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New Housing Minister Bill Marmion has shocked the property market by saying he wants to flood WA with housing lots to cut home prices.

In a speech to Parliament that has set alarm bells ringing throughout the real estate industry, Mr Marmion said the Barnett Government’s aim was to “bring house prices down”.

“The Department of Land is looking at this issue very closely,” he said.

“It owns land and it is looking at its land stocks and will release as much land as possible.

“That will reduce the pressure on housing supplies. Our aim is to bring the median house price down and to have it lower than the median house price in other States.”

Mr Marmion, who took over the job last month after Troy Buswell was sacked, said the only thing the Government could do to achieve its aim was “release more land and houses”. He refused to elaborate on his comments yesterday.

March quarter figures from RP Data put the median house price in Perth at $480,000, equal to Darwin, but behind Sydney ($500,000) and nation-leading Canberra ($510,800).

Hobart had the cheapest prices in Australia at $323,750.

The State Government established an Office of Land and Housing Supply in Thursday’s Budget and is reviewing available government land which Premier Colin Barnett said would “achieve a comprehensive and co-ordinated approach to housing affordability issues”.

Shadow housing minister Mark McGowan warned the policy could result in houses being worth less than what people paid for them.

“If people go into negative equity with their house, that’s the worst possible outcome,” he said.

Real Estate Institute of WA chief executive Anne Arnold said Australians stored their wealth in the family home and it would be “politically unwise for any government to go down that path”.

But the plan won support from developer Nigel Satterley, who said land needed to become more affordable.

But he said the policy would not cut the price of existing houses.

“We’re on the cusp of a block shortage and whatever the Government can do should be encouraged,” Mr Satterley said.

Analysts at RP Data found in April that houses in Perth’s cheapest suburbs cost at least $60,000 more than those in the most affordable areas in the other major Australian cities.

Hillman was named the cheapest suburb in Perth, with a median house price of $280,000 – higher than the cheapest suburb in Adelaide ($200,000), Brisbane ($205,000), Melbourne ($218,000) and Sydney ($219,000).

Perth had less than 10 per cent of its 259 suburbs with a median house price under $350,000, compared with more than 20 per cent in all other big cities.

Blocks of land in Perth were the most expensive in Australia, according to a recent analysis by RP Data and the Housing Industry Association, with a single square metre of “prime earth” now costing an average of $521.

Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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One in two West Australians believes there will be greater skills shortages and more pressure on house prices compared with the last mining boom, the latest Westpoll has found.

The results revealed 53 per cent of those surveyed thought there would be more pressure on a housing price bubble and skills shortages than last time, while 32 per cent believed there would be the same level of pressure.

Just 9 per cent of those polled said there would be less pressure.

“There is a clear community expectation that there will be quite severe skills shortages in WA and, perhaps of greater concern, a view that there will be an upward pressure on housing prices,” pollster Keith Patterson said.

“This may lead to significant levels of speculation in housing in the anticipation that values will surge as the resources boom unfolds.”

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union secretary Steve McCartney said the community was right to be concerned about increasing prices.

“I think lower paid members of our community should be concerned because sometimes the benefits of those booms don’t filter down to the low-paid workers,” he said.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union spokesman Gary Wood said he did not believe there would be more pressure as the WA economy improved.

“There might be the perception put out by the likes of the employer associations so they can attempt to justify the use of overseas labour but it needs to be fully demonstrated they are not just a propaganda war to bring in overseas labour,” he said.

Opposition Leader Eric Ripper said the Government needed to demonstrate a sense of urgency over labour supply, training issues and housing.

“The experience of the last boom was that house prices rose and rents rose and there were skills shortages which made life difficult for small to medium enterprises,” he said.

“The Government is not ensuring that enough housing lots are released.

“The industry is not building enough houses.

“We are storing up a problem for the future.”

Premier Colin Barnett had previously said there was a need to attract more skilled workers to WA and there needed to be more mobility of workers between States.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said last month that interstate and international migration was needed to help fill future job vacancies. 

Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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PERTH is to become a vibrant waterfront city, says Premier Colin Barnett, who today unveiled plans for a massive redevelopment featuring an inlet connecting the CBD and the river.

Mr Barnett plans to create a vibrant new area for the city and ‘finally’ connect the waterfront to the CBD.

The centrepiece will be a 2.8ha inlet that will bring the river back to near its original shore line. 

The inlet will be surrounded by landscaped terraces, boardwalks and promenades, and fringed by shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and other activities.

 “The Swan River – our greatest natural asset – is effectively cut ff from the city by Riverside Drive and by an expanse of lawn,” said Mr Barnett at today’s unveiling.

“Other major Australian cities have done far more with much less.  This will assist Perth to mature as a vibrant, sophisticated capital city, providing an attraction for locals and tourists.” By removing a section of Riverside Drive, the development encourages the use of public transport, taking advantage of the nearby Esplanade train station, Busport and commuter ferry services. Some changes to existing roads will be made to create more pedestrian-friendly routes.

Mr Barnett was joined by Planning Minister John Day,Tourism Minister Liz Constable and Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi at the unveiling.

The development will cover nearly 10ha, focused between Barrack and William streets.

“The development is designed for pedestrians and cyclists – not cars,” said Mr Barnett:.

“It will be an attractive destination for families, young people, city workers, national and international tourists and seniors to gather and enjoy.

“The State Government will take the lead on this development, along with Perth City Council, and we will be looking – indeed asking – the private sector to join with us.  I am also confident the Federal Government will be supportive.”

Mr Barnett said there was significant work to be done on road realignment, drainage and dredging but preliminary works would begin as soon as possible, with major construction starting in 2012.

The plans signal a new era of city building, as a logical and seamless extension of the city.  Together with The Link, major works to the Cultural Precinct and other CBD projects, the city’s axis will be redefined through the strengthening of the Barrack and William streets links.

In addition, Howard Street and Sherwood Court will provide direct links between St George’s Terrace and the waterfront, enhancing the capacity for these laneways to become vibrant places with shops, cafes and small bars.

The inlet, designed to reflect the historical characteristics of Perth Port, will have room for public boat mooring facilities.

At the heart of the new inlet will be an island, a landscaped parkland offering a unique experience for visitors. This family-focused destination will provide opportunities for relaxation in sheltered open spaces with 360 degree views of the surrounding city.  It may also include a safe, child-friendly beach and swimming areas.

Land at the foot of William Street has been preserved for a significant public building.  The Government’s preference is that this building be a national centre for indigenous art and culture, providing a major focus for the project.

Event spaces will be dotted throughout the waterfront, including a public square next to the Esplanade train station, the promenade, the island and a new road which can be closed to accommodate events.  Larger events will be held at the Supreme Court Gardens, which will be improved under the plan.

 There is also the potential to include a swimming pool, which could be an attractive recreational asset for city workers.

Full details of the Perth Waterfront concept plan can be found on the PlanningWA website at http://www.planning.wa.gov.au/waterfront 

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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JANNIE and Amanda Klue, their eyes wide with desperation, are staring at two distinctly different futures.
One future embodies the Australian dream: running their own business, living in their own house, building community ties and watching their two children, Jan-Sari, 9, and Pieter-Nick, 6, flourish in an environment that is far removed from their homeland.
The Klues have been living that dream since migrating to the Sunshine Coast from South Africa 22 months ago.
The other future is a bleak one: a barb wire-fenced home with security cameras, guard dogs and streets deemed too unsafe for their children.
The Klues lived that nightmare in South Africa. And now they have been told they must return to it.
Having sold everything before moving to Australian on Christmas Day, 2007, the family must leave the country after their application for a state-sponsored business-owner visa has been rejected.
On Monday, the Klues learned they have until October 19 to get out of the country after they received two-week bridging visas.
In a bid to stave off deportation. Jan-Sari wrote a letter to Anna Bligh this week, in which she pleaded with the premier to help her family.
“We don’t want to leave Australia,” she wrote. 
“My mum and dad has (sic) come to Australia for my brother and my future.”
Mr Klue said on Friday that he had bought a business – Middy’s grocery store at Buderim – as required under the business-owner visa and had ticked every other box, bar one.
He said he couldn’t sufficiently prove to immigration officials that one of the two money-lending businesses he had owned in South Africa was actually his and, as a result, the family didn’t meet the visa’s minimum-assets requirement.
“I thought everything would work out,” Mr Klue said.
“I’m not a fugitive or a criminal … they will show discretion and let commonsense prevail.”
Fighting tears, Mrs Klue described the situation as “unreal”.
“It shouldn’t have come to this,” she said.
Mrs Klue said her children were well-established at Buderim Mountain Primary School and the family now considered themselves Aussies.
An immigration spokeswoman said the Klues simply didn’t meet the criteria for a state-sponsored business-owner visa, and then failed to lodge their appeal against the ruling on time.
She said applicants must show they owned and directly managed a business with a turnover of at least $300,000 for two of the past four fiscal years, or had a successful record as a senior manager.
“Entering Australia on a temporary visa does not mean you have an ongoing right to remain in Australia,” she said.
A spokesman for Ms Bligh said while immigration was a federal government matter, state officials were talking to immigration officials about the Klues’ case.

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PREMIER Colin Barnett may ask the Federal Government to relax foreign worker allowances to prevent labour shortages at major WA projects.

WA faces severe shortages of skilled workers in 2011, when there is expected to be peak activity in WA’s resources sector, Mr Barnett told a media conference in Perth yesterday.

The premier’s comments come as a large Chinese steel maker, Ansteel, contemplates the viability of developing WA’s first steel mill.

Other massive projects planned for the state include Woodside Petroleum Ltd’s Pluto Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project, Chevron’s Gorgon LNG project, a new deep water port at Oakajee and CITIC Pacific’s Sino Iron project.

“I expect we will face serious skills shortages if these projects go together at the same time,” Mr Barnett said.

“Hopefully,  we can build these projects with Australian labour but I expect there will be skill shortages, in particular trades areas.

“We need to be prepared to bring in some of their (Chinese) workers.”

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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A PLAN to help up to 124,000 retrenched workers has united the states but drawn criticism in Canberra.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd signed a deal with the states and territories to give intensive help to unemployed people aged over 25.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) conference in Darwin agreed to give the jobless access to government-subsidised vocational training.

Labor says the “compact with retrenched workers” will help up to 124,000 people.

“Workers who have been retrenched as a consequence of this global recession have lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” Mr Rudd said.

“Acting to support young Australians who are finding it hard to enter the labour market … represents an important intervention by government.”

Under the agreement, the Federal Government’s new employment agency Job Services Australia matches retrenched workers, aged over 25, with a path to a qualification.

The state and territories would set aside training places.

The training is for people who have been out of work since January 2009 and who are registered with a Job Services Australia provider.

The entitlement is available from now until the end of 2011.

It follows an “earn or learn” COAG agreement reached in April to make youths aged 15 to 19 undertake training and guarantee places for 20-24 year-olds in skills development.

The Rudd Government says it has invested $300 million in programs to help retrenched workers, but it did not provide a cost for the latest one.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said COAG’s new scheme would prepare Australia for economic recovery.

“We know only too well how quickly this country can find itself in a situation of serious skills shortage.”

But Opposition employment participation spokesman Andrew Southcott said training programs for the unemployed had failed when Labor last took that approach in the mid-1990s.

“Training for training’s sake, without a job at the end of it, is cruel to the unemployed,” Mr Southcott said.

“The experience around the world is that a skills-first approach for the unemployed tends to be very expensive and you have poor outcomes.”

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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The Government has released its scaled-down idea of what it wants the Perth waterfront to look like – but it’s after the same effect as at some of Australia’s best-known sites.

Premier Colin Barnett yesterday unveiled proposals radically different from those suggested by his Labor predecessor Alan Carpenter.

 The plans include a mix of civic, commercial, residential, retail, education and cultural areas.                  perth waterfront

Premier Colin Barnett yesterday unveiled proposals radically different from those suggested by his Labor predecessor Alan Carpenter.the foreshore, similar to those in Sydney’s Darling Harbour and Circular Quay and Melbourne’s Southbank,” Mr Barnett said.

Unlike Mr Carpenter, who committed the Government to fully-funding his vision, Mr Barnett wants a mixture of public and private capital.

Mr Barnett said the new plans aimed to feature world-class architecture “without being over the top”.

“Western Australians have been shown many plans for the foreshore over many years and nothing has actually happened,” he said.

“The Government does not want to impose yet another grand vision on the WA community. This is a more modest concept that shows a ground-scale depiction of what could be developed.”

Mr Barnett said his plans provided for greater public access, while the previous government wanted to develop “monuments” that blocked off the river from the public.

“It would have been an enclave for the wealthy and businesses.”

Work on the project was expected to start within 18 months.

Source  :  www.watoday.com.au

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AN MP wants Queenslanders to be buried in cardboard coffins in natural bush cemeteries where the decomposing bodies can promote vegetation growth.

coffinThe “green in death” approach has been advocated by Labor’s Barbara Stone who told Parliament about a body’s “natural nutrients.”

 

She suggested that more local authorities follow the lead of the Gold Coast City Council which is planning the state’s first natural bushland cemetery.

 

“The site will be an old quarry to be filled with suitable soil so that bodies can decompose and provide valuable nutrients that encourage the rejuvenation of native flora,” she said. 

Body disposal should have as little impact on the environment as possible after taking into account the deceased’s personal, cultural or traditional practices, Ms Stone said. If someone wanted to be buried in a cardboard box “under a shady tree” this should be permitted.

Ms Stone, who represents Springwood, said responsible Queenslanders should go to their grave in eco-friendly coffins made from fibre waste.

“Testing has shown that they release half the emissions of a standard coffin,” she said.

Of the 24,500 coffins used in Queensland last year, less than 100 were made from this alternative material.

This represented a waste of timber and valuable metals and exposed the environment to toxic embalming chemicals.

New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania have bushland cemeteries where only native stone can be used as burial markers.

But Ms Stone said that if there was no stone the “savvy techno can have a GPS device placed in their hands so their families can return to honour the bushland settings and their loved ones”.

Queensland bans burials on private land although there are some exceptions – former premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen is at rest in the grounds of his home Bethany, near Kingaroy.

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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Colin Barnett is on the brink of caving in to worried Liberal backbenchers and accepting an 8pm closing for weeknight shopping rather than the 9pm time he took to the election last year.
  
The Premier has been softening the public up for an 8pm closing time in recent days and again said yesterday that it was an acceptable alternative. 
  
The West Australian understands that most Liberals don’t want 9pm and would prefer a 7pm closing time but are prepared to accept 8pm to save the Premier the embarrassment of being rolled by his own party.
  
Mr Barnett has been canvassing his MPs one-on-one in recent days and knows that 9pm is beyond his reach.

The Nationals say they will not support changes to shopping hours, which they fear would deliver a crucial blow to WA producers because it would increase the market share of big supermarkets
   
The Government will rely on Labor to get legislation on later weeknight shopping hours through Parliament but the ALP took a position of 7pm to the election and is not guaranteed to support a later closing time. A Labor spokeswoman said yesterday that shadow Cabinet and caucus would discuss the party’s position once the Government’s preference was known.
 
Cabinet discussed the shopping hours issue last Monday and Mr Barnett is expected to take his preferred position to the party room on Tuesday, but the Upper House is not sitting, and the meeting will be only for Assembly MPs, meaning that a vote on the issue will probably be delayed a week.
  
Mr Barnett said yesterday that most people in the retail industry, including the unions, favoured a 9pm closing time from Monday to Friday to bring all weeknights into line with existing late-night shopping.
  
“That’s a position I think is logical, however a number of people are saying 8pm might be better. I don’t think there’s a big difference between the two,” he said.
  
“To simply extend it to 7pm would be pointless.
  
“So, 8pm, yeah that’s OK, 9pm might be better but at least either of those would be a significant extension to weeknight shopping.”

But backbenchers are under pressure from small businesses to wind back the closing time, believing that the later hour is supported only by Coles and Woolworths.
  
Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief James Pearson urged politicians from both sides to “stand up to vested interest groups, which are determined to deny West Australians more choice and lower prices when they shop”.  

ROBERT TAYLOR, PETER KERR and AMANDA BANKS

Source www.thewest.com.au

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Job creation and capital works projects will form the cornerstone of this year’s state budget, West Australian Premier Colin Barnett says. 

The WA government on Thursday will deliver its first budget since elected last year.

“It will be responsible and I think you will see it supports maintaining  jobs and supports the future development of this state,” Mr Barnett said on Wednesday.

“And you will see not only that, but a number of measures designed to maintain jobs, particularly in the small- to medium-size business sector.”

The government is under pressure to maintain a surplus after Mr Barnett’s commitment to deliver surpluses in the next two budgets.

While seeking to maintain the state’s AAA credit rating, the government is also facing demands from WA’s peak business lobby to deliver on an election promise to cut taxes by $250 million.

Mr Barnett said the state’s budget and finances would need some “rejigging” to match a $263 million federal government commitment in Wednesday’s federal budget to put the Perth rail line and bus station underground.

“Yes, we will have to have some rejigging of the state budget and finances because we originally sought 50/50 funding just to sink the rail line,” Mr Barnett said.

“The commonwealth’s taken up the point. It was an issue I discussed with the prime minister in Perth about three weeks ago and I just made the point to him quite informally that if we’re going to sink the rail line it would actually be commonsense to sink the bus station too …

“He’s obviously taken it on board so we’re going to make sure that happens.”

The federal government also pledged $339 million for a deepwater port at Oakajee, in the state’s midwest, which will boost iron ore exports in the region.

The WA government had already spent about $20 million on Oakajee and private proponents were now spending $100 million on the design of the deepwater port and rail line, he said. Continued…

www.watoday.com.au

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