wales Parliament to overhaul what it describes as outdated electricity regulations that prevent the installation of so-called Tri-gen systems.

The NSW Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee into trigeneration has been told by the City of Sydney’s Chief Development Officer Energy and Climate Change, Allan Jones, that major business groups are keen to get more efficient energy systems to Australia as well as reducing carbon emissions.

Tri-gen systems are typically gas-fired and can be located underground to generate electricity locally that can then be fed back into the grid during times of peak demand.

The advantage of the systems is that they use temperature inversion technology on their exhaust systems to run chiller units for cooling that would otherwise require electricity.

Tri-gen plants are increasingly common in data centres and heavy industry because they are usually far more efficient at generating energy when and as required at a lower cost.

But while the plants are economical for some buildings, the City of Sydney has issues with restrictions in terms of sharing electricity output and potentially bypassing the main coal fired grid.

“While the current regulations allow installation of a trigeneration plant in a single building, they make it very difficult to install bigger, more efficient plants which could supply electricity to a cluster of neighbouring buildings because of the prohibitive cost of transporting electricity at short distances,” Mr Jones said.

“The way the regulations work now, the network charges to move electricity across the road can be as large as bringing electricity on the network all the way down from the Hunter Valley.”

Mr Jones said that regulations overseas meant trigeneration plants were more economically viable and that this had led to the installation of “thousands of megawatts of trigeneration power and significantly slashed carbon emissions.”

Many of those countries, like Australia, have access to relatively cheap and plentiful supplies of gas. They include the United States, Britian, Russia, China, Germany, India and Japan.

In Germany, which is keenly developing tri-gen technology for export, the more localised solution is shaping up to the nation’s increasingly mothballed nuclear industry.

According to the City of Sydney, the Parliamentary committee received 44 submissions from “major groups including Property Council of Australia, Clean Energy Council, Energy Efficiency Council and Sydney Airport supporting calls for changes to the regulations to encourage the installation of trigeneration that is more than twice as energy efficient as the coal-fired power currently producing the majority of Sydney’s electricity.”

While that may be the case, the sleeper issue in the tri-gen debate is securing affordable gas supply and issues surrounding its provenance.

The O’Farrell state government has recently been forced to walk a political tightrope over the highly controversial expansion of Coal Seam Gas (CSG) extraction in the state.

Farmers and conservationists have attacked extraction methods which they say has the potential to permanently degrade valuable underground water supplies because of the way CSG and related products are pumped to the surface.

A further complication is disagreement over how much methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gasses, is coincidently released into the atmosphere and not captured during extraction.

There are also differences in opinion between the gas production industry, energy customers farmers and environmental advocates as to whether or not there will be a gas glut if full scale extraction goes ahead in NSW.

Even with the differences, Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore is adamant the time is now right for tri-gen to put a dent into carbon emmissions.

“We are at a critical moment in efforts to tackle climate change. Action to create lower-carbon electricity is essential and we will continue to demonstrate leadership on this important issue by arguing a case with our state and federal governments to bring clean energy options to our cities,” Ms Moore said.

“We believe that with the right regulatory environment which is now in place in countries such as the UK, trigeneration will be able to supply 70 per cent of power needs in our local government area by 2030 with the other 30 per cent coming from solar and wind.”

[post_title] => City of Sydney demands Trigeneration rules be relaxed [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => city-of-sydney-demands-trigeneration-rules-be-relaxed [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-02-11 11:39:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-02-11 00:39:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 7120 [post_author] => 655 [post_date] => 2013-07-26 09:38:15 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-07-26 09:38:15 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_9603" align="alignnone" width="369"]Image of Philip Ruddock: Liberal Party New South Wales. Image of Philip Ruddock: Liberal Party New South Wales.[/caption] By Julian Bajkowski Former Attorney General and Opposition Cabinet Secretary Philip Ruddock has accused the Labor Government of piling extra work onto intelligence and security agencies but not sufficiently resourcing them - while at the same time pursuing cosmetic exercises in rebranding. Speaking at the Digital Security Summit 2013 in Canberra on Thursday, Mr Ruddock questioned whether an increase in the security assessment workload of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation was draining financial resources to deal with other issues like cyber espionage. Mr Ruddock stressed that his opinions were of a personal nature and not official Coalition policy. The caveat did little to deter the attention of several security agency executives trained to listen. “ASIO is now dealing with something in the order of 34,000 security assessments in relation to individuals who arrived in Australia without lawful authority,” Mr Ruddock said. “ASIO is having to undertake an increasing number of counter terrorism security assessments… they’ve increased by something in the order of 11 per cent without additional resources of substance. “Yet there is an expectation in relation to the area of cyber-security in relation to dealing with some of the other risks that we face that the organisation is still going to be as competent and well-resourced in to be able to deal with those issue,” Mr Ruddock said. “Defence expenditure is now at a 75 year low. I recently spoke in the Parliament on the tabling of the expenditure report [of] our security agency and the shifting priorities and demands. This was a matter of key concern to me. I suspect that some of the responses in this area are politically driven rather than a rational assessment of what those needs might be,” he said. Mr Ruddock told delegates that ASIO was now having to undertake an increasing number of counter terrorism security assessments that had increased in the “order of 11 per cent without additional resources of substance.” “Yet there is an expectation in relation to the area of cyber security in relation to dealing with some of the other risks that we face that the organisation is still going to be as competent and well-resourced in to be able to deal with those issues,” Mr Ruddock said. “In other words we are giving our agencies more to do but not the capacity to do it. I think we would be right to be worried if an Australian Cyber Security Centre delivers in outcomes rather than continues to do what it’s done before – I hope it can.” Mr Ruddock said Cyber Security Operations Centre reporting had revealed that that there were 1289 cyber attacks in 2011 that increased to 1790 attacks in 2012. “Already 789 had occurred up until May 2013,” he said, adding that “80 per cent of those attacks investigated were seen to be state sponsored. “So the resourcing issues, to my way of thinking, don’t match the risk.” But reliable intelligence in Coalition funding plans is proving a challenge to obtain and there does not yet appear to be any new money for spies on the table from the Coalition. Asked what percentage of funding increase might redress the resource deficiency for cyber security, Mr Ruddock said funding was a matter of priorities in a Budget context. “Let me be realistic, there is money going to be stripped out of the Budget, probably even in the next week because of some of the other expenditure priorities – that will happen and I don’t think they will be found very easily,” Mr Ruddock said. The former chief law officer noted that the money had to come from somewhere. “These issues are only going to be fundamentally addressed when you get real substantial growth back in the Australian economy. “One thing we don’t hear about …. is how you generate the growth in corporate activity generally that will lead to large tax collections.” One active and growing corporation that has the attention of agencies and politicians alike is Huawei which has reached out to former Australian politicians to assist with policy issues. The Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturer has been excluded from supplying kit to build the National Broadband Network because of national security concerns. Although Mr Ruddock did not take issue with security advice on Huawei, he questioned the broader context of the decision. “I think Huawei makes a good point when they say ‘we are not the only Chinese supplier’ and that many of the other suppliers are in fact sourcing material in China,” Mr Ruddock said. He also pointed to the Chinese company’s willingness to fund supervision. “I know the Brits went down the route of accepting money from Huawei to establish an agency that was going to supervise the operations that they were undertaking in the United Kingdom, and I think they’d do the same for us,” Mr Ruddock said But he observed that “Some people are questioning whether it is robust enough.” “To my way of thinking, if I we’re talking to the agencies – and I haven’t talked to the agencies [about this] in detail – I’d be asking questions about the very point that Huawei did make. “To what extent are other agencies sourcing their material from China leaving also us exposed? And is it we treat one significantly differently to others?” Mr Ruddock said. "I think what also has to be put in question is establishing is to whether or not there are other ways of establishing that the way in which the task is being undertaken is not going to be such that it leaves youy exposed. “I can’t answer those questions myself, but I will certainly be asking them of the experts.” Huawei’s offer to subsidise potential supervisors sits in sharp contrast with the financial contribution of established multinational technology companies that are under fire in Australia, Britain and Europe for profit shifting to minimise tax obligations. Opposition Communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull has already flagged that he is not comfortable with negligible tax receipts from companies earing profits in the billions in Australia and the cause of revenue is clearly not lost on Mr Ruddock either. Asked if he believed there was scope for reform on profit shifting arrangements, Mr Ruddock said “there is scope for reform if people wish to pursue it. My view is that to the greatest extent that you can, it ought to be a level playing field.” “I have always been concerned that if profits are generated here, relevant taxes should be paid here. I know it gets more complex, and I know there is a great deal of discussion about these issues particularly involving our tax officials, the United States, Europe, Britain. “I am not about arguing that some people should be paying more taxes than others, I just put the proposition: the principle position is that if you make a profit here, and others are taxed for profits, other interests simply because they are overseas owned or operate overseas shouldn’t to be able to obtain a different form of treatment.” [post_title] => Ruddock frets on cyber espionage funding [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => ruddock-frets-on-cyber-espionage-funding [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-02-11 10:29:13 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-02-10 23:29:13 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 7017 [post_author] => 655 [post_date] => 2013-05-13 14:42:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-05-13 14:42:35 [post_content] =>

By Paul Hemsley

The Queensland government has developed Australia’s first test to detect the new avian influenza H7N9 in humans in an effort to prepare for a potential pandemic of the recently discovered mutation of the virus.

Influenza is a virus that frequently mutates and its variations in the avian variety have proven no different since the initial spread of the H5N1 subtype across Asia in 2003, which quickly led to a pandemic across the Middle East and Europe in 2005. It is a virus that is contagious to humans through contact with infected birds, but it is more difficult to spread from human-to-human.

The previous form of Bird Flu has since mutated into another form, with the discovery of the H7N9 subtype in February and March 2013 in Eastern China when. Consequences of the H7N9 infection include pneumonia, respiratory failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and even death according to reports to the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention that were cited in the New England Journal of Medicine (Mass.).

Persistent mutations have historically kept scientists around the world busy by constantly having to develop different vaccines just to keep pace with the continual changes in the virus sub types and strains.

The Queensland government has taken up the challenge of trying to prevent the potential spread to Australia of H7N9 even though the virus has so-far only been detected in Eastern China and Taiwan.

According to Queensland Health, scientists working for Pathology Queensland’s Microbiology Department and the Queensland Paediatric Infectious Disease Laboratory created the latest test for H7N9 to detect the latest strain of the avian flu.

The test involves taking a swab from the throats of people suspected of having influenza. The technical description of this procedure is a nasopharyngeal swab or nasopharyngeal aspirates.

These swabs are then sent to Pathology Queensland Central Laboratory at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) campus where the H7N9 strain can be immediately recognised at a genetic level by the scientists involved.

Queensland Minister for Health, Lawrence Springborg said his government believes there is no similar screening test incorporating the identification of the H7N9 strain in Australia.

“The fact this test has been developed right here in Queensland is a testament to the quality work of our microbiologists and lab technicians, and I applaud their initiative in helping to protect our communities,” Mr Springborg said.

Pathology Queensland director of microbiology, Professor Graeme Nimmo said the test was essential in helping Australia keep the virus at bay.

“It allows cases to be detected very rapidly, enabling treatment to commence in as short a possible time, limiting the spread of the disease and the impact on the community,” Professor Nimmo said.

[post_title] => New bird flu detection tests fly from Queensland [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => new-bird-flu-detection-tests-fly-from-queensland [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-02-11 13:12:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-02-11 02:12:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 6855 [post_author] => 655 [post_date] => 2012-12-18 11:00:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2012-12-18 11:00:39 [post_content] =>

By Paul Hemsley

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has worked to contain a potential outbreak of Dengue Fever spread by Asian Tiger mosquitoes found in a Melbourne private post entry quarantine centre.

Dengue Fever is a tropical disease that is transmitted to humans via mosquito bites. The disease’s symptoms can range from a mild fever to a potentially life-threatening blood-related illness.

Usually found in Northern Australia, state and federal health authorities are trying to stop the southern spread of the mosquito-borne virus.

According to the DAFF, a bio-security officer found live mosquitoes in two glasshouses Thursday last week during a scheduled inspection of live plants imported from China.

DAFF personnel immediately destroyed the plants and exterminated all the mosquitoes present in the glasshouses.

A DAFF spokesperson said the mosquitoes were subsequently sprayed with a fine insecticide mist under DAFF supervision to exterminate any adult mosquitoes.

“No Asian tiger mosquitoes have been trapped or detected outside the greenhouses, and no live mosquitoes have been found over the weekend,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said DAFF notified the Victorian Department of Health, the federal Department of Health and Ageing and the National Arbovirus and Malaria Advisory Committee (NAMAC) about the finding.

[post_title] => Asian Tiger mosquitoes found in Melbourne [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => asian-tiger-mosquitoes-found-in-melbourne [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-02-11 12:32:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-02-11 01:32:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [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] => 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. 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china

City of Sydney demands Trigeneration rules be relaxed

By Julian Bajkowski The City of Sydney is again ramping up its promotion of trigeneration as a viable alternative means of producing energy in the heart of the city. Having parked a wider electricity overhaul critics claimed would cost up to $5 billion, the CBD council is now pushing the New South Wales Parliament to […]

Philip-ruddock_0

Ruddock frets on cyber espionage funding

By Julian Bajkowski Former Attorney General and Opposition Cabinet Secretary Philip Ruddock has accused the Labor Government of piling extra work onto intelligence and security agencies but not sufficiently resourcing them – while at the same time pursuing cosmetic exercises in rebranding. Speaking at the Digital Security Summit 2013 in Canberra on Thursday, Mr Ruddock […]

New bird flu detection tests fly from Queensland

By Paul Hemsley The Queensland government has developed Australia’s first test to detect the new avian influenza H7N9 in humans in an effort to prepare for a potential pandemic of the recently discovered mutation of the virus. Influenza is a virus that frequently mutates and its variations in the avian variety have proven no different […]

Asian Tiger mosquitoes found in Melbourne

By Paul Hemsley The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) has worked to contain a potential outbreak of Dengue Fever spread by Asian Tiger mosquitoes found in a Melbourne private post entry quarantine centre. Dengue Fever is a tropical disease that is transmitted to humans via mosquito bites. The disease’s symptoms can range from […]