Canberra light rail: First tram leaves Spain from Australia

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NOVEMBER 9 2017 – 1:07PM

Canberra’s first tram is en route to the capital.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has shared footage of the eye-catching red light rail vehicle making its way from a factory in Zaragoza to a port in Santander.

The tram, travelling on the Heogh Berlin, is expected to arrive in Port Kembla then Canberra from Spain in mid-December.

The ACT government will spend about $65 million on a fleet of 14 trams, each of which will be 33 metres long with 66 seats and capacity to carry 207 people.

Rolling stock company Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles is constructing the vehicles.

The Gungahlin to Civic leg of the $939 million light rail project is expected to be running by late next year.

 Transport Canberra and City Services this week announced a series of closures expected to affect people who travel on Northborne Avenue and Flemington Road between now and December.

The first closure will be at the Barton Highway and Northbourne Avenue intersection from 10pm Friday until 4am on Monday.

Traffic will not be able to turn right onto Northbourne Avenue from the Barton Highway or right onto the Barton Highway from the Federal Highway.

From 8pm on Sunday until 6pm December 10, the Flemington Road intersection of Sandford Street and Morisset Road will be closed to all traffic turning right into Sandford Street and Morisset Road from Flemington Road, and closed to all traffic travelling across Sandford Street and Morisset Road.

From 10pm November 17 until 4am November 20, traffic will not be able to turn right into Mouat Street and Antill Street from Northbourne Avenue. Northbound and southbound traffic will remain unaffected.

 

Source  :  The Canberra Times

ACT Greens minister calls for free range scale on egg labelling to reduce ambiguity

DECEMBER 17 2016 – 9:30PM

Kimberley Le Lievre

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Free range egg consumers in the ACT are being warned to lower their expectations of quality as new national standards begin next year.

The Australia-wide egg labelling standard will override the ACT’s maximum 1500 hens per hectare, increasing it to almost seven times that amount.

Greens minister Shane Rattenbury called for the implementation of a birds per hectare scale to ensure greater transparency for the consumer. He said the term ‘free range’ would be hotly debated and a new term for ethical egg farming could come into play as the new standard was established.

Mr Rattenbury said ACT producers had been “sold out” by the decision.

“I know they’ve been both really disappointed and concerned because they’re operating at a higher standard and they will now be competing against the larger scale facilities, and it makes it very difficult for them,” Mr Rattenbury said.

He said it would allow bigger producers to splash the free range name over their eggs which, while they might comply with national standards, did not represent consumer expectations of the label.

Tharwa free range egg producer Bruce Gibbs has about 4500 birds per 20 hectares. His birds are constantly moved through areas of the farm at Cuppacumbalong to ensure nutrients are spread around and the birds don’t live in dusty patches devoid of grass.

He said 10,000 birds per hectare was factory farming, and even 1500 birds was getting towards that realm.

“Most of that stuff from about 1000 hens up, none of us [in the ACT] would farm at that level here and consider ourselves free range.”

Mr Gibbs said during the discussions to create a consistent national standard, small producers weren’t sitting at the table, and the standard was set for the wrong reasons by the wrong people.

While the standard had been set at 10,000 hens per hectare, Mr Rattenbury was calling on the federal government to improve the detail which he described as inadequate.

Mr Rattenbury’s recommendation letter was one of about 15 submissions the government received, alongside about 200 campaign letters and comments.

He said he did not support the stocking density endorsed by other states and territories and that the definition of free range was inadequate, “and does not accord with consumers’ general expectation of “free range” welfare standards”.

His concerns centered around the birds having appropriate facilities, and the requirement for how access to shelter was provided needed to clarified.

“Noting that in high population facilities it can be hard for birds to access the outdoors because of the size and type of the opening provided,” he said.

Mr Rattenbury also expressed concern about the clarity of, “meaningful and regular” access to the outdoors, and the broad exemptions which could mean birds wouldn’t have genuine opportunity to roam outdoors.

 

Source : Canberra Times

ACT election 2016: Labor to ban property developer donations, introduce ‘real-time’ reporting

SEPTEMBER 24 2016 – 7:13PM

Matthew Raggatt

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ACT Labor will ban political donations from property developers, introduce real-time reporting rules and investigate the public funding of election campaigns if re-elected.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said on Saturday he would also introduce an ACT Integrity Commissioner who would be aided by a team of “specialised investigators” to look into serious public sector breaches of integrity.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr would ban property developer donations for all parties in the ACT if re-elected.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr would ban property developer donations for all parties in the ACT if re-elected.  Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Echoing the laws in New South Wales, Labor would immediately refuse to accept any new property developer donations as part of the commitments.

Mr Barr said the major governance changes would “increase transparency, accountability and integrity in government”.

“We’ll expand the scope of the ACT Lobbyist Register to cover in-house government relations staff, industry associations, and project management liaison officers and companies,” he said.

“We will investigate complementary schemes for public funding of election campaigns that encourage candidates and parties to raise funds from small individual contributions.”

Donations would have to be declared within seven days of being received under the proposed law changes.

The Canberra Liberals have previously promised to set up an Independent Commission Against Corruption if elected next month.

Mr Barr said the integrity commissioner would have the power to conduct hearings and recommend criminal prosecution. The office’s operations would be reviewed after five years.

In a clear swipe against current Speaker and Liberal MLA Vicki Dunne, Mr Barr said Labor would also seek to remove the risks of political interference into complaints against MLAs by preventing the speaker from blocking a complaint to the Independent Commissioner for Standards, or from “insert[ing] their own views when referring the matter”.

Labor said earlier this month that Ms Dunne had “tainted” an independent investigation into a Liberal election flyer.

Mr Barr said ACT Labor supported federal Labor’s proposed ban on international donations, which became a national issue after the controversy surrounding Labor Senator Sam Dastyari’s acceptance of money from a company with direct links to the Chinese government.

The broad reforms would also change enrolment time limits, allowing voters to get on the electoral roll as late as election day itself.

“We will also clos[e] nominations on day five of the formal campaign period to allow for an earlier distribution of postal votes, so more Canberrans get a chance to have their say,” he said.

In a statement, Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson described the proposed integrity commissioner was a “watered-down” version of the Liberals’ ICAC policy.

He said while his party was open to donation reform, an ICAC was “essential” for the ACT.

“The stench surrounding the Labor and Greens government will not be washed away by this desperate and disingenuous last minute announcement,” he said.

“If Andrew Barr was was serious about donation reform he would stop funnelling pokie money through the CFMEU and ‘1973 Foundation’ to ACT Labor.”

With Stephen Jeffery

 

Source : The Canberra Times

Class action being mounted against ACT property developers for refund of GST

EXCLUSIVE

SEPTEMBER 20 2016 – 5:17PM 

Katie Burgess

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A loophole in taxation law could mean thousands of Canberrans may have been incorrectly charged GST when they bought a unit off the plan.

A class action is being mounted against several property developers for the refund of GST included on the purchase price of new residential units in the ACT.

People who've bought apartments off the plan in the ACT in the past six years are being urged to check their contracts.
People who’ve bought apartments off the plan in the ACT in the past six years are being urged to check their contracts. Photo: Glen McCurtayne

IMF Bentham confirmed that, along with law firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth, it was investigating cases where developers charged buyers GST-inclusive prices, despite advice from the Australian Tax Office that no GST was chargeable because of a quirk in the legislation.

 

The advice related to an obscure ruling from 2010 when the Federal Court found that units constructed on land subject to a long-term lease were not considered “new residences” under the law and therefore should be input taxed.

At the time, residential premises were only considered to be “new” if they had not been sold before as a residential premises or had not been the subject of a long-term lease.

All land in the ACT is leasehold – not freehold – though, tenured for a period of 99 years from the Crown.

 

That meant developers of Canberra unit blocks would buy the lease to the land then split the lease into the unit title for each new owner.

However because the lease had previously been held by the developer, the premises the owners purchased weren’t considered “new” and should not have been subject to GST, according to the Federal Court.

The loophole was closed in 2012 but still applied to developments that were commercially committed before January 27, 2011.

IMF Bentham said developers still included a supply tax in the price of the units they sold across the ACT and might have then kept a 10 per cent windfall.

Investment manager Oliver Gayner estimated thousands of Canberrans could be affected, with the bill to run into the millions.

“Our investigations are ongoing but to date we have identified around 15 different developments which we believe qualify for the class action. Ultimately that figure could rise to as much as 30,” Mr Gayner said.

“At an average development size of 200 units, up to 6000 units could be in scope. Assuming an average purchase price per unit of $400,000, a typical claim size would be $40,000 GST plus interest.”

Anyone who bought a residential in the ACT off the plan that settled in the past six years is urged to check their contract.

 

Source : The Canberra Times

The negotiator: Why Mathias Cormann is Malcolm Turnbull’s secret Senate weapon

SEPTEMBER 17 2016

Adam Gartrell

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He was a member of Tony Abbott’s prime ministerial Praetorian guard to the very end: a hardline cigar-chomping conservative who did all he could to keep Malcolm Turnbull out of The Lodge.

But a year after Abbott’s fall, Mathias Cormann – the very private West Australian senator known primarily as the guy with the Schwarzenegger accent – is now emerging as one of Turnbull’s key lieutenants.

Man who can: Finance Minister Mathias Cormann in between interviews on Budget eve, 2015
Man who can: Finance Minister Mathias Cormann in between interviews on Budget eve, 2015 Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

It was Cormann who last week shepherded the government’s $6 billion omnibus savings bill through the Parliament, spearheading negotiations with Labor to achieve a rare bipartisan budgetary accord.

But it wasn’t the first time.

Creative thinking: Mathias Cormann is emerging as one of Malcolm Turnbull's key lieutenants.
Creative thinking: Mathias Cormann is emerging as one of Malcolm Turnbull’s key lieutenants. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Under Abbott and Turnbull both, the finance minister has been less The Terminator and more The Negotiator. He’s done deals with Labor, the Greens and the crossbenchers to get bills through.

Most of them praise the way he does business.

“He is a class act,” says crossbench king Nick Xenophon.

“He has an incredible work ethic. He is always on top of his brief. He really sets the benchmark. People have this image of him as the man with the Terminator voice but he’s more than that. He is very much underrated – the quiet achiever of the government.”

Holding fast: Malcolm Turnbull and Cormann during Family Day at The Lodge.
Holding fast: Malcolm Turnbull and Cormann during Family Day at The Lodge. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Cormann does do things quietly.

While he does plenty of media – and is a good performer, relentlessly on-message and rarely stuffing up – he usually sticks with the serious outlets like Sky News and the ABC. He wants to talk policy and isn’t particularly interested in boosting his personal profile.

Indeed, he hates taking part in profile pieces. Asked to participate in one with Fairfax Media this weekend he politely declined: he may be the only politician on the planet who doesn’t like talking about himself.

Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm says Cormann “is not the crossbench whisperer”.

“But he is very, very focused,” he says. “And he is quite a nice guy to deal with.”

That’s another common refrain.

Despite his serious and sometimes robotic public demeanour, Cormann is in reality really quite affable.

By all accounts, he seems to enjoy finding common ground, using goodwill and creative thinking to bridge ideological gaps.

Cormann has a good relationship with two of Labor’s key players, shadow treasurer Chris Bowen and Senate leader Penny Wong. And it’s notable that the last thing Labor’s Stephen Conroy did before tabling his resignation speech last week was praise Cormann.

Labor insiders say Cormann is a straight-shooter and trustworthy – unlike some of his colleagues. One spoke of being “mystified” as to why George Brandis is still the government’s Senate leader rather than Cormann.

When it comes to social policy like same-sex marriage, Cormann has more in common with the likes of Cory Bernardi and Eric Abetz than he does Turnbull. But unlike Bernardi and Abetz, Cormann has fully accepts that Turnbull’s the boss, playing no part – discernibly at least – in the sniping or undermining.

If anything, he serves as a bridge between the mostly conservative Coalition senators and the prime minister’s office.

“The PM really likes him and they’re close now. They respect each other,” says a source close to Turnbull. “He’s indefatigable. He works his arse off and he’s just really good at getting things done.”

Xenophon says the Belgian-born 45-year-old – who only came to Australia in his 20s, shortly after learning English as his fourth language – is like a traditional post-war migrant: “They just work that little bit harder to give back to the country.”

Cormann is more a classic Liberal “dry” than a modern social conservative. He cares about small government, budget discipline and the free market and isn’t quite so concerned about what goes on in people’s bedrooms. Budget repair is a big job: he doesn’t have time to fight the culture wars.

“It would be good if we had a few more like him, to be honest,” the Turnbull confidante says.

Source : The Canberra Times

Residents of the Ivy left without power as Greens call for stronger rules on new apartments

SEPTEMBER 17 2016

Kirsten Lawson

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Apartment owners in a new block in Franklin, Gungahlin, are moving in this week without power, after they were told they must install their own meters.

And they could be waiting some considerable time, with Actew AGL saying on Friday that for big developments such as the Ivy the connection could take up to 45 days.

James and the other people have moved into the Ivy Apartments in Franklin but have no power because the builder didn't ...
James and the other people have moved into the Ivy Apartments in Franklin but have no power because the builder didn’t install meters.  Photo: Elesa Kurtz

James moves into his one-bedroom apartment on Monday, but imagines he will be “sitting in the dark until the power comes on”.

The individually owned apartments have hot water, through a central electrical connection, but no other power.

James said he had checked some time ago with Actew and was told there were no complications. But when he called on Thursday he was told there was no meter, and a number of other residents were in the same position. He paid $560 for the meter, and now must wait.

“This is my first place I’ve ever bought and it’s kind of taken the shine off the whole experience to say it politely,” he said.

Richard, who like James doesn’t want his last name published, is getting married in a week, with relatives arriving from overseas to stay. He and his fiancee moved in on Thursday, and have plugged an extension cord into an outside power point, running it under their door to a multibox, to power a lamp and the television. They use a torch in the bathroom.

Richard said he called ActewAGL in August to organise the connection, and had called many times since. At one point, Actew told him it couldn’t find the apartment on a network map, and more recently that there was no request for service from the developer.

While the real-estate agent had assured him the paperwork had been done many weeks ago, Actew said the paperwork had only come through last week. He was finally able to book an installation last week, and pay $563, but was told it would take up to 20 working days to happen.

Richard says he doesn’t understand how a certificate of occupancy could be issued at the end of July without power.

The real-estate agent, from Metropolis, did not want to comment. The builder, Chase, said the problem was with Actew, which began charging for meters to be installed in July 2015.

ActewAGL energy networks manager Stephen Devlin said meter connections in new buildings were “a standard part of the building development process, which is the responsibility of the building developer”.

Installations of up to four connections were done within 20 working days, but bigger developments such as the Ivy could take up to 45, he said.

Attention was drawn to the impasse at the Ivy on Nullarbor Avenue by ACT Greens candidate Jen Faerber, who said it was bizarre for a developer to treat something as basic as electricity as an optional extra.

“The Canberra community shouldn’t suffer for the profit margins of big developers,” she said.

The Greens launched a new policy on Thursday aimed at improving construction and certification in apartment builds across the city.

Much of the apartment design in Canberra would not be allowed in NSW, the Greens said, with complaints about builders and defects doubling since 2009 to 350 a year.

President of the Australian Institute of Architects Ken Maher said the ACT should look to the standards introduced in NSW about 10 years ago, setting minimum apartment sizes and design rules including sunlight and siting.

“It’s been a very successful program in NSW for ensuring high quality in new residential apartment building and I think it really set a standard that now some other states and territories are starting to consider,” he said. “If it’s left to the market the standards tend to fall because there are cost pressure issues.”

Source : The Canberra Times

Labor asked to pull advertisements from air that feature Chief Minister Andrew Barr in his office

SEPTEMBER 14 2016 – 8:08PM 

Kirsten Lawson

Christopher Knaus

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Assembly Clerk Tom Duncan asked the Labor Party to stop airing advertisements that feature Chief Minister Andrew Barr in his parliamentary office.

Mr Duncan said the advertisements breached guidelines which ban the use of Assembly facilities for electioneering. The television advertisements feature Mr Barr in his office speaking direct to camera about roads, buses and light rail, interspersed with shots of transport infrastructure.

A still shot from the Labor television ad filmed from Chief Minister Andrew Barr's office, in breach of parliamentary rules.
A still shot from the Labor television ad filmed from Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s office, in breach of parliamentary rules. 

Mr Duncan wrote to Labor secretary Matthew Byrne asking him to stop using material filmed in Mr Barr’s office, a request that looks likely to force Labor to scrap and re-shoot the commercial.

But Mr Byrne has interpreted the request as applying only to the Youtube airing, which he pulled down last night while the ad continued to air on commercial television networks on Wednesday night as it has since Sunday.

“The advice that we’ve been given says it’s about the ads on Youtube so until I hear otherwise I’ll make decisions based on advice from the clerk and the speaker,” he said.

He would not disclose how much the ad had cost, but confirmed other filming had been done in Mr Barr’s office.

“We’ve filmed a number of options but how we use them is yet to be determined,” he said. “All our advertising will adhere to the guidelines.”

A government spokesman said no decision had been made on the ad, but there would be no further filming in the Assembly precinct. It was a long-standing practice for leaders to film messages in their offices, he said, suggesting Liberal Leader Jeremy Hanson had used his office to film a criticism of the ACT budget just a few months ago.

Under the caretaker conventions government premises could be used as the backdrop for political advertising, he said, accusing the Liberals of “petty point scoring”.

Liberal campaign director Daniel Clode said if the advertising was not pulled immediately it would be a “flagrant breach” of the rules and a contempt of parliament.

“I’ve been conscious of those rules, so I’m surprised that such an amateur mistake could be made by the government of the day,” he said.

Also on Wednesday, the Liberals promised to establish the position of chief engineer if they win government, to improve the government’s ability to develop and manage contracts. The party would also establish an engineers’ panel to consult on major works and an infrastructure plan to guide residential areas, transport connections and areas for denser housing and employment.

The Greens said they would work to phase out gas.

They would seek to ban new gas hot water systems in homes, stop the rollout of gas infrastructure to new suburbs and remove incentives to install gas. They want a rebate to help householders replace gas appliances with electrical appliances.

The Greens say gas is the third largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions after electricity and fuel. The Liberals have rubbished the Greens’ plan, saying Canberrans were sick of being lectured to, the plan was unfair, would hurt families who relied on gas, and showed the Greens were out of touch.

But the Conservation Council executive director Larry O’Loughlin said it was necessary if Canberra is to achieve zero net emissions. He said the Liberals’ position potentially locked them into providing expensive gas infrastructure into the future.

Labor has also promised to appoint a preventative health coordinator to focus on strategies to reduce smoking, alcohol, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depression.

The announcement follows a series of other health-related policies over the past week, including the major upgrade of Canberra Hospital, a nursing training package, and free meningococcal B vaccines for babies.

 

Source : The Canberra Times