Monday, June 10, 2019

Brisbane ban on 'cookie-cutter' townhouses could be enforced by July

There can be conflicts between stability and economic efficiency and it is sometimes important to prioritize stability.  Money is not everything. People do value stability.  Change can be too much.  So a balance is needed.  And Brisbane people do value their reassuring streetscapes of old wooden houses.  They want them to stay

For many born-Queenslanders such as I am, those houses have a warm and comfortable feeling whereas a modern brick house seems cold and lifeless.  Hard to say why but there's probably more to it than familiarity.  Timber is from a living thing so that may have some influence. 

I have spent a lot of time and money restoring old Queensland houses and when I walk into an empty one of them I can feel all the families who have lived there before.  I can almost hear the children playing. Its a feeling of continuity with other people like myself in the past. It feels right.

I suppose I am a sentimental old fool but I am far from alone.  There is already in Brisbane a total ban on demolishing any pre-war house

A ban on townhouses and apartment blocks in Brisbane’s character suburbs could come into effect before the end of the financial year, after the state government gave the green light for public consultation.

In September last year, the council requested state government's approval to amend the council’s City Plan 2014, in a bid to prevent apartment blocks and townhouses from being built on blocks larger than 3000 square metres in low-density residential zoned suburbs.

On Wednesday evening, Infrastructure and Planning Minister Cameron Dick gave Brisbane City Council the go-ahead to progress to public consultation.

He said council was required to consult with the community on the proposed amendments for 20 business days.

“Once the council has completed the consultation they will be required to submit the proposed amendments, including feedback received during the consultation period, for my approval to proceed to adoption,” he said.

“It is now up to the council to consult with the community to test the adequacy of the proposed amendment with the broader community and industry.” The ban would last for two years, if approved.

Brisbane lord mayor Adrian Schrinner welcomed the government's tick of approval for council to progress its plans to halt "cookie-cutter townhouses".

“I am committed to building the infrastructure our city needs, while protecting the liveability of our suburbs and that is exactly what this proposed major amendment can achieve,” Cr Schrinner said.

“Brisbane is growing, but Council is committed to maintaining the character of our suburbs and ensuring any development fits in with the existing surroundings.

The opening of public consultation comes as nearly 6000 properties around Coorparoo have been rezoned to character residential under Brisbane City Council’s latest neighbourhood plan.

The rezoning means more properties will be protected to retain the typical Queensland house from being demolished or altered significantly.


Freight costs win for miners in Qld budget

The Leftist Queensland  government is trying to "buy" Queensland's North.  In the Federal election they got NO seats outside the Southeast corner

Miners in north Queensland will be given millions of dollars in discounts on freight charges in next week's budget in a win for the state's resources industry.

Deputy Premier and Treasurer Jackie Trad announced the $80 million scheme in Townsville on Sunday, saying the plan will boost mineral exports from the state's northwest.

She said the state Labor government had also promised $30 million for construction of a new freight terminal at the Townsville port, with another $18 million to come from the Port of Townsville.

It comes after a $350 million commitment to upgrade the Mount Isa rail line over the next five years.

The line connects industries and communities in some of the most far-flung corners of the state, and underwent extensive repairs after 300km of track was damaged or washed away by floodwaters in February.

About 75 per cent of the Queensland's base metal and mineral deposits are located in the state's north west, making up some of the $44.5 billion in coal and minerals exported in the year to April 2019.

"The commitment underlines our commitment to backing regional communities and regional jobs," Ms Trad said.

Ms Trad says government investment plays a major role in stimulating regional economies, and plans to keep spending to create jobs rather than cutting back to address soaring debt.

A bulk of the spending in Tuesday's budget will be done in the bush.

While the government chooses to stay the course on its investments, it must also balance a massive cut to its share of the GST, recovery costs for a string of natural disasters and billions of dollars in promises.


Review pension income test rates: Labor

They are right about this one

Part of the pension income test should be reviewed to better reflect Australia's record low interest rates, according to federal Labor.

The opposition is urging the government to review pension deeming rates, which are used in the income test to assume how much people are earning on their financial investments.

The deeming rates for the pension are as high as 3.25 per cent.

They haven't been updated in more than four years, when the Reserve Bank of Australia's official cash rate was 2.25 per cent.

The interest rate, which reflects what the central bank charges commercial banks on overnight loans and influences other interest rates, was reduced this week to 1.25 per cent.

A lower rate, aimed at stimulating the economy, is typically considered good news for mortgage holders but not so great for savers.

Labor's human services spokeswoman Linda Burney says with standard term deposits now earning two per cent or less, it's clear the deeming rates aren't keeping up with what pensioners are earning.


Big new wind farm heavily opposed

Proponents of the southern hemisphere’s largest wind farm say it is a “game changer” for energy securit­y and prices, but are facing community headwinds as fierce as the Roaring Forties it seeks to harness­.

The $1.6 billion project is ­proposed by Hong Kong-based UPC Renewables for two sites in Tasmani­a’s northwest, Robbins Island and Jim’s Plain, with a 170km transmission line to connec­t it to the grid.

Chief executive Anton Rohner said if the company’s vision was fully realised, it would combine with Tasmania’s hydro storages and proposed new Marinus interconnector under Bass Strait to substantially address Australia’s energy woes.

“It is an absolute game changer for not just Tasmania, but for Victoria, South Australia and NSW,” he said. “It works beautifully with the (state’s) hydro scheme.

“Our power can be used to pump hydro or to effectively hold the (hydro) electricity. Being able to provide a dispatchable renewable energy — 1000MW — through the Marinus link to the mainland is worth everything … More supply leads to cheaper energ­y for everyone.”

However, the project faces local and federal regulatory hurdles and unrest about the citing of both the Robbins Island wind farms and the transmission line.

Some living near the 9900ha Robbins Island are concerned about the noise and aesthetics of up to 200 wind turbines, and their impact on thousands of resident and migratory shorebirds, some critically endangered.

Mr Rohner said expert studies using tracking devices showed the birds generally flew around the periphery of the island, not over it, but this was contested by some local­s and BirdLife Tasmania.

“The area around the island at low tide is around 100 sq km of exposed mudflat and wetland and it supports more migratory shorebirds than the rest of Tasmania combined,” said Eric Woehler, the BirdLife convener. “We know from work that has been done … that some of the migratory shore birds fly across the island.

“Those radio tracking studies have only been done for one ­species. We have no information about the extent or frequency of flights across the island for the 20 or so (other) species. Birds that are already critically endangered run the real risk of flying into some of these turbines.”

Dr Woehler and some locals fear a walled causeway to the island­, as part of the project, would interrupt tidal flows, damaging the vital sandflat ecosystems.

“What they are proposing is going to kill this beautiful wetland area that is absolutely amazing,” said resident Colleen Murfitt.

Mr Rohner and the owners of the island, the Hammond Wagyu beef farming family, said expert modelling suggested several bridge sections in the causeway would avoid adverse impacts.

“We are cattle people, we love the environment,” said Alex Hammond. “Part of our brand, which sells our beef around the world, is that we are in the cleanest, greenest area in the world. “So we certainly don’t want to do anything to impact on that.”

The transmission line that is taking the power to the grid near Sheffield is causing outrage among some farmers, tourism operato­rs and residents who fear a significant scar on the landscape and compulsory acquisition of land.

Beef farmer and vegetable grower Darren Gibson said the 60m-wide corridor appeared set to blight the southern and eastern boundaries of his Nietta farm, ending his plans for a tourism develop­ment.

“Having six transmission lines cutting across the beautiful views we have here, of snow-capped mountains, just isn’t going to cut it for high-end tourists — it’s ruined our plans,” he said.

Mr Rohner conceded that the company had mishandled public engagement on the transmission line, which was being revised.

He hoped the new plan would avoid crossing the Leven Canyon tourist attraction, an issue of major concern.

Circular Head Mayor Daryl Quilliam said the “vast majority” of locals were “very excited” about and supportive of the project and the jobs and economic stimulus it would bring.


When unions and bosses gang up on the working class

Union fat cats rob their members

A shout out to all those federal Labor types who are on their “listening” tours, trying to understand why union members and people they may romanticise as “working class” no longer show mass, blind allegiance to the ALP.

Labor types profess to be concerned about working people and, in particular, the wage theft occurring in our economy.

There are two types of wage theft: the first is sporadic and often accidental, usually occurring in small businesses. The second is deliberate, premeditated, highly organ­ised and widespread, affecting entire industries, done via dodgy enterprise bargaining deals or “side letters” signed between companies and unions. In these types of arrangements, money usually changes hands.

This type of wage theft, the vast extent of it and the way it is made possible only with the agreement of unions, is the ALP’s shameful secret.

In September 2017, this column told the story of wage theft victim Ken Holland and his quest for justice. Holland worked for Cleanevent from 2003 until 2015.

Cleanevent was owned by Spotless Group. Holland and his friend Robert Vertigan are part of a group of about 5000 workers who experienced wage theft worth an estimated total of $400 million, thanks to deals signed with people in the Australian Workers Union.

The deals included a 2006 EBA signed while Bill Shorten was AWU national secretary and a 2010 memorandum of understanding signed by Shorten’s successor, Paul Howes, who now holds a senior position with KPMG Australia.

As part of the arrangements, Holland and his workmates were joined up to the union as members, without their knowledge or consent. Julianne Page, a general manager at Cleanevent’s parent company, Spotless Group, approved a $25,000 annual payment to the AWU.

This payment was kept secret from the workers, and so was an email from Cleanevent HR manager Michael Robinson that read: “For a saving of $1.5 million we could make a donation of $20k to the union in some way, shape or form (tables at the AWU ball, paying our level 3 casuals membership, etc)” and that the deal created a “massive competitive advantage”.

The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption examined the issue, and heard that the competitive advantage was real; Cleanevent saved about $2m a year in penalty rates in return for the $25,000.

Ultimately, both Shorten and Howes were not really held to account but Holland and Vertigan, as part of a small group of 14 former workers, have continued to fight for their back pay.

The 14 contacted the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Fair Work Ombudsman, the Fair Work Commission, the Registered Organisations Commission, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, industrial relations ministers (Eric Abetz and Michaelia Cash), the Attorney-General’s Department, the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, the Queensland parliament wage theft inquiry, the AWU, union United Voice, the ACTU, the Victorian Minister for Major Events (John Eren), the federal opposition industrial relations spokesman (Brendan O’Connor), WorkSafe Victoria and SafeWork NSW, to no avail.

However, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (privacy and FOI matters) was able to assist. As a result, Spotless has been ordered to pay a total of $60,000 to the workers.

In the decision just handed down, Commissioner Angelene Falk said Spotless “interfered with the complainants’ privacy … by improperly disclosing, through its related entity Cleanevent, the complainants’ personal information to the Australian Workers Union”.

The royal commission, Falk said, concluded that “in substance, what occurred was that Cleanevent, at the time of payment, provided a list of employees to the AWU Vic without regard to whether they were already members of the AWU and without regard to whether they wished to become members”. Although the fine is welcomed, the workers are still out of pocket to the tune of many thousands of dollars, and it is unlikely that any other person or agency will ever assist.

Holland and Vertigan would have loved to be at Anthony Albanese’s “listening tour”. They would like to ask what Labor will be doing to look at wage theft and whether the Opposition Leader “realises that a significant part of the problem is unions doing deals with companies that lower the wages and conditions of employees”.

The Coalition, too, has been fairly silent on its industrial relations agenda and seems to be at a loss on how to address wage theft. But it must do more for victims and stamp out the deals that allow the practice to continue.

New Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter should order an audit of all current enterprise agreements that have been signed with a few key unions.

In fact, the FWC should be tasked with the job. It won’t be too hard to uncover all agreements that fail the “better off overall” test — these are the deals that allow for wage theft to occur. Any agreement that fails the BOOT is underpaying workers compared with what they would earn on the award, allowing wage theft.

The signatories, unions and employers, must then be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and the income flowing to unions as a result of these deals should be publicly revealed and prohibited in new legislation.

Because while the ALP is running around listening to what they did wrong, the government can use the time to implement real actions that actually help working people.


Cholesterol drug stops the deadly box jellyfish sting

Researchers at the University of Sydney have discovered an antidote to the deadly sting delivered by the most venomous creature on earth – the Australian box jellyfish.

The Australian box jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri) has about 60 tentacles that can grow up to three metres long. Each tentacle has millions of microscopic hooks filled with venom.

Each box jellyfish carries enough venom to kill more than 60 humans.

A single sting to a human will cause necrosis of the skin, excruciating pain and, if the dose of venom is large enough, cardiac arrest and death within minutes.

Associate Professor Greg Neely and Dr Raymond (Man-Tat) Lau and their team of pain researchers at the Charles Perkins Centre were studying how the box jellyfish venom works when they made the discovery.

They uncovered a medicine that blocks the symptoms of a box jellyfish sting if administered to the skin within 15 minutes after contact.

The antidote was shown to work on human cells outside the body and then tested effectively on live mice. Researchers now hope to develop a topical application for humans.

“We were looking at how the venom works, to try to better understand how it causes pain. Using new CRISPR genome editing techniques we could quickly identify how this venom kills human cells. Luckily, there was already a drug that could act on the pathway the venom uses to kill cells, and when we tried this drug as a venom antidote on mice, we found it could block the tissue scarring and pain related to jellyfish stings,” said Associate Professor Neely. “It is super exciting.”

Published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications, the study used CRISPR whole genome editing to identify how the venom works. Genome editing is a technology that allows scientists to add, remove or alter genetic material in an organism’s DNA.

In the study, the researchers took a vat of millions of human cells and knocked out a different human gene in each one. Then they added the box jellyfish venom - which kills cells at high doses - and looked for cells that survived. From the whole genome screening, the researchers identified human factors that are required for the venom to work.

“The jellyfish venom pathway we identified in this study requires cholesterol, and since there are lots of drugs available that target cholesterol, we could try to block this pathway to see how this impacted venom activity. We took one of those drugs, which we know is safe for human use, and we used it against the venom, and it worked,” said Dr Lau, who is the lead author on the paper. “It’s a molecular antidote.”

“It’s the first molecular dissection of how this type of venom works, and possible how any venom works,” Dr Lau said. “I haven’t seen a study like this for any other venom.”

“We know the drug will stop the necrosis, skin scarring and the pain completely when applied to the skin,” said Associate Professor Neely, who is the senior author on the paper. “We don’t know yet if it will stop a heart attack. That will need more research and we are applying for funding to continue this work.”

Found in coastal waters in northern Australia, from Queensland to Western Australian and into the waters around the Philippines, the box jellyfish is extremely dangerous. They don’t just float, they can actively swim, gaining speed of 7.5 kilometres an hour when they are hunting. They feed in shallow waters, mainly small fish and prawns.

There are two types of box jellyfish, the Irukandji, which is tiny, and the Chironex fleckeri, which is about three metres long. “We studied the biggest, most venomous and scary one,” said Associate Professor Neely. “Our drug works on the big beast. We don’t know yet if it works on other jellyfish, but we know it works on the most-deadly one.”

The venom used in the study was collected from a box jellyfish off the waters of Cairns by Associate Professor Jamie Seymour at James Cook University.

Anecdotal evidence suggests the only current treatment for a sting is dousing the area with vinegar for 30 seconds or running very hot water over the affected area for 20 minutes. If it’s a major sting, continuous CPR is needed to keep the heart beating.

“Our antidote is a medicine that blocks the venom,” said Associate Professor Neely. “You need to get it onto the site within 15 minutes. In our study, we injected it. But the plan would be a spray or a topical cream. The argument against a cream is when you are stung it leaves lots of little stingers in you so if you rub the cream on it might be squeezing more venom into you. But if you spray, it could neutralise what’s left outside of your body.”

Associate Professor Neely and his team are now looking for potential partners to work on making the medicine available to the public.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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