Draft amendment for constitutional recognition of local government released

THE Federal Government last week released the proposed amendment to the Constitution as part of the draft bill and explanatory memorandum, following its decision earlier this month to support a referendum at this year's September federal election to provide for financial recognition of local government in the Australian Constitution.

The draft Constitution Alteration Bill proposes a change to the Constitution so that Commonwealth financial support for local government bodies is formally recognised in the Constitution and an Explanatory Memorandum seeks to explain why the alteration will not diminish the role of the states in the administration of local government.

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Federal Budget 2013-14 released with $24bn for Nation Building Program

AMIDST challenging economic conditions and significant revenue write-downs, the Australian Government this week handed down its Budget for 2013-14, which Treasurer Wayne Swan said puts Australian jobs and economic growth at its core, makes room for the smart investments critical for Australia's future and provides a clear pathway to return the budget to surplus.

Weaker corporate profitability, along with lower than expected capital gains tax and resource rent taxes, is expected to significantly affect the level of company tax receipts received in 2012-13, which have been revised down by $17 billion and $60 billion over the forward estimates period.

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Improve transport system and move people closer to jobs: Grattan Institute report

BUILDING more homes in established areas of cities and improving urban transport could substantially boost national prosperity and economic growth, according to a new report released last week by the Grattan Institute.

The report, 'Productive cities: opportunity in a changing economy', shows that a new divide is opening in Australian cities, with growing gaps between the incomes, qualifications, house prices and access to jobs of residents in inner and outer areas.

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New report examines Australian night time economy

THE Australian night time economy was valued at $92 billion in 2011, according to a new report released last week by the National Local Government Drug and Alcohol Committee (NLGDAAC) that examines the size and nature of the Australian night time economy.

In other findings, the report estimates that 8.74 per cent (970,000) of all Australian employees are employed in the core night time economy, an increase of 6.9 per cent since 2009. New South Wales and Victoria are found to have the largest night time economies, accounting for more than 60 per cent of all core night time economy firms.

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Australian Government supports referendum for local government at this year's election

THE Australian Government has announced it will support a referendum at this year's September 14 election to provide financial recognition of local government in the Australian Constitution.

Making the announcement with Local Government Minister Anthony Albanese last week, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the 113-year-old Constitution needed to be updated to "recognise the level of government which people deal with every day for services that are so important to their lives."

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$1 billion to deliver 10,000 NRAS homes

THE Australian Government last week opened a new round of incentives worth $1 billion over 10 years to build 10,000 new affordable rental homes by 2015-16 under the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS).

Housing and Homelessness Minister Mark Butler said the government will look to preference projects that embrace universal design principles to help support independent living for older people and people with a disability under this fifth round of NRAS funding.

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Urban Coalition releases new plan to improve infrastructure funding and strategic planning

THE Urban Coalition, a group of leading development, built environment and planning organisations, last week released a new plan that aims to address emerging urban challenges and improve infrastructure funding and strategic planning in Australian cities.

The plan, A New Deal for Urban Australia, calls for leadership and investment and recommends the establishment of an Urban Infrastructure Fund to meet an estimated backlog of more than $500 billion in infrastructure needs for Australian cities and to better manage population growth.

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ABS releases new population growth and density figures

NEW figures released by the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reveal that inner Sydney is Australia's most densely populated area; Perth had the highest population growth rate of any capital city; and Victoria had the largest population increase of any state or territory.

The Regional Population Growth Australia 2011-12 statistics, released last week, provide the latest available estimates of the resident populations of areas of Australia as at 30 June 2011 and 2012.

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Dwelling approvals fall 5.5 per cent in March 2013

FOLLOWING an increase in February, the number of dwellings approved in March 2013 decreased by 5.5 per cent in seasonally adjusted terms, or 1.2 per cent in trend terms, according to the latest data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) last week.

The latest Building Approvals figures show that the number of dwellings approved have fallen in the first 3 months of 2013, in trend terms, following a period of growth throughout 2012. In March they declined by a further 1.2 per cent, in trend terms, compared to February.

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Slightly improved outlook for construction sector: ACIF

LATEST data from leading industry forecasters reveals some positive news for the building and construction sector in Australia, with the nation's relatively strong economy set to result in overall activity levels improving over the medium and long term, according to the Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF).

The upcoming release of industry forecasts next month by ACIF are expected to reveal a slightly improving overall outlook for the industry. However, the biannual release of the forecasts will also show that the outlook varies by sector, state and capital, affecting businesses differently across the country.

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Benefits of building regulatory reform amount to $1.1bn per annum: ABCB

THE Australian economy is potentially gaining an economic benefit of $1.1 billion a year as a result of building regulation reform, according to a new report commissioned by the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB).

The report, 'Benefits of building regulation reform: from fragmentation to harmonisation', was prepared by the Centre for International Economics and examines the impact of three major building regulation reforms since the early 1990s.

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New funding round announced for National Rental Affordability Scheme

FEDERAL Housing and Homelessness Minister Mark Butler last week announced a new round of funding for 'shovel-ready' projects under the National Rental Affordability Scheme (NRAS).

Mr Butler said the new funding round will provide incentives for up to 1,000 shovel-ready homes across Australia to be substantially completed by June 2014, such as projects that have secured finance, land and development approvals.

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Final high speed rail report released

FEDERAL Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese last week released the High Speed Rail (HSR) Study Phase 2 Report, which among other matters, identifies a potential route, estimates costs and benefits and examines issues around construction, patronage and economic viability of a high speed rail line along Australia's east coast.

Mr Albanese described the study, which was undertaken by an AECOM-led consortium, as "the most detailed and comprehensive study ever undertaken into high-speed rail in this country," with 450 pages of analysis, 1900 pages of appendices and nearly 300 detailed maps.

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