NSW: HSC Top Schools and Students Revealed

Arriving in Australia only two years ago from war-torn north-eastern Syria, Domara Eskandar has come on top in two courses for this year’s high school certificate (HSC).

“Mum was very excited that my hard work paid off,” Eskandar, who came first in two advanced Arabic courses, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Eskandar, a student from St Narsai Assyrian Christian College Sydney, is one of the 127 students who topped their subjects in the HSC in New South Wales this year. Today, they joined 77,000 other HSC students to receive their results.

James Ruse Agricultural High became the state’s top school for the 23rd year in a row with three first-in-course awards. It is followed by North Sydney Boys High and Sydney Grammar in the second and third spots. Sydney Grammar received the most first-in-course awards this year, snagging the top spot in 11 subjects.

Willoughby Girls’ High was the only public non-selective school on the top 50 list at the 50th position, while the rest were comprised of selective or non-government schools. Eight of the top 10 schools are government-run selective schools.

NSW’s Top Schools 2018, Based on Success Rate

  1. James Ruse Agricultural High School
  2. North Sydney Boys High School
  3. Sydney Grammar High School
  4. Sydney Girls High School
  5. Baulkham Hills High School
  6. North Sydney Girls High School
  7. Sydney Boys High School
  8. Hornsby Girls High School
  9. Reddam House
  10. Northern Beaches Secondary College Manly Campus

Sydney’s Housing Market Continues Downturn in November-December

Sydney’s property market is not looking good for sellers at the end of this year with more listings, dwindling prices and worsening auction slumps.

SQM Research revealed that total residential listings increased by 7.5 percent over November, pushing the total number of homes for sale Sydney to 40,000, the highest number recorded since 2009. Current listing levels are 20.9 percent higher than from last year.

Dwelling values in Sydney also fell 1.4 percent in the same month from October, bringing the prices down 8.1 percent over the past year to a median of $821,438, according to CoreLogic’s Home Value Index.

“Since peaking in July last year, Sydney’s housing market is down 9.5 per cent which is on track to eclipse the previous record peak-to-trough decline set during the last recession when values fell 9.6 per cent between 1989 and 1991,” CoreLogic head of research Tim Lawless told the Sydney Morning Herald.

In the first weekend of December, Sydney recorded an auction clearance rate of 41.4 percent with chances of sinking into the 30s over the month. SQM’s Louis Christopher said the last time Sydney fell into the 30s was in October-November 2008 during the Great Financial Crisis. The weekend turnover totalled $129 million in sales, well below the near $600 million in the same period a year prior, Domain reported.

Lawless said this downturn was driven by multiple factors, including tighter conditions for investment, housing affordability constraints and a general oversupply.

“We expect headwinds for tighter credit will continue for the foreseeable future and will continue to temper housing market activity,” said Lawless. “This will be especially the case for those markets where investment demand is most concentrated, and where housing costs are high relative to incomes, such as Sydney and Melbourne.”

NSW: New 80km Walking Trail Planned for Sydney

An 80-kilometre walking trail in Sydney will soon be a reality after an agreement was reached between federal, state and local governments.

In late November, six mayors signed an MOU to build the trail by linking existing coastal and harbour-side walking tracks from Bondi Beach to Manly.

The trail will pass Macquarie Lighthouse in Woollahra, the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, Taronga Zoo in Mosman, and Clontarf in Manly. About 60 kilometres of the trail will be on public land, while the rest will take place on footpaths.

Upon completion, the multi-day walk is expected to be a major tourist attraction and one of the world’s great walking trails, on par with Italy’s Cinque Terra. The path will highlight Sydney’s beautiful beaches and rich Indigenous history and culture.

Lachlan Harris and John Faulkner, co-founders of the Bondi to Manly Walk Supporters welcomed the agreement. “It was an act of imagination to have Sydneysiders understand the scale of public land around the harbour,” Harris told the Sydney Morning Herald. “The idea that you can walk from Bondi to Manly is a reality now.”

Faulkner said, “It will be an unforgettable experience and I am certain it will become a must-do for walkers everywhere in the world.”

Bondi to Manly walk’s launch date is to be disclosed.

National: Queensland’s Dwelling Values Now Worth $1T

The housing market value in Queensland has surpassed the trillion dollar threshold for the first time ever, thanks to the recovering economy and a rise in buyer interest.

The Sunday-Mail reported that according to CoreLogic figures, the value of the state’s residential sector hit $1.004 trillion in September, marking a 10 percent increase from $910 billion in 2016.

“Overall, due to the improved economy, increase in employment and population, $15 billion construction boom and the Advance Queensland Business Development Fund, Queensland is projected to deliver good long-term capital growth,” said Doron Peleg, chief executive at RiskWise Property Research.

This rise in value also coincides with real estate revivals in some parts of regional Queensland as towns recover from mining busts.

Valuer Herron Todd White said prices of real estate Cairns, Emerald, Gladstone, Townsville and Mackay have grown by 40 percent in the last 12 months due to surging capital works projects and coal value.

In particular, median house price in Mackay grew 2.5 percent to $335,000 over a year to June. “This market is benefiting from a jobs boom in the region and currently has the lowest unemployment rate in the state,” said Antonia Mercorella, chief executive at Real Estate Institute of Queensland.

CoreLogic’s head of research Tim Lawless said mining towns could expect an increase in home values following rebound from the sector’s downturn. “Coming into 2019, markets like Mackay should start to see some growth, we expect Toowoomba to move back into positive growth and Cairns to see a bounce higher,” said Lawless.

However, Peleg said buyers should “proceed with caution” in these areas.

Local councils put affordable housing supply in the too hard basket

Alan Morris, University of Technology Sydney and Catherine Davis, University of Technology Sydney

Public concern about housing affordability in Australia is well documented. It would be reasonable to assume our local governments are giving the supply of affordable housing the attention it deserves. However, our national survey reveals that while it’s a growing concern for many local governments across the country, especially in metropolitan areas, most councils do not view the provision of affordable housing as a priority for them.

The survey results strongly suggest that local governments do not feel they have the capacity to intervene in a meaningful way.

The survey included a range of questions about local governments’ engagement with housing-related activities in their area. We asked about the priority given to housing issues, how important housing is relative to other council issues, and what kinds of policies and initiatives they plan to implement to help resolve the problem.

All 546 local governments in Australia were invited to participate in the survey. We received 213 responses. The majority, 72%, came from non-metropolitan areas (there are a lot more non-metropolitan local governments).

Do councils think it’s a problem in their area?

Almost all the metropolitan councils saw housing affordability as an issue (Figure 1). Half saw it as a very substantial or substantial issue. Only 13.5% said it was not an issue.

In contrast, only 26.6% of non-metropolitan councils responded that housing affordability is a substantial or very substantial issue.

Author provided

 

The responses to the question about what proportion of housing stock in the council area is affordable were remarkable (Figure 2).

Half of the metropolitan councils said only 5% of the housing in their local government area (LGA) was affordable. Three-quarters said 10% or less. Even in the non-metropolitan areas, 43% of councils said only 15% of housing was affordable.

Author provided

What are councils doing about it?

Despite recognising the problem, very few councils appear to be making the provision of affordable housing a priority. Just 13.5% of respondents from metropolitan areas and 15.5% from non-metropolitan LGAs said their councillors gave housing affordability a substantial or very substantial amount of attention (Figure 3).

Author provided

 

Linked to this lack of attention, few councils viewed “finding ways to provide adequate affordable housing” in their LGA as a priority (Figure 4). Not one metropolitan council answered to a “very substantial extent”. Only a quarter said to “a substantial extent”.

About four in ten metropolitan councils and over half of the non-metropolitan councils viewed finding ways to provide adequate affordable housing locally as a non-priority. These councils had put this on the far backburner.

Author provided

Local governments were also asked what priority had been given to housing relative to other council issues (Figure 5). Just 1.8% of respondents in metropolitan areas and 5.2% in non-metropolitan areas said housing had been given “very high” priority.

More encouraging was that about four in ten councils in metropolitan areas did say they had given it high priority relative to other issues. Very few non-metropolitan councils, about one in five, said housing was a high priority or very high priority relative to other issues.

Author provided

Do councils have policies, targets or strategies in place?

Fewer than half of those surveyed said they had a “housing policy, housing plan or housing strategy” in place (Figure 6).

Author provided

 

Those that reported having a formal policy said it focused on such issues as housing affordability, residential land development, population change, urban design, social and public housing, and energy efficiency.

However, our survey reveals that those policies are not perceived as being particularly extensive. Figure 7 shows just one in four local governments in metropolitan areas and 10% from non-metropolitan areas believe their council’s housing policies are “comprehensive” to a very substantial or substantial extent.

Author provided

The data suggest that having an explicit housing affordability target was viewed as unrealistic. Only 17.3% of metropolitan councils and 10.1% of non-metropolitan councils said they had an explicit target (Figure 8).

Author provided

Whose responsibility is it to provide affordable housing?

It’s noteworthy that, out of 213 councils, only one felt local government should be primarily responsible for “addressing the problems associated with housing in Australia” (Figure 9). The overwhelming sentiment was that state government or a combination of all levels of government should be responsible.

Author provided

 

The results suggest that improving housing affordability in a meaningful way is beyond the remit of local government. State and federal governments need to take the lead.

Although many councils are well aware that housing affordability is an issue in their area, they feel unable to respond in a meaningful way. An explanation for this is a unanimous view that Australia’s housing affordability problem is beyond the capacity of local governments to resolve. Almost all councils believe the provision of affordable housing is the responsibility of state and/or federal governments.

This is not surprising when we consider that local government accrues only 3.5% of all tax revenue. Local councils lack the fiscal capacity to develop affordable housing.

Further, state governments often override local governments’ efforts through the planning approvals to ensure all new developments have an affordable housing component.The Conversation

Alan Morris, Research Professor, University of Technology Sydney and Catherine Davis, Research assistant, University of Technology Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

National: Melbourne and Sydney Lead Housing Market Fall

Australia’s housing prices continue sliding, with Melbourne and Sydney driving the decline.

According to data from CoreLogic, national dwelling values have fallen for the eleventh consecutive month, leading to a 2 percent decline over the past year. Sydney prices fell 5.6 percent year-on-year, while Melbourne dipped 1.7 percent.

CoreLogic research head Tim Lawless said markets in “higher value cities” such as Sydney and Melbourne suffered from tighter credit conditions due to the higher gaps between house prices and median household incomes.

The only segment to improve over the past 12 months was the most inexpensive quarter, the firm found. Lawless said “more robust housing market conditions” could be found where affordable properties are, such as Hobart and parts of Adelaide and Brisbane real estate. Prices in Hobart, Brisbane and Adelaide have grown 0.9 percent, 1 percent and 10.7 percent respectively since last year.

“Stronger market conditions across Australia’s more affordable areas are likely attributable to a rise of first home buyers in the market as well as changing credit policies focused on reducing exposure to high debt-to-income ratios,” said Lawless.

CoreLogic’s head of Australian research Cameron Kusher said sellers should “be very realistic about the market” and set prices accordingly.

“For potential buyers, you don’t really need to be in a hurry in this market, there’s lots to choose from, there’s not as much competition out there in the market,” said Kusher.

“Be aware that the cost of housing is falling, so if you hold off you might be able to get that property or a similar property at a lower price point a little bit further down the track.”

NSW: Police Begin Crackdown on Sydney CBD Jaywalkers

More than 350 pedestrians and cyclists were fined for jaywalking and breaking basic road rules on Monday in Sydney’s CBD.

The crackdown, which was part of NSW Police’s Operation Pedro, saw 94 pedestrians who were found “jaywalking” or walking across the road illegally slapped with a $75 fine. The fines for cyclists who committed traffic offenses ranged from $112 (for riding on footpaths or not having a working bell) to $448 (for riding “recklessly” or “negligently”). Should they choose to contest the fine in court and fail, they could be charged up to $2,200.

Commander of the Traffic and Highway Patrol Command, Assistant Commissioner Michael Corboy said the crackdown was needed to promote traffic rules and prevent accidents. As of July, six cyclists and 44 pedestrians have died on NSW roads.

“We have been conducting Operation Pedro since 2014 as a way of educating the community about the importance of all road users doing the right thing,” said Corboy.

“I urge all cyclists and pedestrians to do the right thing by not putting themselves and other road users at risk… City traffic is full of many challenges and distractions for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, so we want to do everything possible to ensure that we reduce road trauma.”

The Monday crackdown was executed by officers from the Traffic and Highway Patrol as well as Surry Hills, Sydney City, Redfern, Leichhardt, Inner West and North Shore Police Area Commands.

Victoria: State to Ban Sky News from Train Stations following Interview with Hitler Sympathiser

The Victorian government has directed train stations to stop broadcasting Sky News on television screens after the news channel aired an interview with far-right extremist Blair Cottrell.

Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan announced the decision on Thursday morning on Twitter. “I’ve directed Metro Trains to remove Sky News Australia from all CBD station screens,” wrote Allan. “Hatred and racism have no place on our screens or in our community.”

The channel’s news director Greg Byrnes has admitted that “it was wrong to have Blair Cottrell” on the Adam Giles Show, and that “his views do not reflect ours”.

In an interview with 3AW, Allan defended her decision to ban the channel over the interview with the “self-confessed Hitler fan”.

“As the public transport minister, where it’s a public asset being used to televise particular content, I think I’ve got a responsibility to make sure that content is appropriate,” said Allan. “That interview was unacceptable, indeed Sky News themselves have admitted they got it wrong.”

The channel received backlash after the interview, with former Labor MP Craig Emerson accusing it of “normalising racism and bigotry”.

NSW: Entire State in Drought

The entire state of New South Wales has been declared in drought due to “unusually dry and warm” conditions throughout June, July and August.

The Department of Primary Industries said 61 per cent of NSW is in drought or intense drought, while the rest is drought affected.

Less than 10 millimetres of rain have been recorded over the past month in Western, North West and Central NSW. “This is tough, there isn’t a person in the state that isn’t hoping to see some rain for our farmers and regional communities,” said Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair.

These unfriendly conditions are expected to continue. “The forecast suggests an increase of drier than normal conditions for the next three months across the majority of NSW.”

A number of towns have been placed under water restrictions, limiting residents’ ability to wash clothes and shower.

BOM meteorologist Jane Golding said all parts of NSW usually receive some rain throughout the winter months, but this year is different. “It is unusually dry and also unusually warm which exacerbates the problems, so the warm temperatures dry out the soils even more.”

The state government has announced over $1 billion in drought relief measures, including waivers on farming costs, animal welfare support and transport subsidies. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also announced $12,000 grants for families affected by drought.

National: Brisbane Printing Company Goes Out of Business

Brisbane’s Panther Print is entering liquidation after 29 years of business.

The Stafford-based offset printer was founded in 1989 by Walter Kuhn, owner of Kuhn Corp and the president of the Printing Industries Association of Australia. In 1992, Kuhn sold the company to Les Beech, father of current managing director Greg Beech.

“The company closed on Thursday and they have given a few reasons for ceasing,” Bill Cotter of Robson Cotter Insolvency Group, who is handling the liquidation, told ProPrint. Cotter said he still did not have the creditor figures, and was still “figuring it out” with the business.

Before its closure, Panther offered offset, design, production art and prepress, finishing and post production, delivery, distribution and stock control services.

This makes Panther one of the commercial printers closing its doors this year, following Sony DADC in Huntingwood, NSW in February and Western Sydney-based Saunders Print Group in March.