Independent body could remove politics from school funding,

MySchool data showing funding inequality is growing prompts call for new negotiations over Gonski funding to revive proposal for independent body

Children sit in a classroom
 MySchool data shows growing inequality between Australian schools in terms of funding, two leading educationalists say. Photograph: Dan Peled/AAP

After a week of debate, with the federal government preparing to break existing state funding agreements in 2018-19, retired principal Bernie Shepherd said he hoped the new round of negotiations revived the concept of an independent body to determine how to fund schools in future.

Shepherd and Chris Bonnor analysed school funding data from the My School website which showed equity was worsening in the Australian school system.

Race to the White House who won and lost the presidential debate?

The lights go out in SA and Turnbull flicks the switch to peak stupid

South Australian windfarm
 Turnbull has to convince the climate sceptics in his party that change – and some impact on power prices – is inevitable. Backing in their belief that renewables can’t keep the lights on is a bad way to start. Photograph: Angela Harper/AAP

One big storm and our climate and energy debate is surging back to peak stupid.

Now Malcolm Turnbull has encouraged the campaign to use the South Australian blackout to slow the shift to clean energy, saying state renewable energy targets are “extremely unrealistic”.

Except all the evidence says the state targets are exactly what Australia needs to meet the promises the prime minister made in Paris last year about reducing greenhouse gases.

Of course it would be preferable to have a consistent national policy to reach those goals, but it’s not exactly the states’ fault that we haven’t got one.

That vacuum was Tony Abbott’s proud achievement, with the abolition of the carbon price and the winding back of the federal renewable energy target, after a lengthy debate about whether it should be abolished altogether, which of course dried up almost all investment in renewable energy.

And consistent, credible national policy hasn’t been any more evident in the year since Turnbull took over either.

His own officials admitted in a Senate inquiry this week they had undertaken no modelling at all about how to meet the target Turnbull pledged in Paris for reducing Australia’s emissions out to 2030. That’s the target he is about to ratify, the target that will be Australia’s legal obligation.

But plenty of others have done modelling and analysis for him, and they all conclude that he won’t meet it, not with the Coalition’s current policies.

They all say he will have to introduce significant new policies, including to shift electricity generation away from coal and towards renewables more quickly.

In fact they all conclude that the state targets he so ridicules (Victoria’s 40% renewables by 2025, South Australia’s 50% by 2025, Queensland’s 50% by 2030) are more or less what he is going to have to try to achieve.

There was his own Climate Change Authority report, which concluded electricity generation needed to produce zero emissions “well before 2050”. If that’s the goal and we haven’t got to 40% renewables by 2025, we’re in big trouble.

There was the Climate Institute modelling, which found he needed to phase out high-carbon generation over the next 15 to 20 years or else face a crunch so severe after 2030 that it would cause severe economic disruption.

And there was the recent Reputex report, which also concluded the Coalition’s current policies cannot reach its own targets, even factoring in the state-based renewable energy schemes Turnbull so criticises. It says he desperately needs a credible and consistent national policy, including measures to reduce emissions from power generation much faster. Who knew?

Of course the government has to find ways to shift generation from fossil fuels to renewables while ensuring we keep the lights on, and while trying to minimise the increase in power costs.

It could, for example, start the switch with an intensity-based emissions trading scheme for the electricity sector, which is Labor party policy and would therefore win bipartisan support, is very similar to the policy Turnbull proposed as opposition leader in 2009, and which the energy market regulator – the Australian Energy Market Commission – recommended he adopt last year and said could operate “without a significant effect on absolute price levels faced by consumers”. (It is also something the government’s “Direct Action” could be converted into, and most in the business community are assuming it will be.)It could extend the current watered-down federal renewable energy target, which ends in 2020.

And Turnbull and his energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, absolutely should urgently consider how to make sure the electricity grid is better able to cope with increasingly frequent bouts of extreme weather.

But whatever Turnbull does has to involve convincing the climate sceptics in his own party that change – and some impact on power prices – is inevitable.

Backing in their belief that renewable energy can’t keep the lights on is a bad way to start. When Malcolm Roberts, the One Nation senator and former project leader of the climate-sceptic Galileo movement, tweets how great it is that Turnbull is “coming around to One Nation’s position” that’s not a good thing, not if the prime minister meant anything he said on this subject in the past or has any intention of keeping the promises he made in Paris.

And whichever way he does it, he will still have to shift electricity generation to renewables, at least as quickly as the state targets are suggesting.

The longer the delays, mired in the grand delusion that his current policy is fit for purpose, and the more he entertains the view of his conservative wing that renewable energy is just some kind of leftwing plot to take the country back to the dark ages, the bigger the economic shock and disruption when Australia finally gets around to doing what it has to.

In his attack on the states this week, Turnbull said “You’ve got to take ideology out of it. You’ve got to work out what you want to achieve and then make sure that your measures will deliver that for you.”

Exactly right. But what his government has done so far is the definition of putting ideology before sensible policy planning. That’s irresponsible, not the states’ attempts to fill a policy vacuum of the Coalition’s making.

WHAT’S NEW supporting local communities

Learn More About New Strata Laws

NSW Fair Trading will host a free public information seminar in Gosford on 6 October 2016 to provide owners, tenants and strata and property managers with the opportunity to learn about the new strata laws which come into effect on 30 November.

The new strata laws mark a significant update to the laws, and will improve strata living for the 2 million people who own, live or manage strata schemes across the state.

The laws will empower owners and tenants in strata schemes to shape their community rules to work for modern life; improve the accountability of strata managers; establish a transparent process for the collective sale and renewal of strata schemes; and introduce a simpler, clearer process for dealing with disputes.

The strata laws are supported by the Strata Schemes Development Regulation, released by NSW Fair Trading in August, and the Strata Schemes Management Regulation due to be released later this year.

These regulations include measures to reduce red tape, such as simplified financial statements for owners, and a clearer process for renovations that removes the need to gain approval for cosmetic work such as installing or replacing hooks, nails or screws for hanging of paintings and other things on walls, installing or replacing handrails, painting, and laying of carpet.

The seminar will be held at Gosford RSL, Pacific Room, 26 Central Coast Hwy, West Gosford.

More information and a copy of the regulation can be found at: www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au

 Fair Trading and SafeWork says asbestos contamination incident a cautionary tale for property owners and contractors

NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe is warning consumers to be cautious about engaging contractors offering roof restoration services following an incident where asbestos removal work was not undertaken within relevant regulations at a Fairfield residential property in August.

Mr Stowe said a 61-year-old Fairfield resident responded to a an advertisement displayed on a road side trailer offering full roof restorations and accepted a $3000 quote to undertake work on her home.

The trader applied water via a high pressure vessel to the asbestos sheeting on the consumer’s roof resulting in asbestos dust being released within the property as well as the adjoining yard and neighbouring properties.

The property has since been remediated by the owners.

“Any home owner wanting to undertake roof repairs or restoration services should identify whether this is likely to involve working with asbestos and take all necessary precautions,” Mr Stowe said.

“Consumers should always engage a licensed asbestos removalist to undertaken any demolition or removal work that involves asbestos,” he said.

SafeWork Executive Director Peter Dunphy said work health and safety laws prohibit using high pressure water spraying of asbestos materials.

“SafeWork NSW and Fair Trading are continuing to investigate the incident,” Mr Dunphy said.

Anyone who is uncertain if asbestos may be present in their home can contact their local Council or the free asbestos advisory service

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