HOUSES and apartments earmarked for low-income renters are being sold to first-home buyers and private investors, in part because one of Kevin Rudd’s key housing programs is behind schedule.The Housing Minister, Tanya Plibersek, yesterday announced a second round of NSW housing projects to be funded under the National Rental Affordability Scheme, which will pay investors a subsidy for renting properties for 20 per cent less than the market rate.But the announcement has come about two months after it was first due. Some community housing groups that have applied for subsidies say the delay has meant properties that would have been made available to low-income renters have been sold to investors.”I can’t be upset that first-home buyers are getting into the market,” Ms Plibersek said. ”It is … not a bad outcome for people to be buying first houses.”Community housing groups generally praise the policy, which was announced before the last election. But some said their attempts to stitch deals together had been hampered by the application process.”In a lot of instances not-for-profit organisations were competing with first-home buyers …,” said Hal Bisset, of Affordable Housing Solutions, who provides advice to not-for-profit housing companies.Mr Bisset said these issues had been concentrated in western Sydney, where house prices have been supported by the increase in the first-home buyers grant.”It is not all bad news, but it is frustrating,” Mr Bisset said.Ms Plibersek said yesterday that an extra 1241 NSW properties had been approved for development. About 75 per cent will be available to renters by the middle of next year. About half – more than expected – were in the Sydney metro area, in suburbs such as Auburn, Homebush, Ashfield and Baulkham Hills.Ms Plibersek said the delays had been caused by a rush of applications. ”We were a little bit overwhelmed by the demand in the second round. It was more than we expected.”The policy had initially been aimed at superannuation funds and other large investors. But it has increasingly been used by not-for-profit housing companies, and some smaller for-profit providers. ”There’s a really, really laborious approval process,” said one figure in the community housing sector, noting that applications had to be double-vetted by state and federal housing authorities.The details of the National Rental Affordability Scheme came a day after the Government said it would cut $750 million from the social housing component of the $42 billion economic stimulus.The chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Service, Clare Martin, said she was disappointed by the decision. ”There is a shortage of 251,000 rental dwellings available for lower income families and individuals.”
A GROUP of urologists were paid to operate on public patients in a private hospital they own because the NSW Government needed to cut elective surgery waiting lists to qualify for up to $300 million in Commonwealth incentive payments.The five partners in Urology Sydney – a consortium of doctors who also run the urology department at St George Hospital – were funded by NSW Health to urgently treat more than 100 public patients.They negotiated a deal directly with the area health service that manages St George to treat 58 patients at Hurstville Private Hospital in the weeks leading up to the June 2009 deadline.The same urologists had bought the hospital for $3.3 million in partnership with three other surgeons 21 months earlier.The deal gave them exclusive access to any public patients re-directed to the private sector, and the capacity to earn income as both the treating doctors and as the owners of the hospital.Dr David Malouf and four colleagues successfully argued that the health service should not give the work to other urologists, claiming the doctor-patient relationship established with the public patients should not be interrupted.However, there is nothing to suggest any wrongdoing on the part of the urologists and Dr Malouf said it was ”immaterial” that he and his colleagues – Peter Aslan, William Lynch, Peter Nash and Paul Cozzi – had a financial interest in directing extra work towards Hurstville Private.”I would not be happy for one of my public patients to be operated on by another surgeon in another facility … that would be a dislocation of the patient-doctor relationship,” Dr Malouf said.Another 43 patients had been sent to Sydney Private Hospital in the weeks before the December 2008 deadline.Dr Aslan said the deal was a consequence of three years of mismanagement by South Eastern Sydney and Illawarra Area Health Service, which cut the number of urology beds from 15 to six and failed to meet the requests from the urology department for extra operating theatre time in the public hospital.The president of the Australian Medical Association, Andrew Pesce, said the increasing trend of state governments to outsource surgery to the private sector to clear backlogs was ”an admission of failure to plan and manage the resources of the public hospital”.The Federal Government’s waiting list reduction plan offers up to $300 million in payments to reward states and territories that have met targets to improve elective surgery performance.”We worry that this type of solution will entrench a culture of not resourcing the public system properly,” Dr Pesce said.The general manager of the south eastern area health service’s central hospital network, Cath Whitehurst, said outsourcing was a common way to ”ensure patients received more timely care” and was a ”cost effective option for the provision of services”.She has recently agreed to increase the time allocated to the urology department in the public hospital’s operating theatres because of the long waiting times patients are experiencing.But the chairman of the medical staff council at St George Hospital, Allan Sturgess, said many public hospital doctors were ”uncomfortable” with the increasing trend of surgeons and other specialists to own the hospital they operate in.
AN ELDERLY Yuendumu woman yesterday went about her business, unaware she had moved a United Nations official to condemn as ”overtly racist” Australia’s treatment of indigenous people.The memory of Peggy Brown’s extraordinary success in stamping out petrol sniffing in her community on the edge of the Tanami Desert weighed heavy on the mind of the UN’s special rapporteur, James Anaya, as he wound up his 11-day fact-finding mission of Australia, outlining the problems of the Northern Territory intervention.Ms Brown has an Order of Australia and founded the multimillion-dollar Mount Theo Program to rehabilitate substance abusers. She also has her income quarantined.”I found her very inspirational,” Professor Anaya said, recalling her community-based solution to a local problem. ”She’s got this Australian medal of honour for her work and she’s out there on income management.”The blanket rule covering very different cases in remote Northern Territory communities led Professor Anaya to recommend a review of the Government’s indigenous policies.The former indigenous affairs minister, Mal Brough, among other supporters of the intervention, yesterday rejected Professor Anaya’s opinion.”This coercive approach to fixing a problem can’t work,” Professor Anaya said.He suggested the review, knowing indigenous Australians were more vulnerable to the whims of changing governments than counterparts in the US and Canada. They had survived similar dislocation but benefit from continued recognition, either in treaties or under the constitution, he said.Professor Anaya found no evidence to show forced alcohol and pornography bans in communities worked to reduce drinking and abuse.But the prominent indigenous theologian, Dr Anne Pattel-Gray, said many Aboriginal women supported income management and suggested it should apply more broadly to other welfare recipients in the country.Government efforts to curb the teaching of indigenous languages in bilingual Northern Territory schools were also of concern to Professor Anaya.
They are teammates and they are also rivals but Dan Carter could be the making of Stephen Donald as an All Black.All the moves point to them operating in tandem when New Zealand host the Springboks in Hamilton next week.That’s not new and there have already been successes with the pair playing together at 10 and 12 in three important wins against Australia, including tight Bledisloe Cup-clinching victories last year in Brisbane and this year in Sydney.Donald makes no secret of the gains he finds in training alongside Carter. To literally be rubbing shoulders with him in the heat of a test battle can only be better.There is genuine appeal in having a two-pronged approach with their five-eighths as the All Blacks signalled with their move to give Luke McAlister a start outside Carter in Sydney.With McAlister now out of the equation it seems sensible to try to continue that theme against the Springboks where field position is going to be crucial to the All Blacks’ attempts to beat the world champions for the first time this season.The improved kicking game is the most obvious gain with this sort of combination. But there’s also the ability to split the backline and have options at either side of rucks and set pieces. In addition, if one is caught in a ruck, they have a reliable alternative to step into the first receiver for the next phase of play.There is a risk of course. No one can argue that the team looked all the better for Carter returning to the helm against Australia. He’s one of those rare players whose genius sees them capable of stepping into any level of the game despite lengthy absences. He has that little bit of extra time on his side when he has the ball in hand, simply because of his calm head. He’s unflappable.To suddenly move him out a position threatens the assuredness he was able to bring when the Bledisloe Cup really was on the line a week or so ago.But there’s every chance that Donald and Carter will mix and match a bit between the two positions anyway and that has real benefits. As All Blacks midfield great Frank Bunce suggested, Donald has the attributes to make a real go of second five-eighths at international level and these are the sort of situations to test those theories.Donald didn’t have the happiest of times when he had to operate as the No 10 without Carter in sight earlier this year. But sensibly the selectors kept their faith in him, realising they had made a considerable investment in the Waikato and Chiefs playmaker. Like it or not, he remains the next best option.He was solid in his rookie season of test rugby last year and there’s nothing unusual in experiencing some sophomore struggles.What better way to get some added confidence than having the apprentice work right alongside the master?Of course there’s another plus out of all this – the All Blacks are still able to keep Ma’a Nonu involved, even if it means moving him out one spot to centre after his big gains at No 12.To still have Nonu’s attacking force on hand will be vital against the Boks and he might find there’s just that little bit of added space that comes with playing at 13. And like Donald, Nonu will enjoy operating off the shoulder of Carter.It seems there are plusses all round.
ON A stretch of road along Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra, blue mesh fencing and some early excavation mark the foundations of one of the nation’s worst kept secrets.Work has begun on a three-year, $589 million project to construct one of the national capital’s biggest buildings – a five-storey monolith that will house 1800 staff.The plan is officially known as the ”Commonwealth new building project”, but it does not take a James Bond, or even an Inspector Clouseau, to figure out that refers to the new headquarters for the domestic spy agency, ASIO.The designs are laid out in full on ASIO’s website, including the somewhat intriguing detail that our spies will work in a glass-front building.But the plans have been racked by controversy. Some say the building will not fit Walter Burley Griffin’s plans for the city and will resemble the KGB’s former headquarters in Moscow’s Lubyanka Square. Others point to the quiet publication of the plans on a departmental website this year, with no detail of the occupants and little time for residents to respond.Some have asked whether ASIO needs a head office that will outsize the High Court, the National Gallery, the Treasury and the National Library.Defenders say the building should not be compared with the ex-KGB offices but with the FBI headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington; that it is not too big; and that the agency needs power and space in this age of counter-terrorism.ASIO has been at its present headquarters since 1989, when it moved from Melbourne. But staffing and funding levels have soared since the September 11 attacks.The Walter Burley Griffin Society, dedicated to the US-born architect who designed Canberra, says the building is an oversized monolith that will damage his vision for the capital.”It is a grand building but it is in the wrong place,” the chairman of the society’s Canberra chapter, Brett Odgers, said. ”For ASIO to think they need this site is sheer bloody arrogance. It is the height of hubris.”The spy agency would not comment on the building and referred inquiries to the Department of Finance and Deregulation, which owns it. ”The site allows ASIO to remain close to its key client agencies and Australian intelligence community partners,” a spokeswoman said.”The site was chosen and approved by Government following extensive analysis of site options by the department and ASIO in consultation with a range of industry experts and the National Capital Authority.”
MALCOLM TURNBULL’S leadership is to face its stiffest test yet with a byelection in the safe north shore seat of Bradfield, caused by the shock early resignation of his predecessor, Brendan Nelson.The byelection is most likely to occur in November, the same time Labor plans to reintroduce legislation for its emissions trading scheme, the issue that has split the Coalition and put pressure on Mr Turnbull’s leadership.Although the Liberals should hold the seat, any swing away from the party to independents or Greens could be used against Mr Turnbull by his detractors.Labor said it was highly unlikely to contest the byelection, prompting Mr Turnbull to accuse it of cowardice.”Labor must take the opportunity at this byelection to explain why they have amassed so much debt and how they will ask Australians to repay the debt,” he said.After the Herald’s website, smh出售老域名.au, revealed yesterday that Dr Nelson had changed his mind about staying until the next election, the former Opposition leader and Howard government minister announced he would leave Parliament at the end of next month.Because it takes an average of 52 days from the time a member retires for a byelection to be held, the poll is scheduled to fall in mid- to late November.The former treasurer, Peter Costello, who also wants to leave early, refused to say whether he would go at the same time, allowing the byelections to be held simultaneously.Other Liberals planning to retire, including Danna Vale, Chris Pearce and Margaret May, told the Herald they would stay for the full term.Liberal officials said at least 14 candidates are expected to contest preselection for Bradfield, the safest Liberal seat in NSW, which Dr Nelson has held since 1996.The leading candidates include John Howard’s former chief of staff, Arthur Sinodinos, who has yet to nominate, and Simon Berger, one of Dr Nelson’s staff. The preselection ballot will be held at the end of September.Dr Nelson, who endured three byelections during his 10 months as Opposition leader, described as ”complete nonsense” suggestions his early departure created a headache for the beleaguered Mr Turnbull.He said there was no point staying until the election and it was best to get new blood into Parliament now. ”It’s become obvious to me that Bradfield needs a new, energetic advocate sooner rather than later,” he said.”The Liberal Party can ill afford to wait another year for the renewal that will come with a new parliamentary member.”Dr Nelson denied he was sending a message to Bronwyn Bishop and Philip Ruddock, the Liberal veterans occupying safe seats in Sydney and who are planning to stand again.Dr Nelson’s announcement came as a surprise to Mr Turnbull and most of the Liberal Party.Hours earlier, Mr Turnbull had moved to assert his authority by telling his backbenchers who opposed an emissions trading scheme to accept reality. In a speech in Melbourne, he warned that if the Opposition blocked the bill a second time in November, there could be a double dissolution election – which the Coalition would lose – followed by a joint sitting of Parliament which would pass the bill unamended anyway.”We must be part of the solution. We can’t just be part of the problem,” he said.There is speculation that Dr Nelson has landed a job in the defence sector but he said yesterday that apart from some charitable work, nothing else was ”set in concrete at the moment”.
Toulon came from behind to defeat French Top 14 rugby leaders Clermont 26-21 on Wednesday with new star signing Jonny Wilkinson contributing three penalties and a drop goal.Trailing 9-0 after just 11 minutes Toulon went on to dominate the encounter, particularly in the scrum.On 35 minutes Toulon got one of their two tries with Wilkinson feeding the ball to Wales centre Jamie Robinson who took on the Clermont defence before finding To’omaga Sinoti for the touch down.Wilkinson converted to put Toulon into the lead for the first time only for Clermont to regain the initiative two minutes later when Seremaia Bai struck a penalty to give the visitors a 12-10 lead.Bai added two more quick penalties to stretch Clermont’s lead after the break but Toulon then raised their game, producing their second try on 50 minutes with Clement Marienval getting the valuable points.Wilkinson, who got the conversion, was replaced by Sebastien Fauque and the move paid off with the England 2003 World Cup hero’s replacement coming up with three penalties of his own to bag the win for Toulon.Toulouse kept up their decent start to the new campaign with a 21-17 home win over Bayonne which put them top, but only on better points difference from Toulon.Bayonne, who have been linked with signing sacked Wallabies star Lote Tuqiri, proved to be a tough nut to crack as they were leading for over an hour before Frederik Michalak and Shaun Sowerby made their night a winning one.Stade Francais suffered their first loss of the season when they went down 35-40 to bottom club Montaubun, who were forced to call off last weekend’s game against Castres due to a swine flu scare.Their surprise win was due in no small part to the metronomic kicking of Cedric Rosalen who was responsible for seven penalties and two conversions.Stade Francais boast the league’s worst defence with 126 points leaked in four games.”It’s not possible to go on like that, it was catastrophic” said Stade coach, former NSW Waratahs mentor Ewen McKenzie.”We tried to set the pace but our defence was terrible.”Reigning champions Perpignan easily saw off Brive 21-9.Cash-strapped Bourgoin, who have been rescued from financial oblivion by a new deal involving player wage cuts and fresh investment, celebrated with a 17-13 success over Racing Metro.Montpellier gained their second win of the fledgling campaign, a 22-18 victory over Biarritz.The game between Albi and Castres was postponed due to swine flu with seven of the Castres players laid low with the virus. AFP
St George Illawarra playmaker Jamie Soward has vowed he won’t succumb to the pressure of big-game footy in tomorrow’s blockbuster against Parramatta.The Dragons premiership credentials go on the line when they play the red-hot Eels at WIN Jubilee Oval.Soward is a confidence player and has been somewhat subdued in recent weeks, but he insists he will be at his scheming best in the sold-out match.”Three losses won’t change the way I play footy,” Soward said.He believed the atmosphere created by a sell-out crowd on Friday night would be enough to lift the Dragons out of their slump.”If we can’t get up Friday night in front of our home crowd, where we’re going to be playing our first final, then we’ve got something wrong with us,” he said.”The last few weeks have been a little bit lean, but we’re still bubbly and we’re ready to go on Friday.”Asked where the enthusiasm had come from after three straight losses, Soward replied: “You’ve got to be confident.”It’s come to the end of the season we’ve been training nine months for.”You don’t want to bounce into training after three losses thinking ‘it’s over’. We’re still in second spot and we’ve worked really hard to get there.”Some have blamed the Dragons’ recent flat performances on an increased training workload ahead of the semi-finals. The theory is that coach Wayne Bennett has poured the work into his team in anticipation of having a week off during the semi-finals.While hooker Nathan Fien gave no indication if there had been an increased intensity at training in recent weeks, he was quick to put things in perspective.”We work hard week in, week out. That’s part of what we do, but there’s really no excuses for our performances over the last few weeks,” Fien said.”The sides that we have played have really lifted and we’ve probably just come up a little bit short.”Having said that though, there’s 14 or 15 other sides that would like to be in our position, sitting up the top end of the ladder. We’ve got a big opportunity to get things back on track against the form team in the competition this week.”Fien said being guided by a coach with Bennett’s experience had put the Dragons at ease.”Wayne knows what he is doing, he’s been doing it for 20-odd years. We’ve just got to get back on the horse this weekend.”We haven’t played our best footy over the last few weeks and we’re playing the form team in the competition. As a playing group we’re very much looking forward to the challenge.”
LOCAL government wants a share of resulting revenue if the Henry taxation review recommends user charges for travel on Australian roads.A report commissioned for the review by Professor Harry Clarke and David Prentice of the School of Economics and Finance at Victoria’s La Trobe University has recommended a direct link between use of road infrastructure, charging and funding, and less reliance on fuel taxes and fixed charges, such as registration.The more you use the roads, the more you pay.Local government gets no share of registration charges and road taxes, although it is responsible for constructing and maintaining 80 per cent of the nation’s roads – the so-called “local roads”.Roads are the single biggest expenditure item for most councils and are funded by rates and ad hoc handouts from the Federal Government.”Any move to begin charging for the use of the road network and linking future funding to road use is critically important to local government,” said Geoff Lake, the president of the Australian Local Government Association. “Future reform that more directly links funding of local roads to their usage would be welcomed by local government.”The current arrangements for funding the vast bulk of Australia’s road system have not changed from the 19th century when local government grew out of local road boards,” Cr Lake said. ”Times have moved on and so must outdated road funding and taxation arrangements.”Local government urges the federal and state and territory governments to give careful consideration to the feasibility of user-charging for our roads, including local roads, to ease the burden on Australian ratepayers.”The Council of Australian Gov- ernments had already agreed to develop a pricing system based on user charges for heavy vehicles.”Local government believes that any future system of road user charging must apply equally to local roads so as not to create a two-tier road system,” Cr Lake said.The La Trobe report also recommends congestion taxes be introduced in the CBD and on busy arterial roads in Sydney and Melbourne. “There is a straightforward, strong case for moving toward congestion pricing schema based on partial pricing of major arterial and ring roads with cordon pricing of the CBD or comprehensive electronic pricing of all the congested roads in the city,” the report states.It also recommends, as an interim measure to major “user pays” reform, that heavy vehicle users be able use roads now prohibited to them with payment of a fee.The Treasury Secretary, Ken Henry, told an economic policy forum in Sydney last week that reforms to road funding and transport taxes could require an intergovernmental agreement to [email protected]出售老域名.au
THE Federal Government has been forced to make more changes to its $42 billion stimulus package, with new measures to prevent rorting of the $2.7 billion program to provide free insulation to owner-occupied homes.After weeks of deflecting criticism, the Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, announced yesterday that there would be greater auditing of the program and a clampdown on operators quoting excessive prices.The announcement came only a day after the Education Minister, Julia Gillard, admitted to a $1.5 billion shortfall in stimulus spending on school buildings and announced new guidelines for that program.The Opposition demanded Ms Gillard lighten her workload after she was forced to correct three policy clangers in a week.As well as the school-spending changes, Ms Gillard – who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and the Minister for Social Inclusion – further weakened plans to modernise industrial awards after realising they would drive up wages in some industries. She has also backed down on proposed changes to the eligibility criteria for the Youth Allowance benefit.The Opposition education spokesman, Chris Pyne, said Ms Gillard, ”has too much on her plate to focus on the details”.The Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, said the week’s events showed Ms Gillard was struggling with her workload.Mr Turnbull said Ms Gillard was still defending the Youth Allowance changes only recently, when the pair appeared together in front of a youth audience on ABC1’s Q&A program.”She looked them in they eye and said, ‘You are misinformed, you are misled’,” he said.Ms Gillard went on the offensive yesterday, after a progress report on the $42 billion stimulus package by the co-ordinator-general, Mike Mrdak, found $1.5 billion in ”savings” in three target areas: social housing, insulation in rental homes and high school science and language laboratories.Instead of saving the $1.5 billion, it was added to the $14.7 billion allocated for new primary school buildings because demand in this area was greater than anticipated.When the stimulus package was devised, it was based on 2007 enrolment data and the assumption that 90 per cent of schools would want a new building.Instead, 100 per cent of schools applied for a building and there were more students than originally estimated.Ms Gillard said it should not be forgotten that the purpose of the stimulus program was to shield the economy from recession and save jobs, which it had done.”When you’re doing something this big, this quickly, obviously there are going to be bumps along the way and the Prime Minister and I were saying that from the first day that this stimulus package was announced,” she said.Mr Mrdak also warned that the demand for projects within a tight time frame risked blowouts in construction costs.