Technology: Singapore to Embrace Cloud for Government IT Systems

The Singaporean government will move most of its IT systems to commercial cloud services over the next few years, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has announced.

In the Stack 2018 Developer Conference on Tuesday, Lee said the government would need to “re-engineer” its systems and processes to provide better public service.

“With technology, we can … reduce bureaucracy and simplify our processes significantly,” said Lee. “We have done a preliminary study, and concluded that many government systems can in principle exist in the commercial cloud.”

Lee said some systems will be migrated to the commercial cloud infrastructure over the next few years, with plans to create “our own government cloud” for systems that cannot be transferred.

He also emphasised the government’s concern for security and data protection, mentioning the recent SingHealth cyber-attack that saw hackers steal 160,000 medical records and 1.5 million patients’ personal information. “The latest SingHealth incident only drives us to redouble our efforts,” said Lee.

Singapore isn’t the first government to introduce commercial cloud solution. In February, the Australian government unveiled Secure Cloud Strategy to allow agencies to use cloud services more easily.

International: Brett Kavanaugh Lies under Oath about Drinking, Former Classmates Say

A former classmate of Brett Kavanaugh has accused the US Supreme Court nominee of lying under oath about his drinking behaviour during his university years.

In a testimony to the judiciary committee on Thursday, Kavanaugh denied ever blacking out from drinking. The statement was part of Kavanaugh’s response to the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who accused the judge of sexually assaulting her while drunk in 1982.

However, Charles Ludington, who had been a friend of Kavanaugh’s at Yale called this claim into question. In a statement, Ludington said he was “deeply troubled by what has been a blatant mischaracterisation by Brett himself of his drinking at Yale.”

Ludington said Kavanaugh often became “belligerent and aggressive” when drinking, and at one point threw a beer in a man’s face, “starting a fight that ended with one of our mutual friends in jail.”

“I can unequivocally say that in denying the possibility that he ever blacked out from drinking, and in downplaying the degree and frequency of his drinking, Brett has not told the truth,” said Ludington.

The North Carolina State University professor said the problem was with lying rather than the “heavy drinking” during the judge’s youth. “If he lied about his past actions on national television, and more especially while speaking under oath in front of the United States Senate, I believe those lies should have consequences.”

Ludington was not the first classmate to challenge Kavanaugh’s statements on his drinking habit. Liz Swisher said Kavanaugh was “a partier” who “drank heavily.” She said, “There’s no problem with drinking beer in college. The problem is lying about it.”

Kavanaugh’s former roommate at Yale, James Roche also said the judge was “a notably heavy drinker, even by the standards of the time” who “became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk.”

Lying under oath counts as a perjury and will end Kavanaugh’s candidacy for the Supreme Court.

Technology: Apple Removes the Home Button from New iPhones

Apple is getting rid of the home button on its upcoming iPhones.

In an event at Apple’s Cupertino headquarter last night, the company revealed that its new handsets would not have the home button as the Touch ID biometric authentication system is removed. The upcoming models – namely iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR – would use Face ID instead, where users can swipe up the screen or give a look to unlock the phone.

“You look at it to unlock it,” said Phil Schiller, marketing chief at Apple. “Your phone knows what you look like and your face becomes your password.”

Apple first introduced home button-free device last year with iPhone X.

In the same night, the company also unveiled a few upgrades for the Apple Watch. The Series 4 range will have edge-to-edge screen and a health feature where the device can start an emergency call upon detecting the user’s irregular heartbeat.

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.”

International: British Pupils Spend Less Time on Music, Art and Drama

English secondary school students are spending less time on music, art and drama courses than in 2011, new government data has found.

An analysis by Tes of the Department for Education showed that as pupils reach year 10 and 11, time being spent on teaching art, music and drama falls significantly. Art is down 20 percent while music and drama dip 12 percent and 26 percent respectively.

More time is now devoted to English, maths and science, which collectively account for 51 percent of teaching time to GCSE candidates. This represents a growth from 44.5 percent in 2011.

“We believe schools should be making their own curriculum decisions that are in the best interests of the young people in their school,” said Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.

“However, the reality is that performance measures are what schools are judged on, so this puts an undue amount of pressure on leaders, governors and trusts.”

Co-director of the Cultural Learning Alliance Sam Cairns said the decline in art lessons at schools is a “social justice issue” that affects poorer students negatively. “The middle classes continue to provide their children with access to arts, if they are no longer provided in school,” said Cairns. “So they continue to enjoy the benefits while the kids whose parents can’t pay don’t get the same boost.”

A spokesperson for the Department said £500 million was to be invested in music and arts education programs between 2016 and 2020 to boost music education and help “talented pupils from all backgrounds attend prestigious arts institutions, such as the Royal Ballet School in London and Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester.”

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.