Aged care changes
The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) says the Federal Government's proposed aged care changes could have a negative effect on the safety of Victorians receiving community care.
MAV president Bill McArthur is urging state and territory premiers to reject the plan at next week's Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting. Councillor McArthur stated that local councils and the Victorian Government provide $160 million a year for community care and that a federal takeover of community care could threaten that funding.
"About $160 million is contributed annually by state and local governments to prop up successive Commonwealth Government chronic underfunding of community care and all that can be at risk if Mr Rudd takes over aged and community care programs.
Cr McArthur says local councils administer community care but they have not been consulted by the Federal Government about the changes. He says that state and territory premiers should demand that the Federal Government consult with local councils.
"There's lots of carrots that get floated around but we're worried that this carrot could decimate community care in Victoria," he said.
Healthy Spaces and Places guide receives Green tick of approval
ALGA notes that there have been further positive developments regarding the Healthy Spaces and Places national planning guide.
As part of the ACT Greens Active Transport Plan, the ACT Greens, which hold the balance of power in the ACT Legislative Assembly, have recommended that the ACT Government formalise the Healthy Spaces and Places planning principles so that those principles are prioritised in new developments and as part of progressive upgrades for existing areas (Recommendation 2.1). The work on Healthy Spaces and Places, which has involved a unique collaboration between ALGA, the National Heart Foundation and the Planning Institute of Australia and funding support from the Department of Health and Ageing, is described in the Active Transport Plan as 'excellent work'. The Plan is available here.
This development underpins the importance of Healthy Spaces and Places in government policy and the value that this national resource can bring to preventative health policy. It is also encouraging that the Premier of Victoria, John Brumby, has recently noted that more funding needs to be allocated to preventative health nationally.
The second-hand smoke created by smokers is harmful to both children and adults. According to the National Health and Medical Research Council, second hand smoke causes eight per cent of all childhood asthma. Children exposed to second-hand smoke are also more likely to suffer from colds and ear infections.
In addition to the danger, it is annoying to the majority who are non-smokers. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 75 per cent of the Australian population does not smoke.
Council has a role in advocating better public health for its residents. Banning smoking in outdoor dining areas on public land is increasingly common across Sydney and in other places, such as Brisbane and Perth. In Sydney, Waverley recently joined Mosman and Manly councils in banning smoking in outdoor dining areas. Leichhardt council has also banned it.
Smoking bans in WA will be introduced in September at the earliest, reported Glenn Cordingley in the Sunday Times last week. The legislation, in which offenders could be fined up to $1,000 for a breach, was passed by State Parliament last September. When implemented, the laws will prohibit smoking in al fresco areas of restaurants and cafes, in cars carrying children aged under 17, near playground equipment and between the flags at beaches. The ban is not just a city concern - 14 councils in NSW have or are in the process of implementing the same restrictions. Bega Valley Shire Council is consulting the community now.
In 2007 the NSW state government banned smoking in indoor areas of pubs and clubs, but not in outdoor dining and drinking areas, as the Queensland government had done the year before.
The chief executive officer of the Heart Foundation, Tony Thirlwell, said his organisation would be lobbying both sides of politics to commit to a more widespread ban. "We were disappointed that the legislation that went through few years ago really had a significant loophole," he said.
Performance Benchmarking of Australian Business Regulation: Planning, Zoning and Development Assessments
The Australian Government has requested that the Productivity Commission undertake a benchmarking study into Planning, Zoning and Development Assessments. This study is the third year in a series of reviews benchmarking Australian business regulatory burdens.
The Productivity Commission is requested to examine and report on the operations of the states and territories' planning and zoning systems, particularly as they have an impact on:
- business compliance costs
- the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the functioning of cities.
In doing so, the Commission is to recommend best practice approaches that support competition, including:
- measures to prevent 'gaming' of appeals processes
- processes in place to maintain adequate supplies of land suitable for a range of activities
- ways to eliminate any unnecessary or unjustifiable protections for existing businesses from new and innovative competitors.
Terms of reference - received 12 April 2010
Circular (PDF - 145 Kb) - released 12 April 2010
Issues paper - release May 2010
Initial submissions due 16 July 2010
Draft report - release October 2010
Final report to Government - December 2010
Free call: 1800 020 083
The top 0.1 per cent of Australians, who make more than $700,000 a year, tripled their share of wealth over the past 30 years, due to surging executive salaries and lower personal tax rates, reports Patrick Durkin in the Australian Financial Review 8 April. ANU research shows that the top 1 per cent makes 10 times what the average household makes, up from five times in 1980. "The rich have done very well, the very rich have done extremely well and the super-duper rich have done fantastically," said Andrew Leigh, ANU Economics Professor.
In Leigh's well informed opinion it is important to have more rigorous debate about inequality. "Increasing concentration of wealth can also mean increasing concentration of power among an elite group. That potentially creates a group of Australians who have largely opted out of the public services, from public education, hospitals and even public policing. And that is something which strains the social fabric and is something we should be concerned about."
From 1993 to 2009 the pay of top 100 chief execs has risen twice as fast as the salary of ordinary workers. "In 1993, the average earnings of CEOs in the top 100 Australian firms was about $1 million. By 2009 this had risen to about $3 million," Professor Leigh said.
Giving and receiving in Logan
Logan treasures its 6,000 active volunteers and will show just how much at the upcoming Valuing Logan's Volunteers event, to be held on Saturday May 8. It will bring together the people who make life easier for others, and do so without asking for thanks or recognition, people like Robin Gallen.
Winner of last year's Logan's Most Active Senior Award and President of Crestmead's 40+ Club, Robin also has a diary packed with volunteering commitments. "For me, volunteering is about self-actualisation - what it gives to you is something that no-one else can provide you with and something that you can't buy," Robin said. "To give and receive is the most important thing in life."
As well as presiding over Crestmead's 40+ Club, Robin currently does work for Talbarra RSL Care, and assists in excursions at Logan Reserve State School. Robin said she was excited about the Valuing Logan's Volunteers event and that it would be a great way to meet other volunteers and celebrate the Logan community. "It really makes you so proud to be a part of Logan when you meet all the wonderful people who give their time to some incredibly worthwhile organisations," she said.
Valuing Logan's Volunteers will be held at Riverdale Park, Meadowbrook, on Saturday May 8, from 10am to 3pm. Anyone interested in attending must be an active volunteer and register with Council before Friday 30 April. The event will include live entertainment, information stalls and complimentary catering. For more information about the event, please contact Logan City Council's Events Team on 3412 5016.
For councils interested in boosting tourism, free tourism reports are available from the Sustainable tourism CRC 'tourism research dashboard'. For the latest technical reports and information on subjects such as short-break holidays and how Australians choose holiday destinations, explore the website.
Future food crisis in Sydney farms
Farmers have expressed fears of a "food crisis" as the Sydney basin's last working farms are devoured by housing for the city's surging population. Prime agricultural land on Sydney's fringe will be sacrificed to make way for 27,000ha of housing estates as the State Government struggles to accommodate an extra one million people by 2036. Professor Phillip O'Neill, of the University of Western Sydney's Urban Research Centre, told Vikki Campion of the Daily Telegraph that Sydney had reached its limits and was biting up against the ring of national parks.
"For the first time Sydney's western expansion has to confront the problem that the next time it expands will be on the last agricultural land," he said, and that NSW governments over the past 50 years had been lazy in farm land management, as market gardeners had either sold up or moved to Sydney's new edge. "But expansion, rising land values and expensive water now mean that the next place to shift to is not there anymore," he said.
More than 13 western Sydney councils have united to oppose the State Government's Metro Strategy, which they say threatens 62 per cent of market gardens, more than 6000 jobs, and the future of Flemington Markets. Forming taskforce, Urban Adapt, councils, farmers, scientists and State Government agencies warned that food supply would become "a serious challenge" in Sydney's west as the cost of fresh food skyrockets. "Sydney is losing its ability to feed itself," Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils president Alison McLaren said.
Urban Adapt, at a forum in May, will discuss growing affordable fresh food and the difficulties meeting the State Government's housing targets. "It's a difficult balance. Councils on the fringe are being pressured. We need land for agriculture, it is an important industry and the city needs fresh food," Ms McLaren said.
Council named as top performer
The Southern Downs Regional Council (SDRC) has been named one of the state's top 14 community engagement performers.
SDRC Mayor, Ron Bellingham, said that community engagement was one of the council's top priorities, especially with the unique obstacles amalgamation brought to the region. "It was a significant issue for the new council as a case of what's going on and what the changes meant for the community," Cr Bellingham said.
Transparency was on the agenda, as councillors recently visited "far flung" areas of the district to gauge and interact with the community, which often included heated debate.
Of the 54 councils who returned the community engagement survey, only 29.6 per cent had developed formal community engagement policies. The new State Government data showed size didn't matter when it came to communication - with Balonne, Banana and Maranoa regional councils among the top performers.
Mayor proud of climate initiatives
As concerns about climate change grow, Gosford Council continues to do its part and is encouraging residents to do the same, according to the 7 April Central Coast Express. Recently the council threw its support behind the NSW Mayors' Agreement on Climate Change.
The agreement is part of the local government climate change action pack, which is designed to assist NSW local government with managing climate change mitigation and adaption.
On top of acknowledging that climate change is occurring, the agreement also commits councils to strive to meet or beat the Kyoto protocol targets in their own operations, something mayor Chris Holstein said the council had been working on for years. "Climate change and becoming more green is something the council has been working on since the motion was first put forward in 2007," Cr Holstein said.
"As a coastal council, the impact of climate change is greater, so we need to continue looking at and exploring new preventative measures we can put in place". Education is one area Cr Holstein is particularly proud of, with the council already running several successful programs in schools. One thing we have invested in is educating young people because it has a flow-on effect," he said. "If we can get children and young people thinking about recycling, conserving energy, conserving water they will pass it on to their families."
Rudd Government farmers' grants
The Rudd Government continues its support for women and young people in rural and regional areas with funding of more than $1.5 million under the Recognising Women Farmers and Next Gen Farmers grants. Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke announced the latest rounds of funding under the Community Networks and Capacity Building component of Australia's Farming Future.
"Women play an important role in enhancing productivity, securing long-term growth in agriculture and supporting regional and rural jobs," Mr Burke said. "More than 52,000 women define themselves as farmers or farm managers, contributing an estimated $1.1 billion a year to farm viability. There are many careers opportunities in our primary industries, including in science, economics, accounting, technology innovation, rural journalism and natural resource management as well as farming."
The Australian Women in Agriculture previously received up to $45,454 for a series of training workshops in Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria. The President of Australian Women in Agriculture Dr Patricia Hamilton welcomed the latest round of grants. "This program has been exceptionally helpful to get more women talking together and expressing their own viewpoints," Dr Hamilton said.
The Next Gen Farmers and Recognising Women Farmers grants rounds are part of Australia's Farming Future, the Rudd Government's key initiative to help primary producers adapt to climate change. The grants support activities that aim to:
- build and share knowledge and experience
- develop leadership and management skills
- boost participation in primary industries
- develop skills to contribute more effectively to government and industry decision-making
- build networks among rural, regional and remote Australians.
Technology is supposed to save us time. We are told that it should help our work/life balance, and therefore contribute to community health in general. University of Sydney Researchers have discovered that technology is not helping. Dr Melissa Gregg interviewed 26 information workers from large organisations across different industry groups over three years.
"This study was designed to pick up all that extra work that goes on outside the office, which is generally sold to us as this new freedom to be in touch with work when it suits us," said Dr Gregg. But many study participants reported increased stress and anxiety. Work-related emails have invaded homes, causing stress and disharmony in families.
Interviews also revealed that most people blamed themselves for not keeping up with the technology and the increasing amount of work they were supposed to deal with. Clearly, in this age of an ever-increasing rate of technological change, this perception is not correct; there is no need to feel guilty and most of us are doing the best we can under increasingly stressful conditions.
Are you getting enough?
Sleep is another public health issue. Since the invention of the electric light, people have been progressively getting less of it. Not just a small-scale problem, sleep deprivation has been shown to have serious public implications. According to Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem by Colten and Altevogt (National Academies Press, 2006,) up to 20 per cent of all serious car accidents can be attributed to sleep deprivation. Additionally, the Bhopal, India disaster, the nuclear meltdowns at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, as well as the accidents involving the Star Princess cruise ship and the Exxon Valdez can all be attributed, at least in part, to sleep deprivation effects.
Andrew Leigh in last Tuesday's Australian Financial Review gives more medical evidence of the detrimental effect on our health of too little sleep. We need sleep to repair tissues, replenish hormones and refresh our brains. Sleep deprivation is linked with a vast array of problems, including heart disease, weight gain, diabetes and a lowering of the immune system.
Leigh found evidence of new research where brain scans of sleepy and well-rested people indicated that sleep deprivation leads to less rational and more emotional behavior. They were also less trustful and did less well on cognitive tests than those who had slept enough. It is not just in the interests of our healthier communities that we should be monitoring and mitigating any sleep problems - as Leigh points out, "employees who are untrusting, dim and over-emotional are likely to be bad for the firm's bottom line."
Best at saving water
The Local Government and Shires Associations have praised NSW Councils for their extraordinary efforts to save water through the joint Water Loss Management Program. This Program is the largest in the world and has made big savings on a small budget. It encourages local water utilities to adopt innovative water-saving solutions within their water supply pipe network.
The Hon Mike Kelly, MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Water, joined LGSA representative Mr Robert Bell last week to single out Orange, Gosford and Dubbo city councils for their efforts in this area. Projects from the three councils are saving around 803 ML per year. The Program is a $22 million joint initiative of the Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW and the NSW Water Directorate. It is partly funded by $7 million from the Australian Government's Water Smart Australia Program.
Local Government Association President Cr Genia McCaffery said that the project was a remarkable example of the success that can be achieved when government agencies work together. She praised the councils' commitment and enthusiasm, and added: "It's a fine example of how genuine partnerships like this one between Local and Federal government can achieve real results."
Quote of the week
"In the world of water, we're all downstream." - From a panel at the Water exhibition at the National Museum, Canberra, from 3 December 2009 to 16 May 2010.
Should the mandatory fire warning systems in our homes be swapped for feline warning systems? A New Zealand cat rescued his owners from being burnt to death by an ingenious, if unhygienic, method of communication. In Otago, the cat, called Maceo, dipped its paws in the toilet bowl water and then walked across his owners' faces. He did it three times. The cat's owners, Kate Gatonyi and Bevan Garland, woke up wondering, "Why is he doing that?" And then they found a blazing fire three metres from their bedroom. A neighbour's shed had caught fire and the flames were approaching the couple's garage and gas bottles.