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.

National: Ray White Takes Top Prize at 2018 Real Estate Business Awards

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.”

NSW: Marrickville’s $1.3B Apartment Project Still in Works after Councils’ Takeover

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.

Technology: Twitter ‘Purges’ Millions of Accounts

Twitter is set to remove tens of millions of suspicious accounts, amounting to up to six per cent of all accounts.

The company said removing locked accounts, which have been restricted from posting after a large number of unsolicited replies or mentions, is part of the effort to discourage “the purchase of followers and fake accounts to artificially inflate follower counts” and “improve the health of conversations” on the platform.

“Over the years, we’ve locked accounts when we detected sudden changes in account behaviour,” said Twitter spokeswoman Vijaya Gadde.

“In these situations, we reach out to the owners of the accounts and unless they validate the account and reset their passwords, we keep them locked with no ability to log in. This week, we’ll be removing these locked accounts from follower counts across profiles globally. As a result, the number of followers displayed on many profiles may go down.”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey posted that he lost 200,000 followers in the ‘purge’.

However, according to Gadde, most users will only see a drop of four followers or fewer.

International: Samoa Recalls MMR Vaccine after Death of Two Infants

The Samoan government has issued a recall for a vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) following the deaths of two infants.

Two children, both aged 12 months, reportedly passed away only hours after receiving the vaccine shot.

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi described the deaths as “devastating” and called for an inquiry. “There are already processes that will determine if negligence is a factor,” Malielegaoi said in a statement.

“And if so, rest assured those processes will be implemented to the letter to ensure that such a tragedy will not be repeated and those responsible will be made to answer.”

Samoan health authorities have also stopped all children’s vaccination in the island nation.

Rasul Baghirov, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Samoa representative said there have been no other reported cases of deaths related to the vaccination batch supplied to Samoa. The batch, which was sent from India by the UNICEF, had been safety checked by the WHO.

“The severe reaction following the administration of MMR vaccine is very, very rare — that’s why we want to really investigate and find out what caused the deaths here in Samoa,” said Baghirov.

NSW: Sydney Property Market Slows Down with Discounts and Falling Prices

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.

June 2018. Source: CoreLogic

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.

National: Defence Department Reveals New IT Services Deal

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.

National: NBN Rollout in Regional Australia On the Home Stretch

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.

NSW: Social Media Contributes to Youth Crime Decline, New Research Finds

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.”