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Council’s four year service delivery plan

Snowy River Shire councillors and staff have completed their review of the Integrated Planning & Reporting (IPR) documents, that outline the delivery of services for the next four years.

The Draft Delivery Program 2014 – 2017 and Operational Plan 2014 that includes the 2014 Budget, are just two of the IPR documents, with the full suite being endorsed for public exhibition at last the April Council meeting.

The endorsement followed several months of workshops with councillors and senior staff members to determine the direction of these plans, setting of priorities and goals for delivering services to the community for the term of the council.

“Like all businesses, council needs to determine priorities and goals within a set budget. Extensive state government funding cuts and the increasing limitations for local governments agencies to secure grant funding means that now more than ever council need to prioritise its level of service to the community”, explained the general manager Joseph Vescio.

“This has meant that councillors have directed for their four year term of council, that our number one priority be our transport infrastructure, i.e. roads – the repair of our extensive road network. This prioritising of services, has meant that some projects have been placed upon the back-burner, to be revisited at a later stage.

“Just like your household budget – you can’t do all of your desired projects in the one year, it must be planned out and achieved over time.”

The IPR suite of documents will be on public exhibition until May 22, and can be viewed in hard copy at council offices Razorback Office, SPAR Supermarket, Adaminaby and Iona Gardens, Dalgety, or online at Council’s website:

If you wish to comment, please forward a written submission titled “Submission Draft IPR Documents 2013”, to the general manager.

Why Queensland didn’t need to sell the family farm

Back in July last year Queensland Premier Campbell Newman was in a very black mood. All was gloom and doom in the Sunshine State, as he warned Queensland was “on the way to being bankrupted” without tough action. Back then, his government was shaping up to do a Jeff Kennett, painting the grimmest of pictures that would justify massive cuts to the Queensland public sector, just as the former Victorian premier did in his first term in power.

Yesterday was the day when it was all meant to come together, with Newman having to make the biggest call of his political life. In announcing his government’s response to an audit of the state’s finances, he had to decide whether his Government would support the sale of major pieces of Queensland’s “family farm” – particularly the state’s multi-billion-dollar power assets.

To the surprise of many, and despite a lot of pressure from the money men at the top end of town, Newman declared “we will save the farm”, rather than “taking the easy way out and having a fire sale of assets”. Instead, he outlined a much quieter and in some ways craftier program of outsourcing and competitive tendering. Private operators are likely to end up leasing and running more state-owned services, from ports, trains and buses, through to health care, including elective surgeries.

Queenslanders are no friend of privatisation, that’s for sure. Only 14 months ago, they savagely punished the Bligh Labor government for going down this path without a mandate. It would need a pretty strong case to convince a seasoned politician like Newman to try that option again. So how strong was the case in favor of a fire sale?A closer look at the books

Just days after being elected, the Newman government appointed former federal Treasurer Peter Costello to lead a A$2.2 million audit of Queensland’s finances. The 1000-page final report – released in full yesterday – recommended selling the state’s electricity and port assets to raise more than A$25 billion and rapidly reduce debt.

Costello continued the hard sell right up until the last moment, including inside the cabinet room for his final briefing to MPs. In an article in the Australian Financial Review that cited a debt figure of A$82 billion, Costello declared: “Queensland has a problem. Its credit rating has been downgraded, it’s paying higher and higher interest costs and something has got to happen… If it doesn’t change, it’s just going to get worse and worse.”

But just how gloomy is the Sunshine State’s budget outlook?

While A$82 billion sounds like a lot of debt, the picture was always more complex than Costello would have us believe.

General government balance sheet, Mid-Year Economic and Budget Update, p.15 (click to enlarge)

This table is taken from last December’s Mid-Year Economic and Budget Update. It shows the state’s general government balance sheet for the period from 2011/12 through to 2015/16. While it is true that gross debt or total liabilities will exceed $80 billion this financial year, the net debt figure (or gross debt less financial assets) is very different.

The Queensland general government sector in fact had no net debt in 2011/12. And while net debt is projected to grow to a peak of A$9.6 billion by 2013/14, it then starts to fall and then continues its downward trajectory.

Still, you might say, A$9.6 billion is a lot of money to owe. That would be true were we talking about a household or a business – but not for the Government of Queensland, which can tax its citizens to pay the bills and tax them more heavily if it really has to do so. Queensland is, after all, one of Australia’s lowest-taxed jurisdictions, with its per capita taxation in 2012/13 more than $450 below than the Australian average.

But according to Costello’s Commission of Audit, net debt is not the best measure of the state’s liabilities. It includes the financial assets that have been built up to fund the state’s super schemes and which therefore are not available to cover the gross debt on issue. It recommends a different measure, called net financial liabilities:

“As the net debt measure includes investments, it takes account of the large investments Queensland uses to offset its superannuation liability, it does not take account of the liabilities. Under existing Government policy, these investments are held to meet the State’s superannuation liability. Because these investments are not available to reduce gross debt, net debt is not a suitable metric to target in setting an appropriate fiscal strategy… The Commission consider that the most suitable measure of debt is the concept of net financial liabilities”.

The State’s net financial liabilities (A$39 billion in 2011/12) are much higher than its net debt, and it is this that needs to be paid down. But how good is this as a measure of the State’s balance sheet? The answer is not very, because it ignores the physical and other assets that are crucial to the balance sheet equation (worth a cool A$182 billion in 2011/12).What’s a worthier economic measure?

Net worth is generally considered to be a better measure, for it includes all assets and liabilities and not just those that are financial. Far from being in trouble, Queensland is in fact well and truly in the black according to this measure, with a net worth in the general government sector exceeding A$170 billion in 2011/12, climbing steadily to almost A$180 billion not long after the next scheduled election.

All this is not to say that the Queensland budget is in fine shape. Far from it. But its problems stem not from its balance sheet but the substantial gap between operating income and expenses. Queensland’s operating budget shifted from surplus to deficit in four very difficult years, when revenues went into an unexpected spin and have yet to fully recover. This year the deficit is tipped to exceed A$11 billion, which is very large on any measure and would seem to be genuine cause for concern.

However, this includes one-off expenses associated with flood damage that cost more than A$4 billion. It also includes almost A$1 billion set aside for redundancies arising from Newman’s first budget. When these are excluded, the deficit is a more manageable A$6.3 billion. This is still large, but importantly is not tipped to last forever.

Fiscal balance, Mid-Year Economic and Budget Update, p.4

The Mid-Year Economic and Budget Update also shows that the operating account is projected to return to surplus by 2014/15, with the corrective measures already put in place being enough to turn the ship around without the need for any more drastic action.

If Queensland’s debt is not large, its net worth is positive, and the government by its own admission reckons it is on track to achieve its financial principles, why bother with a massive asset sales program that would antagonize the people?

Far better to be crafty and privatise services in other ways, through an outsourcing and competitive tendering program that can turn the public sector inside out, but hopefully jeopardise fewer MPs’ seats. For Premier Campbell Newman, who resides in a marginal electorate himself, hearing that the money men are disappointed may not be such a bad thing.

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Blood test could be key to Alzheimer’s detection

A blood test could soon identify people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, after Australian scientists identified a series of markers associated with the degenerative condition.

The blood-based biological markers identified are associated with the toxic protein called amyloid beta, which builds up in the brain.

CSIRO research scientist Samantha Burnham said levels of the protein were found to reach abnormal levels at about 17 years before dementia symptoms, such as memory loss, appear.

”We’re buying time with this,” Dr Burnham said. “If we can get this early identification, then we can intervene with people at risk of this disease.”

Being able to identify the disease in its early stages is critical, as it could allow intervention before irreversible damage is inflicted on the brain.

Noel Faux from the Florey Institute of Neurosciences and Mental Health said the progressive build up of the toxic protein was one of the earliest known changes in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

Seven markers in the blood have been identified by the researchers, who hail from CSIRO, the Florey Institute of Neurosciences and Mental Health, Edith Cowan University and the National Ageing Research Institute.

They are now trying to refine the way the blood is processed to make the test quick, affordable and effective. Currently tests conduced in America measure around 200 items in the blood, which costs time and money. But with the key markers narrowed down to seven, researchers are developing a more targeted test.

Two other factors – age and results of a cognitive test– are also used in diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

“We are hoping that within a five to ten year timeframe we will be able to roll this out as a frontline screening tool,” Dr Burnham said.

Published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, the researchers worked with 273 volunteers aged over 65. Some had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, while others were healthy but concerned they might be experiencing memory loss.

The volunteers underwent brain scans and neuro-psychological tests as well as providing blood samples and their medical history.

”The bloods were analysed to measure the levels of about 250 different items in the blood,” she said. “We then did some quite complex mathematical modelling to identify which of those 250 measurements and in what combination would match up to the brain scans.”

Thousands of mathematical models were tested during this process, which took three years.

Alzheimer’s Australia estimates there are more than 321,600 Australians living with dementia. By 2050, the ageing population means this could be as high as 900,000. Currently there are about 1700 new cases of dementia diagnosed in Australia each week.

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Naitanui rated a chance to return

Eagles coach John Worsfold says Nic Naitanui is a chance to return to the West Coast side this weekend. Photo: Sebastian CostanzoWest Coast coach John Worsfold is yet to decide whether to play star ruckman Nic Naitanui in Sunday’s AFL clash with the Western Bulldogs.

Naitanui has finally recovered from off-season groin surgery but Worsfold said the 22-year-old may spend another week in heavy training to further build up his match fitness before returning for the Eagles.

“Nic’s going really well,” Worsfold said on Wednesday.

“He’ll play if he’s declared available.

“But the level of which he’s available will determine whether he plays or not this week.

“It’s not really up to Nic now. The idea is he plays and doesn’t pull up sore. We want him to play longer and stronger next week and the week after. It’s more about how we want to manage him about whether he plays or not this week.

“If he can only cope with 70 minutes, we’ve got to make that call. Do we want to play him knowing he can play for 70 minutes?

“If he can only play for 30 minutes, then he probably won’t play for us. And with Swan Districts having a bye, then he’ll just train up this week and be available for more minutes next week.”

Former Magpie Sharrod Wellingham, who starred in the WAFL last week in his first match back from an ankle injury, and wingman Matt Rosa are strong chances to earn call-ups.

Defender Adam Selwood (back) and Andrew Embley (foot) are also in contention.

Worsfold said midfielder Matt Priddis, who was concussed in last week’s loss to Port Adelaide, had pulled up well and was in line to play against the Bulldogs.

Skipper Darren Glass is available to play after having his two-match suspension overturned by the tribunal.Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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Bad boys team again for world championships

The men’s 4×100 metre freestyle relay team central to the Stilnox bonding session controversy before last year’s Olympic Games is set to be reunited for the world championships, and will be looking to re-establish itself as the world’s best, according to two of its members.

James Magnussen and James Roberts, speaking after they qualified fastest and 10th for Wednesday night’s national 50 metre freestyle semi-finals, said they were eager to prove that last year’s flop in London, when as world champions and pre-race favourites they finished out of the medals, was just a bad night.

Five of the six swimmers who were disciplined for their bad behaviour at a pre-Olympic Games camp in Manchester qualified for the relay squad by finishing in the top six places of the 100 metre freestyle final of the national titles on Tuesday night. They will team up for the world championships that will start in Barcelona in July.

Eamon Sullivan did not swim as he has taken the year off to recover from a shoulder injury, with Matt Abood the new face.

While Swimming Australia chief executive Michael Scott has indicated that selectors may not chose all eligible swimmers for relay squads, the core of the Olympic relay team will be there and Roberts said they had something to prove.

“We want nothing more… to prove not only to ourselves but to everyone else that we’re up there with the best,” Roberts said.

“I’m really happy to secure that relay spot. The other guys are swimming great and especially it’s awesome to see (Cameron) McEvoy (who came second in the 100 freestyle) come along so far.

“We want nothing more than to get on with the job. It was always going to be a tough few months but I think everyone’s come out really well and the team as a whole is swimming fantastically at this meet.”

Magnussen said he was impressed that his relay teammates had been able to overcome the controversy and swim strongly in Adelaide.

“I think that was one of the real positives out of it that everyone in that team was able to put the past behind them and be able to get out there and do the job on the night,” Magnussen said.

“I think it’s really impressive especially for a young guy like Cam (McEvoy). You put most 18-year-olds in that situation and they’ll probably walk away from the sport, but he’s turned around and had a massive week here and obviously moved on from that quicker than any of us. It’s great that all the guys have turned things around.”

As for the 50 freestyle, Magnussen believed Thursday night’s final would be a blanket finish.

“I don’t know if I can go as quick as I did last year … it may not be as fast as last year, so it will be touch and go between probably about five of us I reckon,” Magnussen said.

In other results, Belinda Hocking was the fastest qualifier for the 200 backstroke semi-finals in two minutes 10.60, Christopher Wright is the fastest from the 100 butterfly heats in 52.59, and Alicia Coutts was the fastest qualifier for the 50 butterfly semi-finals in 27.47. Katie Goldman was the fastest qualifier for Thursday night’s 800 final in 8:33.03.

Daniel Fox (S14) and Taylor Corry (S14) were the fastest qualifiers for the men’s and women’s 100 freestyle multi-class finals respectively.

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Industry joins China project

A PROJECT to get wild caught Australian abalone into the Chinese abalone market has entered its third phase.

The China Project, which was launched in 2009 by Abalone Council Australia and the Seafood CRC, focused on expanding the footprint of wild caught abalone from Australia in the emerging Chinese market.

South Australian Abalone Industry Association president Jonas Woolford said the project had been exciting and it was starting to go ahead.

“We have now launched what could be seen as the third stage to the project,” he said.

“It is in fact a new project in that we are now working with Australian rock lobster because we are both exporting premium Australian seafood, accessing the same Chinese market and experiencing the same challenges.

“This is a first in that Australian abalone and rock lobster industries have spent the last eight months drawing together their experience of exporting to China from over the last 20 years to come up with a plan to work with the Australian and Chinese governments to facilitate, support and expand the legitimate direct trade platform to China.”

Mr Woolford said the project had also highlighted that there were big gaps in the supply chain.

“If we are to supply this new market with our premium Australian Wild Abalone then we need to sure up the direct trade platform with China,” he said. Through the project, the China Trade Reference Group has been formed and has been meeting in Canberra to meet with various ministers and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Mr Woolford said the reference group had met with prime minister Julia Gillard and Trade Minister Dr Craig Emerson before they made their trip to China in March.

“Both industries have been working on strengthening the direct trade to China and have invested over $5 million in cash and in kind contributions over the last few years,” he said.

“On current Australian government statistics for 2010-11, abalone and rock lobster exports to China contributed $372.8 million direct benefit to the economy across the supply chain, with a major benefit to regional communities.

Mr Woolford said the current political climate was right in both Australia and China to act.

“Our trading partners are asking us for support to have safe and secure access to our products,” he said.

“Our industries are building the foundations for long term results for all food industries in Australia and China.”

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Role of parents is a key factor in literacy debate

ONE issue that often dominates educational debate in Dubbo and other areas of NSW is the standard of literacy teaching and learning in schools.

It’s recently been stated that as many as 30 per cent of Australian students leave school functionally illiterate in their first language, English.

Of course, there have always been such students. But in recent decades, the problem has become more pronounced.

Even if the current estimate of 30 per cent is overstated, there can be no doubt that the level is far too excessive.

In fact, it could be argued that even one student leaving school devoid of adequate functional literacy is excessive.

The main reason usually put forward for this deficiency is the absence of phonics’ teaching, the explicit instruction to children on how to link sounds to the letters in the conventional English-language alphabet. One comment often made is “why don’t they teach phonics in the schools any more?” Well actually they do, at least in those around Dubbo.

A small article recently published in London’s The Times newspaper about modern affluent Norwegian society, provides vital perspectives on literacy teaching in Australia.

This opinion piece related the exodus of oil-rich Norwegians for their Easter holidays, well before most of the world started theirs. Four decades of wealthy income has apparently created a Scandinavian population that doesn’t take kindly to a long working week.

Six years ago, I lived in Norway and worked at a Norwegian independent school, and can certainly testify that a little pampering is sometimes apparent in their society.

Taking into account the fact that lucrative oil resources have been at their disposal since around 40 years ago, then today’s Norwegian parents of school-age students have had most of that period to enjoy an extremely well-off lifestyle.

And their children, today’s school students, have known no other existence than very comfortable affluence.

But these students do often have a very high standard of English literacy in read, spoken and written language.

Significantly, this considerable expertise had been achieved in their second language.

Although my Norwegian school was a fully English-speaking institution, its students’ proficiency in the language was generally consistent throughout Norway.

The students’ excellent use of English as their second language suggests that the same standard should prevail in Australia.

The fact that it apparently doesn’t, according to relevant observers such as employees, is not only a cause for great concern regarding Australia’s future, but demands a clear explanation for this deficiency.

It’s often stated that in decades past, a new way of teaching literacy, using the whole text language context approach, was instituted rather than phonics-based teaching.

This factor is seen as the major cause of the problem. But with phonics being taught today, then it’s time to look at a generational issue.

A crucial element in children’s literacy has always been the contribution of parents at home. Arguably, many of today’s parents have come out of that era when phonics received far less priority in schools.

Therefore, they may have their own literacy struggles, which impact on the ability to help their children, today’s current students.

Contemporary Norwegian parents might often be financially comfortable, but at some time, many of them became fluent in English as a second language.

This proficiency has been passed on to their children, combined with the learning of English from an early age in Norway’s schools.

It should be an example to educationalists attempting to deal with too many students’ current lack of functional literacy in Australia.

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Cyber scare: restaurant CCTV streamed on web

Footage from the Three Chefs restaurant’s security camera streams live over the internet yesterday.Source: The Daily Advertiser

Peepingtoms, thieves or anyone with a web connection could be watching your private moments at home or work.

As break-and-enters in Wagga skyrocket, many residents have rushed to install security cameras to feel safer and deter thieves.

But this could come at the price of becoming a live peep show on the internet.

That’s because many people don’t realise they need password protection when installing cameras themselves.

This was the case for Wagga restaurant Three Chefs.

The Daily Advertiserwas able to watch them hard at work yesterday on 10 security cameras placed throughout the restaurant.

One camera was directed over the cash register, another in the kitchen and others showed customers sitting at tables.

Owner Karl Kelly said he had become aware of the issue recently after someone called him about it.

By late last night he had put in place passwords to restrict access to the live footage.

He said it did concern him that anyone could be watching.

“We put them all in ourselves and installed a few different types,” he said.

“They’re sensor motion detector ones.

“We have a mix of wireless ones and fixed cameras that were already here.”

Mr Kelly said he had a Samsung phone and had used it to access the footage on a web browser.

Noting the restaurant had nothing to hide, Mr Kelly said his main concern was that people could watch the staff close at night.

“We often show the chefs working in the kitchen on the big screen in the restaurant anyway,” he said.

“It is a bit weird and, ultimately, we put this security in for the safety of the staff so we will be putting passwords in because you don’t know who could be watching.”

Owner of Wilsec Security Services in Wagga, Chris Wilson, said it was common for cheap security systems to be bought over the internet or at certain retail stores.

“There are a lot of cheap systems being promoted out there and people can look at (the footage) on their mobile,” he said.

“Normally you have to set up a password and a static IP for a wireless IP camera, but many people don’t realise.

“Technology is changing all the time and there is that move across from analogue to digital.”

Mr Wilson said it was important residents and businesses knew whether their system was secure because of the potential for credit card fraud and identity theft.

He said this could be done by contacting an IT expert, a security company or the retailer for information.

Workshops aim to give farmers a legal leg-up

Throughout May and June, NSW Farmers’ industrial relations team will be running a series of workshops across the state specifically for the dairy industry.

The workshops will be a useful opportunity for dairy farmers to get a greater understanding of their employer obligations under law as well as strategies for effective workplace relations.

The workshops will cover in detail provisions of the Pastoral Award, as well as discussing employment lifecycle, performance management, tips to minimise risks when executing a termination of employment, the Fair Work Act 2009 as well as recent developments in workplace relations law.

NSW Farmers’ Industrial Relations Manager Gracia Kusuma said busy farmer operators often found it difficult to stay abreast of the many legislative requirements placed on them as employers.

“Knowledge and understanding is critical when it comes to workplace relations. It ensures that farmers are well equipped to effectively manage their workforce,” she said.

“These workshops are part of NSW Farmers’ ongoing strategy to provide practical benefits and on-going support to members which is aimed at empowering them to elevate the productivity of their farm enterprise.”

The workshops are free for members of NSW Farmers with non-members being charged a small fee. Register online via our website, email [email protected]苏州美睫培训.au or call (02) 9478 100.

NSW Farmers industrial relations workshops to run across NSW

Workshop locations:

o Wagga Wagga – Wednesday May 1 – 10am at Wagga RSL Club

o Finley – Thursday May 2 – 10am at Finley Returned Soldiers Club

o Singleton – Thursday May 9 – 10am at Singleton Diggers

o Wingham – Monday May 13 – 10am at Wingham Golf Club

o Lismore – Wednesday May 15 – 10am at Lismore Workers Sports Club

o Bellingen – Thursday May 16 – 10am at Bellingen Golf Club

o Tamworth – Monday May 20 – 10am at Tamworth Golf Club

o Parkes – Thursday May 30 – 10am at Parkes Service Club

o Bega – Tuesday June 4 – 10.30am at Bega Cheese Training Centre

o Bodalla – Tuesday June 4 – 7pm at Bodalla Arms Hotel

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Guarding the crop against diseases

Calls today for increased global investment into research and development to prevent the spread of potentially devastating crop diseases have been welcomed by Australia’s Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

GRDC chairman Keith Perrett says a recently-released report by an international team of researchers, warning that the strain of stem rust known as UG99 remains a threat to world crop production, serves as a timely reminder of the need for ongoing funding of cereal crop protection research.

Mr Perrett says significant Australian research dollars have been and will need to continue to be directed towards research and development (R&D) aimed at halting the spread of – and ultimately eliminating – rust diseases such UG99.

“GRDC, on behalf of Australian growers and the Australian government, each year invests $30 million in an extensive portfolio of crop protection research projects and initiatives right around the globe,” Mr Perrett said.

“GRDC has long recognised just how critical it is to address crop protection issues as potentially destructive as UG99, so we welcome any investigations and reports that underline to the broader community the importance of work being carried out in this area and the need for all countries to contribute to funding. As the world population grows at a rapid rate, secure food production remains a fundamental priority for us all.

“Australia plays a pivotal role in not only producing safe and healthy grain that is sought by domestic and international markets, but is also an important player in terms of providing dollars, resources and expertise to enhance global R&D into long-term food security.”

Mr Perrett said that given the threat of cereal rust to food security, Australia has adopted a nationally co-ordinated approach to rust control since rusts are airborne, pathogenically variable and sporadic in their occurrence.

“GRDC is the key funder of the Australian Cereal Rust Control Program (ACRCP) involving various research agencies from the University of Sydney, CSIRO Plant Industry, University of Adelaide, plus all state departments of agriculture, among others.”

GRDC has in place a strategic management plan for cereal rust control and has committed to an investment of up to $6 million per year until 2017.

“About two-thirds of that investment is in pre-breeding and integration into breeding of rust-resistant varieties,” Mr Perrett says.

Mr Perrett says the cost of stem rust to the grains industry in Australia is estimated to be $8 million, but without current management strategies that cost would be as much as $478 million.

“But it’s not just stem rust that we are concerned about,” Mr Perrett says. “The GRDC approach is to look at all strains of rust. In fact, stripe rust is the rust disease which presently has the most economic impact in Australia.”

Mr Perrett says the GRDC remains committed to investing in research, development and extension in areas which matter most to Australian growers, the broader grains industry and consumers.

o GRDC chairman Keith Perrett.

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