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”.
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.
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.
Ray White has won the top prize at the Real Estate Business Awards for the third year in a row.
The 2018 REB Awards, which was held in Sydney on Wednesday evening, recognised Australia’s leading real estate agents, property managers, auctioneers and professionals.
Ray White took home Major Network of the Year. Noosa real estate agency Laguna was crowned Major Independent of the Year, while Novak Properties received Innovator of the Year. LJ Hooker won Digital Presence of the Year, and WigginsKeenan Real Estate of Pennant Hills earned New Office of the Year.
The Real Estate Business Excellence Award was given to Catherine Baker of Belle Property Killcare and Wamberal, and Stuart Benson of Benson Auctions was named Auctioneer of the Year.
“The interest in this year’s awards has been unprecedented, with the avalanche of submissions setting new records across all of the categories,” said REB editor Tim Neary. “I’d like to congratulate all winners and finalists on their achievements.”
The plan to build thousands of houses in Marrickville’s industrial land may still proceed despite the NSW government’s handover of planning control to local councils.
The Inner-West Council and the City of Canterbury Bankstown are now in charge of the strategic planning along the Bankstown rail line, which is set to be converted to a higher-frequency metro rail service by 2024. This effectively derailed the proposal from property giant Mirvac for a $1.3 billion apartment project in the zone, covering 20 buildings ranging from two- to 28-storey height, over 2,600 residential units and 17,300 square metres of new commercial and retail space.
“The community will develop the plans, where the buildings will go, where the new homes will go, where the new parks will be,” said Planning Minister Anthony Roberts.
Inner West mayor Darcy Byrne welcomed the return of planning powers to the local councils. “We’ve fought long and hard to put an end to developer-driven planning proposals in this corridor, and today we are thrilled to take back control of planning for Sydenham, Marrickville and Dulwich
Hill,” said Byrne.
“Today’s decision puts an end to Mirvac’s ridiculous proposal… Our new plans will be developed by the community, not multinational developers, because this is Marrickville, not Mirvac-ville.”
However, Toby Long, general manager for NSW residential development at Mirvac said the company will not give up on the project. “We are looking at many months of work ahead before the proposal will be ready, but we take a long view and we are prepared to take our time to get it right,” said Long.
Sydney property market is cooling down as lending slows and vendor discounting rises.
The difference in asking price and final sale price in the city has increased to 4.4 per cent. Investment bank Morgan Stanley said the market is “unlikely” to “turn around anytime soon” due to limited credit and record household debt.
Over the past year, Sydney’s median house prices have fallen by 4.5 per cent. Auction clearance rates also had a significant dip in June.
According to the bank’s research, the falling prices reflected the national annual growth rate, which reaches its lowest in more than five years.
However, Deutsche Bank’s economist Phil Odonaghoe said the worst of the market downturn has passed for Sydney.
“Recent auction clearance rates, running at a little under 50 per cent once adjusted for withdrawals, actually point to a very modest improvement in dwelling price growth over the coming six months, or more specifically, ‘less negative’ year-ended growth,” Odonaghoe told the Sydney Morning Herald.
The Department of Defence has named 32 firms that will provide managed IT services for the government for the next ten years.
The 32 providers will constitute a replacement panel for the previous arrangement known as the applications managed services partnership agreement (AMSPA). The department had been looking to break up the arrangement to make way for “niche” and “flexible” suppliers.
Among the names revealed are Leidos, Unisys, Fujitsu, Atos, Northrop Grumman, Optus and ABB Enterprise Software, along with the big four consulting firms Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG. A number of suppliers who do not have experience working with the department are also included, such as Adactin, Azara, Exeter, Icemedia, RPSPM, Sofitel Systems and the Gruden Group.
The AMSPA is expected to be retired in September 2018.
The rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) in Port Macquarie is reaching its final stage, with 98 per cent of households and businesses now able to use the service.
The NBN, whose rollout in the area began in February 2017, is now available to more than 38,900 homes and businesses in Port Macquarie. The expansion process had received backlash from the community due to the destruction of footpaths and public property in Port Macquarie CBD during the installation.
“With our aim to help bridge the digital divide and see all homes and businesses have access to fast broadband, we are proud today to announce the rollout of the NBN access network in Port Macquarie is on the home stretch,” said Amber Dornbusch, head of NBN for NSW and ACT.
NBN national spokesperson Philippa Perry said the NBN network will soon be available for all homes and businesses in regional Australia. “We have seen a massive improvement in regional internet access, more competition, faster speeds and in some cases giving internet access to some Australians for the first time ever,” Perry said.
The decline in youth crime in New South Wales may be related to the widespread use of social media and video streaming services, a research by the Australian National University (ANU) has found.
The ANU compared the NSW Police data of crime rates for people aged 10 to 21 born in 1984 and those born in 1994. It discovered that the proportion of the population who had come into contact with the criminal justice system had halved. Car theft was down 59 percent, while property theft and drunk-driving dropped by 59 and 49 percent respectively. Drug offending also fell 22 percent.
Criminologist Jason Payne said the decline may be attributed to changes in the way young people spend their time.
“We now have kids who are engaging much more often online, using mobile and other portable devices in the home and spending less time out on the street,” said Payne.
“An increased use of home entertainment and social media is also reducing opportunities for traditional forms of crime.”
However, Payne warned that the changing habits might lead to new forms of crime. “Those native to social media may explore antisocial and criminal behaviours online which at present attract far less scrutiny from parents and authorities.”
It wasn’t a big budget for education this year, with schools funding already set in the last Budget, and the funding freeze for universities announced in the Federal Government’s mid-year budget update in December.
But the National Schools Chaplaincy program will become permanent, with A$247 million set aside over four years from 2018-19.
And there is some good news for students in regional, rural and remote areas, with:
A$96.1 million over four years for young people in regional, rural and remote communities to transition to further education, training and employment
A$14 million over four years for 185 Commonwealth Supported Places annually for students commencing a bachelor degree at university through a Regional Study Hub
A$53.9 million over four years to improve regional students’ access to youth allowance, and
A$123.6 million over five years to regional universities for additional Commonwealth Supported Places from 2017-18.
Schools and early education funding
Glenn Savage, Senior Lecturer in Education Policy and Sociology of Education at University of Western Australia
Despite ongoing political debates about school funding, most of the big news happened in last year’s budget, when the federal government formalised details associated with its Quality Schools reform package.
The package centres on a commitment to align school funding with the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) recommended in the 2011 Gonski report into school funding.
To achieve this, the government plans to progressively raise funding levels for government schools from 17% to 20% of the SRS and for private schools from 76.8% to 80% of the SRS by 2027.
The government argues that this delivers an additional $24.5 billion for Australian schools over the decade, and says it will be up to states as to whether they wish to fund the remaining amounts so that all schools reach the full SRS.
The government also claims its reform package provides more consistent needs-based funding when compared to the so-called “special deals” established under the Labor Gillard government.
Labor doesn’t agree, suggesting the Coalition is shortchanging the nation to the tune of A$17 billion (the initial claim was $22 billion) when compared to promises made by the former Gillard Labor government.
Labor has promised, if re-elected, to return to the Gillard model.
This ensures funding will be a defining issue at the next federal election, especially given last week’s Gonski 2.0 report has made a suite of recommendations that the federal government supports and could very well require an additional injection of federal funds to implement.
But any potential changes hinge on whether the Coalition is actually in power when next year’s budget is delivered. And, if so, whether it has any luck pursuing the new Gonski agenda with states and territories.
Aside from these ongoing Gonski wars, this year’s budget contains a few additional highlights.
• A$11.8 million over three years to expand the Early Learning Languages Australia program to more preschools and trial the program in 2019 and 2020 from the first year of school through to year two in primary schools.
• A$6 million over two years (from 2017-18) to continue and update the communications campaign to increase public awareness of changes to the Quality Schools package (aka public relations to sell the government’s reform package).
• A$1.3 million per year until 2020-21 to continued funding the MoneySmart Teaching program, designed to improve financial literacy education in schools.
Finally, the government has signalled its intention to continue exploring ways to deliver new and diverse pathways into the teaching profession, with the view to increasing the supply of quality teachers. This measure builds on previous work associated with the Teach for Australia program.
To pursue this aim, the government has suggested it will invite proposals in 2018 from providers to deliver alternative pathways into teaching.
Higher education and VET funding
Andrew Norton, Program Director of Higher Education at Grattan Institute
The long aftermath of the VET FEE-HELP loan fiasco is still being felt in the 2018-19 Budget. The government is planning to spend A$36.2M over fours years for a new IT system to ensure compliance in the replacement VET Student Loans program.
The VET Student Loans Ombudsman, given the task of receiving student complaints about vocational education lending, is to receive another A$1 million to help deal with the large numbers of people making complaints.
Higher education’s big Budget news came early, in the December 2017 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO). It announced a two-year pause in tuition subsidy growth, and a range of reforms to the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP). There is no major change to these decisions in the 2018-19 Budget.
The pause in tuition subsidy growth has been implemented. It was done without going back to parliament using university funding agreements. For domestic bachelor degree places, universities will receive the same total amount that they received for 2017 for each of 2018 and 2019. Previously, there were “demand driven”, meaning that the Government would fund every student the universities enrolled.
The government has also used the funding agreements to reduce the number of Commonwealth-funded diploma, associate degree, and postgraduate coursework places. About 4,000 allocated places were abolished, but some of these weren’t being used anyway, so the practical effect may be limited.
Soon after these policies were announced, partial exceptions began with the University of Tasmania, the University of the Sunshine Coast and Southern Cross University all receiving additional places. These are confirmed in the Budget at a cost of A$124 million over five years.
Including the new places, funding on Commonwealth contributions through the Commonwealth Grant Scheme will be just over A$7 billion for 2018-2019.
From 2020, the government says it will resume funding increases based on population growth for universities that meet yet-to-be determined performance criteria. The Budget paper shows predicted spending of A$7.3 billion in 2020-21.
But numbers this far out are moot. With an election due in the next 12 months, and Labor indicating it will go back to demand driven funding, the funding freeze could be over by then. If the Coalition survives in office, it may also make substantial changes.
The other major MYEFO announcement was to the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) loan scheme. Unlike changes to total tuition subsidy payments, these need legislating and the relevant bill is still before the Senate.
The most important proposed changes to HELP are the income thresholds determining whether, or how much, a HELP debtor needs to repay each year. If it passes, the bill would lower the initial repayment threshold from A$52,000 a year to A$45,000 a year. HELP debtors earning between A$45,000 and A$52,000 would repay 1% of their income. But some other thresholds are more generous than now, and many HELP debtors would end up paying less per year than they do now.
The government also originally proposed a A$100,000 lifetime cap on borrowing under HELP for all courses except medicine, dentistry and veterinary science, rather than just the full-fee student FEE-HELP scheme. The Budget confirms that the cap would be A$100,000 of HELP debt at any one time, allowing people who have paid off some debt to borrow again.
Whether HELP reforms eventually pass the Senate remains to be seen. In either case, it is fortunate for the higher education sector that they were not rejected prior to the May 2018 Budget. The freezing of the demand driven system showed the government was not bluffing when it said it needed to reduce higher education spending. Like the demand driven system, equity programs and some research programs are vulnerable to cuts the parliament cannot easily stop.
As it turns out, these programs survive in the Budget.
Research funding will receive a modest boost, with nearly A$400 million extra over five years for research infrastructure.
Although the higher education sector gets off lightly in the Budget compared to MYEFO, higher education providers will be hit with extra charges. The Government plans to charge them more for the services of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency.
The government also plans to charge higher education providers A$10 million a year to recover costs associated with HELP. We can only hope some of this is used to improve on the current very unsatisfactory public reporting of HELP’s finances.