The first ‘bookmark-able’ version of our weekly policy, news and data roundup for Australian local government. From fuel cells to deadly mushrooms, electronic ID and rezoning.
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Two-month prescription plan to go ahead
The Federal Government’s plan to allow patients with chronic conditions to purchase two months of medicine for the price of one will go ahead. The changes will proceed after the Senate voted down a Coalition attempt to block the dispensing plan. The move is estimated to save six million Australians up to $180 a year for each prescription, and save more than $1.6 billion over four years. The changes are supported by doctors’ groups such as the Australian Medical Association as well as patient groups, such as the Consumer Health Forum.
Deal signed to trial hydrogen fuel cell waste collection truck
An Agreement has been signed by clean energy company Pure Hydrogen Corporation and Australian company Solo Resource Recovery for a hydrogen fuel cell electric waste collection truck to service municipal contracts in NSW. The agreement allows for a six-month trial of the vehicle, during which time Pure Hydrogen will provide maintenance services and supply the hydrogen. The truck will produce zero greenhouse gas emissions while operating, resulting in better air quality for local communities, and it is expected to be much quieter than conventional waste collection trucks
Council places warning signs about mushroom toxicity
Melbourne City Council has placed warning signs in an iconic Melbourne spot after the deaths of three people who ingested toxic mushrooms. The victims ate a beef wellington pie prepared by a former daughter-in-law, who is currently under police investigation. Melbourne City Council has taken further action by placing physical signs along the Yarra River. “Death cap mushrooms and yellow staining mushrooms are currently growing in this park”, the signs read, adding: “These are extremely toxic to humans and pets if eaten”.
Sky News AU
The state of loneliness and social connection in 2023
This new study seeks to better understand the distribution of social connection across Australia, examining the relationships between social isolation and physical and mental health, quality of life, productivity, stigma, community knowledge, and health service use. Based on insights from over 4,000 people, this report reviews the knowledge and feelings of shame towards loneliness in Australian society. It recommends the following to tackle loneliness: Building our understanding of loneliness through scientific research, normalising conversations about loneliness, empowering communities to help each other, and establishing a peak body on social isolation.
Ending Loneliness Together
See our Global Local bulletin on loneliness and how local governments in different contexts are supporting more connection.
Senate report calls for subsidised mental health care for students
A Senate inquiry into the “alarming rate” of low school attendance has recommended subsidised mental health care for students and more funding for parent support groups. The report made 14 recommendations in total, also including improving child health screening for early intervention, improving trauma-informed practices in schools, and incorporating school refusal training in teacher education. The report sets out to address an emerging national trend of “school refusal”, with the school attendance rate dropping from 91% to 86.5% between 2021 and 2022. The inquiry also heard a serious lack of data exists as to why students aren’t attending school.
Lessons for councils from Victorian public sector misconduct
An estimated 10% of the entire Victorian workforce are employed in the state public sector, close to 355,000 people. While these employees work a wide range of jobs, across health, education, transport among many other sectors, there is a consistent set of expectations about their behaviour. A new report published by the Victorian Ombudsman examines misconduct in the state’s public sector and in public organisations as a whole. It focuses on seven previously unpublished cases of misconduct or system failure. While each investigation is taken from Victoria’s public sector, lessons drawn from them can be applied to other public organisations, including local councils.
Close to 3 million people have digital ID
Government services minister Bill Shorten has revealed that 2.9 million people have taken up Digital ID. Mr Shorten said that 2.9 million of the 25 million myGov users now have a Digital ID. He added that “Australia is on the cusp of having the Digital ID that will not only thwart the scammers and hackers, but provides the foundation for a robust, resilient, cohesive digital ecosystem that will protect our country and our community as we navigate the digital future”. Previous data has shown 94% of Australians had used at least one digital government service last year, with 56% saying they had used myGov.
More in favour of “No” result for Indigenous voice referendum for first time
In a first for The Guardian’s Essential Poll, more Australians are now planning to vote no in the upcoming Indigenous voice referendum than yes. The poll, released on Tuesday, found that 47% of respondents did not approve of the voice to parliament, compared to 43% in favour and 10% still unsure. The poll found opponents outnumbered supported in all states bar Victoria, in which yes narrowly led no 47% to 46%. A higher proportion of respondents described themselves “hard no” (38%) compared to “hard yes” (31%). Support for the voice was strongest among women (47% to 40% opposed) and people aged 18 to 34 (62% compared to 26% opposed. The Guardian
See LGIU briefing: Unpacking common concerns about the Voice.
11 Sydney Suburbs set to be rezoned
Newly obtained NSW Government documents have revealed that more than 3,000 sites have been identified as suitable public land for redevelopment a housing. Some of the 3,231 “potential sites” include current and former disability centres and psychiatric hospitals, and are currently being evaluated by a working group of agencies. Elsewhere, the documents show a list of 11 suburbs shortlisted for redevelopment and rezoning – including Parramatta North, Eveleigh, Camellia and West Schofields. These suburbs could see large-scale redevelopment by mid-2024.