Archive | June, 2010

Gillard shuts door on 'big Australia'

27 Jun

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is breaking free from one of her predecessor’s main policy stances by announcing she is not interested in a “big Australia”.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd was in favour of population growth, with his government predicting it to hit around 36 million by 2050, largely through immigration.

But Ms Gillard has indicated she will be putting the brakes on immigration in order to develop a more sustainable nation.

“Australia should not hurtle down the track towards a big population,” she told Fairfax.

“I don’t support the idea of a big Australia with arbitrary targets of, say, a 40 million-strong Australia or a 36 million-strong Australia. We need to stop, take a breath and develop policies for a sustainable Australia.

“I support a population that our environment, our water, our soil, our roads and freeways, our busses, our trains and our services can sustain.”

But Ms Gillard says that does not mean putting a stop to immigration all together.

“I don’t want business to be held back because they couldn’t find the right workers,” she said.

“That’s why skilled migration is so important. But also I don’t want areas of Australia with 25 per cent youth unemployment because there are no jobs,” she said.

Mr Rudd installed Tony Burke as the Minister for Population, but in one of her first moves as Prime Minister, Ms Gillard has changed his job description to Minister for Sustainable Population.

Mr Burke will continue to develop a national population strategy which is due to be released next year.

Ms Gillard says the change sends a clear message about the new direction the Government is taking.

Families Minister Jenny Macklin told Channel Ten that Australia’s population growth has to reflect the country’s economic needs.

“When we have areas in Australia with 25 per cent youth unemployment we should be getting in there doing everything possible to get those young people skilled up and into the jobs that are available,” she said.

“Making sure that where we have serious congestion in our cities that we do something about it.”

But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has told ABC1’s Insiders that Ms Gillard cannot be believed.

“When the Coalition said a few months ago that the population had to be sustainable we were pilloried up hill and down dale by Julia Gillard,” he said.

“I think what we’re also going to see from Julia Gillard is an attempt on all the controversial issues where the Opposition is making the running, to adopt a kind of ‘me too’ strategy.”

Australian businessman Dick Smith has been a vocal advocate for a more sustainable approach to population growth and has applauded Ms Gillard’s announcement.

But he acknowledges it will not be welcomed by everyone.

“The business community, my wealthy mates are completely addicted to growth because of greed,” he said.

“So they’re going to fight her every inch of the way. They just want growth, growth, growth, even though it’s obvious that it’s not sustainable.

“I think she’s a brave lady, I reckon she will stand up to them.”

But an urban planning group is trying to convince Ms Gillard of the benefits of a big population.

Urban Taskforce Australia chief executive Aaron Gadiel says a large population increases the tax base to fund improvements to infrastructure and welfare services.

“We shouldn’t be trying to fight it, what we should be trying to do is ensuring that we’ve got the investment and infrastructure that makes that process easier to manage,” he said.

“I think people should be focussing on how much state, federal and local governments have been investing in urban infrastructure to help absorb population growth.”

A survey earlier in the year by the Lowy Institute found that almost three-quarters of Australians want to see the country’s population grow, but not by too much.

The Lowy Institute surveyed more than 1,000 people and found that while there was support for increased immigration, Australians were not quite prepared to embrace the Government’s predicted 36 million.

The poll showed 72 per cent of people supported a rise in Australia’s population, but 69 per cent wanted it to remain below 30 million people.
New poll results

Meanwhile, a new Galaxy poll published today shows voters believe Ms Gillard will give Labor a better chance of winning the Federal Election than Mr Rudd, although they do not support the way she came to power.

Voters who were polled still believe Mr Rudd should be given a job on the frontbench.

The poll puts Labor in an election-winning position, jumping ahead of the Coalition by two percentage points on a two-party preferred basis, leading 52 per cent to 48 per cent.

A Herald/Nielson poll released yesterday showed Labor’s primary vote climbing to 47 per cent, while support for the Coalition fell 1 point to 42 per cent.

However Mr Abbott earlier dismissed the figures and said he was not worried.

“Right now the new Prime Minister is enjoying a predictable bounce in the polls that was to be expected the Government has tried to fix the headlines,” he said.

“But they can’t fix the problems and the headlines won’t stay fixed unless they fix the problem.”

The latest poll has indicated that most of all voters just want the Government to get on with the job of running the country and are urging Ms Gillard to fix the mining tax debacle, stop wasting money and sort out the health system.

Voters insist Ms Gillard must move quickly to settle the mining tax issue, with 30 per cent of poll respondents saying it should be her first priority and 24 per cent saying she should fast-track health and hospital reforms.

Her third priority should be to get the Budget back into the black, they say.

Only 11 per cent of the 800 voters polled believe Ms Gillard should revive the emissions trading scheme to tackle climate change and 13 per cent feel she should get tougher on asylum seekers.

Labor’s primary support has locked in at four points higher than after the Budget, on 41 per cent, but the Coalition has dropped only one point to 42 per cent and that loss has been at the expense of the minor partner, the National Party.



Lend Lease cuts back: size is everything for $6b Sydney Harbour plan

16 Jun

MATTHEW MOORE, June 16, 2010. SMH

An artist’s impression of the revised plan for the hotel, as seen from Darling Harbour.

Designers of the $6 billion Sydney Harbour development at Barangaroo have slashed the height and size of the “landmark” hotel they want to build out into the water.

After months of criticism of the scale of the buildings in Sydney’s biggest redevelopment project, the company in charge of the project, Lend Lease, has unveiled new plans.

The hotel’s height will fall from 213 metres to 159 metres.

..And the pier bearing the hotel out into the harbour will be trimmed from 150 metres to 90 metres.

One of the smaller of four office towers has also been removed from the plan to improve sight lines of the harbour from the CBD. But the tallest tower, proposed at 180 metres, will make it the seventh highest building in Sydney and above the existing height limit for the site.

About 100 new apartments have also been added, many of them in six- and eight-storey buildings to be placed in front of the office towers with uninterrupted views of the harbour.

Like nearby King Street Wharf, these buildings will have ground-floor restaurants and cafes.

Chief executive of the Barangaroo Delivery Authority, John Tabart, said the changes showed “Lend Lease has listened to the public”.

“We said they had to improve the design to further activate the public domain … they have done that.”

Despite the loss of one of the commercial towers, the project still has 496,000 square metres of space, about 15 per cent above that allowed in the current concept plan.

Lend Lease plans to submit the new concept plan to the Department of Planning next month, seeking approval for its changes.

Lend Lease’s group head of development, David Hutton, released a statement headed, “Sydney, We’ve Heard You”, and said the changes reflected the “feedback received from Sydneysiders, including local residents, interest groups and from the wider business and Sydney communities”.


$6 billion worth of controversy for Barangaroo development
By Vikki Campion From: The Daily Telegraph June 17, 2010

THE $6 billion revamp of Barangaroo will be shorter and slimmer – but Sydney is divided on whether it is better.
A team of consultants was engaged to pare down developer Lend Lease’s plan for the old cargo site on the western side of the Harbour, described as a monstrosity when made public six months ago.

Barangaroo Delivery Authority CEO John Tabart said “substantial” changes had been made to include parkland, waterfront tourism and a financial headquarters for the South-East Asia region.

Under the final plan, which went on public exhibition yesterday, the hotel on West Quay will shrink from 213m tall to 159m, with its footprint nearly halved to stop shading of Darling Harbour.

The pier has been shortened to 85m from 150m.

The number of commercial towers will be cut from four to three. One will exceed the 180m height limit to be Sydney’s seventh highest building, at 198m.

The towers have been placed so as to allow views from the CBD to the water.

The big end of town has praised the changes, which allow more residential and retail areas and wide paths but residents groups have vowed to fight the plans, which they claim will be a blight on the Harbour.

Head of Lend Lease development David Hutton said: “We are confident these design refinements will ensure Barangaroo South is an iconic new place for Sydney.”

Sydney Business Chamber executive director Patricia Forsythe said Barangaroo was a once in a lifetime redevelopment that would complete Sydney’s CBD and replace unused Harbour foreshore with offices, homes, public space and parks and create a western gateway to the CBD.

Barangaroo Action Group chairman Ian Campbell called for an independent review of the contract between Lend Lease and the State Government and foreshadowed protests from June 26.


Poor planning drags Sydney back to 6th place

14 Jun

Sydney has come sixth in a new survey rating Australian on their land use and infrastructure.

The KPMG survey ranks all Australian capital cities on strategic metropolitan planning – based on nine criteria established by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

It found Sydney has a mixed record of implementing major transport projects and that better monitoring and reporting is needed.

It suggests that merging the Sydney Metro Strategy and Metropolitan Transport Plan into one document will help, providing it contains a 25-year vision.

The study also came out in favour of the proposed Sydney Metropolitan Development Authority – announced in February – which would have links to the Federal Government.

The Property Council was one of the organisations that commissioned the study.

Its Acting Executive Director in New South Wales, Glenn Byers, says the State Government must work harder if it wants to access Federal Government funding from 2012.

“What we now need to do now is get on with, 1, our ability to stick to plans and see them through and, 2, have a long-term transport vision that the community has confidence in and the private sector can partner with,” he said.

The state Planning Minister Tony Kelly has denied Sydney is falling behind with its strategic metropolitan planning.

He says KPMG did not consult with the Planning Department.

“New South Wales is on track to meet its COAG targets,” he said.

“Sydney is Australia’s only international city and while other international cities are struggling after the GFC, Sydney is leading Australia in its economic recovery.”


Heart of Sydney's financial district starts to beat again

11 Jun

ING Office and Mirvac plan a $60million redevelopment of 20 Bond Street

Latest construction pictures from Space 1 Bligh.

Heart of Sydney’s financial district starts to beat again
Meet the new bourse … ING Office and Mirvac plan a $60million redevelopment of 20 Bond Street, with five-star green credentials.

THE former heart of the Sydney financial world, 20 Bond Street, is to undergo a $60 million facelift in the hope of enticing new tenants.

What was once the home of the Sydney Stock Exchange trading floor, in the basement from 10 to 20 Bond Street, then the headquarters of Macquarie Bank, has been empty for some time as the joint owners, ING Office and Mirvac, resolved numerous issues.

But as the leasing market appears to have stabilised and ownership is clear, redevelopment is in store for 35,000 square metres of premium office space on 31 levels. There has been what is termed ”soft marketing” of the space, with rents said to be $500 to $800 a square metre.

Tino Tanfara, the chief executive of ING Office, said there had been good initial inquiries. When completed, the offices will have five-star green ratings and there will be a trigeneration plant for onsite heating, cooling and power generation.

The stockbroker Credit Suisse has decided to renew its lease in the Dexus-owned Gateway at Circular Quay. There was market talk it was looking to move closer to the core of the central business district, into Bond Street.

Another touted tenant was JP Morgan, but it has now signed as the anchor for the proposed Westfield skyscraper at 85 Castlereagh Street, the final building its the $1.2 billion redevelopment of Pitt Street Mall and Castlereagh Street.

Leasing agents say that demand for office space is showing slow improvement. The white-collar market, the main tenant of any city, is holding up.

Some leasing deals are on hold as overseas parent companies are directing Australian operations not to make any expansion plans until the global economy improves.

Sydney’s CBD vacancy level is tipped to remain at about 7 per cent as there is limited supply on the horizon. Among new projects are the Dexus/CBus tower at 1 Bligh Street being built by Grocon with Clayton Utz as the anchor tenant. Grocon/GPT is also building at 163 Castlereagh Street, formerly owned by John Boyd, with the ANZ Bank as the anchor – there will be a new banking chamber on the Pitt Street entrance.


Sydney Opera House safety risks denied

6 Jun

Matthew Westwood, The Australian June 01, 2010

STAGE machinery at the Sydney Opera House may be cranking into its 37th year of operation but the NSW government denies it is a safety risk.
An engineering report by theatre consultants Marshall Day Entertech warned of “multiple fatalities” in the event of a serious malfunction.

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph reported the Opera House would be forced to close unless repairs worth $800 million were done.

But the NSW government yesterday played down the risks and the cost of work.

Carol Mills, director-general of Communities NSW — a super-department that includes Arts NSW and the Sydney Opera House — said the Marshall Day report was part of a needs-and-costs assessment of arts organisations. It did not calculate the risk of accident but looked at potential problems.

While the stage machinery was “nearing the end of its life”, Ms Mills said, Opera House employees had “never been safer”.

Sydney Opera House management said the cost of repairs was overstated. The figure of $800m referred to a total refurbishment of the Opera Theatre: a grand scheme that would rebuild the theatre according to architect Joern Utzon’s design.

However, the stage machinery upgrade could be done separately, at a cost of about $50m.

Opera House chief executive Richard Evans said there was no threat of closure to any of the famous venue’s theatres.

“Sydney Opera House has a $30m annual plant and equipment maintenance program, widely acknowledged as one of the best in the world,” Mr Evans said.

Upgrades to the Opera Theatre have been discussed for years, and malfunctions have occurred. A performance of Handel’s opera Rinaldo in 2005 was interrupted by technical problems.

“Some time in the next five years, we will have to close for a period for repairs,” said Opera Australia chief executive Adrian Collette.



$130m to save Sydney Opera House from closure
By Andrew Clennell From: The Daily Telegraph June 02, 2010

An engineering report showed there were risks of “multiple fatalities” because of ageing stage machinery in the Opera House.

•NSW Government to stump up $130m
•Money is enough to “fix the problem”
•Opera House is lobbying for $800m

COMING soon to Sydney Opera House, the 13 million tenners – a $130 million rescue package.
After 10 years of lobbying, the NSW Government will announce the funding in next week’s state budget.

Treasurer Eric Roozendaal will provide the money for the Opera House in what senior government sources said was enough to “fix the problem” which has threatened the Opera House with closure.

The rescue package comes after revelations this week that an internal engineering report that showed there were risks of “multiple fatalities” because of ageing stage machinery.

Senior government sources have confirmed that more than $130 million will be allocated in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 financial years.

It will be far less than the $800 million the Opera House is asking from the state and federal governments over seven years for a renewal project to fix the premises but will pay for the cost of replacing stage machinery and enable it to remain open.

The Opera House report from engineering firm Marshall Day Entertech warned: “There is a real risk to persons on stage or being carried on the flying system from a malfunction or fault with this installation and a similar, although lesser, potential risk when people are carried on the transport elevator.”

The report warned there was a risk of “multiple fatalities” and said the theatre’s flying system was “non-compliant with current international codes and practice”.

The funding comes at a time when Treasurer Eric Roozendaal is being called a “scrooge” for not spending enough on other new projects in the upcoming budget.

A Government source said “stamp duty receipts were through the roof” but Mr Roozendaal was reluctant to open up money to new projects.

Sources said cuts were expected instead in the departments of education and environment and climate change to meet surplus targets in future years.

The Sydney Opera House is likely to warmly welcome the Government’s rescue package as it has been lobbying state and federal governments since 2000.


Big plans for Pitt Street Mall ugly duckling

1 Jun


Staying put … Robert Goddard. Photo: Ben Rushton

NOT many people can stand up to the Westfield wrecking ball, but for Robert Goddard it held no fear.

This is David and Goliath in Pitt Street Mall, the most expensive and often busiest retail strip in the country, where only three shops are independently owned.

Mr Goddard, whose family owns 168 Pitt Street, the 462 square-metre, four-storey shop that sits between Westfield’s Centrepoint and Imperial Arcade, is staying put.

Not even a few extra zeros on a large cheque will sway him.

After two overtures – Mr Goddard is reluctant to discuss the offers – Westfield has walked away and left the Goddard family alone.

And that suits Mr Goddard, who has grand plans of his own.

His store is surrounded on three sides by the new $1.2 billion Westfield Pitt Street Mall development, and for months it has endured dust, jackhammering and demolition.

But it is the prize in his family’s property portfolio and he intends to turn the ”ugly duckling into a swan”.

Also independently owned is the Country Road site at 142-144 Pitt Street Mall, on the corner of King Street and next door to the Glasshouse Arcade. The Gwynvill syndicate paid $14.5 million for the 316-square-metre building in 1990. Directly opposite, at 181 Pitt Street Mall, also on the corner of King Street, sits the Bally property, formerly the Liverpool Arms Hotel.

The rest of the strip is split between Lend Lease, Colonial First State, Fortius Funds Management and Westfield.

Before the redevelopment of the Centrepoint, Imperial and Glasshouse arcades, rents were $8000 a square metre, but once Westfield unveils its new centre that is likely to rise to $12,000 or more.

Mr Goddard’s store is so skinny that it is hard to see, but for five decades it has been known as Mister Figgins shoes and latterly as the Shoe Emporium, with ”four floors of shoes”. Its distinctive blue and purple striped entry and canopy was purpose-built for the tenant. But now that the shoe shop has left after falling victim to the drop in retail spending, Mr Goddard wants to revamp the site to suit the new-look mall.

”We have no desire to sell our building. Our family bought it in 1995 and while we are very flexible with our leasing, the ownership of the site will stay with us,” he told BusinessDay.

”We have a new tenant, SES Fashion, which is on a monthly lease, but we are talking to a number of businesses and because the site is not heritage-listed we can be very flexible.

”One plan is to have a glass facade similar to the Apple store in George Street, or we can build an older style brick frontage that may suit a bank.

”We expect to make a decision by early next year, then we will start the renovations. By that time Westfield will have opened its first stage and we will be able to gauge what tenancy will work for us.”

Mr Goddard’s agent is Alex Alamsyah, the associate director, retail leasing, at Knight Frank, who says demand is high for the premier location and inquiries are running hot.

”A tenant here will just pay the rent and will not have to give any turnover rent to the Goddards,” he said.