Bus drivers forced to turn off airconditioning as Brisbane sweltered

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By Ruth McCosker

Talking points

Brisbane City Council’s bus fleet started with just 11 buses in 1925.

Brisbane City Council’s bus fleet currently has more than 1200 buses.

All of Brisbane’s buses are airconditioned.

Bus drivers were ordered to turn off airconditioning between routes as the temperature soared in Brisbane at the weekend.

The State Government Transport Operations Regulation states that if the Bureau of Meteorology forecast maximum temperatures of at least 28 degrees, drivers must turn on the airconditioning in the buses.

Brisbane City Council buses at Virginia bus depot.

Brisbane City Council buses at Virginia bus depot.

Photo: Michelle Smith

A Bureau of Meteorology spokesman confirmed that Brisbane’s maximum temperature reached 31.5 degrees on Saturday and 32.5 degrees on Sunday, after forecasts of 31 degrees for Saturday and 33 degrees for Sunday.

The weekend heat prompted bus drivers to ignore signs at terminuses ordering them to switch off their engines after 30 seconds as they wanted to keep the airconditioning running.

But managers swooped and told them to cut their engines.

It was understood drivers typically spent up to 15 minutes at the open-air terminuses while waiting to start their routes.

Rail, Tram and Bus Union assistant state secretary Tom Brown said the issue had been going on since last October and had only been brought to light due to the recent extreme heat.

“The temperature in the bus goes through the roof after 10 or 15 minutes and then the airconditioners can’t draw the temperature back down to an optimum level,” he said.

“So the bus is driving around for the next few hours with the airconditioner pushing warm air around and it’s making drivers sick.”

Brisbane City Council shadow transport spokesman Jared Cassidy called on Lord Mayor Graham Quirk to reverse the ban immediately, claiming it endangered workers and was a poorly conceived cost-cutting exercise.

Signs at Brisbane terminuses instruct drivers to switch off their engines after 30 seconds.

Signs at Brisbane terminuses instruct drivers to switch off their engines after 30 seconds.

“Drivers’ health is being put at risk from bureaucratic penny-pinching,” he said.

“According to the council’s own website, on a 30-degree day, the temperature inside a car can be as high as 70 degrees.

“Everyone knows you don’t leave children or pets in cars on hot days. Lord Mayor Quirk is so far out of touch he seems to [think] he can over-rule state regulations and leave drivers to sit in hot buses during a heatwave.”

Cr Cassidy called on Cr Quirk to leave his airconditioned office and airconditioned car to go to the bus depots and ask drivers what it was like to sit in a non-airconditioned bus.

Council public and active transport chairman Adrian Schrinner said the opposition’s claims were ludicrous and the council would not reverse the ban.

“This is not a safety issue,” he said.

“Definitely it’s a comfort issue and I acknowledge that but it’s not a safety issue and there’s a big difference.

“Ultimately this is about ensuring that the buses aren’t causing a pollution issue out in the suburbs and that is a real concern, both noise and the emissions from the buses idling as well.”

Cr Schrinner said bus drivers were not forced to stay on the bus when they were idling and he encouraged drivers to get out of the bus and have a break.

“We’re not saying they must stay in a hot bus,” he said.

“We will be continuing the existing practice which provides the right balance between the drivers, the local residents and also minimising pollution as well.”

 

Source :  The Brisbane Times

The WA tourist town where twice the annual rainfall hit in less than two months

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Record rains have swamped the northern West Australian town of Broome, dumping twice the annual rainfall on the popular tourist spot in less than two months.

Tropical Cyclones Joyce and Kelvin, combined with a severe storm, have drenched the Kimberley.

Bureau of Meteorology representative Neil Bennett says Broome has broken its annual record after receiving more than 1500mm of rain.

“And it’s only February,” Mr Bennett said.

He said the northern WA cyclone season continued until April and it was safe to assume more dangerous weather systems were likely.

“Interestingly, the season started late last year with cyclones coming in a rush at the end of March,” he said.

Sections of the vital Great Northern Highway supply road remain shut, isolating people in Kimberley region towns including Broome, Derby and Halls Creek from the south of the state.

 

Tropical Cyclone Kelvin was downgraded to a tropical low on Monday but will continue to bring heavy rains and gale-strength winds up to 100km/h as it heads south-east across the interior on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Mr Bennett said the ex-tropical cyclone was predicted to merge with a current storm system near the South Australian border and could bring flash flooding to the town of Eucla.

He warned WA’s main connection with the eastern states is by the roads and rail lines in the area.

Meanwhile, the western Pilbara and western Gascoyne regions have been very dry, suffering a severe lack of rain for more than 10 months in coastal districts.

AAP

Source :  WA Today

Scathing report finds Barnett government spent ‘large buckets of money’ on poorly planned project

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FEBRUARY 20 2018 – 3:47PM

Heather Mcneill

Former Premier Colin Barnett repeatedly ignored warnings from treasury about budget blowouts and approved multibillion dollar projects without supportive business cases, a special inquiry has found.

In a scathing report into the Barnett government’s management of government programs and projects between 2008 and 2017, special inquirer John Langoulant found the government used a “temporary boom” in state revenues to pay for permanent promises.

The report was scathing of Mr Barnett's management of the state's finances.

An analysis of 31 major government projects put under the microscope showed the state government had no overall plan for spending, and had approved billion dollar projects, such as the plagued Fiona Stanley Hospital Serco contract, without business cases to support them.

“Because there was no plan, everyone thought it their opportunity to get a piece of the cake,” Mr Langoulant said.

“The absence of a stand-alone business case to underpin the $4.3 billion Serco contract was the worst case of financial risk taking for the state to be reviewed by the special inquirer.”

Royalties for Regions, a fund capped at $1 billion a year and derived from 25 per cent of royalties received by the state, was labelled the catalyst for destabilising WA’s finances and was criticised by the special inquiry for operating outside of the state’s budget.

 The regional slush fund was an election commitment the National Party used as a bargaining chip in its deal to form government with the Liberal Party.

“There were large buckets of [Royalties for Regions] money allocated to high level and relatively undefined objectives such as ‘Pilbara Revitalisation’,” the report said.

“Funding was allocated from these buckets to build stadiums and other infrastructure without proper planning, with inadequate governance structures, and under the management of local government bodies that were not equipped to manage multi-million dollar projects.

“Often those same local governments were not funded to maintain the asset at the end of the project.”

Of the 50 Royalties for Regions projects assessed, the report found only five had business cases which were considered adequate.

More broadly, the special inquiry gave a ‘poor’ or ‘jury’s out’ rating to three quarters of the 31 projects it assessed including projects managed by Western Power and Synergy, the Fiona Stanley Hospital and the Swan River Bridge.

Elizabeth Quay and Perth Stadium were two of the reviewed projects the inquiry commended.

Mr Barnett declined an invitation to meet with the special inquiry, claiming he believed the exercise was political in nature.

Instead he supplied a written response to questions asked by Mr Langoulant.

“I decline your invitation to meet with the special inquiry, I regard the whole exercise as being politically motivated,” he wrote in the letter dated 26 October, 2017.

“Forward estimates are always subject to changes in the external economic and financial environment.

“It is the role of treasury to do the best it can in preparing forward estimates. Their importance is often exaggerated.”

During Mr Barnett’s eight years of leadership, the state’s revenue grew on average by 3.8 per cent each year, however outlays nearly doubled that figure at 6.6 per cent.

WA's revenue trend.

WA’s revenue trend.

Mr Langoulant claimed the over-spending led to Labor in 2017 inheriting a set of books that were “beyond disbelief”.

“The influence of the Premier and the Premier’s office… is important because they are the leader… but it would seem… their significance came at the expense of other’s being heard,” he said.

“Treasury was putting out the warnings on a regular basis and being told they weren’t right [by the Premier].”

Mr Langoulant said Western Australia’s GST share did not have a major impact on the state’s core revenue base – a line often rolled out by Mr Barnett when explaining the state’s dwindling finances during his time in office.

“The GST… was not the problem, the problem was the government spent too much… revenue was not the problem,” Mr Langoulant said.

“The previous government ran the recurrent budget through the floor… there was a way to fund that infrastructure in a sustainable way.

“The record of financial management stands for what it is, and it’s not good.”

The special inquiry, which spoke to 123 people over six months, made 107 recommendations including a complete overhaul of the public sector’s central agencies, more rigorous submissions to cabinet, increased transparency, and the establishment of a Parliamentary Budget Office to ensure election promises have been budgeted for.

It recommended the Royalties for Regions program remain but be heavily overhauled, a commitment the Labor party has already made.

WA general government revenue by source.

WA general government revenue by source.

Premier Mark McGowan tabled the $1.1 million special inquiry report in Parliament on Tuesday.

“When my government came to office less than a year ago, we were faced with record budget deficits and a mountain of debt that was growing at an uncontrolled rate,” he said.

“This legacy of the former government came from an entrenched pattern of unsustainable spending, reckless decision making and a complete disregard for accountability and transparency.

“This should never happen again. My government will apply appropriate rigour and scrutiny to financial decisions.”

Opposition leader Mike Nahan, who was treasurer during the final years of the Barnett government, dismissed Mr McGowan’s suggestion he needed to apologise to the Western Australian public for the state of the finances.

“The biggest issue Mr Langoulant had was about forecasting, about revenue forecasting in particular and again those were treasury’s forecasts, I’m not criticising them, they did the best to our knowledge,” he said.

“It’s easy to forecast by looking in the past, you have perfect information, but I can guarantee you back in 2008 no one saw the GFC and in 2013, no one saw the decline in iron ore prices that eventuated.

“But nonetheless, his point about making sure you understand the risks and making sure that you budget for the long-term are correct and we will be taking those into our future policy and indeed holding the government to account for those.”

Source :  WA Today

ATO response to IT failures ‘effective’ despite poor planning: national auditor

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Doug Dinwall

The Tax Office’s response to major outages hitting its IT systems was effective, despite shortcomings in a plan it used when handling problems with critical infrastructure, the national auditor says.

A report released on Tuesday looking at the Australian Taxation Office’s response to its tech failures found it was pursuing reforms recommended following two massive IT crashes in December 2016 and February 2017.

While that June review had shaped its reforms since, and the agency had achieved four of the 14 recommendations, the Australian National Audit Office said “considerable work” was needed to make the other planned changes before the ATO achieved many of their intended results.

The auditor also found the ATO lacked service commitments relating especially to the availability of its IT systems, but that the Tax Office did specify system outage tolerances in its major contracts with service providers.

“To monitor the impact of ICT service outages on satisfaction with its services, the ATO should develop service standards that are aligned with system outage tolerances in its contracts with ICT service providers,” it said.

As outages gripped its IT systems in December 2016 and February 2017, the ATO resorted to a plan in response that was limited in correcting system failures with critical infrastructure including data centres.

“The business continuity processes also did not recognise weaknesses in ICT design – particularly that the system recovery tools used to restore ICT services were on the affected storage area networks – which resulted in services not being fully restored for ten days for the December 2016 incident and five days for the February 2017 incident.”

The auditor said that despite its limited planning for the critical failures, the ATO’s responses to the incidents were largely effective, as it worked closely with the contracted ICT service providers to identify the system fault and restore services.

It could have better communicated with stakeholders throughout the incidents, the auditor said.

An independent review by consulting firm PwC, released in December, found a massive failure of Tax Office IT systems had a “disproportionately significant impact” on services because such a meltdown had not been planned for, while remediation efforts might not be effective.

Tax commissioner Chris Jordan has previously said the major outages were unexpected and, to the ATO’s knowledge, unprecedented.

ATO chief information officer Ramez Katf said changes including a major refresh of the hardware and software used to run client-facing systems were already under way.

“Through improved real-time monitoring, we are better placed to detect and respond to issues to minimise any impact on the community,” he said.

“We will focus on improving our IT design and governance, further strengthening our cyber security posture and improving the technology used by ATO staff to ensure they have the right tools to do their job.”

Mr Katf said the ATO had made progress in the last six months implementing recommendations of its review, including improvements to the business continuity plan criticised in the auditor’s report, and real-time monitoring of systems.

More than 20 outages have hit the Tax Office’s systems in two years, and a parliamentary inquiry is investigating the Australian Public Service’s tech reforms prompted in part by the agency’s IT failures.

 

Source :  The Canberra Times

‘Be like Australia’: an American teenager’s message to Donald Trump

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David Crowe

Washington DC: Makenzie Hymes was so heartbroken by the latest shooting at a US school she decided to prepare an Australian history lesson for American politicians.

Hymes, a 13-year-old who loves dancing and the piano, wrote the story of Australia’s gun control laws on a placard she took to the White House this week where she joined dozens of other school children demanding tougher gun laws.

Most students kept to short slogans.

“Am I next?” read one.

 

“Fear has no place in school,” said another.

But Hymes, a middle school student in Washington DC, wanted Americans to know about John Howard’s response to the Port Arthur massacre more than two decades ago.”

Australia had its worst mass shooting on April 28, 1996,” her placard read, before explaining the bipartisan deal that followed.

“The government brought back and destroyed over one million guns,” she concluded. “Australia has not had a mass shooting since then.”

Students like Hymes have led the protests against existing US gun laws over the past week, in the wake of the mass shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 dead.

The teenage killer used an AR-15 assault rifle, the weapon used in five of the six deadliest US shootings in recent years including those in Las Vegas, Sandy Hook and Orlando. The weapon is banned in Australia outside military use.

Hymes was one of the younger protesters at the rally on Monday, timed for the President’s Day public holiday to maximise attention on Donald Trump’s refusal to consider tougher laws.

Flags flew at half-mast on federal buildings, including the White House, to honour those who died in Florida.

“I feel like if people hear about what other countries do they’ll realise we’re a lot behind,” Hymes told Fairfax Media when asked why she wanted her fellow Americans to learn from Australia.

“It’s not impossible to change things, it’s not stupid. Various foreign countries like Australia have done things to get rid of the bad guns. I don’t know much about what Australia did, but I know that they got what they needed sooner rather than later.”

The White House protest was relatively small, with about 50 students attending, and there is no sign of widespread momentum for reform. While Australia struggled to achieve change across six states, the US faces the challenge of reaching deals across 50 of them.

But there is real frustration among young Americans who feel their elders are not doing enough to make schools safe. The organisers of this week’s protests, Teens for Gun Reform, are planning a march on Washington on March 24.

 

Source :  The Canberra Times

RAAF Super Hornet and Growler aircrews have experienced ‘physiological episodes’, Defence confirms

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Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircrews have experienced “physiological episodes” while flying the aircraft, the Department of Defence has confirmed.

“Australian F/A-18F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircrew have experienced events known as physiological episodes,” a Defence spokesperson told sister publication ADBR on Monday.

“Physiological episodes are caused by complex interactions between human physiology and the aircraft breathing air system.”

The F/A-18 and EA-18G aircraft’s onboard oxygen generating system (OBOGS) is thought to have triggered a number of hypoxia-like physiological events for US Navy aircrews, as well as some decompression events, in the last decade, with the issue raised in US Congressional hearings earlier this month.

“As we sit here today, new F/A-18s are rolling off the production [line] at a cost of around (US)$69 million per aircraft. At some point, paying (US)$69 million for an aircraft we know has serious problems with its life-support system has to be questioned,” the ranking member of the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee, Democrat Representative Niki Tsongas, said on February 6.

In response, Rear Admiral Sarah Joyner, head of the US Navy’s Physiological Episode Action Team, said the service is looking to make a series of design changes to the F/A-18’s OBOGS and environmental control system (ECS) that are designed to make the aircraft safer to operate.

“The problem is extremely complex as contaminants can be generated by a number of sources both within and external to the aircraft. Investigations led by the US Navy continue to develop a detailed understanding of this problem,” the Defence spokesperson told ADBR in a written statement.

The RAAF is continuing to implement a risk management plan for both aircraft types, Defence says.

“In line with this risk management plan, Defence has established a program to reduce the occurrence and severity of physiological episodes, which includes:

  • in-aircraft incorporation of a breathing air purification system
  • increase of emergency oxygen supply to assist in aircrew recovery should an issue arise.

“Defence has supported US Navy reviews into physiological episode management and investigation with a NASA independent review team hosted at RAAF Base Amberley in May 2017.”

An Australian engineer has also been embedded with the US Root Cause and Corrective Action Integrated Project team.

“Personnel safety is Defence’s number one priority,” the Defence spokesperson said.

Source :  Australian Aviation

The graph that shows exactly when Uber wounded Brisbane’s taxis

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By Felicity Caldwell

Brisbane taxi licences have plummeted in value by 78 per cent in just three years.

In 2014, standard taxi licences in the city were selling, on average, for more than half a million dollars.

The value of taxi licences has dropped by almost 80 per cent in Brisbane in just three years.

The value of taxi licences has dropped by almost 80 per cent in Brisbane in just three years.

Photo: Michelle Smith

Last year, that figure dropped to $113,003, as the dominance of ride-sharing service Uber sounded a near-death knell for Brisbane taxi licence owners.

The value of wheelchair-accessible maxi-taxi licences nosedived 60 per cent in three years to $111,179, on average, in Brisbane in 2017.

Across Queensland, the value of limousine licences dropped 76 per cent to $16,529, on average.

 The plunge in the value of taxi licences can be revealed following Fairfax Media analysis of Queensland government open data.Uber came to Brisbane in 2014, and ride-sharing was legalised in September 2016, shaving thousands of dollars from the sale price.

While 58 standard cab licences were sold in Brisbane in 2014, caution seemingly swept the market in 2015, with only 11 transfers, with 30 transfers in each of the two following years.

Taxi Council of Queensland chief executive Blair Davies said many licences were owned by “mum and dad” investors, whose investment was damaged due to the arrival of ride-sharing, which created an oversupply in transport options.

“Many of whom put their whole life into the taxi industry, and the taxi licence was their superannuation,” he said.

Mr Davies said there were very few buyers for taxi licences in the market.

“Until we can get some certainty back into the market … then it’s going to be difficult for the people who hold those licences to get a reasonable price for their asset,” he said.

“People who are selling those licences are doing so because their situation is desperate.”

Mr Davies called on the government to level the playing field in compulsory third party insurance, as taxi licence holders paid $4461.80, while ride-sharing drivers paid $585.30.

He said $20,000 compensation paid to taxi licence holders, capped at two licences, was “completely inadequate”.

“They need to find some more money to help out people who have seen their superannuation assets devastated by this government policy,” Mr Davies said.

“The government really now needs to start getting serious about reviewing what it’s done and fixing the problems.”

Limousine Association Queensland president Frank Bonomo said many people had lost their retirement nest egg.

“Their income is reduced and their asset, they can’t really sell… Realistically they can’t do anything about it,” he said.

“We’ve got people who have lost in excess of $1.2 million for 10 licences all because of a stroke of a pen to allow ride-share.”

Mr Bonomo called for greater compensation for taxi and limousine licence-holders.

LNP transport spokesman Steve Minnikin said Labor’s compensation package of $20,000 per licence, capped at two licences per owner, was “woefully inadequate”.

“Mum and dad taxi owners whose licences were their retirement nest eggs now face a bleak future,” he said.

A Transport and Main Roads spokesman said the government had provided support to the taxi and limousine industries through the $100 million Industry Adjustment Assistance Package, which included financial, advisory and incentive measures.

The package included $59.78 million in one-off transition payments made to eligible taxi and limousine licence holders and $26.7 million in industry hardship payments.

The spokesman said the government also funded $5.6 million to incentivise wheelchair-accessible taxis, $3.75 million for business advisory help and $4.3 million in waived fees for the existing industry.

Licence holders also had renewal fees waived for 12 months.

No new taxi licences were to be issued before 2018, and none have been issued so far this year.

“Department of Transport and Main Roads will continue to monitor the demand for taxi service licences,” the spokesman said.

“Decisions about the need for additional licences and the number/timing of licences to be released will be based on demand analysis.”

Last month, there were 3257 taxi licences and 574 limousine licences.

Uber was contacted for comment.

Licence sales recorded at zero dollars, often the result of transfers between family members or trust structures, were removed from the analysis.

 

Source :  The Brisbane Times