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Australian GovLink is published bi-annually with a purpose to promote and review major initiatives in local, state and commonwealth government departments and to encourage the principles of progress through partnerships between the private sector and government.

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The OECD’s Going for Growth report released this week is a good reminder of why Tony Abbott wants to be remembered as “the infrastructure Prime Minister”.

The OECD argues addressing infrastructure service shortfalls will help productivity performance and sustainable growth, and in the 2014-15 Australian federal budget, spending on infrastructure was planned to increase substantially, compared to the last budget of the Rudd government.

The focus carried through to the Brisbane G20 meeting. It saw a commitment to use infrastructure spending, along with other measures such as free trade agreements, as a lever to improve productivity and help deliver the additional 2% of GDP growth over five years targeted by the G20.

How is Australia performing?

Australian contributions to the G20 target, in terms of infrastructure investment, are outlined in the Comprehensive Growth Strategy.

Two proposals are highlighted. First, there is a commitment

“to achieve better project prioritisation, selection and coordination by providing greater transparency through cost benefit analysis of major projects and improving the operation of Infrastructure Australia (the body that assesses major infrastructure projects). Rigorous appraisal processes will help ensure that high-quality projects that create the most benefit will be prioritised.”

Things have not started well. For example, The 2014-15 budget provides funding for 36 major named infrastructure projects but, as a report by the Australian Parliamentary Library notes, only four have been assessed by Infrastructure Australia, and only seven appear anywhere on the priority list.

Sydney’s WestConnex motorway is one of the infrastructure projects named in the budget but not prioritised by Infrastructure Australia. The federal commitment comprises a grant of A$1.5 billion to the New South Wales government, and a A$2 billion concessional loan. In December 2014 the New South Wales Auditor-General reported that the government’s Major Projects Assurance Framework had not been implemented and that, as a consequence, there were deficiencies in the analysis of the risks, cost and benefits of the project. Clearly this falls short of the G20 commitment.

Asset recycling

The second proposal is the asset recycling initiative. State governments that sell assets will receive 15% of the net sale proceeds as a grant from the Commonwealth, provided the funds are reinvested in infrastructure. Proposals must pass evaluation and approval before 1 July 2016, with construction to commence before 1 July 2019.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission this week flagged concerns about the scheme, warning of the risk of governments taking action that could lessen competition due to the lure of incentive payments.

At A$5 billion, the initiative accounts for only 10% of federal infrastructure spending commitments over the next ten years. However, the government forecast the incentives it provides will leverage an additional A$33 billion of infrastructure investment, making a major contribution to the proposed boost in infrastructure spending.

Asset privatisation was a central issue in the recent Queensland election. Of the estimated A$37 billion proceeds from the sale of energy and port assets, the Newman government proposed to allocate A$3.4 billion to a “cost of living” fund and A$25 billion to pay off state debt. New infrastructure investment of A$8.6 billion would attract a Commonwealth recycling incentive of A$1.3 billion, making A$9.9 billion in total.

Queensland voters rejected these proposals. Should the same result emerge from the New South Wales election next month the asset recycling initiative will effectively lapse.

An alternative approach

Where investment in long-lived productive infrastructure is involved, attaching the label “intergenerational theft” to government borrowing is clearly misleading – the generations who benefit from the investment also service the debt.

If the asset recycling initiative fails to meet its targets, alternatives are possible. The first requirement would be to live up to the commitment made to the G20 for stringent and transparent project evaluation by Infrastructure Australia. Second, think carefully about ways to improve efficiency in state-owned assets. Then, given that the yield on 21-year bonds is currently less than 3%, the government could pursue its infrastructure agenda by borrowing long-term and investing through the states in the same way as in the past.

Implementation of this strategy would require a more mature political discussion about fiscal deficits, debt, and long-lived infrastructure. Relying on slogans like “debt and deficit disaster” is unlikely to achieve positive outcomes.


Article by Graeme Wells, University Associate, School of Economics and Finance at University of Tasmania

Originally published by The Conversation







Concerns over the noise pollution caused by wind farms has lead to research, by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), relating to wind farm noise and the possible affects on human physical or mental health. A report by the NHMRC, Evidence on Wind Farms and Human Health, concluded that although there was " consitent evidence that wind farms cause adverse health effects in humans...", further targeted research is needed. The report did find evidence that the noise produced by wind farms can lead to annoyance in individuals, which can in turn lead to adverse health affects if the annoyance is sustained for prolonged periods. Further research on wind farms and human health will be funded by the NHMRC and will be examined by the Australian Government.

More than 400 proposals from across Australia have been lodged for projects under the first round of the Australian Government’s new $1 billion National Stronger Regions Fund.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Warren Truss welcomed 405 proposals from not-for-profit entities and local governments.

"Round One of the National Stronger Regions Fund will focus on projects that are well developed, with planning and approvals advanced so construction can start in the 2015-16 financial year," Minister Truss said.

Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Jamie Briggs said the Australian Government would make decisions on successful projects following assessment against the programme criteria by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

"Particularly in Australia's disadvantaged regions, the Australian Government is looking forward to working with state, territory and local governments on projects to support regional economic growth and sustainability.

The Australian Government has committed $1 billion over five years from 2015-16 to the National Stronger Regions Fund to help strengthen communities and drive new growth in Australia's regions.

green gym


According to a report from the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE), visits to England’s natural green spaces are at a 5 year high. The numbers equate to around 2.93 billion visits between March 2013 to February 2014. In fact 58% of the population of English adults claimed to have visited the outdoors at least once per week in this period.

These figures coincide with the trend that green spaces near a home have become increasingly important when it comes to buying a house. A spokeswoman for MENE suggested that “..96% of people ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that having green spaces close to where they lived was important.”

As well as the regular recreational visits individuals may make to their local park or reserve, there are also initiatives known as ‘Green Gyms’ being run across the country. Green Gyms are run by an environmental charity known as The Conservation Volunteers. People go to these Green Gyms, usually at a nature reserve or park, and help to restore or maintain the area. In doing so, individuals gain valuable exercise and can burn up to a third more calories than they would at a conventional gym session.

Japan Plans to Power Households with Hydrogen

Friday, 16 January 2015 12:03 Published in Environment



Japan has long been at the forefront of cutting edge technology and it is again leading the charge with hydrogen fuel cells. The technology of using hydrogen to generate electricity is already being implemented in factories and commercial buildings. However major Japanese manufacturers such as Panasonic and Toshiba are working towards creating smaller units that are more suitable for households.

The Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has visions of creating a ‘hydrogen society’ and has set a goal of 5.3 million homes having hydrogen generators installed by the year 2030. This would equate to approximately 10% of all households. Currently more than 100,000 homes have the generators installed, with commercial sales beginning in 2009.

Household hydrogen generators (about the size of a refrigerator and known as Ene-Farms) extract hydrogen from natural gas and mix it with oxygen from the atmosphere. This reaction produces enough power to fill about half the demand of an average household. The by-product of this reaction produces heat which can be used to heat water. Ene-farms can reduce the power bills of households as well as halve their carbon footprint.

Despite the benefits of Ene-Farms, sales have been relatively slow due to their high cost. Manufactures are currently working on reducing the cost of production as well as the size of the units to further entice consumers.

Algae Farm A Possible Solution to Highway Pollution?

Friday, 16 January 2015 00:00 Published in Environment




A group of Dutch and French architects, from design firm The Cloud Collective, have installed a prototype algae farm above a busy stretch of highway in Geneva, Switzerland.

The concept of farming algae is not a new one. There are algae farms across the globe currently being used to produce food ingredients, pharmaceuticals, algal fuel, bioplastics and other materials. Algae can also be used to remove the impurities from industrial waste water.

So why put an algae farm on top of a busy highway? Algae are a group of diverse organisms that use sunlight and carbon dioxide to generate energy. This process allows the algae to grow but also produces oxygen into the atmosphere. Situating an algae farm above a highway allows the organisms to absorb large amounts of sunlight, but also the harmful CO2 emissions produced by the constant stream of vehicles below, replacing it with clean oxygen. Effectively using the algae as an all-natural air filter system.

Additionally, the algae in the system can later be extracted and used to create products, similar to that of the farms mentioned above. The design team at The Cloud Collective say that highways “despite their anonymous and generic character – can play an important role in the production of food and biomass..”.

To learn more about the algae system you can watch this video from The Cloud Collective:



Worlds First Solar Bike Lane

Saturday, 08 November 2014 13:14 Published in Transport

The worlds first Solar Bike Lane is set to open next week and is a 'proof of concept' project for its builders that hope to eventually embed solar panel into the country's 140,000km of roads.

The path runs between the towns of Krommenie and Wormerveer in Amsterdam but is only a 70m stretch of the path. There are plans to extend this to 100m in length and it is anticipated that at that length it should produce enough electricity to power 3 households.

At an estimated cost of US$3.7million its probably also the most expensive bike path ever created too! However, much of the cost was in the R&D to create a solar cell that had the strength and abrasiveness to be used for bikes (and later cars) 

solar path


The cells are only on one side of the path as the other side will be used for further delevopment and the width of the panels are 2.5m, laid 3.5m blocks. The top layer glass is 1cm think and has a rough 'bubbled' appearance.

The company behind the Bike path, TNO hope to deploy their solar panels onto roads to power traffic systems and electric cars. Given that the biggest set back to electric cars at the moment is their range, if they can develop a direct transference system between road and car then this could revolutionise transport.


Whilst this is the first project in the world to create a solar bike path, its not the only project of this type being explored. Probably one of the most notable, similar projects is from Americans Julie and Scott Brusaw, who began a crowd funded project to exlplore converting roads, parking lots, paths and driveways into interactive solar roads/paths. They even got a big endorsement on Facebook from Star Trek's original "Mr. Sulu", George Takei. While some detractors say its simpler and cheaper to place panels on existing roofs, some of the benefits of having interactive road ways are very tantalising. They have now recevied additional funds amounting in millions from the US government to further delevop their concepts. If their roads are half as good as their marketing in the following clip then we should see Solar Roads in the next couple years!





Dog Poo Powering our Parks??

Saturday, 08 November 2014 10:42 Published in Environment

Its not exactly a new idea but with the need to find other, more environmentally sustainable energy alternatives, people and governments are looking at Dog Poo as a potential energy source.


There is an estimated 4.2 million dogs in Australia and it is estimated that they are producing over 500,000 tonnes of waste per year.


The process of generating electricity is quite a passive one. By simply allowing the waste to break down naturally and then capturing the by-product (Methane) we are left with a combustible fuel source. The added benefit of this method is that it stops the methane being released into the atmosphere. Methane from Waste is considered to be aiding in global warming and reports have it as 30 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. Dog poo is also full of bacteria and considered a health risk to humans, but its those same bacteria that make it so easy to break down into Methane.


Capturing dog poo for power is already happening in smaller scales where a park in Cambridge, Massachusetts has an onsite 'Digestor' where park user are provided biodegradable bags and simply deposit the pets efforts into the digestor, give a handle a few turn to mix it, and the digestor is attached a methane burning lamp post which burns the methane away safely. This project is not designed as power source so much as a clean way to remove dog waste and is part of the "Park Spark Project". The following video is compliments of their facebook page . Currently the Adelaide City Council is looking at a similar method for use in the parklands off Robe Tce in North Adelaide.



Whilst these park based systems solve the problem of safely removing the waste from our leisure areas, they are not really designed to be a viable power source. However in Europe biogas power stations are already in use and whilst they are typically 'fed' by the waste of farming livestock, these plants are now looking at dog poo as an additional source of energy. Mr Gary Downie of Cheshire, UK  created Britians first commercial scale Bio Energy system running solely off dog poo and is now in final negotiations with several UK councils to adopt the system. Britian has an estimated 700,00 tonnes of dog waste at its disposal and his self-contained odour free can run on anything from 500kg to 3 tonnes of waste per day and has the ability to power roughly 60 homes. Additional benefits of the system are that for every tonne of waste kept out of landfill, 450kg of greenhouse gases will be saved, and the only bi-product of the system is nitrogen rich fertisliser. With 800,000 dogs residing just in London it is estimated that they spend around $9.5M pounds sending their pooches poo to landfill each year.

So why Dog Poo? Whilst nearly any form of excrement can be used (including humans) dog poo is one of the most available within built up residential areas and also allows us to solve the ongoing problem of how to remove this hazardous substance that is so close to our homes. With dispoal areas created at parks and perhaps an augmented system of collection with existing weekly waste pickups from homes then this provide a healthy solution to this ongoing problem whilst providing us with additional clean energy for our homes and businesses.




Recently the City of Sydney invitied Architects to put forward proposals to design Gunayama Park and the Green Square Aquatic Centre within the 278 hectares Green Square development area.


This $8 billion project which includes parts of Zetland, Beaconsfield, Rosebery, Waterloo and Alexandria has gradually transformed this undustrial centre into a modern living urban. There is heavy focus on esuring green living and developing a sense of community with bespoke shopping and reatil outlets along with open public places to gather such as Gunayama Park and its niehbouring Aquatic Centre.


The winner of the competition, Andrew Burges Architects, created a vibrant and modern vision of the future of the park with a swimming pool that is inspired by the 'beach pools' of Sydney. Below is the visual design that won them this prestigeous project. 




Being only 3.5km from the city centre and 4km from the airport it is expected that the population will reach around 19,000 permanent residents in the next 5 years and may reach 53,000 by 2030.


For more information on the Park & Aquatic centre project, and to see the other concepts from the 4 other finalists visit

Southern Expressway opens in South Australia

Friday, 10 October 2014 12:43 Published in Transport

After over 2 years of extensive works, The Southern Expressway has now been re-opened to all traffic in its new 2-way incarnation. The expressway first opened in December 1997 as a one-way, 100km/hr road that changed direction each morning and afternoon to relieve the peak hour congestion on the other major roads at the time. At that time is was the worlds largest reversible freeway and attracted interest from all over the world on its systems and technology which allowed it to transition from one direction to the other every day. Stage 2 of the single direction carriageway was completed in 2001 which allowed it to stretch to Old Noarlunga and increased its length to 18.5km.


In 2010 it was announced by (then) Premier Mike Rann that the expressway would be duplicated with an expected cost of $445M. Completion was expected in Mid 2014.


This project was quite an engineering undertaking with some parts of the freeway being increased from 4 lanes to 8 lanes (including emergency lanes) along with 15 bridges for pedestrians and vehicles needing to be extended. Most bridges were extended with road closures and diversions, but 3 of the main roads, Beach Rd, Sherriffs Rd and Marion Rd remained opened during peak hours whilst the extensions took place. During the conversion the original section of the expressway remained open but with reduced speed limitations in most sections.


With the road being open now for over 8 weeks the project appears to have been a great success. With a speed limit of 100Km/hr for most of its 21km distance it certainly has cut down on travel times for road user and has greatly relieved the other main arterial roads heading south of Adelaide. Whilst the project has not yet been finalised, indications are that the project will be realised close to budget and only slightly over it ETC.




This new expressway, along with the recently extended and upgraded train line which also services Southern Adelaide has laid the transport infrastructure in place for the expanding regions of the Onkaparinga & Marion City Councils and their respective suburbs.


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