Australia

Country road

ALGA releases 2014 National State of the Assets report

THE 2014 National State of the Assets report has found that, on average, 11 percent of local roads need urgent upgrading, while more than 20 per cent of timber bridges are in a poor state of repair.

These are among the key findings of a report into the condition of local roads and bridges, which was prepared by Jeff Roorda and Associates for the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA).

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Australian Government launches Trainline 2 report

A NATIONAL report on the current state of rail in Australia was last week launched by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss at the Australasian Railway Association's (ARA) annual conference in Perth.

Trainline 2 is a collaborative report between the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) and the ARA. The report provides an overview of freight, urban and non-urban passenger rail, including traffic levels, railway performance, infrastructure and rolling stock provision.

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IPA welcomes new Statement of Expectations for Infrastructure Australia

THE first Statement of Expectations for the renewed Infrastructure Australia provides public transparency and accountability for real progress on policies and projects, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA) said last week.

"Infrastructure Australia is an important structure, but one that has yet to deliver its full potential in either better policies, or more projects," said IPA Chief Executive Brendan Lyon.

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Dwelling approvals fall 11 per cent in September

AFTER two months of gains, the number of new dwellings approved in September decreased by 11.0 per cent, in seasonally adjusted terms, according to the latest figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

A total of 15,004 dwellings were approved in September, compared to seasonally adjusted totals of 16,859 in August and 16,309 in July. When compared to the same month in 2013, the number of dwellings approved in September 2014 was down by 13.4 per cent, in seasonally adjusted terms.

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Expert Advisory Panel appointed for Reform of the Federation White Paper

AN Expert Advisory Panel has been appointed to provide advice and contribute to public discussion on aspects of the forthcoming White Paper on Reform of the Federation, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced during an address to the Sir Henry Parkes commemorative dinner in the NSW town of Tenterfield.

The Panel is likely to convene formally up to 6 times over the next 18 months. It will provide advice to the Prime Minister, as well as generating ideas on reforming the Federation and providing input on key documentation and proposals as they are being developed.

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Commonwealth revenue distribution failing to deliver for states: CEDA report

INCREASING state government control of revenue, along with running a series of conventions across Australia to engage the public in a national conversation on reforming Australia's Federation, are key recommendations proposed in a new research report that was released last week by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA).

CEDA Chief Executive, Professor Stephen Martin said the research report, titled 'A Federation for the 21st Century', has found Australia's excessive vertical fiscal imbalance is one of the key issues undermining the positive aspects of the nation's Federation.

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Senate must resolve one-stop shop standoff: UDIA

THE Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) has urged Senators to reconsider a deal reportedly done to block the necessary legislation for the Australian Government's proposed one-stop shop policy for environmental approvals.

In a statement last week, UDIA National President, Cameron Shephard, said that the one-stop shop would reduce costs for businesses, facilitate new housing supply and create jobs without compromising existing stringent environmental standards.

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Heart Foundation releases second edition of its 'Blueprint for an active Australia'

THE National Heart Foundation of Australia last week said the release of the second edition of its 'Blueprint for an active Australia' is a call to all Australian governments to implement the organisation's 13-point plan to get the nation moving.

Under the action areas of built environment and active travel, the report calls for the appointment of a federal minister responsible for urban development, federal funding to improve public transport, minimum net-density thresholds to create compact mixed-use neighbourhoods and the implementation of congestion pricing or other similar schemes.

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Government programs help improve access to affordable housing for Australians on low incomes: AIHW report

GOVERNMENT programs, such as rent assistance, home purchase assistance and social housing, continue to improve access to affordable housing among those on low incomes, according to a report released last week by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, 'Housing assistance in Australia 2014', presents information on trends and issues in housing policy, housing affordability, the housing assistance provided to Australians with financial or other needs, and the benefits this assistance provides.

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First round of $1bn National Stronger Regions Fund opens for applications

THE first round of the Australian Government's $1 billion National Stronger Regions Fund has opened, with eligible local government and incorporated not-for-profit organisations invited to apply for grants between $20,000 and $10 million.

Funding will be provided for capital projects that involve the construction of new infrastructure, or the upgrade, extension or enhancement of existing infrastructure. Grant funding must be matched in cash on at least a dollar-for-dollar basis, and the funded part of the project must be completed on or before 31 December 2019.

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Plans for one-stop shop for environmental approvals encounter Greens-Palmer roadblock

THE Australian Government's plans to introduce a one-stop shop for environmental approvals have stalled, after the Australian Greens last week secured an agreement with the Palmer United Party to block the proposed legislation.

"We now have the numbers in the Senate to protect our federal environment laws from Tony Abbott's one-stop shop, which would have wound back environment protection in Australia by more than 30 years," Senator Larissa Waters, Australian Greens environment spokesperson, said in a statement.

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Planning Institute applauds renewed focus on mitigating hazards

AUSTRALIA'S peak body for urban and regional planners last week praised the Federal Government's early endorsement of the Productivity Commission's draft Natural Disaster Funding report, which was released in September.

Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) President, Dyan Currie, echoed Justice Minister Michael Keenan's call for natural disaster funding arrangements to take a renewed focus on risk mitigation through land use planning, saying this would lead to significant savings in lives and costs in the long term.

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Dwelling approvals increase by 3.0 per cent in August

DWELLING approvals have recorded a second consecutive month of increases, with the number of new dwellings approved in August increasing by 3.0 per cent, in seasonally adjusted terms, on the back of a revised 2.1 per cent increase July, according to the latest figures released last week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

A total of 16,810 dwellings were approved in August, compared to seasonally adjusted totals of 16,316 in July and 15,980 in June. When compared to the same month in 2013, the number of dwellings approved in August 2014 is up by 14.5 per cent, in seasonally adjusted terms.

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