KATE WASHINGTON MP
LABOR SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
NSW Labor has welcomed the successful passage of its Bill to ban single-use plastic bags in the Legislative Council this afternoon – in a shock defeat and humiliating rebuff for the Berejiklian Government.
Labor’s Bill passed 18 votes to 16 and must now come down to the Legislative Assembly in two weeks time.
Shadow Minister for Environment Kate Washington said she was overjoyed at the result.
“Under Gladys Berejiklian, NSW is the only state to not ban single use plastic bags,” Ms Washington said.
“The only people that are now standing in the way of a ban on single-use plastic bags in NSW are Gladys Berejiklian and John Barilaro.
“This is the third time this Bill has been introduced by Labor. We are hoping it will be a case of third time lucky.
“Labor will be campaigning around the clock with environmental groups across this state to make it happen.”
Ms Washington noted that a week ago Environment Minister Matt Kean told Question Time that he supported banning single use plastic bags.
“Some 50 million plastic bags end up in our oceans and waterways every year, so we have to ban the bag. But we also need to encourage people to reuse and recycle the bag.”
Environment Minister Matt Kean, Hansard 18 September 2019
“So far Matt Kean has been all talk – now we need to see action,” Ms Washington said.
“It’s clear Matt Kean knows this has to be done – his job now is to deliver the votes of Gladys Berejiklian and John Barilaro who have blocked progress at every turn.”
A legislative ban on single use plastic bags is supported by the National Retailers Association as well as NGOs such as the Boomerang Alliance.
Globally it is estimated that 1 million seabirds and over 100,000 mammals die every year as a result of plastic ingestion or entanglement.
About 180 million bags enter the Australian environment every year, including 50 million plastic bags entering our waterways and oceans.
A new project in Northern Australia will focus on how Australia can better protect and rapidly respond to the growing global risk of emergent infectious diseases which can spread to humans through animals and insects.
Increased surveillance of wildlife, improved disease monitoring, and more extensive field-based sampling are some of the initiatives being targeted by the new project, which is a collaboration between James Cook University (JCU) and CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.
Northern Australia is at increased risk of infectious diseases found in South East Asia because of its close proximity to Asia, potentially providing a gateway to the rest of Australia.
RIGHT: A CSIRO scientist at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL).
Australia’s susceptibility is also increased because of global mobility, growing trade, increased urbanisation leading to human encroachment into wildlife habitats, expanding agricultural development including the rise of peri-urban farming, as well as environmental and land use changes.
Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews welcomed the collaboration between two of Australia’s leading biosecurity research organisations to protect Australia from the growing threat of zoonotic diseases.
“This collaboration will create an integrated northern and southern research capability that will be pivotal in helping to strengthen Australia’s preparedness and response to emerging infectious diseases,” Minister Andrews said.
Dean of the College, Professor Maxine Whittaker, said it is estimated that 75 per cent of infectious diseases in humans originate in animals, and the frequency of such transmissions has been steadily increasing over time.
“The global annual incidence of zoonotic infectious disease outbreaks has increased by more than 300 per cent since the 1980s,” Professor Whittaker said.
“This worrying trend is now seen as a global and national health security risk, with recent global outbreaks include Ebola virus disease, highly pathogenic avian influenza (bird flu), and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).”
LEFT: The Aedes albopictus, or Asian Tiger mosquito
Bringing together world-class capabilities from the north and south of Australia, the program will connect JCU’s College of Public Health, Medicinal and Veterinary Sciences in Townsville with two CSIRO facilities: the Australian Tropical Sciences and Innovation Precinct (ATSIP) in Townsville and the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong.
JCU and CSIRO will share knowledge and training opportunities to foster an agile team of experts able to respond rapidly to emerging infectious disease events in the future.
The CSIRO Board met in Townsville this week and welcomed the announcement. CSIRO Chair, David Thodey AO, said CSIRO’s wide-ranging expertise, broad geographical footprint, and commitment to collaboration can connect knowledge and research capability from Northern Australia to Victoria for the benefit of the whole country.
“We’re well-known in the Townsville community for our partnerships to protect and restore the Great Barrier Reef, but the challenge to help safeguard Australia from biosecurity threats is equally important,” he said.
“We can’t solve this biosecurity challenge alone, that‘s why collaboration with our long-standing partner, James Cook University, is crucial in strengthening and integrating Australia’s national biosecurity response capabilities.
“Our Townsville team aren’t just experts in biosecurity and environmental science, they’re Townsville’s front door to the whole of the national science agency, from energy to space, manufacturing to agriculture, and many others – whatever challenges Australians are facing, we’re here to help them solve.”
MEDIA CALL: 10am, Friday 30 August, JCU
Media are invited to film and photograph laboratories and hear from Minister Karen Andrews and representatives from James Cook University and CSIRO at 10am on Friday 30 August 2019.
James Cook University, Townsville
Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) building (Building 48)
1 James Cook Drive, Douglas, QLD
First floor lab.
Map here. Please wear closed-in shoes.
Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL)
Australia has considerable emerging infectious diseases research capabilities at CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) based in Geelong, one of the most sophisticated laboratories in the world for the safe handling, containment, diagnosis and research of animal and zoonotic diseases.
James Cook University
James Cook University has extensive experience in addressing the risk of infectious disease spread between animal and humans, and across the borders throughout tropical regions. Work includes vector control; disease monitoring, containment and prevention to protect animals and humans against potential zoonotic disease outbreaks; human behaviour; animal and human health services responsiveness to zoonotic infections; and modelling the influence of changes (environmental, people and animal movement, land use, antimicrobial treatment effectiveness and climatic) upon disease spread.
A mega tunnel boring machine has broken through a rock wall at North Sydney and entered the biggest underground cavern built so far on the Sydney Metro project.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Transport Andrew Constance today welcomed mega borer Wendy at the new Victoria Cross Station 25 metres below ground.
“It was just over two months ago TBM Wendy broke through at Crows Nest and now she has already made it to the next stop in North Sydney,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“TBM Wendy has tunnelled 4.5 kilometres from Chatswood in eight months and only has another 1.7 kilometres to reach the edge of Sydney Harbour at Blues Point.
“This is incredible progress on the next stage of Sydney Metro which will take the North West Metro, under the harbour, through the CBD and on to Bankstown.”
Mr Constance said Sydney Metro is Australia’s biggest public transport project and will deliver turn-up-and-go Metro train services to 31 stations along a new 66 kilometre railway.
“Wendy is one of five boring machines busy excavating 15.5 kilometre twin railway tunnels to help deliver more metro rail services as quickly as possible,” Mr Constance said.
The huge cavern at Victoria Cross is 40 per cent bigger than both the cavern being built at Barangaroo and the cavern built 25 metres under Castle Hill on the new North West Metro.
TBM Wendy will spend about three weeks undergoing maintenance before being re-launched to complete the last 1.7 kilometre section of the 6.2 kilometre tunnel between Chatswood and the edge of Sydney Harbour.
Extreme climate events are exacerbating the impact of climate change in Australian marine ecosystems causing, in some cases, irreversible change underscoring the importance of adaptation and innovative solutions in the marine environment.
Researchers at CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, have for the first-time collated published works by leading researchers of climate impacts around the whole of Australia’s coast to reveal that around 45 per cent of our coastal marine ecosystems have suffered from the impact of climate extremes.
The study was published in Frontiers in Marine Science.
Marine heatwaves, heavy rainfall from tropical storms, cyclones and droughts have all played a role in fundamentally changing our coral, kelp, mangrove and seagrass communities.
RIGHT: Some bleached coral on the Great Barrier Reef.
“The length of coast impacted by extreme climate events in the last decade is more than 8000 km, almost four times the length of coastline impacted by the much better known Gulf of Mexico oil spill,” lead author of the study Dr Russ Babcock said.
“Corals, kelp, mangrove and seagrass ecosystems provide important habitat and food for thousands of biodiverse marine creatures, plus make vital contributions to the biotic productivity and resource economy of coastal habitats and nearby towns and cities.
“We’ve already seen major climate events rock these marine food webs and create changes that will take decades to fully recover from.
“Some of them are potentially irreversible.”
The CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere research team have studied events like the 2011 Western Australian marine heatwave, the 2016 and 2017 back-to-back coral bleaching events and major cyclones like Cyclone Yasi to paint a full picture of the accumulated impact of extreme climate events.
Ecosystem modelling approaches have also been used to reveal the likely scale of these impacts into the future.
They found that ongoing human-induced climate change, such as gradual increases of sea surface temperature, are exacerbated by extreme climate events which leave most marine organisms and habitats unable to acclimatise or adapt in rapidly changing habitats.
CSIRO Senior Researcher and paper co-author Dr Beth Fulton said that if extreme climate events occur more often and are more intense marine habitat recovery is unlikely to occur.
“Our modelling indicates that the average recovery time for major species groups is around 10 to 15 years. If climate shocks happen more often than this, then ecosystems may never fully recover,” Dr Fulton said.
Different types of extreme climate events can also happen concurrently or one after the other, creating additional pressures for marine ecosystems.
“In February 2011 Cyclone Yasi destroyed swathes of seagrass meadows along the north Queensland coast. When the associated flooding reached the sea the turbid and nutrient rich waters blocked sunlight preventing growth of any remaining seagrasses,” Dr Babcock said.
Dr Babcock and colleagues have been working across Australia’s marine ecosystems to understand climate impacts and strategies for effective adaptation.
“Adaptation responses will be required at species and ecosystem scales,” he said.
“Our research, for example in developing new methods for restoring coral reefs, may be one way to help maintain ecosystems.
“We have developed industrial scale methods to harvest coral spawn, grow it out in at-sea aquaculture systems and redistribute across damaged reefs.
“This is one example of a flexible and adaptable strategy that can be used to help reefs recover in the short term.
“But in the long-term adaptation efforts will need to be coupled with efforts to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases that drive climate change.”
Climate impacts on four major marine ecosystems
Coral habitats are home to more than 83,000 animal and plant species, and are susceptible to diminishing water quality, overfishing, construction, warming oceans and ocean acidification.
Between 2011 and 2017 coral reefs along thousands of kilometers of Australia’s west and east coasts were affected by four separate coral bleaching events. Mortality of corals in WA was as high as 90 per cent in some places while in the north of the GBR average coral cover declined by around 50 per cent.
Kelp forests are important marine habitats and sources of food, kelps are threatened by overfishing, eutrophication and climate change.
During the 2011 Western Australian marine heatwave several species of kelp became locally extinct depriving important fishery species of habitat, they are unlikely to recover in the foreseeable future
Seagrasses stabilise sediments, store carbon, feed turtles and dugongs and provide habitat for fish, invertebrates and birds, many of which are economically important.
Following the 2011 Queensland floods and seagrass loss there was a marked rise in the number of turtle and dugongs found stranded which has been linked to the decline in food availability.
Mangrove ecosystems support fish and fisheries in northern Australia through providing shelter and a stable substrate for plants and animals, as well as protecting low-lying coastlines.
During summer 2015-16 over 1000km of mangrove forest died around the Gulf of Carpentaria, home to one of Australia’s most valuable fisheries, leaving this otherwise pristine ecosystem severely damaged.
Economic modelling undertaken by CEDA in its latest research report has found that immigration to Australia has not harmed the jobs and earnings of local workers.
CEDA’s report, Effects of temporary migration, examines the impact of immigration and recent trends in temporary migration including temporary skilled migration, CEDA CEO, Melinda Cilento said.
“There are currently around two million people in Australia on temporary visas including students, working holiday makers, skilled workers and New Zealand citizens. This is a significant number that should be well understood, transparently managed and appropriately factored into community planning,” she said.
“CEDA’s report has found that migration to Australia in recent decades has been positive for the labour market, and the outcomes from temporary skill migration were particularly positive,” Ms Cilento said.
“CEDA’s analysis shows that temporary skilled migration is critical in delivering benefits to business, the economy more broadly and to the existing workforce.
“However, concerns about the impacts of temporary skilled migration have been raised consistently resulting in frequent changes to the scheme, including most recently the abolition of the 457 visa class.
“Our research has found that key concerns around temporary skilled migration, such as impacts on local workers as a result of visas such as the 482 and its predecessor the 457, are unfounded.
“The average base salary for a skilled temporary visa holder is quite high at $95,000, meaning these workers are unlikely to undercut local employment terms and conditions.
“In addition, they are a small group, with temporary skilled migrants of working age accounting for less than one per cent of Australia’s labour force.
“However, often unpredictable change to this visa category has come at the cost of undermining the ability of business to undertake workforce planning with certainty.
“At a time when more businesses are finding it difficult to source the skills they need, strengthening and providing greater transparency and certainty around temporary skilled migration would support business investment and productivity.
“Temporary migrants also contribute to the economy by paying taxes and spending in the communities in which they live, increasing demand for goods and services and supporting local economic activity and jobs.”
Ms Cilento said while CEDA’s research confirms the positive impact of temporary skilled migration it was important to ensure that the broader community had confidence in the system and that the training levies paid by businesses recruiting skilled migrants were being effectively used to build in demand skills locally.
“CEDA’s report recommends changes to improve transparency and efficiency in the temporary skilled migration system to deliver the dual benefits of improving community confidence in the system and ensuring business can access the skills they need,” she said.
“Skilled migration supports business investment and productivity which are vital for keeping our economy strong.
“Incomes in Australia have been stagnant and lifting productivity can help lift incomes across the community.”
Ms Cilento said there are actions that can be taken immediately to improve the system and make it easier for businesses to get the skills they need now and in the future:
Increasing transparency of data and methods used in determining professions for the skilled occupation list;
Ensuring occupation codes used to assess skill shortages align with evolving labour trends to ensure temporary skilled migration is responsive to emerging skill needs;
Introducing a dedicated path for intra-company transfer of employees to Australia; and
Better aligning the Skilling Australia Fund Levy to alleviate the skill shortages driving the need for skilled migration.
“If CEDA’s recommendations are implemented, the system will be more responsive to the needs of the economy. It will also reduce reliance on low quality instruments like labour market testing to ensure that genuine skills shortages are being filled,” she said.
Ms Cilento said as a mid-sized economy far away from global markets, the importance to our economic success of free movement of goods, services, investment and skills can’t be understated.
“Australia will continue to need temporary skilled migration to fill periodic and emerging skill shortages,” she said.
“We need to make it easier for business to import the best global talent and expertise, and Australia’s temporary skilled migration system is our gateway for global talent.
“Temporary migration also lifts the skills of the broader workforce through the transfer of knowledge and expertise and by introducing new skills, in some instances enabling Australia to build critical new workforces, for example the growing cyber security industry in Australia.”
Additional recommendations in CEDA’s report include:
Establishing an independent committee to undertake analysis and consultation on the formulation of skilled occupation lists, mirroring the model used in the UK.
Tasking the Productivity Commission with a review of the temporary skilled visa program on a regular cycle every three or five years.
Moving the point of levy collection to the visa approval stage rather than visa nomination.
“Improving predictability of the scheme and increasing understanding among the wider community of the benefits to all Australians, will help deliver a fair and efficient system,” she said.
Ms Cilento said other key findings of the report include that only 16 per cent of those on student visas stay permanently, while temporary skilled visas have provided a de facto path to permanent residency for a significant proportion of those migrants.
“This ‘try before you buy’ approach to permanent residency is a positive for the individual and Australia,” she said.
“Both the individual and the employer have the opportunity to see if the ‘fit’ is right before making a longer term decision.
“Recent changes to the 482 visa, previously the 457 visa, may have disrupted this de facto pipeline and it will be worth monitoring the impact this has on the quality of temporary skilled visa holders over coming years.”
The launch of this report will be followed by events across Australia on the following dates:
Sydney 23 July | Melbourne 24 July | Adelaide 26 July | Brisbane 31 July | Perth 31 July