Tehan Scrambles To Patch Up Uni Funding Disaster

Australian Greens Education spokesperson Senator Mehreen Faruqi has said the Education Minister’s announcement the Commonwealth will fund 12,000 more student places for 2021 is a last-minute scramble to drum up support for unpopular university fee hikes and funding cuts.

Senator Faruqi said:

“Universities need a guaranteed, long-term funding boost, not a cynical injection of last-minute cash as the disastrous job-ready bill hangs in the balance.

“Universities are shedding tens of thousands of jobs and facing multi-billion dollar cuts. The government proposes putting a tiny band-aid on an open wound.

“While money for student places is always welcome, this is effectively an admission that the places promised in Job-ready Graduates come nowhere near satisfying demand for next year. Even with these new places, it won’t be anywhere near enough.

“When Covid-19 hit, the Liberals should have shown some leadership, provided a rescue package for universities and made university free for all students to aid our recovery.

“The grim reality is the government is crying poor on university funding while drawing up plans to bring forward billions in tax cuts for the wealthy,” she said.

New funding and support strategy for younger people living in aged care

The Morrison Government today announced new funding and a strategy for reducing the number of younger people living in residential aged care.

Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Stuart Robert, and Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator Richard Colbeck said the initiative includes $10.6m in the 2020-21 Budget for a national network of system coordinators to help younger people find age-appropriate accommodation and supports to allow them to live independently in the community.

Minister Robert said the Younger People in Residential Aged Care (YPIRAC) Strategy charts the course to meet the strengthened targets set by the Government in late 2019 and builds upon the YPIRAC Action Plan released in March 2019.

‘The Morrison Government is committed to ensuring no younger person needs to live in residential aged care,’ Mr Robert said.

The YPIRAC targets seek to ensure, apart from in exceptional circumstances, there are no people under the age of 65 entering residential aged care by 2022; no people under the age of 45 living in residential aged care by 2022; and no people under the age of 65 living in residential aged care by 2025.

‘The experiences and needs of younger people living in residential aged care, their families and carers, are central to this strategy,’ Mr Robert said.

‘It recognises and prioritises the rights of younger people to determine where and how they choose to live.

‘Priority areas of work have been co-designed with key stakeholders, with input from state and territory governments.

‘These include supporting greater choice and control, improving pathways and linkages across the disability, aged care, housing and health systems, and providing age-appropriate accommodation and ongoing support options.

‘Under the NDIS, we have seen significant progress in reducing the number of participants in residential aged care.”

From the launch of the Government’s YPIRAC Action Plan (March quarter 2019) to 30 June 2020, there has been a 39 per cent reduction in younger people entering residential aged care from 407 to 247, a 22 per cent reduction in people under the age of 45 living in residential aged care from 167 to 130, and a 15 per cent reduction in people under the age of 65 living in residential aged care from 5,715 to 4,860.

Minister Colbeck said the system coordinator initiative, funded in the 2020-21 Budget, will assist the Government to achieve and report against the targets in the YPIRAC Strategy.

‘As part of the 2020-21 Budget, the Government is establishing a national network of up to 40 system coordinators to directly help younger people living in, or at risk of entry to, residential aged care,’ Senator Colbeck said.

‘People who want to live on their own terms and with independence in the community will be supported to navigate Commonwealth and state and territory systems.

‘System coordinators will work with younger people and their families to support younger people to access the disability services, health services, housing and social supports they need.’

‘The initiative will go a long way to support younger people to move from residential aged care to age-appropriate accommodation and supports by 2025.’

The Younger People in Residential Aged Care Strategy 2020-2025 can be found here:
www.dss.gov.au/ypirac.

Additional protection for Victorian aged care services

The Australian Government is extending testing and bolstering the supply of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) throughout residential aged care facilities across Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire to further supress COVID-19 infection rates.

To support the Victorian Government, capacity for asymptomatic testing of aged care workers will be extended and an additional seven million P2/N95 respirator face masks will be provided as the Commonwealth continues to help the sector drive down case numbers.

In making the announcement, Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, said the distribution of additional masks for aged care facilities reinforced the existing health safeguards for residents, workers and families.

“We are committed to ensuring all aged care facilities across the country have access to the critical PPE they require to keep residents and staff safe,” Minister Hunt said.

“To date, we have provided more than 12 million masks and approximately 3.5 million goggles and face shields to Victorian aged care services.”

Urging providers and staff to remain vigilant, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Richard Colbeck, said “the decrease in community transmission in Victoria was cause for optimism.”

“All facilities will be able to request P2/N95 respirator masks to support their delivery of safe care,” Minister Colbeck said.

He said capacity would also be extended to continue to regularly test aged care workers in Victoria.

“In July, we established Mobile Testing Clinics to test asymptomatic staff and residents in residential aged care facilities in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire,” Minister Colbeck said.

“This will be continued by the Australian Government’s dedicated aged care in-reach pathology service that prioritises COVID-19 testing for aged care residents and workers.

“Under the ‘in-reach’ program, more than 152,000 tests at more than 11,000 site visits to almost 2000 residential aged care facilities across Australia have been conducted.”

The Australian Government has already provided further support by funding bulk-billed Medicare tests for asymptomatic Victorian aged care workers which they will continue to take at any time.

This work helps detect areas of community transmission before outbreaks in aged care services occur. To date, more than 10,500 tests have been conducted.

New Funding In Budget To Deliver Australian Screen Content

The Australian Government is supporting Australian screen content by simplifying regulations and injecting $53 million into the development and production of local film and television as part of the 2020-21 Federal Budget.

Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, said that a vibrant local screen industry was essential to Australia’s cultural identity, while also supporting jobs and economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Government is providing $30 million in funding to Screen Australia over two years to support the production of Australian drama, documentary and children’s film and television content,” Minister Fletcher said.

“Screen Australia will also receive an additional $3 million over three years to establish a competitive grants program to cultivate quality Australian screenwriting and script development.

“We are also providing $20 million to the Australian Children’s Television Foundation over two years to boost the development, production and distribution of high-quality Australian children’s content.”

As part of these changes, the Producer Offset – a key screen funding mechanism through which producers receive a refund of part of the production budget through the tax system – will be set at a harmonised 30 per cent for all domestic film and television production.

‘The old approach of treating film and television differently no longer makes sense. Increasing the offset to 30 per cent for television will mean additional funding for Australian television production – and in turn support higher production values and programs with a better prospect of being sold into the global content market, taking advantage of the opportunity created by the explosion of streaming video services like Netflix, Disney+, Stan and Amazon Prime.”

These measures will be complemented by changes to streamline and simplify the drama, documentaries and children’s content ‘sub-quota’ Australian content rules for broadcasters.

The sub-quotas were temporarily suspended as an emergency measure during COVID-19, but will be reintroduced from 1 January 2021.

Content will count towards the new, simplified requirement if it is either drama, or children’s content, or documentary content. With the minor exception of a cap on the number of hours of documentary content that can be counted towards meeting the requirement, the particular mix chosen will be a matter for each broadcaster based on its business strategy and judgement of audience appeal.

Commercial broadcasters will continue to be required to provide 55 per cent overall Australian content on their primary channels between 6:00 am and midnight, and to provide 1,460 hours of Australian content per year on their multi-channels.

The points scheme underpinning the sub-quotas will give more points to higher-budget productions, creating a stronger incentive to commission bigger budget drama which is more likely to be sold globally rather than only be seen in Australia.

The Government will also legislate to reduce the existing Australian content spend obligation on selected subscription television channels from ten per cent to five per cent.

The Government has moved quickly to implement this package of reforms in the first budget brought down after the Supporting Australian Stories on our Screens options paper and consultation process.

It forms part of the Government’s 2019 commitment, in response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Digital Platforms Inquiry, to a staged process to reform media regulation towards an end state of a platform-neutral regulatory framework covering both online and offline delivery of media content to Australian consumers.

Work will continue under that process, including examining whether to introduce an Australian content spend obligation on streaming video on demand services above a minimum size threshold in the Australian market.

As an initial measure, the largest streaming video services will be asked to commence reporting to the Australian Communications and Media Authority on Australian content acquisition from the 2021 calendar year.

“The Government very much appreciates the strong engagement we received during our consultations this year,” Minister Fletcher said.

“The views of stakeholders and interested parties were very clear – we need to continue our support for the production of Australian content, but we also need to remove unsustainable obligations on industry and tailor our interventions to match the new and diverse ways Australian content is being produced and consumed.”

“The measures announced today are designed to do just that. They begin to rebalance our regulatory framework and provide Australians with the opportunity to access Australian content across a range of media, regardless of whether they want to watch free-to-air television, subscription television or streaming services.”

More information on this package can be found here.

Mentoring program to create buzz for Newcastle tourism experiences

Fifteen local businesses will learn how to create new or expanded tourism offerings as part of a City of Newcastle program designed to grow the visitor economy.

The Product Development Mentoring Program is connecting local operators with professional mentors, who will teach them how to develop, promote and sell their tourism products and experiences to a wider market.
ChristChurchCathedral1-Copy.jpgThe initiative forms part of the City’s commitment to helping the local tourism industry survive and recover from the unprecedented impacts of COVID-19.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the quality of the applicants and the diversity of their offerings would start to fill the gap of bookable tourism products on offer in Newcastle, while also aligning with the city’s key experience pillars of coastal and aquatic assets, active and outdoor lifestyle, arts, heritage and culture, culinary destinations and ‘after dark’ activities.

“This program will support and empower tourism operators to optimise their business and showcase the city’s best assets to a wider tourism audience,” Cr Nelmes said.

“From cruises that make the most of our stunning coastline and waterways to land-based guided tours that unearth the hidden gems within our city, these tourism operators are passionate about sharing those elements that make Newcastle such an exciting and enticing destination.

“It’s also great to see some additions to the tourism mix among the successful applicants, including new businesses launching into the market and established business dipping their toes into the tourism sector to enhance their core offering.

“Expanding the suite of bookable options on offer across Newcastle will also have a flow-on effect that will benefit the local hospitality, accommodation and retail sectors by helping to grow visitation, length of stay and expenditure in Newcastle when travel restrictions ease.”

Applications were invited for the new program in August, with 15 local operators chosen by a panel of assessors to take part in the mentoring process, which kicked off this month and will continue until February next year.

The 15 participants are: Baked Uprising, Blackbutt Reserve, Christ Church Cathedral, CoastXP, Earp Distilling Co, Mitch Revs Gallery, Newcastle Afoot, Newcastle Backroad Tours, Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club, Newcastle Ghost Tours, Newy Rides, Nova Cruises Pty Ltd, The Lock-Up, Underground Epicureans and Urban Hum.

The Product Development Mentoring Program is being funded as part of the City’s Community and Economic Resilience Package and builds on other industry-based support including more than $500,000 in Industry Response Program grants developed in collaboration with the City Taskforce.

NSW BUSINESSES POWERING CONSTRUCTION OF SYDNEY’S NEW FOOTBALL STADIUM

Local businesses are driving construction of the Sydney Football Stadium with almost $300 million worth of contracts awarded to 25 NSW based suppliers and contractors so far.

Acting Minister for Sport, Geoff Lee said this project has supported many small, medium and large enterprise across NSW and will continue to do so until its completion in 2022.

“The Sydney Football Stadium redevelopment project has been a key economic generator during this pandemic, boosting the NSW construction industry with direct and indirect jobs as well as the purchase of materials from suppliers across our state,” Mr Lee said.

“It’s another exciting milestone to see the start of in-factory fabrication of the stadium roof at S&L Steel in Western Sydney. The team will use over 4000 individual pieces of steel to build this significant part of the stadium,” Mr Lee said.

“They are a family owned and managed business and we’re pleased to be supporting jobs in the area.

The team at Evergreen Turf in North West Sydney will supply the grass for the project and associated services at Sydney Football Stadium, generating 200 direct and indirect jobs. Evergreen have pioneered revolutionary turf systems for stadiums around the world.

“It’s fantastic to meet-up with our stadium suppliers and see their hard work in action. I’m really proud to see this project supporting so many people, despite the challenges of this pandemic.”

John Holland General Manager, Matthew Bourne said work on site remained on schedule.

“We’re pleased to have been able to operate in accordance with the COVID-19 regulations, to keep this important project going,” said Mr Bourne.

“In coming months we’ll also see the construction of the walls and shell of the building, so it will really start to take shape.

“We look forward to delivering this remarkable Sydney icon for many spectacular sporting battles here in NSW, and in time for the 2022 NRL Grand Final.”

Approximately 2000 tonnes of structural steel will be required for the new stadium’s roof.

Owner of S&L Steel, Pablo Santos, said this project was of special interest to the family.

“We are very excited to be fabricating the steel for the new stadium’s roof. My father, who is still involved with our business, started the company back in 1974, and we’ve worked on many government projects since then, including the old Sydney Football Stadium,” said Mr Santos.

Construction will continue throughout the pandemic, with extended working hours on weekends to enable safe work practices with social distancing, no job losses or reduced hours for employees.

NSW SMALL BUSINESS MONTH TO ASSIST THOUSANDS OF BUSINESSES

Thousands of businesses across the state are set to receive a boost after one of the most challenging times in recent history as the NSW Small Business Month launches tomorrow.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the NSW Government initiative is the fourth annual NSW Small Business Month, which will include hundreds of free and low-cost activities across NSW and provides a chance for businesses to reboot, connect and recover.

“Business communities have faced unprecedented challenges in 2020, with drought, bushfires, floods and now COVID-19,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“NSW Small Business Month is an opportunity to celebrate our small business owners, their valuable contributions to our local communities and their resilience. We also want to focus on ways to reboot and look at ways of doing business differently to get ahead.”

This year’s NSW Small Business Month will build on the success of the past three years by collaborating with 219 local councils and chambers of commerce, as well as over 180 festival partners, across the state.

Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope said NSW Small Business Month included a mix of online and face-to-face COVID Safe events providing a chance to connect with other businesses and agencies.

“NSW is home to more than 785,000 small businesses who make a valuable contribution; they make up 97.5 per cent of businesses in NSW and employ more than 41 per cent of the private sector workforce,” Mr Tudehope said.

“Up to $640,000 in funding was made available this year with 93 councils and 126 local chambers of commerce receiving grants to host COVID-Safe events.”

The events cover a range of innovative and diverse topics including leveraging social media and getting your brand online.

The launch event at 10am on Thursday, 1 October will be a live webcast with a top line-up of Government and business experts, including Facebook, NAB and ATO executives. For further information, visit businessmonth.nsw.gov.au

MORE CASUAL TEACHERS FOR REGIONAL SCHOOLS

A trial to provide public schools in regional NSW with more casual teachers will begin in Term 1, 2021.

Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell said the trials, using two pilot programs, aim to bring more teachers to regional NSW.

“It can be difficult to attract and retain teachers in rural and remote areas for a number of reasons including travel distances, lack of suitable accommodation close to schools and limited opportunities for teachers to access professional learning,” Ms Mitchell said.

“The hub and spoke pilot provides two teachers, employed in a ‘hub’ school, who can also address the needs of nearby ‘spoke’ schools.

“Through this pilot, up to 12 teachers will be employed and will be able to be deployed quickly to a nearby spoke school to cover classes.

“It will also provide certainty to casual teachers, knowing they have a permanent position.”

The program targets schools with the greatest reported shortages and grouping them in travel distance clusters to reduce average commuting times to less than an hour.

The in-built relief model first piloted in 2019, will be extended to a carefully selected number of schools from Term 3, 2020.

“One temporary teacher will be embedded in each school to provide relief when permanent teachers are unavailable due to professional development or illness.”

The trials will improve the proposition of working in rural or remote schools by:

  • reducing commuting time; and,
  • offering longer engagements,
  • offering temporary or permanent appointments that include leave and other benefits,
  • providing employment certainty,
  • investing in professional development and learning for these teachers.

DV Funding Leaves a Third of Women At Risk

The long overdue announcement of the Safe Places Emergency Accommodation grants is welcome, but falls critically short of national demand and is no substitute for adequate funding in next week’s Budget, Greens Senate Leader Larissa Waters said.

“This funding is a fraction of the money needed to ensure women and children fleeing family violence have somewhere to go and get the support services they need,” Senator Waters, Greens spokesperson on Women, said.

“Announcing 700 new crisis places which the government contends will house 6,000 women and children nationally, when its own data shows almost 10,000 survivors were already turned away from crisis accommodation pre-Covid, means the government is condemning a third of women and children to a choice between violence or homelessness.

“Increased demand throughout Covid has meant Queensland Women’s Legal Service hasn’t been able to answer 50% of its incoming calls.  Much of the ‘emergency’ funding announced by the government to address increased demand on Family and Domestic Violence services in March is yet to reach the bank accounts of frontline services.

“Funding for crisis accommodation and support services for victim-survivors has never been more critical. Yet services have been waiting months for the support promised by this government, and made clear that much more is needed.

“The Greens support the sector’s calls for a significant increase in funding to fix the domestic and family violence crisis. Next week’s Budget must fund all frontline services needed to keep all victim-survivors of violence safe, and effective primary prevention,” Senator Waters said.

$9 Million for research into cancer in children and young adults

The Morrison Government is providing $9 million to support research into the causes, biology and progression of cancer among children and young adults.

Cancer is the leading cause of death from disease among Australian children. In the decade to 2015, nearly 1000 Australian children under the age of 15 died from cancer.

Delays in diagnosing childhood cancers can limit treatment options, and for some cancers, there are currently no effective treatments.

Tragically, survival rates for some cancers among children have not improved in more than 25 years, and new analysis of records held by the Australian Childhood Cancer Registry shows the rates of several childhood cancers are slowly rising.

This $9 million investment from the Government’s ground-breaking Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) will provide grant opportunities for Australia’s world-leading researchers to accelerate options to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer in children and adolescents.

The Grant Opportunity will fund projects in two streams of research:

  • Cancers that occur in children aged 0-14 years.
  • Cancers that occur in adolescents aged 10-19 years.

Funding of $3 million will be allocated to each of the two streams. The remaining $3 million will be earmarked to support the overall best research, irrespective of streams.

Consultation with The Kids’ Cancer Project and Cancer Australia, has informed the scope and priorities of the 2020 Childhood Cancer Research Grant Opportunity.

The Government’s MRFF is a $20 billion endowment fund. The MRFF is a long-term investment supporting Australia’s best and brightest researchers. Further information about the MRFF is available at www.health.gov.au/mrff.

Guidelines to apply for grants under the 2020 Childhood Cancer Research Grant Opportunity are available at https://www.grants.gov.au/