Opposition Climate Change Plan
This week the Opposition Leader the Hon. Tony Abbott released the Opposition's Direct Action Plan on the Environment and Climate Change. The Oppositions' Plan will support 140 million tonnes of abatement per annum by 2020 to meet Australia's 5 per cent target. To facilitate direct action, the Coalition would establish an Emissions Reduction Fund to support CO2 emissions reduction by business and industry. The Plan includes a boost renewable energy use in homes and communities, including investing $100 million each year for an additional one million solar energy homes by 2020. The Plan also recognises the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from landfill sites with a $10 per tonne rebate for CO2 abatement. A copy of Direct Action Plan on the Environment and Climate Change can be found here.
Kangaroo Island to charge levy
According to the National Geographic, Kangaroo Island is the best island in South-East Asia and the fifth-best island in the world. The popular tourist destination is threatening to charge visitors a levy, or else close its roads, as it runs out of funds to maintain the network.
South Australia's Kangaroo Island is already raising its rates two per cent above CPI each year for the next 10 years to cope with maintenance costs.
About 185,000 visitors a year make up the bulk of those using the island's roads, and Kangaroo Island Mayor Jayne Bates advised that it is considering charging adult tourists $10 each to help keep the roads safe.
"I reckon this island hasn't been sustainable for 30 years. This council's the first one willing to address it," Mrs Bates said.
"We want the Kangaroo Island economy and tourism to grow and prosper, and you can't do that without sound infrastructure," she told the Adelaide Advertiser. "People live on almost all our roads. In the first instance, we'd make them local-use only, to restrict wear and tear."
Kangaroo Island council exists on a $10.5 million annual budget, a shortfall of $3 million needed for the road network, but closing the roads would be a last resort.
"We're a long way from that and I'm hoping it doesn't get to that - we wouldn't do that without having a serious conversation with our community," Jayne Bates said.
Blueprint for an Active Australia
The Heart Foundation of Australia has launched its new Blueprint for an Active Australia.
The Blueprint for an Active Australia provides key actions that can increase physical activity levels in Australia from 2010 to 2013. This document draws on available evidence that supports the need for implementation of a comprehensive range of actions at national, state and local levels. These actions create opportunities for all Australians to be active everywhere: in homes, neighbourhoods, schools, workplaces and communities.
The document was developed for government, non-government and communities, providing strategies to influence programs, policy and action plans. The implementation of these measures will increase physical activity across Australia.
A major element of effective advocacy for increasing population physical activity is developing and promoting consensus on the key actions required. In the Blueprint for an Active Australia a 'ten point plan' is proposed. To implement the plan, a long term strategy is required, led by federal, state and local government, and supported by public and private stakeholders.
Climatic factors affecting increase in drowning deaths
According to Royal Life Saving Society lead researcher Dr Richard Franklin, 62 Australians drowned between Christmas Eve to Australia Day, up from 48 for the same period the previous year.
Recently, a teenage boy from Darwin died, after jumping off a point to help a friend who was struggling in rough seas, the NT News reports. On Saturday night, a man aged in his 50s was found dead by two fishermen at Shelly Beach, near Manly in Sydney.
Dr Franklin says the reversal of the declining trend would make it "almost impossible" to meet an official goal to halve the nation's annual drowning toll by 2020. "What we saw with our study (covering the five years to 2007) was the number of drowning deaths were coming down," Dr Franklin said.
"What we've seen with the numbers over Christmas, as well as last year, is the numbers are going in the opposite direction.
The target to cut the nation's annual drowning toll is outlined in The Australian Water Safety Strategy 2008-11. The declining trend was revealed in research conducted by Dr Franklin, which took in all unintentional drowning deaths nationwide from mid 2002 to mid 2007.
There were 318 deaths in the first year of the five-year review period and this dropped to 257 deaths in the study's final year.
The average over the period was for 290 deaths per annum, and the number of victims under five was also down when compared with the 1990s.
The study, which shows some headway being made in the effort to improve water safety, is published in the Medical Journal of Australia this week amid a horror summer for drownings.
"What we're seeing is some climatic factors are coming in," Dr Franklin said, "...we've seen some major flooding, lots of parts of Australia are coming out of drought and that has caused some problems. We've also seen some king tides come through creating more rips." Also, apparently "tranquil" rivers continued to be a major cause of drowning deaths in Australia, Dr Franklin warned.
Australians using less water but more energy
According to a new report released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Australians are using less water but more energy.
At the end of last October, water storage levels in the Murray Darling Basin had diminished to less than a third of their capacity.
Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends presents a snapshot of environmental factors affecting Australia. The 2010 edition also includes a feature article on the ramifications of climate change, and what these mean for Australia.
The ABS found that water use by agriculture has fallen by almost half in the past two years. Biggest reductions are in New South Wales and Victoria, and between 1994 and 2007 the proportion of households using water-saving devices doubled.
While the nation's water consumption fell, its energy use rose. Australia's heavy reliance on fossil fuels, especially for generating power, has resulted in greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector rising by almost a half since 1990, however, emissions per head of population fell by 12 per cent over the same period.
The Northern Territory and Western Australia lead other states in solar hot water use (54 per cent and 21 per cent, respectively), but overall, less than 10 per cent of Australian homes were using solar hot water in 2008. In the same year, only half (53 per cent) of homes in New South Wales had insulation, compared with the national average of just over 60 per cent, and most people's motivation for insulating was not for energy-saving, but for comfort.
Many more of us are also living in larger homes, paradoxically with fewer people in each, and this trend increases the rate of greenhouse emissions from the electricity and gas needed to build and maintain them.
Over three-quarters of people use a private vehicle to travel to work, but the proportion using public transport is increasing gradually. The biggest increases in public transport use have been recorded in Victoria and South Australia, while the New South Wales rate has fallen slightly.
There were more bicycles sold than cars last year (1.7 million bicycles; 937,000 cars) and it's interesting that more than twice as many men than women cycle for exercise. Many women prefer to get their exercise by walking, with 33 per cent of them doing it, while only 17 per cent of men are walking.
Australian transport and construction industries experienced the largest drop in energy intensity (energy used per unit of economic output) down 49 per cent and 74 per cent, respectively over the 30 years to 2006-07, leading to a decrease of over a third for all Australian industries combined.
Further details can be found in Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends 2010 (cat. no. 4613.0), available for free download here.
Connecting Remote Indigenous Communities
Latest technology, solar powered, satellite savvy phones will be installed free of charge in up to 300 remote Indigenous communities between 2009 and 2012.
The high tech phones are designed to function in remote and harsh conditions, and can be installed as a community resource in almost any location across Australia such as the central desert or the rainforest regions. The phones enable free calls to emergency services and fixed home and business phone numbers within Australia. Prepaid calling cards (non-swipe type) can be used to call mobile phones, 13---- and international numbers.
The phones, 26 of which were installed free of charge in remote Indigenous communities during September, October and November 2009, enable communities in remote areas to access the emergency, government and business services that most Australians take for granted. They will also make it much easier for family members to contact each other.
Remote Indigenous communities with up to 49 permanent residents and without reasonable access to a community payphone are encouraged to apply for a phone through the Indigenous Communications Program (ICP). This Australian Government initiative is administered by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.
For smaller or transient communities, a mobile satellite handset may be more suitable than a fixed community phone. Satellite handsets are provided at no charge and line rental charges are covered for the first three years. Communities will be provided with an initial supply of prepaid calling cards which may be topped up after six, nine and 12 months.
Anyone can nominate a community for an ICP community phone. All nomination forms must be endorsed by a Commonwealth or state or territory Government official.
Detailed information about the ICP and community phones is available on the website. ICP staff members are able to provide information and can be contacted by phone on 1800 355 014 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Public Housing award to Lilyfield Housing Redevelopment
The Lilyfield Housing Redevelopment in Sydney is the first social housing scheme in Australia to be awarded a Green Star certification. Achieving a 5 Star Green Star - Multi Unit Residential PILOT rating, the Lilyfield Housing Redevelopment is also the first project of its kind to achieve a Green Star residential rating on the East Coast of Australia.
Representing 'Australian Excellence' in environmentally sustainable design, this project by HBO+EMTB for Housing NSW sets a new standard for public housing developments in Australia. It demonstrates that sustainable public housing is realistic, feasible and affordable.
HBO+EMTB Director, Gustavo Thiermann says, "The formal rating of this [housing] scheme by the GBCA and its 5 Star Green Star outcome reflects Housing New South Wales' willingness to embrace innovation", thereby providing the design team with the freedom to apply sustainable design principles to achieve high quality public housing.
Property industry leaders will gather in Melbourne later in February to determine how productive, healthy, profitable green buildings will become the cornerstone of a renewed push for sustainable cities.
More than 1,000 leading Australian and international property industry experts are expected to attend the annual Green Cities 2010 conference, to be held in Melbourne from February 21-24.
A joint initiative of the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) and the Property Council of Australia, Green Cities 2010 is the largest and most influential green building conference in the Asia Pacific region.
Now in its fourth year, Green Cities 2010 will feature panel discussions, case studies and debates on how green buildings will deliver greater productivity and occupant health while using fewer resources and providing higher returns on investment.
GBCA Chief Executive, Romilly Madew, said that with 11 per cent of all CBD office space now Green Star rated and a further 25 per cent (400 buildings) undergoing certification, clear evidence is now available about the positive impact sustainable buildings have on people, places and performance.
"We know that Green Star rated office buildings are reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 60 per cent. These buildings are commanding higher rents and higher selling prices, they have lower vacancy rates and the occupants of green buildings report higher productivity and lower absenteeism," Ms Madew said.
"With buildings and their users responsible for 23 per cent of Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions, the potential benefits to be gained from developing green cities are enormous."
Castrilli eyes city councils for mergers
Beatrice Thomas writes in the West Australian that the State Government has been targeting more metropolitan councils with the latest part of its reform plan, since about 100 councils have received recommendations to start sharing core services and to merge, by 2013.
Last week, local Government Minister John Castrilli rejected reports that he would abandon his contentious reform agenda if councils do not meet his most recent demands. In December, he said he had asked 54 councils, which were in the country, with the exception of the six western suburbs councils, to start forming the groups under no opt-out clauses.
However, closer to 100 councils have now been sent the same request, including city councils such as East Fremantle, Fremantle, Bassendean and Bayswater. Bassendean mayor John Gangell and East Fremantle mayor Alan Ferris said they opposed the groupings.
WA Local Government Association president Bill Mitchell says that he understands that no councils were "actively working towards" the request, meaning so far only nine already confirmed merger proposals have come out of the reform process. Most of the councils have been given no indication which neighbours they should be grouped with.
Mr Castrilli said he only wanted to work with councils that agreed to the reforms, but would not speculate on what action he would take if they did not.
Shadow local government minister, Paul Papalia called for Mr Castrilli's resignation, saying colleagues and the sector had lost confidence in him and that Mr Castrilli had caused "confusion and anxiety" and squandered 12 months of good will.
Mr Mitchell said the process had not worked because "an articulated plan hasn't been put forward". He said at $2 million per council, per merger it was also a cost the Government was unlikely to want to cover.
New council to work on road toll
Celebrities and business leaders are joining with the Federal Government in a bid to cut the road toll. Trucking magnate Lindsay Fox, former AFL star David Wirrpanda, motorbike legend Wayne Gardner and breakfast TV celebrity Melissa Doyle have been called on to sign up to the new National Road Safety Council.
"We know there is more to do," Transport Minister Anthony Albanese told the council at its first meeting in Canberra. "This is an attempt to get best practice going nationally." The road toll has fallen dramatically since its height of 3,798 in 1970.
Since then, the number of vehicles on roads nationally has tripled. However, more than 1,000 people a year die in car crashes.
"The number of deaths on our roads is only the tip of the iceberg," Mr Albanese said, elaborating on the thousands who endure painful injuries: from the temporary pain of cuts and broken limbs to the permanent disability of paralysis or brain damage. Mr Albanese has given the council a three-tier strategy, saying better roads, tougher laws and driver attitudes are the focus.
Hendra virus risk from pigs
Pigs have the potential to spread the Hendra virus to humans in the same way horses do, researchers say. New research by scientists in Canada has shown pigs can contract the bat-borne virus.
In the light of new evidence about the Hendra virus, CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) needs more funds to develop a vaccine for the deadly virus, claims Dr Peter Read, a Brisbane vet.
"This new finding indicates that pigs are susceptible to HeV (Hendra) infections and could play a role as an intermediate host in transmission to humans," said a report on the research by Canadian bodies, including the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease.
The Hendra study showed that Landrace pigs, used globally by the pork industry, and Gottingen minipigs, were susceptible to Hendra.
Hendra was first identified in 1994 in the Brisbane suburb of the same name when a stable of 13 racehorses and trainer Vic Rail died from the virus.
Australian-led breakthrough in SIDS
An Australian-led study has confirmed that a lack of serotonin was a common factor in babies who die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The breakthrough offers a "much clearer direction" in the search for a cure for the mysterious syndrome, which still claims one in 2,000 apparently healthy children. Researcher, Dr Jhodie Duncan, of the Melbourne-based Florey Neuroscience Institutes, studied cases of infant deaths from confirmed SIDS and other causes. The SIDS babies were found to have lower levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter which regulates the body's basic life-sustaining functions.
"Things like heart rate, blood pressure, sleep cycles, respiration, serotonin plays a very important role in all these things that you need to stay alive," Dr Duncan said. "Our study has proven that in infants dying of SIDS there is lower TPH2 (a related enzyme) levels and reduced serotonin production."
Student water project wins national prize
A University of Adelaide student project aimed at solving urban water supply problems in Australia has won a national engineering award.
Engineers Australia has honoured Fiona Paton, John Baulis, Ben Staniford and Lisa Lloyd for an engineering project aimed at helping governments to overcome urban water shortages in a sustainable manner.
The four students completed a case study of Adelaide's Southern water supply system (which supplies about half of Adelaide's water needs) for their 2008 Honours project in the School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering.
Journalist Candy Gibson relates how Fiona (now a PhD student), John and Ben presented the group's findings at the Society for Sustainability and Environmental Engineering national conference in Melbourne last month.
"One of the major challenges of this century is to identify ways to reliably supply water to towns and cities under the increasing pressures of population growth, urbanisation and climate change," Fiona said.
"We undertook a multi-faceted approach to this problem that incorporated economic, environmental and technical aspects of water supply.
"For our case study, we examined River Murray supply, reservoir supply, desalinated water and household rainwater tanks, and evaluated different combinations of these supply types in terms of their cost, greenhouse gas emissions and water security risk.
"Ideally, to meet the demand of the Southern system in the long term, as well as keep the costs and greenhouse gas emissions to a minimum, a combination of all sources would be best.
"Reservoir and River Murray water are cheaper and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than desalinated water and rainwater. However, due to the uncertainty over River Murray supply and with reservoir yield projected to decrease due to the effects of climate change, then alternative sources must be considered," Fiona said.
"Desalinated water is preferable in terms of cost, while rainwater outperforms desalinated water when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions.
"Hopefully, the techniques developed in this research project will help water managers in Australia make better informed and more sustainable decisions when planning for long-term water supplies," Fiona said.
The students were supervised by Professor Holger Maier and Professor Graeme Dandy from the School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering.
All parties now ready to solve renewable energy issues
The Clean Energy Council has warned that specific measures in the Coalition's new climate change policy to assist some clean energy technologies will not work unless the national Renewable Energy Target is fixed.
Clean Energy Council chief executive Matthew Warren welcomed the Coalition's recognition that the design of the RET needed reform to drive the development of both large and small scale clean energy technologies and called for bipartisan cooperation.
"The Coalition introduced the world's first renewable energy target in 2001 and worked constructively with the Rudd government last year to expand it to 20 per cent of Australia's electricity by 2020. However, the low price of renewable energy certificates has stalled investment in renewable energy projects and the support and ideas of all major parties are needed to fix the problem," said Mr Warren.
"One of the fundamental structural problems with the current design of the RET is that a range of support measures for small scale technologies are unintentionally crowding out investment in industrial scale clean energy plants.
"We need to find a way of continuing to roll out household scale clean energy technologies like solar panels and solar hot water while at the same time building multi-million dollar clean energy projects.
"Increasing the existing support for household scale technologies will only exacerbate this problem unless at the same time their impact on the value of renewable energy certificates is neutralised. The Coalition has already indicated its support for a measure proposed by The Greens to effectively reduce the impact of rooftop technologies on the RET," he said.
The CEC does not support the Coalition proposal to carve out a portion of the renewable energy target for large-scale clean energy projects or for emerging technologies.
"This type of banding presumes we know what will happen in the future, which is impossible given the range and scale of the different technologies at our disposal. By trying to pick winners you risk creating another kind of market distortion that will cause other problems down the line," Mr Warren said.
"The biggest challenge for the industry right now is investor certainty. Developing and legislating a decisive and effective solution to the design of the RET will help remove the regulatory uncertainty which is stalling multi-billion dollar investment in this sector."
"The risk of dangerous climate change is real and is already being factored into the commercial decisions of major investors. We continue to encourage climate change policy that incorporates and clarifies this risk so that we can accelerate the multi-billion dollar challenge of decarbonising energy supply in Australia and globally."
Harmony Day planning begins
Harmony Day is on 21 March.
Local governments have supported Harmony Day for a decade and this year many are planning to use the opportunity to bring their communities closer together and highlight the services they provide to people from different backgrounds.
Since 1999, schools, local governments, workplaces and community groups have staged over 25,000 Harmony Day events to celebrate Australia's cultural diversity. The theme for Harmony Day 2010 is Express Yourself.
In the City of Wodonga school students will be proudly celebrating Harmony Day and Victoria's Cultural Diversity Week from 15 to 21 March 2010. Around Harmony Day the Council will launch an education program for school students at Bonegilla Migrant Experience Heritage Park where post-war migrants began their Australian journey.
From 1947 to 1971 over 320,000 people from 30 different countries spent time at Bonegilla awaiting allocation to employment, learning English, undergoing health checks and learning about the Australian way of life.
"Many of the former residents of Bonegilla today still speak of their experiences of hope and joy during their stay at the camp, and I'm very pleased that Bonegilla is being preserved as a place of learning about the migrant experience," City of Wodonga Mayor Councillor Mark Byatt said.
"Bonegilla holds powerful connections for many people, both migrants and their descendants and yields exceptional insights into post war migration and refugee experiences," said Mr Byatt.
Today, there are more than 1.5 million descendants of Bonegilla migrants. Students participating in the Bonegilla 'Camp Kitchen' project will explore the influence migrants had on Australian cuisine. They will also access a collection point for family recipes and a 'Memory Collection' space where past and current migrants can record their memories of migration.
Harmony Day on 21 March 2010 offers Local Governments the opportunity to profile their diversity policies. Councils can order limited stocks of free promotional items through www.harmony.gov.au
Quote of the week
"Build not your house on sand." -