Thursday, September 30, 2010

Labor party to bring back compulsory university amenities fees

This is not the same as the bad old mad old system of the past. Using the fees to finance political activity was the bugbear in the past but is banned in this iteration

THE Gillard government will introduce legislation today to restore compulsory student amenities fees at Australian universities. Minister for Tertiary Education Minister, Senator Chris Evans, appealed today to the new parliament to support the bill, saying he wanted it to be passed by Christmas to ensure it will take effect next year.

Senator Evans said it was important to restore a range of depleted services at universities, particularly in regional Australia, and cited sporting, health and counselling services as key areas.

The legislation would allow students to be charged a fee of up to $250 a year for the provision of student services with Senator Evans claiming it was supported by both universities and students.

He also took a swipe at the Howard government’s voluntary student unionism legislation which had abolished services and amenities fees for students. “Under the arrangements left by the Coalition government, close to $170 million has been ripped out of university funding. This has led to the decline, and in some instances, the complete closure, of vital student services,” he said.

The Higher Education Legislation Amendment was defeated in August last year in the Senate, but Senator Evans said the bill had now been changed to make it more attractive and allow the $250 fee to be paid over time. “The main measure… is that we’ve allowed fees to be treated as part of the HECS debt so there’s not the upfront requirement,” he explained. “This legislation makes it very clear that those fees, which will be in the order of $150 a year... can be added to the HECS debt.”

Senator Evans encouraged the Coalition to review its opposition to the bill and said the legislation would be supported by the independents in the lower house. “We agreed with them that we would reintroduce the legislation and I’m hopeful of Getting Mr Crook from Western Australia to support the legislation,” he said.


Mexican telco billionaire's claim the NBN is too expensive backs our case: Tony Abbott

TONY Abbott has seized on a Mexican billionaire's criticisms of the National Broadband Network to again label the plan a "white elephant".

Carlos Slim Helu, a telecommunications tycoon and the world's richest man, said yesterday the $43 billion network would cost $7000 for every home and was too expensive. Mr Slim said the government should be using a multi-platform approach, instead of relying on fibre-optic technology.

Mr Abbott, who has put the NBN at the centre of his strategy to hold the government to account, said Mr Slim was echoing the opposition's concerns about the NBN. “The point is that the world's richest man thinks that spending $5000 per household on something that might be technologically obsolete by the time it's built doesn't make sense. I think he's right,” Mr Abbott told ABC radio. “He's effectively echoing what the Coalition has been saying for months now, that this is going to be a great big white elephant, a $43 billion white elephant.”

Mr Abbott urged the government to commission a serious cost benefit analysis of the NBN and suggested it would not do so because it was “terrified of what it might say”. “There must be a cost benefit analysis and this is one of the matters that we want to bring before the new parliament at an early stage,” he said.

Mr Abbott would not commit the Coalition to supporting the NBN if the analysis showed the network was feasible. “This is one of the matters we want to bring before the new parliament.”

Mr Abbott went on the attack as the government said it expected legislation paving the way for the NBN will be introduced to parliament before the end of the year. House of Representatives leader Anthony Albanese said the government expects the legislation will be introduced during the “coming sittings”. “We are finalising that legislation, that will be a very significant debate before the parliament,” he told ABC Radio.

Nationals frontbencher Barnaby Joyce described the planned network as a “very expensive fairytale”. “What he (Mr Slim) has said is the bleeding obvious,” he told reporters in Canberra.

But Labor senator Doug Cameron dismissed the criticism. “Would you expect anything else from a billionaire who runs a monopoly in Mexico?”

The man charged by Mr Abbott with tearing down the government plan had trouble remembering the network's correct name. Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull described the NBN as a “massive leap into the dark” and repeated the Coalition's earlier calls for a fresh look at the network.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy yesterday hit back at Mr Slim's claim the NBN was too expensive. “Mr Slim's comments about the NBN are no surprise given he has become the world's richest man by owning a vertically-integrated monopoly. Mr Slim has clearly not read the implementation study and we will forward him a copy,” the minister said.

“The implementation study provides a detailed analysis of the cost to deliver the NBN. The study found that the $43 billion total capital cost is a conservative estimate and there are opportunities to significantly reduce the build cost. The heads of agreement between NBN Co and Telstra will also reduce the cost of the build by billions.”

Senator Conroy said fibre to the home was the “optimal future proof technology” with a lifespan of 30-50 years., while wireless was a complementary technology that would never match it.”


Immigration to Australia drops somewhat but population growth still troublingly high

Australia's population growth has fallen to its slowest rate since 2007, after a sharp decline in migration levels continued into the first quarter of this year. According to the Bureau of Statistics, the nation was home to 22,272,000 people at the end of March, but the annual growth rate had slowed considerably to 1.8 per cent, from the 2.2 per cent record high of the previous year.

Although the election debate often centred on immigration, the figures, published yesterday, show that a key reason for the slowdown was a cooling in net migration, which was 37 per cent lower than a year earlier.

Some 241,400 people migrated to Australia over the year to March, but this was a far cry from the record of 320,300 in the previous year.

On the other hand, a domestic baby-boom has been gathering pace, with a record 303,500 babies born in the year to March, 3.1 per cent more than last year. With the number of deaths falling, this meant the rate of population natural increase - births minus deaths - was 7 per cent higher than a year earlier.

Overall, the annual growth in population remains well above its long-term average, prompting concerns about overstretched infrastructure.

An economist at CommSec, Savanth Sebastian, said such "phenomenal" growth was near the fastest in the developed world. "More people in Australia means greater demands for houses, roads, schools, hospitals and a raft of retail goods, and as such is providing much-needed stimulus in trying times for the global economy," he said.


Global cooling hits Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide

After their coldest winter in 13 years Sydney residents have just experienced their coldest September in five years, says.

However, the heat is on its way. "September was an unusual month in terms of the lack of warm days across much of south-eastern Australia," weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke said.

"A high pressure system over the Great Australian Bight acted as a blocking mechanism, keeping noticeably cool southerly winds blowing over South Australia, Victoria and NSW. "Significant warming will occur in the coming weeks as heat builds over the interior. All we will need is a day or two of westerly winds and we could exceed 30 degrees," Mr Dutschke said.

When both daytime and overnight temperatures were combined, Sydney's average temperature this month came in at just under 17 degrees. This made it the coldest September in five years, despite being one degree above the long-term norm. It was also the coldest September in terms of daytime temperatures in three years.

During the month, the city had an average maximum temperature of 21 degrees, which is still warmer than the long-term norm of 20. It took until the 27th to warm up to 27 degrees, the longest in 17 years. There was a 23-day period that stayed colder than 25 degrees, the longest in September in 10 years.

The nights were not particularly cold overall, averaging a minimum of 12.3 degrees, one above the long-term average. This made it the coldest in terms of overnight minimums in two years. There were only six nights that cooled below 10 degrees; typically there are 11.

The cold was pronounced across southern and central NSW with several centres including Hay and Forbes having their coldest September in at least 15 years in terms of daytime temperatures.

Melbourne, Adelaide also cold

Residents of Melbourne have just experienced their coldest September days in 16 years, Mr Dutschke said. The city had an average maximum temperature of 16.6 degrees, about a half a degree below the long-term normal of 17.2. This made it the coldest September in terms of daytime temperatures since 1994.

When both daytime and overnight temperatures were combined, Melbourne's average temperature came in at just under 13 degrees. This made it the coldest September in at least seven years, despite being about a half a degree above the the long term norm.

Warmer days ahead will provide Adelaide residents with a good thawing out after enduring their coldest September in 18 years, Mr Dutschke said. The city had an average maximum of just 17 degrees, two degrees colder than the long-term norm, making it the coldest September since 1992 in terms of daytime temperatures. In fact, there was only one day that warmed to 20 degrees, on Monday 13th, the fewest 20-degree days in September in 18 years.


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